WSO’s annual festival highlights female composers in 26th year

Jennifer Doerksen, BEAT REPORTER

This week, from Jan. 28 to Feb. 3, the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra is hosting their 26th annual New Music Festival. The festival explores a couple new themes, including modern Canada to commemorate its 150th birthday, and the exploration of different spaces with sound.

Fjóla Evans is featured in The New World on Friday, February 3 at the Winnipeg New Music Festival. SUPPLIED/ Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra

“Inuit throat singer Tiffany Ayalik and Middle Eastern singer Maryem Hassan-Tollar are coming together from opposite cultural sides and performing with the orchestra and electronics,” said Alexander Mickelthwate, the artistic director for the festival. “And the whole work is about cultures coming together and creating something new.”

Those singers are featured in the world premiere of Syn-Phonia: Migration Patterns by Christos Hatzis.

“Canada is a place of immigrants, so we decided on the direction of migration and looking at why people move and migrate,” Mickelthwate said.

Most of the events will take place at the Centennial Concert Hall, except for two experimental events: the Ghosts of the Hudson’s Bay Building, and the 12-Hour Drone: Experiments in Sounds of Winter event.

“We started to explore concert venues that aren’t concert venues last year,” Mickelthwate said. He said they’re continuing with this by hosting a performance in the basement of The Bay that consists of six or seven chamber groups performing, as well as a 12-hour sound project in the Duncan Sportsplex.

“For 12 hours straight there will be sound from wild to meditative. It’s like this really, completely different kind of experience,” Mickelthwate said.

Tickets are available on or at the Centennial Concert Hall box office.


2017 Winnipeg New Music Festival Lineup

Migration Patterns – Saturday, January 28 at the Centennial Concert Hall, 7:30 p.m. 

Meredith Monk’s “spectacularly beautiful” Weave opens WNMF 2017. The world premiere of Syn-Phonia: Migration Patterns by Christos Hatzis for orchestra, electronics, and visuals features two singers of migrant (Arabic) and indigenous (Inuit) backgrounds, plus Tajik-Canadian composer Farangis Nurulla-Khoja’s whirlwind L’infini de l’instant. 

Post Concert: The HUB Opening Night After Party 

This night has everything: a fashion show, DJs, art displays, virtual reality, a dance performance, live music, and food! Portions of the after-party will be streamed by Stream WPG. Add to concert ticket or festival pass for $15.

12-HOUR DRONE, starting at midnight on Feb 3, is the brainchild of Melissa Auf der Maur. SUPPLIED/ Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra

The World of Meredith Monk – Sunday, January 29 at the Centennial Concert Hall, 7:30 p.m. 

“(Meredith Monk) harks back to a time before disciplines existed and categories were set in stone” Alex Ross has written. MacArthur “Genius” Award-winner Meredith Monk and members of her Ensemble will perform music from throughout her incredible and multifaceted career.

Songs of Ascension – Monday, January 30 at the Westminster United Church, 7:30 p.m. 

Meredith Monk and her music once again take centre stage, this time working with local choirs Camerata Nova and Polycoro. New music by Andrew Balfour, of Cree descent, and Filipino Francisco Feliciano will bring forward and contrast their own local interconnectivity themes. Serbian-Canadian composer Ana Sokolović and Quebec composer/novelist Nicolas Gilbert also present recent work.

New Music Tomorrow – Canada – Tuesday, January 31 at the Centennial Concert Hall, 7:30 pm 

Two new concertos by Israeli-born Avner Dorman and Sri Lankan-born Canadian Dinuk Wijeratne each scored for a rarely heard solo instrument, Wijeratne’s for tabla and Dorman’s for mandolin. Also heard will be Orion by Claude Vivier, whom many consider the greatest composer Canada ever produced. The piece for full orchestra developed out of his formative trip through Asia a few years before his murder in Paris in 1983. Métis composer Eliot Britton will present a world premiere commission for orchestra and electronics, and WSO Composer-in-Residence Harry Stafylakis will present a world premiere for orchestra.

Meredith Monk is featured on three nights of the Winnipeg New Music Festival. SUPPLIED/ Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra

The End and Beginning of Music – Wednesday, February 1 at the Centennial Concert Hall, 7:30 pm 

The haunting soundscapes of William Basinski slowly deteriorate even as they are being created. Employing obsolete technology and analog tape loops, his haunting and melancholy soundscapes are created using decades old tape loops which are slowly degraded, leaving a history of their demise through fragmenting reverberations of memory. Einojuhani Rautavaara was the leading Finnish composer of his generation. His musical language evolved throughout his life, fusing elements of modernism, neo-classicism, and romanticism into a unique voice. His Seventh Symphony, Angel of Light, encapsulates the composer’s musical history, growing inexorably from serene and ethereal textures to a vision of apocalyptic intensity.

Ghosts of the Hudson’s Bay Building – Thursday, February 2 at Hudson’s Bay on Portage Ave, 7:30 pm 

Building on last year’s concert at the Pan-Am Pool, the Winnipeg New Music Festival continues its exploration of alternative spaces and local histories, this time at the iconic Hudson’s Bay Building. Winnipeg Sony Classical recording artist and Continuous Music pianist Lubomyr Melnyk will be presenting a new live music and film collaboration with the National Ballet based on the paintings of Group of Seven artist Lawren Harris. The Cecilia String Quartet will perform two new commissions, and the Winnipeg Chamber Music Society will give the world premiere of Alexina Louie’s new Piano Quintet. Festival Curator Matthew Patton will present a new work for strings and voices.

The New World – Friday, February 3 at the Centennial Concert Hall, 7:30 pm 

A fascinating new work for cello and orchestra by Canadian Cassandra Miller will be heard. The world premiere was recently given by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra with the piece being commissioned by cellist Charles Curtis, who himself has worked closely with iconic artists La Monte Young, Elaine Radigue Alvin Lucier, and others. The concert will begin with Icelandic-Canadian composer Fjóla Evans’ short, textural work and will end with Turkish composer Fazil Say’s major work for extra large orchestra Symphony No. 2 Mesopotamia. Born and raised in Ankara, pianist and composer Fazıl Say is one of the most distinctive artists to emerge from Turkey in the last twenty years. His works blend folk traditions from his homeland with elements of Western classical music. Say has been charged more than once by the Turkish government for political offences but he continues to fight for freedom of expression in his country.