NOW HEAR THIS!
Festival expands to six days
Now Hear This, the music festival presented by New Music Edmonton, has firmly established itself in Edmonton’s classical music scene as a place to experience the cutting edge in contemporary classical music.
It has in the past been crammed into a hectic weekend, with four or more events a day.
But this year the festival is extending itself over six days, from Tuesday, March 14 through Sunday, March 19.
It is also expanding its venues. While many of the events are taking place in its traditional home, Holy Trinity Anglican Church, others are taking place in a relatively new Edmonton venue, Studio 96, housed in the former St. Stephen’s Anglican Church, a historic landmark on Church Street (10909 96 St.).
“We wanted to spread the festival out, instead of having marathon days,” says New Music Edmonton’s vice-president Allison Balcetis. “I think you can enjoy more shows overall.”
She is also hoping that having more concerts in the evening will make the festival more accessible to new audiences.
This year’s events are centred around the 2017 festival’s artistsin-residence.
The Bozzini Quartet, based in Montreal, is one of Canada’s finest and most admired string quartets. Founded in 1999, it has concentrated on playing — and commissioning — new music. It has toured all over the world, and its recordings have regularly won awards.
The quartet now has a strong Edmonton association. Its latest member, who joined in 2015, is the violinist and composer Alissa Cheung. She grew up in Edmonton, studied at the University of Alberta and played with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra before joining the quartet.
The Bozzini’s repertoire ranges from contemporary works in a more conventional string quartet format to more radical musical adventures, and that is reflected in the Now Hear This festival. The most intriguing is the performance of In a Large Open Space by the Canadian-American composer James Tenney, who died in 2006 (Thursday, March 16, noon, free).
It’s a kind of giant meditative harmonic soundscape designed to interact with a large space, for string quartet and other acoustic instruments.
Here the venue is City Hall itself. The Bozzini will be joined by the Vaughan String Quartet and a number of other Edmonton musicians, spread on two levels throughout City Hall.
On Friday, March 17 at 7 p.m., the Bozzini plays a more conventional concert at Holy Trinity Church. The program includes the 2009 String Quartet by Edmonton’s Ian Crutchley, and the premiere of a new work by Cheung.
On Sunday, March 19 at 2 p.m., the quartet is joining forces with Mile Zero Dance artistic director Gerry Morita to create a new improvised work especially for the festival.
“I’m really excited to see how the dance and string quartet interact here,” says Balcetis. “I’ve never heard the Bozzini improvising.”
The major international guests are the Berlin ensemble Lux:NM. Founded in 2010 with the goal of “creating self-designed and varied concert programs with a flexible instrumentation,” the lineup here will be saxophone, trombone,
accordion, and violin, with electronics. The ensemble’s concert on Sunday, March 19 at 7 p.m. includes a number of Canadian and North American premieres, and a world premiere by the German composer Maximilian Marcoll, with the interesting title Compound No. 1a: Car Sex Voice Honker.
It will end with a work by a Canadian composer who now lives in Berlin, Jef Chippewa. His cabinet des curiosités is a work in nine parts for saxophone, accordion, violin, trombone and sound objects with a strong theatrical component.
Another thread to this year’s festival is a tribute to a major pio- neer of new music, the American composer Pauline Oliveros, who died last November. She coined the term “deep listening” and the idea of“sonic awareness ,” and her works can be heard in a number of concerts with Edmonton musicians. These include two late-night concerts (Wednesday, March 15 and Thursday, March 16 at 9:30 p.m.), a concert by the Edmonton Saxophone Quartet( Thursday, March 16 at 7 p.m.), all at Studio 96, and the concert by New Music Edmonton’s own ensemble, UltraViolet, at Holy Trinity Church (Saturday, March 18 at 7 p.m.).
Saturday afternoon’s concert might surprise anyone whose acquaintance with the recorder has been limited to their elementary school experience. The German Sylvia Hinz is one of the world’s leading recorder players, specializing in contemporary music, and she’ll be making her Canadian debut at the festival (Saturday, March 18 at 2 p.m.). Her concert will include the Canadian premiere of a 2012 work for renaissance soprano recorder by the Calgary composer Clio Montrey.
Other festival highlights include a multimedia evening featuring Mile Zero Dance, the visual artist Stacey Cann and the musical trio Pigeon Breeders (Saturday, March 18 at 9:30 p.m.). Instruments of Happiness is an electric guitar ensemble, led by Montreal’s Tim Brady, and they are appearing in Edmonton for the first time (Wednesday, March 15 at 7 p.m.). The concert includes five newly composed works by Canadian composers.
The entire festival starts on Tuesday, March 14 at 7 p.m. in the Muttart Hall where the Edmonton Warszynski-Simurdova Piano Duo will play works for piano, fourhands, and piano with electronics. Their concert includes a New Music Edmonton commission, 4-2-1, by the Edmonton composer Jacek Sobieraj.