Violinist Andrew Forde brings Glenn Gould to contemporary audience

Toronto-based violinist Andrew Forde is re-interpreting Glenn Gould's musical philosophies and hopes he can connect Canadians from all backgrounds in the process.

Toronto musician will re-interpret renowned pianist's The Idea of North as part of Black History month

Violinist Andrew Forde and his band the Ghost Tapes will be performing a re-interpretation of Glenn Gould's work as part of Black History Month in Toronto Feb. 9. (CBC)

Toronto-based violinist Andrew Forde has performed with Justin Bieber, Sting, Mary J. Blige and Pitbull, but there's another star he's connecting with: Glenn Gould.

Forde has remixed the iconic Canadian pianist to explore the country's rich identity in Ideas of North and will perform it live Feb. 9 in Toronto as part of Black History Month.

The title is a play on Gould's landmark documentary, The Idea of North, which first aired on CBC Radio in 1967. Gould layered speaking voices on top of each other to create a unique sonic landscape in his program about the Canadian North.

Forde is calling his piece Ideas of North as an ode to the late musician, but also to represent the pluralism of voices which wouldn't have been heard 50 years ago.

The Toronto-based musician, accompanied by Nathaniel James on piano, gives a sneak peek of his upcoming performance marking Black History Month 1:34

"We're going to hear what it meant to be, what it means to identify as a black Canadian, as an Indigenous person, as a young person, even," said Forde during an interview at a Toronto recording studio. "There's a lot of different narratives that we've now opened up the conversation to."

The approach is different too.

Forde is joined by IsKwé, an Indigenous female singer-songwriter and teenage trumpeter and pianist William Leathers, who has performed with the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra since the age of 13. Canadian hip hop artist Shad will also be part of it through a video recording.

Forde worked with studios behind creative films such as Inception to include a special visual component to the story.

Andrew Forde, left, and Shad in studio. Shad will be part of the performance via video recording. (Ilich Mejia/submitted by Andrew Forde)

"When you go to the movies, for example, you'll watch the actors and you will passively take in the music," said Forde. "What we're doing is, we're kind of switching that around. You're going to actively take in the music but passively have visuals that kind of ground what you're listening to and so it's supposed to excite all your senses."

The irony of performing a Glenn Gould interpretation in front of a large audience isn't lost on Forde. The renowned pianist's disdain of audiences was well-known and led Gould to retire early from concert life, focusing instead on recording music.

Glenn Gould's J.S. Bach's Goldberg Variations is one of the most famous LPs ever produced, in any genre. Gould favoured musical recordings and despised performing live, saying he believed the audience and critics were often waiting for the musician to err. (The Estate of Jock Carroll, courtesy The Glenn Gould Foundation)

But Forde, who first heard Gould at the age of seven and has remained a fan ever since, believes the late musician would approve.

"It's really about connecting the audience and the performers and the story so that everyone kind of partakes and is risking exposing their identities, almost, collectively."


Forde will perform on violin in The Ideas of North at Koerner Hall in Toronto with his band The Ghost Tapes on Feb. 9, as part of Black History Month, in Halifax March 3 and in Los Angeles at a later date.

With files from Alice Hopton