I haven’t heard a lot of music by Andrew Staniland but what I’ve heard I’ve liked so I was pleased to get my paws on a recent recording of songs by him; Go by Contraries. There are three pieces on the disk. The first, and longest piece; Earthquakes and Islands, is a setting of eight poems by Toronto poet Robin Richardson. It’s the work that reminds me most of Dark Star Requiem. Words and music are both quite quirky. My Voice, In My Mouth, for example. is a meditation in an oncologist’s waiting room about the consequences of getting close to a lion. The music is full of variation; tonally, rhythmically, harmonically and dynamically. It’s quite surprising the range of sounds Staniland can conjure up from a piano and two singers. It always appears to be rooted in the text though and even long voiceless passages come back logically to words. Continue reading
Yesterday’s lunchtime concert in the RBA featured members of the Esprit Orchestra and Krisztina Szabó. Two instrumental pieces kicked things off. There was an Andrew Staniland composition for snare drum and electronics; Orion Constellation Theory, played by Ryan Scott. This was quite witty and inventive. Very Staniland in fact. Then came a three movement work for solo harp; Alexina Louie’s From the Eastern Gate played by Sanya Eng. For two movements it was light and bright using mainly the upper end of the harp’s range. It was engagingly tuneful too though not in any kind of conventionally tonal way. The third movement was darker, louder and more dramatic, brooding even, and using a far wider range of the instrument’s capabilities. All up, an interesting piece.
And in the coming week… On Tuesday there is a treat for fans of contemporary music. Krisztina Szabó will be performing the Berio Folksongs in the RBA at noon. She will be accompanied by members of the Esprit Orchestra and the programme also includes Andrew Staniland’s Orion Constellation Theory and Alexina Louie’s From the Eastern Gate.
Thursday sees the opening of the COC season with Strauss’ Arabella in a production by Tim Albery starring Erin Wall, Jane Archibald and Tomasz Konieczny. Check out this article by Lydia Perovic for a South Slav’s take on an opera with South Slav references including that hardy Strauss perennial; hunting bears in Croatia. Arabella runs until the 28th at the Four Seasons Centre.
On Saturday, indigenous production company Red Sky Productions are collaborating with the TSO in a new piece by Eliot Britton; Adizokan. It’s a fusion of dance, video electro-acoustics and music in both western symphonic and indigenous traditions. 7.30pm at Roy Thomson Hall.
Last night’s Canadian Art Song Project, part of the Conservatory’s 21C festival, was sold out. Yep, a sold out concert of contemporary Canadian art song not featuring an A-list singer. Clearly Mercury is in retrograde or something. Anyway, the first half of the concert featured baritone Iain MacNeil with one of my favourite collaborative pianists Mélisande Sinsoulier. They gave us Lloyd Burritt’s The Moth Poem to texts by Robin Blaser. This is a basically tonal work with a piano part that I found more interesting than the vocal writing (common enough in contemporary art song). There was some nice delicate singing from Ian and complete mastery of the intricate piano part by Mélisande. Andrew Staniland’s setting of Wallace Stevens’ Peter Quince at the Clavier followed. This is a more ambitious work with quite a complex soundscape and a piano part that requires a range of technique as much of it is written to sound “mechanical” as a nod to the title of the poem. Oddly, despite the title, the text is a rich but highly allusive rendering of the story of Susanna and the Elders and a reminder of how much a really interesting text can enhance a song. I’d like to hear this again.
May continues to be a busy month. There are a couple of interesting concerts at noon in the RBA next week. On Wednesday 17th there is the unveiling of the annual Canadian Art Song project commission. This year it’s extremely ambitious. It’s a cycle of sixteen songs by Ana Sokolović setting texts drawn from right across Canada. It’s called dawn always begins in the bones and will be performed by Danika Lorèn, Emily D’Angelo, Bruno Roy and Aaron Sheppard with Liz Upchurch at the piano. (You can also hear this work in the Temerty Theatre at the Conservatory at 7.30pm on Thursday May 25th along with Andrew Staniland’s Peter Quince at the Clavier and Lloyd Burritt’s Moth Poem). On Thursday 18th tenor Charles Sy and pianist Hyejin Kwon bid farewell to the COC Ensemble Studio with a performance of Schubert’s Die schöne Müllerin. It should be a real treat.
An email just in from Tapestry informs me that:
Dark Star Requiem by Andrew Staniland and Jill Battson has been nominated for TWO JUNO Awards! Produced by Tapestry in the 2010 Luminato Festival, it is up for Classical Album of the Year: Vocal or Choral Performance (for Tapestry Opera, the Gryphon Trio, and the Elmer Iseler Singers), and for Classical Composition of the Year (for Andrew Staniland)! Congrats to all involved in this landmark recording!
I’d echo that. Here’s the review that I wrote that appeared in a recent edition of Opera Canada. Continue reading
Last night saw the opening concert of the TSO’s New Creations Festival. It opened with a sesquie by Andrew Staniland; Reflections on “O Canada” After Truth and Reconciliation. Sesquies are two minute “fanfares” composed to commemorate Canada’s 150th. Staniland’s version was a bold attempt to deal with the immensely complex subject of reconciliation between Canada and its native peoples and, of course, one can’t do that in two minutes in any medium. Reflections was an interesting stab though. It was structured as a very quiet canon for high strings in a minor key using the principal theme of O Canada and ending with an overblown fanfare in the winds. You can apply your own political interpretation.
It’s that time of year when it’s traditional to do best of the year lists. Fortunately this is all about music because in most other respects 2016 was a bit of a horror show. So here goes. As far as opera proper was concerned it was a pretty good year. There were no real howlers in the COC’s season. It was solid and, at its best, better than that, For me, Ariodante was the standout; an intelligent, thought provoking production backed up by extremely good acting and singing. I was really expecting to like the Claus Guth Marriage of Figaro more than I did. I enjoyed it but I was a bit perplexed by the lightening up that had taken place since Salzburg in 2006. Opera Atelier had their best show in quite a while with Lucio Silla but even Wallis Giunta couldn’t save a misconceived Dido and Aeneas.