World-class pianist Ian Parker hopes to move Prince Albert with variations tour

Vancouver-based pianist Ian Parker is performing at the Rivier Theatre in Prince Albert on Oct. 17, 2019. (Camirand Photo)

“I didn’t realize…that piano was an extra curricular activity, it was just what you do.”

Canadian pianist Ian Parker is making a stop in Prince Albert next week to shine a light on classical music.

The performance is on Oct. 17 at the Rivier Theatre starting at 7 p.m. It’s presented by Piano Six—which brings world-class pianists to communities across Canada—and sponsored by the Prince Albert Registered Music Teachers’ Association.

Parker said his performances for this tour focus on variations, which is when a composer takes a simple melody and writes several small, altered movements.

One of the pieces is Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. Parker said it’s a unique variation because sonatas often have the strict structure of a primary and secondary melody, yet the Moonlight Sonata doesn’t have a melody at all.

“Moonlight is one of those famous pieces strangely because there is no melody. Usually when someone loves a piece, it’s the melody that you can take home with you,” he said.

Instead, this piece is all harmonies: “The harmonies are so haunting and dark and also so rich and so mysterious.”

Parker said he did a concert on Thursday night, and twice someone came up to him saying they thought they would feel out of place. He proved them wrong.

“You don’t need people to explain to you what’s going on. The music can tell you so many things,” he said.

“What I want people to go away with is the feeling that they have been moved or they have been excited or they feel like they’ve had this incredible, emotional journey through the language of music.”

While Parker is based in Vancouver, he’s on the road for seven or eight months of the year. He either plays piano or conducts in Canada, the United States, China and Europe.

He’s the music director of the Vancouver Academy of Music Symphony Orchestra, which has four concerts a year.

“As you can imagine as a pianist, I’m always alone and now working with an orchestra, I’m more working with other musicians,” said Parker.

He grew up in a family of musicians, with both of his parents teaching piano. Two of his cousins attended Julliard in New York City and became famous Canadian pianists.

“I didn’t realize at the time that piano was an extra curricular activity, it was just what you do,” he said.

Parker followed in his cousins’ footsteps, moving to New York City for school when he was 18 years old. He received a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree and an artist diploma.

Once he developed himself as a musician in the United States, he decided to move back to Canada’s west coast.

When his dad passed away last year, Parker was determined to carry on the piano tradition, striving to show his audiences that classical music isn’t something to be intimidated by.

“It’s about having your emotions completely stimulated in every single part of the spectrum and this is why I encourage people to go,” he said.

Parker travelled across Saskatchewan for Prairie Debut over a decade ago. Although he stopped in close communities like Melfort and Rosthern, he’s never performed in Prince Albert.

He will also be in Saskatoon on Oct. 15 and 16.