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Some Props to Symphony Nova Scotia!

I shall pause in the promotion of suddenlyLISTEN's final concert Ocean's Deep (Friday, May 20) featuring Pauline Oliveros, and Pauline's Deep Listening Intensive (May 21) (more information here), to write of things symphonic.

The end of the season at Symphony Nova Scotia tends to be a rather intense time, so as a result this is a little late coming, but a big congratulations to Symphony Nova Scotia and Bernhard Gueller for their commission and programming of Derek Charke's Symphony #1 - Transient Energies. We played 3 performances of this new work in Halifax and Lunenburg NS, April 7, 9 and 10. It was  an amazing concert, partially because Derek's piece was coupled with Brahms' Violin Concerto, (debatably one of the great works for violin and orchestra) which was masterfully performed by our concertmaster Robert Uchida. Okay, so it's nothing new to commission a piece, orchestras do it all the time, well some of the time.... they feel like it's "important to perform the work of living composers", or "of local composers", or "of developing composers." It's sort of a responsibility like eating sweet potatoes or flossing your teeth.

Derek Charke

But what happened here in Halifax became an important artistic statement: Mr. Gueller and SNS commissioned Derek Charke, (an albeit almost local, but also internationally acclaimed composer that lives in Nova Scotia) to composer a major piece, not an overture or a filler piece, but a symphony! In classical music culture, a symphony is big time, it's the heart of a concert, a major piece of music. Derek's piece clocked in at over 40 minutes. Not that size matters, of course, his piece was well thought out, taking the listener on a real sonic journey enhanced by programatic images, which followed a traditional sort of compositional arch. He also incorporated electronic sounds, which fed the listener with new sounds, sometimes adding to the programatic idea, and sometimes so processed that they were recognizable only as sounds, adding to and complimenting to the orchestral sound. But I digress, I'm not writing this to review the piece, frankly I was playing and didn't have the ideal seat to hear the piece as a whole! I want to impress upon you the profundity of these concerts: Bernhard took a huge artistic risk by programming only two pieces on this concert. The show could have supported a light overture, some piece of fluff by Rossini or Lehar, sure but artistically it didn't need more music! And in programming only the two mammoth pieces, Bernhard did the right thing. He didn't apologize for the new piece or try to disguise it (How could you really? Like hiding an elephant under the rug!) He laid it out there, and with the Brahms Violin Concerto! Courageous and wonderful programming! It's a concert I'd like to go and hear. So thank-you Bernhard, first of all: For taking big chance, and then following through with an appropriate amount of rehearsal time, giving this new work your total attention! It is a surprisingly rare quality in a conductor and Berhard has it - total dedication to each piece of music we play. We are so lucky to get to work with leadership like this. Second to Symphony Nova Scotia for not talking Bernhard out of this plan! When was the last time a Canadian orchestra commissioned a 40 minute symphony? I can't think of it. It was a risk for the organization too, but I believe real art doesn't come without some (or hopefully even great) risk! It's easy to do things risk free, but it isn't quite as fun. This was big and I feel great that our organization had the vision to follow through with this. To the players of SNS: It's awesome that we could throw ourselves into such a challenge and emerge stimulated and artistically charged it. We played great I think. To Derek for your ears and imagination! For hearing how this would sound in your head and putting on paper for us to bring to life. It was a terrific experience, an honour. Oh, and to the CBC who co commissioned the piece and broadcast the premiere of Transient Energies. Look for it on concerts on demand! And of course the Canada Council for the Arts, for funding the co-commissioning of the piece. I onece sat on a Canada Council commissioning jury, I know how competitive that programme is, wow! Oh and please remember that suddenlyLISTEN show, May 20!

May 14, 2011 at 17:06

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