A musical homecoming

Cellist Julia MacLaine returning to Island as guest soloist at P.E.I. Symphony Orchestra Concert on Feb. 16

Sally Cole scole@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on February 7, 2014

Island cellist Julia MacLaine will perform Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No. 1 with the P.E.I. Symphony Orchestra at Zion Presbyterian Church in Charlottetown on Feb. 16 at 2:30 p.m. The orchestra will also perform Beethoven’s Symphony No. 2 and a new work by Canadian composer Kevin Morse.

©Submitted photo

After building a successful cello career in Canada and the United States, a P.E.I. musician is coming back home.

Julia MacLaine is the guest soloist at the P.E.I. Symphony Orchestra’s (PEISO) next concert at Zion Presbyterian Church in Charlottetown on Feb. 16 at 2:30 p.m.

And she can’t wait for the plane to land.

“It’s always wonderful to play in Prince Edward Island. I always look forward to it immensely. I’m always a little bit nervous, too, because there are people that have known me for a long time. So I want to do well and play well at home,” says the Rice Point native who will perform Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No. 1.

“It’s a wild piece. The composer was in a tricky situation in the Soviet Union (in the 1950s) where he had to write music that sounded nationalistic and government approved. But obviously he had a huge problem with what was going on at that time. His music has a veil so that it fit what was required of him, but underneath the surface you get a sense of how disturbed he was by the (political) situation,” says MacLaine, during a telephone interview from Montreal, where she currently resides.

It’s all part of a busy month.

“This week I’m in Ottawa playing guest principal with the National Arts Centre Orchestra (NACO). Then, right away, I fly to Prince Edward Island to play the concerto.

“Right after that, I go to Halifax to start a chamber music concert tour with a quintet, the Parcival Project. Then I go back to Ottawa for two more weeks with the orchestra,” says MacLaine, adding she’s coming back to P.E.I. Feb. 20 with her chamber group for a performance at Beaconsfield’s Carriage House at 7 p.m.

Looking back, MacLaine says growing up in Canada’s smallest province helped to shape her as a musical performer.

“We all know the importance of getting a good start on your instrument with the right people. So I certainly had that on Prince Edward Island with Jen Clement, a violinist. She was the one who started me on the cello,” says MacLaine.

Clement also invited her to join a performance group.

“The environment (with) the Singing Strings was hugely important to me. Also, when I was very young, I started playing with the P.E.I. Symphony, so, even though it was a small strings community, I got everything I needed.

“Also, because it was a smaller community and it was so supportive, that was good for me. It was important for me to feel encouraged and supported when I was younger and that has stayed with me in that it’s something I look for in my musical situations in my professional life,” says MacLaine who, after high school, went on to study at McGill University and then to The Juilliard School and now performs worldwide as a recitalist and chamber musician.

What’s next?

“Beside the Parcival project, I’m rehearsing for Ahuntsic en fugue, a new chamber orchestra festival which will have several concerts in people’s yards in Montreal leading up to one big concert this summer,” says MacLaine, who also happens to be the artistic director.

“I’ve been asked to put together the programs that are unusual and colourful and will appeal to people with differing amounts of experience with classical music. It’s fun.”


Sally Cole is a features writer with The Guardian. She welcomes comments about her column as well as suggestions for future columns from readers. She may be reached at scole@theguardian.pe.ca or by phone at 629-6000, ext. 6054.

Fast Facts

Up close and personal with cellist Julia MacLaine

- Just for fun: Cycling/camping trip through the mountains in Virginia, Argentine tango, tennis and yoga.

- Favourite foods before a concert: Fish, greens, water, nuts and dried fruit.

- Website: http://juliamaclaine.com/.