I’ve heard Jeremy Dutcher before in collaboration with other artists:
- As part of the first Electric Messiah in 2015
- As part of Toronto Consort’s Kanatha/Canada: First Encounters, a little over a year ago
This time we heard him alone. Having just released his first solo CD a few days ago, Dutcher brought his unique sound to the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre for another of the Canadian Opera Company noon-hour concerts, in a space that felt more like a magical sanctuary than ever.
If you’ve never been to this space, it’s a curious combination of informality (everyone sitting on the steps upstairs inside the Four Seasons Centre) and glamor (everyone floating in the sky above University Avenue). It’s a block away from city hall, down the street from the provincial parliament and hanging above one of the city’s main streets. As Dutcher sang and played we saw and heard three different emergency vehicles, sometimes seguing nicely into his music, and always reminding us that music is part of rather than an escape from life.
Dorian Cox, program manager of the Free Concert Series, quoted Louis Riel’s words in his introduction to the concert:
My people will sleep for one hundred years, but when they awake, it will be the artists who give them their spirit back.
And then Dutcher seemed to enact them.
At several points in the concert Dutcher consciously and ostentatiously invoked spirit. To begin he took a drum and walked through the space as though addressing those unseen in the space around us. And he reminded us shortly thereafter, that while there may seem to be empty seats, they are filled by spirits.
We heard him sing along with an old recording of an indigenous song, that he elaborated into something simultaneously honoring the tradition yet something new and liberated, in its use of modern sounds. Dutcher is working to keep his culture & language alive.
Dutcher’s is a fascinating voice, classically trained but not at all like the usual opera singer, given his flexibility, a tone that can mix raw power and soft delicacy.
At another point in the concert he depressed the pedal, and sang into the piano, as the strings picked up his sound and vibrated sympathetically. I’m sure everyone has tried this. But it was magical in a new way, poignantly fading in the air like a suggestion of a spiritual presence in the air with us.
And of course he was accompanying himself the whole time. Dutcher has an interesting approach at the piano. At times his playing reminded me of Keith Jarrett although it’s not fair to call it jazz. While there’s an improvisational quality to his playing he always seems to know exactly what he’s doing, where he’s going. This was the first time I’ve seen the RBA piano swung around to face directly into the audience. While I would have liked to see his hands working the keys, we also got a wonderfully direct performance of remarkable intensity.
In the hour of his solo concert we heard a broad range of music, sometimes gentle, sometimes more powerful and celebratory.
For more about Dutcher and his new album, go to jdutchermusic.com