Bridge & Wolak
Sunday, November 4, 2021 - 2:00 p.m.
Michael Bridge (accordions & piano) and Kornel Wolak (clarinet & piano) are an internationally acclaimed music & comedy duo, integrating traditional acoustic instruments with 21st century digital technology. They perform their own uniquely re-imagined repertoire of classical, world and jazz fusion. With deft virtuosity and endless wit, Bridge & Wolak have been called the “Victor Borges of the 21st Century.” Fun-loving gentlemen (with seven degrees in music), they are both globe-trotting musicians and educators. They were nominated for the BC Touring Artist of the Year award in 2019.
Michael Bridge is a 21st-century musical maverick - toppling popular expectations of what it is to be a professional accordionist. He’s a virtuoso performer - a superstar on both acoustic accordion, and its 21st-century cousin, the digital accordion. He’s won a slew of competitions in Canada and abroad and offers lectures and masterclasses around the world. He embraces a musical esthetic that is alternatively irreverent, deadly serious, meticulously prepared and completely in-the-moment. He’s at home with jazz, folk and classical music. He’s premiered 53 new works. If pushed, he’ll say he likes Baroque music best because of its unforgiving demand for clarity of intent and execution.
He began playing when he was 5 and growing up in Calgary. His mom bought an accordion at a garage sale for $5. A family friend started teaching him to play by ear. Formal lessons began at 7. He spent weekends at prairie accordion competitions, playing polkas and learning to dance.
At 15 he attended the World Accordion Championship as a spectator. For the first time he heard classical accordion and fell in love with it. He started all over again, mastering a completely different kind of accordion and a whole new technique.
He was soon offering a hundred community concerts a year. As a soloist with orchestra or string quartet, with his two ensembles, he continues that pace, playing in concert halls all over the world. He’s also a serious academic and just became a Rebanks Fellows at the Glenn Gould School and is completing his Doctor of Musical Arts from the University of Toronto.
Bridge (along with his clarinet partner Kornel Wolak) performs on a digital accordion - essentially a computer housed in a conventional accordion case. This extraordinary piece of technological wizardry imitates the sound of just about any instrument you can imagine. He can single-handedly shake the rafters with a convincing “1812 Overture”, canons and bells included. Bridge & Wolak concerts capture the energy and panache of stadium rock with the discipline and finesse of chamber music. Think Bach on steroids.
He’s also mastered the more familiar acoustic accordion, a soulful, highly expressive instrument, essential to the music of Toronto-based Ladom Ensemble. Along with cello, piano and percussion, the Ladom quartet creates a sophisticated blend of everything from traditional Persian melodies, to Bach and Piazzolla, to Radiohead.
Bridge also gives back through an on-line Music Mentorship Program. After performing hundreds of concerts in schools - usually in the less-than-ideal setting of a packed gymnasium with a tight time limit - Bridge and Wolak determined to build more meaningful relationships with musically inclined teens. With help from composers, tech people and producers, they introduce emerging artists to the wide world of professional music.
When he’s not being a musical renaissance man, you’ll find Bridge salsa dancing, cooking vegan dishes and talking to smart people. He loves to travel and he’s trying to live a more minimal life - abandoning anything that isn’t essential to his life and work. But what really matters for Michael Bridge is making your world more bearable, beautiful and human – even if only for the length of a concert.
Highly acclaimed for his musical imagination and astonishing versatility, “Control, and a smooth, elegant expressivity… are what make Wolak shine.” (John Terauds, the Toronto Star)
Winner of Debut Atlantic Tour, Prairie Debut Tour, British Columbia Touring, Allied Concerts Tour (USA, 2016), the Royal Conservatory Concerto Competition and the Presser Music Award. Mr. Wolak performed with the renowned Quartetto Gelato.
He continues to expand the clarinet repertoire by commissioning new pieces. Regularly appears in recitals as chamber musician and as soloist with American and European orchestras. A “Fryderyk” nominee, Poland’s highest recording award, he is a regular fixture on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Classical 96.3 FM, Public Radio International, and in the US, National Public Radio.
As a soloist/clarinet clinician, he has toured and taught master classes in Europe, Asia and both Americas.
Since August 2015 he is actively involved in research on the role of oral articulators in clarinet playing at Speech-Language Pathology Department at University of Toronto. Results of the preliminary studies are to be presented in the upcoming months.
Dr. Wolak is a regularly published author of articles on clarinet-related issues in Your Muse, the largest music magazine in Poland, in which he is an editor and contributor of a section called “Clarinetist’s Vademecum”.
He is the founder of Music Mind Inc., an initiative that creates music education programs for schools and communities.
"Sharing my knowledge and experiences with students has always been an integral part of my career. I have been privileged to introduce and teach clarinet as well as music related topics to people of different ages, nationalities and levels of advancement. Pedagogy, to me, is both: a structured way of delivering information and finding new ways to convey them. The three levels at which I teach are beginners, intermediate and university level. I do this through “School Shows” master classes, presentations and/or lectures recitals."
"In the Fall of 2015, I began a collaboration with a group of scientists from the Speech-Language Pathology Department at the University of Toronto. The general project is called Oral dynamics in clarinet playing: Developing a new, evidence-based teaching method. The research is geared toward fostering a better understanding of the clarinet embouchure in order to further advance woodwind pedagogy."