Jennifer Nichols talks about Haus Musik Crossing / Traversée

I invited Jennifer Nichols to talk about Haus Musik.

If I understand the concept Haus Musik aims to do what every classical music company seeks: re-packaging and re-inventing their content in new ways in the quest for that elusive younger demographic, in search of new audiences.

I asked Jennifer to talk about Crossing / Traversée, their newest performance coming up this Thursday November 16th that she directs at The Great Hall.

Hausmusik is a wonderful recurring annual event developed by William Norris of Tafelmusik with the intention of presenting Baroque music in a non-tradition context and supported by other disciplinary elements.

Understandably, the audience for period music is quite niche, and this is such a shame, as it is exquisite and more people should be exposed to it, particularly a younger demographic. This is a not uncommon problem in the arts. For example, classical ballet, opera and classical music struggle to build and maintain audiences. It is even more difficult for something as niche as Baroque music. How do we change this and ensure its longevity and audience support through future generations?

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There are many arts organizations endeavouring to do this, and with Haus Musik, an audience is served period music in a manner that is perhaps more enticing.  Directors are offered a platform on which to experiment with their own unique way of presenting the music, and the result is different every time.

William approached me with this great opportunity, and the first steps for me were to begin with a concept and develop the supporting elements from there.

My concept was formed from a question I’ve asked myself for decades, which is ‘why does Baroque music resonate so deeply with me when I had no early exposure to it?’ Long before I started dancing with Opera Atelier (and hence was exposed to it extensively), I felt a deep connection with it, far deeper than the type of enjoyment I get from other styles of music.

The more I thought about it the more the idea intrigued me. Why do certain works of art, places, or people make us feel as if we know them intimately, perhaps from another time?

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When something resonates with us far beyond what is rational to us, is it indicative of something we are unaware of? The concept of time perhaps being ‘non-linear’ started to form, and from there a loose narrative took shape.

The result is a love story that reaches beyond the boundaries of time; in fact, time is fluid in their circumstance. Their story unfolds neither in one time or another, but in multiple.

It’s perhaps an esoteric concept, but I think it lends itself well to the music we are presenting and the intention behind it, which is that it is timeless and relevant regardless of context or date.

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The other parameter I was given to work with was the repertoire, which is entirely French Baroque, and so I ‘went to town’, so to speak, with everything French. I wanted the show to be immersive and engage all of the senses, and so the audience will be immersed in a world of film, visual art, dance, music, poetry, all bathed in a cloud of lavender. There will be LOTS of lavender. Everywhere. 😉

I’ve been incredibly blessed to have built a team of artists and collaborators who are truly excited about the concept and have come along on this ride in a fully committed way from day one. In addition to the Tafelmusik artists who are open minded and totally on board with what we are developing.

I have a brilliant DJ and electronic music artist named Andycapp, who has put together a gorgeous set of music to complement the Baroque. This musical transition from past to contemporary and vice versa is lovely, because they highlight and lend a nod to each other without being too distracting.

Visual artist and filmmaker Patrick Hagarty has lent a few of his works of art to support the narrative and these canvases will be featured. He and I have also developed and shot a film that is a stunning complement to the narrative and will be teased throughout the show. Without giving too much away, I think it helps transport the audience in and out of time periods in a very effective way.

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Dancer Jack Rennie has been a friend and colleague for a decade and it has been thrilling to work with him one on one to develop the character and choreography. I highly respect him as a dancer and actor, and his approach to the work. We have spent a great deal of time not only in movement creation but in discussion about motivation and intent and really fleshing out ‘who he is and what his purpose is in the show’. I appreciate how keen he is to develop concept and not simply present aesthetically pleasing elements.

There is also a poetic element woven throughout, in the form of a letter, which gave me an opportunity to flex my writing muscle. 😉

Hopefully it all comes together; there are so many moving parts!

A very important part of the whole process for me was to ensure that whatever unfolded was ultimately a ‘supportive’ context for the music, which is above all else, the focus of the show. Yes, there is a narrative, and yes, there are other artistic disciplines involved, but these should be platforms on which to push the music to the forefront and help the audience experience it in a new way. Which will hopefully make Baroque music more accessible.

At the end of the day, we want the audience to walk away feeling that they really want to experience more of it. Sometimes it’s all in the packaging.

*****

Haus Musik present Crossing / Traversée Thursday, 16 November 8:00 PM at The Great Hall 1087 Queen Street West.

 

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