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Ensemble assembles

By Roberta Bell, Orillia Packet & Times

Jeffrey Moellman's aunt taught him to play "a few little Christmas songs" on the piano when he was five.

"It was hard to start, actually," Moellman, who is the director of music and organist at Guardian Angels Church in Orillia, said with a chuckle. "Once you get past certain things, it kind of comes more easily."

By the time Moellman hit third grade, he was playing organ at his Catholic elementary school's masses. When high school rolled around, Moellman started substituting on the instrument at his home diocese's cathedral.

After completing an undergraduate degree in computer information systems, Moellman enrolled at the Cleveland Institute of Music, coming out with a bachelor's degree in organ performance. He went on to pursue a master's in choral conducting at Kent State University.

"I guess I felt that I didn't have enough time to put toward music," Moellman said of his decision to pursue it after he finished his first undergrad stint. "I loved it so much that I wanted to try and do it for my work."

In addition to his post at Guardian Angels, Moellman also serves as the artistic director of the newly formed Chamber Music Orillia, a professional group that includes his wife Caroline Bourque and local couple Valerie Selander and Peter Voisey.

"So much of the music that happens in Orillia on a professional level comes from the outside," Moellman said, noting there are a lot of strong community-based initiatives. "I think it's a natural extension to have a small kind of indigenous, professional ensemble based here."

Moellman and Bourque met while they were both studying at the Cleveland Institute of Music and moved to Orillia with their four children in June 2010.

Bourque, a violinist, met Valerie Selander and Peter Boisey that December while performing with the Cellar Singers, a popular choir based in Simcoe County.

Selander also plays violin and Boisey, a variety of woodwind instruments.

The two couples became quick friends and it wasn't long before the possibility of performing together came up.

Moellman said the four "kicked the idea around" over the summer and by August, Chamber Music Orillia was born.

"We serve as the core musicians," Moellman said. "Depending on what music we want to perform, we (will) go to our contacts and bring in the additional musicians."

Moellman said chamber music can be made by an ensemble of just two or three, or a small orchestra.

"In chamber music, being in a small group is nice because you do have to communicate with each person in the group," Moellman said, noting it's rare to see a conductor.

There are, however, exceptions.

Chamber Music Orillia's first performance will feature a well-known classical piece called Toy Symphony, which includes local children on rhythm instruments. Moellman will be leading it.

"We're putting on concerts, but really we want to be a little more of a resource for the community," Moellman said.

All four of Chamber Music Orillia's founding members play professionally, lead clinics, serve as adjudicators and teach.

Chamber Music Orillia's first concert will be performed by a small string orchestra that includes both Bourque and Selander on violin. Moellman, who will be playing piano for one piece and organ for two others, said a cellist and violist are being brought in to complete the ensemble. Boisey will be sitting the inaugural performance out.

"Having a small ensemble like that is a different kind of music making," Moellman said, adding it's not the same as an orchestra performance. "In chamber music, it's a little more organic. It kind of happens within the group. It's interesting to watch."

Moellman said Chamber Music Orillia hopes to bring out people who normally wouldn't consider a classical concert.

"Musicians from outside are great, but there are musicians here who do it and love it and want to share it with their community," Moellman said.

rbell@orilliapacket.com



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