The 24th annual Winnipeg New Music Festival kicked off in Winnipeg last Saturday and music lovers have been basking in it.
As WSO conductor Alexander Mickelthwate stated recently in a CBC newslink entitled ‘Winnipeg puts New York, California to shame with New Music Festival,’ “We hear there’s nothing like it worldwide.” Indeed New York is following suit with their first similar concert this year.
Co-curator of the WNMF, Matthew Patton (who also has a few pieces in the festival), arranged another very diverse selection of musicians and composers for the 24th installment of this unique festival.
This year’s line-up included world renowned musicians and composers such as Arditti String Quartet, Arcade Fire’s Sarah Neufeld, Georg Friedrich Haas, Ursula Oppens, John Luther Adams, Brian Eno, John Zorn and many more.
Previous festivals have featured the works of Frank Zappa, Kronos Quartet (who also performed), Steve Reich, Gavin Bryars and Arvo Pärt.
The festival is not just for classical music lovers. On opening night I sat beside a long time season ticket holder (since 1968) in the 12th row who told me that the typical WSO concert has a lot more greying heads in the audience, but for this festival he has seen more and more younger people every year.
The festival features pre-concert talks and discussions with the composers and musicians, followed by a short mini-concert by various local musicians as well as the Brandon University New Music Ensemble. The BUME performed pieces by Brian Eno and Stockhausen amongst others on opening night.
The next night, local avant guard musicians field://// delighted the crowd with their interesting 24 minute composition. The four piece band played various instruments such as upright bass, trumpet, trombone, guitar, violin, keyboards, various drums and percussion and assorted electronics.
There was also a post concert Q & A session every evening with the musicians and composers followed by a chance to mingle and chat with the performers and other concert goers. It is a wonderful festival where I seem to make more and more new friends every year.
Art and film have been incorporated into the festival since last year when local filmmakers such as Ed Ackerman, Rob Pasternak and Matthew Rankin screened their films. Filmmaker Jim Jarmusch did a concert last year with one of his experimental films showing in the background.
Last year, a new feature was added entitled Pop Nuit which featured concerts at separate venues. Local prog-rockers Mahogany Frog and Venetian Snares did a show at Union Sound Hall at the beginning of the festival and saxophone virtuoso Colin Stetson performed at the Millennium Centre.
Sat. Feb. 7 Pop Nuit will take place at the West End Cultural Centre with the film The Adventures of Prince Achmed accompanied by a live score written and performed by Julia Ryckman and J.P. Perron.
This year, Plug In ICA is sponsoring Rodney Graham’s Send Your Child to Art School installation in the piano Nobile of the Centennial Concert Hall.
It’s hard to miss the adorable ‘Little Girls With Globe Heads’ scattered throughout the concert hall and even on stage. Neil Farber collected world globes for about a year and stuck 49 of them over the heads of mannequins of children, and girlfriend Krista sewed dresses for them and made them shoes.
Paul Butler’s Party Pavillion in the lobby is a hands on exhibit where concert goers flip through a record bin to choose their canvas (a record cover) and select photos from various magazines to create collages to be displayed on the giant collage tree.
The first two nights of the festival featured Arditti String Quartet who played with the WSO the first night and did a solo show on night two. The world renowned musicians performed a John Zorn composition the second night and when Irvine Arditti introduced the piece, he said he asked his friend Mr. Zorn if he could say a few words about the number to which he was answered with a harsh, “NO !” I’m guessing that means to let the music do the talking.
Every year, the Westminster Church hosts a show. Monday night the church was packed for performances by The Gritty, whose wonderful vocal music served as a soundtrack to some very interesting visuals projected onto the large pipe organ pipes. The duo consists of Sarah Jo Kirsch and jaymez (who created the visuals). They started the evening with Norman Delicacy I, performing Norman Delicacy II right after intermission.
Also gracing the Westminster Church stage was Camerata Nova’s artistic director Andrew Balfour, who wrote a piece entitled Take the Indian which was inspired by stories he heard at a Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada event a few years ago. Balfour did some interpretive dance which told the story of residential school abuses and the survivors and victims.
He was accompanied by members of Camerata Nova who also participated in the ‘drama.’ The tenors and basses were the crows (abusers), the sopranos were the students and the altos were portraying the survivors. The piece was extremely moving and was certainly enhanced by the composers’ interpretive gestures on stage. The WSO’s Yuri Hooker also helped the composition along with his playing of the cello.
For John Luther Adams’ composition Night Peace, acappella ensemble Prairie Voices were joined by the WSO’s Victoria Sparks on percussion and Richard Turner on harp. Tonight, for the final concert of the festival, John Luther Adams will be in attendance for the pre-concert talk as well as the Q & A session after the show. His composition Become Ocean will be performed as well.
Pianist / composer Lubomyr Melnick was also joined by Prairie Voices for his piece Dreams of You. It was very dreamy with his non-stop piano playing flowing along the banks of the Prairie Voices as they gently, gently, gently rowed us down the river.
The evening ended off with Caroline Shaw’s Partita for 8 Voices, which was written over three summers. An extra voice was added to the piece with nine Camerata Nova members providing chatter, whispers, sighs, and other delightful sounds. Very interesting to watch the conductor conducting this piece of music.
The pre-concert show on Tuesday featured the University of Manitoba’s Opera Theatre group performing Mai ’68- Opera in Two Scenes with music by Scott Jodoin.
All photos by Doug Kretchmer
Editor’s note: Exactly one year ago, Doug Kretchmer submitted his first article to Community News Commons. This review is his 81st article on CNC. Doug has also contributed numerous photos, videos and audio to the site over the past year. Congratulations to a most prolific citizen journalist!