Cassenti Players. Chamber group of varying instrumentation first organized as a woodwind quintet in 1954 by George Zukerman. The name Cassenti was derived from two types of composition characteristic of the repertoire they would play: cassations and divertimenti. Since Zukerman wished to extend the repertoire beyond that for wind quintet the original group - Kenneth Helm (flute), Roland Dufrane (oboe), John Arnott (clarinet), Zukerman (bassoon) and Douglas Kent (french horn) - was supplemented by string players and other musicians as required, including the pianists John Avison, Harold Brown, and Robin Wood; the violinists Lea Foli, Esther Glazer, Jack Kessler, Arthur Polson, and David Zafer; the violist Smyth Humphreys; the cellist James Hunter; the flutists Conrad Crocker and Lanny Pollet; the oboist Warren Stannard; the clarinetists Ronald de Kant and Henry Ohlemann; and the trumpeters Martin Birenbaum and Kenneth Hopkins.
At first the players made brief tours of British Columbia and the northwestern USA. They gained a national reputation through CBC broadcasts, however, and during the 1963-4 season, with Canada Council assistance, they gave 26 concerts on a tour stretching from Thunder Bay, Ont, to Uranium City, Sask, where they premiered Murray Adaskin'sCassenti Concertante. They represented Vancouver at Expo 67, participated in the opening concerts at the NAC in 1969, and performed at Expo 86. Another Canada-Council-sponsored Cassenti venture 1974-5 brought musicians from across Canada for rehearsal at the Banff SFA followed by a major tour. These players were Zukerman, Robert Creech (French horn), Taras Gabora (violin), Paul Grice (clarinet), Sydney Humphreys (violin), Robert Meyer (double-bass), Gerald Stanick (viola), and Malcolm Tait (cello). By 1977 the players had given over 160 concerts in Canada and the USA (including engagements in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Honolulu).
The group continued to concertize on an ad hoc basis in 1990. In 1986 it began to tour with small ensembles to west coast native areas and reserves, eg, Stikine, Alert Bay, Sointula, Rivers Inlet, Bella Bella, and Klemtu. The membership has varied according to the works being presented, and itssize dictated, Zukerman noted, by the type of aircraft available. Recitals have included transcriptions of native melodies. Funding for these tours has been provided by the Koerner Foundation, the Music Performance Trust Fund International Reserve, the BC Cultural Service Branch, and the Celebrity Concert Society of BC.