Mark's Blog

Thoughts, Musings & More from the Artistic Director

A Connection to Our Collective Musical Memories

September 12, 2016

 

I can almost feel the sense of withdrawal that comes with the closing concert at SW on Sunday.  It is a return to a very “straight” type of musical presentation, but of course, with a twist.  The work “Alikeness” was written for Aiyun Huang and the St. Lawrence String Quartet.  (I was still a member of the SLSQ when we premiered the work at Stanford University a couple of years ago.)  Instead of a piece of “new” music, it strives to be “like” many things that we have come to know and love about music itself.  It is almost like hearing the ghosts of many wonderful classical compositions all rolled into one piece of music.  Its hauntingly beautiful.  Paired with the Beethoven’s “Ghost Trio” and Prokofiev’s “Overture on Hebrew Themes”, it is a concert that intends to give the listener a strong sense of connection to our collective musical memories. 

 

Thinking ahead to the coming year, it will again be filled with surprises that I can’t yet reveal.  We will be connecting ourselves to the Canada 150 stream of events and themes that will be showcased across the country next year – so stayed tuned!

 

See you at the festival!

 

   

 

 

Saturday Offers a Jam-Packed Day of Music at SweetWater 2016

                                                                                                                              September 1, 2016

 

Saturday’s SweetWater event list is jam-packed this year. Starting with our 2nd annual “Mozart for Munchkins” 10 a.m. at the Harmony Centre, it is followed by the return of our Classical Jam session at 11 a.m. for all interested players to join in with our guest artists.  We also have our annual Luthier Exhibit (now in its 13th year!), which showcases the extraordinary talents of our local makers of fine instruments (10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Harmony Centre studio). As performing musicians, we owe these people an unending debt of gratitude for their work, as they give us the vehicles to bring music to every stretch of the globe. Indeed, the instruments made here regularly find their way to the greatest concert halls in the world.  It is something we should be incredibly proud of!!

 

We follow this by the first of two concerts at the Roxy.  At 4 p.m., David Braid and “Team Canada” present a collection of works for piano and string quartet that David has recently released on a CD produced by the Steinway label in NYC. This will be paired with the first performance of Aiyun Huang at our festival.  The multi-talented percussionist and first-prize winner of the Geneva International Competition will perform a work of performance art unlike anything I’ve ever witnessed. The first time I experienced the work, it stayed in my memory for quite a while as one of the most inventive, fun, and audience friendly ways to bring music, film, spoken word, and “audio-choreography” together. It’s hard to describe in words.  In fact, I would be interested to hearing people’s description of it after they’ve been exposed to it!!

 

The evening concert showcases a new work of David Braid’s that once again breaks the mold for SweetWater. “Corona Divinae MIsericordiae” (Chaplet of the Divine Mercy)     brings back SweetWater favorite Meredith Hall, performing alongside our Team Canada performers, as well as local singers, all guided by Nicholas Michael Smith.  The title of the evening is “Virtuosity”, which may seem a little unusual (particularly as we will have just had an evening of “Early Music Rock Stars”!), but I use the term in reference to its original meaning, which is about being “virtuous”.  I admit to being a little bit of a dreamer here, but in these days of being inundated daily with all the crazy things happening in the world, it seems virtuous of anyone to declare their stance against such troubles by putting their energies into things like SweetWater – things that build community!

 

M.F.

SweetWater 2016 Just a Month Away

August 17, 2016

 

After last year’s Bach b minor mass, we’re returning to our roots this year, with a combination of well-known chamber works like the Beethoven Ghost Trio (played by the world-renowned Gryphon Trio), the Prokofiev Overture on Hebrew Themes and Schubert’s glorious Shepherd on the Rock with the incredible Meredith Hall returning to steal our hearts with her incredible voice.  Joining her will be a SweetWater favorite – the one and only James Campbell, and the Gryphon Trio’s James Parker.  James (or Jamie, as he is often called) and I first played together for a recital in Winnipeg being broadcast by the CBC network.  (You may not remember the CBC, but they were a great broadcasting corporation in days past….ha!)  I remember our recital included an early Beethoven sonata in e-flat major, as well as the Ravel Sonate for violin and piano.  Interestingly, Jamie will be performing both Beethoven and Ravel this year with the Gryphon Trio for us.  Coincidence?  Most likely…

 

We’re going to start things off with another Early Music Rock Stars concert at Leith Church.  Is there a better place anywhere to perform early music than the Leith Church?  If there is such a place, I’ve never been there.  For this concert, Meredith and I will be joined by Roman Borys (Gryphon Trio cellist and Artistic Director of the Ottawa Chamber Music Society), and SW newbies Mark Edwards on harpsichord and Matthias Maute on flute.  Matthias is the director of the revolutionary early music ensemble from Montreal Ensemble Caprice.  Some of you may remember me sharing their recording of the Bach Brandenburg Concerti a couple of years ago for a Bluewater Lifelong Learning event.  These are all exceptional music-makers.  And they will be performing for the first time together at our event!!

 

 

Don’t miss Friday night’s concert!  I’ve said it before (probably too often, but hey – we have something worth bragging about!), but you’ll only hear most of what you’ll hear here the one time!  

 

M.F.

Almost there - SweetWater 2015

We’re almost there!
 
After a summer of terrific music and travel (for yours truly - the US, Italy, Denmark and Canada), the days of September are upon us, and SweetWater 12 is around the corner.   This year I am (of course) looking forward to the big event – the B Minor Mass of JS Bach.  But I’m also looking forward to one of our new initiatives – Mozart for Munchkins.  Inspired by the UK-based “Bach for Baby”, the event is based on the idea that exposure to great music and art is of extraordinary benefit to the very young.  I will be performing along with local favorite Kati Gleiser some…what else?…Mozart!  Kati will then perform some Bach and Debussy.  I invite everyone to come hear this.  See what a young child’s reaction to live music is. 
 
Do you have memories of your first musical experience?  Come find me in a couple of weeks in Owen Sound and tell me in person! 
 
See you all soon,
 
MF

0 Comments

Creating a culture

South of the Swiss Border in the Italian Alps is the town of Luino.  Known for its extraordinary beauty (it sits on an alpine lake), it is also home to a weekly market that has (supposedly) been in operation since the 1500s.  Every Wednesday the town floods with merchants from near and far who sell whatever they can to whomever has the money and desire.

I was there earlier this summer and spoke to one merchant who was interested to know where I was from.  When I told him Canada, he made a remark I won't forget anytime soon.  To paraphrase, he said that Italy had, for more than 2000 years, shown the rest of the world what culture was all about.  Now (in his mind), it was just a playground.  But, he continued, Canada has the chance to direct the course of what culture will be for the future.  "A thrilling opportunity!" he said.

I quite agree.  We are indeed in a wonderful position to decide what kind of culture we want to have.  We are creating it right now.

0 Comments

A legacy of beauty

Greetings to all from Venice, Italy!  After a wonderful week spent with the chamber music students at the National Youth Orchestra of Canada in Kitchener-Waterloo, a few days in Venice now to re-charge the batteries before starting into the next 8 weeks of touring.

For those of you who have been to Venice, you know how wonderful a place it is.  For those un-initiated, it symbolizes what is possible to pass on to future generations simply by devoting oneself to creating beauty while one has the chance. The famous Basilica de San Marco was constructed by countless souls who never saw its completion.  In fact, a few generations of workers had come and gone before the structure was finished.  Just imagine that happening today.  Yes, with better technology etc, virtually anything can be built within a short amount of time, but there are people who devote their time and efforts to "building" things that will long outlive their own days.  Inspiring!  (I read once about the Toyota Motor Company meeting decades ago to decide on a company path that reached 200 years into the future – i.e. taking the current executive out of the picture and focusing on what they would ultimately leave behind...amazing...)

For those of you with ideas on how we can leave something behind so that our community can enjoy SweetWater 100 years from now, I'm all ears!

0 Comments

On the Road to the Big B Minor

It's summer time, and for many musicians this means travel!  Many of us are on the road, living a one-suitcase existence for a few months. It has its challenges, but the rewards are great - performing music for audiences familiar and unfamiliar, connecting and re-connecting with colleagues, and, hopefully, fine weather!

This particular summer not a day is going by without me thinking about this September's SweetWater weekend, and specifically the B Minor Mass of Bach.  This is a larger project than anything we have ever attempted before.  And like the summer lives of musicians, it has its challenges and rewards.

Many people consider the B Minor Mass to be one of the greatest works ever written.  I agree.  If you'd like to hear it in advance of our performance in September, there are several available to stream online via youtube.  Just a warning - it's big!  Maybe start with listening to a movement or two a day instead of trying to digest the whole thing at once.

It's big.  It's Bach. It's B Minor.

B there in September!

From Colorado,

MF

0 Comments

Who's right?

When I was a student, I admit to often being confused by what was going on around me.  Without going into detail, I was left scratching my head at where ideas (presented by teachers, be they musical or otherwise) supposedly "ended".  Every answer just left me with more questions.  It turns out that's not such a bad way to be.  I recently saw a posting on facebook saying (and I'm paraphrasing here)  "Curiosity is the surest sign of intelligence.  Those who say they know are inevitably the dumbest ones around."  I agree.  With a curious mindset, just about all music becomes endlessly fascinating.  But first, one has to give up "knowing".  There is a famous story of two symphony musicians chatting after a performance of Beethoven's Emperor Piano Concerto with the first musician saying "That was the worst performance of that piece I've ever heard!", and the second one saying "Really? I thought that was the best performance I've ever heard!"

 

Who's right?

 

In the last 40 years we've seen the dismantling of "knowing" in the classical music world.  It began, some say, with Nigel Kennedy's recording of the Vivaldi Four Seasons.  Others point to an even earlier recording by Sigiswald Kuijken.  I don't think we can know where it started, but the fact that it has happened reflects a growth spurt in the artist of the 20th and 21st centuries.  Instead of accepting that "this is how you play Beethoven", or "this is how to play Bach", the artist has once again become part of the creative process.  Creatively aware of their own presence as they serve the great composers. 

 

Having said that, each artistic hub has its own set of values.  Some value cleanliness (ie, excellent intonation and cleanliness of articulation), strength of sound (ie, loud, never weak) etc.  Other artistic hubs may think of those issues as secondary to the abstract artistic/musical message of the composer (eg, if the gesture of the music is honest and sincere, then if its a little out of tune, one can be forgiven).   One only needs look to those in positions of authority at major arts organizations to see what any given artistic culture truly values.  Those values will be embodied by those in leadership positons - or else they'll be turfed!

 

So then, what to do when values/cultues/ideas/musical identities intersect? One person who has spoken about this quite a lot over the past years is Yo-Yo Ma.  I attach something from him in a link below, but in a nutshell he states what many of us believe.  With the right attitude (curiosity, from my perspective), points of cultural intersection can lead to new culture, new ideas, greater community strength and ultimately a greater sense of global community.  All that done WITHOUT sacrificing one's own voice. 

 

So in a few weeks, come to SweetWater and see some musical worlds intersect.  Early music of the 17th and 18th centuries, classical music of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, jazz of the 20th century, and a brand new work of the 21st century!  Its all here, and all capable of co-existing and collaborating in new and fantastic ways.  Join us!!

 

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/yoyo-ma/behind-the-cello_b_4603748.html    

1 Comments

Almost there - SweetWater 2015

We’re almost there!
 
After a summer of terrific music and travel (for yours truly - the US, Italy, Denmark and Canada), the days of September are upon us, and SweetWater 12 is around the corner.   This year I am (of course) looking forward to the big event – the B Minor Mass of JS Bach.  But I’m also looking forward to one of our new initiatives – Mozart for Munchkins.  Inspired by the UK-based “Bach for Baby”, the event is based on the idea that exposure to great music and art is of extraordinary benefit to the very young.  I will be performing along with local favorite Kati Gleiser some…what else?…Mozart!  Kati will then perform some Bach and Debussy.  I invite everyone to come hear this.  See what a young child’s reaction to live music is. 
 
Do you have memories of your first musical experience?  Come find me in a couple of weeks in Owen Sound and tell me in person! 
 
See you all soon,
 
MF

0 Comments

Creating a culture

South of the Swiss Border in the Italian Alps is the town of Luino.  Known for its extraordinary beauty (it sits on an alpine lake), it is also home to a weekly market that has (supposedly) been in operation since the 1500s.  Every Wednesday the town floods with merchants from near and far who sell whatever they can to whomever has the money and desire.

I was there earlier this summer and spoke to one merchant who was interested to know where I was from.  When I told him Canada, he made a remark I won't forget anytime soon.  To paraphrase, he said that Italy had, for more than 2000 years, shown the rest of the world what culture was all about.  Now (in his mind), it was just a playground.  But, he continued, Canada has the chance to direct the course of what culture will be for the future.  "A thrilling opportunity!" he said.

I quite agree.  We are indeed in a wonderful position to decide what kind of culture we want to have.  We are creating it right now.

0 Comments

A legacy of beauty

Greetings to all from Venice, Italy!  After a wonderful week spent with the chamber music students at the National Youth Orchestra of Canada in Kitchener-Waterloo, a few days in Venice now to re-charge the batteries before starting into the next 8 weeks of touring.

For those of you who have been to Venice, you know how wonderful a place it is.  For those un-initiated, it symbolizes what is possible to pass on to future generations simply by devoting oneself to creating beauty while one has the chance. The famous Basilica de San Marco was constructed by countless souls who never saw its completion.  In fact, a few generations of workers had come and gone before the structure was finished.  Just imagine that happening today.  Yes, with better technology etc, virtually anything can be built within a short amount of time, but there are people who devote their time and efforts to "building" things that will long outlive their own days.  Inspiring!  (I read once about the Toyota Motor Company meeting decades ago to decide on a company path that reached 200 years into the future – i.e. taking the current executive out of the picture and focusing on what they would ultimately leave behind...amazing...)

For those of you with ideas on how we can leave something behind so that our community can enjoy SweetWater 100 years from now, I'm all ears!

0 Comments

On the Road to the Big B Minor

It's summer time, and for many musicians this means travel!  Many of us are on the road, living a one-suitcase existence for a few months. It has its challenges, but the rewards are great - performing music for audiences familiar and unfamiliar, connecting and re-connecting with colleagues, and, hopefully, fine weather!

This particular summer not a day is going by without me thinking about this September's SweetWater weekend, and specifically the B Minor Mass of Bach.  This is a larger project than anything we have ever attempted before.  And like the summer lives of musicians, it has its challenges and rewards.

Many people consider the B Minor Mass to be one of the greatest works ever written.  I agree.  If you'd like to hear it in advance of our performance in September, there are several available to stream online via youtube.  Just a warning - it's big!  Maybe start with listening to a movement or two a day instead of trying to digest the whole thing at once.

It's big.  It's Bach. It's B Minor.

B there in September!

From Colorado,

MF

0 Comments

Who's right?

When I was a student, I admit to often being confused by what was going on around me.  Without going into detail, I was left scratching my head at where ideas (presented by teachers, be they musical or otherwise) supposedly "ended".  Every answer just left me with more questions.  It turns out that's not such a bad way to be.  I recently saw a posting on facebook saying (and I'm paraphrasing here)  "Curiosity is the surest sign of intelligence.  Those who say they know are inevitably the dumbest ones around."  I agree.  With a curious mindset, just about all music becomes endlessly fascinating.  But first, one has to give up "knowing".  There is a famous story of two symphony musicians chatting after a performance of Beethoven's Emperor Piano Concerto with the first musician saying "That was the worst performance of that piece I've ever heard!", and the second one saying "Really? I thought that was the best performance I've ever heard!"

 

Who's right?

 

In the last 40 years we've seen the dismantling of "knowing" in the classical music world.  It began, some say, with Nigel Kennedy's recording of the Vivaldi Four Seasons.  Others point to an even earlier recording by Sigiswald Kuijken.  I don't think we can know where it started, but the fact that it has happened reflects a growth spurt in the artist of the 20th and 21st centuries.  Instead of accepting that "this is how you play Beethoven", or "this is how to play Bach", the artist has once again become part of the creative process.  Creatively aware of their own presence as they serve the great composers. 

 

Having said that, each artistic hub has its own set of values.  Some value cleanliness (ie, excellent intonation and cleanliness of articulation), strength of sound (ie, loud, never weak) etc.  Other artistic hubs may think of those issues as secondary to the abstract artistic/musical message of the composer (eg, if the gesture of the music is honest and sincere, then if its a little out of tune, one can be forgiven).   One only needs look to those in positions of authority at major arts organizations to see what any given artistic culture truly values.  Those values will be embodied by those in leadership positons - or else they'll be turfed!

 

So then, what to do when values/cultues/ideas/musical identities intersect? One person who has spoken about this quite a lot over the past years is Yo-Yo Ma.  I attach something from him in a link below, but in a nutshell he states what many of us believe.  With the right attitude (curiosity, from my perspective), points of cultural intersection can lead to new culture, new ideas, greater community strength and ultimately a greater sense of global community.  All that done WITHOUT sacrificing one's own voice. 

 

So in a few weeks, come to SweetWater and see some musical worlds intersect.  Early music of the 17th and 18th centuries, classical music of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, jazz of the 20th century, and a brand new work of the 21st century!  Its all here, and all capable of co-existing and collaborating in new and fantastic ways.  Join us!!

 

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/yoyo-ma/behind-the-cello_b_4603748.html    

1 Comments