Vegas contra Cage (aka an Action-Packed August)

Summer can be a time of feast or famine for the freelance musician: typically this is when most concert seasons are winding down, but it’s also when a lot of interesting festivals start revving up. I had the privilege of being a part of two truly unique musical celebrations this month: the National Flute Association‘s 2012 conference in Las Vegas and the 2012 Queer Arts Festival in Vancouver.

The American-based National Flute Association is, hands down, the largest flute organization in the world, with approximately 6,000 members from over 50 countries. The annual convention is held each August in a different American city, where literally thousands of flutists from across the world converge to listen, learn, share, and network. This year’s convention took place in Las Vegas — at no less prestigious a venue than Caesar’s Palace! On Friday, August 10th, fellow flutist Jessica Raposo and I presented a concert at the convention entitled “True, North, Strong, and Free: New Works by Canadian Composers”. Jessica gave a beautiful performance of “Sleeves of Green” by Yvonne Gillespie, while I gave the American premiere of Christopher Kovarik‘s Sonata for Flute and Piano with virtuoso pianist Kenneth Broadway; Kovarik himself was in attendance for the event. Our performance concluded with Jessica, Ken, and me performing Butterflies for two flutes and piano by the Okanagan composer Imant Raminsh. The concert was fun, well attended, and enthusiastically received — despite the 8:30am start time! (Seriously, this is absolutely the earliest I’ve ever had to perform — and I am not a morning person.) This was my first flute convention ever, and I’m greatly indebted to Jessica for bringing it to my attention, and for allowing me to share this prestigious opportunity with her. Looking forward to the 2013 convention… in New Orleans!

With flutist Jessica Raposo and pianist Kenneth Broadway, following our performance at the 2012 NFA Convention in Las Vegas.

The NFA convention wasn’t even half-over before I was on an early morning flight back to Vancouver to perform at the Queer Arts Festival. My flute-piano duo Tiresias (with the indefatigable Rachel Kiyo Iwaasa) presented what was arguably our most ambitious project to date, Boulez Contra Cage: an Interdisciplinary Argument for Two Musicians and Two Actors. Adapted from the published correspondence of Pierre Boulez and John Cage, Boulez contra Cage dramatizes the friendship, conflict and schism of two of the most influential composers of the 20th century. Sounds dry, you say? Guess again. Actors David Bloom (as Boulez) and Simon Webb (as Cage) brought this dialogue to life, presenting both composers as ingenious, eccentric, occasionally exasperating, and at times utterly hilarious. Interspersed throughout their repartee Rachel and I performed the music of both composers, including Cage’s Two for flute and piano, and selections from Boulez’s titanic Sonatine for flute and piano. The concert concluded with the premiere performance of Musique d’art pour flûte et piano by the Montreal composer Simon Martin. Martin’s piece was commissioned especially for this event as a way of bringing together the compositional methods of both Boulez and Cage — and demonstrating that the differences that divided the two men were not, in the end, so incompatible. If you live in Vancouver and missed this unique performance, fear not! We’ll be repeating it at the Western Front on November 24th, 2012.

Before the show: Rachel Iwaasa preparing the piano for Cage’s Sonata V (from Sonatas and Interludes).
Actor Simon Webb (as Cage) and Rachel Iwaasa performing Cage’s Water Music (1952).
The Ice Man cometh! David Bloom as Boulez.
With composer Simon Martin following the premiere of his piece Musique d’art pour flûte et piano.



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