wow! Just spent the last 28 hours touring around Vancouver Island with Rosemary Georgeson, meeting elders from Saanich and Penelakut bands, hearing them share their knowledge and stories. I am floored by
1) how much I don’t know
2)how our little collaboration of music and First Nations contemporary storytelling is less than a drop in the bucket.
3) how much climate change is becoming a part of this collaborative piece (Seasons of the Sea)
I want this to be relevant to our times. I want art and my piece of it, playing the music, to be meaningful for our times and for the message to be as concrete as the silence after a cadence, as universal as a shared moment.
One of the Elders spoke about being humble.Another about respect and it is time we joined our voices and speak about things that really matter. Igrew up thinking music should be pure art and that the language of Western music was enough in itself. Now for me, I want to use music and all my power to bring a voice to issues, to awaken people to potential chaos and the infinite possiblities that are there if we open our eyes to the bigger picture.
Vetta Chamber Music will be collaborating with an Aboriginal Storyteller in concerts from April 27 to 29 in Vancouver and on Salt Spring Island. These programs will feature a commission entitled “Seasons of the Sea” – a partnership between First Nations storyteller Rosemary Georgeson and BC composer Jeffrey Ryan.
To celebrate 30 years of chamber music, Vetta has ventured into uncharted waters by commissioning this work about the seasons on the coast. On Wednesday April 27 the piece will be premiered at Artspring Theatre on Salt Spring Island for school children, many of them First Nations kids from around the Gulf Islands, and in the evening, it will be presented alongside “Vivaldi’s Four Seasons” in a full length program. On Thursday April 28th, the commission “Seasons of the Sea” will be performed at West Point Grey United Church at 2 pm, with school classes in attendance with our regular audience, and on Friday April 29 both “Seasons of the Sea” and “Vivaldi’s Four Seasons” will be performed, 7:30pm at West Point Grey United Church.
Rosemary Georgeson, Sahtu/Dene Coast Salish artist, storyteller and writer has been the Aboriginal Storyteller at the Vancouver Public Library and has worked with Urban Ink Productions since its inception. She says about this production: “For me the biggest thing is taking something old like the Vivaldi Four Seasons, and using it as a jumping off point to creating a whole new work. Our peoples’ connection with the seasons is ancient, so the two pieces view the seasons from across the centuries and continents. The new is in the collaboration between my storytelling and Western classical music. The piece speaks to this time and this territory.”
Jeffrey Ryan is an award-winning BC composer and former composer in residence at the Vancouver Symphony. At a recent workshop with Rosemary and Joan Blackman he explained: Jeffrey Ryan is an award-winning BC composer and former composer-in-residence with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. At a recent workshop with Rosemary and violinist Joan Blackman, he explained “I wrote a 20-minute violin concerto and we have just spent three days ripping it apart, taking the threads and weaving them with the threads that Rosemary brought into a 40-minute tapestry of stories and music. When our two genres come together, what we get is something very powerful, bigger and more meaningful that anything we could have done separately.”
Joan Blackman, Vetta’s Artistic Director and violin soloist for “Seasons of the Sea” is very excited about this project: “First Nations communities have a lot to teach us about respect for nature. It is so inspiring to work with Rosemary and Jeffrey in this cross-cultural collaboration honouring the deep relationship of Coast Salish people to the sea and all the life it brings. This is connecting to something that is larger than all of us, at a time when we are thinking of building bridges between cultures and preserving the land and sea we together share.”
Tickets Tonight Featured Artist
Joan Blackman, former Associate Concertmaster of the Vancouver Symphony, enjoys a vibrant and varied musical life. She has performed and recorded as soloist with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, Victoria Symphony, CBC Radio Orchestra, Turning Point Ensemble, and the Banff Festival Orchestra, and has played chamber music with premier groups such as the Penderecki String Quartet and the Purcell String Quartet. She has performed on Music in the Morning, Music Fest Vancouver, the Pender Harbour Music Society Concert Series, various concert series throughout BC, The Jeffrey Concerts in London, Ont., and the American String Project, which brings together concertmasters and soloists throughout North America. Joan has also appeared at numerous summer festivals including the Hornby Island Festival, the Pender Harbour Chamber Music Festival, and the Victoria Summer Music Festival.
Joan answered a few questions for us so we could get a peek into the life of a professional musician.
What called you to pursue music professionally? How did you know the performing arts were where you fit?
It is not so much that I was called as the music called me. I have a memory of playing some Bach at a young age (11?) thinking “oh wow! This music is a secret, magical language that goes straight to the truth of things and I understand it!!!” Later I attended Pearson College, a school which was about International Understanding, and music was merely a course I took. It was a great opportunity to go there, and I had always told my violin teachers that I didn’t want to think of violin as a career, because that would spoil the fun of it. But halfway through the 2 year program I did an about turn and realised I could not live without music. I told my advisor (a math professor) that I had figured out the best way I could contribute to International Peace and Understanding was by playing music for people. Sucky yes, and he looked at me like I was a waste of a scholarship but in my young idealistic and naive way, I was right. It is what I can bring to the world.
Do you prefer solo performances or playing with a group? What are some of the advantages to working with ensembles and orchestras?
I have had the opportunity to perform as a soloist but it is not my favourite thing. My favourite soloists actually engage with the group and make it in to a collaboration. Chamber music is the perfect mix for me, because it is small enough that everyone has a voice. For me the interaction, spoken, played, and chemistry is the delight.
How do you relax? What’s your favourite “downtime” activity in Vancouver?
I love nature and a walk around Stanley Park is the best! Lately I have also been attending plays and art galleries- something I never had time for when I was younger.
“Shapelier phrases and sweeter tone would be hard to imagine”, “a ravishing tone”, “first rate soloist”, “exchanged lines meltingly in a flawless performance” “playing with lyricism, precision, and evident joy”; are some of the accolades that have graced Joan’s reviews. You can hear for yourself when Joan takes the stage with Jane Hayes and Francois Houle for Vetta Chamber Music January 21 & 22. Tickets available at ticketstonight.ca
Today I saw a rainbow in my practice mind. All of a sudden all the things I had been saying to my students sank into my soggy head at once. All those boxes we are taught- all the rules- good fingerings, good bowings, all those concepts dissappeared even as I was learning a new piece when I let go of that nagging trying thing. Staying aware and not judging but letting the piece play me even before I have “solidified” it into a mold which I deem acceptable. So some passages were raw, or uncooked, but the gist was there. Of course that old methodical click up the metronome thing still works, but take away the expectation of success or the fear of failure, and much can be accomplished.