Guitarist Mihai Musceleanu had been telling me about intimate house concerts in Mississauga called Nights at Mariana’s for the two years since it first started.  I finally took him up on his invitation to check it out last month.  I had no idea what to expect, I knew that Mihai and his wife Dorinna immigrated to Canada from Romania a number of years ago, so possibly the audience would be of Romanian background.  But this was pretty much all I had in my mind.

What a pleasant surprise it was to enter a lovely home full of welcoming people, laughing and talking to one another while a group was doing the sound check in the living room.  This type of house party has become all the rage across the GTA in recent years and it is a great idea!   I soon met Mariana, a teacher who loves music and has been opening up her home to friends, and friends of friends once a month to share in some beautiful music.  The house band is made up of four Romanian guitarists and a Brazilian percussionist, who prepare for weeks in advance to study and rehearse a new repertoire for a unique show each month.  Leading the band is Dan Ionescu, a well-known and accomplished jazz musician.  Joining Dan are fellow guitarists Musceleanu, Debo Deboveanu and his son Gil Ionescu.  On percussion is Brazilian-Canadian Tiago Ciccone.

This particular show was dubbed The Night of Contrasts, which included remarkable new arrangements of Beatles songs in the first set, and a second set of movie soundtrack music.    Musceleanu introduced each song by just giving a bit of background without the name.  It was a special Canadian moment when members of the audience, most originally from Romania, shouted out Norwegian Wood, Here Comes the Sun, I Will and more!  (It reminded me of the time my mother Dorothy was in the bank and the teller, a Sikh wearing a turban, smiled broadly and told her to click her heels and say ‘there’s no place like home.’  Heartwarming moments in time.)    The renditions of these classics were superb, I’d never heard anything like them anywhere, and it was a real pleasure.

The second set of tunes was introduced by Dan, in the same way as the first set.  Again, the crowd shouted out, ‘Gladiator’, ‘Forrest Gump’, ‘Rain Man’ and the rest with much enthusiasm.  And so the night progressed with a lovely reworking of the mastery of composers like Hans Zimmer and others.

There is no cover charge at the door, but donations to help pay the band are welcomed.  Everyone comes in with their arms laden with food and drink, and I was a touch embarrassed at my empty arms!

The next show is coming up on Sunday, December 15th and will be a special Christmas celebration.  Email for more information.

Lise Watson

Nights Nights with musicians

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