Saxophonist Allen Harrington performs at the Millenium Centre on July 2 (Stuart Kasdorf)
"There are not many musicians who choose classical saxophone as a solo instrument," says Allen Harrington, laughing.
"There are a lot of times when I do a recital performance somewhere and an audience member might come up to me afterwards and say 'I never knew saxophone could do that. I've never heard classical saxophone before.'"
Allen Harrington can do some pretty amazing things on his saxophone. He's easily one of Canada's finest, displaying a gorgeous fluid tone, astonishing virtuosity and real sense of artistry.
And lucky for Winnipeggers, Harrington will be performing with pianist Laura Loewen on July 2 at noon as part of the Millenium Concert Series.
"For saxophones, jazz is much more common," says Harrington, a Saskatoon native.
Yet from the time he was in grade nine, he was drawn to the instrument's classical side.
"It's what the instrument was intended and designed for initially," he says.
A deciding factor for Harrington to focus on the saxophone
came in 1999 when he won the Grand Award in the National Music Festival. He was
the overall winner, competing against all instruments, including piano,
strings, and voice. "It was unusual for a saxophone to win," he admits.
At the same time, Harrington was keeping up bassoon. In that capacity he played with the National Youth Orchestra of Canada and even went on a European tour with them. "I realized music could take me places," he says.
Nowadays Harrington travels all over the world with his musical partner Laura Loewen, including to Europe, the US and South America. He has also showcased in a number of World Saxophone Congresses.
Harrington says composers like the fact that the instrument is so flexible and is capable of so many things. He finds saxophone players in general are really open to new repertoire. He himself regularly commissions new music, at least one piece a year, always from a Canadian composer.
His upcoming performance features some fun tango music by Astor Piazzolla.
The Millenium Concert Series is organized by the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra. It runs every Tuesday at the Millenium Centre until August 13. Allen Harrington and pianist Laura Loewen perform on July 2 at 12:00 noon.