Friday, March 27, 2015

21C Music Festival in Toronto: A Festival of Newly Minted Music - 8 Concerts/5 Nights/34 Premieres - May 20-24 2015

From a media release:

May 20 to 24, 2015

Kaija Saariaho, Stewart Copeland & Jon Kimura Parker, Gryphon Trio & Ensemble contemporain de Montréal, Afiara Quartet & DJ Skratch Bastid, Jennifer Koh, Don Byron, The ARC Ensemble, Soundstreams

Check it Out

After a successful launch in 2014, the 21C Music Festival returns with a new line-up of artists from May 20 to May 24, 2015. The festival will again run over five nights and consist of eight concerts, featuring music composed mostly during the 21st century, which once again crosses boundaries and genres: rock and hip hop musicians share billing with classical artists and the music of seminal electroacoustic pioneer Kaija Saariaho is celebrated.

“We are very much looking forward to the second installment of 21C, featuring close to 60 works, 34 of which will be world, Canadian, or Ontario premieres,” said Mervon Mehta, Executive Director of Performing Arts at The Royal Conservatory of Music.

In this festival of newly minted music, audiences have an opportunity to experience fresh new sounds and ideas from the greatest musical minds of today and experience works by Canadian as well as international composers and musicians who are mining new musical territories, breaking down barriers, and introducing us to new virtuosic music creations. This year The Royal Conservatory is thrilled to welcome Kaija Saariaho, one of the world’s great composers. In partnership with Soundstreams, we celebrate the Finnish composer’s extraordinary output in three different concerts, including four Canadian premieres of her works. Other highlights include Royal Conservatory commissioned compositions by Stewart Copeland (well known as a member of The Police), Vancouver composer Jordan Nobles, and eight-time Juno Award nominee Michael Occhipinti. Additional world premieres include works by Andrew Staniland, Dean Burry, Chris Thornborrow, and Raphael Weinroth-Browne among others.

Festival benefactor, Michael Koerner remarked last year: “Charles Ives, the American composer-iconoclast wrote outrageously courageous music about 100 years ago and when asked what he was up to, he would say ‘I want to stretch your ears.’ This 21C Music Festival is just about that: ear stretching.” This year’s festival features one of Ives’s seminal works heard in juxtaposition with three new works by Quebec-based composers, proving Ives’s philosophy in the moment.

The festival opens on May 20 with Off the Score, a sizzling collaboration between drum legend Stewart Copeland of The Police and visionary Canadian pianist Jon Kimura Parker. Works by Copeland and Parker collide with renditions of Stravinsky, Prokofiev, Bach, Ravel, Piazzolla, and Paul Schoenfield, for an inspiring look at a musical universe that transcends genres. The highlight of the evening will be a Conservatory-commissioned world premiere by Copeland, titled Coincidence or Convergence? The two musicians are joined by Metropolitan Opera violinist Yoon Kwon, rising star bassist Marlon Martinez, and champion of the Electronic Valve Instrument (EVI) Judd Miller.

The Conservatory welcomes the great Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho to Toronto on May 21. As part of a concert titled Light and Matter, Saariaho’s Sept papillions (for solo cello played by Anssi Karttunen) and Frises (for solo violin played by Jennifer Koh and electronics by Saariaho) receive their Canadian premieres, and pianist Benjamin Hochman performs Ballade and Prelude (for solo piano). On the same evening, The Conservatory’s own ARC Ensemble (Artists of The Royal Conservatory) will present two pieces: Jerzy Fitelberg’s String Quartet No. 2 and You are where you are, a work for piano quintet and bass (Robert Pomakov) by Omar Daniel, with text by Man Booker Prize-winning author Yann Martell. The evening concludes with the North American premiere of Saariaho’s Light and Matter, a piano trio written for Koh, Karttunen, and Hochman.

The Bicycle Opera Project is dedicated to bringing Canadian talent performing new, accessible Canadian opera works to communities across Ontario, travelling exclusively by bicycle, and, on May 21, they bring their programming to The Conservatory. To begin the evening, the world premiere of Chris Thornborrow’s Ride of the Bicycle Bells will be performed outdoors, in our Reta Lila Weston Music Court, prior to the Koerner Hall mainstage concert. Immediately following the Koerner Hall concert, After Hours #1 features Bicycle Opera’s Larissa Koniuk, soprano; Stephanie Tritchew, mezzo-soprano; Graham Thomson, tenor; Alexander Dobson, baritone; Ilana Waniuk, violin; Erika Nielsen Smith, cello; Wesley Shen, music director & piano; Liza Balkan, staging; and Sonja Rainey, projectionist, in Mazzoleni Concert Hall, located in historic Ihnatowycz Hall. They will perform works by composers James Rolfe, Cecilia Livingston, Ivan Barbotin, Tobin Stokes, and the world premiere of “The Dreaming Duet”  from The Bells of Baddeck by Dean Burry.

On May 22 The Conservatory will present the Ontario premiere of a major new multimedia work called Illusions, which is being written for the Gryphon Trio, Ensemble contemporain de Montréal, and baritone Vincent Ranallo. This 70-minute work is comprised of three new pieces by Canadian composers Nicole Lizée, Gabriel Dharmoo, and Simon Martin, interspersed with Charles Ives’s Piano Trio, one of the great 20th century trio works. The music will be accompanied by visuals created by Kara Blake and Corinne Merrell, and projections designed by Jacques Collin, a long-time associate of Robert Lepage. To open the concert, The Royal Conservatory has commissioned jazz guitarist Michael Occhipinti to write a new work for himself, the Gryphon Trio, and legendary clarinettist Don Byron, titled Street Scene at the Centre of the Multiverse. The Gryphon Trio will also play three pieces by Byron: Basquiat, Shanty, and Russian.

After Hours #2 on May 22 in the Conservatory Theatre will include six works in development by six emerging composers featured in Soundstreams’s week-long Emerging Composers Workshop. The works will have been developed under the guidance of Kaija Saariaho and French cellist and composer Jean-Baptiste Barrière, and all will include video and/or electronic elements. The composers selected for this year’s workshop are Helga Arias (Spain), James O’Callaghan (Canada), Núria Giménez-Comas (Spain), Santa Bušs (Latvia), Steven Whiteley (USA/Canada), and Tawnie Olson (Canada). The works will be performed by Canadian artists Carla Huhtanen (soprano), Leslie Newman (flute), and Stephen Sitarski (violin).

The Saariaho thread continues as Carla Huhtanen and Kwagiulth and Stó:lo First Nations mezzo-soprano Marion Newman collaborate in a North American premiere of Saariaho’s Grammaire des rêves on May 23 in Cinq à Sept / performance in the Conservatory Theatre. Also on the program are two world premieres: one by cellist, composer, and Glenn Gould School student Raphaël Weinroth-Browne, and a Conservatory-commissioned new work for chamber ensemble and soprano from Vancouver composer Jordan Nobles, known for creating music filled with an “unearthly beauty” (Mondomagazine). The Visit, comprised of Weinroth-Browne and Heather Sita Black (voice), also performs Weinroth-Browne’s Offering, a combination of classical chamber music with the intricacy of Middle Eastern and Persian music.

Spin Cycle, a three-stage, ground-breaking project that curates a 360-degree conversation with four of the hottest young composers in Canada, the award-winning Afiara Quartet (The Glenn Gould School Fellowship Quartet-in-Residence at The Royal Conservatory), and the renowned scratch DJ, Skratch Bastid, is presented on May 23 in Mazzoleni Concert Hall. During the first stage of the concert, Afiara plays the world premieres of works composed by Dinuk Wijeratne, Laura Silberberg, Rob Teehan, and Kevin Lau, which form the bedrock of the project. The works are then repurposed and re-envisioned by the scratch stylings of DJ Skratch Bastid. His ability to put together different sounds, songs, and genres, and make the works into something wholly new is one of the rarest talents in his field. The idea of remixing is not new, but rarely does the original artist or composer hear a remix and feel inspired to write a response or bring something new to the conversation. This dialogue of innovation and creation is the third stage of this project. Each composer has heard what Skratch Bastid has done and has responded by writing parts for the Afiara to play with (or against) the DJ’s remix. This innovative, 100% Canadian project bristles with new energy and collaboration, and offers a total of 12 world premieres in one concert! 

The festival closes on May 24 with Encuentros, presented by Soundstreams, a Toronto-based music presenter that commissions, develops, and showcases the work of contemporary Canadian composers and their international counterparts. Tango, flamenco, bossa nova, fandango, Afro-samba, and jazz will be heard in this afternoon of musical encounters featuring internationally acclaimed guitar virtuosos Grisha Goryachev and Fabio Zanon, Argentine bandoneon player Héctor del Curto, Colombian singing sensation Maria Mulata, and Juno Award-winning pianist and composer Serouj Kradjian. Highlights of the afternoon will be world premieres by Canadian composers Andrew Staniland and Mark Duggan. Staniland’s Choro was commissioned by Stan & Ros Witkin in honour of Martin Offman. Also on the program will be works that Kradjian and some of the performers are currently composing based on tango, flamenco, fado, and bossa-nova masterworks. These new pieces are commissioned by Soundstreams and The Royal Conservatory of Music in partnership. Also on the program will be the popular Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5 by Heitor Villa-Lobos.

Several pre- or post-concert talks will feature composers and performers in discussion offering further insight into the works being presented.

Avant-Garde Jazz: French-Japanese Quartet Kaze Releases Adventurous Third CD Uminari (Circum-Libra - May 5 2015)

From a media release:

French-Japanese Quartet Kaze Releases Adventurous Third CD
Two-trumpet ensemble unleashes storm of inventive sound on Uminari
Out May 5, 2015 from Circum-Libra

Coming May 5, 2015

"Twists and turns, noise followed by lyrical beauty; nuanced percussion followed by powerhouse drumming; and wild cacophonies that lead into introspective solo slots. Expect the unexpected." - Dan McClenaghan, All About Jazz

"An expansive set captivating and in some instances, mind-bending pieces, sans any limiting factors." - Glenn Astarita, Jazz Review

Uminari is a Japanese word that refers to a sound rising from the sea, a low-frequency roar that portends a coming storm or tsunami. The poetic word serves as an ideal title for the third CD, available in the US and Canada on May 5, 2015 on Circum-Libra, from the unconventional international quartet Kaze. The two-horn quartet is equally adept at the calm and the storm, with expressive subtleties giving way to overwhelming torrents of sound.

Japanese pianist Satoko Fujii and trumpeter Natsuki Tamura reunite with French trumpeter Christian Pruvost and drummer Peter Orins for the band's most evocative and inventive outing to date. The music for Uminari was developed over the course of a 12-day tour of Japan during which skeletal compositions by each of the quartet's members were elaborated and experimented on by the group as a whole.

"Every day we decided to play with different ideas," Fujii recalls. "Today we'll play the piece one way, the next day a completely different way. We wrote very simple music beforehand and developed it together."

Uminari opens at gale force with "Tioky Atsimo," the first piece to date contributed to the ensemble by Pruvost. The heady whorl of sound ultimately subsides to a stutter-stop rhythm by Fujii and Orins, accompanied by breathy rasps and brassy bleats by the trumpeters, who ultimately fall in line with the insistent beat. A second eruption ensues, as the piece becomes an exercise in forming order out of chaos.

Orins' "Vents Contraires" follows from the opposite extreme, starting from a place of shimmering stillness with the drummer's scraped cymbals and a low murmur from the horns. The piece builds gradually in intensity over half of its 14 minutes before dissolving into pointillistic shards. "Running Around," the first of two Fujii compositions on the album, begins with a circuitous melody articulated by the trumpeters, ceding to a fragmented groove from the rhythm section. At the midpoint it becomes a play of dynamics and silences among the four musicians.

Tamura's "Inspiration" - at 20 minutes, the album's longest piece - showcases the trumpeter's trademark humor with a textured array of percussion, extended techniques, prepared piano and toy instruments. The set closes with Fujii's dark, impressionistic title track combining heartfelt, dirge-like melodicism with tempestuous improvisation.

Fujii and Tamura originally met Orins in 2002 when the pianist's quartet shared a bill with the drummer's collective Impression in his hometown of Lille, France. Nearly a decade later they crossed paths again and Orins suggested a collaboration with Pruvost, inaugurating Kaze's unusual instrumentation.

"We immediately became friends," Fujii says. "We felt like we shared the same kind of musical values. And we had so much fun doing this group we just kept playing together."\

Uminari is one of three new releases scheduled for 2015 from the always- prolific Fujii, whose prodigious output is only rivaled by her remarkable drive to constantly explore new terrain. Also on tap are albums by two new ensembles: Tobira, which expands the pianist's New Trio to a quartet with the addition of Tamura; and the Satoko Fujii Orchestra Berlin, the fifth city-specific large ensemble she's founded, and the first group launched in her newly adopted home.

Kaze is a departure from much of Fujii's output, being a collective rather than a group led by and dedicated to performing the music of the powerful composer. "I don't have much opportunity to be a side musician," she says. "Almost all the time I'm the leader; I write and direct the music and arrange the gigs. Finally, this gives me a chance to play with great musicians who all write music and all sound different. I have so much fun playing their pieces."

One of the most original and wide-ranging voices in modern jazz, Satoko Fujii has documented her abilities on more than 70 CDs in less than 20 years. The Tokyo native relocated to the U.S. to study at Berklee College of Music and New England Conservatory, where she was mentored by the likes of Paul Bley, Herb Pomeroy, George Russell and Cecil McBee. Through her touring and collaborations she's truly become a citizen of the world, most recently settling in Berlin. She's founded jazz orchestras there as well as in New York and Tokyo, Nagoya, and Kobe in Japan. Fujii has also led the quartets Ma-Do and Tobira and an avant-rock group featuring Ruins drummer Tatsuya Yoshida. In recent years she's formed fruitful collaborations with such inventive artists as pianist Myra Melford, drummer John Hollenbeck, violinist Carla Kihlstedt, and guitarist Elliott Sharp.

Trumpeter Natsuki Tamura is internationally recognized for his ability to blend a unique vocabulary of extended techniques with touching jazz lyricism. Since 2005, Tamura has focused on the intersection of European folk music and sound abstraction with Gato Libre, a quartet featuring Fujii on accordion, Tsumura Kazuhiko on guitar, and the late Koreyasu Norikatsu on bass. In 2006 he co-founded the collaborative trio Junk Box with Fujii and drummer John Hollenbeck, while his most recent quartet, First Meeting, features Fujii, drummer Tatsuhisa Yamamoto and electric guitarist Kelly Churko. Born in Otsu, Shiga, Japan, Tamura studied at Berklee College of Music and the New England Conservatory and has taught at the Yamaha Popular Music School and at private trumpet studios in Tokyo and Saitama.

A generous, insatiable and prolific musician, trumpeter Christian Pruvost has forged meaningful collaborations in jazz, improvised music and live performing arts settings. With Didier Aschour, Pruvost is a co-director of Round the World of Sound, which gathers 14 musicians from the Muzzix collective and Dedalus ensemble to perform the madrigals of eccentric poet/composer Moondog. In a new project called PCM Blat, he explores repertoire from medieval to contemporary and improvised music with Maxime Morel (tuba) and Samuel Carpentier (trombone). He is also a member of Circum Grand Orchestra and La Pieuvre, the improvisational orchestra conducted by Olivier Benoit.

From a classical music background, Peter Orins branched out to study the drums at the Conservatoire National de Région of Lille, where he studied with Guy Gilbert, Jean-François Canape, and Gérard Marais. At the same time, he studied improvisation with Fred Van Hove and composition with Jean-Marc Chouvel and Ricardo Mandolini.  Beginning in the mid-'90s, Orins played in the bands that would come to form the Circum collective: Impression, Quartet Base, and the Stefan Orins Trio. He coordinated the Circum collective until its fusion with fellow collective CRIME in 2010, and created the 10-piece Circum Grand Orchestra. He also plays in La Pieuvre, a French-Vietnamese project called Hué/Circum, and the Wei3 trio with German pianist Jarry Singla and Polish bass player Maciej Garbowski. Since the creation of Muzzix in 2010, Orins has coordinated the artistic direction of that collective.

Opre Roma/Rise Up Roma Toronto Festival a First for International Roma Day April 8 to 12 2015

From a media release:

Toronto festival a first for International Roma Day
April 8 to 12, 2015
Various Venues

• Click on the Poster for Full Details
The Roma Community Centre for tickets

Opre Roma/Rise Up Roma, a festival of Romani arts and culture, will be held in Toronto on Wednesday April 8 to Sunday April 12, 2015 in celebration of International Roma Day. Organized by the Roma Community Centre, this will be the first festival of its kind in Toronto. Due to its new presence on the Canadian heritage stage, Opre Roma/Rise Up Roma will make a significant contribution to multiculturalism in Toronto. The event will expand the public’s understanding of the rich cultural heritage of the Roma people and their history in Canada.

International Roma Day was designated at the first World Romani Congress in Orpington UK in 1971. At Opre Roma/Rise Up Roma, Toronto will join international cities in celebrating the artistic achievements and heritage of the Roma people. For Roma, April 8 symbolizes community strength, dignity, and pride. The festival features Romani musicians, visual artists, storytellers, and youth.

April 8 opens at 7:30 pm with an art exhibit at Gallery 50, 50 Gladstone Avenue. An installation by Monica Bodirsky, Riel Brown, Lynn Hutchinson Lee and Hedina Sijercic, as well as Chad Evans Wyatt’s photographs of Toronto Roma will be shown to the accompaniment of guitarist Jozsef Botos.

Award-winning jazz pianist Robi Botos gives a FREE workshop at Bloor Street United Church on Thursday April 9, 7-9 pm. On Sunday April 12 at Lula Lounge from 8 pm to midnight, Robi returns to perform at Opre Roma. Tickets for three performances—the Robi Botos Trio, the Gypsy Rebels, and Romanyi Rota Band—are ONLY $20. After each performance, the musicians will engage festival-goers in a Q&A.

Lula Lounge is also the location of a continuous slideshow about the Roma people, a photography exhibit by Toronto Romani youth with photographer Nihad Nino Pusija, and from 3–6 pm, a youth talent show and storytelling for children and adults. As sponsors, the Toronto Public Library is holding Romani storytelling at the Parkdale and Taylor Memorial branches and is highlighting Romani literature all week.

Most Torontonians do not realize that refugees make up only one segment of the Romani community, many of whom settled here over 100 years ago from Europe and the UK, who speak a dozen different languages, follow different religions, cook many national cuisines, may or may not follow traditions, and have many different occupations just like other members of other ethnic groups. The festival creates a unique crosscultural exchange improving the public’s understanding of the Roma.

“The Roma Community Centre is thrilled to host our first festival for International Roma Day,” says Nazik Deniz, festival coordinator. “The Roma have contributed a great deal to the city’s celebrated multiculturalism but many people aren’t aware of our wonderful culture. Opre Roma is a chance to share our music, our art, and our history with everyone. Come out and meet our people!”

Roma Community Centre
(416) 546-2524
Fax (416) 519-0443

Robi Botos Trio:

Classical Music: May 2015 Releases from Divine Art Recording Group - Gilbert Rowland/Handel & Peter Sheppard Skærved/Telemann

From a media release:

May 2015 Releases
May 9, 2015 - U.K.
May 12, 2015 - US

Buy/Check out a Sample MP3

George Frideric Handel: Suites for Harpsichord, Vol. 3
(Divine Art dda 21225)
Gilbert Rowland (harpsichord)

The third and last set in this series, completing the release of Handel’s Suites in a 2 CD set at mid price.

Of volume 2 (DDA 21220) the critics were fulsome:

“It is impossible to praise this new release too highly. Fabulous playing. The combination of Handel, Gilbert Rowland, Wooderson’s fine harpsichord, the recording and the recording engineer John Taylor is unbeatable providing, as it does, a collection of these wonderful suites that I will return to again and again.” – Bruce Reader (The Classical Reviewer)

“A fine instrument, with silvery, bell-like timbres in the upper register and a richly sonorous bass. Rowland’s changes of registration for repeats are judicious and tasteful, revealing fully the beauties of his instrument. A highly satisfying version of Handel’s Suites … as the final notes die away, one is simply left with a strong temptation to shout “Bravo!”. – Brian Robins (Harpsichord & Fortepiano)

Handel’s solo keyboard music has for too long been overshadowed by his operas, oratorios, and orchestral music. This comparative neglect seems unjust in view of the considerably large quantity of keyboard music which exists amongst his massive output. This third double CD set completes Gilbert Rowland’s survey of these groundbreaking works which began to free the form from the formal constraints of “Allemande, Courante, Sarabande, Gigue”. Gilbert Rowland first studied the harpsichord with Millicent Silver. Whilst still a student at the Royal College of Music, he made his debut at Fenton House 1970 and first appeared at the Wigmore Hall in 1973. Recitals, appearances at major festivals in several countries, together with regular broadcasts, have helped to establish his reputation as one of Britain's leading harpsichordists. Reviewing volume 1, John Collins of The Consort said “The standard of playing is very high indeed, with some crisp articulation, appropriately added ornamentation in the repeats ... this is a most enjoyable recording.”

From Vol. 1:

The Great Violins
(Athene ath 23203)
Peter Sheppard Skærved (the Andrea Amati, 1570 violin)

As well as being internationally recognised as a leading interpreter of music new and old, Peter Sheppard Skærved is the only violinist to have performed on the personal violins of Viotti, Paganini, Joachim, Kreisler and Ole Bull. In this new series, he plays music on these and many more instruments, many of which only he has access to. In this first 2-CD set Peter plays the incredible 1570 Amati in the 12 Violin Fantasies and 12 Flute Fantasies of Telemann. The instrument is of course gut-strung, is tuned A:416 and the bow is by Antonino Airenti. The Flute fantasies are also perfect for performance on the violin.

The series is supported by the Royal Academy of Music in London, the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. and many other museums and institutions. Volume 2 will present the complete solo sonatas and partitas of J.S. Bach, played on the renowned ‘Joachim’ Stradivari of 1698.

Volume 2 should be released around the end of 2015, and the series will be open-ended with at least ten volumes planned so far. The Athene label, founded originally for historic piano recordings, has been re-launched to celebrate the commencement of this series.

Peter Sheppard Skærved talks about old instruments at TEDxBergen,

New Rock, Recently Released: Winchester Revival - Burden's Landing (King of Sticks - March 3, 2015)

Recently Released:
Winchester Revival - Burden's Landing
(King of Sticks - March 3, 2015)

Buy the EP & Name Your Price

Oakland, CA based Winchester Revival is modern rock - not afraid of electronics and not usurped by them either for a sophisticated sound all their own. These are clearly experienced musicians with a lot of musical ideas at their disposal.

Their sound combines the familiar outlines of several pop/rock music genres, including 70's era pop tunes, shoegaze and alt-rock with a refreshing rhythmic complexity, intriguing lyrics and a combination of organic and electronic instrumentation that doesn't neglect or overwhelm either.

Last Night in Tokyo
Gonna melt your metal core
Palm Springs, take me down easy
Sun rise on the desert floor

It's the first single from the EP:

From Ides of January,

I get the story in fragments as I lay in our bed 
Of an infinite highway and a grey limousine
A fan is churning the air across the prow of your head
There’s a white-knuckled driver with a sweat back sheen

David Rosenheim's vocals are expressive with an appropriate rock edge to them, embellished with some nice harmonies from Andrew Lund and Amanda Guilbeaux on some tracks.

Diligence is a stand out track, seamlessly combining chiming electronic notes with sampling over a crisp drum line, with the vocals floating on top of the mix.

Keep It Together is a spacey and ethereal interlude that slides right into Salamander, the next track, where the ethereal elements are given movement by the rhythm section. There are catchy, anthemic elements that will have you humming along... then it morphs back into electronic shoegazing. It's a compelling track that epitomizes their kind of musical cookbook.

The EP ends with Ice Water, a track with more than a few shades of prog-rock in the musical mix and a dark sort of romanticism. They're an interesting group that I'll be looking for more from in the years to come.

Recorded with Justin Weis at Trakworx, San Francisco summer 2014.
All songs (C)2015 Winchester Revival - Carpal Tunnel Music (BMI)
Released by King of Sticks Recording Cooperative. Catalog # KOS024

Members/Instruments: David Rosenheim: vocals, lyrics; Andrew Lund: guitars, backing vocals; Ron Cruz: bass guitar; Kirk Snedeker: drums; Matt Glick: electronics; with guest Amanda Guilbeaux on backing vocals
Record Label: King of Sticks

1. Last Night In Tokyo
2. Ides of January
3. Diligence
4. Keep It Together
5. Salamander
6. Ice Water


Toronto Artist Jon Sasaki Wins Glenfiddich 2015 Canadian Artist in Residency Prize

Fly Away Home...
Glenfiddich 2015 Canadian Artist in Residency Prize
Jon Sasaki

On March 25, 2015 there we gathered at the Spoke Club to toast the 2015 Glenfiddich Canadian Artist in Residency recipient, Toronto-based artist Jon Sasaki.

The prize is awarded annually and grants the recipients - who hail from eight different countries worldwide - a $20,000 prize and three heavenly months to create art in Dufftown, the Valley of the Deer and legendary home to Glenfiddich scotch.

Applying for the prize was a no-brainer for this year's winner, Jon Sasaki. "I have known a lot of previous recipients," he said. "It seems a perfect and fruitful place to make art." He noted the rich history and picturesque landscape - both elements that are incorporated into his proposed project, one way or another.

His proposal? "I'm going to be building an airplane," Jon says.

Of about 100 entrants, the idea immediately appealed to curator Andy Fairgrieve (left in the image below). "I think it's the insanity of it," he says of its appeal. "The proposals gauge the engagement of the artists with the site," he explains of the judging process.

Jon adds, "There will be a working airplane. The process will help define success and failure. I began thinking about the landscape; I had the idea of taking it all in at once." Once he started doing the research, the connection with Dufftown came into focus. "I was doing my research and realized that many of these elements were Scottish inventions." He points out that braided aircraft cable, the 2-stroke engine and tubular steel were all invented by Scots.

His idea of a single seat, two-stroke aircraft actually comes from the cover of a 1981 issue of Popular Mechanics.

Along with the time, space and opportunity to get away from Toronto's distractions, creating in a community of artists is another attraction. "That's another thing that interests me - there are eight other artists and opportunities to bounce ideas around."

Jon's current work (and he has a show at the Ottawa Art Gallery as we speak) consists of video, installations, objects, interventions and performances and is often tied in with notions of invention and ingenuity. "That's probably a good umbrella for it," he agrees, adding his fascination with Romantic era notions of the solitary pioneer. "It's about making do and perseverance."

In one video, he drives with a map in his face while scenery speeds by outside the window. In another, he's furiously cycling an un-speeded old 10-speed bike in competition with traffic. 'The Romantic Journey' is a tandem bicycle, disassembled and reassembled into a solitary bike. There is a wry sense of humour to much of his work.

"It has the appearance of spontaneity but the choices are conscious," he explains of his pieces. "There is always a tension between what I can control and some things I can't. My work embraces the possibility of failure and sometimes even courts it."

Andy agrees. "I loved the idea of the single seat aircraft. In Jon's work, there's a kind of celebration of failure."

But then he adds, "We have so much confidence in Jon's work that we only bought him a one-way ticket."


From Jon's piece "I Promise It Will Always Be This Way" for Nuit Blanche 2008

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Canadian Stage celebrates the best of South African performance art with Spotlight South Africa April 8 to 25 2015

From a media release:

Spotlight South Africa
Canadian Stage celebrates the best of South African performance art with three week festival showcasing six unique productions, including the most in North America for the first time; 
April 8 to 25, 2015

Get Tickets

Toronto, ON –
Canadian Stage presents Nongogo, The Meal, Hatched, Ubu and the Truth Commission, Dominion and Chandelier in a three-week festival of South African performance as part of Spotlight South Africa. A tribute to the extraordinary vitality and originality of artistic work produced in the country, the festival will feature a variety of dance, drama, performance art and puppetry from Apr. 8 to 25 at Canadian Stage’s two homes, the Berkeley Street Theatre (26 Berkeley St.) and the Bluma Appel Theatre (27 Front St. E).

A biennial celebration in its third year, Canadian Stage’s Spotlight Festival series highlights work from the leading artists of a selected country, often giving Toronto audiences an opportunity to experience the work of renowned artists for the first time. Almost doubling in size since its last iteration, Spotlight South Africa is the largest Spotlight Festival to date.

• Each week of the festival will open two new productions, beginning with Nongogo and The Meal (Apr. 8 to 12). On stage the second week is Ubu and the Truth Commission and Hatched (Apr. 15 to 19), with Dominion and Chandelier (Apr. 22 to 25) closing out the festival.

 “When I made my first trip to South Africa in September 2013, I was peripherally aware of the vitality of the performing arts scene there – but admittedly unprepared for the magnificent force and determination of the artists I would meet or whose work I would get to see,” said Matthew Jocelyn, artistic & general director. “It soon became clear that our third Spotlight Festival had to centre around the theatre, dance and performance art of this great nation, now celebrating its 21st year since liberation. A true coming of age.”

Set against the vibrant turbulence of the 1950s, Athol Fugard’s Nongogo follows the township romance between Queeny and Johnny as long buried secrets are revealed. Produced by Johannesburg’s Market Theatre, the play reflects on South Africa’s history as a rich and complex tapestry that both shapes and imprisons its people.

The Meal and Hatched are two works by multiple award-winning dancer, choreographer, teacher and activist, Mamela Nyamza. Although they are presented separately, both pieces interrogate the African dancer’s body and cultural ethos, while offering autobiographical explorations of Nyamza’s own identity as a dancer, an African and a mother.

In collaboration with Handspring Puppet Company (War Horse) and directed by William Kentridge, Ubu and the Truth Commission combines puppetry, live actors, music, animation and documentary footage in a performance laced with dark and sardonic wit. Drawing on original testimony from witnesses at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and literary character Ubu Roi, an unprincipled buffoon created by the playwright Alfred Jarry, the play provides a glimpse into the devastating complexities of apartheid.

In Dominion, renowned choreographer Luyanda Sidiya presents a dance program inspired by the deep tribal energy he senses from his land and people. Presented as a double bill, the event includes performances of Umnikelo – which presents traditional African dance with a modern twist – and the title performance, Dominion, a searing contemporary work. In this program, Sidiya explores the levels of power that individuals possess, how this power is unleashed and how it can have a positive or negative impact on our society – be it in a social or political space.

Chandelier is a performance piece from Steven Cohen, an artist who stages interventions in both the public realm and in gallery and theatre spaces. In 2001, the township of Newtown in the centre of Johannesburg was pegged to be bulldozed overnight due to the living conditions in the area. Many of the residents weren’t provided with new accommodations, but were nevertheless evacuated in extremes. As both a live performance and video documentation of the public intervention, Chandelier is Cohen’s attempt to shine a light on this event.

During the course of the festival Canadian Stage will host a range of ancillary programming events designed to engage audiences in the themes of the work and create opportunities for audiences to directly interact with artists featured in the festival. This programming includes pre and post-show chats, student workshops, and special events. Canadian Stage will also debut a new Artist Panel series conceived specifically for the festival. Each session will have a unique theme, artist participants and moderator. More information about Spotlight South Africa’s ancillary programming is available at

A highlight of the festival’s additional programming is INTERMISSION: trans/formation. The fifth edition of the popular event series closes the festival on Apr. 25, and includes a performance of Chandelier followed by music featuring DJ Phil Villeneuve. INTERMISSION is Canadian Stage’s immersive event series that expands on their successful Berkeley Block Parties.  Now directly aligned with themes and ideas that stem from Jocelyn’s programming, INTERMISSION parties are live explorations of the ideas and topics featured in Canadian Stage’s season. INTERMISSION is generously supported by Make Up Forever, Steam Whistle Brewing and Tamm + Kit.

On March 30, Jocelyn hosts the third edition of Face to Face with Canadian Stage, a series of highly-curated art happenings that bring audiences together with cultural organizations from across the city. This edition, titled EXPLORE, partners with the Toronto South African Film Festival (TSAFF) and Education Without Borders (EWB) for a look at community-building and cultural expression at home and abroad. Jocelyn will facilitate a panel with Vanessa Judelman of TSAFF and Eleanor McGroarty of EWB, followed by a screening of a short documentary film from TSAFF. A $25 pass admits two guests to this final installment of the 14.15 season which includes a panel discussion, mingling and refreshments. Face to Face is generously sponsored by Steam Whistle Brewing, Whole Foods Market and Wines of South Africa.

Nongogo (Apr. 8 to 12), Ubu and the Truth Commission (Apr. 15 to 19) and Chandelier (Apr. 22 to 25) will be on stage at Canadian Stage’s Berkeley Street Theatre - Downstairs, with The Meal (Apr. 8 to 12) and Hatched (Apr. 15 to 19) being performed in the Upstairs Theatre (26 Berkeley St.). Dominion (Apr. 22 to 25) will be on stage at the Bluma Appel Theatre (27 Front St. E). Festival performances run Wednesday through Sunday at either 7 p.m. or 8 p.m. depending on the production. Certain productions will have Thursday and Saturday matinees at 1 p.m., and Sunday matinees at 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. Tickets from $30 to $99 are available online, by phone at 416.368.3110 or in person at the box office. For more information about show times and tickets visit

Videos come from previous productions
Twitter: @CanadianStage / Twitter Hashtag: #SpotlightSouthAfrica

Shows and Tickets:
Tickets may be purchased by phone at 416.368.3110 or in-person at the Canadian Stage Box Office: Bluma Appel Theatre (27 Front St. E.) or Berkeley Street Theatre (26 Berkeley St.). Full details on the productions, casting and subscription packages are available online at