In honour of Remembrance Day we decided to share the story of how our beautiful university organ in Convocation Hall relates to this important day of commemoration.

Although the U of A currently has around 37,000 students, in the early 1900s there were fewer than 1000 students enrolled. This student population was drastically reduced by almost half when 436 students and staff were conscripted during the First World War. Out of these 436 individuals, “eighty two lost their lives in service.” (9)

In response to such a significant loss of staff and students, a committee was initiated to create a memorial commemorating those who lost their lives in service. Many options were considered, including a statue and a flagpole. However, in the end, the Memorial Committee made a unique decision.

In December of 1924, it was decided “an organ would be an appropriate war memorial” (8) because, it was believed, the students “would benefit greatly from the cultural value of such an instrument” (11).

The original organ console!

Because every organ is individually constructed to perfectly fit its location, installing an organ normally takes an immensely long time. However, this World War One memorial organ was “delivered and installed no later than November 11, 1924” (14). This installation occurred just in time for a Remembrance Day Ceremony which began the tradition of Remembrance Day concerts in Convocation Hall. Today, the University’s Remembrance Day Ceremonies are so well attended, they are held in the Butterdome in order to accommodate everyone.

Throughout the years the memorial organ was heard frequently in weekly concerts, performed by the university organist, Professor H. L. Nichols. These weekly concerts had such a high student attendance, extra performances were held during exams to help with stress. Also, this memorial organ made it possible for the U of A to become the first Department of Music in Canada to offer an organ doctoral program. This organ ended being both a beautiful memorial and a fantastic contribution to the University and its students. 

Although the original organ eventually had to be replaced, its cases still stand in the Convocation Hall Gallery. Large plaques commemorating staff and students who died during both wars can also be found outside the entrance to Convocation Hall.

The plaques outside Convocation Hall to commemorate the fallen soldiers

All information for this story was graciously provided by Dr. Marnie Giesbrecht-Segger, who is both a passionate organist and U of A professor emerita. More information about the memorial organ’s history can be found in Dr. Marnie Giesbrecht-Segger’s intriguing book titled Lest We Forget.

The cases from the original organ still strand in the Convocation Hall Gallery

 

Works Cited

Giesbrecht, Marnie. Lest We Forget. Cabrien Publishing, 1995.

 

With a passion for music like Jeff Faragher’s, it’s no surprise he’s been involved with music since he could walk. When Jeff was six, his mom suggested he start learning how to play the cello. However, he still plays the cello today because of his first lesson. While learning how to properly hold a cello, he was instructed to wrap his arms around the instrument as though he were giving it a big hug. Since then, no other instrument has ever felt as natural to play as the cello!

While completing his undergrad at the U of A, Jeff’s studies were mainly focused on classical and traditional cello music. However, after starting his masters he began experimenting with different styles of music. Starting with baroque and jazz, he soon ventured into the Blue Grass, Celtic and Folk Music he is recognized for today. He’s also a member of the string ensemble, Sultans of Strings, which performs a compilation of Middle Eastern and Western style music.

On November 2nd Jeff returned to the U of A to teach a unique masterclass, focused on alternative techniques for string instruments. Because he was fortunate enough to discover different genres for the cello, his goal is to create the same experience for current students. While studying the cello it’s uncommon to learn pieces and techniques outside the realm of classical music because this is the genre the cello was initially intended for. Unfortunately, the popularity of classical music has been decreasing because people often believe it’s inaccessible.


Jeff aims to teach students how to mesh their repertoire of classical music with alternative music styles and genres. He believes this fusion will not only help keep classical music alive by delivering it in a more tangible form, but also help students find more performance opportunities. Because there’s a finite number of professional orchestras, Jeff believes having a versatile repertoire will create endless performance prospects for any talented musician!

While in Edmonton, Jeff also performed at the Almanac with fellow string player and U of A Alum Daniel Gervais. If you’re interested in checking out Jeff’s unique style of playing, visit his Facebook Page for updates on his upcoming performances!

Flight Risk photo by Benjamin Laird Photography

Back in September, when the Department of Drama announced Meg Braem as the new Lee Playwright in Residence, Braem had a new play in development called Flight Risk that was set to make its world premiere later this year at Calgary’s Lunchbox Theatre.

Flight Risk opened on October 23 and features BFA Acting alum Kristen Padayas (class of 2016) as “Sarah Baker” a student nurse at a retirement home who forges an unlikely relationship with “Hank Dunfield,” a World War II veteran about to turn 100.

We caught up with Kristen to learn more about her.

How did you get into acting?

I started doing community theatre in junior high, and when I got to high school in Grande Prairie, that’s where they offered actual drama classes. That’s where I started directing, stage managing, as well as acting. I was pretty heavily into it. That’s when I decided I wanted to do this as a career.

What led you to the U of A?

I moved to Edmonton and originally attended Grant MacEwan, graduating in 2009. I got hired to work at Teatro la Quindicina soon afterwards and got picked up by the Varscona Theatre. I was also doing Fringe shows, web series, a lot of young actor, non-equity work.

Then, my boyfriend (now fiancee) needed to go to Calgary for school, so I moved with him and carried on my professional acting there. While I was living in Calgary, I met Meg Braem for the first time while workshopping a play of hers called Coast. It was during rehearsals for that production that I auditioned for the BFA Acting program at the U of A, and got in.

How did you land your role in Flight Risk?

After I graduated from the U of A and moved home to Calgary, all the work I got in my first year out of school was in Edmonton. So I spent my first year out of school going back and forth between Calgary and Edmonton. Finally, the first Calgary gig I got was a workshop for another play of Meg’s called Vital Spirits at Theatre Calgary. So I reconnected with Meg because of this 1-week workshop. And during this workshop, I got an email from Lunchbox Theatre asking me to read for a role in Flight Risk. So I was auditioning for a Meg Braem play, while workshopping another Meg Braem play!

It seems like you guys are destined to work together forever!

Oh my gosh, I know! It’s a really cool, serendipitous connection I have with her and her work. She’s just always around! It’s really great because I love her writing, and I love her, so it works out.

Meg Braem

Lee Playwright-in-Residence, Meg Braem.

What’s it been like working with Meg?

She is the coolest lady! Meg is so grounded, and so real, and totally lives in her own truth. And that’s how she writes.

What I like about her writing, and her as a person, is she makes really wonderful connections to people in her life. In a way, she ends up writing about them — her characters are always reflective of people in her life that have made an impact.

I’ve worked on three shows of hers now, and it’s been great having her in the room for rehearsals because you can ask her questions about the character’s motivations. And she’ll just tell you, with no secret about it — “Oh yeah, I wrote that because of a conversation with my father-in-law, and he told me that.” “Oh yeah, this is from that time in my life when I did this…” It’s very clear, and it’s very personal for her. For me as an actor, it gives me context because it’s personal — it gives me a better idea of how to approach the character.

What was your time in the U of A drama program like?

I had a good experience. When I came into the program, I came into it a little older — I already had a theatre diploma, I already had professional experience, but I didn’t think I had tapped in to my potential. And I didn’t know what my identity was as an actor. At the time, I was just accepting shows just because “that’s what you’re supposed to do,” and I was losing the love of it. I wanted to go back to school to explore what I was capable of, to face some fears, and to grow.

Before I got to the U of A, I was going into auditions with no confidence at all. I wanted to find something to give me confidence and a voice, so that when I went into auditions as a professional working actor, I could be proud of that and say “this is me.” At the time (in my early 20’s), I didn’t really know who “me” was. That was my goal in the program: to figure that out. I definitely reached my goal, and then some.

Kristen Padayas in Studio Theatre's "Beyond Therapy" (2015).

Kristen Padayas in Studio Theatre’s “Beyond Therapy” (2015). Photo by Ed Ellis.

A lot of it was my own drive and hunger to learn, but it was the fact that I had really wonderful teachers who saw that was the kind of student I was, and they helped me. They invested in me because I invested in them. I had a wonderful relationship with my faculty where I could have personal meetings with them if I was feeling stuck, or scared, or having an emotional crisis. I could confide in them and get help from them on a personal and professional level that helped me succeed.

I think many students in general are scared to build those relationships with their faculty. I know I was when I went to Grant MacEwan, but with the U of A, I was older and going into a conservatory style program, which I knew was a huge sacrifice — it’s a lot of money, I moved to another city, and you basically have no life for three years except for the program. So I thought “I am here, I am going to get my money’s worth, and I’m going to squeeze out as much as I can from this experience. I’m not just here buying time to figure out what I want to do, this IS what I want to do.”

I give a lot of credit to having amazing teachers who invested in me because I invested in them and the program. If you have to go through some really emotional or dark scenes or creation, you need that support. You need to be able to trust in the safe space created by your instructors.

Catch Kristen in Flight Risk running October 23 – November 11, 2017, at Lunchbox Theatre in Calgary.

 

The ‘Crafting Type–Edmonton‘ workshop, with internationally known type designer Thomas Phinney, was held in the Visual Communication Design studios at the University of Alberta October 27-29, 2017. The workshop was co-sponsored by the Society of Graphic Designers of Canada (Alberta North Chapter) and Visual Communication Design, Department of Art & Design at the U of A.
Crafting Type students

Participants (students and professionals) learned the rudiments of typeface design beginning with pencil sketching techniques and ending with viable creative briefs and typeable, printable typeface designs. Photo by Cindy Couldwell.

 

Thomas Phinney is a font and typography expert and consultant, who also does consulting and expert witness work, and is sometimes known as ‘The Font Detective’. Phinney is President of FontLab, a font creation/editing software company and treasurer of ATypI, the international typographic association.

From 1997 to 2008 he did type at Adobe, lastly as product manager for fonts and global typography. He subsequently spent five years as senior technical product manager (a.k.a. “guru”) of fonts and typography at Extensis. His typeface Hypatia Sans is an Adobe Original (with help from Robert Slimbach, Miguel Sousa and Paul Hunt). His latest typeface is the Kickstarter-funded Cristoforo.

 

Photo by Cindy Couldwell.

Thomas has spoken at conferences across North America, Europe and Asia, including ATypI, AIGA, TypeCon and many others. He has been involved in the design, technical, forensic, business, standards and history of type for a very long time.

The following is a guest blog post by BA Drama student, Evelyn Rollans.

You just never know what you’ll end up doing in this program!

I applied to be on the ABBEDAM production team with an open ended request. I would have been happy to take on any role. Within the BA Drama program, students get a medium level of experience in a variety of production roles, but ABBEDAM is for many the first time they are given reign to try out those skills and learn in a practical environment.

This was certainly the case for me, so I was happy to try anything!

What I ultimately ended up with was sound designer, but as talks with the director, Philip Geller, and my own reading of the play progressed, it became apparent this was not a show with a traditional array of sound effects and pre-recorded music that sound designers are normally in charge of. Instead, this is a show that needs to exist in the space, in the moment, and totally live.

So my role shifted, and I got to test out another set of skills, this time musical!

The Skriker is not a musical show, but music is a very present part of its world. So over the course of the process, we worked out a combination of pre-written music by me, and improvised music that I developed with the actors themselves in rehearsal.

Director Philip Geller (left) in rehearsals for The Skriker with students from the BA, BEd and MA drama programs.

 

It was a wild process, and even though the cast comes from all different levels of musical experience, everyone was game to dive in, try things out, and develop a musical landscape that was entirely our own, and entirely in the moment.

Evelyn Rollans
Musical Director, ABBEDAM 2017

THE SKRIKER
by Caryl Churchill
Directed by Philip Geller
Nov. 2-5, 2017
Second Playing Space, Timms Centre for the Arts
Information and Tickets

ABBEDAM is an anagram of the letters BA, BEd and MA — the drama programs represented by the students who produce the annual ABBEDAM shows. For more information, visit the ABBEDAM Productions Facebook page.

 

Danielle Yao, a music student at the U of A, is no stranger to the music world as she often competed in music festivals growing up. Danielle felt inspired to compete in a Kiwanis Festival again this past summer. Given her musical talent she did extremely well at the local, provincial and national competitions; receiving third place in the woodwind division at the FCMF’s National Music Festival!

 

 

Danielle has always found competitions to be inspirational because of the talented individuals involved. She loves interacting with others who share her passion for music as well as, experiencing the performances of other dedicated musicians. One aspect she finds particularly intriguing is how two musicians can play the same piece, but perform it in two distinctly different ways. Competitions provide Danielle with an environment where she can genuinely appreciate and explore her love of music.

 

 

Although Danielle enjoys competing, she admits it can also be fairly stressful. However, because she performed so frequently growing up, she has developed strategies for managing the stress. For example, she makes an effort to keep her daily routine the same. In the past she has found small changes can negatively impact her concentration. During competitions she wholeheartedly embraces the ordinary.

 

 

Danielle shares another challenge that accompanies competing is the fear you aren’t talented enough. She insists you have to try your hardest to ignore these fears and perform to the best of your ability. For Danielle, the trick to performing is trying not to think too much.

If you’re interested in competing at a local Edmonton festival, you should visit the Federation of Canadian Music Festivals website for more information!

In Studio Theatre’s A Bright Room Called Day, a group of artists in 1930s Germany slowly realize the political terror about to unfold around them, and must decide to flee or fight for their true beliefs. Here now is a look at the actual events that led to the rise of Hitler.

After the first world war ended in 1918, Germany was economically crippled and there was a profound sense of resentment towards the Kaiser. Late that year, a process known as The November Revolution forced the Kaiser’s abdication and a new parliamentary government was formed. It became known as the Weimar Republic.

A constitution was drafted by the new legislative assembly, creating a new democratic Germany. It comprised two parliamentary houses: The Reichstag which represented the nation, while The Reichsrat represented the different regions of Germany.

Although this new government began its life with a high level of national support, Germany was dogged by a number of social and economic issues and the frustrations and anger of the people began to be aimed at politicians, and the system itself. As well as the vast economic and human cost of the war, The Treaty of Versailles ordered Germany to pay reparations and territory to the allies. Germany was unable to pay, and when France invaded the Ruhr Valley in retaliation, the German government ordered its workers to put down their tools. The economy suffered terribly and as more and more money was printed to pay the workers, hyperinflation left its currency virtually worthless.

Germany slowly began to recover. In 1923, Gustav Stresemann was elected as Chancellor and he made great steps towards stabilizing the country.

Gustav Stresemann

Gustav Stresemann

As well as sending the Ruhr workers back to the factories, he began to address the floundering economy with a number of austerity measures, and to seek ways to ease Germany’s financial burden to its former enemies. The period of 1923-1929 became known as The Golden Age.

When Stresemann died and The Great Depression began – both in 1929 – the ensuing financial chaos proved to be a turning point. Fueled by rage and desperation, people began looking past ‘ordinary’ solutions to their problems and support for extremist groups quickly grew. These groups (especially The National Socialist German Workers Party or Nazis) used fear to sow division between different groups of people. Their leader, Adolf Hitler, worked to destabilize the government, blaming the political left and Jews for Germany’s problems. Hitler also skillfully blindsided the German Communist party by siding with the government against them. Their tactics worked, and within four years their share of seats in the Reichstag increased exponentially – from 12 to 288.

Adolf Hitler

Adolf Hitler

Hitler’s rise to power was briefly checked by his loss to General Paul Von Hindenburg in the 1932 parliamentary elections. However, in an ill-fated attempt to assimilate Hitler’s increasingly powerful voice within the existing government he was offered the vice-chancellorship. Hitler refused, demanding to be made chancellor, and in January 1933, his demand was met.

When the Reichstag was razed by fire in 1933, Hitler was granted emergency powers, allowing him to act without approval or authorization from the government. This Enabling Act effectively handed Hitler absolute power. Democracy became dictatorship. As swiftly as the Third Reich rose, the Weimar Republic fell. When Hindenburg died, Hitler became Führer.

Hitler addressing the Third Reich.

 

A BRIGHT ROOM CALLED DAY
by Tony Kushner
Directed by Brenley Charkow

Set/Props/Lighting Designer: Lee Livingstone
Costume Designer: Reza Basirzadeh
Sound Designer: Michael Caron
Video Designer: Matt Schuurman

Timms Centre for the Arts
October 12–21, 2017 at 7:30 pm
Preview October 11 at 7:30 pm
No Show October 15 Matinee October 19 at 12:30 pm

Tickets and Information

Studio Theatre presents A Bright Room Called Day by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, Tony Kushner, running October 12-21, 2017, at the Timms Centre for the Arts.

Recognized as a major figure in world theatre, Tony Kushner’s writing combines a remarkable erudition with a deep understanding of the human heart. Deeply political, his works are both unflinching and tender. They are a searing commentary on our times.

He was born in New York City in 1956 to the children of eastern-European immigrants. His parents were both professional musicians and their own passion for art and politics was passed on to their son; Kushner was passionately political from a young age.

He grew up in Louisiana but returned to New York to study, graduating from Columbia University with a BA in English literature in 1978. A few years later, he took an MFA in Theatre Directing at the Tisch School of the Arts.

He began to write in earnest in the early 1980s and enjoyed rapid and dramatic success. His early plays – including A Bright Room Called Day which was completed in 1985 – garnered international acclaim and won a number of major awards. He has never really paused for breath and continues to write prolifically for stage and screen.

Kushner is best known for his play Angels in America (a play in two parts: Millennium Approaches and Perestroika) which shook the theatre world to its core when it was first produced in 1991. A seven-hour tour de force about how the AIDS epidemic unfolded in Reagan’s America, it continues to be produced in theatres throughout the world and was adapted into an HBO miniseries for which Kushner wrote the screenplay.

He is currently writing a new play – his first since 2009 – about the rise of Donald Trump.

A BRIGHT ROOM CALLED DAY
by Tony Kushner
Directed by Brenley Charkow

Set/Props/Lighting Designer: Lee Livingstone
Costume Designer: Reza Basirzadeh
Sound Designer: Michael Caron
Video Designer: Matt Schuurman

Timms Centre for the Arts
October 12–21, 2017 at 7:30 pm
Preview October 11 at 7:30 pm
No Show October 15 Matinee October 19 at 12:30 pm

Tickets and Information

Afternoon Delight painting by Gillian Willans

Slip into another time at Gillian Willans’ exhibition And light she lingers as your hostess. This collection of still scenes, presented by Scott Gallery at 10411 124 St, invites viewers to investigate intimate snapshots of domesticity. These pieces originate from a feminine gaze, creating a gendered perspective which invites us to contemplate with the artist as she digests her own relationships to the home and its tangled interconnections to constructing autonomy. 

“What if I told you I haven’t slept in 4 years,” Gillian asks. Explaining that “having children has exposed an idealized maternal inheritance,” one passed on genetically as well as through “role models and archetypes.” Once exposed, these differences between what should be and what is, become undeniable and unavoidable.

As a painter Gillian’s art form depends upon closely examining her subject, dissecting the structures of perception she will need to redirect as she constructs her own image. This is a skill she has honed over decades and now directs to the most intimate of subjects: the home. Her journey into the place of wife and mother takes this artistic examination of place and identity to new, intimate, heights — elevating the work to a place Gillian’s earlier paintings did not reach. She is no longer looking at her subject from the outside but experiencing it from within. 

Gillian Willans paintings

Gillian Willans paintings

This suite of paintings explores the presentation of our most intimate selves. Highlighting the battle between the interior and the exterior. How we choose to present identity vs reality. Each piece represents an archetype or ideal of middle-class households presented to women during the 19th and 20th centuries. Originating from black and white photographs these images are then reinterpreted into this new medium using color and hue entirely created by the artists.

“My subjective truths are sensory, like textures and sounds, and sights; they are what my memory retains.” These sensory elements are what Gillian imprints upon her canvas as she selects the exact shades of colour or hue light, and as she fabricated the borders of each composition. Each choice acts as a means of injecting her own memories and interpretations into a scene, but also as a playground for Gillian to negotiate her own expectations.

Like Alice in Lewis Carroll’s 1871 novel Through the Looking Glass, Gillian contemplates her “longing to belong in the present room” and her consciousness of the “illusion” which would be broken upon returning to “wonderland” to find it not as her imagination had constructed it. Gillian does not begin from a place of resolved persuasion but scrutinizes the subject as she builds her impressions and opinions. As the formal, technical and aesthetic elements crystallize within each composition, small moments of discovery and surprise become rendered. This open attitude creates space within the show for viewers to see and ponder her subject without expectation.

Check out more of Gillian’s work at her official website.

The cast of the upcoming A Bright Room Called Day are learning how to properly style their hair and makeup to look the part of young women in 1930s Germany.

Stage and film makeup expert, Michael Devanney, applying makeup to BFA Acting student and Bright Room actor Erin Pettifor.

To achieve the authenticity, the Drama Department called on industry professionals Lloyd Bell and Michael Devanney to show cast members and BFA Acting students Hayley Moorhouse and Erin Pettifor, and castmate and BFA Acting alumni Melissa Thingelstad, how to achieve their respective looks.

Lloyd Bell showing BFA Acting student and Bright Room actor Hayley Moorhouse the tricks of 1930s hair.

Lloyd Bell showing BFA Acting student and Bright Room actor Hayley Moorhouse the tricks of 1930s hair.

In the mirror can be seen design sketches for the character of Agnes, to be played by Erin Pettifor. All costumes designed by MFA Theatre Design student, Reza Basirzadeh.

In the mirror can be seen design sketches for the character of Agnes, to be played by Erin Pettifor. All costumes designed by MFA Theatre Design student, Reza Basirzadeh.

Overseeing the process was MFA Theatre Design candidate Reza Basirzadeh, who designed the costumes. A Bright Room Called Day is Reza’s final thesis show.

If you haven’t already, check out the Facebook photo album for more great behind the scenes photos of A Bright Room Called Day.

A BRIGHT ROOM CALLED DAY
by Tony Kushner
Directed by Brenley Charkow

Set/Props/Lighting Designer: Lee Livingstone
Costume Designer: Reza Basirzadeh

Timms Centre for the Arts
October 12–21, 2017 at 7:30 pm
Preview October 11 at 7:30 pm
No Show October 15; Matinee October 19 at 12:30 pm

Tickets and full production information