Chamberfest bids adieu to Borys and welcomes Carissa Klopoushak

Roman Borys is leaving as the artistic director of Chamberfest. He will be replaced by Carissa Klopoushak, wo will be interim artistic director. Photos: Bo Huang

After 13 years as artistic director of the Ottawa Chamber Music Society (OCMS), Roman Borys will step down from his post on Aug. 14.

He will be replaced by the first woman to hold the position — the multi-talented musician and administrator, Carissa Klopoushak, who is a violinist with the National Arts Centre Orchestra and the Ironwood Quartet. She also co-founded and is co-artistic director of two festivals: Ritonello in her home province of Saskatchewan and the Classical Unbound Festival in Prince Edward County.

Klopoushak performs on a Vuillaume violin on loan from the Canada Council Musical Instrument Bank.

Klopoushak takes over as interim artistic director on Aug. 17.

The OCMS’s general manager Peter MacDonald told ARTSFILE that, with Borys leaving,  “the choices were a void to be filled or asking somebody we respect who could step in.”

Like most arts organizations, Chamberfest plans its seasons more than a year ahead and the fall and winter concert series is planned. Whether it takes place is another story.

But, he said, “we needed to keep planning for the concerts.”

He said, “it made a lot of sense to have someone come in work with the existing team. We looked at a list of people who might help and Carissa’s name kept rising to the top.”

In the end, he said, she gave the festival a reason to not go on a job search.

Bringing in Klopoushak changes the face of the festival from a 50-something man to a 30 something woman. It’s time, Macdonald said, to pass the baton.

MacDonald says he expects the Gryphons will continue to be a presence at the festival.

Borys, who leads a busy professional career as a member of the internationally respected Gryphon Trio, has overseen a massive expansion of the activities of the OCMS from a summertime event to a year-round operation involving among other things the world’s largest chamber music festival which has just celebrated 25 years.

Under Borys’s tenure the OCMS has created a major fall and winter concert series and embarked on community initiatives including music education for young students and concerts for elders in care.

The festival was known for supporting young artists and for commissioning ambitious new works.

“I am very grateful to the entire Chamberfest community for embracing my artistic leadership with such commitment and enthusiasm. I am very proud of the excellence and growth that have been achieved in collaboration with the artists, artistic advisors, supporters, partners, volunteers, staff and board, over the course of the last 13 years. I will fondly remember the remarkable journey we’ve had together,” Borys said in a media release.

“As the disruption caused by the pandemic slowed the cycles of commitments and deadlines tethered to the many facets of my work life, it became clear to me that this was the ideal time to pass the Chamberfest torch to an outstanding next generation artist whose energy and vision will continue to drive the organization into the future.”

In addition to performing and recording the Gryphons are charged with running the Banff Centre’s classical music summer program, which was to start this year. The pandemic has closed much of Banff’s but the behind the scenes work continues.

“Carissa Klopoushak is a powerful performer, experienced curator and frequent Chamberfest contributor,” said Borys. “Her passion for chamber music and adventurous small ensemble collaboration defines her artistic voice as one of the strongest in the field.” 

As for Klopoushak, she said, in the same release that “I am excited and deeply honoured to become the next steward of this important Canadian cultural institution, Ottawa Chamberfest. I’m looking forward to continuing the creative trajectory established by Roman, while bringing my own unique experiences to this adventure.

“I’m pleased to continue and to deepen my 11-year relationship with this festival, concert series, and all that this organization encompasses.”

Despite the suspension of all regular concert programming due to COVID-19, Ottawa Chamberfest has continued to engage its audience and artists through new initiatives including online Chamber Chats: At Home, Chez vous every Tuesday and Thursday, and successful live-streamed concerts. 

MacDonald said the festival team is engaged in conversations with management at the Carleton Dominion Chalmers Centre about the return to live performance, whenever that might happen.

He doesn’t see full concerts possibly even until 2021. The planning is now based on physical distancing which would see about 150 to 200 people inside the centre.

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Peter Robb began his connection with the arts community in Ottawa in the mid-1980s when he was the administrator and public relations director of the Great Canadian Theatre Company. After a long career in journalism with the Ottawa Citizen where he served in a number of different posts he returned to the arts when he became the Citizen's arts editor.