OOE Artist Feature: Julian Armour…Music and Beyond…and the Viennese Winter Ball

Tanis Browning-Shelp  

Tanis Browning-Shelp interviews Music and Beyond’s Julian Armour about the organization he directs and its magical and “open to one and all” February 26th event…the Virtual Viennese Winter Ball.

TANIS: I’ve been involved with Music and Beyond for a few years now, and I’m currently on the organization’s Board of Directors, so I know you quite well. However, some residents of Old Ottawa East may not. How would you introduce yourself in the context of Music and Beyond?

JULIAN: My main role in life is Artistic and Executive Director of Music and Beyond. I am also Director/Producer of the Viennese Winter Ball, one of our premier annual events. As well, I am an adjunct professor at Carleton University’s Sprott School of Business where I teach Ottawa’s only university level—graduate and undergraduate—arts administration course.

TANIS: How long has Music and Beyond been around?

JULIAN: Music and Beyond was founded in 2009. We had our first festival in July of 2010, and we’ve been going non-stop ever since. It was very hard back then, as it is today, to start up a new arts organization because it was almost impossible to get into the funding loop. Granters at all levels of government had been reduced to funding only well-established arts organizations. So, we are Canada’s newest major cultural arts festival!

TANIS: How would you describe Music and Beyond and its work?

JULIAN: Music and Beyond was founded as a response to the fact that people aren’t hearing much classical music these days—not on the radio and not in our schools. We thought we could do something really creative to show that music doesn’t exist in a vacuum. We believe that music, and indeed all forms of the arts, are essential components of a healthy and thriving society. Music and Beyond is unique because part of our core mandate is to demonstrate how music interacts with other artforms and cultural disciplines and how, in fact, it has important connections with all aspects of society. We are about strengthening the cultural dialogue.

Photo by Peter Polgar

Photo by Peter Polgar

TANIS: So, “who Music and Beyond is…” is multi-faceted and the “beyond” part is what makes it particularly unique. Can you give me some examples of Music and Beyond’s collaborations over the years?

JULIAN: There are so many ways of interpreting the word beyond. We also perform in surprising venues, involve multiple generations, reach out to various geographies, and draw in diverse styles of music. But our core base is classical music and we do offer concerts in traditional settings. The French version of our organization’s name gets even closer to who we are…Musique et Autres Mondes—other worlds.

When we collaborated with Christopher Plummer, one of the greatest actors of our time, we created a show called Shakespeare and Music. Christopher Plummer fans from many parts of North America came out and heard some classical music, and classical music fans learned about acting, Shakespeare, and Christopher Plummer. Peter Robinson, the British-born Canadian crime writer, is a big classical music fan. We were on a panel together for a CBC contest and that’s when I found out that many of the passages in his novels were inspired by pieces of classical music.

So, we created an event where Peter Robinson was invited to read passages from his novels, and we played the pieces that inspired them. Half of the audience was made up of his readers/ fans and they, of course, were exposed to classical music through the event. (One woman approached me afterwards and told me that it had been the greatest day of her life!) Many of Robinson’s fans bought passes to our festival after that. The arts bring you to new places… transport you somewhere. We created our National Gallery Soirée event with the idea of bringing visual art to life. We feature artworks from every gallery—Indigenous, Baroque, Modern—and find  music which encapsulates the pieces.

Under ordinary circumstances, if you watch somebody looking at a piece of art in a gallery, you will notice that they will stand and look at a piece for a few seconds and then move on. With our gallery soirées, people take in the art for the whole duration of the music. As a result, they notice much more in the pieces and develop a heightened level of awareness about them. Other examples of the “beyond” aspect can be experienced through our series on Music and Global Warming, Music and Mental Health, and Music and Law.

Violist Juan-Miguel Hernandez performing at this year’s virtual ball. Photo by Peter Polgar

Violist Juan-Miguel Hernandez
performing at this year’s virtual
ball. Photo by Peter Polgar

TANIS: The Viennese Winter Ball is another example of how Music and Beyond collaborates with other artforms. Can you tell our readers more about it?

JULIAN: This Ottawa event is truly magical! For more than 25 years it has been an incredible live event featuring the most uplifting music ever written. Hearing the music, watching the young debutantes and cavaliers perform the Viennese waltzes, dancing, and dining in the Viennese tradition have made this glamourous event a gala in the true sense of the word. Last year, we held our first virtual version of the ball. Some people dressed up in formal attire at home, ordered in lovely meals from our partner restaurants,
and mingled during the cocktail hour in various breakout rooms through Zoom.

This year, we’ve created another full evening event to transport people from the dark and cold of winter into a sparkling musical experience from the comfort of home. We will have a special guest host and a cocktail hour. We hope to offer a dance lesson for participants and three hours—and a full range—of Austrian music. We have pre-recorded  some great music with Jonathon Crow, violinist and Concertmaster of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Soprano Mireille Asselin singing “My Hero” from The Chocolate Soldier, an operetta by Oscar Straus, and much more.

TANIS: Is the Viennese Winter Ball a fundraiser?

JULIAN: Absolutely! The Viennese Winter Ball raises funds for our youth cultural initiatives. It also provides opportunities for young people to perform.

TANIS: Can anybody attend this year’s Viennese Winter Ball?

JULIAN: Yes! Last year’s virtual ball was seen by over 80,000 people; while the gala, in its day, might only be experienced by a few hundred. It is free, so there are no barriers. It will air on Rogers TV and on Music and Beyond’s YouTube channel. And people who aren’t available on the evening of the 26th will be able to watch the program after the ball. The video version will remain available, free of charge, on our YouTube channel.

TANIS: How do people sign up if they want to be a part of the cocktail hour, break- out rooms, and other special features available via Zoom?

JULIAN: Anyone can go to the Music and Beyond website at www.musicandbeyond. ca to register.

TANIS: Can you tell me more about Music and Beyond’s commitment to young people?

JULIAN: A major part of the mandate of Music and Beyond is to build an appreciation for music in young people. We have a comprehensive Young People’s Strategy where we work to enhance music programming for young people, reach out to schools and community organizations to create opportunities for young people to interact with music, and create performance opportunities for children with professional musicians from Canada and around the world. During the pandemic, we’ve developed a major amount of free video content for young people—concerts designed for them, and concerts featuring young performers. Our Music and Nature videos were filmed throughout the Canadian Museum of Nature, highlighting its exhibits and galleries. Our Music and Circus videos feature members of Montreal’s Cirque Fantastic. Right now, we are working on a Carnival of the Animals contest for kids. Once things open up again, we will bring back live events like our Family Music Expo.

TANIS: Besides the ball, what else is around the corner for Music and Beyond?

JULIAN: We will be releasing a piano performance (video) by Angela Hewitt this month and we have many extraordinary performances and collaborations in the works.

Author Tanis Browning-Shelp (http://www.browning-shelp.com) pens her Maryn O’Brien Young Adult Fiction series, published by Dog-Eared Books, from her home in Old Ottawa East. Contact tanis@browning-shelp.com if you have information about artists or art events that you believe would enrich our community members’ lives.

Filed in: Art Beat, Front Page Tags: ,

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