What Next Festival of New Music a tribute to Canada’s 150th birthday
What’s next at the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra? Glad you asked.
It’s time for the HPO’s seventh What Next Festival of New Music, which will be held on three nights: Tuesday, May 23; Saturday, May 27; and Sunday, May 28. The first of those concerts will be held in First Hamilton Christian Reformed Church, 181 Charlton Ave. W., and the last two will take place down the street in The Church of St. John the Evangelist, 320 Charlton Ave. W. All three concerts get underway at 7:30 p.m.
With 2017 being Canada’s sesquicentennial, you could bet the ranch that this year’s festival would train the spotlight on Canadian composers and their works.
“It was absolutely obvious to do the sesquicentennial this year, but in my opinion, it wasn’t enough to have all of the music composed by Canadians which, of course, was a must,” explained HPO composer-in-residence and festival director Abby Richardson-Schulte over the line from her Dundas home. “But I wanted to put together a festival that celebrated the different elements of Canada.”
For example, half of the opening concert for string orchestra has a folk bent to it. Richardson-Schulte, in an obvious nod to the old, has programmed Sir Ernest MacMillan’s “Two Sketches — based on French-Canadian Airs,” composed for string quartet in 1927 and revised in 1928. Thereafter, it’s Queen’s U music prof John Burge’s 1996 “Upper Canada Fiddle Suite,” which the composer describes on his website as “based on original material which often incorporates traditional fiddle clichés and rhythms in a slightly offbeat fashion.”
Burge’s colleague at Queen’s, former Hamiltonian Marjan Mozetich, who came from his Kingston home to FirstOntario Concert Hall on April 8 to hear the HPO perform his “The Passion of Angels” double harp concerto, will be represented by his three-movement “Postcards from the Sky.”
“It’s minimalist, but very colourful and takes in three different elements of things coming from the sky essentially,” said Richardson-Schulte of Mozetich’s 1998 work.
The opening bill also includes “Zipangu” by the late Claude Vivier.
“People outside of Canada look to Vivier as one of our most important composers,” said Richardson-Schulte. “It’s tragic he died so young, murdered (at age 35 in 1983) in a Paris hotel room.”
William Rowson returns to guest conduct the 13-piece string orchestra for this concert.
The second concert, entitled “The Furious Stomp,” features Hamilton-based composer William Peltier’s tribute to the late Stompin’ Tom Connors, “The Futility of the Furious Stomp” with HPO principal flute Leslie Newman and associate concertmaster Lance Ouellette.
“Yes, there’s going to be plywood and she’s going to be stomping on it,” said Richardson-Schulte about Newman and the Peltier.
That bill also includes “Light Fragments” by Hamiltonian Liam Ritz, who studies with Richardson-Schulte and will be entering his final undergrad year as a composition major at the U of T in the fall, as well as Brian Current’s “Birefringence,” Barbara Monk Feldman’s “The Loons of Black Sturgeon Lake,” Christos Hatzis’s “Arctic Dreams 1,” Derek Charke’s “Reel Variations on a Jig,” and John Beckwith’s “Four Love Songs” with Hamilton-based baritone Jeremy Ludwig. The other musicians on this night include Neil Spaulding on French horn, percussionist Stefan Kitai, and pianist Shoshana Telner.
The final concert is entitled “Trails of Gravity and Grace” after a work for clarinet, cello and piano by one of Richardson-Schulte’s teachers, Allan Gordon Bell, who composed the piece in 2004 after having watched prairie falcons in Saskatchewan’s Cypress Hills. That bill also includes Burlington composer Elma Miller’s 1996 “La nuit s’ouvre” written for HPO principal clarinet Stephen Pierre, Richardson-Schulte’s 2005 piano trio “The Pull,” U of Windsor prof Brent Lee’s 2003 “Gatineau River” and British Columbia-based Jordan Nobles’s 2006 “Tides,” the latter two for wind quintet. The night will be capped off by Kelly-Marie Murphy’s barnstormer from 2000, “Postcards from Home” for piano, clarinet and violin, with HPO concertmaster Stephen Sitarski on fiddle.
“The titles are meant to reflect the spirit of the concert and the spirit of the festival is one that is accessible and narrative,” said Richardson-Schulte. “Every piece in this festival tells a story. It’s almost like a musical photo album of Canada. We can really travel from coast to coast.”
And what’s more, this all-Canadian, sea-to-sea musical travelogue is PWYC, pay what you can, at the door. Could you criss-cross this land for less?
Leonard Turnevicius writes about classical music for The Hamilton Spectator. firstname.lastname@example.org
The HPO will perform “Postcards from the Sky” by Marjan Mozetich.