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This article was published 25/3/2015 (2440 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
There's a certain buzzword that keeps cropping up in conversation with composers Eliot Britton and Luke Nickel: possibility. The two recently chatted about one of the city's newest and most dynamic arts events, the Cluster Festival of Music + Integrated Art, which kicks off Friday night.
"We want anyone with a sense of adventure and possibility to come," says the U.K.-based Nickel, 26, a co-director of the eight-day fete. "And the way we curate our programs has always allowed for the possibility of seeing and hearing new things."
The annual extravaganza co-founded in 2008 by Nickel and city composer Heidi Ouellette (Britton joined this year as third co-director) has quickly honed its reputation as a fresh new face on the city's artistic block.
Described by Ouellette (like Nickel and Britton, a graduate of the University of Manitoba's Desautels Faculty of Music) as a "chaotic yet carefully curated mash-up of performances and installations and workshops," the festival's edgy vibe has created a loyal following over the past six years. This year's event, which runs through April 3, offers four cutting-edge concerts showcasing local, national and international artists, visual art exhibitions, plus several free public events that push the boundaries of what art is -- or can be.
One highlight this year promises to be the Winnipeg première of Britton's Metatron, being performed April 3 by Montreal's Architek Percussion ensemble.
"Metatron is a technological tour de force with a human heart," Britton says of his 28-minute magnum opus, which earned him a SOCAN award for chamber music and also happens to be his PhD dissertation. He flew back to McGill University for his academic defence on Tuesday, a few nerve-racking days before Cluster launches.
The piece is derived from an aged Readers Digest Family Songbook gifted to him by his late grandmother. His Gran would play classics such as Irving Berlin's Blue Skies and How Deep Is the Ocean on her 1904 upright piano -- dramatically chainsawed into pieces by Britton when his grandparents eventually tried unsuccessfully to sell the hulking instrument.
Only the ivory piano keys and wire survived its ultimate burning in his grandfather's fireplace. Those have been incorporated into an art exhibition, Specimens Gardens, by his Brandon-based aunt, Barb Flemington, which is included in this year's festival and can be seen at Aceartinc. on April 2 and 3.
Also at the festival is Winnipeg new-music chanteuse Sarah Jo Kirsch, who will perform a new electro-acoustic work by emerging Winnipeg composer Zach Bales on Saturday. New York-based game-art duo Foci + Loci will create a digital avatar of Kirsch that will be projected onstage during her mostly improvised performance.
Also appearing that night is Montreal composer/singer Gabriel Dharmoo, whose Anthropologies Imaginaires pits himself against a projected filmed "mockumentary" of stuffy, colonial-style music experts.
Montreal-based cellist Fjòla Evans performs a solo set inspired by Icelandic folk songs, which also features Montreal's Plumes Ensemble on Friday. Music fans will also get to hear Evans' Please rate the success of this call, which recently garnered first place in GroundSwell's 2014 Emerging Composers Competition.
One of the most memorable nights will be the concert Play, which includes Winnipeg techno-whiz Kerey Harper, Sweden's Fredrik Gran, Architek Percussion and Montreal artist Myriam Bleau. Aspiring artists can even try their hand at the electronic instruments guided by the guest artists.
The entire festival runs on a modest operating budget of $25,000, funded by a variety of public and private donors. Its three co-directors work all year -- still pro bono -- communicating electronically with their board of directors scattered around the world.
The Cluster New Music + Integrated Arts festival takes place at a variety of local venues. Passes ($50 for adults, $30 for students) or single tickets ($15 for adults, $10 for students) are available at McNally Robinson, online or at the door. For further information, call 204-223-9939 or visit clusterfestival.com.