The New Music Festival is a ground-breaking festival that has been around for nearly a quarter century. Some might say it's not so new anymore.

Yet each year, festival organizers come up with ways to help audiences celebrate the newest of the new.

Alexander Mickelthwate is the Music Director of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and one of the co-curators of the programming.

This year the theme is 'beyond.' According to Mickelthwate, the notion of Beyond starts with Frank Zappa who is known in the rock world. In addition to Zappa, "Pierre Boulez is an absolutely classical contemporary composer. In the 70s Boulez did something nobody had really done before. He went out of his box, beyond the classical world and into the rock and roll side, connected with Zappa and they created this relationship. Suddenly, there was this crossover thing. They both elevated each other," Mickelthwate said.

"The other 'beyond' at the festival is rooted in two beautiful, beautiful, beautiful pieces that go into the spiritual and beyond," explained Mickelthwate. "Arvo Part's music is church-like. It's meditative....so we have the Hilliard Ensemble singing Part's Litany. And the last night is Silvestrov's Requiem for Larissa which he wrote for his late wife. It's some of the most sublime music....a little piece of heaven."



Outside of what happens on the main stage, the Pop Nuit events also go 'beyond.' Matt Schellenberg has been curating the late night Pop Nuit series for the festival since it began last year. He says he got the idea for such a series when he was on the road with Royal Canoe. "We thought the festival was great but we were saying that there is so much music from more of a pop perspective that's really pushing at the boundaries," he explained.

Schellenberg says Colin Stetson was the first person he thought of when he got the idea for the series. "You'd be hard pressed to call Colin's music pop, yet it's the pop arena that he's so successful in," he said. "Stetson has been nominated for the Polaris Prize and he tours with Arcade Fire. For some reason, pop people really like him."

Hear Alexander Mickelthwate and Matt Schellenberg on Up to Speed on Friday January 24 at 3:30 p.m. The New Music Festival runs from Saturday January 25 to Friday January 31 at the Concert Hall, Pantages Playhouse and Crescent Fort Rouge Church. The Pop Nuit events take place on Saturday January 25 at Union Sound Hall, 11 p.m., and Friday January 31 at Millennium Centre, 10 p.m.