“Thirty-five is a very attractive age. London society is full of women of the very highest birth who have, of their own free choice, remained thirty-five for years” — Oscar Wilde
As humans, we accumulate experiences, friends and memories through our lives, and we constantly share our experiences, in search of our own identity and narratives. At their prime, on this coming Sunday evening, the Esprit Orchestra will present their first concert of the season, Eternal Light, with a selection of works from three distinctive developmental phases of life- youthful (Spacious Euphony, Christopher Goddard), mid-career (Siddhartha, Claude Vivier) and mature (Tabuh Tabuhan, Colin McPhee).
Esprit’s music director/conductor Alex Pauk’s interest in fostering human connection is deeply reflected in this program. In fact, Pauk’s friendship to Vivier led Esprit to champion his works nationally and internationally over the years, including Siddhartha which will finally be making its Toronto premiere. One of the most complex works by Vivier, and requiring close attention and technical finesse in its mercurial and unpredictable nature, Siddhartha is a true celebration of the capacity and insight of the Esprit Orchestra.
Surrounding the mysticism of Siddhartha, the youthful energy of Spacious Euphony and the heavy influence of Javanese Gamelan and its innate spiritual and religious quality in Tabuh Tabuhan, promises an evening of stimulus and reverence.
On the next day, Soundstreams’ Northern Encounter will draw our ears to a different segment of spirituality: a collaboration of identities. Soundstreams’ long history of cultural exchange, especially with the Nordic nations, led to several large-scale circumpolar festivals in the past. And this time, as a composite of four distinctive parties: National Arts Centre, the Lapland Chamber Orchestra, Soundstreams, and Michael Greyeyes and the Signal Theater, Northern Encounter focuses on the identity of North — of space, life-as rhythm and colour, and of oppositions.
In Northern Encounter, The Lapland Chamber Orchestra, led by John Storgårds, will present works of Anna Pidgorna (Fanfare for 35, World Premiere), Harry Somers (North Country Suit) and Claude Vivier (Zipangu), intermixed with music of Stravinsky (Fanfare for a New Theater), Debussy (2 Preludes, arranged by Sven Birth, b. 1960) , Sibelius (Op. 117) and Kalevi Aho (Symphony No. 14, Rituals).
It is interesting to look at the program with an emphasis on symmetry; all symmetry requires a reference line, and we are presented with Stravinsky and Pidgorna’s fanfares. Stravinsky’s fanfare was written to celebrate New York City Ballet’s new home in Lincoln Centre, and its two leaders, Lincoln Kirstein and George Balanchine; on Monday it will be presented once again, echoing Soundstreams’ first-ever concert, a tribute to Stravinsky — the canonic construction between the two trumpets, will surely impact the experience of Pidgorna’s newly commission work, a new, brilliant construction that will draw another reference point for further symmetry to develop — a chance to draw our own symmetry through the evening’s music, whether literal or sensual.
The element of dance not only permeates through history explored in the two fanfares, but also through Zipangu, the joint work of Signal Theater, the National Arts Centre, and Soundstreams, with choreography by Michael Greyeyes. It will be danced by Saskatchewan’s Ceinwen Gobert. First initiated by Lawrence Cherney, director of Soundstreams, and embraced by the NAC and Signal Theater, in this project, Greyeye seeks to explore the layers that built Vivier’s music- the brilliance, that of land of ‘gold,’ of the explorer Marco Polo, of musical technical mastery and the landscape that he builds with aural colouring.
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Cluade Vivier (1948-1983) is a curious name. His music, often termed ‘spiritual,’ is having a big Canadian resurgence. How would anyone define spirituality in music? It would be not only difficult, but an impossible task. However, performers and audience, when asked to describe Vivier’s music, will always return to the idea of spirituality. Perhaps it is our time that draws us closer to Vivier’s aural spirituality than ever before — as the noise around our daily lives shakes us constantly. Both programs gravitate towards Vivier as centre — and around it, we are presented with the most vibrant, alive, pulsating music. Stillness and Dance. Spirituality and Extrovert Celebration. Youthfulness and Timelessness.
Could it be a coincidence to see these two fraternal organizations celebrate their 35th season? After all, the number two, always strongly suggests the ideas of contrast and opposition. And through opposition, power is created, and momentum is initiated. It is brilliant to see the coincidences and variants in these two programmes — a creation of unity through opposition and resultant explosion of timbre, colour and life. Concert-goers should strongly consider attending both concerts, to experience real synergy created through local history and time, and of our own culture and community.