Month: November 2014

The Composer With the African Grey Parrot

african-grey-parrotv2Doug Schmidt, one of the two featured Canadian composers in Revealed Time, Esprit’s 2nd concert of the 2014 season, joined Alex and I for a delicious Chinese meal at our favourite homestyle style Chinese restaurant after his first rehearsal with the orchestra. The dinner included “bo jai”, a delicious small pot of Chinese greens, King mushrooms, shrimp, chicken and “cha siu” (bbq pork) and a dish of tender snowpea leaves in garlic sauce. Doug, who originally hails from British Columbia, where Asian food is legendary, misses good down home Chinese cooking — this because he now makes his home in Germany (not noted for its Chinese food).

So Doug brings his new work, … just a stranger here… from Germany to Canada for its world premiere. If you come to my free pre-concert talk (7:15), I will coax him into talking about the musical influences in his piece. These are as astonishingly varied as mariachi music, ancient Chinese instruments, Latin music seasonings and even his experience as a professional bandoneon player. All these influences flavour his piece which, at its heart, touches upon “where his mind, body and spirit have been as he has travelled and lived in different locations” (Esprit Orchestra 2014-2015 brochure).  

Of particular interest to me (and a revelation of Doug’s wonderful sense of humour) were his countless stories of Sophie, his pet African Grey parrot, who is so smart that she has a very large vocabulary and is even learning how to spell! Doug is now teaching her how to sing (she will sing the theme of Mozart’s Queen of the Night aria and stop at any point so that Doug will have to finish it off — even if he is in a different part of the house!). This is one of her many games. Another is her constant teasing of the pet dog. She orders him to “sit” or “go away” and then rewards him by launching a piece of kibble from her birdcage onto the floor for the obedient animal.

Needless-to-say, with all these inspirations floating in his world, …just a stranger here… is a work of sheer delight. The excitement of the concert is doubled because we will present the world premiere of Toronto composer, Adam Scime’s Rise for stereophonic orchestra! Esprit will be divided into two equal groups on the stage. The musical gestures are tossed back and forth between the groups, and are blended and swirled in waves of sound.

See you at the pre-concert talk for more stories from the bandoneon playing, Grey parrot-owning composer, Doug Schmidt and the stereophonic Adam Scime.

– Alexina Louie

Esprit Presents World Premieres of Pieces by 2 Canadian Composers

AdamRise by Adam Scime for stereophonic orchestra.

With the orchestra split into a unique stereophonic seating arrangement, musical ideas are continually thrown back and forth amongst the musicians.

Rise evolves into pulsing, colourful waves of sound and deep, shimmering textures.

Scime draws inspiration from ancient myths of vast rivers encircling the Earth, and from modern observation and understanding of ocean waves and tides.



DouglasA brand new work by Douglas Schmidt, a Victoria-born Canadian composer living in Germany, is titled Just a Stranger Here Myself — that, as stated by the composer, “refers to places that I have either visited or lived in. Most particularly since moving to Germany, I often find myself feeling like a stranger.

The odd thing is that when I return to my home country Canada I feel the same way after becoming somewhat acculturated to a German mentality.”

Don’t miss Esprit Orchestra’s upcoming concert, REVEALED TIME, on Sunday November 23rd!

Firecracker Orchestra from Beijing


Last night we heard the touring China National Centre for the Performing Arts Orchestra from Beijing perform a fascinating concert in our own Koerner Hall. It was a surprising opportunity to hear the orchestra that performed my composition, Shattered Night, Shivering Stars, in Beijing last May perform in Toronto (and in the same hall where Esprit performs!).

(Please note that Esprit’s second concert of our 2014/15 season, Revealed Time, will take place on Sunday, November 23rd).

Last May, the China NCPA Orchestra performed my piece in their home hall known as “The Egg.” Such a spectacular concert hall — metal clad and sensuously shaped. At night there are small individual lights scattered subtly over the surface. The sight of the building mirrored in a large, shallow reflecting pool really takes your breath away. 

Entering the building, you immediately walk down a large hallway which is directly under the reflecting pool; beneath the glass ceiling, you are walking underwater! The shimmering water overhead gives you a remarkable sensation. You feel as though you are immersed in beauty and moving images of reflected light.

Hearing the orchestra last night reminded me of how thrilling it was to hear my music performed by this orchestra in their beautiful Beijing concert hall. What a privilege!

The principal cellist, Meng Yang, recognized me and said they still remembered my piece because it was completely different from anything they had ever played. This musician told me that they had never before performed a work that had sections where the barlines were eliminated and the musical flow was instead indicated in seconds.  

It was so wonderful and unexpected to have been greeted with such warm remarks from an orchestra member from my Beijing performance!

Music — the universal language.

– Alexina Louie