NAHRE SOL, VICTORIA SPARKS, AND THE MCO
Please note there are no door sales for the immediate future — all tickets must be purchased online or over the phone (204-783-7377). Please review our ticket and social gathering policies before ordering your tickets for, and attending, our 2021-22 concerts. All Spring Series concerts, unless otherwise indicated, occur at 7.30pm at Westminster United Church (745 Westminster at Maryland).
Buy 7.30pm May 5th in-person ticket (incl. online) | $36 Adult | $34 Senior | $15 Under-30
Buy 7.30pm May 6th in-person ticket (incl. online) | $36 Adult | $34 Senior | $15 Under-30
• Buy May 19th online-only ticket | $20 Household ticket
Pianist-composer Nahre Sol is among the most interesting artists making music online today. The Juilliard-trained, California-based musician has one of YouTube’s top classical music channels, entertaining an online audience of over 400K subscribers and millions of casual viewers with educational and performance videos. To watch one of her videos is almost inevitably to go down a YouTube rabbit-hole, at the other end of which you find yourself an hour later buzzing happily. It’s hard to stop with just one of Nahre’s videos.
But labelling Nahre simply a YouTube musician would be selling her short: she’s a great musician period. At our online 2021 Spring and Summer Festival, she premiered a handful of short pieces for piano. They were bold and cinematic, and allowed Nahre Sol to cut loose as a superb technician of her instrument. We’re thrilled to hear what she has in store at this concert, where she’ll perform and premiere a new chamber work, Pixels.
We’re also having back the brilliant percussionist Victoria Sparks for an in-person performance of Alexina Louie’s percussion concerto Waking the Lion. Premiered at our online 2021 Spring and Summer Festival, the piece lives up to the JUNO-winning composer’s reputation as “one of Canada’s most highly regarded and most often performed composers” (Canadian Music Centre). This is the second percussion concerto we’ve commissioned for the highly celebrated Sparks, and we feel this one is too good not to be experienced again by a live, in-person audience.
After these two contemporary works, we’ll hear Ravel’s sumptuous, delicate String Quartet in F Major played by full strings — once considered avant-garde, now a huge audience-pleaser. This will conclude an evening of wonderful modern and contemporary work sure to thrill a broad audience.
Manitoba Chamber Orchestra
Anne Manson, Music Director
Karl Stobbe, Concertmaster
Westminster Church in Wolseley
Thursday & Friday, 5 & 6 May 2022
Online presentation May 19th thru June 2nd
Anne Manson, conductor
Nahre Sol, piano
Victoria Sparks, percussion
Lizzy Hoyt, mezzo-soprano
World premiere performance, commissioned by the MCO with the assistance of the Canada Council for the Arts
Armatae face et anguibus
George Frideric Handel
“Cara speme,” from Giulio Cesare
“Dopo notte,” from Ariodante
Waking the Lion
Live performance premiere, commissioned by the MCO with the assistance of the Canada Council for the Arts
String Quartet in F Major, for full strings
—first two movements
Season sponsor / CN
May 5th guest artist sponsor / Spiring Wealth Management Group at Wellington-Altus Private Wealth
Volunteer sponsor / MB Liquor Mart
Media sponsors / Classic 107, Golden West Radio & Winnipeg Free Press
Nahre Sol is a pianist-composer who performs, composes and teaches an eclectic mixture of music that draws from aspects of improvisation, the avant-garde, traditional Western forms and harmony, jazz, and minimalism. She also produces several video series that distill her distinct perspective as a classically-trained pianist with an insatiable appetite for new ideas about music theory, harmony, practicing, and composition. Her videos breaking down the stylistic elements of great classical composers and documentaries on genre studies helped her gain an audience of over 400,000 subscribers on her YouTube channel. She was also the co-host of Sound Field, a music channel by PBS Digital Studios alongside drummer L.A. Buckner for over 30 episodes, and has appeared on videos by WIRED, Yamaha, and Native Instruments.
In 2020, she released her debut album of original works for keyboard, Alice in Wonderland, which features a mix of compositions for solo piano, synthesizers, and prepared piano. Recently, she ventured into film score with her contribution to the Boss Baby 2: Family Business soundtrack with Hans Zimmer and Steve Mazzaro. Upcoming commissions include works for mezzo-soprano Ema Nikolovska, The Happenstance group, and unannounced projects in multimedia such as video games.
She holds degrees from The Juilliard School and The Glenn Gould School of The Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto. She also studied in Paris in 2013-2014 as a Harriet Hale Woolley Grant recipient under Gabriel Tacchino and Narcis Bonet, pupils of Francis Poulenc and Nadia Boulanger. Aside from her videos, she is dedicated to teaching and regularly gives masterclasses and talks at institutions such as Carnegie Mellon University, Boston University, M.I.T., Syracuse University, University of Costa Rica, among others.
Winnipeg-based Victoria Sparks is an active solo, orchestral and chamber percussionist. She completed bachelor’s degrees in Music and Education after studying with Rob Gardner and Jauvon Gilliam (University of Manitoba) and her master’s in Percussion Performance with Jon Crabiel (Butler University). Active as a soloist in a variety of chamber music series in Winnipeg, Victoria also performs regularly with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra. She is principal timpani/percussion with the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra and works with other local arts organizations including the Brandon Chamber Players, GroundSwell, Royal Winnipeg Ballet, and The Winnipeg Singers. In 2016, she had the honour of premiering Sid Robinovitch’s Concerto for Percussion and Strings with the MCO. Victoria works closely with clarinettist Cathy Wood in their collaborative project Viđarneistí. This duo has commissioned works for their unique instrumentation and they perform regularly in Manitoba and at conferences and festivals throughout Canada and internationally.
In 2018, Sparks was delighted to join the Desautels Faculty of Music at the University of Manitoba teaching percussion and directing the percussion ensemble. Previously, she was the Coordinator of Percussion Studies at Brandon University (from 2010). She is the founder and director of the MBA Prairie Percussion Workshop (since 2012), an education- and performance-based event for percussion students in middle and high school. She also maintains an active schedule as an adjudicator and clinician in Manitoba and Saskatchewan through various organizations and festivals.
“The music of Alexina Louie bears a personal stamp derived from a unique blend of her Chinese background, an exotic instrumental palette, both traditional and non-traditional elements of western music, poetic images, nature, historical studies and a fascination with heavenly phenomena”—National Arts Centre.
Acclaimed composer Alexina Louie has collaborated with leading soloists, ensembles and orchestras. Her orchestral works, conducted by Sir Andrew Davis, Kent Nagano, and Leonard Slatkin, have been performed by the San Francisco, Montreal, BBC, St. Louis, and Toronto Symphony Orchestras, as well as China’s NCPA Orchestra (Beijing) among others. Soprano Barbara Hannigan, violinist James Ehnes, and pianist Jon Kimura Parker are among the many celebrated soloists who have performed her compositions. Of Ehnes’ performance of this work, the Edmonton Journal wrote in 2014 that “Beyond Time confirms, if one needed any confirmation, that Alexina Louie, with her kind of 21st century impressionism, is one of the finest composers in Canada today.”
Louie’s work spans a wide range of eclectic styles and technical demands from her much loved pedagogical piano pieces to main stage opera (The Scarlet Princess, Canadian Opera Company commission), virtuosic chamber and solo compositions, as well as works for dance (National Ballet of Canada), film, and television. Her TV projects include the groundbreaking made-for-TV comedic mini-opera Toothpaste and the international award-winning collection of mini-operas, Burnt Toast.
For Louie, composing music is an act of communication and self-expression. She freely explores various styles and differing inspirations to create music that reveals truths about the artistic spirit and the times in which we live. An Officer of the Order of Canada, Alexina Louie has received numerous awards for her lifetime of music creation including two JUNO Awards, The Canada Council for the Arts Molson Prize, and The Governor General’s Performing Arts Award. Her complete catalogue of works may be found on her website at: www.alexinalouie.ca.
Few vocalists authentically cross genres at the highest level and maintain professional careers in both areas—but Lizzy Hoyt is one of them. Praised by Opera Canada for both her dramatic depth and keen comedic gifts, she is a classical mezzo-soprano performing in operas, concerts and recitals. An internationally recognized Celtic-folk songwriter, singer, and multi-instrumentalist (fiddle, guitar, harp), she has won and been nominated for numerous awards including the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal, Canadian Folk Music Awards, Western Canadian Music Awards, International Acoustic Music Awards and Independent Music Awards.
The 2021/22 season includes Lizzy’s stage debut with Manitoba Opera in the title role of Rossini’s La Cenerentola as well as her return to Manitoba Underground Opera as Béatrice in Berlioz’s Béatrice et Bénédict. Other recent classical performances include Manitoba Opera’s ‘The Solo Sessions,’ Little Opera Company’s ‘All Those Arias Game Show,’ as well as opera roles Julia Child in Hoiby’s Bon Appétit (Little Opera Company), and Dido in Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas (Manitoba Underground Opera).
Passionate about classical song repertoire, she has performed with Concordia Symphony Orchestra, Symphony of the Kootenays, and Lethbridge Symphony Orchestra. She has given recitals for Skywalk Concerts, Arts on 817, Edmonton Recital Society, and St. Albert Chamber Music Society, and has collaborated on concerts with Flipside Opera & Art Song Collective and the Winnipeg Classical Guitar Society. Lizzy continues her private studies with teacher and mentor, Tracy Dahl and with programs like Manitoba Opera’s Digital Emerging Artist Program and Tafelmusik’s Summer Baroque Institute.
Pixels, Concertino for piano, marimba, and string ensemble
The composer has provided the following note:
I have been long fascinated with the idea of perspective. We could be looking at the same thing from different angles and lengths of view and what we see dramatically changes from one to the next. This piece reflects these ideas in the form of multiple short movements, each focusing on a different focal length, ranging from what I envision as a “broad aerial view,” to moments where we zoom into the “atoms and molecules” that make up what appears to be very static from far away. The instrumentation is based around piano, marimba, and string ensemble, with miscellaneous percussion instruments that are integrated into the mix. The music bears a mix of neoclassical harmony, minimalism, and improvisatory sections that are influenced by jazz and world music.
Armatae face et anguibus (Armed with torches), from ‘Juditha triumphans’ (Judith Triumphant), RV 644
Juditha triumphans is an oratorio, similar to an opera but without sets and costumes. It is the only surviving example of this type of work among the four that Vivaldi is known to have composed. The libretto was written by Iacopo Cassetti, based upon the Book of Ruth in the Bible. The Assyrian king Nebuchadnezzar sends an army against Israel to demand overdue tributes. Under the leadership of the general Holofernes, the Assyrians lay siege to the town of Bethulia and are about to conquer it. The young Jewish widow Judith goes to him to implore mercy. He falls in love with her and she indulges him. After a rich banquet and having drunk much wine, Holofernes falls asleep. Judith kills him, flees the enemy camp and returns victorious to Bethulia. In this forceful coloratura aria Vagaus, Holofermes’s chief eunuch, reacts in horror to his master’s death.
Cara speme (Dear hope), from Giulio Cesare in Egitto (Julius Caesar in Egypt), HWV 17
George Frideric Handel
Handel’s opera Giulio Cesare in Egitto premiered in London in 1724. Based on the history of the first century B.C., it follows the mighty Roman warrior and statesman Julius Caesar as he journeys to Egypt in pursuit of his rival, Pompey, and to secure the country as a reliable food source for the Roman Empire. He has an affair with Cleopatra, who seeks to become the sole ruler of Egypt by disposing of her brother and co-ruler, Tolomeo. Cleopatra is in disguise and using the name Lidia. She overhears Cornelia and Sesto planning to avenge Pompey’s murder by Cleopatra’s brother Tolomeo. Cleopatra offers her help. In this aria, Sesto rejoices, believing that they will soon have their revenge.
Doppo notte (After night) from Ariodante, HWV 33
George Frideric Handel
Among the operas Handel composed for London the favourites of the day were Giulio Cesare, Ariodante and Serse. The plot of Ariodante (1735) is set in medieval Scotland. The title character sadly bewails his beloved’s (supposed) infidelity. This is an example of a ‘trousers’ role, a long-popular operatic practice in which a male character is performed by a female singer.
Waking the Lion
The composer has provided the following note:
Although percussion instruments have been integral to my musical voice throughout my compositional career, Waking The Lion is my first percussion concerto.
Each of the two connected movements begins with the ritualistic striking of a large temple bowl. At the outset of the first movement, quiet rustlings in the string orchestra provide an unusual background for the subtle entry of the percussion soloist. Eventually the percussionist continues soft drumming with the fingers. Mallets are taken up as the momentum grows into a short, striking, virtuosic solo passage for the performer. The movement shifts orchestral colours from the skins of the drum heads to predominantly metallic instruments with the closing section of the first movement providing contrast from resonant instruments such as brass wind chimes, vibraphone, crotales, gongs, cymbals, and tam-tams
The second movement reveals additional versatility from the percussionist with its focus on rapid marimba passages. Waking The Lion ends with lively interactions between the string orchestra and exuberant passages on Asian instruments—the cheng-chengs and Chinese opera gongs.
String Quartet in F Major
Ravel composed only a small amount of chamber music, and usually just one example of any form. Each of these pieces—including a piano trio, a sonata for violin and cello, the Introduction and Allegro for harp and ensemble, and two sonatas for violin and piano – bears a full measure of his trademark elegance and polish.
He composed his sole string quartet in 1902 and 1903, while the twenty-eight year-old composer was studying at the Paris Conservatoire. He was heavily involved in attempting to win the school’s annual Prix de Rome (Rome Prize), a prestigious honour that would entitle him to a fully subsidized term of study in Italy. All his efforts failed. This eventually caused a major scandal because it demonstrated that only the conservative musical establishment had yet to recognize his remarkable talents.
The Quartet drew divided opinions even before it was premiered. That situation continued after the first performance, which the Heymann Quartet gave in Paris on 5 March 1904. Some critics drew attention to its resemblance to the quartet that Claude Debussy had composed a decade earlier. These are undeniable, but Ravel’s piece has more than enough of an individual profile (it wears its emotions further beneath its surface, for example) to stand capably on its own. Ravel wrote that in the Quartet he followed a direction he described as “opposite to that of Debussy’s symbolism,” abandoning “the vagueness and formlessness of the French impressionists in favour of a return to classic standards.”
He dedicated it to the composer Gabriel Fauré, who as Ravel’s teacher had done the most to inspire and encourage him. Fauré harboured some reservations about the piece, but Debussy strongly expressed his approval, and Alexis Roland-Manuel, who later studied composition with Ravel, said of it, “The intense suavity of this grave, youthful music makes it appear the most spontaneous work Ravel has ever written.” It moved the critic for the prestigious magazine Mercure de France to hail Ravel as “one of the masters of tomorrow,” and it is widely considered his first masterpiece.
The primary quality of the opening movement is a sweet, singing lyricism. The music generates a limited amount of ardour as it unfolds, only to dissipate as it concludes. A virtuosic scherzo-like movement follows where Ravel makes most effective use of pizzicato. The outer panels dance exotically, and the central trio section bears an air of mystery. A dream-like slow movement follows, its intimate reverie disturbed only by brief quivers of drama. The finale bursts in suddenly, then powers forward single-mindedly to bring the quartet to a dazzling conclusion.