You’ve seen him at the concerts, mingling with the audience, selling an ensemble’s CD, or assisting the box office. Our esteemed president-elect, Paris Simons knows the Friends of Chamber Music inside-and-out, and from introducing the performers on stage to welcoming the audience and ensuring every aspect behind-the-scenes plays out perfectly, he’s the go-to man of the hour. Meet Paris:
1. What inspired you to join the FoCM board?
I started as a student audience member when my parents would occasionally bring me to concerts as a child. They were subscribers for many years. Then, I started subscribing myself as an undergraduate student at UBC and found I enjoyed this series of concerts more than any other subscription series in Vancouver. When there was a call for volunteers in 2001, I offered to help, and I was delighted when the then board invited me to join them.
2. What aspect of being on the board do you find most rewarding?
The best part is being able to continue a tradition of bringing the very best classical chamber music groups to Vancouver to play some of the best music from this tradition live, in concert.. The experience of live music is very special and I hope that people who come to hear the concerts can find the same joy in it that I do.
3. What are the most memorable FoCM concerts for you, and why?
There have been so many memorable FCM concerts, and I can identify memorable parts of almost every concert I have attended. Most recently, seeing and hearing Eugene Drucker’s violin bow snap during the Emerson String Quartet’s fabulous performance of Bartok’s 4th quartet was certainly memorable. I had never seen that happen before! And the Borodin Quartet playing all 15 Shostakovich quartets beautifully in 5 concerts over 9 days in May 2015 was very memorable. What a powerful experience! I have special memories of the final Beaux Arts Trio concert in 2008. A very emotional farewell to a great ensemble! There were the wonderful quintet concerts with the Prazak Quartet and Menahem Pressler and others, and both a Bartok and Beethoven cycle played by the Bartok Quartet, allowing us to experience the breadth of each composer’s career in just a few days. And if I leaf through old programs, I could pick out favourites from so many other concerts, some having local musicians join the visiting groups, some featuring ensembles or composers that I had not heard before but who offered an artistic revelation to me.
4. What was your first exposure to chamber music?
My parents introduced me to chamber music by playing LPs and listening to CBC Radio at home. They let me watch Leonard Bernstein’s Young People’s Concerts on TV each week, too. I caught their enthusiasm for this wonderful music, as well as for other music, ranging from early music to new music, including jazz and some rock and pop, too.
5. What instrument do you play, or wish you could play?
I wish I could play piano, and many other instruments, too,but still do not play anything.
6. What have you learned from serving as a Director on the board that you’d like to share?
I have learned that it has been a labour of love from a great number of volunteer directors for almost 70 years that has kept this organization going. I’ve learned that things change and we must change, too, in order to get the word out about this apparently hidden musical treasure in the Vancouver cultural scene.
7. What do you want others to know or understand about Friends of Chamber Music?
I want people to know that presenting these concerts is a labour of love. Live music is special, and my colleagues and I believe that the chamber music repertoire is some of the greatest music in the world. Chamber music is intimate, and when played well exposes the inner workings of the music and the composer to the audience. Plus, it is just so very beautiful, sometimes soothing, sometimes challenging! FCM is lucky enough to bring in some of the greatest living musicians, coming from different traditions, with different flavours of sound, to make the melodies, harmonies and rhythms transparent for the audience!
8. What is your guilty pleasure music?
I don’t really feel guilty about listening to any music that I enjoy! I have been listening to a fair bit of David Bowie’s music since his recent death, as have a number of my friends. But that does not wholly displace Bach, Beethoven or Ligeti, or Charles Mingus, Miles Davis or so many others on my home playlist.
What have you been longing to know about our board of directors? Leave your questions in the comments below and we’ll be sure to follow-up on future interviews!