Nosferatu at the Orpheum - Blood Sucking GoodThursday, April 04, 2019
You go to Italy (Venice, Florence and Siena) for two weeks, as I did a month ago with my Rosemary. You are dazzled by some of the best art galleries and museums. And then you fly to Vancouver and you see the mountains, the snow on them, the sky, and the water.
How can anything in our Vancouver Art Gallery compare with a Bronzino, a Pontormo, a Boticelli?
I am happy to report that while we do not have artists in Canada to match the excellence of those renaissance painters we do have something up our very long sleeves. These long sleeves are of musicians who sit (some play standing up) on very long benches of talent.
While in Venice,the Venice of Antonio Vivaldi I was tempted to attend a performance of his Four Seasons. I enquired and found out the musicians were not first calibre, and to boot they were all playing on modern instruments. Our very own Early Music Vancouver taps the best local and world musicians and the baroque music that it specializes in is played in period instruments.
So what do we have in Vancouver that matches the excellence of renaissance art? Renaissance art happened the beginning of the exploration of a new world. Simonetta Vespucci was Eve in Sandro Boticelli’s The Birth of Venus. Simonetta was the cousin-in-law of Amerigo Vespucci, a Florentine cartographer who pointed out that the new world Columbus had discovered was not part of Eastern Asia but a continent. His first name gave our continent its name.
Renaissance art, during the age of Galileo and Kepler prefigured the age of enlightenment. It was an age of discovery in art, in science, mathematics and in music.
Here in Vancouver, while other big cities around the world mostly feature music of the 19th century, you will find not only the early baroque but also music of the 20th century that is being brought back from oblivion. And here in Vancouver we have lots of new and experimental music. Music that wants to tear down establish barriers put up by the musical establishment.
Thus I have written here , here and here of what I call the Petit Avant-Garde. Shortly after I arrived back to Vancouver I attended that terrific Blade Runner 2049 minus sound dialogue but accompanied by music improvised on the spot.
Last Saturday, March 23 I went to the Orpheum to a projection of F.W. Murnau’s 1922 silent film, Nosferatu (somehow I had never seen it before!). Toronto- based Andrew Downing (a classy and exuberant bass player, who played his standup base sitting down) composed a score (it was a world premiere) that combined a small group of musicians with a large choir, the Bach Choir. Somehow, the music never interfered, but enhanced my enjoyment of the film. The music was part of it film and it blended without seams.
The septet of musicians (certainly members of what I call the Vancouver Petit- Avant-Garde), were Cameron Wilson on violin (who imitated a couple of mosquitos to perfection), François Houle (who added humour in Downing’s every once in a while glimpse of klezmer sounding music perhaps alluding to Count Orlok’s Eastern Europe), Ingrid Chiang on bassoon (who worked beautifully in tandem with Andrew Downing’s bass), Brad Turner on trumpet (some terrific mute work), Jeremy Berkman on a trombone that to me almost seemed like it sounded like a bass trombone, which it was not, David Shiveli on an instrument new to me called a cimbalom and on piano the youthful and handsome Chris Gestrin, to whom I owe an apology.
|Left, Chris Gestrin on piano and centre bassist and composre Andrew downing
I was on the second row and my Fuji X-E3’s zoom lens was not wide enough to encompass the screen, Berkman on stage left and Gestrin’s piano on stage right!
The little orchestra and the large chorus were under the baton of Leslie Dala who some say might have Transylvanian blood in him. He did a splendid job.
Narrator Patrick Davies had very good diction and he projected his voice with just enough of a lugubrious touch.
I know that Stefan Smulovitz (he of the two Blade Runners I have witnessed) did a score for the fantastic 1928 The Passion of Joan of Arc by director Carl Theodor Dryer. I can only hope that Smulovitz brings it back soon and that Dala and company do not rest on their laurels. Both Count Orlok and I enjoy new blood in our lively city.