Doors Open For Music: Joe Trio offers some classical music with a smile

Cameron Wilson, Charles Inkman and Allen Stiles are Joe Trio.

In his time violinist Cameron Wilson has played in a mariachi band, a francophone band called Pastiche that sounds like La Bottine Souriante, a Parisian-style jazz band called Van Django, something called the Hard Rubber Orchestra, another called Tambura Rasa and he fills in as an extra in the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. And he composes a fair bit. Wilson likes his music eclectic it seems.

Oh yeah. He also plays in a piano trio called Joe Trio, that is the sum of all his musical parts.

Along with pianist Allen Stiles and cellist Charles Inkman, Joe Trio will roll into Ottawa to play a noon hour concert at Southminster United Church on Wednesday, part of the Doors Open For Music series of concerts.

The name gives away that the musicians also have a real sense of humour about the music they play and the way they present it.

“We are billed as a classical piano trio but we really are crossover trio,” Wilson said by phone from his Vancouver home. “We do a lot of different things. We do parody. We do some pop arrangements. We do some jazz and we do a bit of comedy.

“And we do straight up classical music as well.”

Joe Trio has been in Ottawa before at Chamberfest a few years ago.

The Ottawa performance is an hour long so they are cramming a lot in, Wilson says.

They’ll play an arrangement of Sweet Georgia Brown followed by a movement from a Haydn Trio. Then they willplay a medley of selections from West Side Story along with some tunes by Brian Wilson off the Beach Boys Pet Sounds album.

They will also get the audience involved.

“We play a bunch of ’70s TV sitcom themes and we play them in the style of composers from the past 200 years. People have to guess the TV show and the composer and there are prizes. You get candy if you guess correctly.”

The rest is a mix of comedy, an air called the The Slocket Light, by a fiddler from the Shetland Islands and then they finish  with their version of Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen.

For Wilson and his mates it’s a lot of fun to  play different musical forms.

Nor do they believe that people should be hung up on so-called conventions about music.

“It’s kind of a mandate of ours. When we first started in 1989, there weren’t a lot of groups doing this kind of classical crossover now it seems like everybody is doing it.

“The other day we had just played a Mendelssohn Trio and someone came up and said they had just heard Danny Boy in the slow movement of the Mendelssohn.”

That’s shows the musical connections over the centuries, he said.

“We have always found that the funny stuff, the lighter stuff enhances the classical music and vice versa.”

Stiles and Wilson formed Joe Trio just after they had graduated from university. They have stayed together, but “we have been through a lot of cello players, kind of like Spinal Tap with drummers.”

Interestingly, the first cellist in Joe Trio was Leah Wyber who is in the NAC Orchestra.

Along the way the Joe Trio has made connections with lots of folks, one of the better known is Stuart MacLean, the late host of the Vinyl Cafe on CBC Radio.

“I was commissioned by CBC to co-write something called The History of Canada with him. He wrote the story, I did the music.”

The two also collaborated on another story about hockey called I Remember Wayne.

That led to a gig on a Vinyl Cafe tour in 2014.  MacLean was diagnosed with cancer a year later and died in 2016.

“He was a real ambassador for Canadian music. We played The Slocket Light during his show and he would peek around the curtain and listen to it. He was a big fan of music. especially Brian Wilson. He introduced me to a lot of stuff I hadn’t heard before.”

The name Joe came from a contrarian view of the classical scene at the time, Wilson says.

“Allen and I are big Peanuts fans so we were thinking Joe Cool and Joe Shlabotnik. So Joe Trio sounded good. A lot of groups at the time were taking fancy Italian names. We wanted something simple and easy to spell. It works with the music.”

Doors Open For Music presents Joe Trio
Where: Southminster United Church, 15 Aylmer Ave.
When: March 21 at noon
Admission by freewill offering ($5, $10 or $20 suggested).


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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.