The show kicked off with The Brandon University New Music Ensemble doing a snappy number, literally. The 15 piece ensemble snapped their fingers to Casey Cangelosi’s composition ‘Theatric No. 10‘ after which they performed three more pieces (conducted by Megumi Masaki with more traditional instruments). Two of the pieces were compositions by Toronto’s Owen Pallett.
Then came the beautiful Henry Brant composition ‘Mass in Gregorian Chant For Multiple Flutes‘ (1984). This was performed by the University of Manitoba Flute Ensemble who were spread throughout the upper balcony and loges on either side. The musicians all started out in unison but when the conductor’s hands dropped, the flutists played slightly ahead of or behind each other simulating the decay of the acoustics of the great cathedrals. A very interesting effect.
The second composition was Colin Mcphee‘s ‘Concerto for Wind Orchestra‘. This was followed by David Maslanka‘s ‘Give Us This Day‘ with Jacqueline Dawson conducting the Winnipeg Wind Ensemble in two movements. The inspiration for this was from a book by Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nat Hahn entitled ‘For A Future To Be Possible‘. And with enchanting music like this, the future seems quite bright.
Day four, entitled Forgotten Winnipeg, featured a piece by Glenn Branca, ‘Symphony No. 14 1st Movement‘, written entirely in his harmonic series tuning system. Pennsylvanian born Branca once made a series of drawings based on the harmonic scale (a visual representation of his music). After some of his artist friends saw these, they encouraged him to share these unique drawings. He took their advice and has had showings of the work throughout the US and Europe.
Also featured this night were two world premiere’s by Winnipeg’s Venetian Snares (Aaron Funk), ‘Deleted Poems‘ and ‘The Hopeless Pursuit of Remission‘. These two pieces were quite different than the electronic sounds Venetian Snares emitted at the Union Sound Hall on opening night (see CNC story Feb. 20, 2014). Funk is a very versatile and unpredictable musician. Meanwhile, ‘Hopeless Pursuit‘ featured two Winnipeg ‘math drummers’ Andy Rudolph (Mahogany Frog) and Daniel Ryckman (Electro Quarterstaff).
Unholy Noise is what day five was called and indeed with Zappa, Branca (two pieces) and Valgeir Sigurdsson, this definitely wasn’t a church service.
Branca’s first composition entitled ‘Free Form‘ (Canadian premiere), was written in the style of his guitar pieces that he used to write for experimental rock bands and large electric instrumental ensembles. This was one of his first attempts at writing for a full orchestra around 1988. ‘Free Form‘ uses two time signatures (3 against 4) at the same time. His second piece ‘Symphony No. 11‘ (1998), (North American premiere), was his third symphony for orchestra. It actually sounded like three orchestras performing at once. Quite reminiscent of a Charles Ives collage.
Sigurdsson’s ‘Eighteen Hundred and Seventy-Five‘ (world premiere), featured the Icelandic composer playing his electronics along with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra. An interesting pairing. Valgeir has also collaborated with Bjork, Feist, The Kronos Quartet and many others.
The last night of the festival (unfortunately, this reviewer missed day six at Fort Rouge United Church), started off with Vivaldi‘s Four Seasons featuring the very talented and gifted musician Gwen Hoebig on violin. Beatifully performed during our coldest season of the year, it warmed us all up.
For the second half of the night we were treated to Valentin Silvestrov‘s ‘Requiem For Larissa‘ (Canadian premiere) in seven movements. ‘Requiem‘ is a very personal piece which was written for his wife who died young. There were some amazingly low guttural sounds coming from the Mennonite Festival Chorus. Very deep and moving. Valentin is considered one of the leading representatives of the Kiev Avant-Garde. As Valentin once said, “I do not write new music. My music is a response to and an echo of what already exists.”
Hats off to Alexander Mickelthwaite (music director) and Matthew Patton, who co-curated this year’s New Music Festival. Can’t wait to see what they put together for next year.
All photos by Doug Kretchmer