Grammy winner kicks off Arts Festival

One of Cayman’s biggest art events will feature a Grammy award-winning conductor.

John McLaughlin Williams will lead the first night of festivities at the third bi-annual Cayman Arts Festival.

He s will direct the Cayman Orchestra and National Choir, along with US musicians, as they play pieces of Russian classical music.

The Cayman Arts Festival will be held today through 18 February at various locales around Cayman. The first event, called Russian Gala night, will take place tonight at the First Baptist Church on Old Crewe Road at 8pm.

Williams won his Grammy award in 2007 for Best Instrumental Soloist Performance with an orchestra. Though he is a relative newcomer, Williams has quickly become a known figure in the classical music world and has performed in numerous venues in Eastern Europe and the US.

This is not the first time Williams will perform in Cayman. He was here four years ago when the festival was first featured.

Williams says he is happy to once again be part of the festival.

‘Glen Inanga (artistic director for the festival) and I are always looking for opportunities to play together. When it came time for another festival, He naturally thought of me.’

The decision to play Russian classical music on the first night was one that Williams thought would stimulate interest.

‘[Russian classical music] is so familiar and well-known throughout Europe and around the globe. Most [Russian] pieces have not been heard or ever been played here. This will mark the first time the Cayman audience will be exposed to music of that quality.

‘However, Russian pieces are not easy. It takes professional level skills to realise them properly. But all of the musicians here are professionals to me.’

According to Williams, some 25 members of the Cleveland Orchestra will be brought in to play alongside the Cayman National Orchestra and National Choir.

‘Roughly 24-25 people will accompany the local musicians here. All of them are orchestral players. All of them will be bringing their own equipment. Some, for example wind players, will use two instruments and result in lots of doubling.

Among those visiting musicians will be renowned violinist Elmar Oliveira. Oliveira is known for his collaborations with some of the world’s best orchestras and his ability to play almost any piece of classical music. He has also won classical music competitions in Russia and Germany.

For Williams, the combination of these forces will produce stimulating music.

‘For me the real treat of it all will be doing pieces with the Cayman National Choir. The Polovtsian dances will be especially thrilling.

‘Everyone involved knows the style [of music]. They already know what to do. This weekend I expect a polished result.’

Williams also took time to encourage the public to come out and show their support.

‘The potential for something special here is great. For me, I think Cayman could be known more for its culture and it music, not just its beaches. I encourage everyone to come out and hear the music.’