Take a Solo: MRU Conservatory’s New Jazz Improv Course
“Life is a lot like jazz… it’s best when you improvise.”
– George Gershwin
Like many jazz artists, Andre Wickenheiser is multifaceted. Whether he’s swinging with the Calgary Creative Arts Ensemble, soloing with the Prime Time Big Band or teaching emerging trumpet players what he’s mastered of the craft, this cat knows jazz.
The great news for up-and-comers is that he’s teaching Jazz Improvisation at MRU Conservatory.
“It’s a very basic jazz improvisation course,” he assures, “We’re starting from the very beginning. It’s a very warm and friendly environment so people can feel free to experiment and create music without judgement.”
He acknowledges that the course is geared towards people 16 and older. He explains the reason is that, “you have to have a certain level of proficiency to get the most out of it.”
Wickenheiser creates a collaborative environment in all ensembles he works with, “It has nothing to do with theory or chords or scales,” he notes, “it’s about sound and time and feel.”
Jazz improvisation is something that has to be learned and nurtured. It’s not just notes. The notes strung together become ideas. Wickenheiser compares, “Creating coherent musical phrases is the equivalent of building a sentence using words. Using the musical ideas you already know, you can form new ‘sentences’ out of that.”
But Wickenheiser imparts that you’re never just speaking to yourself. Under the right tutelage, these sentences can grow into musical conversations between soloists, “There is trading (solos), call-and-response… interacting is a huge part of it.”
His biggest focus in the course is the sound. “No matter what you play, the sound is the first thing people hear.” Not to be singularly focused, he adds, “Then, having a really good time feel so you’re always in the groove.”
The course will start on March 26th and run 7 Sundays (excluding Easter Sunday) from 1-2:30 p.m. at the Taylor Centre for the Performing Arts.
“As jazz has progressed, it’s become more technical.” He explains. But in this Jazz Improv course, he wants to keep it simple.
He cites some heroes, “Guys like Ben Webster (tenor sax), Harry “Sweets” Edison (trumpet) and Lester Young (tenor sax) all played in the Duke Ellington Band and Count Basie Orchestra before bebop. So, before things got really busy and ‘note-y’ they were just playing melodies all the time.”
The secret of their success is, “A lot of the time, they’re playing something simple, but what they’re playing has a very profound statement. It’s not about flash, it’s about being musical. Their sound and their stylistic inflections on things make it very interesting. It’s a good place to start.”
A note of caution from Wickenheiser, “A lot of people listen to Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie when they’re starting. They’re very technical.” He adds that some get turned away from the complexity, “they think – woah, I can’t do that.”
In this course, he empowers the budding jazz soloist, “What you end up creating is based on what you’ve heard before. It’ll get your brain thinking in a different way.”
Along with his instructional duties, you’ll hear Andre Wickenheiser featured in this month’s Salon Series with The Calgary Creative Arts Ensemble in the TransAlta Pavilion at the Taylor Centre for the Performing Arts on Saturday, February 25th at 8pm.
– by JLove
The Horn Capital of Canada
For the 8th time, Hornfest returns to MRU Conservatory.
Laurie Matiation, instructor with MRU and Horn player with the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, is ready. She announces, “Our guest artist is Dr. Ashley Cumming who’s originally from this area (Alberta). She studied with Jeff Nelson.”
Nelsen, who’s also hails from Alberta, is the horn player in the Canadian Brass.
At the risk of seeming like we’re blowing our own horn, it seems like Alberta’s got talent when it comes to this instrument.
Cumming, who studied at Indiana State and now works at Murray State University, contacted Matiation to see if there was an opportunity to work with the students of the MRU Conservatory Academy for Gifted Youth. Matiation saw an opportunity, “I had hired her for the Academy Program, and it was right around Hornfest, so we put it together.”
Hornfest, which runs the weekend of March 4-5, 2017, is a celebration of horn playing with a particular emphasis on playing together.
“We’re going to be working on a lot of ensemble stuff,” Matiation explains, “Every person who comes is going to be put in a small ensemble… a duo, trio, quartet or sextet.”
Clinicians and coaches are established horn players like Matiation, Heather Wootton, Douglas Umana and Jennifer Frank-Umana all of whom occupy seats in the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra.
For those contemplating joining, you’re more than welcome.
“It’s open to anyone from beginners to adult horn players in the community.” Matiation explains, “It’ll be a nice community weekend of horn playing.”
Along with repertoire that includes some movie music, “like some John Williams or (the theme to) Rocky,” Matiation alludes to a special commission that a lucky octet could play, “We have a new piece we might feature this year. It was used at Joan Watson’s memorial service.” Watson was the Principal horn player of the Canadian Opera Company who passed a couple years ago.
Matiation is hoping this new work will pay tribute to an inspiring player and teacher who had worked as a clinician at MRU Conservatory.
Hornfest continues to enrich the education of local brass players by bringing them together with great instructors and guest artists. Matiation notes the support of the Margaret Stephens Memorial Fund, a fund established after a passionate adult horn player who played in the Westwinds Society Band in Calgary, which allows Hornfest to invite guest artists to come to MRU.
As highlights go, whether it’s the master classes, guest artists or mass horn choir finale, Matiation says, “It’s hard to pinpoint one particular thing.” But she knows her favourite part of the gig, “It’s watching the students have that ‘lightbulb’ experience. You know, I can do this! I’m a part of that sound.”
It’s this excitement and inspiration that ensures Hornfest will continue to produce and support the upper brass of Canadian horn playing for decades to come.
“I was taught that the hoop dance originated with the Navajo people. It was a healing dance, part of a ceremony that is still around today,” says Jessica McMann, Indigenous Dance instructor at MRU Conservatory. “Later on, and more recently as well, there are hoop dance origins in Anishnaabe (the story of Pukwis) and Lakota traditions as well. The same significance of healing, storytelling and thankfulness are part of these stories as well.”
“This course is open to everyone who would like to learn more about Powwow Dance and Hoop Dance,” she says.
The course is truly for everyone.
“In the spirit of Truth and Reconciliation, non-indigenous people are welcome to attend,” says McMann, “Indigenous participants are also welcome to attend, and to reconnect with their culture in a new way.”
McMann started hoop dancing fifteen years ago. She credits her pursuit to great instruction,“I had a really awesome teacher that pushed me to work really hard, and it was an additional creative outlet to music (she also earned a music degree from UCalgary).” Undoubtedly, her instruction mirrors that inspiration in her students.
The perks of being trained in both forms of performance are many, “I am so lucky that this dance has allowed me to travel around the world, and perform in many different contexts,” she circles back, “The healing and storytelling aspects are what I hope to bring to people when I teach and perform.”
“The course is built around 5 hoops, each week, each participant learns physical skills, different formations, and also learn local indigenous history as well as from my own people.” In addition, for those looking to bolster their physical fitness regime, it’s apparently quite the workout.
Musically, McMann chooses the playlist, “I use indigenous music only, for the fitness and dance aspects, as well as powwow music. Participants will also be experiencing the talented and diverse music that Indigenous people are creating today.”
In offering this course, McMann hopes to build awareness between cultures and bring people of all backgrounds together.
“Hoop dance is unique in the way that it honours the circle of life, and can hold many teachings from different Indigenous peoples. Healing the relationship between Indigenous peoples and non-Indigenous people is very important.”
This is one initiative that is well-aligned with MRU’s campus-wide Indiginization process.
“With a strong history of upholding Classical arts, offering Indigenous music and dance only makes the capability of the Conservatory’s legacy to be stronger.” McMann exclaims. “There is room for growth, and the contributions of Indigenous fine arts are invaluable to this process.”
This is just one of many new initiatives that the MRU Conservatory is offering to broaden the training offered to a more multi-cultural Canadian community. Dr. Brad Mahon, the new Director of the Conservatory agrees, “The desire is to foster courses like Indigenous Dance, Taiko Drumming and Chinese Classical Music. Our program offerings should be a reflection of the cultural and artistic diversity in our community.”
With an expanding list of diverse artistic pursuits, the Conservatory promises to be as invaluable an arts education centre in it’s second century of operation.
McMann is a proud addition,“I am very happy to see the Conservatory being the first institution in Calgary to follow this important and significant national movement.”
– by JLove
When Calgary Meets Carnegie
Carnegie Hall is booking quite a few Calgarians these days.
The Music To Your Ears concert season at MRU Conservatory seems to have a few of the same accomplished names listed on the roster. Soundscape Series pianist Jan Lisiecki debuted there in 2016. Now, pianist Colleen Athparia will be playing the famed stage on January 26th, 2017 with her chamber group, Ensemble Resonance.
What’s harmonious about this duet is that Colleen was Jan’s very first piano teacher.
“I remember him playing a Minuet in 4/4 time when he was 5 (years old),” Athparia recalls. A consummate teacher, she adds, “Fortunately, his rhythm has improved since then.”
At 21, Jan is still considered young to have a Juno Award for anything, let alone Classical Album of the Year (2013), which he received in his late teens. He has been a recording artist with Deutsche Grammophon since 2010 with works including Mozart and Chopin. Most recently, he released a compilation of works by Schumann.
The New York Times described Lisiecki as, “A pianist who makes every note count.” He certainly seems to be doing so with a hometown concert at the Bella Concert Hall on January 20th, 2017.
Athparia, who has been teaching piano at MRU Conservatory since 1981, can clearly site the moment she knew that Jan had what it takes to make it in the industry. “I remember him playing a Grade 7 Study when he was about 7 or 8,” she says, “and I’d never heard a study played so musically and effortlessly.”
On the challenging side, “When he was very young, he was often distracted by the squirrels running by the studio window than on his lesson,” she laughs.
A confident soul, Lisiecki was always an innovator. Athparia notes, “Jan was very original when it came to fingering, and he often had strong ideas about his unique fingering, so we had to work things out mutually.”
Whatever the compromise was, it seems to have worked, for Jan Lisiecki has left YYC and seldom looks back.
As for Athparia, she has teamed up with Stan Climie (Bass Clarinet), Steve Lubiarz (Violin) and Michelle Todd (Soprano) to form Ensemble Resonance who, before taking their program to Carnegie Hall, will play as a part of the Salon Series in the TransAlta Pavilion this Saturday, January 14th, 2017. The program is in celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday and features works from some of Canada’s leading composers including Harry Somers, Robert Rosen and Juno Award-winner Allan Bell.
But before she gets on the plane to New York, Athparia is planning on being in the audience for Jan’s homecoming performance at the Bella Concert Hall, “I’d love to hear how he’s matured.” Though in her opinion, “He’s always had a natural affinity with Chopin and Mozart,” she says, “I hope he’ll play a surprise- something no-one has heard him play before.”
Time will tell.
If Liseicki is looking for some last minute advice from his very first piano teacher, she says, “I’d tell him the same as if he stepped onto any stage in the world…just enjoy the music.”
Best Kept Pop Star
“Even when I was living in London in the back of my mind I knew I wanted to be in Calgary in the long run,” says performing artist Raghav Mathur, known commercially as Raghav, one of the acclaimed international artists playing the Bella Concert Hall this fall.
Currently recording in Toronto, then touring overseas for the remainder of the summer, his biography is as impressive as his itinerary, “I’ve been very lucky that my career has seen hits in many different markets.”
As a pop star who is as comfortable performing in Hindi as he is in English, he’s accustomed to thinking globally. “My hits in the UK never really saw their way to Canada and my hits in Canada are relatively unknown in the UK and India where I’ve sold the most records.”
His departure from Canada gave him his global launch pad. With his debut album Storyteller (2004), his UK hits “So Confused” and “Angel Eyes” literally put him on the musical map. While rarely able to move about the UK without a paparazzi trail, back in his home and native land, Canadians didn’t catch the Raghav fever until 2011. Hearing just one chorus of the hooky single “Fire”, which charted on Canadian Billboard Hot 100, it’s clear why it won “Best Song” for the Canadian Radio Music Awards 2012 and became his most successful North American single to date.
Collaboration is a big part of his creative process and the growing list of artists and producers he has worked with is a testament to his global vision. Oscar-winning composer A R Rahman, who’s most recognizable for the score to Slumdog Millionaire (which won Best Picture in 2008), produced the song “Ishq Shava” from the 2012 Indian film Jab Tak Hai Jaan. Reggae legends Sly & Robbie produced half his debut album while artists like Redman, Kardinal Offishall and Nelly are just a few of the notable talents you’ll hear on Raghav’s three commercial releases Storyteller (2004), Identity (2009) and The Phoenix (2012).
Finding his sound has been a global journey. “Leaving to study in Liverpool was a huge moment for me.” Having a musical dual-citizenship was seemingly advantageous. With his Indian heritage and western upbringing he experimented with crossing borders. “In England, I realized how intertwined both British culture and Indian culture were,” he recalls, “I knew that musically that was my home because I was a hybrid of both Western and Eastern musical references.”
2015’s release “Until the Sun Comes Up” is a perfect example of that blend. Working with Indian screen star Abhishek Bachchan and American rapper Nelly, Raghav released the song with a video showcasing the trio’s work with Solar Aid to bring solar lights to developing communities in Tanzania. This project perhaps best represents the combination of his unique sound with a clear sense of purpose and heart, which is part of the reason this homecoming show is taking place. “I feel a deep responsibility to make the arts and music scene here more vibrant.” He adds, “I hope I can take my experiences and bring them back home to help create a long-term impact so that, unlike myself, kids don’t feel like they have to leave to make it.”
As for what to expect onstage, it’s going to be a unique homecoming. ”I’ve never had the opportunity to do a full live show that shows the true diversity of my career. To showcase both the pop aspects people in Canada may be aware of, but also the world and Bollywood sessions.”
In a live performance, as with a global trip, there’s a phrase musicians use to encapsulate the journey, “Bring it home.” That’s the plan for Raghav. He admits that a homecoming show at the Bella Concert Hall is, indeed, a happy landing.
To some fans, this will be a reflective engagement, but to others, this event will be an introduction to Raghav’s world. “It’s a chance to see all of me as an artist and songwriter, in both Hindi and English, to experience the journey of the last decade.”
Raghav will be playing the Bella Concert Hall on Wednesday, January 18, 2017 as a part of MRU Conservatory’s Music To Your Ears Concert Season.
Tix & Info: Tickets.mru.ca Phone: 403-440-7770 Email: email@example.com
Watch & Listen:
- by JLove
Mary (Fenwick) Christmas from MRU Conservatory
“Do you have a piano teacher who can teach a 90 year old who hasn’t played in 30 or 40 years?” was the question that started it all.
Mary Fenwick, a 91-year-old resident of United Active Living’s Garrison Green community posed this question to Mount Royal University Conservatory.
The answer was ‘yes’.
Not only has Mary been taking private lessons throughout her nineties with Conservatory instructor Kathy Dornian, she has been offered to play as a featured soloist in the Festive Favourites series concert Sounds of The Season at the Bella Concert Hall on December 17th.
Fenwick claims this all started with her daughters who suggested, “If you do something you haven’t done in a long time, it’ll stimulate your brain.”
So, she took to the piano.
The reason was both emotional and logical, “If I take piano lessons,” she thought, “I’ll love it. There’s always a piano in the house.”
Like many budding pianists, there were challenges with practicing. “When I started, I practiced here,” she says, indicating the common area at the Garrison Green residence. But I had to come at either 8 in the morning or 9 at night… and that’s not when you want to practice.”
She opted, instead, to invest in her education. “I bought myself a Roland digital piano from Steinway. It’s in my room.”
The reaction hasn’t always been positive. “One of the ladies here, when she heard I was taking piano lessons said, ‘isn’t that an unrealistic goal at your age?’” Fenwick laughs off the critique, “I don’t have time to be a concert pianist. I’m doing it for my joy… for my soul. And I’m getting so much out of it.”
The idea for her to take the stage was originally misinterpreted. A suggestion was presented by Jean-Louis Bleau, Program Administrator, General and Orchestral Programs for Mount Royal University Conservatory for her to join the ensemble in a Christmas carol.
“I thought it was just to have a person in the choir,” she claims, “but the part was soprano and I sing alto.” Feeling that the vocal range might be too high, Fenwick approached Kathy Dornian saying, “I can’t do it cause I’m an alto.” To which, Dornian, who was in on the suggestion, set the record straight by asking, “What does that matter if you’re playing the piano?”
Bleau, who is also the conductor of Artio, the youth choir who will be onstage collaborating with the Calgary Youth Orchestra and Mary for her Bella debut, claims this casting is a no-brainer. “United Active Living sponsors our Festive Favourites shows,” he says noting that December 11th’s Winter Fantasia features some of the Conservatory’s youngest performers, while Sounds of the Season on December 17th is for the more mature performers, including Mary. “We thought it would be wonderful to involve someone as young and vibrant as Mary. Her youthful energy fits with this youth ensemble.” Bleau continues, “Mary’s the perfect example that the pursuit of music is a lifelong one.”
As for the repertoire for this combined ensemble, Fenwick pipes in, “I’ll be playing Hark the Herald Angels Sing.” She adds, “I’m playing the main verse and they’re singing the descant.”
Undoubtedly, all eyes and ears will be on Fenwick as she sits at the Steinway, not the least of which will be her two daughters who have planned to travel from Victoria and Cranbrook British Columbia. It’s somehow fitting that these concerts are primarily to bring families together to support the wonderful music education being offered all semester long.
But for now, Mary is strategizing for the big show. “I’ll practice this like crazy.” Smiling, she nods, “It’ll work out,” she says, then winks, “Kathy will help me.”
Musically Speaking: Chris Hadfield is the Real McCoy
Chris Hadfield is Canada’s most authentic folk singer.
To some, this statement may feel as surprising as Bob Dylan winning a Nobel Prize. But like the latter, none could be more deserving.
In his sold-out performance at the Bella Concert Hall in the Taylor Centre for the Performing Arts at Mount Royal University on Saturday night, he featured a lot of adventures and reflections with his adoring audience. But, most surprisingly for some, most reflections were conveyed through music.
Canada’s first space-walker, first astronaut to operate the ‘Canadaarm’ and first commander of the International Space Station is also mankind’s first person to record an album in space (Space Sessions: Songs from a Tin Can).
At the Bella, however, his feet were firmly planted on the ground. His geocentric approach to his storytelling included songs and stories of Canada’s prairie history, the Clifford Sifton’s campaign offering free land to European settlers in the early 1900s and a recent trip to the northernmost arctic tip of our country to explore the landscape, wildlife and effects of global warming. It was as if your favourite university professor pulled out a guitar to accompany his lectures.
In all ways, Chris Hadfield’s voice is absolutely authentic. It may not be the most melodious voice that has graced this concert hall, but it’s undeniably truthful.
The songs, which included a couple choice covers of east-coaster Stan Rogers tunes, were well chosen and very personal. He has a seasoned tone for folk tunes and a steady fingerpicking style that was well rehearsed before going to sleep almost every night on the International Space Station.
The original material offered thoughts on topics lightyears away from each other. From the heartfelt reaction to his pioneering family’s loss of an infant child (his great-uncle) to the joys of weightlessness in space, each experience was both emotional and real.
The notes he hit in his performance equalled those choice moments struck by some of the best folk singers heard in folk clubs or festivals proving that in all things he pursues, Hadfield finds a way to rise to the top.
For the countless who followed his five-month space residency online, there was no surprise that he was comfortable in front of any audience, but what the audience also learned about Hadfield is that he’s a bit of an entertainer. With several tunes penned by he and his brother Dave, he poked fun at our ‘Canadianness’. In particular, the one that brought down the house was his rollicking ‘love song’ about today’s modern man-cave, “Canadian Tire”.
As Canadians, we’re famous worldwide for being able to look at ourselves and laugh. Hadfield has looked at us in a way that few Canadians have, and showed us what he saw. Pioneers, explorers, storytellers are what motivate us.
The second half of the show focused more on his epic space achievements. With slides and stories of his, now legendary, spacewalks, he regaled the crowd with inspiring tales and stellar imagery. This is what his audience was waiting for.
When, like a veteran music act, he ramped up to singing the hit single, there were about fifty musicians that joined him onstage. Mount Royal’s Artio choir and members of the Academy, Conservatory and some professional ensembles including the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra assembled to back him up for tunes like Is Somebody Singing, a co-composition with Hadfield and Ed Robertson of the Barenaked Ladies. When it debuted, Hadfield sang from space while Robertson was simulcast with 70,000 school children across Canada. Though there were fewer participants, the resonance of the song and its meaning were well-represented.
In closing, he played the single. David Bowie’s Space Oddity as recorded and filmed on the International Space Station. At the insistence of his son Evan, he carved out precious time in his scientific work to release a video the day before he flew back to earth. It has been seen by over 33 million people on YouTube.
He commemorated the impact that the imagination the late David Bowie had when writing the song in his late teens, before anyone had been able to live in space, maintaining how moved he was to know that Bowie enjoyed his version. Though, unlike Bowie’s original, thanks to his new interpretation, the astronaut in the story survives.
Releasing his supporting musicians, Hadfield then spoke directly with the audience. With the mantra to change yourself into the person who can accomplish whatever your personal goal is, he truly connected with his onlookers to offer a role model to do just that, in all of the avenues he has traveled. He opened up the floor to a question period which was so expertly handled that if you missed the entire show beforehand and experienced only that, you would have left knowing you got your money’s worth.
His unparalleled resume thus far has boasted titles like fighter pilot, test pilot, engineer, astronaut and commander of the international space station. What those in attendance now realize is that he is also an artist, a poet, a guitarist and among the best folk storytellers on the planet.
He revealed that his dream since he was a child was to walk on the moon. If there’s any way to get there, trust that Colonel Hadfield will find it and when he does, that lunar jam session will be out of this world.
- by JLove
Hadfield: In Our Space
Colonel Chris Hadfield is landing in our space at the Bella Concert Hall.
The first Canadian astronaut to walk in space will be the first astronaut to set foot on the stage at the new Taylor Centre for the Performing Arts… and he’s bringing his guitar.
Hadfield states his keynote address will be, “A mixture of some Canadian stories, some space flight stories and a personal interweaving between the two.”
The high-flying author of two best-selling books just released his third publication, “The Darkest Dark” a children’s volume on conquering fear. It’s just one of his creative passions he has pursued since landing back on his home planet.
The Music To Your Ears Concert Season at MRU Conservatory, which has featured the likes of Ziggy Marley and Chantal Kreviazuk already this fall, celebrates the pursuit of musical excellence, and Hadfield is quite at home on a concert stage.
Fans wishing to hear the famed space cowboy strum a tune might just be in luck. As the first human to record an album of music while off-planet and cover David Bowie’s Space Oddity to the tune of 33 million views on YouTube, he knows how to attract an audience. Ticket holders on November 26th will likely hear something from the album, “Space Sessions: Songs From a Tin Can” which features original music by Hadfield and his brother David.
Due to these many passions, he’s excited to bring his experience to the concert hall environment. “My intent,” he says, “would be to tell some stories and use some music to help illuminate them.”
Although Colonel Hadfield’s performance is sold out, there are more stellar guests in this year’s line-up at mru.ca/enjoy.
- By JLove
True Patriot Love – Escaping with Chantal Kreviazuk
On the night of the American election, it was nice to celebrate being Canadian. Even before the polls closed, a capacity crowd shared an escapist evening with the healing power of Chantal Kreviazuk’s music.
When you get the chance to see Chantal Kreviazuk, you expect a blend of storytelling, songwriting and most of all, musical excellence. For the sold out audience at the Taylor Centre for the Performing Arts’ Bella Concert Hall, that’s exactly what they got… but it wasn’t just Chantal.
Kevin Fox is a talent.
Most of the sold out crowd likely sighed to learn there was an ‘opening act’ before the songstress was to take the stage, but once he put bow to strings on his solo cello, they took it back. His rhythmic looping created a veritable orchestra filling the room with recognizable cover tunes from the Eurythmics’ Sweet Dreams to Paul Simon’s Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes. An obviously gifted composer who, like Chantal herself, blended his classical training with a contemporary sensibilities. His charismatic ‘aw shucks’ style banter was an endearing note of gratitude to the title act and a love letter home to his wife and two young sons in Ontario, whom the opportunity of ‘the road’ has taken him away from.
His love song, commissioned by his wife of ten years, with its lilting feel of a nautical lullabye, was a highlight of the evening.
From the moment she took the stage, interestingly bagpiped in by MRU President Dr. David Docherty, she commanded the evening. With the warm glow of four light strings spaced across the stage as if waiting to deck the hall for Christmas, Kreviazuk, dressed angelically in white, took her place atop the tree.
Her connection with the audience was comfortable. She wove stories of her family with Our Lady Peace frontman Raine Maida while onscreen, she showed personal photos of their beloved family dog and a humanitarian trip to Peru. Her regaling of rough emotional experiences which music has helped her through and, mostly, self-deprecating humour on the benefits of the touring life as an antidote to parenthood captured the audience. She was a confident storyteller with the life experience to support it.
But when she sings, you can’t help but listen.
The vocal powerhouse shone in the Bella Concert Hall with heart-felt power ballads well into the evening. Playing a majority of new repertoire from her latest release Hard Sail, which perhaps ironically she ‘hard-sold’ in each of her intros, despite not having the new release at the merch table, she mesmerized with a soundscape of eight years worth of life in song.
A Conservatory-trained pianist, she’s a marvel on the Steinway. Her graceful and melodious descants harkening a classical motif were blended seamlessly with the power of a modern ‘three-verse with a bridge’ songwriting formula. It’s no wonder her hooks have been sung and recorded by the likes of Pink, Rhianna and Christina Agulera.
The listening audience (you could hear a pin drop) thoroughly enjoyed the hits…perhaps more than Kreviazuk herself. Where she took the time to set up each of her new compositions, it felt like she was moving through the previously enjoyed repertoire. The majestic power of “Feels Like Home” and “All I Can Do” were comfortable memories, but slightly heavy-handed on both voice and piano. The addition of Fox’s cello and vocals rounded the classics out nicely, often filling in for what might have been lost in the non-studio version.
As she set up her beloved cover “Leaving on a Jet Plane” which launched her to fame when it was prominently featured in 1998’s blockbuster “Armageddon”, she invited an audience member onstage to sit beside her. Her lucky victim, “Jason”, an electrician with a calm demeanour and untrained singing voice, enjoyed the best seat in the house, and was a great sport as Kreviazuk sang her showpiece to and for him.
At the end of the night, it was obvious that Kreviazuk continues to be the real deal. Stripped of studio production, what she was able to accomplish with keys and voice (with supporting cello) was a testament to the creative best of Canadian pop.
But the real star of the evening was the Bella Concert Hall. With such intimacy of space and acoustic prowess, both artists onstage resonated beautifully. In fact, they both proclaimed it. Fox, who’s all-too-short opening half hour was seasoned with genuine wishes to continue playing in the hall all evening, took the liberty of ‘testing’ the hall’s acoustics in his final rendition of Joni Mitchell’s “River”, by pulling away from the microphone and singing upstage towards the lucky audience members in the choir loft, letting the reverberation of the room carry his voice effectively without amplification. It was magical.
Kreviazuk herself noted, especially on the historical American election night, that the fact that we had this exquisite hall made her “proud to be Canadian.”
- by JLove
Centre for All
The City of Calgary has been celebrating hometown achievements and innovative contributions by Calgarians with The Calgary Awards since 1994. In it’s first year of operation, MRU Conservatory was presented with the Award for Accessibility for the Taylor Centre for the Performing Arts.
“We’re honoured.” Says Elaine Danelesko, Director of the MRU Conservatory. “It’s a marvellous design and we’re pleased to have the facility contributing to the arts culture in Calgary.”
The 95,000 square foot building, which broke ground in 2011, features many soundproofed studio spaces and classrooms along with performance venues like the versatile TransAlta Pavilion and the acoustically pristine Bella Concert Hall. It is home to the MRU Conservatory and it’s 10,000 registrants in the student programs, performances and ensembles.
Danelesko simply states, “It feels like a fitting honour as our goal is to be an inclusive space for all Calgarians to practice, perform and enjoy the arts.”
The categories assessed by the panel are Accessible Entry, Accessible Parking, Accessible Seating and more. With special attention to audience experience, there are seats with removable armrests for those attending in a wheelchair, and restrooms and water fountains on all levels of the building. The space, which is already making waves in audio circles about its amazing acoustic design, wants a totally inclusive audio experience. So, it has Infrared assistive listening devices available for all to enjoy the music and spoken word performances in either performance space.
This comes at a great time for the institution as programs are already underway for the Fall semester’s music and speech arts studies. In addition, the MRU Conservatory is about to launch the Music To Your Ears concert season, which features over 25 events from performers ranging from Ziggy Marley (Oct. 13) and Chris Hadfield (Nov. 26th) to Brian Blade and the Fellowship Band (Jan. 29, 2017) to Land’s End Ensemble (May 26. 2017).
Award-winning accessibility seems to be part of the new mandate at the MRU Conservatory.
“We want to invite everyone to experience the Taylor Centre,” says Artistic Program Coordinator Mark DeJong. “With a diverse offering from reggae to classical, jazz to opera, there’s accessible performances for everyone.”
It turns out the Taylor Centre for the Performing Arts is in good company with several prominent fellow community builders. The Calgary Awards are given in 16 categories including Community Achievement Awards, Signature Award, presented to philanthropist Richard F. Haskayne and the Citizen of the Year Award, which went to Big Brothers Big Sisters board member David Pickersgill.
With the design of being ‘barrier-free’ to all, there’s no doubt that countless will enjoy accessing all that the Taylor Centre has to offer as a cultural hub for all in the Heart of the New West.
– by JLove