Turning Point's Under the Microscope - a Modulus Operandi in Sonic Style
Saturday, November 05, 2016
|Marc Destrubé, Ariel Barnes, Jane Hayes, Tom Shorthouse, Ingrid Chiang & AK Coope November 5 2016|
The tragedy of being a fan of music, dance and theatre is
that I cannot read music anymore, I cannot dance and I could never act as I
That means that when I go to performance of dance, theatre
or music I feel I am in the periphery. I am an outsider looking in. In music, all those accomplished musicians of our city share
something similar to all the secret handshakes of Masons. I believe that
musicians with that extra ultra-human ability to read music are the new Masons. They represent excellence in a world surrounded by mediocrity.
The only way to overcome this alienation is to get to
know musicians and to frequent their concerts until they become friends. I have no idea on how unique Vancouver may be in the
ability of any concert goer to approach musicians after a concert with ease. But approachable they all are. Even that left hand door (by the front) at the Orpheum is always easy to open to talk to VSO performers after a concert. My eldest daughter Ale (when she was a little girl) opened the door and had a long chat and a hug backstage with Andrés Segovia.
While I feel that I share with my friend violinist MarcDestrubé
(besides having shared a meal of ostrich and Sancerre) is the action of putting on our trousers one leg at a time. In every other
way Destrubé is in another dimension of time and space. And by space I can add that with all his international teaching and being the leader of the Smithsonian-based Axelrod Quartet
Destrubé has enough air line points to fly to Jupiter and back.
How is it possible that within a week Destrubé played in
his baroque group La Modestine
the likes of Jean-Fery Rebel, Elisabeth-ClaudeJaquet de la Guerre
and Marin Marais (all 17th
and last night at the Modulus Festival – Under the Microscope
of Music on Main
with the Turning Point Ensemble) Bohuslav Martinu (1890-1959) and
Luciano Berio (1925-2003)?
|David Brown & Jeremy Berkman|
Part of the explanation I find in watching and listening
to VSO (and Turning Point Ensemble
) bassist David Brown play with Turning Point
Ensemble trombonist (and the Vancouver Opera Orchestra) Jeremy Berkman
Dubravko Pajalic's (1955-) Passacaglia on an A , von Zemlinsky theme
this year!) together. You would think that the fine bassist that Brown is,
he would settle to finish his long career with his upright bass at the
Vancouver Symphony. But no! There he was playing a six-string electric bass (my
guess is that since it had frets that would make that instrument a bass guitar)
surrounding himself with all sorts of electronics with digital loops and other
effects that kept me watching the choreography of his feet pressing on buttons
and switches. In fact the clicking of the switches did not bother me in the least as the noise/sound was simply the third instrument.
What Turning Point Ensemble is all about is of the
inability of very good local musicians to stay satisfied with what they do.
They all want more and they want to expand their repertoire. They want to
explore the usually almost unknown not quite out of the loop music of the 20th
century with new music of this century.
Being present as part of the audience and watching these
musicians communicate with each other (I am jealous!) with smile on their faces
and passion in their playing is extraordinary.
My eldest daughter Hilary has remarked that listening to
this new or newish music can be hard on ears not accustomed to it is difficult
but she has also asserted that watching it being performed makes all the
And that is exactly what David Pay’s Music on Main and
Turning Point Ensemble are doing. They are making music that we don’t usually
listen to or know about available to our ears (and very important) to our eyes.
If musicians like David Brown and Marc Destrubé will not rest on their laurels
and seek new things there is no reason why we as an audience cannot do that,
The Under the Microscope program was surprising in its
variety and the fact that most of it was not in the least serious. There was a
lot of humour injected into it in many of the works. Imagine a Dog Salmon (a
Chum salmon called that because at maturity it sort of develops a muzzle like
front) doing what a salmon does in the water all in four minutes and played by
David Owen’s English horn. The work composed by Turning Point Ensemble’s
Artistic Director Owen Underhill (a gentle sort of man and almost self-efacing to my eyes)had that kind of humour. And when was the last
time you heard an English horn solo?
|Owen Underhill and Lauri Stallings|
I was also much impressed by trumpet player Marcus
Goddard’s (a young man) Solus (2016) for trumpet and digital loop. Sitting next
to choreographer Anthony Morgan we agreed that the work would be ideal for a
And I cannot stop here without mentioning that I am a fan
of pianist Jane Hays
and that in Bohuslav Martinu’s (1890-1959) La Revue de
(1921) she did indeed prove that the piano is an instrument of
Clark Kent - Superman & the Sabbatier Effect
Friday, November 04, 2016
Dancer/choreographer Noam Gagnon
gave my studio a visit today. We
took a few pictures and exactly three Fuji Instant exposures (one in colour and
two in that long gone from the market b+w). When I shoot with this instant film
I am very careful when I press my shutter. I cannot give myself the luxury of
taking many exposures as I might (but rarely) with conventional film or with my
The peels from the b+w Fuji Instant Film are unpredictable
and its Sabbatier Effect (when negatives are solarized that’s the correct term)
Here is one and its matching print plus one photograph taken
with my Fuji of Gagnon wearing glasses. The colour of the b+w Fuji peel is simply the slightly magenta colour of the negative peel before I reverse it in Photoshop. The slight magenta becomes a slight blue which I saturate a tad more in contrast and levels.
Looking at these pictures I am reminded of Clark Kent going
to a phone booth and emerging as Superman.
La Inquietud del Rosal - Alfonsina Storni
Thursday, November 03, 2016
|Rosa 'Jacqueline du Pré November 10 2016|
La inquietud del rosal – Alfonsina Storni
en su inquieto modo de florecer
quemando la savia que alimenta su ser.
en las rosas que caen del rosal:
son que la planta morirá de este mal!
no es adulto y su vida impaciente
consume al dar flores precipitadamente.
Out of Magician's Hat - A Jack-in-the-Box & a Pocket Orchestra
Wednesday, 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
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
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
its musicians. Could I dare say (again) a Colin MacDonald Pocket Pocket
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
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
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
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.