Watch: Gidon Kremer takes prisoner requests

Watch: Gidon Kremer takes prisoner requests


norman lebrecht

February 02, 2020

The violinist played for a captive audience in a Canadian jail this weekend.

He found it more attentive than most concert audiences.



  • Max Bialystock says:

    What a great performer. Canadian prisons should be a cakewalk for any performer, unlike US dungeons.

  • steven holloway says:

    Even the news presenter is confused about the venue here, though I should have thought she could get it straight. Pacific Institution, aka Regional Treatment Centre, is a Corrections Service accredited hospital, chiefly intended for prisoners with severe psychiatric conditions. It is not, as it here presented, the Matsqui Medium-Security prison, which is right next door. Mind you, as far as I can tell in this mess, they might have got it wrong but the other way round. But in their very different ways, these two are the Federal prisons in BC that have the most difficult cases, even though most people would naturally assume that would be Kent Maximum-security. This makes it the more striking that either of the first two would be the choice for Gidon’s concert. There are prisoners in the hospital beyond all reason and, when I visited the place in a professional capacity, could not be let out of their cells 90% of the time, but I should think that as a whole it would be more receptive than the Matsqui prison next door. Either would be a brave choice. Even more power to him for this courageous decision.

    • prof says:

      Is it possible the population is from where they said this took place, but the event was held next door at the psych ward for reasons of space?

      • steven holloway says:

        Possible, I suppose, though I think the reverse would be more likely, the prison having more space than the hospital.

    • Very accurate observation about the “geography” of Pacific Insltitution/RTC. There a few more like it in Ontario, including the Millhaven RTC, which we did visit with a concert in December.

      This prison, however, was chosen by myself following our first and only concert there in April of 2019 by our (Looking at the Stars) featured artist an internationally acclaimed pianist Lukas Geniušas who presented a recital on a grand Fazioli to a very similar audience. It was very well received. Given this past very positive experience and my long relationship with Correctional Services CANADA (CSC) I had a luxury of chosing this prison for Kremer’s performance , thus reducing the risk of unpleasant surprises. The audience for Kremer’s recital was selected after a rigorous screening and extra security was provided at my request to him and his violin. Only 108 inmates were approved to attend. Many were denied access. Also, please keep in mind that the attendance is voluntary – you have no right to force it. We were also fortunate to have CSC approve the broadcast of this event at the very last minute as an exception to the rule and with CSC NHQ in Ottawa intervention (CBC were late to file a filming/interview request)… It was worth the effort and I would do it again without a blink, but with a fewer discrepancies … Kremer was at his best – even a heavy fall of an inmate caused by a broken plastic chair in the middle of Weinberg’s preludes did not disrupt or affect the Maestro – he continued to play like a God ….

  • John Borstlap says:

    The number of people who ‘need classical music most’ but ‘expect it the least’, as the presenter told us, is FAR and FAR greater than the number or people in all prisons in the world combined.

  • John Borstlap says:

    Very humanist initiative.

    If this would be followed-up as an example, the prison staff should be cautious with double bass players, thinking of the recent escape of a captain of industry from Japanese house arrest – in a double bass case.