Bullet Train/Witch on Thin Ice

Another unusual and interesting show from Larry Beckwith’s Confluence Concerts last night at the Aki Studio.  The first half of the programme was a reading of Madeleine Thien’s short story Bullet Train.  It’s sort of a double coming of age story that also looks at what we hang onto and what we don’t as we move through life.  It was beautifully read by Courtney Ch’ng Lancaster with cunningly chosen piano interludes played by Gregory Oh.

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After the interval it was Alice Ping Yee Ho’s Yoko Ono inspired piece; Witch on Thin Ice.  At it’s centre was virtuoso percussionist  Beverly Johnstone who displayed great skill on a range of untuned and tuned percussion while executing parts of Melissa Bettio’s choreography and producing all but indescribable vocals!  She was supported by soprano Vania Chan and dancer Jessica Mak with a rap number by Gregory Oh.  Playing over all of this were really rather striking videos and electronics designed by Alice.  It was a bit overwhelming really.  Maybe like being in the middle of an immersive video game and a very complex percussion piece at the same time.  Anyway, great fun and totally unexpected!

There’s another chance to catch this programme tonight at 8pm at the Aki Studio.

Digital technology and the performing arts

I was at the second Digital Symposium hosted by the COC and the National Ballet this morning.  I was at the first round back in September which was basically an environmental scan that didn’t really evoke much of a reaction beyond noting that there were a lot of shiny technologies and they were expensive so I didn’t write about it.  Today was different.  In both the plenary session, in which KerrSmith presented their “Horizon Scan”, and the break out groups I was involved in some really deep conversations.  I want to try and share some of that with you along with some thoughts of my own.  I should stress that anything I’m writing here is personal and provisional and certainly doesn’t represent the views of the COC, the National Ballet or KerrSmith.

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The Panther

first light - front coverI’m intensely interested in the different approaches that composers take to setting text so I was intrigued to read the blurb on a new CD release by American composer Jackson Greenberg.  The text is Rilke’s Der Panther and the approach is to take an old (anonymous) recording of an actor reading the poem and provide an orchestral accompaniment for it.  It’s quite short; just shy of eight minutes, and the music is an atmospheric variant on largely tonal minimalism.  It’s not a big surprise to discover the composer works mainly in film and TV.  It’s unusual and worth a listen.

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Into March

MansfieldParkImage-e1563379878710March is looking a bit thin right now.  Both UoT Opera and the Glenn Gould School have shows though.  From the 12th to the 15th in the MacMilan Theatre (7.30pm, Sunday 2.30pm) the university is doing Jonathan Dove’s Mansfield Park in a production by Tim Albery.  I’m not familiar with this work but generally I’ve been very impressed with Dove’s vocal music.  Casting etc is here.  On the 18th and 20th the GGS is putting on Ravel’s L’heure espagnole and Puccini’s Suor Angelica which is certainly an unusual pairing.  The double bill plays at Koerner Hall at 7.30pm.  Casting and creative team details are here.  UoT also have a show on the 27th at 5pm in Walter Hall called Parlami d’Amore.  In non university gigs, Tapestry Songbook X is at the Ernest Balmer Studio on the 20th at 8pm.

In free events there are a couple of noon hour concerts in the RBA.  On the 17th the Ensemble Studio have a March Break “Opera for All Ages” concert and on the 31st transgender soprano Brianna Sinclair is appearing.  And of course there’s Opera Pub in its usual time and place on the 5th.

COC Season Reveal 2020/21

My predictions were rubbish but we’ll come back to that.  There are two new productions in the upcoming season; Parsifal, which had already been announced and Janáček’s Káťa Kabanová  in a David Alden production with Amanda Majeski in the title role.  This is great.  It’s been far too long since Janáček featured at the COC.

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Glenn Gould School Vocal Showcase

The GGS Vocal Showcase is an opportunity to see all the current vocal students at the school in recital.  It’s interesting because it’s an opportunity to “talent spot” and to see how one’s favourites from previous years are progressing.  But it’s important to calibrate.  The talent on show ranges from first year undergrad to post grads.  That’s a six year span; enough university to take one from A levels to PhD when I was a lad.  Nobody should expect the standard to be even.

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