Composer Steve Reich headlines NMF 2013 (Courtesy WSO)
Symphony Orchestra's New Music Festival celebrates its 22nd year by
welcoming internationally known composer Steve Reich to the festival for
the first time, along with a return visit from Scottish virtuoso
percussionist Evelyn Glennie. Gareth Farr, a diverse composer/performer
from New Zealand, will also be featured during the six day event.
SCENE has combed through the offerings this year, for a list of what's happening at this year's quintessential contemporary music festival.
NMF 1 - Opening night: Monday January 28 - 7:30 p.m. Centennial Concert Hall
This is the first year the Elmer Iseler Singers will be featured at the New Music Festival. This 20 voice professional choir based in Toronto was founded by Dr. Elmer Iseler in 1979. They will perform Peter Togni's Lamentations of the Prophet Jeremiah which is popular around the world. Last year's guest composer was the Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho. Her work Day of the Year will be performed.
NMF 2 - Tuesday January 29 - 7:30 p.m. Centennial Concert Hall
Composer Christos Hatzis is a festival favourite. To mark his 60th birthday, the WSO has commissioned him to write Redemption Book 3, a work inspired by Christianity.
NMF 3 - Wednesday January 30 - 7:30 p.m. Pantages Playhouse Theatre
Eric Whitacre is an American Grammy Award-winning composer, conductor and lecturer. Everyone is still talking about the virtual choir he started on YouTube last year, which incorporated 3,746 videos from singers in 73 countries.
NMF 4 - Thursday January 31 - 7:30 p.m. Centennial Concert Hall
Every year at the festival there is a distinguished guest composer. This year it is Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Steve Reich. Alexander Mickelthwate, Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra music director, is particularly excited to have Reich at the festival.
"He is like a real pioneer in the music scene," Mickelthwate says. "He is for me one of the two godfathers of minimalism [Glass and Reich] and was really like a counterculture to the classic contemporary composers."
While the festival is featuring many of Reich's works, one very notable one is Different Trains - Reich's response to the Holocaust. In it, he incorporates bits of speech from his governess who used to chaperone his own long train rides as a child, a train porter and Holocaust survivors, all layered together.
NMF 5 - Friday February 1 - 8:00 p.m. Centennial Concert Hall
This event brings together two remarkable personalities in one concert. Gareth Farr is a New Zealand composer and a great example of a diverse artist. He's a composer, orchestral percussionist, pop star and drag queen.
In 1998, Evelyn Glennie commissioned Farr to write Hikoi (Journey), a concerto for percussion and orchestra. It was a huge hit at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia. This performance at the festival will be the North American premiere.
This is Glennie's fourth visit to the festival. As a deaf performer, Glennie performs barefoot in order to feel the sounds. She is probably very appreciative of an unusual tradition at the New Music Festival - the crowd foot stompl
Going back to the early days, when many of the concert setups included bleachers onstage, the audience would show its appreciation with foot stomps.
NMF 6 - Saturday February 2 - 8:00 p.m. Centennial Concert Hall
The final concert stands out because it affords the opportunity to get up close and personal with the fabulous music of WSO composer-in-residence, Vincent Ho. In 2012, Glennie's performance of Ho's percussion concerto was a huge hit. This year on offer is the second in Ho's three-part Shaman Trilogy for Glennie, From Darkness to Light: A Spiritual Journey.
Ho says this work is his personal response to cancer.
"It expresses the horrors of the disease and the fight one faces: fear, uncertainty, shock and grief; the quest for healing, hope -- the journey from pain and suffering to peace and acceptance."
A large part of Ho's inspiration came from his late friend, American painter Luke Leestemaker. After being diagnosed with cancer, Leestemaker sought out his own treatment and lived longer than doctors predicted. And throughout his journey, he painted. The movements of Ho's work reflect Leestemaker's paintings. As well, Ho interviewed a number of cancer patients, nine of whom will attend this concert.
The Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra's New Music Festival runs from Jan. 28 to Feb. 2, 2013.