by Tony Potter Staff Writer, January 31, 2015
Hibbing Daily Tribune, Virginia
VIRGINIA — A duo armed with a clarinet, a piano and their personable stage presence is coming to Virginia High School’s Goodman Auditorium.
“Expect the unexpected,” said Chris Donnelly. “We come from two different traditions of music. I’m a jazz pianist and Kornel (Wolak) is a classical clarinetist. We try to find common ground between the two, and put a different spin on them.”
Although the pairing may seem a bit unusual, those who attend the Mesaba Concert Association (MCA) performance at 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 1, will hear some familiar sounds.
“Our music is very recognizable,” said Donnelly. “We’re sure to include lots of recognizable melodies. If you go to a concert and don’t recognize any of the music, it’s hard to get into it.”
From revered classical pieces, such as Mozart’s “Clarinet Concerto” in A Major to Gershwin’s famous “Rhapsody in Blue” and Oscar Peterson’s classic “Hymn to Freedom,” the duo strives to captivate audiences with virtuosity, familiar melodies and a profound passion for music and performing.
“We always play the same program … or so we think,” Donnelly said. “Even after all these years, I never know what’s going to happen. Kornel will often be making up a story as we go, and I’ll find myself laughing along.
The duo has been performing together since 2011. They met when they each applied at a touring network, which helps budding musicians book shows.
“It’s really not that exciting of a story,” Donnelly said. “They told us ‘we’re not sure solo jazz piano or solo classical clarinet would sell, but we bet we could put you together to make something that will.’ That’s what planted the seed and got us together.”
Wolak and Donnelly now travel worldwide looking for new venues to perform at and new audiences to win over.
“Why do musicians go anywhere?” he asked. “You take your art to wherever you can go and share it with whoever you can and see what happens. Every audience is different so we enjoy the challenge of making our performances reflect each community we go to.”
They’re just happy to be performing for others.
“We enjoy interacting with people — whether it be with music, conversation or the Q and A will hold at the end of each show,” Donnelly said. “We’re there for the audience, and I’m sure everyone will have a good time.”
If you go …
What: Clarinetist Kornel Wolak and Pianist Chris Donnelly in concert, presented by Mesaba Concert Association (MCA)
• When: 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 1
• Where: Goodman Auditorium, Virginia High School
• Admission: Free for MCA members. Guest tickets available for $20.