Thin Edge on the Bridal Train

I would like to invite all those who live in Vancouver, Victoria, Toronto or Montreal to attend one of the concerts given by the Thin Edge New Music Collective in the next couple of weeks. Thin Edge is touring with a very unique combination of instruments – flute, violin, accordion and piano – and will be performing my newest piece, Bridal Train.

Bridal Train was the result of some very intense work at the Banff Centre and draws heavily on a folksong I recorded in Ukraine.

Village Kozats’ke, Ensemble Berehynja: “Vesil’naja maty” (“Весільная мати”)

This folksong is part of the traditional wedding rite in the village Kozats’ke, which I visited last September (see the post here). It accompanies the baking of special wedding bread known as karavaj. The song has an interesting formal structure, primarily reserved for this kind of ritualistic repertoire, where six-beat cells go through various subdivisions to accommodate an irregular text. The six-beat cells can sometimes be replaced by shorter or longer cells (commonly four beats); I play with this tendency a little in my piece. These particular performers also do what we know as metric modulation, suddenly going into triplets and letting them become the new quarter-note pulse. This is something that I pushed further in Bridal Train. I think Thin Edge particularly enjoyed rehearsing those bits.

Here’s a list of all the concerts where you can hear this piece as well as music by Juan de Dios Magdaleno, Georg Katzer, Toshio Hosokawa, Uros Rojko, Hope Lee and a brand new piece for the full quartet by Solomiya Moroz.

VANCOUVER – February 1, 8 pm, CMC Vancouver, 837 Davie Street, $15-20

VICTORIA – February 3, 7:30 pm, Wood Hall, The Victoria Conservatory of Music, 900 Johnson St, $10-$15 (Presented by Open Space Arts Society)

TORONTO – February 10, 3 pm, Gallery 345, 345 Sorauren Ave, $15-$20

MONTRÉAL – February 11, 8 pm, Sala Rosa, 4848 boul. Saint-Laurent, $10-15

They are also doing a second show in Vancouver focusing on repertoire with open instrumentation, including some wonderful Cage pieces for violin and keyboard (performed by accordion in this case):

VANCOUVER- January 31, 9 pm, 1067 EAST, 1115b East Hastings, $5 (with guitarist/composer Jeff Younger)

I hope you come out to one of these shows and enjoy this unique ensemble. I’m super excited to hear my piece this Friday!

Rediscovering hope at the Banff Centre

I just returned to Vancouver from a three-week creative residency at the Banff Centre. The 15-hour bus ride through Beautiful British Columbia gave me some time to take stock of the last 18 months of my life. Since August 2011, I have moved between Canada’s coasts three times, officially held three addresses plus four transient ones, attended two composition workshops, gave three public talks, and wrote 39 minutes of music in addition to completing a 36-minute chamber opera. My three-months’ stay in Ukraine last fall, though offering some incredible opportunities to hear authentic performances of folk music, was a psychological nightmare from which I came back feeling broken and depressed.

In that mind state, the Banff Centre, despite everything it has to offer, seemed like yet another place to travel to, yet another place to have to work very hard at. I was still trying to finish my chamber opera. I was terribly behind on a piece I was supposed to be workshopping with the Thin Edge New Music Collective and was absolutely dreading having to face them. I was too worn out to enjoy the prospect of yet another three weeks away from home.

But I went. And it ended up being exactly what I needed.

In Ukraine, there’s a saying that without your piece of paper, you are just a piece of poop. This idea infects almost every aspect of life. Going from that to the Banff Centre, I suddenly found myself in an environment where everything and everyone makes you feel supremely important. You have incredible facilities at your disposal and, most importantly, you are surrounded by an intense concentration of talent and energy. It’s absolutely infectious. The residency takes you away from the daily grind and reminds you why you work so hard at this ephemeral idea of music. And it makes you want to work even harder to reach your ultimate goal.

I came to the centre totally exhausted, but managed to write a 5-minute chamber piece amidst constant trips to Calgary for opera rehearsals. I worked like mad, but there is no way I could have done that at home. Somehow I came back to Vancouver feeling more rested and energized than I did when I left three weeks ago. Then, my only goal was to finish my current projects and hibernate indefinitely. Now I am looking forward to facing new challenges and new pieces.

The Banff Centre is truly a magical place and I very much hope that the current restructuring it’s going through will not take these residencies away from us. The centre is not just “inspiring creativity,” as all the signs on campus proclaim. It inspires a kind of radiantly innocent hope for the rest of your life as an artist.

In my hut with the lovely ladies from the Canadian Federation of University Women, the organization that generously funded part of my Banff Centre experience.

On the Eve of Ivan Kupalo

I am very happy to announce that my chamber opera, which has been gestating on and off for almost three and a half years, is finally complete! The score is almost two inches thick. And even more exciting is the fact that it will be premiered in concert form at Calgary’s Happening Festival on January 24 at the Rozsa Centre. You can hear a very short excerpt from an earlier workshop session in the Listen section. 

On the Eve of Ivan Kupalo, a one-act chamber opera steeped in Ukrainian folklore, tells the story of three young women who find themselves involved with one man. With emotions raised to a feverish pitch, the women take their revenge on the devious Taras, thereby enacting the ancient rites of the pagan god Ivan Kupalo. The music draws heavily on folk singing styles with the singers stomping, yelling and gliding their way through a chromatic and modal soundworld.

The opera will be sung in English and will feature vocalists Michelle Minke, Edith Pritchard, Jennifer Sproule, Dana Sharp, Stephanie Plummer, Bethany Routledge and Irina Popescu, as well as the German accordionist Olivia Steimel, percussionist Kyle Eustace and pianist Michael Coburn. The ensemble will be directed by Tim Korthuis.

The rehearsals are sounding amazing already and I am super excited about hearing it next week. The singers will be wearing various items of traditional Ukrainian garb,  including some very old hand-made embroidered shirts, that I picked up during my travels in Ukraine last fall.

This performance is funded by the Alberta Foundation for the Arts, Calgary 2012 and the University of Calgary Music Department.