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
The technicians at the Bella Concert Hall are ‘geeking out’.
Al Williams and Owen Day are the audio and lighting gurus preparing for the advent of a new sound in the concert hall. “For the first time in the Bella, we’ll be bringing in a bunch of sub-woofers,” Williams says, practically rubbing his hands with glee.
The reason is the upcoming appearance of reggae legend Ziggy Marley and his band on October 13, 2016. Marley and crew will kick off the inaugural concert season at MRU Conservatory called Music to Your Ears 2016-17. From an auditory perspective, there’s certainly a lot of diversity in the season, which features such varied guests as Wu Man (Chinese pippa player), the Pedrito Martinez Group (Afro-cuban drummers) and Chantal Kreviazuk (Canadian pop singer/songwriter).
This will mark the first occasion that reggae music will resonate in this concert hall.
For a brand new space, it certainly isn’t missing anything. Williams notes, “We have subwoofers in the building, but they’re primarily designed for the acoustical space. With Ziggy’s band and their type of music, there’s a tremendous amount of low frequency energy that’s involved in the show. So, we’re bringing in seven Meyer 700 HP double 18 Sub-woofers.”
For those unfamiliar with the audio brand, the best explanation Williams can offer is, “It will rattle the rafters.“
Lighting technician Owen Day echoes the excitement, “It’s definitely exciting to be doing bigger events. We have more technology and more toys to play with to provide a better show.”
What’s expected in an event like Marley’s is a rock concert event, which is a far cry from the technical demands of a solo violinist in recital or a keynote speaker. To illuminate Marley’s stage, Day says, “We’re adding more lights featuring lots of colour in the LED world.” LED meaning ‘light-emitting diode’, a technology that is making stage lights, as well as indoor Christmas lights, more energy efficient, easier to manipulate and brighter.
Day admits to the scope of this reggae event, “That’ll be the full use of sound system and the lights. I’ve seen his (Ziggy’s) rider and we’ll test the limits of the space.”
Brighter and louder will describe the Bella Concert Hall’s contributions to the Calgary music scene.
For those lucky enough to get tickets to the event, it’ll be spectacular. Day has been listening to exiting audience members from his booth at the back of the hall, “Everybody loves it. At least one person comes by and says ‘the space is amazing.’” Having that reaction motivates the positivity of the tremendous work required to make each show look and sound good. Day is in his zone, “It’s the dream. The kind of job you love coming into every day.”
Topping his colleague’s excitement, Williams quips, “I love the reggae, mon!”
Ziggy Marley @ the Bella Concert Hall
Thursday, October 13, 2016
Like many on staff at MRU Conservatory, Jaijai Li is both a gifted teacher as well as an accomplished performer.
She grew up playing both Chinese and Western classical flute, which has significantly shaped her playing. With the help of Program Administrator Jean-Louis Bleau, she is part of the new Chinese Classical Music program, teaching an instrument called the Dizi, a Chinese flute. Li says, “I’m excited and grateful that the conservatory is promoting Chinese music and it is just the beginning of this exciting program.”
In addition to the Dizi, students of Chinese Classical music can study the Erhu, Guzheng and voice. Jaijai grew up studying with dizi masters Dai Ya and Hou Chang-qing, but “Nowadays,” she notes, “besides classical music, I play lots of contemporary and experimental music which requires exploring new ways and techniques to play the flute.” Some of that innovation takes place with her colleagues in the Timepoint Ensemble, who are appearing at the TransAlta Pavilion in the Taylor Centre for the Performing Arts on Saturday, September 24th.
The Timepoint Ensemble is, “a New Music ensemble and we are also new. So we should be a new new music ensemble.” She jests. But the diversity of music they perform is no joke. “A whole lot of different styles: Minimalism, post-genre, fusion, and music for experimental cartoons. You’ll hear different sounds coming from a grand piano, watch a video game, and discover the players interacting with each other and improvising on stage.”
The show is called, Bridging Divides: Cascades, Layers, and Nightmares. Their program is as eclectic as their line-up featuring contemporary works by Marcus Fjellstrom, Ted Hearne, Bethany Younge and Terry Riley.
These are not household names by any stretch, but Li and her Timepoint counterparts are here to push the boundaries. “I think the society doesn’t fully recognize the value of musicians and artists when compared to some other places like Europe.” Having lived in Germany for three years prior to landing in Calgary, and also calling cities like Toronto and Bejing home, she has a worldly view on culture, “Every show is a another story, a unique experience, and a different angle to the society, to the art and music.
In another effort to bring the music to ‘the people,’ Timepoint is rarely confined to a concert hall setting. With venues ranging from coffee shops like Café Koi to the ContainR Art Park by Sunnyside, they’re bound to open some eyes and ears of new new music audiences.
Li likes the challenge of the new frontier and challenges audiences to see this ensemble live, “Timepoint will inevitably do something different from any possible expectations. But that’s part of the game – come to experience something new!”
Experience the Timepoint Ensemble, the first of the MRU Conservatory’s Salon Series at the TransAlta Pavilion at 8pm Saturday, September 24th. You might be the new new audience they’ve been looking for.
– by JLove
“Beethoven is pretty cool, but there have been a few guys and girls composing after him,” says true musical maverick Melanie Leonard.
Leonard is founder and Music Director of the Wild West New Music Ensemble and the newly appointed Music Director, Sudbury Symphony Orchestra. Calgarians remember her well from her four years as Associate Conductor of the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, but she promises to bring something new to the stage in the Fall, “I have a passion for new music and bringing people to beautiful music they don’t get to hear very often.”
The concert, titled Baroque Minimalism is a part of the MRU Conservatory “Music To Your Ears 2016-17” Concert Season in the Taylor Centre for the Performing Arts’ Bella Concert Hall. The program features works by minimalist composers Phillip Glass, Marjan Mozetich and Steve Reich who are all considered major influences on minimalist music.
Glass is perhaps the best known to audiences due to his scoring of award-winning films including “The Truman Show” and “The Hours”. Leonard has invited renowned organist Neil Cockburn to join the ensemble for his Harpsichord Concerto, a time-traveling sonic experiment. Both composer and performer are,“using an ancient instrument in a modern way,” Leonard describes, “extending it into another era.”
The ensemble will be composed of up to twelve instrumentalists, depending on the requirements of the piece and, in one case, will feature some pre-recorded vocal interviews. In1990, Steve Reich won a Grammy for Different Trains based on the train journeys he made in America during WWII. Had he been in Europe at the time, the train ride might have been destined for Auschwitz. In the piece, Reich uses the cadence of the human voice from the recorded interviews to dictate the musical melody of the strings. “You’ll hear a conversation onstage between the voices and the instruments,” Leonard promises. It has been described by The New York Times as, “a work of such astonishing originality that breakthrough seems the only possible description… an absolutely harrowing emotional impact.”
Rounding out the program is one of the most broadcast classical composers in Canada. Marjan Mozetich’s Baroque Diversions, featuring Marcin Swoboda on viola, will resonate in the hall and with audiences alike. Leonard is pleased to be shining the spotlight on, “masterworks of the 20 & 21st Century with this work by a living Canadian composer.” Her motivation is simple, “I want people to appreciate the music that every century has to offer.”
Whether it’s a new audience for classical instrumentation or new works for a classically trained audience, Leonard is sure of one thing, “Beethoven would be all for it.”
MRU Conservatory is pleased to welcome the Melanie Leonard and the Wild West New Music Ensemble at the Bella Concert Hall in the Taylor Centre for the Performing Arts on Saturday, October 15th, 2016 at 7:30pm. For tickets or more information, go to mru.ca/enjoy or call 403-440-7770.
- by JLove
What is a Rastagarian?
Leo Cripps knows. He’s one of the original six Calgarian reggae fans who, in 2003, created the Calgary Reggae Festival Society and have since entertained other Rastagarians with the best that reggae has to offer at Reggae Fest each August since.
When Cripps found out Ziggy Marley was playing the Bella Concert Hall, his vibe went from laid back to up tempo. “It’s gonna be a great show. Ziggy’s always been an amazing performer.”
Admitting it was quite a coup for a brand new concert venue to attract one of reggae’s top names, he says, “Ziggy’s one of the premiere performers in today’s day and age.” Having experienced Marley in concert before, Cripps adds, “You know you’re gonna have a well–rehearsed solid performance. He’s gonna deliver a great show for you.”
The Marley Family is, according to Cripps, “A dynasty. Bob (Marley) laid the foundation. It’s amazing to see the family that have taken it on. You have the third generation of Marleys still performing and producing some of the best reggae products in the world.”
Talking about Ziggy’s famous father, Cripps states, “Bob was such a dominant force.” By comparison, he identifies another world-renowned Jamaican, “Usane Bolt is the sports icon that carries the torch. Bob carried that for reggae music.”
With his new self-titled release just out, featuring the single “Weekend’s Long”, Ziggy promises to deliver hits from all six of his studio releases that will be the first reggae jams heard in the new acoustically tremendous concert hall.
Cripps is keen to hear the legend in an intimate space, “I’ve heard great things about the (Bella) hall from the audience perspective on how good the sound is in there.” According to this Rastagarian, he’ll be among friends, “There’s a huge reggae following in this city.” I’m anticipating that it’ll be a good crowd going out to see it.”
- by JLove (Rastagarian)
She recalls when her passion for performance was ignited, “I first saw taiko performed at the Heritage Day Festival in Edmonton in the late 80’s. I was immediately drawn to the natural rhythms, the thunderous booming sound, and the choreography that was incorporated into the music.”
Having studied ballet since age five and music since age 9 (she is also an oboist), she liked the synergy of the art form, claiming, “Taiko seemed to draw elements of both of those worlds.” Referring primarily to the Japanese group KODO, Nieckar admires the well-rounded commitment involved, “Professional taiko players are amazing athletes with training regimens that include long distance running, workouts, communal living, and strength training, in addition to intense drumming.” Though Nieckar will be offering a Youth Class (ages 10-15) and an Adult Class (age 16+) in the fall, it likely won’t be as intense. “Students should be prepared for a lot of fun,” she quips. “There’s some physical movement within their own physical capabilities, but there is no experience necessary.”
For those starting musicians of all ages who may be intimidated by notes on a page, Nieckar dispels that fear, “Taiko pieces are taught orally using a method of kuchi-shoga (a verbal cueing of the rhythm using syllables like ‘don’, “doko” or “ka”), and pieces are memorized rather than reading sheet music.”
She describes three sizes of drums that will be explored in class. “Large Odaiko drums have a very deep thunderous reverberating quality. The small shimedaiko have a more piercing high-pitched sound.” Finally, she identifies the popular chudaiko drum, “a medium-sized taiko that is often constructed from recycled wine barrels.”
Those who have experienced taiko performances, perhaps from Nieckar’s ensemble Midnight Taiko Kai in Calgary, will perhaps recognize two differing drum positions. Beta-dai is the upright flat-on-the-floor drumming that students will begin with and Naname is where the drum is raised and angled to enable a different percussive style and choreography. In all age groups, Nieckar will rehearse, “a variety of traditional and “open-source” repertoire, as well as introducing some basic improvisation.” Then she hopes to have a public recital on the final day of classes for family and friends to experience taiko performance.
According to Nieckar, this is a great time for the MRU Conservatory to start incorporating the art of taiko drumming in its musical programming. She says, “Some of my taiko peers are collaborating with rock bands, electronic music, ballet companies, classical music, television commercials, sports half-time shows and with choral music.” In fact, she addresses its growing presence in popular culture. “Photos of an interview with composer John Williams leading up to the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens revealed an odaiko in the percussion section at the back of the orchestra.”
For fans of the Force, “these are the drums you’re looking for.”
- by JLove
At a time when we’re celebrating our country’s athletic achievements on the podium in Rio, there’s some gold medal achievements worthy of celebration here on home turf. Eric Auerbach is the Canadian National Strings Champion.
Auerbach, who is 26 year old violinist, competed in the Calgary Performing Arts Festival at MRU in the spring, then went on to win at the Provincial level in Edmonton and just capped the triple-crown winning at the National level, also in Edmonton, this August.
“I played the Bach Partita no 2 in D minor, and the Sibelius Violin Concerto,” said the MRU Academy student. With a one-hour time limit on his performance, he describes his performace as, “very exhausting, both mentally and physically. My program was timed at a little under an hour, so I couldn’t take many breaks in between movements or pieces.”
As one of Bill van der Sloot’s string students, Auerback senses some thrilling progress in his playing, “The first time I played the program at the Calgary festival I thought my arms were going to fall off by the time I was done. By the time I reached Nationals, I was able to play the program without getting physically tired, which I am very happy about!”
Not just a solo artist, in the national chamber class, he was joined by Jenny Crane (cello) and Minja Mckenna (viola). Having been on a two-month hiatus before the competition meant that the trio had to make up for lost time. “We were only able to meet a week before Nationals. During that week we met every day, sometimes twice a day, to get our pieces back into shape.”
The hard work paid off as the trio, coached by John Thomson who was in the audience in Edmonton for support, was also awarded with first prize in the chamber music division.
As a gracious victor, Auerbach sites the work of van der Sloot and Thomson, along with previous instructors Ian Swensen and Kevork Mardirossian as the reasons he made the podium, “I would not be where I am without any of these teachers.”
Winning nationals earns the violinist a scholarship which Auerbach plans to use towards his studies. “ I am supporting myself to study here, and the winnings I have received will allow me to continue to do this.”
When asked what the key to his gold-medal success has been, he answers, “I would say having the curiosity to be constantly searching for what you want. I get pretty fascinated and obsessive over the music I am playing, and nurturing this trait lets me take the time and space I need to grow.”
– by JLove
“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, September 21st, 2016 as the premiere show in MRU Conservatory’s Music To Your Ears Concert Season.
Watch & Listen:
- by JLove
Sophie Serafino is a proud Academy graduate whose continued success onstage mirrors the education she received from instructors like Bill van der Sloot at MRU Conservatory. These formative musical memories are powerful motivators to propel careers, strive for excellence and, in many cases, to give back.
With the help of the Rotary Club of Calgary Downtown, she is creating a partnership to pay it forward. This last month, the TransAlta Pavilion at the Taylor Centre for the Performing Arts in MRU Conservatory was filled with world-class talent and world-class Rotarians. Serafino sings their prasies, “The Rotary Club of Calgary downtown, is a huge provider of scholarships. They strongly support education right from basic literacy to adult education.”
This particular event, however, has a philanthropic twist. The funds, to the tune of $7000 in its inaugural presentation, are to go towards the students’ tuition costs at the renowned post-secondary music institutions they’re destined to study at.
“On a practical level,” Serafino explains, “giving a student the freedom from financial concerns to concentrate on the study of their instrument can make all the difference in a busy year of study.” The levels of need are varying, but the cost of Julliard is ever increasing. Serafino recognizes that, “If a very promising student cannot access the tuition they require, it might prevent that player from continuing their study at all.”
And she would know. Since her time in the Academy, she has successfully transitioned her violin studies into a thriving career. She has recorded several critically acclaimed albums and appeared with artists including Josh Groban, Amy Sky, Pavlo and one of MRU Conservatory’s Music To Your Ears 2016-17 Season stars, Chantal Kreviazuk. The passion with which she plays onstage is echoed in the passion she has to give another generation of performers a leg-up. “Supporting music education, and those talented students who may go on to professional careers with assistance is extremely important, not only for those students, but for our city, for the future art and culture in our city.”
The doors opened into the enchanting TransAlta Pavilion and each eligible student played to a rapt Rotarian audience and to a panel of esteemed adjudicators from the Calgary community. Joining Bill van der Sloot on the panel were Paul Dornian, President of the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, John Kadz, Artistic Advisor and Coordinator for the Academy Program and Rolf Bertsch, conductor of the Calgary Civic Symphony.
With the array of talent taking the stage, their work was definitely cut out for them.
In Serafino’s words, “The standard of performance was absolutely fabulous. Very competitive, and impressive.” In the end, the adjudicators agreed that the inaugural scholarship funds were to be given to pianist Kevin Chen (12 and under), violinist Isabella Perron (13-16 years) and violinist Angela Ryu (17 and over).
MRU Conservatory is grateful to forge this insightful partnership and Serafino and her fellow Rotarians couldn’t be happier. “I am grateful that it came together, and that the funds went towards tuition of an amazing group of students. I would love to add a few 0s to the scholarship amount! I will work towards this scholarship increasing in the amount to a point where we could potentially send students to study at world-renowned institutions around the globe, and I want to help make that happen.
- by JLove
The MRU Conservatory is broadening their offering in a few different directions by adding new cultural music genres, digital music and dance to their already extensive repertoire.
Bleau states his reasons for the scope expansion, “When we first moved into this building and it’s called the Taylor Centre for the Performing Arts. We do Music and Speech Arts very well, but we don’t do Theatre and Dance.” He continues, “Noting that we have dance theatres at our disposal and venues that are capable of holding more than music, it seemed like a good time.”
The introduction of dance seems like a logical step. “This grows from our Music with Your Baby class, where they use music and movement,” Bleau states, “now the students will be able to continue in both directions.” With Creative Dance courses offered by Jennifer Mahood for ages 4-5 yrs and 5-6 yrs, students can take their next ‘step-touches’ to grow as dancers. The Creative Dance Youth and Adults programs are poised to be a fitting continuation for the successfully trained younger dancers.
Bleau beams. “We’re expanding beyond just music as a performing art with a course called ‘Imagination in Motion’. It’s being taught by 2015 Enbridge Emerging Artist Recipient Mark Ikeda.” Students will range in their artisitic diciplines. It’s being described as an ‘Arts Incubation’ where, “a collection of artists will come together as an ensemble to create an art piece that could involve music, theatre and dance.”
Culturally, the new horizon is facing east. With Chinese classical musical offerings like Erhu (Chinese fiddle), Dizi (Chinese flute) and Guzhen (Chinese zither) along with (Chinese) voice classes under the direction of Shana Yang, who also directs the Calgary Zhi-Yin Choir.
Students can also be exposed to different sonic scales in the Indian musical traditions of Raga music. The East Indian tradition of Kathak Dance will be introduced, alongside the Indigenous Dance classes whose roots are from right here in the Canadian prairies.
Finally, MRU Conservatory explores the art of digital performance recording and production with courses in Garage Band, the Fundamentals of Sound, Introduction to Film Music and Podcasting. These courses aim to give instrumentalists the tools they need to compose, record and produce material to further their careers and potentially earn a Sound and Technology Certificate of Completion.
“It’s about all performing arts.” Jean Louis Bleau summarizes. “Canada is a multicultural place. Calgary is a multicultural place. For me, it’s a passion to listen to different types of music and to be inspired by that. There’s such a great variety of music and if we focus on one, we don’t actually get to enjoy and benefit from the others.
Bleau concludes, “We are recognized as one of the top institutions for training western classical music. We’re the place that should be known for doing that for all types of music.”
Interested in any of these styles of music?
Contact the MRU Conservatory.
- by JLove