If you haven’t been to Carnegie Hall you better start practicing, because it’s a beautiful space. Thursday night, I had the pleasure of being invited to a Travel Manitoba reception and performances by the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra (with accompanying soloists).
I’ve been keen to get out to Manitoba to see the splendors of the Northern Lights. At the reception, I found out about some of the province’s other offerings, including the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, which opens this September (“the first museum solely dedicated to the evolution, celebration and future of human rights”). Manitoba is also home to the Churchill Northern Studies Centre, an independent, non-profit research and educational facility focusing on physical environment, social issues and economic development, which welcomes volunteers, students, and an array of short-term visitors interested in life-long learning.
The musical selections were a part of Carnegie Hall’s Spring for Music. Now in its 4th season, Spring for Music features select North American symphony and chamber orchestras. As part of the Festival, the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, under Musical Director Alexander Mickelthwate, performed three pieces, with all pieces having their U.S. debuts: R. Murray Schafer’s Symphony No. 1, Derek Charke’s 13 Inuit Throat Song Games (feat. throat singer Tanya Tagaq) and Vincent Ho’s The Shaman (feat. percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie). All three composers were also in attendance.
R. Murray Schafer is one of Canada’s foremost composers, receiving the Walter Carsen Prize, the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement, and induction as a Companion of the Order of Canada. Over its three movements, Schafer’s Symphony No. 1 used the breadth of the orchestra to establish tension, movement, and a cinematic feel.
Inuit throat singing is a tradition where two performers (usually women) stand opposite one another, dancing and using voiced and unvoiced sounds in a rhythmic pattern. The game lasts until one person can’t keep up with the other or stops (frequently due to laughter). Composer Derek Charke combined the traditional throat singing of the Inuit with a classical symphony to marry different musical cultures. Offsetting the norm of the pre-written and expected, Tanya Tagaq’s throat singing is not set in advance, but improvised on the spot as she engages with the larger group of musicians in a playful back-and-forth.
During Vincent Ho’s piece, Dame Evelyn Glennie’s flowing silver hair bounced about as she moved from instrument to instrument, demonstrating the versatility that makes her the world’s first full-time solo percussionist. Born and raised in Scotland, Glennie started losing her hearing at the age of 8. With limited aural ability, Glennie finds other bodily ways to sense music, saying “higher sounds are in the higher parts of your body, and low sounds are the lower parts of your body”. Glennie has worked with Björk, Bobby McFerrin, and many other notable musicians.
I’ll leave you with a Vine of pieces of compositions featured on the walls of Carnegie Hall.