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Old friends are making music again.

Byline: Neil McKay? 0191 201 6007 ? neil.mckay@ncjmedia.co.uk

A CHILDHOOD friendship forged 3,000 miles away almost 60 years ago has led to a world renowned pianist playing in the North East.

Janina Fialkowska and Elspeth Bourne were friends and near neighbours from the age of six in Montreal, Canada, although when Elspeth would call round, she often had to wait for "Nina" to finish her piano practice.

Janina went on to become a world renowned classical pianist after being taken under the wing of maestro Artur Rubinstein.

Elspeth, 63, moved to the UK and married the late Henry Straker, a partner in the Dickinson Dees law firm.

She now lives in Corbridge, Northumberland, and is president of the county branch of the British Red Cross.

And it is due to her friendship with Janina that the pianist has agreed to play a concert at The Sage Gateshead on April 11 in aid of the charity.

When Janina comes to Tyneside it will be the first time the two women have met since they were teenagers.

Elspeth explained: "We had lost touch for decades because our paths had gone separate ways. But a few years ago I read a newspaper article about Nina and her successful career.

"I managed to trace her agent and sent off an email. Nina rang me back and it was as if we had never been apart, the years just rolled back.

"We now talk regularly on the phone but have not seen each other since we were both about 16. When I asked her if she would be prepared to play a concert at The Sage she readily agreed. I explained to her what a lovely concert venue it was.

"I am very excited about seeing her again after all these years and taking her to the rooftop Baltic restaurant for a meal the evening before her concert.

"I think the Quayside is wonderful now, and I am looking forward to showing it to Nina."

Elspeth said her friend had a special affinity for the Red Cross.

"Her father was a small child in Poland shortly after World War 1 when the Bolsheviks invaded. His family used to be sent food parcels by the Red Cross and he used to tell her that was what enabled him to survive."

Janina Fialkowska's programme at The Sage will consist of pieces by Grieg, Schubert and Chopin.

She has performed all over the world and recently became recipient of the Governor General of Canada's Award for Lifetime Achievement in Classical Music.

She has been playing the piano since she was four. After Montreal University, she studied at the Julliard School of Music in New York. Her career was launched when she won a prize in an Artur Rubinstein piano competition in 1974 and was taken under the maestro's wing. Since then, she has played with most of the major orchestras in the world.

Her career appeared to be over 11 years ago when she was diagnosed with cancer in her left arm, only for pioneering treatment to enable her to return triumphantly to the stage.

One astonishing thing about her return to the concert platform is that she is still seriously handicapped in her left arm.

She cannot raise it above shoulder height and cannot even hold it away from her body to be frisked by security staff at airports. The movement she has is, miraculously, no more and no less than she needs to play the piano.

. ? JANINA Fialkowska is appearing at The Sage Gateshead on April 11. Tickets PS20 each are available online at redcross.

org.uk/events or at www.thesagegateshead.

org or at the ticket office on 0191 2737961.

Nina rang me back and it was as if we had never been apart, the years just rolled back

CAPTION(S):

MUSIC MATES Janina Fialkowska and Elspeth Bourne, inset. The pair were childhood friends and are meeting up again when Janina visits to perform at The Sage
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Mar 29, 2013
Words:666
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