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.

imagine

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.

Your Daughter Fanny

220px-Frances_CluettYour Daughter Fanny is a 45 minute long chamber opera with music by Alice Ho and libretto by Lisa Moore based on letters written by WW1 Newfoundland VAD nurse Frances Cluett (which can also be found in book form).  It was performed yesterday at Heliconian Hall by soprano Caroline Schiller with Duo Concertante, Nancy Dahn (violin) and Timothy Steeves (piano).

I really liked the music.  It was the first time I’ve heard a piece by Alice Ho that didn’t include traditional Chinese elements and it was stylistically interesting; rich textured, sometimes astringent, sometimes very lyrical with a very decent, singable vocal line.

Continue reading

The Monkiest King

This year’s Canadian Children’s Opera Company main stage performance is The Monkiest  King.  It’s from the team of Marjorie Chan and Alice Ping Yee Ho who collaborated most successfully to create another highly successful Western/Chinese fusion piece; The Lesson Of Da Jee.  The inspiration for this one is the antics of Sun Wukong, the mischievous and arrogant Monkey King in the Chinese classic Journey to the West.

mk3

Continue reading

CASP 2016

It’s been four years since the initial Canadian Art Song Project concert in the RBA.  Since then they’ve commissioned a number of works and started a recital series that has included innovative presentations such as the performance of Brian Harman’s Sewing the Earthworm given in November.  A work premiered that night; Erik Ross’ The Living Spectacle formed the conclusion to yesterday’s concert but first came a series of works performed by students from the University of Toronto.

casp16-1

Continue reading

A couple of interesting crowd funding projects

The first project is to make a recording of Vincent Ho’s concerto for percussion and orchestra, The Shaman, with percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie and the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra conducted by Alexander Mickelthwate.  This piece has been seen in Winnipeg, Toronto and taipei and has received a lot of positive reviews.  Full details are here.

In 1937 La Scala held a contest for a new opera. The winning opera should have been La Serenata al Vento composed by Aldo Finzi, a young, but already successful composer.  It never played during his lifetime.  Finzi was Jewish and the regime wasn’t prepared for a Jew as the heir of Verdi and Puccini.  It wasn’t until 2012 that the work premiered at Bergamo.  Now Croatian director Sanela Bajric wants to make a documentary about Finzi and his music and, of course, needs to raise the necessary.  Full details are here.