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Apr 17, 2018

Core Tafelmusik musicians Christina Mahler and Alison Mackay to retire in June 2019

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Tafelmusik applauds their decades of remarkable musicianship and creativity

Toronto, April 17, 2018 … Two cherished and long-standing members of Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra, Christina Mahler, principal cello since 1981, and Alison Mackay, principal double bass since 1979, have announced their decision to retire in June 2019 after the 2018/19 season. As key members of Tafelmusik’s continuo section, they have epitomized the orchestra’s heartbeat for almost four decades. Both have also contributed significantly to Tafelmusik’s world-wide renown and development in the areas of artist training and innovative concert programming designed to engage modern audiences. Mahler and Mackay will perform in several concerts during the 2018/19 season, which marks Tafelmusik’s 40thanniversary. Mackay will continue her involvement with the creation of new multimedia programs.  

“It has been an honour and a privilege to collaborate with Christina Mahler and Alison Mackay during this first year of my tenure as Music Director. It’s been inspiring to play with them both, and I have learned so much from their remarkable experience,” said Music Director Elisa Citterio. “I know I speak for everyone in the orchestra when I say that we will miss them greatly. I’m grateful that we will have the opportunity to perform together next season, and look forward to celebrating their wonderful achievements. We wish them well as they embrace this next step in their lives.” 

Dutch cellist Christina Mahler grew up in a musical family. Her mother, a professional violinist, gave up her career for her family, and all  five of her children played instruments. Mahler's earliest chamber music experience came from ensemble playing at home. Her dream was to be a professional cellist in a chamber orchestra, just about the size of Tafelmusik. After five years of study with Anner Bijlsma in the Hague, the opportunity presented itself in 1981, when she immigrated to Canada to serve as principal cellist of Tafelmusik Orchestra, a position she has held ever since.

Mahler has always had a special affinity for baroque music, as well as a passion for 18th and 19th century chamber music. She can often be heard playing music by composers such as Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin, or Mendelssohn in solo recitals or with small ensembles. Reviews have praised her for her rich sound, energetic playing and insightful musicianship. She has played and recorded numerous concertos, including works by Boccherini, Haydn, Vivaldi, C.P.E. Bach and Leo. She can be heard on over 80 recordings on numerous labels, including Sony, Hyperion, CBC, BMG, ATMA Classique, Analekta, and Tafelmusik Media. A devoted and gifted teacher, Mahler has attracted students from around the world to study with her at Tafelmusik’s Summer and Winter Institutes, as well as at the University of Toronto and in her private studio. In her free time, she is an avid potter and she enjoys relaxing at her cottage in the Kawarthas in the summer.

“I feel honoured to have had the opportunity to play in Tafelmusik for all these years. It has been an amazing journey of collaborative chamber music making, which is in my view the highest musical goal. Working with Jeanne Lamon for my first 35 years with Tafelmusik has been wonderfully fulfilling. I am also very excited to work with our warm and inspiring new Music Director, Elisa Citterio, and look forward to the programs that we will play together before my departure at the end of next season. As instrumentalists, we are very similar to dancers and athletes in terms of the wear and tear our profession exerts on our bodies, and in recent years I began to realize that it was time for me to slow down and plan my retirement from the orchestra’s fast-paced schedule,” said Mahler. “The future is very bright for Tafelmusik and I will always hold the orchestra and the audience very close to my heart. Although this represents the closing of a major chapter in my life, it is not the end of the book. I very much hope to be playing the cello in concerts for a long time to come.”

Alison Mackay, who has played violone and double bass with Tafelmusik since 1979, has been widely recognized for her “powerful” (The Globe and Mail), “flawless” (Musical Toronto), and “entertaining” (HuffPost Canada) award-winning multimedia and cross-cultural programming for the orchestra, which have delighted audiences on four continents. J.S. Bach: The Circle of Creation, House of Dreams, and The Galileo Project have been seen across Canada and the United States, and have travelled as far as China, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand. The Galileo Project was honoured in Australia with a Helpmann Award for distinguished artistic achievement, and by the International Astronomical Union with the naming of an asteroid, "197856 Tafelmusik." Mackay’s The Four Seasons, A Cycle of the Sun has also toured widely, and has been made into a feature documentary film. Her children's adventure, The Quest for Arundo Donax, won the 2006 JUNO Award for Children's Recording of the Year. DVD and CD recordings of The Galileo Project, House of Dreams, and Tales of Two Cities: The Leipzig-Damascus Coffee House have garnered considerable critical acclaim and are available on the Tafelmusik Media label.

Mackay’s most recent creations—Visions and Voyages: Canada 1663-1763 and Safe Haven—have created bridges between the distant past and contemporary society while exploring complex themes of colonization, migration, displacement, and cross-cultural exchange.

Under Mackay’s leadership, Tafelmusik has sponsored two city-wide arts festivals: the 2005 Metamorphosis Festival, inspired by the stories in Ovid's Metamorphoses; and the 2008 Sacred Spaces, Sacred Circles Festival, a celebration of architecture and arts in Toronto’s diverse worship spaces.  Mackay is the recipient of the 2013 Betty Webster Award for her contribution to orchestral life in Canada.

“It has been the privilege of my life to share the stage with my beloved colleagues, each of whom is a brilliant and brainy virtuoso, and I will be forever grateful to orchestra founders Kenny Solway and Susan Graves for inviting me to join, to Jeanne Lamon for 35 years of inspiring leadership, collaboration, and profound shared experiences, and to Elisa Citterio for her passionate commitment to Tafelmusik and for her warmth as a colleague and friend. The 2018/19 season will mark my fortieth year as a member of Tafelmusik, and since I was 26 when I joined, it will be time to bid a fond farewell and pass the job on to one of my gifted bass players of the next generation,” said Mackay. “Excited about the future of Tafelmusik, I look forward to my final season with zest and then to joining the audience to see what new magic will unfold.” 

Tafelmusik Managing Director William Norris said, “The contributions made by Christina and Alison are really beyond measure. They have been the backbone and through-line of the orchestra—both in terms of their long service and by virtue of being part of the continuo section of Tafelmusik. Their commitment has also been far beyond simply playing in concerts. They have been teachers, mentors, creators, programmers, and ambassadors for the orchestra. Alison’s multimedia programs have become a hallmark of our work, and have been enjoyed by audiences from Canada to China—and we’re thrilled that Alison will continue to collaborate with us. Thanks to their dedication, Tafelmusik has developed into the world-renowned organization it is today—and their work and musicianship have set the stage for a hugely exciting future under the new leadership of Elisa Citterio.”

Tafelmusik has announced that international auditions for double bass and cello will take place in the fall of 2018. The orchestra looks forward to meeting musicians with extensive experience performing on periods instruments, and who excel in historical performance practice from the early baroque to romantic periods.

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Media contact:
Luisa Trisi, (416) 456-0499 | ltrisi@sympatico.caluisatrisi.com
427 Bloor Street West, Toronto, ON M5S 1X7
High‐resolution photos of Tafelmusik are available for download here.