THUNDER BAY, ON ------- May 12, 2012 ---- As I am writing this I am listening to some superbly performed Bach Motets. For me the music of J.S. Bach clearly puts all things musical quickly into perspective. His music was written two and a half centuries ago, and the focus of this review is the superb May Day concert produced by Thunder Bay’s New Music North.
Held at the Jean McNulty Recital hall on the campus of Lakehead University, Thunder Bay, Ontario, New Music North concert that evening was refined, varied, full of creative music ideas and best of all enjoyable.
Some musicians have always gravitated towards the music of their time. For composers this must be so and they need musicians to come together to play their music and share their ideas. It is natural then that such a group would form on the campus of a University where people study music and composition.
Composers are understandably nervous when one of their works is first performed. Often they will spend months working on a piece, writing then rewriting until they have done their best. Sometime it takes a great deal of courage for a performer to perform a new work. In this category I would credit Dean Jobin-Bevans for having the skill to perform the “Gentlest Chord” by Barbara Monk Feldman. He was the only performer on stage and the piece was sung only with the aid of a tuning fork.
Local composers were present at the night’s concert. Darlene Chepil-Reid had her piece “Three Levels of Existence” for amplified piano played by Derek Oger. It used to be a rare occasion when electronic enhancement and sound tracks were added to music performed live on stage. Today there are more people who have this equipment and expertise and music for this medium is becoming more refined as the concert organisers have taken the time to present good musical ideas and compositions.
I was taken by surprise when the composition by Luciano Berio “Duetti per violin” appeared on the program. Catherine Jillings played with her stand partner Patrick Horn I delighted in the short compositions for two violas all with folk elements to them but clearly new music. Catherine also premiered Ari Carastathis 2006 composition “Red Moon”.
There is a nice thing about New Music concerts. The chances are excellent that you will come across a live composer. Listening to them talk about music you soon begin to wonder what Bach thought about music? Like Bach modern composers want to create a new sound that is stamped with their personality. They also want to have some of their music performed in their own time as well as for generations to come.
There was a large cast on stage Tuesday night. It would be beyond the scope of this article to write about each one and the music that they played, the entire evening was an enjoyable event. A fully professional concert has raised the profile of new music in this city. Music of this kind and quality catered to a growing niche of music patrons and they will make a point of attending when possible. The house was full to capacity and if this success continues in coming seasons New Music North may need to find a larger venue.
Bach’s life was full of musical creativity but we can find the same level of creativity right here in our own backyard. There is something special about music composed by people you know by performers who have embraced the musical language and brought this music to life. The composers and performers of New Music North deserve a lot of credit for a successful season.