Quartetto Gelato are Colin Maier, Matti Pulkki, Kirk Starkey, and Tino Popovic
Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music and who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?
Colin Maier – A huge question… There are so many people who have inspired and motivated me to choose this career path. There have been many musicians, performers, artists, actors, dancers that I have been awestruck by who motivated me to do what I do.
But, my parents (who are not in the music industry) have been very inspirational for me to pursue my career. I remember them saying that they wished that they could have followed their dreams and I always remember that. I always got the love and support to pursue my dreams. They taught me that if I wanted to do something, and it made me happy, and if I believed in myself, that I should go for it. They got me into violin lessons at age 3 and have supported me ever since. I am not sure I would have chosen this career path if I didn’t have them unconditionally in my corner.
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
CM – I would say it was recognizing and learning all the other skills, practices, and business parts of the industry. This was not taught to me in school. Things like; How do you become a freelance musician? What’s the way to approach it? What is in a press kit? How do you find an agent? What is a showcase? How do you get US work visas? How do you negotiate? How do you book a tour???? It is an endless amount of learning, and you are never done learning. It is almost a full-time job just trying to stay on top of any current industry trends.
This leads to the mental game of self-doubt. You just want to give up, but you have already invested so much time and effort into making your career that it seems silly to give up. So, you constantly find ways to get the necessary business things taken care of. There was no “freelance musician” manual that was handed out at school. It’s no different that running any business, but with musicians not going to business school, this is super difficult to realize that you have to bet on yourself, and split your time between being an artist and an administrator.
Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?
CM – I would have to say that I am most proud of Quartetto Gelato’s latest album, “Tasty Tunes”. Tasty Tunes was a monumental ordeal. There were so many things against us from the beginning.
In 2018, our long-standing accordionist Alex Sevastian passed away while on tour and our cellist Liza McLellan stepped back to focus on family. We were just in the planning stages of a new album at that time.
Once again, with long-time colleague and accordionist Charles Cozens and cellist Kirk Starkey now in the helm, we began the process again of rebranding, new pictures, new videos etc.. Then, the founder of Quartetto Gelato, Peter De Sotto, retired in the fall of 2019. This was a huge change because Peter had been the musical director and force behind the group for almost 30 years. So, I stepped into this role with the daunting task of trying to fill his shoes and continue with the group.
We then found a fantastic new violinist Tino Popovic to step in to replace Peter. Once again, we had begun the process of getting new pics and videos which takes a lot of time and money to do, but that is a necessary part of the business.
In 2020, COVID hit and all our activities were shut down. After a few months, Charles decided it was time to step back from performing with the group. However, he agreed to be part of the artistic team. This was a huge win for us as Charles is one of Canada’s most prolific composers and arrangers.
So, we then had to audition new accordionists and luckily, we found the incredible Matti Pulkki. At this time, we were already into the CD process which we had just received approval from FACTOR for funding.
From there, we rehearsed online through syncspace.live, created individual rehearsal recording with the genius work from Kirk Starkey who is a sound/tech master. And whenever there was a release from the lockdowns, we would rehearse in person and record in the studio.
In the end, this album began in concept in early 2018 and was completed in late 2021. Nearly a 4 year project. We are so thrilled with the results. We think this is such an incredible album. It was completed with absolute dedication and heart. I have nothing but complete respect for the members of Gelato and I am honoured to call them colleagues.
Which particular works do you think you perform best?
QUARTETTO GELATO – We believe Quartetto Gelato has the ability to play anything. The unique instrumentation allows us to play with so many colours. We are all classically trained, so I feel we can perform this music very well. Such pieces as Dvorak Bagatelles, Mozart’s Overture to the Magic Flute, and the Brahm’s Rondo alla Zingarese But also, because of the accordion, we are able to beautifully play tangos, Klezmer, and gypsy music as well.
What do you do off stage that provides inspiration on stage?
CM – Outside of music, I worked for close to 20 years as a singer, dancer and actor for theatre and film/T.V. Most notably, I was featured in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics opening ceremonies as the “devil fiddler in the flying blue canoe”, I was an acrobat with Cirque du Soleil, I was a hobbit in the Toronto production of “The Lord of the Rings” and a ninja in “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids!” the T.V. series. The experiences I have gained as an actor has translated directly to my work with Quartetto Gelato and as a soloist in other musical contexts. This comes in the form of storytelling, memorization, speaking with an audience, being the most honest version of myself that I can be on stage. When you are an actor, you usually portray a character other than yourself. As a musician, you must BE yourself. Any phoniness is immediately obvious and that communication/connection with the audience is lost.
How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?
QUARTETTO GELATO – We like to feature each musician as soloist. We like to give everyone an opportunity to do something they love and truly want to do, something that represents them as a human and as an artist. Usually, throughout the year, we take ideas, follow up on them and arrange the music accordingly. So, the music is a slow evolution from show to show as opposed to a complete change from season to season.
Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?
Tino Popovic – These things are quite debatable. There is a favourite element in most of the places I play in, and I play all sorts of music in different setups with seriously different musicians.
Classical concert halls, Wedding venues (indoor and outdoor and outdoor are probably least of my favourite) and arenas for pop concerts (mostly as a backup musician).
The most comfortable venue is the Capitol Theatre in Windsor [Canada] because that’s my home for Windsor Symphony. Really good acoustics, great audience and fantastic musicians to play with!
The most exciting location is any venue that Quartetto Gelato plays because I love playing with Quartetto Gelato and the music we play is awesome! The amount of virtuosity and musicianship is hard to topple when I stand side by side with my phenomenal colleagues!
Arenas are great to feel that mass energy of excitement of a 20,000+ audience. Just 20 feet from fame!
Playing weddings at locations with my partner in music Orsi Lengyel of Wellington Music or as solo TinoPopViolin and seeing these young couples in love making their most important first steps in their future life – especially now being married for almost 20 years to the same loving wife with two teenage kids.
Playing wedding venues (all over the world:-) with my Punjabi drummers “The Folkn’ Guys”. During those crazy shows I feel that I transition back to my childhood and get into the air guitar zone of a 5 year old playing their most favourite childhood rock song, performance level.
That’s about it. I think I am easy to please, lol!
What do you feel needs to be done to grow classical music audiences/listeners?
Matti Pulkki – I think this is a very important question that doesn’t have a simple answer. Two important elements in my opinion are exposure and accessibility. Classical music is amazing and the music is it’s best promoter. Everyone should have a chance to hear it to get excited about it. That means it should have presence in people’s lives wherever they are and whatever media they consume: radio, television, social media etc. The second hurdle is accessibility. Classical music should be presented in different settings and venues so everyone can find a concert experience they enjoy the most. Quartetto Gelato is able to present great, well-performed classical music in a fresh and fun context, which definitely has potential to attract new audiences to enjoy classical music.
What is your most memorable concert experience?
MP – I will definitely never forget all the amazing Quartetto Gelato shows I’ve been lucky to be part of, most recently a wonderful Christmas concert we played with the Cambridge Symphony Orchestra for a full audience, which felt very special after a long time not being able to perform in front of a live audience. Outside of QG, the one concert I will always remember was my debut recital at the Helsinki Music Centre in 2018, where I had the opportunity to play some amazing new compositions I had commissioned with some of my favourite musicians and friends both on and off stage.
As a musician, what is your definition of success?
CM – Can you make a living doing what you love? This may involve having many jobs in the music business like performing, teaching or arts admin. Every day that I work on my projects or perform or teach, I love it. I never feel like I am working. To me, this is success. Making a living doing something you love. Yes, there are always aspects of any job that sucks and you don’t love, but it is all worth it in the end.
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?
TP – Follow your gut feelings!
Always be on the lookout to learn new stuff and never give up on being curious for learning non-musical subjects, arts and particularly sciences!
Read, read, read.
I would tell these things to my younger self and, if met with sneer, I would possibly use a slap to wake up the imagination in a youngster. (Open hand only).
Also believe in yourself! Practice believing in yourself!
Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?
Kirk Starkey – In ten years I hope to be living in Sicily, tending my vineyard and making arancini. But seriously, anywhere in southern Italy would be totally fine.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
KSt – Perfect happiness is listening to my daughter learn the guitar, buying new microphones, and delivering checkmate to a higher rated opponent!
Virtuosic showpieces and romantic ballads, blazing gypsy tunes and forgotten chestnuts, all brought to life with multi-instrument mastery: this is Quartetto Gelato—a popular and highly unusual classical quartet.