From Ocean’s Floor

fromoceansfloorLinda Buckley is an Irish composer whose music combines, among other things, traditional Irish vocals, classical instruments, of more or less conventional form, and electronics to create an entirely unique sound world.  This new album starts off with the most substantial and, to my mind, most interesting, piece; Ó Íochtar Mara (From Ocean’s Floor).  The four movements combine Iarla Ó Lionáird singing in the traditional sean nós style with string quartet (Crash Ensemble) and Buckley herself on electronics.  Each movement sets a poem in Irish with an accompaniment that is quite sparse and never overwhelms the vocalist.  It’s mostly electronic drones with the strings kicking in in similar vein.  It’s very beautiful and quite haunting.  The vocals are sung with a great sense of the proper style and it’s an object lesson in how to combine folk vocals with classical instruments without making it sound like Victorian parlour music.

Continue reading

Mysterious Barricades

Today saw a dawn to dusk livestream of concerts from St. John’s to Victoria; presented as Mysterious Barricades, aimed at raising awareness about suicide, suicide prevention and mental health generally.  I doubt there’s anybody whose life has not been touched by this issue, certainly not mine.  Anyway I made it out to Walter Hall for Toronto’s sixty minute contribution organized by Monica Whicher.  It was heartening to see so many artists of the highest calibre making their talents available for the cause.  So, not a review but heartfelt thanks to John Gregg, Russell Braun, Carolyn Maule, Nathalie Paulin, Norine Burgess, Judy Loman, Marie Bédard, Steven Philcox, Turkwaz, Andrea Levinson and the Mysterious Barricades Toronto Chorale and, of course, Monica for organizing.  One day perhaps…

How sweet to be a sloth

norine burgessYesterday’s Talisker Players concert Creature to Creature was a well balanced selection of music and readings inspired by the idea of a bestiary.

First up was a set of Poulenc settings of Apollinaire texts. These songs, for mezzo, string quartet, flute, clarinet and bassoon, are very short and deceptively simple being both textually and musically many layered. They were very beautifully sung by Norine Burgess. Her fairly bright mezzo seemed well suited and there was sensitive accompaniment from the band among whom clarinetist Peter Stoll was particularly impressive. Continue reading

Another intriguing program from the Talisker Players

BeastiaryThe Talisker Players are presenting a show called present Creature to Creature on March 16 and 18 at Trinity St. Paul’s Centre. It’s inspired by mediaeval bestiaries and takes on human foibles through the lens of animal behaviour.  It had better be good because I can scratch quite nastily. The Taliskers will be joined by mezzo soprano Norine Burgess, baritone Geoffrey Sirett (more impressive every time I see him), and theatre artist Ross Manson.

Continue reading

Dido on film

Long before I got my hands on the Royal Opera House/Royal Ballet Dido and Aeneas, the film version from 1995, directed by Peter Manuira and with Maria Ewing in the title role, was my go to version. How does it stack up today?

Some things that strike me.  It’s very naturalistic. It seems to be set in and around a Tudor mansion and the costumes are vaguely that way too. The interludes that are normally danced are filled in with “busy” scenes that try to inject some feeling but aren’t nearly as effective as Wayne McGregor’s dancers. The hunt scene has dogs and spears and a real boar’s head (which Aeneas touchingly present to Dido in her bath). There is a lot of fire including a full blown pyre at the end. For all that it doesn’t seem any more “true” than Wayne McGregor’s much sparer vision. It’s also very emotionally restrained. It’s not really until the final confrontation between Aeneas and Dido that any real emotion intrudes and even then it’s quite restrained This is actually very effective and Maria Ewing is truly affecting in the final couple of scenes. Ewing is good throughout both in the singing and acting department and her looks help (OK I know not everyone goes for Ewing but I think she’s gorgeous!). Karl Daymond is fine as Aeneas. We get a sort of composite Belinda/Second Woman set up with some of Belinda’s music given to the Second Woman and them doubling up on other bits. While Rebecca Evans and Patricia Rosario are fine there really isn’t enough musical or emotional contrast between them and Ewing. Richard Hickox conducts the Collegium Musicum and it’s all a bit low key in common with much else. It’s worth watching for Ewing’s performance in the final act but is otherwise a bit of a snooze.

Technically it’s very 1995. The 16:9 picture is hard letterboxed in a 4:3 frame and it’s pretty soft grained. Sound is adequate LPCM stereo. There are English, French and German subtitles.