Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 30/1/2009 (4893 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
-- Alan Alda
A creative mind is truly something special. But put two creative minds together and you've got a whiz-bang combination.
The Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra must be thanking its lucky stars that it has music director/conductor Alexander Mickelthwate and composer-in-residence Vincent Ho at the helm of its 18th annual New Music Festival. You couldn't find two more enthusiastic and committed individuals.
"Communicative resonance" is how Ho describes their working relationship. "We're able to gel and be innovative together," he says as he looks over at his colleague with appreciation during an interview last week. "We can explore every avenue and discuss possibilities."
And explore they have. This year's midwinter festival, Extase! (French for ecstasy), is designed to offer audiences a different experience or "event" each night from tonight to Feb. 6.
"Each evening is different, colourful and not like the usual concert, just playing five pieces," says Mickelthwate. "We're presenting a menu of very interesting pieces of contemporary music. And this year, we're being less intellectual and more emotional."
And so, acting on that emotion, the co-curators decided to break their NMF rule for the first time ever -- and they're doing it right from the get-go on opening night.
That rule: A composer whose music is being performed has to be alive. The 75-minute Turangalîla-symphonie billed for tonight is by Olivier Messiaen, who died more than 16 years ago. It's one of three works dubbed "pillars" of this year's festival.
"It's his most important work," and has had a major influence on composers and musicians, says Ho.
Mickelthwate agrees. "It's a lifetime experience to perform this."
The name Turangalila derives from Sanskrit, translating roughly as "love song and hymn of joy, time, movement, rhythm, life and death." It features the rarely heard, early electronic keyboard instrument, the Ondes Martenot, played by Jean Laurendeau.
American music critic Michael Walsh has described the work as "a holy terror but a hell of a good time."
The plan is for the good times to prevail throughout the week, with choral works, a wind extravaganza, movie screenings and a performance by Montreal-based Scrap Arts Music playing one-of-a-kind instruments that prove there are no limits to the imagination.
Mickelthwate is excited about the upcoming week, despite its demands. He believes it is important to showcase new music.
Asked if music by today's composers will endure, as has the music of the masters before them, Mickelthwate is positive but realistic.
"Some will, yes,' he said. "The Adès piece (Ecstasio, the opening work of the festival) has already been played all over the world. It's fun to find some of these works -- to be on the leading edge of creativity."
Canada, France and the U.K.
This year's repertoire focuses on music by French, British and Canadian composers, including Eckhardt-Gramatté, Robinovitch, Vivier, Schafer, Bouchard, Wilby, Grahl, Hétu, Ho and Tavener.
Asked to suggest three not-to-be-missed works, Mickelthwate doesn't think twice. "The Messiaen, Scrap Arts Music and the Tavener on closing night," he says quickly. The latter, the North American premiere of British composer John Tavener's Requiem on Friday, features tenor James McLennan, the Mennonite University Chorus, principal cello Yuri Hooker and musicians playing from the balconies.
Ho is a little less forthcoming, but shyly recommends people not miss the concerts in which his own compositions are being performed. He is especially excited about Sunday's debut of his Sonata for Violin and Piano, a prestigious 2006 commission by Harvard University's Fromm Music Foundation, an honour rarely bestowed on Canadian composers.
The world premiere of Ho's Fallen Angel: In Memoriam Richard D'Amore is Friday night. The composer toiled over it for 13 months.
Ho concedes that New Music may not be for everyone -- it can be an acquired taste and it's very personal.
"What I ultimately want is for the audience to feel what they feel," he says. "And to give it a chance."
C'mon, get happy
Imris 2009 WSO New Music Festival
Jan. 31-Feb. 6, 2009
All concerts at the Centennial Concert Hall except Sunday, Feb. 1, at Westminster United Church. Full details on www.newmusicfestival.ca
Festival pass $69
Senior pass $59
Student pass $39
Individual tickets $16.50/$14 for students
Tickets for opening and closing nights $16-$61
Available at WSO box office, 949-3999 or www.wso.mb.ca, or Ticketmaster, 780-3333 or www.ticketmaster.ca
Saturday, 8 p.m. -- EXTASE: Rebellion Orchestrale
WSO premiere: Olivier Messiaen's revolutionary Turangalîla-symphonie with early electronic keyboard instrument, the Ondes Martenot.
Sunday, 7:30 p.m. -- Garden of Eden (Westminster United Church)
Montreal cellist Matt Haimovitz featured in Sokolovic's Vez, Woolf's Sarabande and Provost's Les Vertiges de S.; University of Manitoba Singers and Women's Choir perform Vivier, Robinovitch and Schafer; debut of Vincent Ho's Sonata for Violin and Piano with Gwen Hoebig and David Moroz.
Monday, 7:30 p.m. -- Inferno
Panel discusses performances of works by Bouchard and Gougeon and winning work of Canadian Music Centre's Emerging Composer Prize; WSO principal cello Yuri Hooker tackles Henri Dutilleux's cello concerto Tout un monde lointain.
Tuesday, 7:30 p.m. -- Urban Metal
The Winnipeg Winds and the University of Manitoba Wind Ensemble play works by Wilby, Grahl, Bouchard and Clarke. Local trumpeter Richard Gillis performs Hétu's Trumpet Concerto.
Wednesday, 7:30 p.m. -- Voices of Light: The Passion of Joan of Arc
Director Guy Maddin hosts screening of Carl Dreyer's 1928 film Voices of Light: The Passion of Joan of Arc, with the WSO and Prairie Voices providing Richard Einhorn's 1994 score.
Thursday, 7:30 p.m. -- Music, Metal, Muscle and a Mini-Skirt
Scrap Arts Music uses scrap and offbeat materials to create never-before-seen instruments presented with athletic choreography and theatrics.
Friday, 8 p.m. -- Symphonic Rebirth
World premieres of:
"ö Vincent Ho's Fallen Angel: In Memoriam Richard D'Amore.
"ö Sandred's Labyrinths in the Wind with Allen Harrington demonstrating the Yamaha WX5 MIDI Controller.
"ö Greg Kozak's Composition for Chariot of Choir and Strings introduces another new instrument.
"ö North American premiere of John Tavener's Requiem with the Canadian Mennonite University Chorus.
Before the Concerts
Pre-concert talks with guest composers and musicians are scheduled throughout the week; www.newmusicfestival.ca for times. On Wednesday, the special pre-concert event is a free screening of Carl Dreyer's They Caught the Ferry and the premiere showing of Guy Maddin's short film Odilon Redon.
After the Concerts
Hear Winnipeg artists Papa Mambo with Rodrigo Muñoz, JP Hoe, DJ Co-op.