A Cluster Festival
The warmth and freshness of spring comes early now in Winnipeg with a host of new music festivals during the colder months. Among the most exciting and forward-looking is Cluster Festival, with whom the MCO is proud to co-produce this concert.
It features such luminaries of new classical music as Alexina Louie, Gabriel Dharmoo (above centre), & Keiko Devaux. JUNO-winner Louie is “one of Canada’s most highly regarded and most often performed composers” (Canadian Music Centre), while the artistically blossoming Dharmoo and Devaux are leading figures of the Montréal new music scene.
Cluster organizers tell us they have curated an evening of elegant new works that, while complementing one another, “show the different sides of what new music can be.” By this they may mean, among other things, the inclusion of a folk musician, Raine Hamilton, on the evening’s program. A 2018 Canadian Folk Music Award winner, Hamilton tells stories and jokes, plays the fiddle and guitar, and sings over her distinctive mélange of folk and chamber music. She is, almost invariably, a huge audience hit, and we’re excited to see what elements she assembles for this show.
Our March concert will be an evening of top-notch musicianship and new music that is a must for adventurous music-lovers.
As associate conductor of the Les Violons du Roy chamber orchestra, Mathieu Lussier (above right) has conducted over 100 concerts in Canada, Mexico, and the US. He’s also a gifted composer and bassoonist, in which roles he has engagements all over the world. Lussier teaches Baroque bassoon at McGill University and modern bassoon at the Université du Québec à Montréal.
The concert begins at 7.30pm on March 24th in Westminster United Church, 745 Westminster at Maryland. Tickets, at $36 for adults, $34 for seniors and $15 for students and those under-30 (incl. GST), are available at McNally Robinson, Organic Planet (877 Westminster Ave), and on MCO’s Ticketline at 204-783-7377.
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Manitoba Chamber Orchestra
Anne Manson, Music Director
Karl Stobbe, Concertmaster
Westminster United Church
24 March 2020
Cluster Festival collaboration
Pulau de Wata (arr. M. Oesterle)
Linda Catlin Smith
Of Absolute Resistance
Starlight, Creek Cabin Song, Aurora in the Meadow
Forest for the Trees
A versatile musician with a commanding grasp of early repertoire, Mathieu Lussier is increasingly in demand as a guest conductor in Canada and abroad. Recently appointed as the artistic co-director and guest conductor of the Arion Baroque Orchestra, Lussier begins to bring new artistic ideas to the growing organization. In 2014, Lussier was awarded Canada Art Council’s prestigious Jean-Marie Beaudet Award in Orchestra Conducting.
As a soloist appearing throughout North America and Europe, Mathieu Lussier has energetically and passionately promoted the modern and baroque bassoon as solo instruments for nearly two decades. He has performed with such ensembles as Arion Baroque Orchestra, Les Violons du Roy, Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra, the Boston Early Music Festival Orchestra, and Apollo’s Fire. He also devotes considerable time to chamber music as a member of Ensemble Pentaèdre de Montréal.
Mathieu Lussier is also a respected composer, with a catalogue of over 40 titles heard regularly in the concert halls of North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia. In 2009, his composition Bassango, in its version for bassoon and string orchestra, won the third prize in the Contemporary Classical Song category at the Just Plain Folks Awards of Nashville TN. He has received commissions from artists such as Nadina Mackie Jackson, Guy Few, Lise Beauchamp, and George Zukerman as well as from the American Wind Symphony Orchestra, Oshawa-Durham Symphony Orchestra, and Les Idées Heureuses. Mathieu Lussier’s music has been recorded on numerous occasions and is broadcast all around the world. Dos Tropicos, a wind quintet, has been performed over 100 times in Canada, Europe and the UK. His compositions are published by TrevCo Music, Accolade, June Emerson, and Gérard Billaudot.
Linda Catlin Smith
Linda Catlin Smith grew up in New York and lives in Toronto. She studied music in NY and at the University of Victoria, and has taught composition at Wilfrid Laurier University since 1999. Her music has been commissioned, performed and/or recorded by: Tafelmusik, BBC Scottish Orchestra, Goeyvaerts Trio, Trio Arbos (Madrid), Victoria, Kitchener-Waterloo and Vancouver Symphony Orchestras, Arraymusic, Tapestry New Opera, Via Salzburg, Evergreen Club Gamelan, Exaudi, and the Penderecki and Bozzini string quartets, as well as by soloists including Eve Egoyan, Philip Thomas and Elinor Frey. She has had performances at the Tectonics Festival in Glasgow (2017), Huddersfield Festival (2017), Principal Sound Festival (London, 2018) and Louth Contemporary Music Festival in Ireland (2019). The BBC Proms commissioned a new orchestral work premiered in 2019 by the BBC Scottish Orchestra. Several solo discs of her music have been released: Thought and Desire, with Eve Egoyan, and four recordings: Dirt Road, Drifter, Wanderer and Among the Tarnished Stars (with Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time), on the label ‘another timbre.’ Some of her works are now available through Composers Edition.
Kristen Wachniak is from Winnipeg. She combines a playful impulse with compositional structuring to create works of emotional transparency, anatomical erraticism, and whimsy. Her desire to extract meaning is translated through sound, in an attempt to connect with others through shared human experiences. Her use of sound spans from solo piano to vocal sampling, classical ensembles, and electronic production.
In 2018, she graduated from the University of Manitoba with a B.Mus in Composition, studying under Gordon Fitzell, Örjan Sandred, Eliot Britton, and Karen Sunabacka. Her supplementary training includes the Winnipeg New Music Festival Composers Institute, the Lunenburg Academy of Performing Arts, and Precursor Productions, with mentorship from Sammy Moussa, Nicole Lizée, Dinuk Wijeratne, and Andrew Yankiwski. Over the years, Wachniak has worked with ensembles such as the WSO and Quasar saxophone quartet. Recent premieres include HEDONE, a chamber opera for two sopranos, tenor, percussion quartet, and electronics, directed by Mel Braun (2018) and collaboration with local percussionist, Cam Denby, for The Fresh Blood Project (2019). Kristen is filled with gratitude to work with the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra and Cluster Festival for their 2019/20 seasons and looks forward to what is in store for the future.
Raine Hamilton is a singer, violinist, guitarist, and songwriter who presents resonant, acoustic chamber folk. She was recently awarded a 2018 Canadian Folk Music Award for Emerging Artist of the Year.
Raine’s new album, Night Sky, tips between the earthly and the otherworldly; it is anchored in relatable lived experience, while reaching into the space just beyond, thinning the veil between here and there, affording safe passage to the rough and beautiful places. Her ethereal voice and lyrics are at the forefront of these powerful tunes, written in both English and French. Alongside cello and double bass, and with Raine on violin or guitar, these songs have a moving string quartet feel with a cosmic reach.
Raine is also a charming and funny storyteller, pairing her vulnerable tunes with engaging story intros. She believes that music is for everyone, and that we all have something to share. An experienced educator, Raine offers workshops in songwriting and fiddle tune writing. Raine also offers concerts with American Sign Language interpretation, to help make live music and the community that comes with it accessible to the deaf community.
“Raine Hamilton’s new album Night Sky is a warm, sweet stringed folk serenade to life’s beauty—the pain, joy and vibrance of our shared human experience” —Mitch Mosk, Atwood Magazine.
Keiko Devaux’s works have been performed in Canada, France, Germany, and Italy by various ensembles including Le Nouvel Ensemble Moderne, Ensemble musica assoluta, Ensemble Arkea, Quartetto Prometeo, and Ensemble Wapiti among others. She composes regularly for diverse ensembles, as well as for collaborations with choreographers and cinematic productions. Her approach embraces a love of electroacoustic sounds and methodology, reflected in her techniques of manipulating and distorting acoustic sound with digital tools, and then re-transforming these edits back into musical notation and the acoustic realm. From 2016 to 2018, she was the composer in residence with Le Nouvel Ensemble Moderne (Montréal). She is the laureate of numerous prizes and awards, including the OUM composition prize (2016 and 2018), the Rotary Club Siena Award for distinction in her master courses with Salvatore Sciarrino (2018), and the Jury and Public prizes of the Accès Arkea competition (2017). She is an associate composer with the Canadian Music Centre, vice-president of the board of directors of Codes d’accès, and past organizer of the Montréal Contemporary Music Lab.
Originally from British Columbia, she began her musical career in piano performance studies as well as composing, touring, and recording several albums in independent rock bands. She holds a Bachelor’s of Music (Écriture) and a Master’s of Music in instrumental composition from the Université de Montréal. She has also studied with Maestro Salvatore Sciarrino at L’Accademia Musicale Chigiana in Siena, Italy (2017-19). She is currently pursuing her doctorate in music composition and creation at Université de Montréal under the direction of Ana Sokolovic and Pierre Michaud.
Gabriel Dharmoo is a composer, vocalist, improviser and researcher. His works have been performed in Canada, the USA, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Spain, Estonia, Poland, Australia, Singapore, and South Africa. He has received many awards for his compositions, such as the Canada Council for the Arts Jules Léger Prize for his chamber work Wanmansho (2017) and the Conseil Québécois de la Musique Opus Award for his opera À chaque ventre son monstre (2018). He was also awarded the Canadian Music Centre’s Harry Freedman Recording Award (2018), the MusCan Student Composer Competition (2017), the SOCAN Jan V. Matejcek Award (2016), the Canada Council for the Arts Robert Fleming Prize (2011), the Fernand-Lindsay Prix d’Europe composition prize (2011) as well as six prizes from the SOCAN Foundation Awards for Young Composers.
Having researched Carnatic music with four renowned masters in Chennai (India) in 2008 and 2011, his personal musical style encourages the fluidity of ideas between tradition and innovation. He has participated in various cross-cultural and inter-traditional musical projects, many being led by Sandeep Bhagwati in Montreal (Sound of Montreal, Ville étrange) and in Berlin (Zungenmusiken, Miyagi Haikus).
As a vocalist and interdisciplinary artist, his career has led him around the globe, notably with his solo show Anthropologies imaginaires, which was performed at the Amsterdam Fringe Festival (2015) and the SummerWorks Performance Festival (2016).
He is a PhD candidate at Concordia University’s PhD Individualized Program with Sandeep Bhagwati (Music), Noah Drew (Theatre) and David Howes (Anthropology).
Alexina Louie is one of Canada’s most highly regarded and most performed composers. Her desire for self-expression, as well as her explorations of Asian art and philosophy, have contributed to the development of her unique musical voice. Louie’s communicative and highly dramatic work pushes the boundaries of convention and tradition. Performed and broadcast internationally, her commissioned works range across all musical genres, including ballet and opera. She has been commissioned by Canada’s leading arts organizations including The National Ballet of Canada, The Canadian Opera Company, The Montreal Symphony, The Toronto Symphony, and The National Arts Centre Orchestra among many others.
Renowned soloists such as James Ehnes and Jon Kimura Parker have also commissioned works from her. Her vocal and operatic works have been sung by celebrated singers, including Barbara Hannigan, Russell Braun, Daniel Okulitch, and John Relyea. Burnt Toast as well as Toothpaste, her groundbreaking awarding-winning made-for-TV mini comedic operas, have been broadcast around the world. In 2006 Burnt Toast, in competition with 147 films, won the prestigious International Golden Prague Grand Prix.
Among her many awards and distinctions, she has twice won the JUNO Award for Best Classical Composition. In 2002, Louie received an honorary doctorate from the University of Calgary. She has also received the National Arts Centre Composers Award, Jules Léger Prize (chamber music), Chalmer’s Award (musical composition), and the Louis Applebaum Award for Excellence in Film Music Composition. In 2002, Alexina Louie was named an Officer of the Order of Canada. Louie has recently been awarded the prestigious 2019 Canada Council Molson Prize in the Arts. The award celebrates outstanding achievement in all the artistic disciplines. In addition, in 2019 groups in Vancouver, Calgary, and Cork, Ireland have presented concerts devoted entirely to her solo and chamber music compositions. Alexina Louie’s extensive catalogue can be found at alexinalouie.ca.
Claude Vivier, arr. Oesterle
Lamentably brief as Vivier’s career was—he was murdered at the age of 34—he still managed to create a remarkable body of work. His nearly 50 compositions are noteworthy for their imagination, expressive intensity, and often exotic beauty. “I think that the most important point about my music is its spiritual content,” he wrote. “God is the centre of my music. As a composer, I’m only a tool in the hands of the spirit.” His compositions include piano and chamber music, vocals works, two ballets, and an opera, Kopernikus (1978-79). In 1981, the Canadian Music Centre recognized him as Composer of the Year.
In 1976, he embarked on a lengthy tour of the middle and far east, one that took him to Iran, Bali and Thailand. He found Bali and its music particularly striking. His composition Pulau Dewata (Island of the Gods, as the Balinese refer to their home) dates from June 1977. Vivier wrote, “This work represents a succession of nine melodies … The modes can, at times, recall Bali, since I intended to write a piece which evoked the spirit of Bali: the dance, the rhythm and above all, an explosion of lives which are simple and real. The ending of this work reflects the traditional signature of many Balinese works. It is an homage of love to those wonderful people who taught me so much.”
The score of Pulau Dewata does not include specific orchestration, leaving room for performers to choose any combination of instruments that suits the music.
Linda Catlin Smith
The composer has provided the following note.
Orient Point, the inspiration for this 2016 piece for string orchestra, is at the easternmost tip of Long Island in New York. It is a small village of farmland and protected marshes that ends at the sea, with lots of small bays and inlets and coves. There are beaches on several sides of the point; one looks across the Long Island Sound to Connecticut, while on the other side, there is just horizon with the faintest strip of land beyond which is the Atlantic. The view is mostly sea and sky, and these, along with the light, are constantly changing.
Of absolute resistance
The composer has provided the following note.
>Of absolute resistance was originally composed and performed in 2016 for the C StringCollective, cello sextet with double bass and soprano, directed by Dr. Minna Rose Chung. Its inception came from frustration with the music I was exposed to at the time, and the feeling that the value of novelty negated tangible emotional expression. This was a pivotal point in my studies, inspired by the music and wisdom of Cassandra Miller and Marielle Groven. Romantic notions were revealed through new lenses upon listening to About Bach and Je ne vois qu’infini par toutes les fenêtres in a live performance like I had never experienced before. The piece has taken on new meaning over the years, but remains a study of spectrums—sonic texture and movement, clarity of expression, and the role of extended techniques. The 2019 instrumentation allows for new possibilities to unfold among a larger, more timbrally delicate ensemble.
Creek Cabin Song
Aurora in the Meadow
The composer has provided the following notes.
Creek Cabin Song
I’ve never known a light this light before.
This song is about being alive, which I recommend! Creek Cabin Song is named after the place it was written: a darling tiny cabin in the Kootenay Mountains, where I could hear the mountain creek running night and day. The song shouts out in celebration and thanksgiving: “Life is good! Life is beautiful!”
Aurora in the Meadow
I learned to grow, I learned to walk, I learned to look.
Drawing on the imagery of the prairies and the mountains, this song tells a love story beyond gender, and one that is tied to the land. The aurora borealis—the northern lights—make a special appearance in the open prairie sky.
The storm has come, and nothing will be as it was.
Eerie and driven, this tune features a characteristic fiddle chop, and rhythmic interplay between string sections. Written originally for solo violin and voice, Raine performs both at once, singing while playing the lead on her favourite bowed instrument.
Forest for the Trees
Forest for the Trees is a piece that primarily explores perception. I limited myself to a very basic, and tonal melody that is unveiled in each section in different registers and speeds, synchronously or out of phase, and voiced in solos, sections, or tutti. I take these motifs and move them around the ensemble, transforming the material itself in timbre, speed, and fragmentation, and also, by orchestrating textural voices around them that either pronounce or mask these motifs. Because of these explorations, each individual spends time playing independently, and in synchronicity with their section and/or full ensemble. I’m interested in the accumulation and dispersion of sound, and how our ears organize and perceive it. As this hinges strongly on how the voices intermingle, the exaggeration of dynamics is the most important element of this piece. Each section/solo instrument is sometimes meant to poke out from the mass of sound, and disappear into it. To not be able to distinguish the forest for the trees, is an expression, often negative, signifying when one is lost in detail they lose the larger picture. However, my use of this expression in the title is meant positively as I am fascinated by the idea of creating layers of sound where the listener can zoom in and out, or focus and un-focus on melodic motifs, and larger more complicated mass movements in and around them.