Live Music Returns: Sarnia-Lambton Musicians Launch New Classical Chamber Band


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A group of local musicians, including several longtime members of the International Symphony Orchestra, came together to bring an infusion of live music back to the community.

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Last summer, cellist Barbara Armstrong, violinists Jackie Pritchard and Caitlyn Mason, local pianist and music teacher Dan Sonier, and flautist Tessa Catton decided to form a new group, the Bluewater Chamber Players, to give for music lovers tired by the pandemic what they wanted most: live performances of moving and evocative melodies.

“We really miss playing in the musical world of Sarnia,” Armstrong said. “We would get together from time to time to play in churches or at wedding services. One day Jackie and I were chatting and we were like, “Wouldn’t it be nice to play chamber music?” So the spark kind of happened at that point and I went there and the next thing you know, the Bluewater Chamber Players was formed.

The new group has already hosted four upcoming concerts, the first of which will be held at St. Giles Presbyterian Church on Sunday, October 24 at 2:30 p.m. Tickets for the first concert are sold out, said Armstrong, an indicator of the appetite to hear music performed in person after enduring 18 months of near silence.

“It was a bigger response than even I thought,” she said.

Audiences and musicians have longed to return to live performances since the start of the pandemic, Armstrong said.
“The pandemic has absolutely ruined everything. And through it all, what do we all need? The arts, ”she continued. “We need beautiful things, we need visual art, we need drama, we need music, because it makes us happy. A lot of people have struggled, so (organize a series of concerts) is this something we can do to give back.
“The other part is that we also give back to the community,” she added. “So all the money from the ticket goes to a local charity and the first organization we support is Big Brothers Big Sisters. “

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Upcoming shows will include a holiday concert on December 10 at the Lawrence House Center for the Arts, a performance at the Sarnia Public Library Theater on February 27, and an outdoor concert at the Seaway Kiwanis Pavilion scheduled for June 26.

Although the main group is five in number, many friends and peers of the musicians will collaborate with the musicians at upcoming concerts, Armstrong said.

“There are five core members, but we say ‘and friends’ because we add different people depending on the lineup,” she said. “So for our December concert, for example, we add singers and do a Christmas show. “

The group will perform an array of chamber music as well as a host of other uplifting material, Armstrong said.

“The programming was done by Tessa and Dan and we play some really good songs,” she said. “We don’t just play classical music, but it’s a bit of everything. For our December concert we are adding several Christmas numbers as well as some Celtic stuff, we are adding singers and another violinist friend. It’s really exciting. “

And while audiences have craved music live and in person for the past eighteen months, so have the musicians themselves. The launch of this new group has been a blessing for everyone involved, Armstrong said.

“We played outdoor weddings, so at least we had a few of those things going, but it was rare. This is not the usual game in a concert hall for human beings. We had concerts in empty halls with the symphony, but it was a difficult year and a half without knowing if and when we were going to have an audience, ”she said.
“And we need an audience. Live streaming is one thing, but performing in front of an audience is a whole different experience. It makes us happy, it makes the audience happy, so it’s a win-win for everyone.

For more information on Bluewater Chamber players, visit their Facebook page.

To purchase tickets for future shows or for more information, contact Barbara Armstrong by emailing [email protected]

Bluewater Chamber Players (L to R) Barbara Armstrong, Tessa Catton and Jackie Pritchard at a wedding in Chatham last summer. Classically trained musicians came together this summer with two other of their peers to form the Bluewater Chamber Players. jpg, SW


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