The Northern Lights Festival de Febrero, a normally joyous occasion featuring an international array of musicians assembled lakeside for two weeks of aural art, was darkened by sudden tragedy Friday, February 16, when accordion virtuoso Alexander Sevastian died of a heart attack in his room, just a few hours before he was slated to perform with Toronto-based jazz group Quartetto Gelato. He was just 41 years old.
The Friday concert, scheduled at 7:30 p.m. at the Auditorio, was understandably canceled, but the following Monday, when Sevastian was to present a program of Bach and other pieces, violinist and festival founder Chris Wilshere rounded up the visiting musicians for an evening of upbeat musical divertissement. The centerpiece of the evening was Mendelssohn’s String Octet, a high octane, blistering work that the audience, in the words of festival organizer Roseann Wilshere (mother to Chris), “went bananas for.”
For those who had seen accordionist Sevastian live, “blistering” would perhaps be an apropos description of his performances. He was famous for playing arrangements of difficult pieces by, among others, Johann Sebastian Bach, such as the famously note-heavy Toccata and Fugue.