Gidon Kremer to play in Canadian jail

Gidon Kremer to play in Canadian jail


norman lebrecht

January 22, 2020

The eminent violinist and conductor will perform next week at the Pacific Institution Regional Treatment Centre in Abbotsford, British Columbia.

“It is a historic first for such an internationally renowned and high-caliber musician like Gidon Kremer to take the time out of his schedule to travel to Canada and present his artistry in a prison environment, which is also a first for him in his illustrious career,” said Dmitri Kanovich, founder and CEO of Looking at the Stars.

Good man.


  • SSD says:

    I’m impressed with his humanity. No doubt his audience will be appreciative.

    • Brettermeier says:

      “No doubt his audience will be appreciative.”

      Who doesn’t like Gubaidulina with no chance to leave?

    • Dennis says:

      Nice gesture by Mr. Kremer, but I suspect a typical prison audience would prefer something more along the lines of “Johnny Cash at San Quentin.”

      But, who knows…maybe Canadian prisoners are a highly cultured lot. Perhaps they’ll be as enraptured as the Shawshank prisoners (or at least Andy and Red) were by Mozart.

      • Greg Bottini says:

        Nothin’ wrong with Johnny Cash, but my bet is that inmates crave any kind of musical entertainment as a relief from their unchanging day-to-day schedule.
        Bravo, Maestro Kremer!

        • Dennis says:

          I never said, or meant to imply, that there was anything wrong with Johnny Cash. I happen love Johnny Cash myself (especially the final 5 albums he made with Rick Rubin).

        • Thanks very much, Greg, but we DO NOT entertain. We engage only best-in-class performers, who present most challenging and serious repertoires , we bring along concert grand pianos and we all dress as we do at the Carnegie Hall. And most important – we KEEP COMING BACK in order to grow the seeds of love that classical music plants in their hearts… Kremer’s gift is a blessing and a phenomenal reinforcement of this growth …

          • Greg Bottini says:

            Dear Dmitri,
            I in no way meant to belittle your efforts by my use of the word “entertainment” – I admire tremendously what you are doing for the inmates. And I’m sure your performers and pianos (and your Carnegie Hall tuxedos) are all top-notch.
            But even the small dictionary I keep next to my computer states as one definition of the word “entertain” that it is “to keep, hold, or remain in the mind”*.
            After all, Dmitri, isn’t this what all musical performances hope to accomplish? To be kept and held in the mind?
            So, I must disagree with you: the musical performances you present DO entertain. I’m sure of it.
            – with respect, Greg
            *Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 10th ed., “entertain”, definition 3a.

          • Dear Greg, so be it. Thanks again for your very kind comments. Should you ever decide to experience it yourself, I will be happy to invite you to a prison event. We can then revisit this topic. Best, Dmitri

          • Dear Greg,
            Kremer is back – he performs on Monday in Canadian prison in Bath. You need to forgive my English. In my vocabulary entertainers are Lang Lang, Yuja Wong, denis Matsuyev and alikes. Kremer does not belong to this crowd and is “lonely”- he impresses with his philosophy of interpretation and thoughtfulness, while maintaining perfection and respect to the score.

          • Saxon Broken says:

            Huh? What is wrong with entertaining the audience? A classical concert is entertainment, that is why I go.

      • Sue Sonata Form says:

        Such a wonderful film, Shawshank!! I once worked with its editor, Richard Francis-Bruce.

      • Dear Dennis, I thought very much like yourself before starting Looking at the Stars four years ago. Now I am convinced, that you do not need to be “a cultured lot” in order to appreciate classical music. You only need to treat your audiences with dignity, communicate with them and deliver a top notch “production” (as in Maestro Kremer’s case) to prove to them, that you are serious. And you have to be coming back and coming back – you have to build a relationship. It takes time, but it is worth it…

        • Dennis says:

          Sounds like a great organization and concept. We could use more “Looking at the Stars”-type programs everywhere in the culture at large (especially schools), not just in prisons.

          With so many schools and universities cutting back music programs and other arts to focus on STEM and other purely utilitarian subjects (often blatantly promoted and funded by commercial/corporate interests in schools themselves), I fear for the future of the humanities, classical music especially.

  • Gustavo says:

    Sure it’s not Hans Zimmer?

  • Esther Cavett says:

    It’s a medium severity prison meaning there are probably a lot of white-collar workers who would have liked Kremer when they had their freedom.

    We get nothing but good and inspiring news from GK !

    • steven holloway says:

      The PIRTC is not a medium-security prison, or even medium “severity”, as you put it. Its neighbour, the Matsqui Institution of Correctional Services Canada is a medium-security prison. But PIRTC is a CSC instituiton for inmates with severe psychiatric problems, some of them criminally insane. I visited a number of times in a professional capacity and received a conducted tour on one occasion. My guide, the head clinical/psychiatric social worker, pointed down one corridor of cells (the design is rather like a panopticon) and said he couldn’t take me down there — too dangerous, “there monsters be” and, though the cells are nothing if not ultra-secure, risks cannot be taken with visitors.

      So we are clear, Matsqui Institution next door is also not for the white-collar criminal brigade. It is actually high-medium security and contains inmates I’d least like to encounter on the streets, e.g., second-degree murderers and the like, who often commit offenses out of sheer mindlessness, drunk, on drugs, low intelligence and such, and who don’t much care who their victims are.

      In short, Kremer is going to play to the most difficult and dangerous audience the CSC has to offer. Neither of these two institutions is country-club stuff. And I must add that I doubt if criminally-inclined accountants, CFOs, CEOs, et al., are particularly inclined to classical music. A couple of rows of seats at the Vancouver Symphony are block-booked for such as these by local corporations and such for visiting luminaries. Those are the empty seats at the front.

  • Jeffrey Biegel says:

    Noble and inspiring. For those who may remember, there was a company based in New York, Affiliate Artists. They managed the Xerox Pianists Program, which led a small group of up and coming artists to take on one-to-two week residencies with orchestras in the US (Philadelphia, St. Louis and the like). Visits to perform at prisons and hospitals, schools and businesses were part of the residency. Being part of the community in many ways created a successful visit for the artists and brought humanity together in wonderful ways. Inspiring indeed to see Mr. Kremer doing this.

  • Thank you, Norman. Hope to see you in one of our concerts soon. Inmates are the most grateful and attentive audience for classical music – you can hear the dust falling during the performance….

    • Greg Bottini says:

      Dear Dmitri,
      Norman may be quite the literary rowdy, but I don’t think he has (yet) done anything bad enough to be sent to prison and attending one of your fine concerts for inmates.
      But we SD readers will be sure to keep a close eye on him….

  • Alasdair Munro says:

    If he’s in there he was framed.

  • Peter Phillips says:

    Tasmin Little has played in male and female prisons in England for some years. I heard her playing and talking at Eastwood Park women’s prison. She was heard in rapt silence and enthusiastically applauded, not only for her music but just for being there. As one of the women said afterwards, “She didn’t have to come here, did she.”

  • This extraordinary generous and unexpected gift from Maestro Kremer is our 37th classical music gift to Canadian prison inmates. Still can’t believe it is going to happen… Looking at the Stars foundation ( does not entertain or try to impress. We create an environment of dignity, respect and reflection and promote hope and confidence about the future amongst those, who need it most and expect it least. The response from over 3000 federal prison inmates (our major focus) and long-term care institution residents has been overwhelmingly positive. CBC Radio has recorded and then broadcasted our recent (October 11) interactive concert from Maximum Security prison in Ontario. If you can spare 54 minutes, please consider:

  • Nick says:

    A great artist and a great man!

  • Sue Sonata Form says:

    Have they gone that hard on crime in Canada?? (Yes, it’s a joke, so don’t foam at the mouth and turn into whirling dervishes.)

  • 48 seconds from Kremer’s performance In Canadian prison with Looking at the Stars