|Fabián Panisello - Orpeheum Annex - 13 January 2024
People in this century still marvel at the Renaissance cathedrals and like me are unable to figure out how they could have possibly been constructed.
Involved were Freemasons. Of them we remember their secret handshakes. While as a teenager I was taught to read music, my knowledge of the practice has faded with time. I now believe that musicians and their skill in reading and writing music makes them this century’s Masons.
While for many years I wrote blogs that were my amateur versions of concert reviews, I have now avoided writing them, perhaps because once my Rosemary died in Dec 2020, I had no concert companion.
Last night at Turning Point Ensemble's concert featuring the Argentine/Spanish conductor/ composer Fabián Panisello, I had the company of my graphic designer friend Graham Walker who is able to read music very well and for many years played the flute.
Of the concert my initial reaction is, that after a terrible 2023, my presence at the Orpheum Annex, around the corner from the Orpheum, was like a palate cleansing experience that just might make me turnaround from being a recluse, living alone with two cats.
For those who may not know about the Turning Point Ensemble they are a musical group celebrating its 20th anniversary. Except when playing with last night's smaller orchestra, their main venue is the large basement musical centre of the downtown Simon Fraser University campus at what used to be Woodward’s. For antsy folks in fear of a possible nuclear holocaust I can assert, here, that this basement location, where cell phones do not work, may be the place to be if such an occurrence could happen.
Last night’s concert, in its smaller space brought several, wonderful advantages. Graham Walker and I were sitting dead centre in the front row. I have observed that many Canadians prefer to sit in the middle of the middle. Walker is Scottish and I am Argentine! In this small orchestra place, when you look at any of the musicians, you can hear their instrument. If you move your gaze the sound is then that of the complete orchestra.
I was able to also see the changes involved with these musicians. Trombonist Ellen Marple used five different mutes (in one of photos below). Flutist Brenda Fedoruk played a piccolo, a normal flute and Walker noticed and was delighted when she played on a larger alto flute. Harpist Janelle Nadeau who was close to us had several strings on her instrument that were bright red.
If you have gone to a few Vancouver concerts you might know that the hardest instrument to tune is that harp.
Brian Nesselroad, on percussion, except when assisted by Yueyi Liu, had to navigate a very wide wall of instruments. In one occasion he had to run from one side to the other in order to get to what to me looked like upright gongs on time for Panisello's nod.
Some orchestra musicians that play Beethoven and other composers of the 19th century may feel restless and even bored. Such is the case of the Turning Point Ensemble members.
Quite a few musicians of the Turning Point Ensemble who are also in the Vancouver Symphony wanted to explore the 20th and now 21st century music. A Turning Point Ensemble headed by the approachable (and sweet) Owen Underhill play music that challenges us with innovation, and the use of the digital possibilities of this century. David Brown, double bass player of the Vancouver Symphony, I have seen play with all kinds of amplifiers in concerts for Turning Point Ensemble in the past.
Where anywhere would I have heard Duke Ellington’s symphonic compositions if not for this orchestra? This Argie had never heard Stravinski’s Tango played by Jane Hays on the piano some concerts back.
With all the above out of the way, I will now go to my uncharted territory of the amateur music appreciation guy I am. My friend Graham Walker answered in the affirmative when I asked him if he heard any of the four works of the night on another night if he would recognize them. With the possible exception of György Liget’s Piano Concerto I could not. Since the solo playing of Corey Hamm was on a piano that was placed up and down so that he could face Fabián Panisello, I was not able to see all the fireworks his hands must have been doing. All I could see was his face.
After many years of listening to lyrical music, with some dissonant detours to Thelonius Monk and Astor Piazzolla, I was not quite ready for a complete concert featuring music that was not so. I believe that I would have a hard time sitting down in my living room to listen to Fabian Panisello’s Concierto de Cámara (2005). Watching him conduct and going from one musician to another, as they were featured, was part of the fun in my absorbing the dissonance and getting to appreciate it.
St Augustine, Bishop of Hippo may have had my problem, too. He stated that when you listened to music you heart a note in the past, then one in the present and then you could predict the future with the next one.
Another plus was being able to see Fabián Panisello's sheet music that had multicoloured notations and scribbles. They were a work of art.
Since I am an Argentine and Fabián Panisello is, too, on our way to an after concert party at Brenda Fedoruk’s home (when I asked her if she had cleaned the place which was spotless she told me she had done it that morning) I asked him why I could not discern anything Argentine in his composition. He may have perhaps wanted to tell me be, “Because I made sure that was the case,” but he told me about going back to ancient Phoenician times, etc. My photograph does not look like anything I did a few years ago. Panisello is working on his ideas that seem to avoid (thankfully?) the influence of Piazzolla, the tango and Ginastera.
As for the photographs illustrating this blog I can state that no magazine hired me and therefore my photographs don’t have to be sharp so the musicians can be recognized. I think that Panisello and I, and, of course the Turning Point Ensemble, we are all on the same ground of escaping that middlemarch.