A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.




 

A Double Mezzo
Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Jaron Freeman-Fox - Marc Destrubé,  May 5. 2015


I have a Vancouver friend who suffers from a mild form of a split personality (an archaic term for the more serious sounding schizophrenia). Perhaps simply for shock value I am writing this but then after tonight’s concert a Music On Main/Early Music Vancouver concert production at the Fox Cabaret I too am under the influence of  a split personality.  I loved Marc Destrubé’s rendition of Back’s  Partia (not a typo, look it up) for solo Violin No1 in B minor, BWV 1002. But then Jaron Freeman-Fox’s version (also solo) in which to state that his 5-string violin was amplified does not define the wonder of his playing, his sound and the display of all sorts of boxes (some black) at his feet.

Both performances were exquisite.

Which one to choose? I would rather take the example of Vancouver singer  the Reverend Liz Hamel who is either an outstanding soprano or an outstanding alto (a mezzo if you will) depending on the day or circumstance.

The reason for my split was further suggested when Destrubé informed us that Freeman-Fox called his 5-string violin a mezzo.

Besides Bach’s Partia the duo (solo every time except for the encore) played Thomas Baltzar’s (c.1630-1663) A Prelude for the violin, in G major and Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber (1644-1704) (if he texted his nom de phone would have been Ignaz) Passacaglia. What all these works had in common is that they all featured some sort of intial four-note variation with a bass line. This was most evident, Destrubé told us in Bach’s four-part dance form which had an Allemande, a Corrente, a Sarabande and a Tempo di Borea. All four came with additional Doubles which elaborated on those four notes. This elaboration is also called a division.
Destrubé would play these works in his understated and sparse style (little movement below the waist) and where I must guess that at an early age some violin teacher must have caned him every time he was not ramrod straight while playing. If you watch Destrubé’s face (as I always do) you might note that this French heritage man purses his lips as if he were sipping the finest of Calvados.   
Freeman-Fox then played his own versions (no sheet music to be seen anywhere) of the Baltzar, and the von Biber. For the Bach he elaborated (his explanation being that of a fat Italian stretching and forming a very good pizza) on the Doubles.

Before the concert even began my companion Jeff Gin and I marvelled at the long string of electronic boxes on the stage floor and a table with further controls with knobs and dials. The difficulty of playing divisions with a solo violin (from my position of musical ignorance) is that is very difficult to have a sustained bass line in a passacaglia with only one instrument in hand and one whose lowest string is in G.


This is where Freeman-Fox’s mezzo violin with its fifth string fits right in. Destrubé told me that the violin’s G string is one above the viola’s lower  C string. It just so happens that the mezzo’s extra string is in C.

But that Is not all. I noticed that Freeman-Fox could and did make his violin not only sound like a viola but like a cello. He would step on a box called volume and another one a box that Destrubé called “the machine.” He further clarified it:  

I should add that Jaron has, with a sound engineer in NYC, developed a special pick-up that can pick up the sound from one string at a time (so that only that string’s sound is going into the octave box for instance).

The end result of all that is that the octave box can then lower any of the mezzo’s strings (individually or collectively) by one octave.

As an amateur is it incredible enough that any human being can learn to play a violin and to play it with excellence as Destrubé does. But it is also equally incredible that Freeman-Fox (I can attest that these double-barrelled surnames are a pain to type) can not only do that (and this he proved in the Baltzar encore where he played his violin untethered) but also a lot more. With the help of a snazzy pair of ankle boots he presses here or lifts there or turns a knob with one hand in what looks and is a ballet-like performance all of its own.

We were all mesmerized and the visual conflict between the restrained violinist (Destrubé) and the Eric Claptonesque  Freeman-Fox helped make the evening be one of exciting avant garde, fun, humour and absolute excellence.

Of particular note was the second Bach Double in which Freeman-Fox (after modifying the interface of his violin) played it all in pizzicato. The sounds that came out of that instrument were sounds that I had never ever heard before.

The concert was advertized J.S. Bachwards - Early Music from the future for solo violin. Like other co productions with Music on Main, Early Music Vancouver's venture in this series which I hope happens again soon mixes the tried and true works of the 17th and 18th century baroque composers which please the purist diehards but also bring in elements of our contemporary world and an exciting look at what's new.

By now some of you must realize that part of the routine of the Fox Cabaret co-productions involve me coaxing some of the performers into the Fotoautomaton (an old style photo booth). You may also note the additional photographs of a pair of beautiful dancer sisters, Yeva and Thoen Glover. They were at the concert. They were there because they grew up with Freeman-Fox in Smithers and Terrace. I had the opportunity to photograph the pair in 2012. Our province is very big but tiny, too.

Two of Jaron  Freeman-Fox's teachers were present. Marc Destrubé taught him the violin and composer Peter Hannan composition. 

Fotoautomaton I  
Fotoautomaton II 















     

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9/20/15 - 9/27/15

9/27/15 - 10/4/15

10/4/15 - 10/11/15

10/18/15 - 10/25/15

10/25/15 - 11/1/15

11/1/15 - 11/8/15

11/8/15 - 11/15/15

11/15/15 - 11/22/15

11/22/15 - 11/29/15

11/29/15 - 12/6/15

12/6/15 - 12/13/15

12/13/15 - 12/20/15

12/20/15 - 12/27/15

12/27/15 - 1/3/16

1/3/16 - 1/10/16

1/10/16 - 1/17/16

1/31/16 - 2/7/16

2/7/16 - 2/14/16

2/14/16 - 2/21/16

2/21/16 - 2/28/16

2/28/16 - 3/6/16

3/6/16 - 3/13/16

3/13/16 - 3/20/16

3/20/16 - 3/27/16

3/27/16 - 4/3/16

4/3/16 - 4/10/16

4/10/16 - 4/17/16

4/17/16 - 4/24/16

4/24/16 - 5/1/16

5/1/16 - 5/8/16

5/8/16 - 5/15/16

5/15/16 - 5/22/16

5/22/16 - 5/29/16

5/29/16 - 6/5/16

6/5/16 - 6/12/16

6/12/16 - 6/19/16

6/19/16 - 6/26/16

6/26/16 - 7/3/16

7/3/16 - 7/10/16

7/10/16 - 7/17/16

7/17/16 - 7/24/16

7/24/16 - 7/31/16

7/31/16 - 8/7/16

8/7/16 - 8/14/16

8/14/16 - 8/21/16

8/21/16 - 8/28/16

8/28/16 - 9/4/16

9/4/16 - 9/11/16

9/11/16 - 9/18/16

9/18/16 - 9/25/16

9/25/16 - 10/2/16

10/2/16 - 10/9/16

10/9/16 - 10/16/16

10/16/16 - 10/23/16

10/23/16 - 10/30/16

10/30/16 - 11/6/16

11/6/16 - 11/13/16

11/13/16 - 11/20/16

11/20/16 - 11/27/16

11/27/16 - 12/4/16

12/4/16 - 12/11/16