To the intimate (i.e. tiny) Array Space last night for a concert by the Happenstancers who, in this iteration, consisted of Brad Cherwin – clarinet, Madlen Breckbill – viola and Micah Behr – piano. and, in the first number, viola.
Part 1 of the programme was called Dream Images and was intended to evoke the discontinuous and illogical. It began with Du Yun’s dreams-bend for taped speech, two violas and clarinet as a sort of intro to the main event. This consisted of Schumann’s Fairy Tale Narrations and Kurtág’s Hommage à R. Schumann; these being two of the very few works for clarinet, viola and piano. Added to these was a new work; Abstractions by Nahre Sol. The pieces were played with the movements in the right order but with the composers mixed up so, for example, the first four movements went Kurtág, Sol, Schumann, Kurtág and so on. I like this approach. The styles contrast. The Kurtág is spikey and dissonant, the Schumann structured and Romantic and the Sol playful, tonal (mostly) and rhythmically varied. Listening to them interspersed somehow focusses attention on their particular qualities and has a kind of focus that the conventional way of doing things doesn’t.
To 918 Bathurst last night to hear the Happenstancers’ latest offering Hypersuite. The concept was to take movements from Bach suites and partitas for solo instrument and combine them into sets with (mostly) contemporary music of like form. The one exception was some Telemann but we’ll come to that.
So the first set consisted of cellist Sarah Gans playing Ana Sokolovic’s vez before a brief segue brought in Katya Poplanskaya on violin for the adagio from Bach’s Violin Sonata BWV 1005. It’s really interesting as, although the Sokolovic piece uses a fair amount of extended technique there’s a definite sense that they belong to the same soundworld. Both are spare and spiky and eschew anything that might conventionally be called melody.
The second set had a lot in common with it. Brad Cherwin on clarinet played Augusta R. Thomas’ d(i)agon(als) followed by the sarabande from Bach’s Partita BWV 1013 (usually played on flute). This segued into Telemann’s fantasie 8 played on English horn by Aleh Remezau. Completely different from the first set; more melodic and dance like, these three pieces also had much in common.
The second half kicked off with The allemande from BWV 1013 on clarinet, followed by Sokolovic’s cinq danze, II on violin and the gigue from from BWV 1008 on cello. Here there is more contrast with the Sokolovic exploring a more complex sound world though still with clear affinities to the Bach. This was followed by Elliott Carter’s a 6 letter letter on English horn. It’s a quite long and complex piece which clearly places serious physical demands on the player. Continue reading →
Last night saw the final concert in this year’s West End Micro Music Festival. Once more the venue was the intimate and acoustically very good Redeemer Lutheran on Bloor West. The first half of the programme was the latest iteration of Nahre Sol (keyboards) and Brad Cherwin’s (clarinets) PAPER. Joined by Louis Pino on electronics, they improved on what paper is, sounds like, looks like and can be used for. There were electronic paper noises, crumpled paper, torn paper, piano prepared with paper and Brad creating a painting on paper and using it as an instrument. I suppose this is more “performance art” than music but it was pretty interesting.
Saturday night’s show in the West End Micro Music Festival continued the theme of combining chamber music with other influences. This time it was rock; specifically NYC 80’s rock. It was really varied, stimulating and, at times, bordering on sensory overload. Brad Cherwin riffed with pre-recorded clarinet and electronics on a version of Steve Reich’s New York Counterpoint to open the show. Then came what might have been my favourite bit. It was a version of Julia Wolfe’s East Broadway for electronics and toy piano. Watching the usually soft spoken, even demure, Nahre Sol go completely manic and beat the crap out of a toy piano was a blast.
There was more Julia Wolfe (Blue Dress for drums and cello?) and a David Lang arrangement of Lou Reed’s Heroin with Cormac Culkeen on vocals and a fairly large ensemble and more vocals with a version of Laurie Anderson’s Let X=X and It Tango. The final number was a killer version of David Lang’s Killer with Hee-Soo Yoon playing mad distorted violin while kicking a bass drum.
So, again, WEMMF hit the spot with an intriguing and (over) stimulating blend of rock, classical technique, minimalism and, frankly, sheer lunacy of a kind surely not heard before at Redeemer Lutheran! Great fun much enhanced by Billy Wong’s evocative lighting and Dave Grenon’s sound work.
The final concert is next Friday, also at Redeemer Lutheran, QUARTET PLUS PAPER V2 will feature, inter alia, a new multimedia work for pianist, clarinetist/visual artist, video projection and electronics composed and performed by Nahre Sol and Brad Cherwin.
Interruption; the first concert of this year’s West End Micro Music Festival, happened last night at the season venue; Redeemer Lutheran Church on Bloor West. It was a clarinet quintet concert with a twist or two that was illuminated for me by a chat with clarinettist Brad Cherwin after the show.
Last night the Happenstancers presented a short but extremely enjoyable Pierrot themed concert at 918 Bathurst. The major work, unsurprisingly, was Schoenberg’s melodrama Pierrot lunaire for voice and chamber ensemble. It was presented in two parts. The first fourteen poems formed the first half of the programme which closed out with the concluding seven. It was extremely well done. Danika Lorèn was an excellent choice as the voice. She has the technique for Schoenberg’s tricky sprechstimme as well as the innate musicality and sense of drama the piece needs. The standard “Pierrot ensemble” is perfectly suited for the Happenstancers typically eclectic mixing of instruments. Here we had Brad Cherwin on clarinets, Rebecca Maranis on flutes, Hee-See Yoon on violin and viola, Sarah Gans on cello and Alexander Malikov on piano. Simon Rivard conducted. Skilful playing and well timed interplay between instruments and voice made for a most satisfactory experience. Continue reading →
Last night saw the third and final concert in the inaugural West End Micro Music Festival. Sadly we had missed number two because of TTC snarl ups but we got there fine last night. The first half of the programme was Mozart and Stravinsky but presented in an unconventional and very effective way. The movements of Stravinsky’s Three Pieces for Clarinet and Three Pieces for String Quartet were alternated with an arrangement for clarinet and string trio of Mozart’s adagio from K370 and two of the fragments from K516. It was really cool; one each of the Stravinsky clarinet and string pieces, followed by some Mozart. Rinse and repeat! There were a couple of fairly dark pieces but mostly this is quite playful music and the musicians; Emily Kruspe and Eric Kim-Fujita (violins), Maxime Despax (viola), Sebastian Ostertag (cello) and Brad Cherwin (clarinets) were obviously having a lot of fun.
Last night the first of three concerts at Lutheran Redeemer Church in the West End Micro Music Festival took place. It was an exploration of the boundaries and possibilities of the string quartet and proved most interesting in that regard. The use of extended technique has long been part of the string quartet repertoire but in the first part of last night’s programme two works by Nicole Lizée explored much further than that using additional “instruments”; whirly/whizzy things, strange blue/purple contraptions that made their own sounds and were also used as bows and sheets of paper rustled in front of fans. Norma Beecroft’s Amplified Quartet with Tape augmented the four instruments with recorded electronics. Whether this was all pre-recorded or processed as the performance proceeded (or both) I couldn’t say. One has to admire the versatility of the interro quartet (Steve Sang Koh and Eric Kim-Fujita – vilolins, Maxime Despax -viola and Sebastian Ostertag – cello) in handling all the requirements. It also really made me glad to be back listening “live”. This kind of music demands a kind of distraction free attention that’s really hard to conjure up in one’s own living room.
As live music slowly rises from the tomb in Toronto we greet any new initiative with enthusiasm. When it comes from the fertile creative imagination of Brad Cherwin and friends we get even more excited. Mozart is DEAD aka the West End Micro Music Festival is a series of three concerts at the Redeemer Lutheran Church at 1691 Bloor Street West (close to Keele subway). The concerts are at 7.30pm on three successive Fridays; November 26th, December 3rd and 10th. In the first the Interro Quartet reinvent the string quartet, in the second we are promised “thickets of cables” transforming “single voices into otherwordly and ethereal choruses” and in the last we get a fresh take on music by Mozart, Stravinsky and Francaix.
More details and tickets are available here. It’s free for students and about $20 per or $50 for all three for grown ups.
Muse 9 Production’s new show Bon Appétit: A Musical Tasting Menu couples three short operas about food and was, appropriately enough, presented at Merchants of Green Coffee on Matilda Street. Perhaps “opera” isn’t the right term as, although each piece was fully staged, they featured only one singer each. “Opera” or “staged song”? I don’t really care as they were fun.