New York at the lake: renowned pianist holds workshop at Pigeon Lake

Pianist Jason Cutmore spent time at the lake in youth

Once the beauty and serenity of Pigeon Lake is in your mind, it seems those things are there to stay. At least, that’s the situation facing one expatriate, world-renowned pianist in New York City.

Jason Cutmore, a concert pianist who’s performed in North America, Europe and Asia, hails from Edmonton but is now living in New York City and doing some teaching. As a kid, he had the opportunity to spend some time at Pigeon Lake and the memory has remained with him ever since.

“I think that is stuck in my mind,” he said by phone June 28. That’s why the biannual Alberta Pianofest, produced by the Alberta Pianofest Society, is entering its third iteration at the lake west of Wetaskiwin. It’s a summer workshop and retreat for 12 lucky teenage students who learn from and work with Cutmore and his team who offer a special focus on the piano, then use what they’ve learned in recitals, performances and programs in Edmonton this summer.

Cutmore, who’s had a lifelong association with the piano since a preschool teacher first suggested his parents enroll him in music lessons, said students who want to participate in Alberta Pianofest have to apply, almost like they’re applying for a job. While he’s had students from Europe in the past, this year the 12 students come from Canada and the U.S.

The application process is competitive, he noted, including an audition recording. If successful, the students receive a scholarship to attend the workshop gratis, including two weeks of musical immersion surrounded by the beauty of Pigeon Lake.

A press release for the event noted, “Alberta Pianofest returns to Edmonton July 6 – 23, hosting notable pianists from around the world and spotlighting classical and contemporary piano music through free public performances including traditional piano recitals, panel discussions and philosophical talks, thematic variety shows, children’s outreach, master classes for international piano students and more.

“The biennial festival will be hosted at numerous Edmonton venues including City Hall, Holy Trinity Anglican Church and Muttart Hall at Alberta College with live piano music and conversation about the art form.

“This year’s festival kicks off with a live solo piano performance and narration of the children’s musical fairy tale Peter and the Wolf performed by Jason Cutmore and former CBC radio host Rick Phillips. This free public event is hosted at City Hall on July 6 at noon.

“Special highlights of the festival include a concert and panel discussion centered on the question ‘What good are artists anyway?’ on July 8; a Spanish-themed gala concert and ‘taperia’ (Spanish appetizers) on Sunday July 9; and a unique, late-night ‘un-Canadian’ Canada Day 150th anniversary concert held at Brittany’s Lounge on July 15.”

Cutmore said he and fellow organizers have always had a soft spot in their hearts for the Spanish musical repertoire, and this is the 150th anniversary of composer Enrique Granados’ birthday, so they settled on a theme in his honour.

Cutmore said teaching and performing in Alberta is fun for the students, and for the teacher too. “I come back regularly now,” he said. “It’s always a pleasure.”

A full listing of all nine Alberta Pianofest events can be found at albertapianofest.com/calendar. Tickets and Festival Passes available June 21 at: albertapianofest.com/tickets and TIX on the Square.