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ESO’s Young Artists Competition 1972 winner: Janet Haugland-Loerkens, violin

ESO’s Young Artists Competition 1972 winner: Janet Haugland-Loerkens, violin

At 8:30 pm on Friday, May 26, 1972, Music Director Frank Miller conducted the ESO in a performance of Dvorak’s New World Symphony, a genuine crowd pleaser. Then Maestro Miller introduced the two teenagers who were winners of the ESO’s first Young Artists Competition: violinist Janet Haugland, who played the first movement of Paganini’s Violin Concerto in D Major, and pianist Douglas Montgomery, who played the last movement of Saint-Saëns’ Piano Concerto No.4 in C Minor, both to enthusiastic applause. After the post-concert chats with the musicians and audience in the lobby and the obligatory photos, Janet and Doug each went their separate ways and gave the ESO little thought – until we caught up with them almost 50 years later!

Here’s our interview with Janet Haugland-Loerkens, recently retired from the Lausanne Chamber Orchestra in Switzerland. We’ll bring you our interview with Doug Montgomery, a mainstay of the Santa Fe, NM, music scene, in another Noteworthy soon.

Janet Haugland-Loerkens grew up in DeKalb, where her father was professor of music theory and composition at Northern Illinois University School of Music and her mother maintained a private studio teaching violin and also played in several area orchestras. Needless to say, music was always part of Janet’s young life and she cannot remember a time when she didn’t want to be a violinist.

After high school, Janet studied at Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY, for two years, then went to Brussels to study privately with famous Belgian violinist Arthur Grumiaux, while also taking courses in theory and music history at the Royal Conservatory of Brussels. She returned to the US in 1977 to study with Josef Gingold at Indiana University but, in 1981, decided that she wanted to return to Europe. Arthur Grumiaux recommended Janet to the Associate Conductor of the Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne (Lausanne Chamber Orchestra, “OCL”). She auditioned, landed one of two open positions, and has been a resident of Switzerland ever since. Janet retired in the fall of 2019 after 38 years with the OCL.

Janet’s career with the OCL took her all over Europe, to the US in the 1980s, and to Japan with the Lausanne Opera for a three-week stint performing Carmen in a number of venues around the country. The OCL also performed in Azerbaijan, home to music festivals honoring Mstislav Rostropovich, its most famous musical son, and Dmitri Shostakovich, Janet’s favorite composer. Janet says she never gets tired of playing any Shostakovich piece, but her most memorable – and fun – performance with the OCL was his opera The Nose, which the audience loved as well. (For the delightful sequence of tap-dancing noses, including a collective sneeze, check out this YouTube video from the Royal Opera House, where the smallest of the noses, tapped by a child, does a short solo and shouts “Thank you, London!” at the very end.

Janet has had to close her violin case, at least for a while. She fell in June and broke both wrists, but that has not prevented her involvement in other projects. She enjoys listening to music, especially jazz, studying Scientology, following the activities of her grown children and step-children, and indulging in her passion for making gallettes and crêpes, the thin pancakes originating in the Brittany region of France.

Janet met her first husband in the OCL; he was a violinist from Slovenia and the father of her two children. (Janet is fluent in French and also speaks Slovenian.) Several years after he was lost in an accident in the mountains, Janet married Paul (“Pablo”) Loerkens, a Dutchman who was the OCL’s principal cellist. They will celebrate their 20th anniversary next year; both Janet and Pablo became Swiss citizens in 2013.

In addition to their love of music, Janet and Pablo share a love of food. The couple took a course in crêpe-making in the small Breton town of Maure-en-Bretagne, earning the designation of maître crêpier (master crêpe-maker)then returned later for an advanced diploma in the art – and it is most definitely an art! They invested in two billigs, the traditional round griddle for cooking gallettes and crêpesand in some rozells, the special wooden spreaders used to distribute the batter evenly on the billig. All of this has led to their offering a table d’hôte in their home. Table d’hôte translates literally as “host table,” a type of fixed-menu dinner service for small parties. In their case, of course, the menu specializes in savory gallettes with ham and cheese or chicken curry or creamy fish with lemon butter, among others, and sweet crêpes with caramelized apples or chocolate sauce or homemade jam and more. (FYI: gallettes are made with buckwheat flour while crêpes are made with white wheat flour.) Should you find yourself in Switzerland and have a hankering for delicious gallettes and crêpes made by the very first violinist to win the ESO’s Young Artists Competition, you can find Janet and Pablo’s website here. They’ll be delighted to welcome you. Bon appétit!

Janet and Pablo Loerkens welcoming guests to their table d’hôte near Lausanne, Switzerland.

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