Back in September I was in New Brunswick to premiere Piling Sand – Piling Stone IV, for flute and Max MSP, by André Cormier. This mammoth, ninety-minute work was performed in both Moncton and St. John: every six minutes the flute is recorded and looped back through speakers surrounding the audience. Gradually, over the course of an hour-and-a-half, the music becomes denser, richer, and more elaborate, until the final six minutes reveal the “complete” piece: all swirling flute lines, Tibetan finger cymbals, and whistle tones. My final day in Moncton included an absurdly large portion of fried clams, some local beer… and a recording session, where we laid down André’s piece for posterity. Below is an excerpt from this utterly unique and otherworldly piece.
This week I’m heading to Montreal for the IAMA (International Artist Managers’ Association) Conference. This is the first time the Conference will be hosted in North America. Moreover, thanks to the incredible efforts of the folks at the Canadian New Music Network, there will be two evenings devoted to the performance of Canadian music — and this is where you’ll find me on November 7th. I’m thrilled and honoured to be presenting three solo flute works that are very dear to me: Foundry (1991) by Paul Steenhuisen, the alto flute movement from Three Reflections on Pride by Owen Underhill, and Lachrymose for solo piccolo by Derek Charke. This concert will also feature the Montreal based Fiolûtröniq as well as my good friends from Victoria, the Emily Carr String Quartet. The following evening (November 8th) will feature performances by Montreal’s ARTefact, the pianists Eve Egoyan and Roger Admiral, and Vancouver’s own Orkestra futura.
Montreal is a very special place for me: for two years I studied at the Conservatoire de Musique de Montréal, obtaining my Concours de musique in 1997. My “Montreal years” were definitely interesting times: even by student standards I lived in squalor. I shared an apartment near Berri-UQAM with half the McGill Symphony double bass section, scavenged my furniture from back alleys, and committed culinary atrocities too horrid to print. But they were fabulous years, too: it’s difficult to describe how thrilling it was to hear the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal on a regular basis, as well as powerful performances of contemporary music by ECM+ and SMCQ. I also studied in a passionately francophone conservatory, practised six hours a day, and made friends who remain close to this day. I think it’s safe to say that the cultural energy in Montreal is unique in North America and I’m looking forward tremendously to experiencing that energy all over again — this time with maybe not quite so many double bass players…
Canadian New Music at Off-IAMA Montreal
Fiolûtröniq (6:00pm) — Emily Carr String Quartet (6:30pm) — Mark Takeshi McGregor (7:00pm)
Red Roof Church
137 President Kennedy (across the street from Maison symphonique), Montreal, QC
FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC
After tonight I expect my good friend Mark Haney will be a wee bit more relaxed. Just over a year ago, Mark took the reins of The Little Chamber Music Series That Could — a contemporary chamber series that defined the lives of so many of us back in the 80′s and 90′s. In its heyday LCMSTC provided Vancouver with a myriad of vital and powerful performances — when I was seventeen I witnessed my very first Pierrot Lunaire thanks to Little Chamber; a few years later I saw Maxwell Davies’ Eight Songs for a Mad King, again for the first time (I actually screamed when he smashed the violin). These were visceral, dedicated stagings of these seminal works — not to mention career-defining moments for me. When LCMSTC’s artistic director, Wallace Leung, died suddenly and tragically in 2002, the spirit of the organization essentially left with him and for many years the company lay dormant….
Until tonight. October 26th, 2013 marks the relaunch of the Little Chamber Music Series That Could. Mark Haney has stepped up as the new Artistic Director and is taking LCMSTC into amazing new directions. First up: on October 26th we’ll be treated to a dance party at the Roundhouse, featuring Nicole Lizée, SaskPower and the Little Chamber Strings. Then on October 31st I’ll be teaming up with Haney, violinist Rebecca Whitling, and percussionist Ben Reimer for the premiere performances of Lizée’s new quartet, Ouijist. This free event will take place three times — at 7pm, 8pm, and 9pm — at Mountain View Cemetery (5455 Fraser Street, in Celebration Hall) as part of an All Souls event that honours the dead.
But just right at this moment, I’m dusting off my old Zanni mask and getting ready to shake my be-costumed booty at the Roundhouse! Composer Jocelyn Morlock and I will be wearing matching bedsheets. Very exciting…
Way, waaaay back in 2011, organist Michael Murray and I set out to record the obbligato sonatas of J.S. Bach — and today, they finally arrived! This project was the result of an Indiegogo campaign where we were absolutely overwhelmed by the amazing response from our friends, family, colleagues, and community. To read more about this project and the incredible individuals involved, please check out the Bach: Obbligato Sonatas tag above, or simply click HERE. If you are one of those lovely, lovely people who donated to our campaign, we’ll be mailing your CD to you first thing next week. Michael and I are currently discussing a date for a CD launch concert (most likely in November). More details on that soon — in the meantime, we would be honoured if you took four minutes out of your day to listen to the first movement of Bach’s G minor sonata BWV 1020:
There’s an old story about the famed Swiss flutist, Aurèle Nicolet, during his visit to the Banff Centre for the Arts to give a series of masterclasses: one day, he had a break in his schedule and decided he’d rent a car and explore the vast, craggy wilderness that is Western Canada. Before setting off, he asked a staff member at the front desk where the next major city was (excluding nearby Calgary, which was his entry point into the country) — a nice day-trip, he was thinking. ”The next city?” the staff member responded, ”That would be Vancouver,” and, pointing west, added, “It’s about 13 hours that way.”
Now, if you’re from Canada, there’s nothing unreasonable about this response — after all, we do live in the second largest country in the world. Long distances between cities are simply a reality. But when your homeland fits very tidily into a single time zone (with plenty of room to spare), I can see how this could leave even an international superstar like Nicolet slightly gobsmacked.
As I begin to cautiously tread into my forties (and toy with the idea of referring to myself as “middle aged”), I’ve had a sobering thought: much of Canada remains uncharted territory for me. It’s true that my country takes up no less than six time zones — and if you live on one end of the continent (as I do), getting to the other side can be a journey of Lord of the Rings proportions. Well, I’m happy to report that next week I’ll be making the hop — five times zones! — to New Brunswick, where I’ll be meeting up with friends I haven’t seen in ages and playing a stunning new work (twice!). On September 29th I’ll be the invited guest of the music series Le Hum at Galerie sans nom in Moncton, New Brunswick, premiering a piece written for me by my the Acadian composer (and dear friend) André Cormier: Piling Sand – Piling Stone IV for flute and Max/MSP. This is a massive tour-de-force for solo flute and delay loop: essentially, Piling Sand – Piling Stone IV is a six-minute sound sculpture — but the entire piece is revealed, layer by layer, over the course of ninety minutes. This concert will be performed again in Saint John as part of the Open Arts series at the Sanctuary Theatre on September 30th. If you live in or near either of these cities, I would love to see you there. And if you live in Vancouver, well, it’s about four days that way.
PILING SAND – PILING STONE IV
by ANDRÉ CORMIER
MARK TAKESHI MCGREGOR, FLUTE
Sunday, September 29th, 2013, 3pm
Galerie sans nom
140, rue Botsford, Moncton
* * * * *
Monday, September 30th, 2013, 7pm
228 Germain St, Saint John
As someone who used to spend a lot of time with an arts administrator hat on, I can confidently say that that process of organizing a concert can occasionally be a hell-on-earth experience. Those sundry details that, as performers, we often take for granted are suddenly (and sometimes quite painfully) your concern: is the lighting sufficient? Are there enough stands and chairs? Did I buy insurance? Did I make a press release? Did I submit the comp list? Did I make a Facebook event page? Oh my God, will people show up?
This sort of inner psychobabble is what typically runs through my head in the weeks, days, and hours leading up to a performance event that I’m helping organize (it is, I’m quite sure, the reason why I have a bald spot the size of a helicopter landing pad on the back of my head). But to create an entire convention, where there are literally dozens of concerts, masterclasses, and lectures going on (often concurrently), as well as hundreds of mouths to feed… well, this is a feat of superhuman proportions. So I’m very, very grateful to the folks at the Canadian Flute Association for taking the bull by the horns and creating the first ever Canadian Flute Convention in Oakville, Ontario, this past weekend.
I was honoured to participate in this event as both flutist and conductor. On Saturday, July 29th I conducted the Professional Flute Choir, giving the Ontario premieres of two Canadian works commissioned by the Tempest Flute Ensemble: Dectet (2005) by Christopher Kovarik and coruscating (2008) by Gregory Lee Newsome. It was a wonderful thing to be able to hear these pieces come to life again and an incredible opportunity to both meet new flutists as well as reconnect with old friends, some of whom I hadn’t seen in years (Mary!).
The next day I had a flute back in my hands to present a short recital of solo pieces by Canadian composers. Three of these were works that were either written for me or commissioned by me: Apogee (2005) by Farshid Samandari; Wrath (2010) by Dorothy Chang; and invidere (2010) by James Beckwith Maxwell. In addition to these I presented two pieces that were recent discoveries: Surface (2010) by the Toronto-based composer Brian Harman and Lachrymose (2006) for solo piccolo by Derek Charke. It was especially wonderful (and slightly intimidating!) to have my own concert nestled between recitals by Kathleen Rudolph and Sarah Jackson — both former teachers of mine, as well as inspiring, ass-kicking musicians.
Other highlights of the Convention included an achingly beautiful concert given by the Canadian master Robert Aitken, a fascinating recital of music by female composers by Laurel Swinden, and late night performances by Ron Korb and the Japan-based Magnum Trio (seriously, these guys are completely insane). Hats off to Samantha Chang for pulling off this amazing event!
Three years ago I asked seven Canadian composers to each write a solo flute piece inspired by one of the Seven Deadly Sins — the result is some of the most virtuosic, colourful, and evocative music I’ve ever played. The Seven Deadly Sins consists of pieces written by Dorothy Chang (Wrath), James Beckwith Maxwell (Envy), Jocelyn Morlock (Lust), Gregory Lee Newsome (Greed), T. Benton Roark (Sloth), Owen Underhill (Pride)… and me, doing my very best to channel Monty Python for my take on Gluttony. As of Monday I’ll be heading down to Pyatt Hall at the VSO School of Music (Vancouver) to begin recording all of them with one of Western Canada’s most cherished recording engineers, Don Harder. Along with the Sins, I’ll be recording a handful of solo flute Fantasias by the Baroque composer G. P. Telemann, creating a collection of — wait for it — “Sins and Fantasies.”
To give you an idea of the amazing music that has been entrusted to me, here is my live recording of Greg Newsome’s piece, Avarice, from a performance at the Music Gallery (Toronto) last March.