Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION

Cancer’s touch touches audience in musical journey

Concerto makes world première

  • Print

Behind every piece of music there is a story. For Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra (WSO) composer-in-residence Vincent Ho, it was the illness and subsequent death of his friend, artist Luc Leestemaker, that inspired him to write From Darkness to Light: A Spiritual Journey.

This percussion concerto is Ho’s second collaborative composition created for acclaimed Scottish percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie. The work received its world première on Saturday, the final evening of the New Music Festival, conducted by Alexander Mickelthwate.

ConcertReview

WSO New Music Festival

Centennial Concert Hall

Saturday, Feb. 2

Attendance: 1,711

★★★★ 1/2 out of five

Ho took up a cause, one that touches millions of people worldwide — the experience and devastation that is cancer. To do this with authenticity and understanding, he interviewed a number of people living with the illness.

The work begins gently, as the barefoot Glennie produced resonant bell-like notes from the xylophone, while strings used a tremolo effect. As the piano sang, we sensed a blithe unawareness, perhaps pre-diagnosis. When Glennie drew her bow across the atmospheric waterphone, otherworldly squeals emanated, beginning an ominous downward spiral. Brass whined and the cellos’ menacing passage marked the first inklings something was wrong. Orchestra members rustled the pages of their scores. Denial became futile.

Nobody plays like Glennie. Moving to the bass drum surrounded by snares and bongos, she began to beat them violently with incredible physical power, marking the realization of an absolute diagnosis and the initial terror it strikes. The music hit us in the pits of our stomachs and we couldn’t take our eyes off Glennie and her total commitment.

The WSO, during Glennie’s solo, did a terrific job portraying chaos, often the state into which an individual and their family are thrown upon receiving the dreaded news.

Moments of controlled intensity were punctuated by swooping brass notes, insinuating themselves brashly on listeners, much like the disease on its innocent infirm.

Just when we thought it would never stop, everything quieted down. Much-needed respite, a sign of hope, came from a tender reprise of the xylophone entry. Satisfying harmonies in the low strings encouraged, but gradually darkened, mirroring the unpredictability of cancer. A poignant interlude played by flute, oboe and piano offered serenity, however fleeting.

As images of Leestemaker’s artwork projected on a screen onstage, Glennie ended the concerto with her own solo marimba composition, A Little Prayer. You could have heard a pin drop as the audience sat, enchanted by the beauty and grace of this chorale, rich with the dignity every cancer patient wishes to maintain throughout the biggest challenge of their life.

Ho has created a lasting masterpiece of sensitivity and perception. And for those of us who shared our personal stories — our voices were heard.

The second half of the program featured Distinguished Guest Composer Steve Reich’s 1983 Desert Music for amplified voices and orchestra. A scaled-down WSO, joined by the Winnipeg Singers, worked their way admirably through a marathon of Reich’s signature repetitive phrases, with thought-provoking text from poems by American William Carlos Williams.

At times jazzy and syncopated, at times hypnotic in its form, the overall effect was of a work whose ideas reached us before the end, and while the composer had more to say, the audience, and perhaps the musicians, had had enough.

gwenda.nemerofsky@shaw.ca

 

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Winnipeg Cheapskate: Home buying

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • JOE.BRYKSA@FREEPRESS.MB.CA Local-(Standup photo)- Humming Around- A female ruby -throated hummingbird fly's through the bee bomb  flowers Friday at the Assiniboine Park English Garden- Nectar from flowers are their main source of food. Hummingbirds wings can beat as fast as 75x times second. Better get a glimpse of them soon the birds fly far south for the winter - from Mexico to South America- JOE BRYKSA/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS- Sept 10, 2009
  • A monarch butterfly looks for nectar in Mexican sunflowers at Winnipeg's Assiniboine Park Monday afternoon-Monarch butterflys start their annual migration usually in late August with the first sign of frost- Standup photo– August 22, 2011   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Do you think food-security issues are an important topic to address during this mayoral campaign?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google