April 25, 2019

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New Music Festival gets even cooler

The 28th annual Winnipeg New Music Festival returns to its roots when it roars back into life this weekend with another jam-packed feast of contemporary music and culture.

This year’s edition is spearheaded by Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra maestro and festival director Daniel Raiskin, marking his first festival, co-curated with WSO composer-in-residence Harry Stafylakis.

And die-hard fans might be forgiven for a little déjà vu when WSO conductor laureate Bramwell Tovey, who co-founded the world-renowned festival with Glenn Buhr as a “passion project” back in 1991, takes the festival podium for his first time in 18 years to lead the players — including several equally intrepid musicians who were there on Day 1 of the event — in the same work that launched the inaugural festival’s maiden voyage: John Adams’ 1985 piece Harmonielehre.

“Somebody somewhere, wherever I go, asks me about the New Music Festival almost every single day,” says the English maestro, who served as WSO’s artistic director between 1989-2001 prior to his 18-year tenure with Vancouver Symphony Orchestra that wound up last summer.

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The 28th annual Winnipeg New Music Festival returns to its roots when it roars back into life this weekend with another jam-packed feast of contemporary music and culture.

This year’s edition is spearheaded by Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra maestro and festival director Daniel Raiskin, marking his first festival, co-curated with WSO composer-in-residence Harry Stafylakis.

And die-hard fans might be forgiven for a little déjà vu when WSO conductor laureate Bramwell Tovey, who co-founded the world-renowned festival with Glenn Buhr as a "passion project" back in 1991, takes the festival podium for his first time in 18 years to lead the players — including several equally intrepid musicians who were there on Day 1 of the event — in the same work that launched the inaugural festival’s maiden voyage: John Adams’ 1985 piece Harmonielehre.

New Music Festival co-founder Bramwell Tovey takes the festival podium for the first time in 18 years. (David Cooper)

New Music Festival co-founder Bramwell Tovey takes the festival podium for the first time in 18 years. (David Cooper)

"Somebody somewhere, wherever I go, asks me about the New Music Festival almost every single day," says the English maestro, who served as WSO’s artistic director between 1989-2001 prior to his 18-year tenure with Vancouver Symphony Orchestra that wound up last summer.

Winnipeg New Music Festival schedule

Click to Expand

All shows at the Centennial Concert Hall, except The Forks outdoor event

● Glacial Time, Friday, Jan. 25, 7:30 p.m., Pavilion Sub-Zero, The Forks

● Bramwell Tovey: Legacy, Saturday, 7:30 p.m.

● Collectif9 + Architek, Sunday, 7:30 p.m.

● Orchestral Voices of the Future, Monday, 7:30 p.m.

● Animals As Leaders, Tuesday, 7:30 p.m.

● Daniel Raiskin: New Visions, Wednesday, 7:30 p.m.

● Roomful of Teeth, Thursday, 7:30 p.m.

● Cosmic Time, Friday, Feb. 1, 7:30 p.m.

Festival passes ($99 adult/$59 students) or individual tickets ($25 adult/$12 student) available at the WSO box office (204-949-3999) or online at wnmf.ca.

"Back in 1991, the world was just emerging from that Boulez-Stockhausen kind of fashion, or the Darmstadt School, where music was really designed in the abstract or in strict serial notation, and the whole idea of minimalism was just catching on. We decided that our new music festival would be more about this new era of communication, where composers were once again addressing the narratives of the audience, as opposed to some kind of abstract esthetic," says Tovey, who was recently named the artistic director of the Calgary Opera, in addition to being principal conductor of the BBC Concert Orchestra and artistic adviser to the Rhode Island Philharmonic. "That’s how things really took off, and the festival has just gone from strength to strength, thanks to its wonderful music directors and composers-in-residence."

Saturday’s gala opener, Bramwell Tovey: Legacy, not only marks the charismatic maestro’s festival homecoming, but also features Manitoban composer and VSO composer-in-residence Jocelyn Morlock’s Lucid Dreams, and Ottawa-based Kelly-Marie Murphy’s Black Sand, as well as Stafylakis’s Brittle Fracture.

This year's New Music Festival is the first for Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra maestro and festival director Daniel Raiskin. (Marco Borggreve)

This year's New Music Festival is the first for Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra maestro and festival director Daniel Raiskin. (Marco Borggreve)

Raiskin, who is midway through his first season on the WSO podium, is also eagerly looking forward to taking over the reins for the festival, which begins Friday with an outdoor performance at The Forks and winds up Feb. 1.

"When I started my tenure with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, I quickly realized that one of the most exciting but challenging parts of the job is the artistic leadership of the WNMF," he enthuses in the program’s introductory remarks. "It is both a privilege and a great responsibility to take over a festival that has become an institution on the worldwide stage. Its success and continuity, now in its 28th season, have much to do with the vision and energy of its founder – Bramwell Tovey."

The Russian-born conductor will lead a handful of concerts throughout the week, sharing the podium with WSO resident conductor Julian Pellicano for Orchestral Voices of the Future on Monday, featuring works by seven emerging composers nurtured through the third annual Composers Institute initiated by Stafylakis in 2016.

He also conducts his first full festival concert, Daniel Raiskin: New Visions on Jan. 30, featuring this year’s distinguished guest composer, Peteris Vasks’s sublime Lonely Angel (Meditation), The work showcases concertmaster Gwen Hoebig — who has performed in every new music festival — and the Latvian artist’s prayerful Dona Nobis Pacem with the Winnipeg Singers, led by conductor Yuri Klaz, joined by the WSO. The bill also includes the world première of Vivian Fung’s "A Child’s Dream of Toys as well as the Canadian première of Michael Daugherty’s Raise the Roof.

Glacial Time is being held in Pavilion Sub-Zero, a custom-designed amphitheatre on the Assiniboine River at The Forks in collaboration with architect and warming huts pioneer Peter Hargraves. (Supplied)

Glacial Time is being held in Pavilion Sub-Zero, a custom-designed amphitheatre on the Assiniboine River at The Forks in collaboration with architect and warming huts pioneer Peter Hargraves. (Supplied)

The festival kicks off on Friday night with one of its coolest concerts — dubbed Glacial Time — being staged in Pavilion Sub-Zero, a custom-designed amphitheatre on the frozen Assiniboine River at The Forks, in collaboration with architect and warming huts pioneer Peter Hargraves. Norwegian ice percussionist Terje Isungset will be joined by the University of Manitoba Percussion Ensemble and several guest artists in Isungset’s work Beauty of Winter, and John Luther Adams’ Inuksuit, performed on instruments carved from blocks of frigid ice harvested from the river.

Adding to the coolness factor indoors on Jan. 29 will be progressive metal faves Animals as Leaders, followed by their live symphony debut the following night, courtesy of the world première of Stafylakis’s Weighted, three newly orchestrated excerpts inspired by the Washington, D.C.-based band’s 2011 album of the same name.

Stafylakis, a proudly self-confessed metalhead, is keenly aware that the boundary-blurring bill on Jan. 29 might jolt some listeners out of their comfort zones, adding there’s no shame toting earplugs to the usually kinder, gentler Centennial Concert Hall just in case.

Washington, D.C. prog-metal outfit Animals as Leaders play their first-ever symphonic show with the WSO on Wednesday Jan. 30 a day after their own concert. (Supplied)

Washington, D.C. prog-metal outfit Animals as Leaders play their first-ever symphonic show with the WSO on Wednesday Jan. 30 a day after their own concert. (Supplied)

"The WNMF has a history of being out there, and this is definitely more out there," he agrees with a chuckle from his New York City home of the roughly 90-minute show. "I think there probably are going to be a few delighted reactions from listeners, and others who might be either shocked or displeased, and that’s totally fine. In any kind of artistic context, one can’t be expected to love everything, but it’s worth giving it a shot to see what each individual can draw out of it personally," he encourages.

Other can’t-miss highlights include the local debut of Grammy-award winning vocal octet Roomful of Teeth, with a cappella concert on Jan. 31. The group founded in 2009 by Brad Wells promises to enthrall listeners with their jaw-dropping artistry that melds Tuvan throat singing, yodelling, and Inuit throat singing, with a bill that includes the world première of Stafylakis’s EIDOS, Book I," Caroline Shaw’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Partita for 8 Voices" composed specially for Roomful of Teeth, and the world première of Winnipeg’s Andrew Balfour’s Asibikaashi: Spider Women/Healer of Dreams, among others.

Cutting-edge string band collectif9 (above) and Architek Percussion join forces Sunday for a multimedia show inspired by Kaie Kellough’s poetry. (Danylo Bobyk)

Cutting-edge string band collectif9 (above) and Architek Percussion join forces Sunday for a multimedia show inspired by Kaie Kellough’s poetry. (Danylo Bobyk)

Two chamber groups hailing from Montreal: cutting-edge string band collectif9 and Architek Percussion join forces for a multimedia pastiche concert inspired by Kaie Kellough’s poetry, featuring five Canadian composers: Luna Pearl Woolf; Bret Higgins, Derek Charke, Eliot Britton and Nicole Lizee on Sunday.

The festival finale, Cosmic Time on Feb. 1, led by Raiskin, should leave listeners on a loftier note, with the bill featuring Shaw’s Music in Common Time" sung by Roomful of Teeth with orchestra, Anna Thorvaldsdottir’s Metacosmos, and the North American première of Vasks’s Symphony No. 2.

"I have been inspired by the beauty, sincerity and profound spirituality of music by (Vasks) for many years," Raiskin states. "I have seen how deeply listeners are moved by the honesty of emotions they are drawn into. It is a great honour for me to welcome him to Winnipeg!"

holly.harris@shaw.ca

Grammy-award winning vocal group Roomful of Teeth performs an a cappella concert on Jan. 31 that includes the world première of Stafylakis’s EIDOS, Book I. (Bonica Ayala)

Grammy-award winning vocal group Roomful of Teeth performs an a cappella concert on Jan. 31 that includes the world première of Stafylakis’s EIDOS, Book I. (Bonica Ayala)

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