Sunday, October 25, 2015

Recording: MG Encore Ensemble

Artist: MG Encore Ensemble

Songs: I Am Concrete [composer: Erik Ross; poetry: Darren O'Donnell] + Retablo: 2nd mvt, "Almayne" [composer: Allison Cameron]

Recorded at The Music Gallery ("X Avant X"), October 16, 2015.

MG Encore Ensemble - I Am Concrete

MG Encore Ensemble - Retablo: 2nd mvt, "Almayne"

This year's X Avant not only celebrated the festival's tenth anniversary, but also the Music Gallery's 40th season. No surprise, then, that the festival incorporated various methods to look back at the MG's legacy. This night, excellently curated by Chelsea Shanoff, paid tribute to the Gallery's place in the local New Music scene, bringing together several pieces that had been commissioned by the Music Gallery along with a couple tributes to noteworthy local composers who had been part of the MG's milieu. The pieces were executed by a fine ensemble of players, including: Wesley Shen (piano), Mara Plotkin (clarinet), Sharon Lee (violin), Bryan Holt (cello), Wallace Halladay (sax, melodica), Xin Wang (voice) and Dan Morphy (percussion).

The first piece here came from 2008's Concrete Toronto Music concert (celebrating the city's brutalist architecture) and is a love song from the sidewalk's perspective ("I am humble/ skin your knees on me") while the second comes from a decade earlier (when the MG was on Richmond Street), commissioned by Martin Arnold's Burdocks ensemble. It's too often the fate of contemporary Canadian chamber pieces to be premiered with some fanfare and then left to moulder in the score library, so it was exciting to see these get a proper "encore". (Arnold's "Rubber Wain", commissioned by the Gallery in 2007, even got a major revisioning, shifting the orchestration toward free reed instruments and giving it a new bounce.)

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