It was in Courtenay, on Vancouver Island, when Coquitlam violist Reg Quiring first heard virtuoso performer Rita Costanzi.
At the time, the principal harpist with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra (VSO) and the CBC Radio Orchestra was teaching at a music festival with Quiring, who had also worked for the VSO.
“I saw her playing and I was blown away,” Quiring recalled. “We became good friends and I always had it in the back of my mind to have her perform at one of our New Year’s Eve shows.”
This year, Quiring plucked up the courage to ask Costanzi if she wouldn’t mind making the trek from New York City, where she now calls home, back to Metro Vancouver to grace the Evergreen Cultural Centre stage for the 11th annual QuiRing in the New Year recital.
After all, Costanzi’s daughter lives on Vancouver Island “so it gave her two reasons to come back for the holidays,” Quiring said. “Luckily for us, she agreed.”
Recognized around the world for her unique talent, Costanzi can best be described as a performance artist — that is, a musician who incorporates acting as another way to express the sound.
But to accommodate the harp repertoire meant Quiring’s wife, pianist Rosemary O’Connor, had to step aside after 10 years in the QuiRing concert.
No matter, said O’Connor who is working on a big music project. Costanzi “is a fireball and a beautiful performer,” she said.
For their Dec. 31 show, the pair also recruited flautist Mark Takeshi McGregor and violinist Lucia Hyunsil Roh (the conductor for the junior ensemble of the Coquitlam Youth Orchestra, founded by Quiring) to fill out the program.
The quartet will start the evening with viola, flute and harp pieces from the Renaissance era arranged by Ottorino Respighi. That set will be followed by Serenade in D-major by Ludwig van Beethoven, a 25-minute composition by the German writer.
After the intermission will be Camille Saint-Saens’ Fantaisie for Violin and Harp while the conclusion is Claude Debussy’s 1915 Sonata for Flute, Viola and Harp — the second entry in what was supposed to be the French composer’s series of six chamber sonatas.
It’ll be the first time Costanzi, McGregor and Roh will appear in a QuiRing show and each will offer modern takes on the classical tunes.
“The harp is a new instrument for QuiRing and we’re very honoured Rita will be the one to introduce the instrument to our audiences,” he said. “She brings an international presence like no other musician we’ve had.”
• Tickets to QuiRing in the New Year at the Evergreen Cultural Centre (1205 Pinetree Way, Coquitlam) are $42/$38/$15 and includes a sparkling wine reception afterward. The show is part of the facility’s TD Music Series. Call 604-927-6555 or visit evergreenculturalcentre.ca.