Month: May 2015

China Tour Blog #1: AC Flight 31 Toronto —> Beijing: A Case of the Bass

IMG_20150527_115132There was a real buzz of anticipation as the Esprit Orchestra members began to gather at Pearson Airport’s Terminal 1 group check in on the morning of May 27.  Most of the players have never been to China so there was a real sense of adventure as we got ready to introduce the Beijing and Nanning New Music Festival participants to the work of Canadian composers Omar Daniel, Alex Pauk, Alexina Louie and Murray Schafer.

Our bassist Joe Phillips arrived with a very large metal case on wheels and was persuaded by all of us to open it up, right there on the spot near check-in, to reveal an ingenious 5 string double bass (they normally have 4 strings). What made it ingenious was the fact that it is a specially-constructed bass commissioned for touring by National Arts Centre Orchestra bassist Joel Quarrington. The neck of the bass is removable and has its own spot in the packing crate alongside the body of the instrument, so although overly large, it is very compact for a double bass – it’s half the height! None of us had ever seen anything like this, but it really makes a lot of sense for touring.

Esprit at airportThe challenge on the other end is that the player has to arrive early at rehearsals to assemble the instrument. The neck gets attached with a kind of pin and screw. The strings have to be ‘strung,’ and the bridge has to be put in place. Next, the tightening and tuning… then voilà! The bass is up and running and ready to go. It is not as easy as lifting an intact instrument from its normal case, but what a thrill and relief it was when Joe got it all assembled and the bass sang its first notes on Chinese soil!

Travelling with other large string instruments is always challenging too. The celli need their own seats on the plane. An attendant arrives to remove the seat cushion bottom and the cello has to be wedged into its place. Finally, a netting structure needs to be placed over it to secure it for the journey. The whole boarding of the ‘celli passengers’ takes over 40 minutes!

All of that means double nose counts (players and their ‘axes’) at the luggage carousel in Beijing! All musicians and instruments accounted for, ready for action!

– Alexina Louie

Integral House: A Farewell

It’s shocking to think that this Tuesday will likely be the last time we’ll ever see Jim Stewart’s celebrated Integral House before it is sold. The award-winning architectural wonder, commissioned by Jim as a home where he could host artists, concerts and fantastic events, was recognized internationally as being a magnificent centre of cultural convergence. We are honoured to be holding Esprit Orchestra’s annual fundraising Benefête at Integral House this Tuesday evening, May 19. We’d love to see you there.

To more fully comprehend the wondrous qualities of this unique space, you can view a short, amazing video by clicking here.

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The late Jim Stewart, an enthusiastic supporter of Esprit, was a very important and well-loved arts philanthropist and mathematician who presented so many extraordinary performers at this fantastic home. In November of last year, he hosted his Final Salon at Integral House to celebrate his life and his passion for music. Alex and I felt so privileged to have been invited. It was a very touching night, complete with an eclectic group of musicians that he so carefully selected for this last evening of performances in his home. It was all deeply moving, as it was hosted just weeks prior to his death. He was welcoming, warm, generous, funny, courageous, philosophical.

As the home is now on the market for $28 million dollars, we are not sure if the space will continue to be a home for the arts. It will be a bittersweet evening for Alex and I. Jim’s incredible spirit lives on in every curve of this dazzling home, but this may be the last opportunity for us to visit it and reflect on all that Jim meant to the arts community.

– Alexina Louie


Esprit Orchestra, Canada’s leader in performing new orchestral music, conducted by Founding Music Director and Conductor Alex Pauk, will embark on its Debut China Tour from May 26th to June 5th, 2015. Coinciding with the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Canada and the People’s Republic of China, this tour provides an opportunity for developing long-lasting musical exchanges between China and Canada.

The tour begins with a concert at the 2015 Beijing Modern Music Festival, the largest and most important new music festival in China. It will also include two concerts as part of a residency for the Orchestra at the China-ASEAN Music Week in Nanning, Guangxi, one of three major platforms for new music in the Peoples’ Republic.

The first concert of the tour takes place on May 29th, at the Concert Hall of the Central Conservatory of Music as part of the Beijing Modern Music Festival which is organized by the Central Conservatory. The programme is all-Canadian and includes music by Omar Daniel, Alex Pauk, Alexina Louie and R. Murray Schafer. All pieces on the programme will be receiving their Asian premieres.

Esprit then travels to Nanning where it will be in residence for six days at the China-ASEAN Music Week organized by the Guangxi Institute of the Arts.

On June 2, 2015 Esprit will perform the Opening Concert of the China-ASEAN Music Week and will combine with musicians of the Guangxi Symphony Orchestra to form a large orchestra for this celebratory occasion. The concert, performed at the Guangxi Ethnic Arts Palace Concert Hall, will highlight an international mix of composers including Vietnamese composer Đng Hu Phúc, Canadian Alexina Louie, Germany’s Jörg Widmann, plus three Chinese composers; Yi Chen, Wenchen Qin and Chenjun Zhong. Zhong’s work will be receiving its World Premiere.

On June 4th Esprit, in the Guangxi Institute of the Arts Concert Hall, Esprit will reprise its programme of Canadian music from May 29th at the Beijing Modern Music Festival.

Composer Alexina Louie will accompany Esprit on tour and, as visiting guest composer of both festivals, will give pre-concert talks and master classes for composition and performance students. This follows through on lectures she gave in May 2014 on the occasion of the China National Performing Arts Centre Orchestra’s performance of her music on the opening concert of the 2014 Beijing Modern Music Festival. Her music was also performed at the 2013 edition of the festival and her connection with China was increased in October 2013 when Canada’s National Arts Centre Orchestra took her music on tour to China and invited her to give master classes.

In the tradition of Esprit’s dedication to new music education and support for emerging talent, Esprit’s residency in Nanning will include workshops at the Central Conservatory and Guangxi Institute of the Arts.

Esprit Orchestra’s China Tour affords Esprit the opportunity to highlight Canadian music and the Orchestra’s high performance standards at festivals attended by prominent, influential international delegates including musicians, conductors, composers, promoters and media from around the world.


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