Too much fun in church means that at least one person will guiltily look over their shoulder.
The church was Koerner Hall, and the fun was The Minimalist Dream House Project from Toronto Summer Music, Katia and Marielle Labèque plus several additional players. At intermissions (yes there were two: at this massive concert) I kept hearing incredulity, joy, wonderment.
Of course in classical music circles “new music” has often mean “dissonant” or “atonal” within living memory. A concert of recent compositions that’s tonal?
No wonder the audience was buzzing with pleasure.
Too bad the younger audience I’d hoped to see never materialized. Maybe they didn’t hear about it or perhaps they were out of town (Toronto does feel relatively empty this week). I had the surreal –and thoroughly exhilarating—experience of watching a classical concert hijacked, as if a rock band hiding backstage took over partway through. We started with the Labèque sisters, Satie & Pärt, Duckworth & a powerful piece by Philip Glass.
But after the first interval? Terry Riley’s In C, employing two guitars, pianos, electronic keys & percussion provided a pretext. The guitars, synth & percussion stayed, and more or less took over, as we heard Brian Eno, Radiohead, and Sonic Youth interspersed with minimalist compositions executed with the same orchestration, and often the same edgy delivery of rock music. Where the first part was often very quiet, the second part was often quite loud! The passionate explosion of this section was phenomenally cathartic after the relative stasis of the first hour, blowing the lid off the place.
While I’d bravo’d in the first section, in the second part it felt more appropriate to scream and shout. I wondered if dancing would have been possible, perhaps with a moshpit in front. Even so, inhaling the delicate fragrances of Koerner Hall’s wood finishes, I didn’t lose all sense of decorum, especially with a grinning Douglas McNabney (the Artistic Director of TSM) sitting ten feet away. If the balance in the audience had been a bit younger, had those of us hooting and hollering been more than a handful, this would have been perfect.
But even so McNabney had reason to be pleased, in programming that is at least experimental if not downright edgy. He’d introduced our evening with his usual studious talk, this time giving us some ideas about minimalism.
He reminded me of something I’d almost forgotten, namely that some people dislike minimalist music & composers, something that’s hard to believe after a night like this one. There’s a knock knock joke starring Philip Glass for instance, where the people who tell it usually think they’re making a clever remark, in pointing out that his music repeats frequently.,.. I suppose it was funny: in 1980. Or 1990 then? But by now i hope Philip Glass isn’t unknown.
But I was put in mind of the whole context when Minimalism arrived on the scene, that some people were tired of dissonance, of the complexity of modernist composition. I only wish that concerts like this one became the norm rather than the exception. Throughout the audience was silent with wonder, in awe of the beauty they were hearing, including the quirky beauty of some of the compositions in the final section of the evening, experimental sounds that straddled the boundary between a classical concert and really exquisite rock music. David Chalmin, Nicola Tesscari, Alexandre Maillard & Raphaël Séguiner brought virtuoso chops to their instruments, but also a willingness to let their instruments wail when necessary. The concert at times had a decidedly experimental -exploratory feel to it, as though we were watching something being created afresh, and as though the players weren’t sure what was going to come out of their instruments.
This is what concerts are meant to do. The audience was challenged, provoked, moved, and yes, shown all sorts of beautiful sounds [and let me add –the morning after–that there was a moment that had me thinking of the premiere of Le Sacre du Printemps, when some in the audience were overwhelmed and resembling tired old folks, while others stood and cheered… i wondered if we might have a riot, except that the assembled conflict was between the youthfully inspired and the old and tired. No chance of a battle. But “Dream House” is indeed an epithet to be explored… oh how i wish i could ask Katia and Marielle about their dream]. At times it resembled a happening as much as a concert. It’s the best concert I’ve been to this year. Bravi!