Rodney Sharman on New Music for Old InstrumentsTuesday, January 17, 2017
Discovering the New:
My experience of early music and new music is similar; both hold plenty of lesser known composers, real discoveries.
Reggie Mobley and Alex Weimann’s Early Music Vancouver recital co-produced with the Queer Arts Festival was one of the best concerts I have ever attended, such insightful and exciting performances of unusual repertoire, including marvellous music by 17th Century (prolific) composer, Isabella Leonarda, original, banned words to Noel Coward’s “Mad About the Boy” researched and restored. Reggie Mobley is not only a wonderful singer, he’s of the most intelligent, astute, and politically savvy performers I know. Alex Weimann played almost at least half of the concert from short score, either as figured bass or lead sheets, in other words, his sensitive and imaginative keyboard playing was improvised on both harpsichord and piano.
There is so much wonderful music written for old instruments in the last hundred years. Many of the artists responsible for the early music revival were commissioners of new work. I know many great pieces for early instruments, and these concerts feature several of them. I was delighted to have been asked by Matthew White to assemble these concerts with co-curator Alex Weimann.
We started by programming Peter Hannan’s “Trinkets of Little Value”, a favourite piece of Bramwell Tovey, and “Golden”, a PBO commission and audience favourite by Jocelyn Morlock. Jocelyn suggested a marvellous local soprano, Camille Hesketh, recently returned to the Vancouver area after an active career in the Netherlands. I have wanted Reggie Mobley to sing my music ever since I heard him in recital. Jocelyn Morlock is a great admirer of Reggie’s artistry, too, and we both adapted music for him for the PBO concert. (Neither of us has ever rewritten music specifically for a singer before.)
|Alexander Weimann & Reginald Mobley|
New Music for Old Instruments:
Here is a wonderful description of the relationship between early music and new music by Alex Weimann:
It feels like something very natural to me, almost like something along our usual lines. The so called Early Music repertoire holds plenty of lesser known composers, real discoveries, lots of “new” pieces, and according to the beautiful sentence “the past is a foreign country”, we are experienced with performing music without the precedent of having heard them before; we often are approaching the unfamiliar territory, and jumping into adventurous waters, having to unearth what the composer might have had in mind, and trying to comprehend and learn another musical language. Playing a contemporary piece has the advantage that we are able to ask the composer if we don’t understand some of what is written down, a luxury we can’t enjoy in Early Music.
Short of holding a séance, there is no way of communicating with an early music composer except through scores and secondary sources. At these concerts, composers Linda Catlin Smith, André Ristic, Christopher Reiche, Jocelyn Morlock, Peter Hannan, Patrick Giguére and myself will be in attendance.
The orchestra concert Jan 28 ends with three popular songs and improvisations on old standards.The impetus came from Alex Weimann’s transcendental arrangement of “Bein’ Green” for countertenor Matthew White (our “boss”) and Baroque string orchestra. Alex’s string writing is filled with rich inner parts and ornamentation, and has a feeling of suspended time like Gregorian chant. I knew of Reggie Mobley’s dream of singing old standards with Baroque orchestra, and asked him for his favourites, from which Alex and I chose two songs. My choice was immediate, and more than a little hedonistic, Cole Porter’s “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye”.
I thought this a beautiful way to end the formal concert, and a nice segue to improvisations by Alex, Reggie, and VSO Music Director Bramwell Tovey that will conclude the evening. Bramwell is a wonderful jazz pianist. Reggie and Alex will perform old standards including jazz improvisation. Expect the artistic bar to be high, and the venue’s bar to be open.