Stacie Dunlop is a rare artist, a soprano who commissions original new music, some of the most original projects I’ve ever seen.
You can read her bio.
Three years ago I saw a workshop of The Harvester
More recently came Balancing on the Edge, a mix of new music & aerials.
I was especially impressed at the time with the way Stacie explained her work to a young child in the audience. As I eavesdropped I found that I was becoming inspired.
And now Stacie and her team are re-imagining Claude Vivier’s Lonely Child with an aerial element. Here’s the way it’s described on her website:
A three stage creation project. For the first stage a new arrangement has been created of Claude Vivier’s Lonely Child (originally composed for soprano and chamber orchestra) by composer/arranger Scott Good for singer (soprano Stacie Dunlop), pre-recorded instrumentals, and will be reimagined including theatrical elements and aerial choreography in collaboration with 2 aerialists (Angola Murdoch and Holly Treddenick). A grant has been received from the Canada Council to facilitate the creation of the new arrangement, along with a development period from October 2018 through March 2019.
The project is still in its first of three stages. Next week I’ll be seeing a workshop presentation that I’ll write about afterwards.
But first? I must ask Stacie a few questions.
BB: Are you more like your father or your mother?
This is a difficult question…my childhood was unstable: I was taken away from my father at age 6, raised by my mother who was more of a child than a parent and eventually found my way back into my father’s life around age 21. I love my father: he is a kind, generous, loving, stable and supportive human being. I like to think I am like him, but I know I am also like my mother. Both of my parents are self-focused, and I know I am similar. Growing up, I was closest to my grandmother. We had a special bond…we were best friends and I think she understood me better than anyone.
BB: What is the best or worst thing about what you do?
The best thing about what I do is I bring to life my dreams…but the worst thing is that I am also driven to bring my dreams to life and this can be quite stressful, at times weighing on my soul heavier than even I realize, but then the dreams begin to come to life and that weight lifts and it can be truly joyous.
BB: Who do you like to listen to or watch?
Hmmm…funny question: I rarely listen to quality music unless I am researching something…and then I tend to obsessively play the same tunes over and over. When I run outside I like the drone of Indie Chill on Slacker, but when I run inside on the treadmill I like to watch bad movies, usually action or sci-fi, on AMC. This is kind of like white noise for me, but at home, when I am working, I do it in silence…I have never been able to work or read with music playing. I adore movies, especially horror and sci-fi genres, and am currently fascinated with any and all films Scandinavian or Korean.
BB: What ability or skill do you wish you had, that you don’t have?
People who know me will laugh at this question…I have quite a few skills up my sleeve, and like to think that I can pretty much do anything from installing car batteries and bathroom plumbing, to cooking gourmet meals and sewing drapes or knitting complex patterns. I guess I wish I played the piano with more skill, as I still struggle with the basics and can’t seem to keep up my practice. The same holds true with languages.
BB: When you’re just relaxing and not working, what is your favourite thing to do?
I love camping…the outdoors…smelling like a campfire, cooking over an open wood flame and sleeping in the fresh air…heaven!
More questions for Stacie Dunlop about the Lonely Child Project.
BB: Stacie, tell us about your background and how that leads to Lonely Child Project.
In 2016, I was paired with aerialists Angola Murdoch and Holly Treddenick for a show called Balancing on the Edge, an evening of new music and new contemporary circus. We created a work called Ascension, where we took John Cage’s Aria and Fontana Mix and reimagined it theatrically with aerial elements. I mainly worked on the floor, but also worked with Angola and Holly on the ladder apparatus. It was an amazing experience and a truly unique collaboration beyond what I could have ever imagined.
When we had drinks after the final show, we were all chomping at the bit to work together again, and that night I presented them with my idea for Lonely Child.
BB: why did you choose this piece?
I can’t remember what year it was that my mentor and dear friend, David Jaeger, took me to the CBC music library and plopped down the score of Lonely Child in front of me to peruse. He said he thought it would be a very good piece for me. Ever since that day, I’ve had it in the back of my mind as a work I needed to know, and also perform, but it was not until I spoke to Scott Good in late 2016 or early 2017 about reimagining this work for a smaller ensemble to be staged theatrically, that I knew in what form this was going to come to life. I just knew that it had to be brought to life by me in some way.
BB: Please talk about how you got the idea to explore Vivier’s Lonely Child in this way.
I am kind of obsessed in reimagining existing works in a new way: In 2009 I was introduced to the Debussy song cycle Cinq Poèmes de Baudelaire and knew I wanted to perform them, but they were problematic as the song cycle was quite long, so I had the idea to create a theatrically staged show with these songs as the base and I commissioned 4 more new works by three Canadian composers, Scott Godin, Tawnie Olson and Clark Ross and included other works by Jonathan Harvey, Elliott Carter and Sheila Silver, all of which were either inspired by or used texts of Baudelaire. I called the show Rêve doux-amer: it was about a life lived and loves loved. I am also passionate about the idea of taking an existing large scale work and creating a smaller chamber version of it. I had this vision with my opera project, which pairs a new opera (The Harvester by Aaron Gervais and Paul Van Dyck) with a new chamber arrangement of Arnold Schoenberg’s Erwartung. I commissioned Canadian composer Aaron Gervais to create both the new opera and the new reduced (10 player) version of Erwartung.
BB: Tell us about the way you’ll be presenting Lonely Child.
This work, originally composed for soprano and chamber orchestra, will be brought to life in a new way that will include the 2 aerialists working on 2 different apparatus (created specifically for this project), the singer, who will also be involved in some way with staging and movement, and it will involve recorded sound. The original score, set for chamber orchestra, will be pared down to string quartet (v1, v2, vla, cello), double bass, percussion and 2 accordions. This first stage process of Lonely Child is being brought to life using a midi-version of the score: that is, the electronic sounds of the live instruments will make up the recording and are set in a way that the tempos will work for the singer, including timed calculated breaths, and will be performed conductor-less. The total length at the moment is around 17 minutes. This is the first stage for the project. The second stage will include working with the 8 live instrumentalists.
BB: Talk about the team of artists working in the Lonely Child project.
There is so much that I can say about this creative team…these people all inspire me: Angola Murdoch and Holly Treddenick are aerialists but really that is just a small part of who they are and what they do. They are contemporary circus performers and the choreographers of this work. Holly has a background in contemporary dance and Angola is currently training as a therapeutic clown. They each run their own companies (LookUp Theatre (Angola) and Femmes du Feu (Holly)) and they are mothers, friends, passionate creators of art and two of the most incredible humans I have ever worked with in this lifetime so far.
Scott Good is an amazing composer, instrumentalist, conductor, and friend. He knows Vivier’s work well and has previously arranged Pulau Dewata for Esprit Orchestra. Sara Porter has been an incredible support as our outside eye for this project as well as for our previous project Ascension. Her experience as a dancer and performing artist has been a huge asset as she gives us important feedback throughout our development of the work. I need to note here that there is no director or outside artistic vision. The work has come together organically through discussion, discovery and experimentation. The evolution of this work has not begun with a pre-conceived idea of what it should be, rather it evolves daily from our research, play and feedback within the group.
BB: do you expect to be working with aerial artists again in the future?
Yes, without a doubt. This project will continue to grow and I certainly would love to work with contemporary circus performers again…definitely with Holly and Angola, but also with other artists if the opportunity should present itself.
I’m looking forward to seeing The Lonely Child Project in its current version, as it evolves and grows. Afterwards I’ll share what I’ve seen & heard.
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