Out of Magician's Hat - A Jack-in-the-Box & a Pocket OrchestraWednesday, November 02, 2016
A magician did not pull a rabbit out of a hat but a Jack-in-the-Box Saturday complete with dancers, pianists, organists, and several other musical performers including not one but two saxophonists (Colin MacDonald and David Branter) who played soprano, baritone, alto and tenor saxophones.
My wife Rosemary, daughter Hilary, her daughter Lauren, 14) and I went to Jack-in-the-Box at the Orpheum Annex. Before the concert we dined next door at Dunn’s. We were met by my graphic designer friend Graham Walker. Some of Dunn's other patrons suspiciously looked like musicians.
|Illustrations by Lauren Stewart & Graham Walker|
This was the program:
Once again Yarilo is offering intriguing new, and unexpected musical ideas! This time we will take you on a path of musical freedom - unrestricted, unpredicted! Together with the Colin MacDonald Pocket Orchestra and ProArte Ballet Company we will follow in the steps of Francis Picabia, one of the fathers of the Dada movement who said: "My mind depends on rhythm, dance, movement" and we will play, dance with rhythm and movement!
Our "Jack in the Box" is a musical journey back in time in which we re-envision the atmosphere of some of history’s entertainment hotspots. We will begin in the smoky cafes of turn of the century Paris in the heady days of Toulouse Lautrec, Cancan girls and the music of Erik Satie. The “Grande ritornelle” from Satie’s “La Belle Excentrique” serves as a promenade as we dance our way from Paris with Satie’s ballet “Jack-in-the-Box” to the early cinema and Michael Baker’s “Phantom of the Dance,” a musical retelling of the silent film classic. Dance is the common theme as we move next to a public square for a moving celebration in an Eastern European village with a new commission by Colin MacDonald. Finally, we cross the globe to revisit the clubs of New York and Los Angeles during the Swing Era, with a performance of Igor Stravinsky’s jazz classic, “Ebony Concerto.” Satie provides our musical guide on route.
Performers: Jane Hayes and Anna Levy - pianos; François Houle - clarinet; Colin MacDonald Pocket Orchestra; ProArte Ballet Company.
|François Houle, Anna Levy, Jane Hayes & Colin MacDonald, Orpheum Annex Ocotober 20 2016|
Walker and I have been going to baroque concerts and new music concerts for years. When we have the fortune of Lauren in our company he brings a notebook (the case this time) or a sketch book. During the concert performances Lauren and Walker take turns sketching (a collaboration) what they notice on the stage.
This time around it was Colin MacDonald Pocket Orchestra in a production presented by the Yarilo Contemporary Music Society. It included the ProArte Dance Company directed by Astrid Sherman.
I must confess that I never heard of either the Yarilo Contemporary Music Society or the ProArte Dance Company. But I did notice that one of the members (the Vice President) of the Yarilo Contemporary Music Society is Ian Hampton. I will write more about him further down as both Walker and I know who he is and we have seen him perform for many years.
Colin MacDonald’s Pocket Orchestra and the Orpheum Annex are a sign of our times. The idea of going to a large concert hall to listen to a big symphony orchestra playing Mahler may be about over or at the very least waning.
I have recently found out that the architectural firm that built the interior of the Orpheum Annex is Bingham Hill Architects and that the architect in question is Mike Hill. I have no idea who designed the similar and nearby Pyatt Hall (part of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra’s School of Music). The fact is that these venues that can be enlarged or made smaller and twisted around. They can accommodate either a café style table and chairs or a normal arrangement. They can adapt to smaller orchestras with a smaller fan base. And they provide very good acoustics and the latest support for new music electronic’s capability.
MacDonald’s Pocket Orchestra is made up of seasoned city musicians who play for other orchestras including the Turning Point Ensemble which is directed by composer Owen Underhill.
I would dare to say that Macdonald’s Pocket Orchestra seemed like the Turning Point Ensemble “Pocket Orchestra” that does not exist.
And yet the Turning Point Ensemble is featuring this Friday and Saturday at the Roundhouse a concert of very small ensembles and duos (of its musicians) called Under the Microscope of its musicians. Could I dare say (again) a Colin MacDonald Pocket Pocket Orchestra?
MacDonald and Turning Point Ensemble feature music of the 20th century that is either unknown or rarely played. They also show off the compositions of new composers and of some that have composed works this 21st century.
The Jack-in-the-Box was exactly that. It was a potpourri of stuff that surprised and challenged me that happened to be theatrical, too. Two of the works one by Satie and the other Michael Conway Baker’s Phantom of the Dance featured the young dancers of the ProArte Dance Company.
The stars of the evening besides the four hands (Jane Hayes and Ana Levy) on piano included clarinetist François Houle. With the Pocket Orchestra they played Igor Stravinky’s Ebony Concerto which was written for Woody Herman’s band (the Woody Herman Herd) in 1945. I must point out that a couple of years ago it was Jane Hayes who amazed me with her piano playing Stravinsky's Tango with the Turning Point Ensemble.
Of the marvellous sounds Ebony Sound, for Walker and I (we are seasoned to listening to what at one time was game changing new music of the 20th century)a my daughter Hilary (44) told me, “I would not have enjoyed this if I had been listening to it on a CD or on the radio. But watching the performers made all the difference and I could learn to love Stravinsky.”
I had to point out to her that Woody Herman played the clarinet, thus Houle was an excellent stand-in, a virtuoso zeitgeist. Herman in 1945 had been called at the last moment to sing David Raksin’s Laura (lyrics by Jonny Mercer) for a recording which became one of Herman’s most famous. Both Hilary and I consider Laura to be one of our favourite films of all time.
So the lyrical and the dissonant or the not quite so lyrical can live side by side and draw in listeners particularly when you see them perform. And Lauren who plays the clarinet with her school band had all eyes for Houle. She may have noticed Elyse Jacobson's foot as both Jacobson and she play the violin.
As for Ian Hampton first read about his incredible curriculum here. Walker and I not only enjoyed his performances with the VSO and the CBC Vancouver Orchestra but we somehow were informed about his sense of humour. I remember calling the man and listening to the funniest answering machine message I had ever heard. My only photographs of Hampton I took when I was assigned to photograph the then Musical Director of the CBC Vancouver Orchestra, John Eliot Gardiner. In the little 35mm strip bellow, that's Hampton behind Gardiner.
|John Eliot Gardiner and Ian Hampton|
At Saturday's concert, pianist-demolisher-supreme Jane Hayes told me that Hampton has a daily blog Hung, Drawn and Cultured in which he feautures his political (Hayes words) illustrations. Below is his unpolitical illustration of the recently deceased Vancouver band leader and trumpet player Bobby Hales entitled Hales to the Chief.
Bobby Hales(1934-Oct.15 2016).Trumpeter,conductor,arranger,composer and former president of the AFM.local 145.