I knew when I asked Jodi Proznick to arrange some of her songs from the Juno award winning album Sun Songs, I was aware I was stepping into a brave new land to some degree. In my years in the VSO, we played back up for many great jazz artists, so I had a basic intuitive understanding of the sound and feel of the music, but the way they would solo, taking off into a freedom of expression, this was not something I thought I could ever do.
Yet, we classical musicians make many creative decisions when we play. We make micro-choices about articulation, length of notes, and we mold the phrases according to our interpretation of the composer’s wishes. In jazz, there is a structure too. There is a rhythmic grounding, and the harmonies change which notes are preferred in a riff. But it seems to me there are more choices than givens.
Then I started thinking about life. People can easily fall into ruts, repeating patterns of thought, movement, emotions. Even then, we are making micro choices, choices about how we brush our teeth, how many pieces of toast we will eat, the way we brush our hair. Like a snowflake, each moment is never the same.
And when we look up in awe at the stars, or some event wakes us up out of that automatic behavior, we may start choosing to veer away from those patterns. We might start noticing that we are actually improvising all the time, choosing the reaction we want for the given situation, improvising with the ebb and flow, the chords that life deals us. Quite profound when you think about it.
I promised a blog and honestly, I have had a hard tome churning out any thoughts or insights worth sharing recently. I have spent the last several months reassessing, thinking about what is important, learning to practice for the simple reason of keeping my skills up and performing for myself, and even exploring other areas of interest.
I was so happy to be able to play a short violin soliloquy outdoors at my cabin on Valdes Island for a handful of brave souls a few weeks ago.
I have also been rehearsing (at a safe distance) with my dear friend and colleague Jane Hayes. The weekly rehearsals are like medicine for our souls.
I want to continue communicating with the Vetta Chamber Music community, because I think we all need a sense of belonging and community, something we perhaps took for granted before when a concert was music, celebration, seeing familiar faces, connecting.
Just a hint about future possibilities:
three B’s in late September, livestreamed and live in some fashion. Can you guess the composers?
And finally, a blast from the past. Eugene Osadchy, Anastasia Markina and me after Arensky Trio Vetta concert. Seems a century ago!
Seasons of the Sea: A Model for Reconciliation in Action
Joan Blackman curator, Seasons of the Sea
I will examine how the process and experience of creating and presenting an artistic collaboration between Western music and Indigenous Storytelling can lead to greater understanding and respect between cultures. As artistic director of Vetta Chamber music, I commissioned a cross-cultural collaborative work, Seasons of the Sea. The original concept was to create a contemporary look at the seasons on the West Coast, like a modern version of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. The stories, inspired by a visit to the thirteen Coast Salish moon calendar stones at Crescent Beach, circle through the changing seasons and confront crucial issues like climate change, the dying fishing industry, and the way of life of the Coast Salish people before and after colonisation. When composer Jeffrey Ryan, Coast Salish/Sahtu Dene storyteller Rosemary Georgeson and I workshopped this piece, we quickly realised that the way the music and words evolved to embrace each other was a powerful metaphor for Reconciliation.
We have already presented the work and held public workshops. The stories and music adapt to the people listening, incorporating stories from different territories. Elders have expressed enthusiasm and support for this project, calling it “deep, speaking to the soul” or “reconciliation in action”. However, we have only just begun the work of engaging and connecting with First Nations communities and meeting with Elders, learning more about protocol. In order to further and deepen these relationships, I will consult with the rich Indigenous resources at UVIC, with Rosemary as my guide. Eventual implementation plans include the development of a school program for Aboriginal schools, filming the work as a documentary, and presenting it throughout coastal BC.
We all have much to learn through the collaboration process. First Nations culture values partnership, respect, sharing and adaptability. The structure of Seasons of the Sea reflects these values, and the wholistic understanding of nature as a cycle. Rather than enmeshing the two disciplines, music and text are complementary, respecting the integrity of each culture. I will show how this collaboration can be a model for building respectful bridges between Indigenous and Western culture, an example of Reconciliation in action.
Sea and Sky Collective has taken its name from a rich and evocative work by the late Australian composer Peter Sculthorpe. It references a duality, the individual and ensemble characteristics of the musicians are present – from the inventiveness, flying solos and virtuosic flair of clarinetist François Houle and saxophonist Julia Nolan; the poetic mastery, fierce power and musical depth of Jane Hayes; the infectious violin lyricism of Joan Blackman; to the fused interpretation of classics and brave new worlds for this innovative collection of instruments. In Zagreb, the Sea and Sky Collective presents itself as a violin – saxophone – piano trio. Violinist Joan Blackman, is the former Associate Concert Master of the VSO and Artistic Director of the Vetta Chamber Series. Julia Nolanhas performed as soloist and chamber musician in Canada, the USA, Europe, China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong presenting concerti written for her by Canadian composers. Since her debut with the Toronto Symphony, Jane Hayes has performed across Canada, the USA, Europe, Mexico, and China. Seldom do artists of such individual accomplishment combine so spectacularly to jointly render chamber music magic. They continue the quest for music for this combination and will record in the near future.
Joan Blackman, violin
Julia Nolan, saxophone
Jane Hayes, piano
Sea and Sky CollectiveDorothy Chang (1970):Four BagatellesJean-Luc Defontains (1971): Couleurs d’un Reve for alto saxophone, violin and pianoACADEMY OF MUSIC Vaclav Huml Hall Trg Republike Hrvatske 12
Marc Eychenne (1952): Cantilène et Danse, trio for violin, alto saxophone and piano
Eileen Padgett ( 1987): In Praise of Women(premiere performance)
It was so amazing to hear Jane Coop at ArtSpring last night. Clear and concise when appropriate, yet expansive and passionate when the music demands…She chose a great program of Beethoven, Rachmaninoff times two.
I feel inspired to practice twice as hard, and how fortunate I am to be able to play chamber music with her and cellist John Freisen in early May! Thanks Jane!