Collectìf’s latest show for the Toronto Summer Music Festival at Walter Hall last night was called Beyond Perception: What Haunts Us Now. It presented three new multimedia works each curated and directed by one of the trio of singers. The first piece, by Whitney O’Hearne featured arrangements of French works; both folk and classical that deal with the idea of La Dame Blanche; by turns sorceress or virgin bride. Turning the idea of male defined female transgression upside down to celebrate women’s agency, O’Hearn combined arrangements of the chosen music for combinations of three voices and piano with soft focus atmospheric video rather reminiscent of Collectìf’s Winterreise show at Heliconian Hall. The singing was beautiful and the concept intriguing. Top notch accompaniment by Trevor Chartrand.
Jennifer Krabbe chose to work with Mahler’s Kindertotenlieder. This piece combined excerpts from the songs with recorded and projected text of the observations/reminiscences of a woman who had lost her baby son. The piano (Trevor again) played throughout with singing and spoken text alternating. The use of an English narrative device like this brought an immediacy to the Rückert texts and cut through any tendency to sentimentality. It was pretty effective.
After the interval we got Danika Lorèn’s take on George Crumb’s Apparition which deals with the myth of Daphne and Apollo. It’s a dramatic and extremely beautiful piece for high soprano and extended piano, played brilliantly by Stéphane Mayer. Danika sang from the stage with occasional contributions from the back of the hall by Whiney and Jennifer. If you find it hard to believe that a largely atonal piece of great difficulty can also be hauntingly beautiful I wish you had heard the magic that Stéphane and Danika conjured up last night. It was all the more impressive for the projections. In this case they were drawings by Danika illustrating the storyline with occasional plot summaries. They were strikingly original and effective. The style is hard to describe; colourful certainly, perhaps Ronald Searle meets Abram Krol if that makes any sense. This piece was perhaps the highlight of the Festival so far.
There’s an originality and an energy about Collectìf that reminds me of the early days of Against the Grain. Catch one of their shows if you can.
Photo credit: Gord Fulton