LSM Newswire

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The VSO collaborates with the innovative Kokoro Dance

Vancouver BC The VSO presents its second Vancouver Sun Symphony at the Roundhouse Series concert of the season, a co-presentation with Kokoro Dance, on March 20, 8pm at the Roundhouse Theatre in Yaletown. VSO Assistant Conductor Evan Mitchell leads the concert which features in addition to Kokoro Dance, mezzo-soprano Viviane Houle, saxophonist Wallace Halladay, the VSOs Principal Violist Neil Miskey, and Principal Second Violin Brent Akins. This collaboration is set to the music of Scott Goods Babbitts Concerto for Saxophone(s), Arvo Prts Tabula Rasa, and Gareth Farrs The Pagan Prayer.

Scott Goods Babbitts Concerto for Saxophone(s) is a reflection of George F. Babbitt the character, rather than an attempt to relate the narrative of the Sinclair Lewis novel Babbitt (1922). Dr. Good explains, I find his character to be interesting, in that although he is a shallow conformist, whose self worth is always related to the status quo, he feels genuine emotions of love, loneliness, and despair. This multiplicity of character speaks well to a concerto for multi-instrumentalist, and I was able to focus each saxophone on a different quality of his personality. The baritone is a greedy salesman, the tenor is frustrated at everyone, the alto is the lonely hero, and the soprano dreams of the fairy child.

Avro Prts Tabula Rasa (Latin: blank slate) refers to an epistemological concept that suggests human beings are born without any thought content, and that their entire scope of knowledge is built over time. Tabula Rasa was originally composed in 1977 for violinist Gideaon Cramer. Within its two movements, Ludos (to play or deceive) and Silentium (Silence), the full maturation of Prts compositional technique tintinnabulation is reached. [Program Notes 2009 Scott Good]

Gareth Farrs the Pagan Prayer is a dramatic setting of two poems by Charles Baudelaire, Le Rebelle and La Prire dun Paen. Farrs music is particularly influenced by his extensive study of percussion, both Western and non-Western. Rhythmic elements of his compositions can be linked to the complex and exciting rhythms of Rarotongan log drum ensembles, Balinese gamelan and other percussion music of the Pacific Rim. In addition to his music for the concert chamber, Farr has written music for dance, theatre and television. On-stage, Farr also performs as his alter-ego percussion-playing drag queen, Lilith Lacroix.


The Vancouver Sun Symphony at the Roundhouse Series:

the rebel

Co-presentation with Kokoro Dance

Friday, March 20, 8pm, Roundhouse Theatre

Evan Mitchell, conductor

Viviane Houle, mezzo-soprano

Wallace Halladay, saxophone

Neil Miskey, viola

Brent Akins, violin

Kokoro Dance, dancers

Gareth Farr the Pagan Prayer

Scott Good Babbitt-Concerto for Saxophone(s)

Arvo Part Tabula Rasa

Tickets $27 (Student, Senior and Subscriber discounts available)

Tickets available by phone at 604.876.3434 or online at

Generously Supported By:

Series Sponsor: The Vancouver Sun

Financial Support By: SOCAN Foundation


Evan Mitchell, conductor

Conductor Evan Mitchell is proving to be one of Canadas most promising young conductors. Currently the Assistant Conductor of the Vancouver Symphony, Evan is slated to play a key role in programming, artistic development and of course performance with the VSO, leading the orchestra through a wide assortment of concerts.

Equally at home with chamber music, opera and full symphonic masterpieces, Evan has enjoyed critical acclaim with recent operatic performances including Brittens Albert Herring, Wards The Crucible, Hindemiths Hin und Zuruck and the world premiere of Glenn James opera To Daniel. Evan also won positions with the National Academy Orchestra of Canada for four consecutive years as both conductor and percussionist and now holds the title of Associate Mentor with the orchestra. Highlights include conducting violin soloist Elizabeth Pitcairn, the concertmaster of the New West Symphony and owner of the Mendelssohn Stradivarius 1720 Red Violin.

Evan is an advocate of contemporary music. Recently the resident conductor of NUMUS New Music Ensemble, he has premiered several new works, toured across Canada conducting a festival of contemporary Chinese music and recorded works for the CMC, collaborating with such Canadian artists as the Pentaedre Wind Quintet, Penderecki String Quartet and Dancetheatre David Earle. Evan has also conducted and performed works during the highly acclaimed Open Ears Festival.

As a percussionist Evan has enjoyed equal success. In demand as a recitalist and concert soloist (recent performances of the Rosauro Marimba concerto and the Mayuzumi Xylophone concerto), Evans percussive performance has been hailed as breathtaking in (his) sensitivity as well as wizardly and awe-inspiring. Evan has toured Canada, the United States and abroad, including a memorable tour as Canadian ambassador during a concert tour with virtuoso composer/percussionist Nebojsa Zivkovic, during which he performed as concert soloist and along with the composer in a sold out performance of Zivkovic's celebrated Trio per Uno at the Stuttgart International Theatre. Evan is a frequent performer with the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony and has performed with Orchestra London and the Toronto Symphony. Evan has also been a faculty member and guest lecturer with Wilfrid Laurier University, primarily as Music Director of the Flute Ensemble.

Awards include First Prize at the Werlde Musik Kontest in Kerkrade, Netherlands, finalist at the upcoming TD Canada Trust Elora Festival Competition and Winner in Marching category as part of the Kavaliers DCI Drum Corps. Evan is also the winner of the 2006 Pioneer Leading Edge Arts Award.

Evan is a graduate of Wilfrid Laurier University where he completed an Bachelor of Music degree as a percussion major; he is also a graduate of the University of Toronto, where he studied on a full scholarship sponsored by Elmer Iseler and Victor Feldbrill, earning a Masters degree in conducting. His principal conducting teachers include Raffi Armenian, Doreen Rao, Paul Pulford and Boris Brott. Additionally, he has studied and performed in concert series with Denise Grant, Martin Fischer-Dieskau and most notably, Helmuth Rilling, in the inaugural Toronto Bach festival.

Viviane Houle, mezzo-soprano

Musical maverick Viviane Houle is a vocalist, improviser, and songwriter who defies categorization. With her uncanny ability to mix musical styles as diverse as opera and avant-garde improvisation, Viviane captivates audiences wherever she performs.

In the opera house and concert hall she has performed with Vancouver Opera, Standing Wave Ensemble and pianist Leslie Uyeda. In the jazz world, she regularly collaborates with the lions of today's improv scene, including musicians like Jesse Zubot, Ron Samworth, Peggy Lee, and Coat Cooke. As a producer, she is co-artistic director of Pictures for the Sky and developed "gesture4," an acclaimed collaboration with Viviane and laptop artist Stefan Smulovitz, dancer and choreographer Noam Gagnon, and video artist jamie griffiths.

Viviane's appearances at such festivals as the Festival international de musique actuelle de Victoriaville, Vancouver International Jazz Festival, and San Francisco's soundwave>series have been marked by a freshness and commitment to musical innovation. Her premieres of work by some of Canada's pre-eminent composers have brought life to new scores.

Upcoming highlights include a Vancouver performance with leading composer Louis Andriessen, a European tour with Stefan Smulovitz, and the release of a CD of duets with leading improvisers. For more information, visit Viviane at

Wallace Halladay, saxophone

Canadian saxophonist Wallace Halladay captures the qualities of the modern virtuoso, being at home in numerous styles, from the traditional to jazz and beyond. A specialist in the performance of contemporary music, Wallace has commissioned and premiered numerous works for saxophone. In addition to performances of concerti by Ibert, Schmitt, Husa, Scelsi and Donatoni, he has worked with composers Michael Colgrass, Mauricio Kagel and Scott Good on the Canadian premieres of their concerti, the latter a commission with the Esprit Orchestra. Wallace also inaugurated the Intersections Series with the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony in an entire concert of music for saxophone and orchestra entitled The Story of the Saxophone.

Frequently broadcast on CBC Radio, Wallace has also recorded the two saxophone Sequenzas of Luciano Berio and the Colgrass concerto for NAXOS Records. He has been presented by and performed with new music groups across the country, including New Music Concerts, Continuum, Sound Symposium, CCMW, 5-Penny New Music, Kumquat, Earshot!, Contact, and Toca Loca. Wallace was the Artistic Director of the Scelsi Centenary, Franco Donatoni, and Gubaidulina Chamber Projects. His orchestral experience includes performances with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra, National Ballet Orchestra of Canada, and as a fellow of the Tanglewood Music Centre.

Wallace holds a Bachelors degree in Performance and Composition from the University of Toronto, a Masters from New England Conservatory in Boston, and a doctorate from the Eastman School of Music. Wallace also studied at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam with internationally acclaimed virtuoso Arno Bornkamp with a grant from the Canada Council for the Arts. He has previously taught saxophone, chamber music and theory at Memorial University of Newfoundland and the Eastman School of Music, and presently teaches at the University of Toronto.

Recent and upcoming highlights include recitals with pianist Peter Tiefenbach; the music of Karlheinz Stockhausen; Karel Husas Concerto; a duo concert of premieres with percussionist Ryan Scott; the concerto of Hanspeter Kyburz; the K-W Open Ears Festival; and festivals in New York, Philadelphia, Huddersfield (UK), and Aberdeen (Scotland).

Wallace is a Conn-Selmer Artist and plays Selmer (Paris) saxophones.

Neil Miskey, viola

Currently Principal Violist with both the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and the CBC Radio Orchestra, Neil began his career in Vancouver after winning first prize in the CBC National Competition. He has appeared as soloist with the VSO, including performances of Berlioz's Harold in Italy, Vaughn Williams' Flos Campi, and Bramwell Tovey's Viola Concerto. He has also performed as soloist with the CBC Orchestra, and been featured on CBC radio broadcasts.

A native of Edmonton, he received music performance degrees from the University of Alberta and the University of Michigan, and has studied at the Banff Centre. As a recipient of a Canada Council Award, he also spent a year studying in Germany.

In addition to performing both in the orchestra and as a soloist, Neil enjoys performing as a chamber musician. He has appeared as a guest artist with the Ottawa Chamber Music Festival, Festival Vancouver, the San Juan Summer Music Festival, and also in various groups in Vancouver. A recent highlight was a string quartet rafting tour of the Grand Canyon.

Brent Akins, violin

Brent Akins is Principal Second Violin of the Vancouver Symphony and Concertmaster of the CBC Radio Orchestra in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Mr. Akins earned his Bachelor of Music/Performance degree at the University of Southern California, under Eudice Shapiro, violin, and Milton Thomas, viola. As a member of the Vuillaume String Quartet, he has performed and worked with the Tokyo String Quartet and Rapheal Hillier.

Before coming to Vancouver, Mr. Akins was a member of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra under Sir Neville Mariner, and was Assistant Principal Second Violin of the St. Louis Symphony, Leonard Slatkin, conductor. He has also served as Guest Concertmaster for the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Ottawa.

Mr. Akins has performed as soloist with the Vancouver Symphony, CBC Radio Orchestra, Spokane Symphony, American Ballet Theatre Orchestra, St. Louis Symphony and the Oregon East Symphony.

As a member of the Vuillaume Duo with Marka Wilcox, he gives numerous recitals and has recorded violin duo repertoire for CBC Radio Orchestra broadcasts as well as CBC Radio's Westcoast Performances. In 2000, the "Orpheum Masters" label released the Vuillaume Duos first CD, "Sonatas for Two."

As a co-founder of Notes of Compassion: Symphony Musicians Reaching Out, he is involved in numerous benefit concerts throughout the Vancouver area.

Kokoro Dance, dancers

Kokoro Dance fuses the aesthetics of East and West in programs of dance that have earned critical acclaim across Canada and around the world.

When Kokoro Dance formed in 1986, Barbara Bourget brought to it her years dancing with such distinguished dance companies as the Royal Winnipeg Ballet and les Grands Ballets Canadiens, and Jay Hirabayashi drew upon his experiences dancing with the Karen Jamieson Dance Company and the Paula Ross Dance Company, competitive alpine skiing, and studying Buddhism. Both directors also carried the need to produce dances that stirred the heart, stimulated the mind, and moved the spirit of their audiences, and these intentions are perfectly reflected in the name of the company, Kokoro, a Japanese word meaning heart, mind, and spirit.

For Jay and Barbara, the approach to dance best reflecting these intentions is an unorthodox aesthetic called butoh.

Marked by both provocatively disturbing and evocatively spiritual physicality, the butoh aesthetic rose out of the post-nuclear demoralization of the Japanese psyche.

Kokoro Dance creates a Canadian hybrid butoh aesthetic that marries kinetic and visual elements from Japan and the West. Through workshops with butoh pioneers such as Koichi Tamano, Hiroko Tamano and Natsu Nakajima, Kokoro Dance gains insights about the butoh approach to motivating original movement expression. This information is then filtered through Kokoros own grounding in western dance training and choreography.

Combining a choreographic structure that allows for a degree of improvisational choice with the interior imagery that conducts the butoh dancer, Kokoro Dance performs an intense, concentrated style of dance alive with sparks of spontaneity.

We love to dance. We live to dance. We dance to live. As simplistic as that may sound, that sums up our intent. We search continually through our creativity, our performances, and our teaching for a distillation through movement of our essential being. It is an impossible search without an end. There is no definitive, penultimate expression in dance. The path we have chosen combines interior poetic imagery with technical application. We have been inspired by our Japanese butoh masters. We have a lifetime heritage of western dance training. Our work fuses streams from Japan and Europe. Kokoro Dance is not one or the other of these streams, but a confluence of both.

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