Carnegie Hall Workshop: Post-mortem

The child, bringer of light received its première at Carnegie’s Zankel Hall on Monday night. The hall was reasonably full, the audience quite varied. We were even graced with the presence of a group of nuns in dark blue and brown habit. I know music is a big part of religious culture, but it was still awesome to see them there.

with cellist Paul Dwyer after the concert

I’ve had some very satisfying performances with soloists in the past. But this was really my best première. Having a chance to hear the piece every day over the course of a week allowed me to really understand its sound world and feel its existence in time. By the time we got to the actual concert, I was happy enough with the piece from a compositional point of view that I could simply enjoy the performance in all its glory. And what a fabulous performance it was! A big thank you to Paul Dwyer for bringing the piece to life in such an intense way.

Through this whole week it was also fascinating to watch the other pieces take shape. An instant favourite of mine was Edmund FinnisRelative Colour for string septet. He split the ensemble into two trios with the double bass acting as a kind of mirror line between them. It was one of those pieces, which made me think, “Damn! I wish I wrote that!” The subtle, low bass notes emerging beneath the high shimmer of the trios were earth shattering.

Edmund Finnis conducting his "Relative Colour" during the dress rehearsal. Performers from left to right: Aisha Orazbayeva, Anna Pelczer, Mira Luxion, Tony Flynt, Paul Dwyer, Emily Deans, Sarah Saviet

A piece that was a total surprise was Chris WilliamsSan-Shih-Fan for cello and double bass. What first started out as a collection of cool but seemingly unrelated sounds, slowly morphed into a cohesive and very satisfying musical whole. The dynamic between the performers (Paul Dwyer and Tony Flynt) was delightfully playful, and made me wonder how the piece would look and sound if performed by two women, or a mix. The other pieces also came together very nicely through everyone’s hard work and passion. I feel lucky to have met so many talented and dedicated musicians and sincerely hope that our paths will cross again.

I am now safely stowed away in my little cubbyhole in Halifax, trying to process everything that’s happened and getting ready to dive into the chamber orchestra piece for NAC’s Composers Program. It will be a while before I can top Carnegie Hall, but this Ottawa workshop is a great experience to look forward to.

with Kaija Saariaho and Anssi Karttunen after the concert

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