January and February 2017

2017 has gotten off to an artistically satisfying start with wonderful projects and collaborations in January and February.

At the end of January, I had a sort of follow-up from last year’s Ontario mini-tour: a shared piano recital at the Canadian Music Centre in Toronto with Jialiang Zhu, a colloquium presentation at Queen’s University in Kingston, and masterclasses and visits with dear friends and colleagues in Ottawa.

IMG_4166reduced
After the concert in Toronto, Randolph and I decided to make peace signs and/or bunny ears. Jialiang, ever the consummate professional, seems to have decided not to.

For the recital in Toronto, I had the great pleasure of revisiting Randolph Peters’s exhilarating Hallucinations – the commissioned work of the 36th E-Gré Competition, and a piece I’ve performed on and off since 2013. I had a great meeting with Randolph in Winnipeg the day before the concert; it was inspiring to play for him again and discuss how our perceptions and ideas of the piece have changed over the years. It was so a thrill to reconnect with my dear friend Jialiang and hear her give stunning performances of works by Debussy, Mussorgsky and Jeffrey Ryan.

In Toronto and Kingston, I also gave performances of Jörg Widmann’s Hallstudie. I’m still not exactly sure how to describe this piece. It’s pushed me to explore so many new sound sources inside and outside the piano, and it’s forced me to reconsider the theatrical aspect of piano performance on stage. I’ve had a fabulous time working on this piece – it had been on my repertoire wish list since 2010! – and I’m looking forward to a few more performances coming up this year. Oh, and this piece (with a generous assist from Randolph) has also given me this gif, which I think covers most of my promotional materials for the year.

Animated GIF  - Find & Share on GIPHY

Up next was a February appearance with the Brandon Chamber Players in a concert featuring an all-T. Patrick Carrabré program. I performed his piano trio Firebrand with violinist Kerry DuWors and cellist Leanne Zacharias. It was a thrill to bring this piece to life with such brilliant partners – but somehow it was even more exciting to be part of such an emotionally charged and warmhearted evening. Pat has been a great influence on me for many years, always extremely generous in his personal support – and I was so grateful for the opportunity to help celebrate his contributions to Canadian music and to the local community in Brandon.

So, that’s where things stand for now! March is going to be absolutely nuts in the best possible way. I’m hunkering down to learn three brand new pieces to be premiered at the Cluster: New Music and Interactive Arts Festival in Winnipeg very soon! I’ll have more to say about these projects in the coming days.

Slightly Fewer Ears

 My podcast ALL EARS is finished now.

I’ve been clinging on to a faint belief that I could still find a way to do it and work at the same time. This is proving impossible, so rather than continuing to carry a torch for this thing, and rather than feeling guilty and disappointed in myself for neglecting it, I’m just going to put it to sleep.

Thank you to everyone I spoke to, everyone who listened, and everyone who encouraged me. Sincere apologies to the few people who recorded interviews that didn’t get published – I’m sorry I couldn’t find a way to keep this thing alive. It was a fun project for me and I’m proud of what it was. I’m so fortunate to have such inspiring friends and colleagues who consistently show me new possibilities and model what professional musicianship is all about.

Special thanks to Donna Lowe and Geordie Waddell who were my unofficial podcast advisory panel, even if they didn’t always know it, and to Isabelle Kilimnik who made a beautiful logo for me out of the kindness of her heart. She’s a kickass real-life designer and everyone should hire her to make beautiful things.

The show is no longer a ‘podcast’, in the sense that it’s not possible to subscribe to an RSS feed to hear the episodes. Instead, I’ve posted the episodes on YouTube and embedded the videos into the original posts below. I’ll keep this up here as an archive.

But ALL EARS is no more. For now, it’s SLIGHTLY FEWER EARS. Love to you all.

Casalmaggiore International Music Festival 2016

I sometimes find it hard to describe what exactly the Casalmaggiore International Music Festival has come to mean to me.

Every July, the peaceful Italian town of Casalmaggiore welcomes musicians from around the world. We stay for three weeks. We perform at least two concerts, daily. We practice and rehearse with intense motivation and fervour. We absorb as much of the local culture as we can.

I owe so much of my musical development to the incredible challenges and opportunities this environment has presented to me these past years, and through it, I have become part of an incredibly supportive community of friends, colleagues, and mentors.

with violinist Ágnes Langer
with violinist Ágnes Langer (photo: Gigi Ghezzi)

This summer I had the great honour of joining the Festival as a staff collaborative pianist. There were a whole lot of performances, many more than what I’d usually tackled, and I enjoyed rising to the challenge of preparing and performing so much repertoire. In between, I sat in on lessons with most of the faculty, reconnected with dear friends, made some outstanding new ones, played as much as my body and mind would let me, soaked up the atmosphere, the food, the heat, the enchantment.

Leaving Casalmaggiore and returning to “real life” is always a bit of an adjustment – but this year it’s felt like something has permanently changed inside me. I’m not able to put a finger on it yet, but I feel more confident, more optimistic, more motivated than ever to continue growing into the musician I want to become. I’ll do my best to keep this going.

There are too many people to thank here, so I’ve done my best to share those sentiments privately. But I have to express my sincere gratitude to the people of Casalmaggiore for opening their arms, their hearts, and their ears to us year after year. It’s an incredible place. I hope very much to return.

photo: Sarah Yang
photo: Sarah Yang

Celebrating Canadian Chamber Music in Winnipeg

I was delighted to join an engaging group of musicians with strong Prairie connections for a celebration of Canadian Chamber Music in Winnipeg. Over the course of the evening, six musicians took the stage in various combinations to play works by Canadian composers. I joined violinist Joshua Peters for a duo performance of Omar Daniel’s Wild Honey, and performed Kelly-Marie Murphy’s second piano trio with Amy Hillis and Leana Rutt.

A pre-concert selfie with Sarah Jo Kirsch, Joshua Peters, Amy Hillis, Daniel Scholz and Leana Rutt. Photo: Sarah Jo Kirsch
A pre-concert backstage selfie with Sarah Jo Kirsch, Joshua Peters, Amy Hillis, Daniel Scholz and Leana Rutt. Photo: Sarah Jo Kirsch

Joshua Peters, winner of the 38th E-Gré Competition conceived and organized this wonderful evening at the University of Winnipeg’s Eckhardt-Gramatté Hall. Composers Randolph Peters and Kelly-Marie Murphy were in attendance to hear performances of their works.

The program began with a performance of Chausson’s beloved Chanson perpetuelle, introducing the audience to all six musicians including Sarah Jo Kirsch, soprano, and Daniel Scholz, principal violist of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra.

Playing with friends and sharing music with an engaged, receptive audience… what could be better? Thanks to all for a memorable evening.

Eckhardt-Gramatté Competition 2016

As many of my friends and supporters know, the Eckhardt-Gramatté National Music Competition holds a special place in my heart. As a two-time participant, multi-year volunteer and 2013 winner, I’ve been able to join an incredible network of musicians who celebrate and champion Canadian and contemporary music. I’m thrilled to be in Brandon for the 2016 Competition in Piano, where I will be contributing content for the Competition’s website and social media accounts.

My work in this regard has already begun – the semi-finalists have been generous enough to set aside some time from their busy schedules and have conversations with me about their connection to contemporary music and their preparation for the competition. These interviews are being posted on the E-Gré Website and on Facebook and Twitter. Hope you enjoy getting to meet some of these brilliant musicians, including past ALL EARS guests Jesse Plessis and Edward Enman. I’ll hope to sit down with many of these pianists for future ALL EARS episodes!

WMC McLellan Competition

I am delighted to share that I have been chosen as one of 12 semi-finalists for the WMC McLellan Competition presented by the Women’s Musical Club of Winnipeg.

Semi-final performances will take place at the Winnipeg Art Gallery on March 26, from 9:00 am – 4:00 pm. I’ll post an update when my performance time is confirmed.

I’m very pleased as well to see that my friends Jesse Plessis and Daniel Tselyakov have been invited to the competition. Best wishes to all the performers!

The full press release is available here.

January 2016 Ontario Dates

I’m delighted to celebrate the new year with a burst of activity in Ontario. This will be my first visit to the region since the 2013 E-Gré Tour and I’m excited to visit some new cities along the way. The program features premiere performances of Edward Enman‘s new piece for solo piano, “The Arrow of Time.” I’m also really looking forward to meeting composer Leonard Enns in Waterloo and revisiting his “Piano Sonata No. 1”.

 

January 25 – Toronto
Solo Recital, 7:30 p.m.
Canadian Music Centre, 20 St. Joseph Street
Tickets $15, available for purchase online or at the door
Facebook Event

Edward Enman: The Arrow of Time
Nicole Lizée: Vertigo Beach – Études pour piano à Tom Verlaine
Wolfgang Rihm: Klavierstück 6, “Bagatellen”
Douglas Finch: Preludes and Afterthoughts – Fantasy-Transcriptions on Chopin’s Preludes, op. 28

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January 27 – Waterloo
Solo Recital, 12:30 p.m.
presented by the University of Waterloo Music Department
Conrad Grebel University College Chapel, 140 Westmount Road North
Free admission

Leonard Enns: Piano Sonata No. 1
Edward Enman: The Arrow of Time
Douglas Finch: Preludes and Afterthoughts – Fantasy-Transcriptions on Chopin’s Preludes, op. 28

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January 31 – Ottawa
Solo Recital, 3:30 p.m.
City View United Church, 6 Epworth Avenue
Tickets $10/$30 for a family of 3 or more, available at the door
Facebook Event

Edward Enman: The Arrow of Time
Nicole Lizée: Vertigo Beach – Études pour piano à Tom Verlaine
Wolfgang Rihm: Klavierstück 6, “Bagatellen”
Douglas Finch: Preludes and Afterthoughts – Fantasy-Transcriptions on Chopin’s Preludes, op. 28

Canada Music Week

On November 21, I had the great pleasure to join the Westman Registered Music Teachers Association as a guest artist for their annual Canada Music Week event. This was a true celebration of Canadian repertoire: 18 young students performed piano pieces at The Music Studio in Brandon. I was so encouraged by these enthusiastic performances: these students are working hard with their teachers and developing a real appreciation for the music of our time.

photo by Ann Germani
photo by Ann Germani

I performed a favourite treasure in my repertoire, Chantale Laplante’s “For Piano, Tape and Conversation” alongside “Fragments” by Jordan Nobles. The students were interested in the mixture of live performance with multi-media audio, and by some prepared piano and extended techniques I tried out in “Fragments.” After the performance, four students stayed behind for a masterclass – this was a great opportunity to explore the joy of making music and challenge our creativity together.

Thanks very much to the Westman Registered Music Teachers Association for their kind invitation – I’ll look forward to hearing these students again as they continue their development.

earworms: Joshua Peters and Katherine Dowling, 2015 E-Gré Winner’s Tour

here’s another instalment of earworms.
from time to time, i’ll share my thoughts and reflections
on outstanding performances i’ve witnessed.

The Eckhardt-Gramatté Competition holds a special place in my heart – through my involvement as a two-time participant and longtime fan and volunteer, I’ve become part of a thriving network of young, connected and vibrant Canadian musicians making a real difference on the national scene. I was delighted to attend the 2015 Winner’s Tour concert in Brandon on Nov. 23, featuring violinist Joshua Peters and pianist Katherine Dowling.

Starting right from the just-audible, crystalline first notes of Vivian Fung’s “Birdsong”, Joshua and Katherine played with incredible confidence, drama and integrity – the kind of dedicated conviction that can only be earned through multiple repetitions of the same program and sincere understanding of the repertoire and of each other’s playing.

Alfred Schnittke’s “Violin Sonata No. 2” was a particular highlight. The piano and violin rarely play simultaneously in this piece; rather, the two musicians forge a texture of gestures caught and received, sounds thrown back and forth, gentle dialogues and violent interruptions. In the ferocious second movement, Katherine seemed to transform into some human-machine hybrid, repeatedly grinding thick G Minor chords from the piano. She played with raw mechanical power and a heavy-hearted, weary determination that maintained a brooding sense of fatalism and inevitability.

Joshua was a consummate storyteller: his introductions to the pieces were rich with personal connections. Through his words, composers became instantly relatable, fascinating characters. Ideas and images were described in vivid detail and with a gentle sense of humour. In Weinberg’s “Violin Sonata No. 5”, the folk-like character of melodic passages was twisted into darker and darker strands, accumulating heavy tragic weight. Joshua’s incredible range of sounds and colours shone throughout this wonderfully varied program, from a warm, embracing tone in John Estacio’s “Shades of a Romance” through curious flights, gritty pangs and exhausted croaks.

It was clear that beyond the experience of playing together, Joshua and Katherine simply enjoy listening to one another. Each gracefully retreated to the background – not just in sound, but also in physical presence – when they felt it was time for the other to be heard. This was a true collaboration, a joyous celebration of Canadian repertoire, a triumphant return to the scene of their success in May, and a warm invitation to open ears, hearts, and minds. (And I swear, those G minor chords are still reverberating somewhere in my soul). Thank you both for an unforgettable evening.

New Biography / E-Gré Tour 2015

I’ve updated my biography to reflect my current artistic practices. The English version is up for your reading pleasure – the German version is still under construction!

Violinist Joshua Peters and pianist Katherine Dowling begin the 2015 Eckhardt-Gramatté National Music Competition Winner’s Tour on Saturday, October 31 with multiple concerts and master classes across Canada. I’ll look forward to supporting them soon and I hope you’ll keep an eye out for this outstanding combination of musicians. Complete event listings can be found on the E-Gré Website. An ALL EARS interview with Joshua Peters, recorded in person this past summer in Casalmaggiore, will be posted on November 1.