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New artistic director for County Classical Music Festival

Stéphane and the New Orford String Quartet accept a standing ovation after a festival performance of Elgar’s Piano Quintet. (From left: Stéphane Lemelin, Brian Manker, Eric Nowlin, Jonathan Crow and Andrew Wan).

Stéphane Lemelin, founding artistic director of the Prince Edward County Classical Music Festival, has announced the 2017 festival will be his final season.

Lemelin first visited the County while on a Piano Six tour in 2001. He fell in love with the County’s beauty and charm and the friendliness and enthusiasm of the people. He realized it would be an ideal setting for an annual chamber music festival. His idea took flight and in 2004, The Prince Edward County Music Festival was born.

His dream was to bring the best of Canada’s performers to the County to offer classical chamber music and to highlight works of living Canadian composers in the larger context of music of all times. Under Lemelin’s leadership, the festival has hosted some of Canada’s most celebrated composers, as well as a long list of Canada’s finest musicians. Over the past 14 years, there have been many memorable moments, each season filled with outstanding musicianship and deeply moving performances, seasoned with humour and lots of surprises.

Thanks to Lemelin’s vision, the festival has flourished and has become a popular destination for musicians, so much so that the artistic directorship will be taken over by one of the Festival’s favourite ensembles, the New Orford String Quartet.

The board of the festival announced the appointment of the New Orford String Quartet as new artistic directors of the Festival, effective October 1, 2017.

“The festival has provided me with some of the most deeply satisfying musical experiences of my career,” said Lemelin. “It will always occupy a very special place in my heart. It is with great enthusiasm and confidence in the future that I welcome the appointment of the New Orford String Quartet.”

The quartet is a great Canadian success story, said Rosemary Kent, the festival’s secretary.

Violinists Jonathan Crow and Andrew Wan are concertmasters of the Toronto and Montreal Symphony Orchestras respectively, Eric Nowlin, principal viola at the Detroit Symphony, and Brian Manker is principal cello with OSM. They formed in 2009, following in the footsteps of the original Orford Quartet, Canada’s internationally admired ensemble.

“Their concept – to bring four world-class orchestral leaders together on a regular basis to perform chamber music at the highest level – has resulted in a quartet that maintains a remarkably fresh and virtuosic perspective,” said Kent. “The players also feel strongly about bringing their performances to small rural towns, and performing works by Canadian composers.”

“We are so excited to assume the mantle of Stéphane’s vision in Picton. Having performed at the festival on a few occasions, we feel a deep connection to the audience, the County, and the festival’s commitment to presenting the highest level of chamber music. We would like to express our gratitude to the board for their faith in us, and thank Stéphane for his incredible work.”

“As participants in the festival, the New Orford String Quartet thrilled our audiences with their outstanding musicianship and their magnetic presence on stage”, said Ted Schaner, PECCMF Chair. “We are very impressed by their commitment to maintain the primary focus of the Festival, and by their exciting vision of future possibilities for the Festival. We look forward to working with them as the new Artistic Directors.”

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