Ludwig van Toronto

ON THE RADAR | Things Are Getting Urgent At Continuum

Ryan Scott (Photo: Brian Mosoff)

Continuum Contemporary Music: Urgent Voices, 8-9 December 2017

Another dynamic season at Continuum Contemporary Music is just around the corner: Urgent Voices, 8-9 December 2017  is an ambitious opener that reflects the core interest of this thirty-two-year-old organization: commission, interdisciplinary synthesis and the presentation of new chamber works.

The commission’s collection now stands strong: more than a hundred and eighty-five new works from Canadian and international composers, and over sixty-five compositions by young students through their continued collaboration with the Toronto District School Board.

The post-modernists’ approach for seeking art music within the spectrum of wider subjects has brought many interesting projects to Continuum’s table. The 2017-18 season is dedicated to Identity, as we observe Canada achieving 150 this year. Urgent Voices, the first of the season, invites us to journey North to the Arctic archipelago and Georgian Bay, to our participation in Afghanistan war, and to take a look through the past in William Lyon Mackenzie King’s diary.

“Certain themes of these concerts are more abstract and do not require a narrative; others do, and voice is a fantastic medium to convey the themes we are presenting in this concert,” said Continuum Contemporary Music Artistic Director Ryan Scott. I feel the themes are pressing issues in Canada, and this is our response in poetry and music for a more direct discussion.”

Drawing from the richness of the human voice, all three new commisions will feature a vocal soloist with a variety of instrumentation.

Anna Höstman+Phoebe Tsang: Invisible Forest (Baritone, String Quartet, Harp, Piano, Percussion, Conductor)

James Rolfe+Steven Heighton: Clinical Notes of the Bipolar Therapist (Baritone, Piccolo, Bass Clarinet, Violin, Cello, Piano, Percussion, Conductor)

Scott Wilson+Alexandra Oliver – From the Diaries of William Lyon Mackenzie King (Tenor, String Quartet, Three Recorders, Electronics, and amplification, Conductor)

Even at a quick glance, there are many things that are intriguing. Extended techniques mashed with electronic manipulation within a mid-sized ensemble is quite fascinating to imagine, and the much-loved music of Ann Southam is paired with Michael Mitchell’s new film, made with footage of Northern scenes around Georgian Bay. The entire program will be a theatrical immersion, with design by Sonja Rainey.

In older, traditional Classical repertoire concerts, the mere mention of certain performers is often enough to create excited murmurs across the city.  Or the name of a long-gone composer:  I recently attended Mahler 6 with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, because it was Mahler 6, with Donald Runnicles. I bought a ticket to see Ian Bostridge and Julius Drake in February 2018 in September 2017. That’s an early purchase for a Classical music fan.

What draws us to these particular upcoming performances?

It’s the live human energy.  We seek to witness the pursuit of excellence in real people, because nothing can replace that live-show vibe.  And if one is familiar with the synergy and momentum a new work creates among performers, composers, and in this case, adding further curators and poets, filmmaker and scenographer, it is hard to contain our curiosity and excitement in witnessing something that is new and alive.  Ryan Scott, the music director, explains the enigmatic energy that drives Continuum:

“What is perhaps significant to note is that for decades Continuum had a core ensemble  — a sextet plus conductor of violin, cello, flute clarinet and percussion. In this season, 80% of our programming is world premieres by Canadian composers and only one work uses that sextet instrumentation (The Rolfe, plus baritone). Over the last four seasons, Continuum has evolved to a pool of approximately 25 stellar musicians. This allows for a greater variety of programming and a fuller exploration of the various themes we present. It also creates a lot more energy and sonic diversity in the concerts. Like we mix emerging and established composers, we also mix emerging and established performers in the ensemble to create apprenticeship, continuity and succession.”

And as a bonus, there will also be true technology magic: the Steinway Spirio.

The exact magic of the technical construction of this amazing player-piano will be spared for the general public, but imagine: a real-time, re-performance of the most Canadian of pianists through a real piano… yes, Glenn Gould’s music will be presented on the spirio at the pre-concert show.

Urgent Voices promises to communicate, fascinate and re-examine who we are, and what we are, in proper spectacular manner.  Carefully choose one of the two dates and order your tickets.  It would be a great refresher in the midst of traditional carols and Messiahs in cold December in Toronto.

For full details, including ticket information, visit our event listing here.


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