Friday, October 11, 2019

Contest/Preview: X Avant XIV


Thursday, October 17, 2019 – Sunday, October 20, 2019

Two signs that autumn is well and truly underway: Thanksgiving has come and gone, and the Music Gallery's X Avant Festival rolls around.

This year's festival celebrates advancements and transformations — first and foremost, it's giving artists a big canvas to try something new and bold, allowing them to define their own ways "Forward". It also serves as the final Festival that will be programmed by Artistic Director David Dacks — not at all a summing up, but rather one more example of the experiment-and-refine-and-experiment-again process that has marked his tenure.

Here's what's gonna be happening at the festival:

  • Germaine Liu has long been one of the city's most fascinating musicians — serious about re-exploring the idea of percussion from the inside out, but always a joyful presence to watch. The festival's first night sees the debut of her "Still Life", "a 45-minute composition/sounding installation composed of a collection of objects found in Toronto" with an ensemble including Syreeta Hector, Susanna Hood, Tia Kushniruk, Heather MacPhail, Sahara Morimoto and Liu herself. The night also begins with a Liu-selected horn ensemble of Rebecca Hennessy, Bea Labikova, Karen Ng and Heather Saumer. This night is totally going to be like seeing a phone video from The Tranzac remade for Imax.
  • Friday night sees Lido Pimienta presenting some of the songs from Miss Colombia, her forthcoming follow-up to the monumental La Papessa. Pimienta is using this opportunity to assemble a special large ensemble with horns, winds and a choir. This special performance has only two shows scheduled and may very well not be re-mounted, so it's obviously not to be missed. [Advanced tickets are already sold out, so keep an eye on the MG's social media feeds for day-of-show availability!]
  • Saturday sees a unique intergenerational soundclash — the sort of bold lateral thinking that Music Gallery patrons have come to expect from David Dacks — pairing reggae legend Willi Williams (known to some via The Clash's cover of "Armagideon Time") with sound-shaper Vic Cheong, whose steadily-morphing New Chance project has been bestowing cloud-meditations and dancefloor burners for a while now. Support comes from Andrew Lee's Holy Hum.
  • The Festival closes with a truly epic night of sounds — the scope of Sarah Hennies' "The Reinvention of Romance" (for percussion plus cello, here provided by Nick Storring) will blow plenty minds, but there's also a transcontinental opening encounter between Montreal's Sound of the Mountain (Craig Pedersen and Elizabeth Millar) and Japanese improvisers Toshimaru Nakamura (no-input mixing board) and Tetuzi Akiyama (guitar). Prepare to have your ears expanded — and bring some dough for the merch table for this one!

There are also two panels before Saturday and Sunday's shows, drilling further into the theme of "Forward" – Friday takes a more broad overview, examining "The Future of Creative Music in Toronto" with David Dacks moderating a discussion between Michael Rancic, Jessica Cho (aka Korea Town Acid), Amanda Smith and Rich Brown. Sunday looks more closely at "the joy and pain of keeping collectives and larger ensembles together in the long term" with "Forward Together", featuring insights from Cheryl Duvall, Ange Loft, Chelsea McBride and Keysha Fresh. Both panels are free to attend, though registration via the links above is encouraged.


Tickets start at $10 for students and Music Gallery members (making this, the start of the season, an excellent time to take out or renew your membership!) and you can grab a festival pass for $60, giving you guaranteed entry to all the shows. Find out more at the MG's website or over on facebook.


Thanks to the Music Gallery, I couldn't be more excited to have a pair of tickets to give away to Sunday night's show. (That is, of course, October 20th featuring Sarah Hennies plus Sound Of The Mountain & guests Toshimaru Nakamura and Tetuzi Akiyama.)

To enter, shoot me an email to, with "contest" in the title and your name in the body. I'll randomly draw a winner on Wednesday, October 16th at noon.

[Full disclosure: I am a member of the Music Gallery's Artistic Advisory Committee, though that has had no bearing on the content of this preview.]

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