VIX Sound+Light+Motion

Banff Percussion Concert

by on Jun.22, 2009, under Concerts, Motorcycles

phone interpreting

Yesterday was the solstice, the longest day of the year and I woke up in overcast Calgary and prepared to go to Gavin and Rikki’s wedding. My daughter, Jhayne and her boyfriend, Tony, and I all got ready and piled into a cab. We arrived at the Strathcona Community Centre and my daughter began her task as the official wedding photographer. I brought my video camera and let Jhayne take the pictures.

The ceremony was a Wiccan hand-fasting and the group formed a procession to the standing stones in the park. It was a beautiful, sacred ceremony that was deeply meaningful. I was happy to take part in such a symbolic and emotionally moving event. As we were involved in the ceremony, the skies cleared and I decided to ride off into the sunset. The forecast had predicted rain until Tues and clearing Wed and I really had to get back to Vancouver. The ceremony was complete and Tony returned with me in a cab and helped me pack my motorcycle.

The ride from Calgary to Banff is not very long and the green fields glowed in the westerly light.  The Alberta landscape has an intense green from the recent rain that is bursting with growth and life. I could see the rain ahead of me and stopped to put on my sweater and fasten the rain flaps on my Technic rain pants. There was a light rain before I entered the Rockies, clearing for a while, then it really started to pour around Canmore.

I rode carefully, but quickly because there was a concert in Banff that I did not want to miss. The rain lightened once I was in Banff and, as I am now familiar with the territory, I was able to proceed quickly to the Banff Centre. I arrived just in time to greet a few of my friends and find a chair before the “Roots and Rhizomes Outdoor Concert” began.

The first part of the concert was inside and the audience was treated to superb performances of the percussion classics “Ionisation” by Edgard Varese and “Persephassa” by Iannis Xenakis. The audience was appreciative and the weather continued to clear. The Program Director, Steven Schick, decided to hold the rest of the concert outside in the ampitheatre as the composer had written the piece to be played outdoors.

As the percussionists and techs moved the instruments and recording equipment outside, I raced to get my camera. I arrived back just in time to hear the start of “Inuksuit” by John Luther Adams. The program notes translate the title as “to act in the capacity of a human” and the atmosphere of a tribal gathering in a clearing on a mountaintop was reinforced by the lingering Solstice twilight.

The piece was far more intense than I expected. The sacred space that was created at the beginning was maintained throughout and the beauty of the instruments, as an addition to the natural setting, placed us as part of the ecosystem of the mountain.  I moved from one side into the centre and then to a different side, moving in a clockwise direction as the Wiccan priestess had directed at the ceremony.  The section with the drums and conch shells reminded me of early Hawaiian music reconstructions I had heard on recordings, but the sound of the conches echoing through the mountain air as they started with call and response across the large circle and moved into harmonic tones, could never be duplicated in a recording. The environment, the mountain air and the energy of the audience all contributed to the impact.

When I first read the notes about the percussion program at Banff, I was concerned that it would be another program that continued in the classical mold (sic) — I did not recognize the new compositions as there are several world premieres on the list. Steven Schick assured me that it was in fact, an innovative and exciting program and I have found the two concerts I was able to attend deeply moving and precisely played. The work by Mark Applebaum during Friday’s concert was also a world premiere and the different movements were full of charm and wit.

0023stephen-shick-sm1 Steven Schick is a charming, warm individual who has brought a wealth of innovative percussion education to Banff and I feel privileged to have met him.  I will write more about the Thursday concert that displayed, not only his skills as a percussionist and educator, but his formidable conducting. He has a superb ictus and a style that is clear and welcomes parts to enter, rather than commanding them. It made for a wonderful performance of Bela Bartok’s masterpiece of Music for Strings and Percussion.

The Mark Applebaum piece deserves its own paragraph, but for now, I must ride.


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