ISCM opens with ex­cit­ing sounds, down­beat mood

MU­SIC

The Georgia Straight - - Arts -

LIFE RE­FLECTED

A Na­tional Arts Cen­tre Or­ches­tra pro­duc­tion. An ISCM World New Mu­sic Days and Van­cou­ver Sym­phony Or­ches­tra co­p­re­sen­ta­tion. At the Cen­tre in Van­cou­ver for the Per­form­ing Arts on Thurs­day, Novem­ber 2. No re­main­ing per­for­mances

Should it ever make it to the 2

small screen, Life Re­flected will be stun­ning and un­usual tele­vi­sion. Its com­bi­na­tion of sym­phonic mu­sic, vis­ual im­agery, dance, spo­ken word, and so­cial com­men­tary would pro­vide an in­tel­li­gent and provoca­tive oa­sis in the medium’s bleak land­scape of re­al­ity shows, sport pro­grams, and talk­ing heads. The over­all pack­age, as­sem­bled by Na­tional Arts Cen­tre Or­ches­tra artis­tic di­rec­tor Alexan­der Shelley and cre­ative pro­duc­erdi­rec­tor Donna Fe­ore, draws upon the tal­ents of artists as di­verse as writer Alice Munro and ac­tress Monique Mo­jica, not to men­tion fea­tured com­posers Zosha Di Cas­tri, Jo­ce­lyn Mor­lock, Ni­cole Lizée, and John Esta­cio. And on the open­ing night of the largest con­tem­po­rary-mu­sic fes­ti­val Canada’s ever seen, all four of its scores were im­mac­u­lately per­formed.

So why did it seem to fall just a lit­tle flat? I’ll be puz­zling over this for weeks—as, I sus­pect, will other au­di­ence mem­bers. But, for now, a few ran­dom thoughts:

Live or­ches­tral mu­sic does not need vis­ual ac­com­pa­ni­ment. Good mu­sic pro­vides a nar­ra­tive all its own. Here, the im­ages mostly seemed su­per­im­posed on the mu­sic, and the ef­fort of watch­ing them some­how made the mu­sic smaller (the ex­cep­tion be­ing Lizée’s homage to as­tro­naut Roberta Bon­dar, Bon­dar­sphere, in which the com­poser’s own au­dio­vi­sual col­lage ef­fec­tively am­pli­fied the sound).

We’re used to the Or­pheum. In con­cert, the NACO sounded lean and quick, but less vis­cer­ally present than our res­i­dent sym­phony. That’s prob­a­bly the venue’s fault; acous­ti­cally the Cen­tre is dry and muf­fled com­pared to Van­cou­ver’s grand­est pub­lic space.

What should have been a gala was any­thing but cel­e­bra­tory. Three of the four sto­ries told here—lizée’s piece again be­ing the ex­cep­tion—proved de­cid­edly down­beat. There’s “a lot of killing” in Di Cas­tri’s Munro-in­spired Dear Life; the teenage pro­tag­o­nist of Mor­lock’s My Name Is Amanda Todd dies by her own hand; and Esta­cio’s I Lost My Talk, which sets a short text by the late Mi’kmaq poet Rita Joe, deals with the painful and on­go­ing legacy of the res­i­den­tial-school sys­tem.

Esta­cio’s piece was a par­tic­u­larly odd choice to end this in­ter­mis­sion­less, hour-plus evening; Mo­jica’s on­stage read­ing of Joe’s plain­spo­ken words left many lis­ten­ers pon­der­ing their own com­plic­ity in this shame­ful pub­lic fail­ure. There was also a dis­con­nect be­tween Esta­cio’s blus­tery, con­ser­va­tive score, the pro­jected im­ages of Tekaron­hiáhkhwa San­tee Smith’s rit­u­al­is­tic chore­og­ra­phy, and the night’s in­tent of cel­e­brat­ing new forms.

Which were here; don’t get me wrong. Di Cas­tri’s or­ches­tral tex­tures were ex­tra­or­di­nary, blend­ing in­stru­ments in a kind of acous­tic syn­the­sis that re­sulted in gor­geous, newly dis­cov­ered tones. Mor­lock has a gift for emo­tion­ally af­fect­ing mu­sic, and My Name Is Amanda Todd came across as the essence of ten­der­ness and com­pas­sion. Lizée some­times re­lies too heav­ily on pas­tiche, but Bon­dar­sphere’s com­bi­na­tion of low-fi elec­tron­ics, vin­tage news broad­casts, and so­phis­ti­cated tim­bral play was ev­ery bit as dizzy­ing as a real as­cent into space.

> ALEXAN­DER VARTY

HEY LADIES Waaaaay back in the fall of ’15, a rag­tag group of women got to­gether and put on a reg­u­lar monthly show fea­tur­ing all gen­res of comedic per­for­mance, from standup to sketch to sto­ry­telling to bur­lesque to im­prov to mu­sic to dance and then some. Okay, it wasn’t all that long ago and the per­form­ers were hardly rag­tag, but still, two years is noth­ing to sniff at in the world of live en­ter­tain­ment. So is cel­e­brat­ing—and there’s the prom­ise of cake! Cel­e­brated ac­tors and comics Mor­gan Bray­ton, Diana Bang, Fa­tima Dhowre, and Katie-ellen Humphries wel­come Kerri Don­ald­son and Al­lie En­twistle from the im­prov/sketch duo Brunch Com­edy to this spe­cial birth­day bash, along with in­ter­dis­ci­pli­nary hu­mourist Jan Der­byshire. It’s all hap­pen­ing at the Red Gate Re­vue Stage on Wed­nes­day (Novem­ber 8).

The Lady Show

At the Van­cou­ver Art Gallery to Fe­bru­ary 4

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