Today’s musician profile: Vernon Regehr – Music in the Barns Chamber Ensemble Part V

Vernon Regehr






















Vernon Regehr belongs in a tuxedo.  He is tall and charming and stately, just like the Viseltear and Young cello he plays.  And he has the pedigree to boot.  His father is Rennie Regehr, former Dean of the Glenn Gould School of the Royal Conservatory of Music.  Both father and son are not only revered as professional musicians, (Regehr senior was Principle viola with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra for 21 years), but they are both professors at the University of Ottawa (senior) and Memorial University (junior).  But I never had the chance to discuss how this father-son relationship affected Vernon’s trajectory as a professional celloist.  I have visions of King Lear-ean drama, but that’s not fair, nor is it relevant.

We did talk Shakespeare, however.  Vernon just revisited the Sonnets, words he hadn’t read since high school.  A friend of his was putting them to music.  ” I loved the richness of the language, the meaning and the depth of feeling captured in relatively few words,”  he seems to levitate from our picnic bench.  “The work was so remarkable.  These guys are great for a reason.  They are timeless.”  He moves on to Stravinsky and his composition, The Rite Of Spring, which was first performed 100 years ago this May.  “He broke the floodgates open.”  Stravinsky was instrumental in “exposing primitivism in art.”  This during a time of the Russian Revolution.  The conversation rushes to the influence of great art. “It takes chances and is not self conscious.  There is a non linear connection.  It’s important  to know cultural (background), social (issues) and the political tensions of that period.”

Vernon is mercurial and I think it would be great to sit in on one of his classes!  I admit I have trouble keeping up with him in my notes.  There is a lot going on here.  Vernon lived in New York City, and he continues on about it’s cultural influences.  “There is an intensity of work there.  I had access to all the wonderful things the city had to offer.  I’d walk in one neighbourhood, and it had this feel.  On block over, it was completely different.  Everything right down to the food!  New York contextualized and filled things out for me.”  The art galleries, in particular MOMA, inspired his playing.  “Such incredible variety.  All this was important to my awakening.”

As musicians, “We have the privilege of being on stage, acting as a conduit to the music.  Only by aligning ourselves with that creative force, yet getting  out of the way….”  His voice trails off.  He is intense about his work and the force is palpable.  He continues, “We rehearse so we can lay the building blocks down so we can put a voice to the music.  There is so much stuff!  How did this music come to be?  It is a privilege.  To be able to explore the depths of the music, there is so much to work on!”  He seems to glow as he makes his point.  “It’s not like sticking your hand in the sand – it can’t go anywhere.  But the music, it allows constant mining and returning.  It always shows you more!”

I direct Vernon to Opus 118 Harlem School of Music, where he taught.  “I learned about the Universality of music.  It doesn’t matter who you are.  It unleashes creative impulses, no matter where you are from.”  Music is an instrument of peace, allowing students an emotional release in a time of social conflict and stress while teaching tolerance in a diverse community.  This is directly from the Opus 118 website.  Obviously, we aren’t dealing with kids from Rosedale or Forest Hill.  Vernon shakes his head and lets out a long breath.  “Being exposed to people whose lives are tough, taught me compassion, empathy and solidarity.  I saw things that went on with these kids and I had a hard time squaring that with my own life.”  He takes a moment to come back from his mind’s eye.  “Music is a vehicle for connecting disparate groups of people.  It’s an equalizing force that breaks down a whole lot of things in a really great way.”  The stakes are high, and he likens it to the documentary, El Sistema  – To Play or Live (it documents the subsidized music program in Venezuela).  “To be able to show what I do in music, helps find and infuse that creative force within themselves.  It’s not about I’m not that guy up on stage, rather communication.  It collects us all into something that is real.  In the documentary, you saw that power.  I hope that as a teacher, I can pass that feeling along.”

The teaching thread peddles the conversation, “It comes down to the teacher.”  He attributes his mentor, Timothy Eddy, “A great pedagogue,” from his alma mater, Stoney Brook University, on Long Island.  “I feel lucky to have studied with him.”  One of the things a great teacher does, “is in addition to the applied study, they allow a student to identify problems , break them down and find the component parts and give students tools to solve those problems.  That’s the clinical part.”  He continues educating me, “The other part is uncovering the depth, exposing the under-layers, the breadth  and the fullness of music to the student.  To pique the desire to show the music for what it is.  Great and powerful.  Those are the doors we must open!”

And the grand doors of the Artscape Wychwood Barns will be open at 7:30.  Walk through and join The Music In The Barns Chamber Ensemble Tonight!

Tickets may be purchased online at


joy head shot

Joy Tanner

Joy Tanner hails from Pittsford, New York. Graduating with
honours with a double major in English and Theatre from
SUNY Potsdam, she also holds a diploma from the British
American Drama Academy (London/Oxford). She moved to
Canada in the early 90′s, and has been acting professionally
on both the big and small screens for over 20 years. She is
best know for her roles in Cold Squad, Life With Derek and
DeGrassi The Next Generation. Recent film credits include
The Phantoms, The House At The End Of The Street and

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