Apr 30, 2019

A Salute to Christina Mahler and Alison Mackay

Christina Mahler (cello) and Alison Mackay (double bass). Photo by Sian Richards.
Christina Mahler and Alison Mackay. Photos by Sian Richards.

By Elisa Citterio

As any musician knows, being part of an orchestra or choir is like having a second family. The emotions can be just as intense, and musical colleagues who share experiences in rehearsal, on stage, and on tour can feel as close as siblings. 
During my relatively short time in Toronto, the musicians of Tafelmusik have become my second family. This is why I have so many bittersweet emotions about the imminent retirement of two of Tafelmusik’s longest standing and most cherished members: Christina Mahler, Principal Cello since 1981, and Alison Mackay, Principal Double Bass since 1979. As key members of Tafelmusik’s continuo section, they have been the orchestra’s heartbeat for almost four decades. As teachers, mentors, creators, ambassadors, and programmers, their remarkable musicianship and creativity have contributed to Tafelmusik’s growth on so many levels.

Christina Mahler and Alison Mackay. Circa 199

Like me, Christina was raised in a large musical family whose matriarch was a professional musician. Her earliest chamber music experience came from ensemble playing at home in the Netherlands, and her biggest wish was to become a professional cellist in a chamber orchestra. Fortunately for Tafelmusik, her dream came true, and together with Jeanne Lamon, she immigrated to Canada and made Toronto her home. We have been truly blessed to experience her rich, nuanced, and energetic playing ever since. 
Alison’s imaginative cultural explorations have helped Tafelmusik build bridges between the past and contemporary society. Her cross-cultural, multimedia concerts discover parallels between the histories and customs of distant lands and our world today, drawing attention to our shared humanity. Alison’s legacy of creative programs for Tafelmusik is admired around the world, and we are thrilled that she will continue to work with us on a new program next season, The Indigo Project. 
Christina and Alison embody many of the qualities that distinguish the musicians of Tafelmusik on a human level: curiosity, diligence, warmth, compassion, and humility. I know my colleagues, the board, staff, and volunteers will join me in expressing our heartfelt gratitude for their many years of dedication to the orchestra. They have helped make Tafelmusik very special, and we will miss them deeply. 
We are reassured that Tafelmusik will continue to maintain close ties with Christina and Alison in the years to come — once you are part of this family, you remain forever within its embrace.
Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra performing in Trinity-St.Paul's Centre, 1982.
Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra performing in Trinity-St. Paul's Centre, 1982.
Christina Mahler and Alison Mackay are pictured on the far right.

Christina Mahler
Alison Mackay