Review of Joel Grundahl’s EP Release show at The Bassment with special guest, Kyle Krysa and Distant Conversation

Kyle with Joel Grundahl Trio

photo from The Bassment’s website

It has been a while since I wrote a review of a show and I didn’t expect to be writing about this one, but the compulsion to write is upon me, so here we go! I had the great fortune to attend last night’s celebration of Contemporary Jazz and Jazz Fusion at The Bassment in Saskatoon. This was most likely a once in a lifetime experience and show and I am so grateful I got to attend!

 

Congratulations to Joel Grundahl and the Joel Grundahl Trio on the release of their EP and on a fantastic live show too! Also, congratulations to Kyle Krysa and his band for a really wonderful first live performance of some of Kyle’s material from his 2015 release “Distant Conversation”!

 

I am compelled to write about this and at the same time, feel that words cannot do the show justice. In any case, to give some extra context, this is from The Bassment’s website and promo for the show: “With a set list of original and cover jazz-fusion compositions, the Joel Grundahl Trio melds jazz with modern music, all the while embracing creativity and improvisation and striving to carry the fusion torch forward. Percussionist/composer Kyle Krysa and Distant Conversation plays the opening set with a set of Krysa’s original contemporary jazz tunes.”

 

When I write about symphony concerts, I go home and press play in my mind and listen to the whole concert again while jotting down my thoughts. I can’t quite do this with Contemporary Jazz and Jazz Fusion (yet!). For me, Contemporary Jazz and Jazz Fusion demand immediate and perfect presence on the part of the players and also on the part of the audience. This was a well-supported show with an audience full of friends and family and Bassment members and supporters. It was a typical listening crowd where they soak in every note played (and there were a lot of notes played!!)!

 

The opening set was a set of Kyle Krysa’s original Contemporary Jazz compositions played by Ian Summach on guitar, Connor Newton on sax and vocals, Dave Anderson on bass, and of course Kyle Krysa on drums. I was very excited to hear this music performed live and the experience of hearing this live as opposed to listening to the “Distant Conversation” tracks is much to be preferred!! For me, this live performance gave this music more meaning, more purpose, and more obvious drive.

 

The Joel Grundahl Trio played 2 sets of original Jazz Fusion with a few covers thrown in here and there – at least one selection was written by one of Joel’s colleagues from music school. Joel’s music is very much melody based with some progressive tendencies and his phrasing creates a very easy to follow experience for the audience – reflected and supported well in both the bass and the drum parts. I love how Joel has a radio announcer style voice – every song was introduced in that voice – giving the show an extra level of professionalism. The Trio consists of Joel Grundahl on guitar, Lloyd Tomczak on bass, and Kyle Krysa on drums (which is why this was likely a once in a lifetime show since Kyle was doing more than double duty at last night’s show!). I admire Kyle’s playing and find it precise, subtle, melodic, and reflective as well as always completely present and enmeshed with the melodic and harmonic structure of the music – his own music and Joel Grundahl’s music as well. At one point during the show, Graham Tilsley leaned over to me and told me something to the effect of: “if I were to describe Kyle’s playing in one word, that word would be ‘beautiful’…” – I whole-heartedly agree! And, I’d take that one step further to apply to the whole show last night – it was a beautiful night of beautiful playing all around!

 

As usual at music events, I would have preferred to be up dancing rather than sitting for the show but I wasn’t feeling quite that bold and Bassment regulars, Ashley and Dennis weren’t there with their ballroom dancing chops…

 

It was neat hearing these two groups back to back – very similar approaches to the music and the phrasing and yet, even though both groups played Contemporary Jazz Fusion material, the material was very different from one group to the next and this kept the audience’s attention for the entire show! I was actually surprised at how tired I felt at the end of the show since it was so wonderfully engaging throughout!

 

Thanks to all the amazing musicians on stage last night – well done! And, thanks to Troy Denet for doing sound, to The Bassment for having this event, and to Don Griffith for having the inspiration to have Kyle’s original music open Joel’s EP release show!

 

Looking forward to the next time I get to hear these musicians play!!! I hear that they’re playing at the Jazz Festival! Watch for it!!

 

Thanks for reading!

-Anna

Anna Marie Bekolay, BMusEd, ARCT

Anna Marie Bekolay 2016 - Copy cropped and resizedAnna Marie Bekolay, soprano, violinist, teacher, adjudicator performs with many ensembles in and around Saskatoon and runs Anna Bekolay’s Studio teaching Voice, Violin, Recorder, and Fiddle. Her current projects include: Back of the Bus, The Stephanies, The Whiskey Jerks, a classical vocal album under stage name, Anna Maria Soparlo: Songs in Loving Memory of My Father, Mac Talla Quartet, Troubadours du Bois, brand new operatic/heavy bass & drums project: Phantasma, and a variety of freelance collaborations including performances with Flamenco Borealis, a recent retirement party that involved some music from Billy Elliot, a Fringe play, Brel!, based on the music of Jacques Brel, a collaborative presentation of wearable art piece, “Faceted Wings” at SWAG 2017, and upcoming fiddle feature at the Saskatoon Men’s Chorus concert (April 22, 2018).

Advertisements

Review of SSO pops concert, March 3, 2018: Don’t Give Yourself Away – The music of Joni Mitchell

SSO Joni show with Sarah Slean et al

photo from SSO facebook page

 

What a wonderful reckoning of a dream! At the opening of this Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra (SSO) concert, Executive Director Mark Turner gave his introduction expressing how inspiring he found the music of Joni Mitchell when he discovered one of her albums at the tender age of 18. Mark gave a heartfelt introduction to the concert that included praise for all the guest artists performing at the concert as well as a deep and inspiring statement about Joni’s music and the concert we were about to hear (his words here, slightly reminiscent of a song by Tina Turner …), “Hang on Every word, and get Lost in the Music.” And, that is exactly what we did for the entire concert!

 

This really was a wonderful celebration of Joni Mitchell’s music and of her musical life. The whole package: orchestration, interpretation, presentation, right down to the lighting – and for me, the lighting was far more than setting the stage for the music: it was integral to the Magic of the show – the right touch for each song: each cinematically orchestrated vignette brought to life by a stage full of musicians working together as one.

 

Sarah Slean has been my hero for close to 20 years now. It was a thrill to hear her and watch her bring this music to life. She sparkled in her golden gown and gave so much to breathe new, rich life into songs we thought we knew – her interpretation made them new again – so clear, clean, embodied anew.

 

Conductor-composer Vince Mendoza spoke with passion about the project and shed light on his own processes. His direction was wonderfully clear as only he could be as the original composer and arranger of these orchestrations for these songs.

 

Peter Erskine proved to be quite the storyteller – as player and speaker from behind the drums: he had us spellbound with his one story he told about Joni Mitchell and his original involvement with a Joni Mitchell recording project. His playing was subtle, specific, and inviting throughout the show.

 

Mark DeJong, saxophone: a lovely touch to the program here and there – world class playing – especially near the beginning of the show!

 

Edwin Livingston, bass: provided all the necessary support and groove as a sensitive and solid part of the rhythm section.

 

It was such a thrill to see and hear these musicians join our beloved SSO on stage – and what an ensemble they were all together!!! I am so grateful I was able to attend this concert: I cried and I laughed and I cried some more – it was more cathartic for me than I expected it would be! I am so very proud of our SSO musicians for the work they did as a unit in this concert bringing to life those sweeping cinematic orchestrations – truly recording quality right there on stage in front of us. Thank you to all involved – you were all integral to the success of this show. From the bottom of my heart, thank you! I could indeed drink a case of you!

 

The choice to have no encore at a concert that had people in the audience on their feet immediately following the final notes of the concert: well done! The show ended with Joni Mitchell’s song, “Both Sides Now” – a tender and extremely effective setting and rendition of this song that needed to not be followed by anything further. All that needed to be said had been said and crafted in just the right way, and in just the right amount to leave the audience with the experience of a lifetime.

 

Thanks for reading and if you were at this concert, thank you for attending and sharing this experience with me!!

-Anna

 

Anna Marie Bekolay, BMusEd, ARCT

Anna Marie Bekolay 2016 - Copy cropped and resized

Anna Marie Bekolay, soprano, violinist, teacher, adjudicator – performs with many ensembles in and around Saskatoon and runs Anna Bekolay’s Studio teaching Voice, Violin, Recorder, and Fiddle. Her current projects include: her classical vocal album under the stage name, Anna Maria Soparlo: “Songs In Loving Memory of My Father” (2017), Back of the Bus (Celtic), The Stephanies (Pop/Folk), The Whiskey Jerks (Klezmer/Folk/Jazz), Mac Talla Quartet (classical/Pop/Folk), Troubadours du Bois (Renaissance), a brand new project called Phantasma (exploring the combination of operatic vocals and heavy bass and drums), and a variety of freelance collaborations including performances with Flamenco Borealis and Free Flow Dance, a recent retirement party that involved some music from the musical, “Billy Elliot”, and a Fringe play, “Brel!” (July, 2017), based on the music of Jacques Brel – where she was both musical director and performer. Ms Bekolay’s singing was also featured recently at the 2017 Saskatchewan Wearable Art Gala in the collaborative presentation of the wearable art piece, “Faceted Wings” by Nadine Jaggi.

Review of Jeans ‘n Classics: Stardust – The Music of David Bowie

SSO Jeans n classics Oct 14 2017

photo from the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra’s facebook page.

Saturday night, October 14, 2017: This was my first time attending a “Jeans ‘n Classics” concert where the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra joins together with a rock band to do some pop/rock music and I was so very happy to be there! I love so much of David Bowie’s music and it was great to have it all brought to life at the concert with all the colours of the orchestra and the band on stage.

 

Mark Turner (SSO’s Executive Director) introduced the concert with reference to similarities between David Bowie and Beethoven, Debussy, and Stravinsky – that they were all busy “pushing the envelope” and challenging their audiences with their new approaches to creating music and defining music. I love all of Mark’s enthusiastic introductions to SSO concerts – Mark, I have to say that in my world, you are one of my fav Rock Stars!! Thank you for always being so awesome!!

 

Set 1:

 

The “David Bowie Overture” was a beautiful way to open the concert and to open our ears to the sounds of David Bowie! Janna Sailor was our guest conductor for this concert and I couldn’t stop grinning from the joy I felt seeing her at work on stage! Janna!!! You TOTALLY ROCKED THIS!! Great energy, great professionalism and enthusiasm on stage – both as conductor and as on the spot interviewee! Beautiful words about choosing a palate of colours regardless of style – from one who conducts so beautifully!

 

Jean Meilleur did a fantastic job as lead singer singing David Bowie’s parts and as host for the night. He was very professional in the role, comfortable on stage and well grounded in an inviting way. He worked the crowd a bit – gently and invitingly and even did an impromptu interview with Janna at one point during the concert. And, his voice was so well suited to Bowie’s material as well! Thanks for a fun and entertaining evening, sir!!

 

Both Set 1 and Set 2 were packed with David Bowie Classics – included in Set 1 were: “Rebel Rebel”, “Let’s Dance”, “Modern Love”, “Blue Jean”, “Starman”, “China Girl” (co-written with Iggy Pop), “Ashes to Ashes”, “Five Years”, and “All The Young Dudes”. Jean Meilleur did a lovely intro to “China Girl” for our modern audience, which was both appropriate to do, and necessary as well since today’s general public would not necessarily find the metaphors and images used in this song about addiction acceptable.

SSO Jeans n classics Shaun s perspective Oct 14 2017

photo from Shaun Dyksman’s facebook page.

During the set break, I chatted with sound tech, Shaun Dyksman who let me know that this was the first one of these concerts where he was stationed on the same level as the orchestra rather than in the sound booth up top. It was interesting for me to hear how his positioning changed how he approached the sound and the resulting sound as well. Apparently, being positioned high up, less of the bass carried up there so the tendency was to have too much bass put into the mix for the main floor. I’m happy to say that from row C, the sound was just great – well balanced and definitely not too heavy on the bass. The best sound techs are often overlooked because they are doing their job so well that we don’t notice them – when you don’t notice the balance, you know it’s just right – thanks for doing a great job, Shaun!!!

 

Set 2:

 

Set 2 included: “Space Oddity”, “Golden Years” (wap wap wap), “Sorrow”, “Young Americans”, “Life on Mars”, “Suffragette City”, “Fame”, and “Changes”. And, since Jean Meilleur hit and held a beautiful high note in “Life on Mars”, they could have technically included my fav David Bowie song, “Cat People” where Bowie holds the last syllable of “gasoline” for several life-fulfilling measures.

 

I must say that the band was wonderfully solid! They collectively brought together a wealth of experience and stagecraft to bring David Bowie back to life on stage through his music. I love the communication between Janna and the drummer, Paul DeLong – this kept everyone comfortably together on stage! We had Mitch Tyler on bass, we had Dave Dunlop on guitar, we had Donald Paulton on keyboards, we had Kathryn Rose and Lis Soderberg on backup vocals, and we had “JnC” Founder Peter Brennan on guitar – these musicians, along with Jean Meilleur on lead vocals, and help from charts on stage, made for a solid evening of Bowie Classics!

 

The Back up singers really caught my attention – not just because this is part of what I do on stage with my various projects but because they were just SO good!! Excellent energy on stage especially at the beginning of the concert! I like that they were right up front in front of the grand piano – their harmonies and coordinated dance moves really made the show! And I loved how Kathryn, Lis, Jean, and Janna all changed outfits during the set break – all about sparkles and black and white and greys!

 

The Orchestra – nicely done! You created the wall of sound necessary for some of the songs and more intimate sounds necessary for others! I even noticed some members rocking out here and there – especially toward the end of the concert!

 

I was so delighted to see Sheldon Corbett take some rockin’ sax solos (“Shel-Cor” as J M called him on stage)! As always, Sheldon, your solos were unassumingly and musically performed – beautiful and exactly what the songs needed!

 

We also got to hear solos from SSO members Don Schmidt – a beautiful ending trombone solo in one song, and Terry Heckman whom we heard do a solo in one song on piccolo trumpet – nicely done, both of you!!

 

I liked how things were changed up here and there in terms of instrumentation on stage. There was one song with just piano and vocals, and at least one other song that didn’t include the orchestra. This was good to clear the aural palate and reawaken it as well. And, it gave people on stage a break too.

 

After the final song of Set 2, we were on our feet – we gave our typical Saskatoon Standing Ovation (truly well-deserved!) and the Encore was “Under Pressure” by David Bowie and Queen. The opening almost universally known bass line had the whole crowd cheering – (I’m sure that more than a few people had “Ice Ice Baby” go off in their heads … the Vanilla Ice hip-hop song that borrowed from “Under Pressure” in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s …). This performance of the 1981 song “Under Pressure” gave Kathryn Rose a chance to truly shine singing Freddie Mercury’s part in this duet and she absolutely owned this! Good Vibes All Around!!

 

My one and only reservation about this concert was that I had hoped that Saskatoon would stand up and dance at this concert! Oh well … my friend Dawna and I did our version of chair dancing for much of it anyway!!! Thanks for a great evening, ALL!!!

 

Thanks for reading!! Rock On!!

-Anna

edited by Kevin Buzinski, PhD

– Anna Bekolay, BMusEd, ARCT

soprano, violinist, teacher, adjudicator

Anna Marie Bekolay has her Bachelor of Music in Music Education, Orff Level 1, a gold medal ARCT in Voice Performance, and grade 10 Violin RCM. Anna has performed as a soloist and in a variety of ensembles over the years, including Saskatoon Opera Chorus, National Youth Choir of Canada, Collegium Musicum, Voci Strane, and the drowned. Ms Bekolay is continually advancing her musicality through attending and performing in concerts. Her current projects include: Back of the Bus, Troubadours du Bois, The Whiskey Jerks, Mac Talla Quartet, The Stephanies, and her most recently released album “Songs In Loving Memory of My Father” – a recording project of classical vocal pieces exploring the grieving process and dedicated to the memory of her father – recorded under the stage name: Anna Maria Soparlo. Anna is also involved in a variety of freelance collaborations that come up here and there, including this past summer’s Fringe production of “Brel”, and the upcoming SWAG – Saskatchewan Wearable Art Gala.

In addition to rehearsing, performing, and recording, Anna is an adjudicator for the Saskatchewan Music Festival Association and runs Anna Bekolay’s Studio – a very busy Music Studio at her home teaching Voice, Violin, Recorder, and Fiddle. Anna makes her home in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

https://annabekolaysstudio.wordpress.com/anna-bekolays-studio/

 

Review of Opening Night with James Ehnes and the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra: Saturday, Sept 23, 2017

Welcome back and welcome to a new season with the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra! This is season 87!!! Opening night began with some opening comments from Mark Turner, SSO’s esteemed Executive Director. In his opening comments, Mark mentioned some of the really wonderful performers who will be in the spotlight this season including Jan Lisiecki, & Tanya Tagak! He also mentioned that this is our 3rd year with Eric Paetkau as SSO’s Music Director!! Thank you to both Mark and Eric for all the work they do to challenge and feature the talents and efforts of our symphony orchestra!

 

For Home by Kevin Lao

The concert opened with a 2 minute piece by Canadian composer, Kevin Lao – “For Home” is his musical tribute to Canada and it was one of the 2-minute pieces commissioned for Canada’s 150th. The piece itself made use of the orchestra beautifully – introducing a simple lilting melody in one section that meanders through the work and through the sections of the orchestra. In my mind it combined sounds similar to the work of Elgar and Grieg with an extra inviting sense of comfort. The lilting, whimsical theme travels through the orchestra and is developed and harmonized richly using the entire orchestra, ending with a return to simplicity. In the composer’s own words: “The simple, folk-like melody which recurs throughout the brief course of this work represents my best attempt at capturing feelings too complex for words.”

 

After this comforting piece, Eric Paetkau spoke to the audience a bit. There was no microphone on stage for him to use, so he had to use his own ability to project. Mr. Paetkau: your projection is on point – very clear from the 2nd balcony in any case! Eric spoke a bit about the opening piece and passionately about the exploration of Czech folk music and the lush romantic harmonies in the Dvorak coming up as the final piece of the concert. He also gave a lovely introduction to the star of the night: James Ehnes! As a side note, I was personally pleased to hear Eric’s un-amplified voice since it tuned our ears up for all the subtleties the SSO and James Ehnes were about to explore in the Beethoven.

SSO and James Ehnes Sept 23 2017

photo taken from the SSO facebook page

Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D Major Op 61

When I first heard that James Ehnes would be our soloist for this concert, I was over the moon excited about it. Every time I get to hear him play on the radio (French CBC 88.7 FM), I know it’s him before they announce it – from his clarity: clarity of tone, phrasing, expressiveness, and communication – creating simple, understandable beauty in the music he plays – leading us along so that we can really absorb it.

 

And so, James was in fine form with the SSO – leading us through the Beethoven – Beethoven’s only violin concerto – with dynamic expressivity and deep understanding of the demands of the piece – stretching the expressivity in exploring especially the quieter possibilities with the violin – inviting the orchestra to dig deep into their abilities with piano and pianissimo playing in supporting parts.

 

Beethoven’s violin concerto begins with a long exposition in the orchestra that outlines the gorgeous themes in the first movement. Introduced by the timpani, the long lines are first expressed in the woodwinds with a liquid quality to the phrasing, which is carried through the orchestra to the solo violin part when it eventually comes in. During the orchestra’s introduction, James stood in a ready, but relaxed stance helping the audience to be ready and relaxed in our anticipation of the violin’s entry.

 

For me, the highlights in this performance were specifically James’ cadenzas – so typical of his style and clarity of interpretation – a real treat to hear it in person! I was also pleased to hear so much dynamic expressivity in a concerto in both the soloist’s part and in the orchestra – I feel like our orchestra may well have gained in expressive ability through this particular work with this particular artist! It was also a treat to be able to see some of the communication going on between soloist and conductor at transition points between cadenza sections and full orchestra sections.

 

As in all Beethoven – the herald of the Romantic movement – the first movement of the concerto could have been a piece unto itself with all it’s Romantic explorations of thematic development. The second movement is graced with a powerful and recurring harmonized motif that is first introduced in the orchestra and is later explored in the soloist’s cadenza.

 

After the suspended feeling of the 2nd movement and the brilliant mini-cadenza at the end of it, James launched unassumingly into the Rondo – the 3rd movement – with a carefully chosen tempo – definitely moderato throughout the movement – which created its own kind of excitement in the return of the Rondo theme again and again: an elegant dance tempo!

 

We gave James a well-deserved standing ovation and he graced us with an encore: the final section of Bach’s 3rd Sonata for solo violin – an excellent display of the capabilities of both the instrument (the “Marsick” Stradivarius of 1715) and the player! Thank you so much for coming back to Saskatoon, James – looking forward to next time!!!!

 

Dvořák’s 8th Symphony in G Major Op 88

After intermission, we were treated to Dvořák’s 8th Symphony. How I adore Dvořák! I was raised on his 9th symphony and studied the 7th at university. I never consciously paid attention to Dvořák’s 8th symphony and as Eric Paetkau mentions in his Music Notes video, the 8th symphony is very different from the more well-known 7th and 9th symphonies. So, I expected that this concert would be my introduction to Dvořák’s 8th symphony. The first 2 movements were unfamiliar to me, but as soon as they launched into the 3rd movement, I was there with them inside the music to the end – the 3rd and 4th movements were far more familiar to me for some reason.

 

This is the kind of work that makes me wish I was a conductor – so many fun and enticing tempo changes! Much like some of Brahms’ work! As in most of Dvořák’s work, he explores themes with roots in his beloved Czech/Bohemian background throughout this symphony. One of the most exciting parts for me was the Trumpet fanfare that heralds in the 4th movement. The symphony comes to a close with a wild dancing theme that caught and held our attention beautifully! This is one of the best and most exciting endings to a piece and to a concert done with great energy and flare worthy of an immediate standing ovation!

 

 

This marks a great opening to Season 87!! See you at the Symphony for a wonderfully entertaining year celebrating talent and the Performing Arts!!

 

Thanks for reading,

-Anna

– Anna Bekolay, BMusEd, ARCT

soprano, violinist, teacher, adjudicator

Anna Marie Bekolay has her Bachelor of Music in Music Education, Orff Level 1, a gold medal ARCT in Voice Performance, and grade 10 Violin RCM. Anna has performed as a soloist and in a variety of ensembles over the years, including Saskatoon Opera Chorus, National Youth Choir of Canada, Collegium Musicum, Voci Strane, and the drowned. Ms Bekolay is continually advancing her musicality through attending and performing in concerts. Her current projects include: Back of the Bus, Troubadours du Bois, The Whiskey Jerks, Mac Talla Quartet, The Stephanies, a recording project of classical vocal pieces dedicated to the memory of her father – recorded under the stage name: Anna Maria Soparlo, and a variety of freelance collaborations that come up here and there.

In addition to rehearsing, performing, and recording, Anna is an adjudicator for the Saskatchewan Music Festival Association and runs Anna Bekolay’s Studio – a very busy Music Studio at her home teaching Voice, Violin, Recorder, and Fiddle. Anna makes her home in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

https://annabekolaysstudio.wordpress.com/anna-bekolays-studio/

Review of SSO’s O Canada! concert featuring percussionist Bryan Allen and narrator Carol Greyeyes.

I was very fortunate to be able to attend the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra (SSO) concert last night. Much of the music is still with me today even though I have 3 very different rehearsals coming up later today.

Last night’s concert was one of a kind – long anticipated and fully Canadian. SSO Executive Director, Mark Turner told me after the concert that he thought this up several years ago and was pleased that the program fit together perfectly – like pieces of a puzzle. The programming was all Works by Canadian composers and included a Canadian Swearing in Ceremony. And, 3 of the 4 Canadian Works were World Premieres!

I noticed that the house lights stayed partially up for this concert – an interesting experience where instead of the darkness of the concert hall vs the brightness of the stage, we were all lit up to a certain degree – it felt in a way like we were even more part of the programming going on onstage.

Before the concert began, 2 volunteers from the SSO book and music sale presented Mark Turner with a cheque from this year’s sale!

 

New Canadians

Photo credit: taken from SSO’s facebook page – presumably photos are by Electric Umbrella.

The concert began with a short fanfare of a piece: Elan: Sesquie for Canada’s 150th by Derek Charke – a broad triumphant sweep that was over too soon and heralded in the Canadian Oath of Citizenship Ceremony – very powerful words spoken about being Canadian and becoming Canadian preceded this and the audience was invited to take part reaffirming their Canadian citizenship as well. 20 new Canadians were sworn in during this ceremony followed by the communal singing of O Canada with orchestral accompaniment – a truly proud moment.

Bryan in actionThe Shaman, Concerto for Percussion and Orchestra by Vincent Ho – featuring the Barefoot Shaman himself: percussionist Bryan Allen … inviting, evocative, compelling, leaving no recourse but to come along for the ride. The titles of each section of this work describe perfectly what is happening musically in each section.

I.        Ritual  – the title says it all – and, you really had to be there to experience this music – primal, primeval, all encompassing.

II.       Fantasia – Nostalgia   – this section explores keyboard percussion – vibraphone & marimba offset by orchestral shots of various sorts – brass, strings, percussion, woodwinds, echoes and tender moments with piano and vibes in duet backed up by low strings and intermittent brass – very much nostalgic in character.

          Interlude – Conjuring the Spirits – energetic, exciting, mysterious, gripping      musical and percussive storytelling.

III.       Fire Dance – a whirling dervish style opening in the strings, brass, woodwinds, and of course percussion – driving forward throughout this movement.

 

Carol Greyeyes O Canada concertAfter intermission, Raven Steals the Light by John Oliver was performed – presented by SSO and narrator, Carol Greyeyes. Storytelling in words and music invited us into a magical world creating images with words and music – a fascinating story that brought light back to the world of darkness.

Four Seasons of the Canadian Flag by John Burge closed the program. Beginning with Summer, each season was heralded in evocatively – sweeping Romantic melodies for Summer, cold high notes for Fall, deep rumbles for Winter (that included nostalgic bits of heart wrenching, longing melodies), and tremolos and trills in the strings to herald in Spring! My favourite moment in this work involved the perfect unison of tambourine (Bryan Allen) and snare drum (Brad Litster I believe) – so clear, clean, precise, locked in – this reflects the epitome of technical artistry.

To end off his introduction, Mark Turner, SSO Executive Director quoted Frank Zappa: “Talking about music is like dancing about architecture”. Challenge accepted, Mark Turner and Frank Zappa! We will dance about architecture in my improv dance group this week!

Thank you, Bryan Allen for your intense, focused, inside-the-music performance – you are an inspirational musician and performer. Thank you, Carol Greyeyes for your beautiful and entertaining narration. Thank you to every member of the SSO – what a fantastic concert and superior season – looking forward to what next season brings!! Thank you Eric Paetkau for your artistic brilliance and inspiring leadership – thus far, you have created beautiful, straightforward, evocative, and compelling clarity with our orchestra and I can see there is more to come – looking forward to every moment. Thank you of course to Mark Turner for all his inspirations and enthusiasm – you definitely deserve your holiday, sir!!! Thank you to everyone else involved in making these concerts successful!! Here’s to more SSO success – check out their Share in the Future campaign.

Thanks to my Kevi B for attending the concert with me and for helping me to refocus and come down from the excitement of the concert experience enough to relive it and reflect on the experience.

On a side note – there were a couple interesting sub-plots going on onstage – first, the positioning and re-positioning of the orchestral wind chimes … by string players … and also, Concert Master Michael Swan was bearded for the first half of the program and un-bearded for the second half of the program … curious and intriguing!!

What a way to wrap up a season!!! Bravo Bryan, Bravo SSO, Bravo Mark, Bravo tutti & merci beaucoup beaucoup – looking forward to the treasures of next season!

Thanks for reading,

-Anna

– Anna Bekolay, BMusEd, ARCT

soprano, violinist, teacher, adjudicator

Anna Marie Bekolay has her Bachelor of Music in Music Education, Orff Level 1, a gold medal ARCT in Voice Performance, and grade 10 Violin RCM. Anna has performed as a soloist and in a variety of ensembles over the years, including Saskatoon Opera Chorus, National Youth Choir of Canada, Collegium Musicum, Voci Strane, and the drowned. Ms Bekolay is continually advancing her musicality through attending and performing in concerts. Her current projects include: Back of the Bus, Troubadours du Bois, The Whiskey Jerks, Mac Talla Quartet, The Stephanies, a recording project of classical vocal pieces that will be released soon and dedicated to her late father, and a variety of freelance collaborations that come up here and there – including a show with Flamenco Borealis in June at The Bassment.

In addition to rehearsing, performing, and recording, Anna is an adjudicator for the Saskatchewan Music Festival Association and runs Anna Bekolay’s Studio – a very busy Music Studio at her home teaching Voice, Violin, Recorder, and Fiddle. Anna makes her home in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

Review of SSO’s Ukrainian Oratorio concert, March 25, 2017

SSO Mar 25 17 Carissa & Spock

Carissa Klopoushak, Eric Paetkau, & SSO – photo taken from SSO’s facebook page

March 25th, 2017: Ukrainian Oratorio: This concert was close to my heart because my late father was adopted and raised by a Ukrainian-Polish man and a Norwegian-English woman – so, he grew up with and raised us with a lot of Ukrainian culture and reverence for the cultures and traditions – especially at Christmas and Easter time.

Mark Turner, Executive Director of the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra (SSO) greeted us with a reference to the slogan that SSO is using for the upcoming season: “You have to be in the room” – because that’s what Live Music is all about – actually being there experiencing it – Live Music is An Experience that cannot be had without being there. He went on to mention that the SSO will be embarking on recording projects over the next 4 years (very exciting and it’s definitely time for SSO to do this!!). Mark also mentioned all the wonderful things in store for next season – definitely time to become a subscriber!

The SSO’s next fundraising campaign “Share in the Future” will include attendance at a recording session for all donors who give $100 or more during this fundraising campaign.

There was so much good energy in the lobby and in the auditorium for this concert – much anticipation and excitement! The concert began with a work by Emily Doolittle: Sapling – played by violin soloist Carissa Klopoushak and the SSO.

i. branching

ii. bending

iii. leafy green

The music told so many little stories through motivic imitation – imitation of small musical ideas throughout the orchestra. Mark mentioned to me at intermission that he was reminded of echoes and there were moments when it was hard to tell who was echoing whom (soloist and orchestra).

In composer, Emily Doolittle’s own words – quoting from the program:

     “Many of my pieces are inspired by sounds, imagery, or processes from the natural world. In the case of Sapling, the musical ideas came first, and it is only after I had written the piece that I realized that it followed an organic process of development that made me think of the growth of a tree. The first movement begins with a persistent repeated note motive in the solo violin, which pushes its way upwards through a series of loud, percussive orchestra chords, before spreading outwards into a mist of overlapping, branching figures. The second movement, too, grows out of repeated note, this time gentle and flexible, swaying and bending like a sapling in the wind. The third movement explores the various colours of the orchestra, as the sapling buds and bursts into leaf and flower. Sapling was commissioned by the Canada Council for the Arts for Calvin Dyck and the Vancouver Island Symphony in 2014.”

Carissa Klopoushak, a commanding presence on stage, played with great mastery and complete awareness – it was really breath-taking to see and hear her in action – to experience that presence on stage – that complete awareness, that complete immersion in the music, and her complete command of her instrument – just that experience alone was already worth the ticket price. Possibly because of Carissa’s immersion in Ukrainian music, the motivic elements of this piece seemed to reflect a Ukrainian flavour – which is not outside Emily Doolittle’s realm of creativity – often based on folklore. I was so very inspired by the freshness and modern-ness of the music and the many wonderful folk-like and possibly folk-inspired rhythms and ideas.

After the delicate echoes of Doolittle’s Sapling and our enthusiastic applause for Carissa and the SSO died away, The Golden Harvest by Larysa Kuzmenko was performed – A Ukrainian Oratorio incorporating Ukrainian folk music performed by SSO joined by Greystone Singers (Dr Jennifer Lang conductor), U of S Chorus (James Hawn, conductor), and vocal soloists Kateryna Khartova, soprano and Joel Allison, bass-baritone.

Where Sapling was filled with delicious rhythmic and melodic tidbits and clarity of statement and imitation, The Golden Harvest embraced a full rich Romantic and post-Romantic musical language – much akin to film music in its drama and storytelling. The chorus alternated with the soloists singing in English and in Ukrainian. The Oratorio with lyrics by Talia Zajac, told the story of Ukrainian immigration in 3 parts: 1. Journey, 2. Struggle, 3. Settlement: the hopes, the hard work, the loss, the despair, the war-time struggles and hopelessness, separation, imprisonment and ill-treatment, and ultimately the joy of reunion and reaping the harvest of hard work that went into the golden harvest of red fife wheat: “The music ends on a very optimistic note, with full orchestra and choir, celebrating the harvest that became one of the economic engines of Canada, and our most important international export.” – L Kuzmenko, 2016.

SSO Mar 25 17 Katya Joel and chorus

Kateryna Khartova, Joel Allison, SSO, chorus: Greystone Singers and U of S Chorus

– photo from SSO facebook page

During the oratorio, there were moments of complete clarity in the chorus and moments that incorporated gorgeous instrumental solos in the orchestra: cello solos played by Principal cellist, Lahni Russell, a sweet violin solo played by Concertmaster, Michael Swan, and “an ominous oboe solo” (L Kuzmenko) played by Principal oboist, Erin Brophey. There were wonderfully dramatic moments involving trumpets and percussion – great big, thrilling sounds to experience and feel in person – the vocal soloists used these moments dramatically by standing up during them prior to singing. Both Kateryna and Joel were completely immersed in their knowledge of the piece and engaging in the presentation of their parts.

Kateryna’s gorgeous soprano voice soared beautifully and expressively over the orchestra expressing a mother’s fear for her children and husband. I loved Joel’s characterization and his presence vocally, physically, and dramatically in his rich bass-baritone solos. The timpani (played by Principal timpanist Darrell Bueckert) played a huge role in setting the tone of this piece along with masterful snare drum & bass drum playing by Bryan Allen (Principal percussionist), and Kevin Grady with military precision and artistic flare. Great balance between orchestra and soloists and then the thrilling combination of orchestra, chorus, and soloists all together for the ending of this piece added a triumphant note! The end of The Golden Harvest had people in the audience on their feet clapping and cheering wildly!!

After Intermission, the SSO played Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No 2 in C minor Op 17 with great energy and focus from beginning to end!!! In SSO conductor, Eric Paetkau’s words (from his interview with Kateryna Kartova), “Tchaikovsky was a Russian composer but had big Ukrainian roots. He would spend his summers at his sister’s family in the Ukraine. In his 2nd Symphony, he uses 3 Ukrainian folk tunes in the 1st, 2nd, and 4th movements and it actually is nicknamed ‘Little Russia’ which at the time, that’s what Ukraine was called: Little Russia. And so, there’s a wonderful tie between Tchaikovsky’s use of Ukrainian folk song and how he incorporates that into the Russian orchestral tradition …”

This symphony starts off with a Ukrainian folk tune played inspiringly by Principal horn player, Carol-Marie Cottin – this is echoed shortly thereafter on bassoon by Principal bassoonist, Stephanie Unverricht. The orchestra goes on to elaborate on elements of the folk tune in imitative and expansive Romantic style. Intimate moments alternate with orchestral building and thrilling orchestral largess throughout the work. I was taken with the exuberant energy with which the orchestra members approached this work – at the end of an engaging concert! Their efforts certainly paid off in the glorious finale to this work. We were on our feet again in the audience at the end of the Tchaikovsky!

Huge thanks from the bottom of my heart to everyone involved in bringing this concert to us here in Saskatoon – featuring 2 Canadian composers and celebrating Ukrainian music! A really wonderful commemoration of 125 years of Ukrainian culture in Canada. There was a true feeling of community in the audience and it was wonderful to see so many friends there – for me, it had a bit of a feel of family reunion.

Dad s Christmas table pic by Auntie Marie

photo credit: Marie Bekolay

Thanks for reading,

-Anna

– Anna Bekolay, BMusEd, ARCT

soprano, violinist, teacher, adjudicator

Anna Marie Bekolay has her Bachelor of Music in Music Education, Orff Level 1, a gold medal ARCT in Voice Performance, and grade 10 Violin RCM. Anna has performed as a soloist and in a variety of ensembles over the years, including Saskatoon Opera Chorus, National Youth Choir of Canada, Collegium Musicum, Voci Strane, and the drowned. Ms Bekolay is continually advancing her musicality through attending and performing in concerts. Her current projects include: Back of the Bus, Troubadours du Bois, The Whiskey Jerks, Mac Talla Quartet, The Stephanies, a recording project of classical vocal pieces, and a variety of freelance collaborations that come up here and there.

In addition to rehearsing, performing, and recording, Anna is an adjudicator for the Saskatchewan Music Festival Association and runs Anna Bekolay’s Studio – a very busy Music Studio at her home teaching Voice, Violin, Recorder, and Fiddle. Anna makes her home in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

Review of Jan Lisiecki in Recital Feb 22, 2017 – fundraiser for SSO

jan-in-action-by-michelle-aalders

Photo credit: Michelle Aalders

Last night, I had the honour of attending Jan Lisiecki’s 2nd Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra fundraiser concert – 2 nights in a row held at Convocation Hall, University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon. The program was beautifully thought out and put together. On first glance at the program, it was a little daunting. The life that Jan breathes into his music is truly inspiring – it really is like hearing the music again for the very first time.

 This was advertised as “An Encore” performance and unsurprisingly, there was indeed an encore – the gorgeous Träumerei (Reverie) by Robert Schumann. Jan played his encore to a most quiet, attentive audience. To me, this reflects real communication – we hung on every note, and he kept our attention in his hands. I have heard Jan play this piece before – this time, it was not only the most sensitively played interpretation, it was also the most gently played – he had me almost holding my breath waiting for the first left hand chord that enters after the initial melody notes in the right hand and the gentle placement of that chord was so tender and reflective it brought me to tears.

The overarching themes throughout the program involved exploration of major and minor keys, calmness, and intensity in addition to connected phrases that reach for and lead to the ends of each section and to the end of each piece. Jan opened the program with Bach’s Partita No 3 in A minor, BWV 827. There was barely a breath between dance movements in his performance of this. I was struck by the clarity of the musical ideas  – that and the simplicity of it all – making not so simple movements sound simply beautiful with clear connection within and between phrases creating an overarching drive to the end. Youthful energy really drove this. I also had the impression of freedom to play in a playful manner inside the music – showing a deep understanding and curiosity about the music in the playing. At least one of the movements – likely the Scherzo – made me want to get up and dance!jan-concentrating

Jan Lisiecki in recital – photo taken from the SSO facebook page

Following the Bach, Jan played Four Klavierstücke, Op. 32 by Schumann: Scherzo, Gigue, Romanze, & Fughette – Jan indicated that these pieces were much influenced by Schumann’s study of Bach around the time when they were written which is specifically reflected by the titles Gigue and Fughette – both Baroque dance forms. The pieces themselves are very much Romantic in nature with some almost jazzy and modern themes in the Scherzo, a very exciting and passionate Romanze, and again very modern themes in the Fughette. Speaking of jazz, there were a few jazzy moments that came up here and there in the concert and because Jan plays so clearly, I was reminded a bit of Oscar Peterson’s playing – so clean, clear, and easy to follow.

The first half of the program closed with Frédéric Chopin’s Scherzo No. 1 in B minor, Op 20. “Scherzo” means “Joke” in Italian. Jan pointed out in his articulate and endearing introduction that this Scherzo is definitely not a joke – it is very expressive and powerful in both the fast first part and in the tender Polish lullaby middle section – an evocative reflection on the dark times during which this piece was written. The transition from the slow middle section to the final fast section includes some very ominous chords – used incredibly well to prepare the audience for the return to the darkness of the fast section. I love how Jan brought out a particular melodic bit in the fast section – very emotional, expressive, and insistent.

After intermission, the program got started again with more Chopin: 2 Nocturnes, Op. 48: Lento in C minor and Andantino in F# minor. There was just enough pause between these night pieces to allow for the C minor to fade before the F# minor came in. Jan spoke about Nocturnes before he played and we could definitely hear the dreams and nightmares and sleeplessness and sleepiness in the themes he brought out throughout both Nocturnes – there were some incredibly loud nightmares and some very exciting dreams that contrasted with exceptionally calm moments in these Nocturnes.

The concert came to a close with 4 Impromptus, Op. 142 by Franz Schubert. Jan mentioned that Schumann, speaking of these 4 Schubert Impromptus, said that these really should be a sonata or a suite of pieces because of their thematic and key relationships: 1 in F minor, 2 in A-flat major (the relative major key to F minor), 3 in B-flat major (the dominant of F minor), and 4 in F minor (a return home). Jan expressed his pleasure in being able to present these pieces all in a row verbally and then through his piano playing. I overheard another patron expressing how much they enjoyed where they were sitting because it allowed them to see the emotional involvement on Jan’s face while he played – a very different experience from just watching his fingers. Impromptu No. 2 in A-flat major included a bit of a Polish Dance in the left hand – the “short Long, short Long” rhythm was definitely brought out in a fun Polish Dance manner! The B-flat major one is a very famous theme and variations – I’m sure we were all singing along in our heads! The final F minor Impromptu was a wild Roma / Gypsy Frenzy with some Spanish Dance influence too. The exquisite flare that came with the ending of this piece had the audience cheering and clapping wildly, giving an enthusiastic Saskatoon standing ovation. Bravo Jan!!! And, Thank you – from the bottom of my heart!!

Before the program began, the SSO’s Executive Director, Mark Turner gave an introduction. Mark’s introduction reminded us why music and live performances are even more relevant and important in this day and age – a bringing together of people of various backgrounds and experiences in a time where there is more than a tendency toward dividedness. Together, we are stronger. Let music continue to bring us together!

Thanks for reading,

-Anna

– Anna Bekolay, BMusEd, ARCT

soprano, violinist, teacher, adjudicator

Anna Marie Bekolay has her Bachelor of Music in Music Education, Orff Level 1, a gold medal ARCT in Voice Performance, and grade 10 Violin RCM. Anna has performed as a soloist and in a variety of ensembles over the years, including Saskatoon Opera Chorus, National Youth Choir of Canada, Collegium Musicum, Voci Strane, and the drowned. Ms Bekolay is continually advancing her musicality through attending and performing in concerts. Her current projects include: Back of the Bus, Troubadours du Bois, The Whiskey Jerks, Mac Talla Quartet, The Stephanies, a recording project of classical vocal pieces, and a variety of freelance collaborations that come up here and there.

In addition to rehearsing, performing, and recording, Anna is an adjudicator for the Saskatchewan Music Festival Association and runs Anna Bekolay’s Studio – a very busy Music Studio at her home teaching Voice, Violin, Recorder, and Fiddle. Anna makes her home in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.