Month: October 2014

A Night At The Symphony

IMG_20141017_222329471The night following the opening concert of Esprit’s 32nd season, Alex and I were at another symphony’s performance — The London Philharmonic Orchestra and their conductor Vladimir Jurowski, presented by Roy Thomson Hall.

The LPO closed with the monumental Shostakovich Symphony No. 8, one of his three great “war” symphonies. It was the first time we had ever heard it live and it was an absolutely shocking and stunning revelation — a huge and dramatic piece which moves you through emotions from the greatest human anguish, through grimness and despair, finally resolving in peace and tranquility.

The orchestra played with enormous depth and power. It is a massive piece, clocking in at almost an hour. By the end you have experienced a full range of emotions. We were exhilarated and emotionally exhausted.

While we were leaving the hall we were surprised to bump into two longtime Esprit supporters who were at the Esprit POLARIS concert the previous night.  They told Alex how much they loved every piece on Esprit’s concert and how meaningful the experience was for them.

Two wonderful back-to-back nights out at the symphony. Breathtaking!

(Photo: Alex with Dr. Estera Bekier and Wodek Szemberg, producer of TVO’s program, The Agenda.)

– Alexina Louie

Tales of a Tuba

Tuba2As part of our new Esprit Orchestra initiative Meet the Band, a segment of last night’s pre-concert talk, I invited our long-time tuba player Scott Irvine to talk about his instrument.

Scott entertained composer Paul Frehner and I with a lively tuba rendition of “Tequila.” Then he fascinated the concert-goers with an inside look at what it takes to play such a large instrument, and what it feels to be the “low man” in the orchestra.

He let us in on all kinds of insider information. For example, I didn’t know that tuba players think ill of composers who add the words con sordino in their tuba parts. (con sordino means ‘with mute’ – an instruction telling the musician to place the mute, a large sound-dampening tool, inside the bell of the instrument.) And I admit to having used this instruction in my scores.

But why do they curse us when we write con sordino?

Because the mute is as big as the tuba, and the player has to carry it, along with the big instrument, to and from rehearsals and concerts. No Smart Cars for the tuba player!

Scott remarked about how well Paul Frehner wrote for the brass section in his piece, Phantom Suns, which opened the second half of Esprit’s POLARIS concert.

In our ensuing discussion about how composers come to write for tuba I revealed that, although I have written for tuba in many pieces, I had never even held one. Scott leaned over to pick up the tuba and hand it to me, but I graciously declined!

— Alexina Louie

Ryoji Ikeda: superposition hits Montreal, Saturday Oct 11

We arrived at the Théâtre Maisonneuve in downtown Montreal for Ryoji Ikeda’s, superposition, with only ten minutes to spare. As I scanned the foyer, what struck me was the diversity of the attending crowd – an eclectic balance of both old and young; but I could tell these were true veterans of the Ikeda phenomenon – they knew how important it was to have him perform in Montreal, the first step on his North American tour. I also pondered that this would be an intriguing concert for our Esprit patronage, another great opportunity to experience New Music on Canadian soil.


The next 1 hour and 5 minutes were truly mind bending. The simplest way to describe it was an oscillation between microcosmic and macrocosmic presentation, expressed through sound and visuals – from the simplicity of a single sound wave, to the bombardment of data and sound combined, washing, at great speed, over the audience.

In those moments of extreme impact, the notion of angry data leapt to mind, as the frequency of information increased exponentially and we, the viewer, were left to struggle with complex computations.

On the one hand, this can be taken as purely performance art – the interplay between sound and sight. But there is immense meaning and meticulous thought to every number, symbol, word and sound. It is the type of presentation that can be watched again and again, and each time the viewer might decipher another component, experience fresh realization, or just allow the series of calculated moments to wash over them with no end in mind.

Superposition will be performing next at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on October 18th, just two days after Esprit’s first concert of the season, Polaris. Why not catch both!

— Steven Hobé