A concert of contemporary works for accordion? Why not! Well it was more of a concert of contemporary works for fixed reed instruments with, ironically, Trinity St. Paul’s most impressive fixed reed instrument forming an unused but imposing backdrop to the proceedings. Things started off conventionally enough with Soundstreams’ Artistic Director Lawrence Cherney on stage with three players of different instruments describing their histories and properties and then mild Hell broke loose as a curiously clad Joseph Macerollo burst into the auditorium, ejected Lawrence and friends and launched into R. Murray Schafer’s performance piece La Testa d’Adriane; the tale of a head mystically preserved between life and death. At this point the purpose of the rather bizarre contraption on stage was unclear but soon enough the cloth was pulled back to reveal Carla Huhtanen, or her head at least. More accordion and speech from Macerollo and a bizarre collection of grunts, squeaks, shrieks and gurning from Carla followed. Madness or genius? It’s Schafer. The question is unanswerable.
This year’s new work from the Canadian Art Song Project, Marjan Mozetich’s Enchantments of Gwendolyn, was premiered yesterday in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre. It’s a setting of four really interesting poems by Gwendolyn MacEwen for mezzo-soprano and piano. The first and last pieces; Sunday Morning Sermon and A Coin for the Ferryman are rather beautifulmeditative pieces and frame the two inner songs nicely. These inner two, for me, was where much of the interest really lay. Waiting for You was a blues inflected number of considerable interest, in some ways recalling Michael Tippett but in others entirely original. The third piece; The Tao of Physics, is a setting of a piece linking sub-atomic physics with the cosmology of The Vedas. That’s not exactly an original idea but it’s always an interesting one to explore and, by accident or design, Mozetich does so in a manner that somewhat recall John Adams’ treatment of the same basic ideas. We get a long, impassioned, vocal line floating over an arpeggiated piano accompaniment. It’s impressive and effective. All four pieces were beautifully performed by Allyson McHardy and Adam Sherkin. McHardy’s warm. dark mezzo seemed perfect for the material and listening was like wallowing in hot chocolate (more lurid similes did suggest themselves but this is a family blog). She can sing the blues too. Who would have thought it.
The Canadian Opera Company has just announced the 14/15 line up for the free lunchtime (mostly) concerts in the very beautiful Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre at the Four Seasons Centre. Highlights, from my point of view, include recitals by Jane Archibald, Krisztina Szabó, Lauren Segal, Colin Ainsworth, Joshua Hopkins, Robert Gleadow, Barbara Hannigan and Ekaterina Gubanova. There will also be ten concerts by the Ensemble Studio plus the Quilico competition. The Canadian Art Song Project will showcase Allyson McHardy in a new song cycle by Marjan Mozetich. There’s also a themed series of concerts to commemorate anniversaries of the First and Second World Wars, and the fall of the Berlin Wall. This will comprise six concerts drawn from the Vocal, Chamber Music and Piano Virtuoso programs.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are vocal, chamber, piano, dance, jazz and world music programs to suit a very wide range of tastes. And it’s all free. Full details at http://www.coc.ca/PerformancesAndTickets/FreeConcertSeries.aspx
News just in that the Canadian Art Song Project (CASP) has commissioned Montreal-based composer Ana Sokolović to write a new song cycle. The new work is being composed for piano and a quartet of singers from the Canadian Opera Company’s Ensemble Studio. The world premiere will form part of the COC’s Free Concert Series in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre and will form part of the company’s celebration of Canada’s sesquicentennial anniversary in 2017 (along, it is said, with a revival of Harry Somer’s Louis Riel).
The new song cycle from Sokolović adds to previous works commissioned by CASP include Sewing the Earthworm (2011) by Brian Harman (review), Cloud Light (2012) by Norbert Palej, Extreme Positions and Birefingence (2013) by Brian Current (review), and Moths (2013) by James Rolfe. Other commissions that have been announced and are currently in development include new works by Peter Tiefenbach (2014) and Marjan Mozetich (2014).
Photo credit Alain Lefort