Juno Award-tenor on the high notes of helping students find their voice

For the third in a series of video interviews celebrating the University of Alberta Department of Music’s 50th Anniversary, we caught up with assistant professor and Juno Award-winning tenor John Tessier.

Video Credits: Grant Wang. Multimedia Technician, Faculty of Arts, University of Alberta
Directed by: Steve Glassman with assistance from Russell Baker and TJ Jans

The University of Alberta’s 50th Anniversary Music Celebrations concert is set for the afternoon of Sunday, January 24 at the Winspear Centre with a dynamic roster of student, faculty and alumni talent. Lobby performances and displays begin at 2 p.m. The concert in the Winspear’s Enmax Theatre is at 3 p.m.

Featured faculty performances include acclaimed pianists Patricia Tao and Jacques Després, as well as Juno Award-winning tenor John Tessier, mezzo-soprano Elizabeth Turnbull and soprano Sherry Steele.

For more programming details and to purchase your tickets see the show page: https://uofa.ualberta.ca/events/50th-anniversary-music-celebrations

Usual program notes offer the audience insight into the lives of composer and composition. For the U of A Music’s 50th anniversary celebrations, Julia Byl took an ethnomusicologist’s approach, heading into the heart of our field of study to interview the people of the University of Alberta music department—students, faculty, alumni, supporters— to highlight them as much as the music they create. The following notes share the insights of our UAlberta music makers to bring the audience into their creative processes.

Part Two: Concert in the Winspear’s Enmax Hall starts at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 24

Scaramouche, suite for two pianos, Op. 165b (1937)
Vif et joyeux, Modéré, Brazileira
Darious Milhaud (1892-1974)
Jacques Després & Patricia Tao

Pianists often veer towards vaudeville with this piece, playing it fast and loud, with stagey exaggeration. Darius Milhaud was a serious modern composer of Paris between the wars: the name given to his compositional cohort, “Les Six,” exudes youthful self-importance (which the group’s output justified). Yet you can see the temptation for a schlocky performance. The piece doesn’t quite hang together compositionally, though it uses catchy popular material throughout.

It moves from the first movement’s short fast themes, originally conceived as children’s theatre music; to the second movement’s slow calls and responses, an African-American trope; to the third movement’s Brazilian samba rhythms.

Pianists Jacques Després and Patricia Tao recognize this element of off-centre whimsy, but also describe the suite as witty and urbane. Instead of looking within the composition to interpret it, they look outwards: cosmopolitan Paris of the 1930s pulsated with the music of jazz and the theatre. Tao describes the second movement as poignant and nostalgic—Després speaks of nonchalance and the profound delight of doing absolutely nothing—and one imagines a solitary stroll in a park, bird song mixed with the themes from last night’s hot club in a pre-iPod soundtrack for one.

Patricia Tao

Patricia Tao. Photo by Angelique Rodrigues.

“All of this music was just hanging in the air…”
Jacques Després, interview with Després & Tao 1/6/16

For many of you, the name Scaramouche conjures up Queen rather than the commedia dell’arte. Either way, we are firmly in the world of the popular, but popular music too can be understated, even internal. The pianists’ performance matches their description of the work: “refined and clear.”

Horn Concerto No. 1 in E-flat Major, Op. 11 (1882-83)
Allegro, Andante, Allegro

Richard Strass (1864-1949)
Jeff Nelsen (horn soloist), Angela Schroeder (conductor) & The University of Alberta Symphonic Wind Ensemble

The first horn concerto of Richard Strauss holds an undisputed place in the instrument’s repertoire, an impressive outcome for the work of an 18 year old university student—and not even a music major at that (Strauss was into philosophy). Years of hearing his father play as principal horn under Richard Wagner allowed Strauss to master the instrument’s idiom very early in his compositional career.

Mastery through listening is a good theme for our anniversary celebrations. Playing in the wind ensemble is Taran Plamondon, the recent winner of the University of Alberta’s undergraduate concerto competition. A few weeks from now, he will play on his own French horn, on this very stage, the same golden notes you now hear produced by a former member of the renowned Canadian Brass. It is unusual for a musician to have the chance to support, then solo in the same work in the span of a few weeks. But as master classes are core to pedagogy in the music department, we’ll just imagine this extra serendipity as a fitting update of the young Strauss’s good luck in fathers, and good use of his luck. The horn lines vault from father to son, from professional to student. Listeners who wish to elevate their analytical skills are also in luck: conductor Angela Schroeder says, “if you know nothing about tracing musical motifs, this is the piece you can do it in.”

The Symphonic Wind Ensemble performed at the CBC stage in downtown Edmonton Jan. 21, 2016 to kick off the 50th anniversary celebrations.

The Symphonic Wind Ensemble performed at the CBC stage in downtown Edmonton Jan. 21, 2016 to kick off the 50th anniversary celebrations. Photo by Salena Kitteringham.

“For the students, this is real professional opportunity.”
Angela Schroeder, interview 1/8/16

Mothership for wind ensemble and electronica (2011)
Mason Bates (B. 1987)
Shawn Gan (electric guitar soloist), Daniel Gervais (violin soloist), Jeff Nelsen (horn soloist), Emily Schultz (saxophone soloist), Angela Schroeder (conductor)

A constant pulse undergirds Mothership, Mason Bates’ cosmic musical metaphor for winds, electronica, and eclectic soloists. This is no surprise as Bates is an electronic dance music DJ as well as an American composer, and skilled in using a rhythmic track to regulate his listeners’ experiences.

“There is this new movement—to bring people together virtually whenever possible.”
Angela Schroder, interview 1/8/16

Modern digital media shaped this piece in other ways, notably in its online premiere in 2011 when it was played by the international YouTube Symphony Orchestra, and watched live by over two million viewers. A piece to resonate with modern students. The pulse does more than signal our mediated times, though: it tethers the electronic track to the ensemble and the soloists, all accustomed to widely different performance styles. Mason takes this into account: listen to the ensemble’s bluesy idiom as it accompanies the electric guitar, or to how its softer sustained notes complement the rounded resonance of the horn and saxophone. We’ll give the last word to the student players, who were taken with the initial bars of the piece in which the sonic ship revs up and “lifts off”—into a brave new world of media and genre fusion.

Symphony No. 9 in D minor (1824)
Ludwig Van Beethoven (1770-1827)

University of Alberta Symphony Orchestra, Petar Dundjerski (conductor), University of Alberta Choir: Madrigal Singers, Concert Choir, alumni, members of the Richard Eaton Singers, Leonard Ratzlaff and Rob Curtis (chorus masters), Sherry Steele (soprano soloist), Elizabeth Turnbull (mezzo-soprano soloist), John Tessier (tenor soloist), and Michael Kurschat (bass soloist)

The verse of the German poet Schiller is most often linked with The Ninth, but Beethoven himself penned the words of that first, surprising bass voice: “Oh friends, no more of these sounds!” What sounds? After this point, the music is going to become very familiar—the symphony plus chorus of “Ode to Joy,” so novel in its day, is now a mainstay of ad campaigns. But it is those truculent, unison string passages of the fourth movement’s opening moments that conductor Petar Dundjerski wants his musicians to notice. He calls the symphony “the UN of the art world”—surely a positive parallel?—but then notes that though the organization is meant to be at the service of all humans, “sometimes, it is hijacked.”

Petar Dundjerski, University of Alberta Symphony Conductor. Photo by Curtis Comeau.

Petar Dundjerski, University of Alberta Symphony Conductor. Photo by Curtis Comeau.

Indeed, the message of the Ninth has been conscripted by leftist polemicists and Nazi propagandists. We do a smaller disservice when we think only of the idealistic ending of Beethoven’s work, without listening to the threat of those voices. The well-known melody and meaning compliment us on our humanist erudition, ending in flattered complacency. Dundjerski avoids this by urging his students to think of “what humanity is at its darkest moment,” as well as “what it could be, what it should be.” Edmonton’s welcoming of Syrian refugees would not be as moving without the heartbreak of last year’s photos and the urgency of family tragedies, still unfolding.

Even as silence began to fall around him, Beethoven was ever attuned to contemporary political life. At our 50th anniversary celebrations, we will hear the symphony from its halfway point, building swiftly to those moments which, performed live by hundreds of musicians, cannot fail to raise hairs on even the most seasoned neck. Yet we must think of 2016 as much as 1824 if we are to get the symphony’s real message: “the zenith of this piece tells us, ‘enough of this dissonance, of this lack of synchronization; all we need to do is see the light of our brightest potential and then embrace it.’”

Featured 50th Anniversary illustration by Alexa Guse (’15 B Des)

Presenters: University of Alberta Department of Music
Event Title:
50th Anniversary Music Celebrations
Performed by:
students, faculty and distinguished alumni
Date:
Sunday, January 24, 2016
2 p.m.  
Performances & displays, main foyer
3 p.m.
Concert in Enmax Hall
Venue:
Winspear Centre
Tickets:
$10 student, $20 adult, $15 senior online at Yeglive and at the door.

For more details, see show page: https://uofa.ualberta.ca/events/50th-anniversary-music-celebrations

Usual program notes offer the audience insight into the lives of composer and composition. For the U of A Music’s 50th anniversary celebrations, Julia Byl took an ethnomusicologist’s approach, heading into the heart of our field of study to interview the people of the University of Alberta music department—students, faculty, alumni, supporters— to highlight them as much as the music they create. The following notes share the insights of our UAlberta music makers to bring the audience into their creative processes.

Performances in Winspear Main Foyer start at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 24

As you arrive at the Winspear, you will be ushered from the main foyer and into the concert hall by sound. These sounds exhibit the full range of musical activity at the University of Alberta, with strengths in experimental composition, world musical arts, and chamber ensembles for strings, winds and brass. Such diversity of musical life pays tribute to the sustained creative collaboration between our faculty, students from all over campus, and the greater musical community of Edmonton.

William Street

William Street. Supplied photo.

The Winspear Fanfare (1997)
Gilliland (B. 1965)
University of Alberta Brass Ensemble

William Street, Conductor

For conductor and department chair Bill Street, the fanfare that will lead you from foyer to concert hall sounds “stately, elegant and terrifically North American,” with notes of Aaron Copland’s brash mid-century statement of independence from European expectations. But though the fanfare brims with grandeur—the certain effect of brass ringing off a building— it is a locally-inspired confidence. The fanfare was commissioned by the Winspear and written by Alan Gilliland, one of Canada’s most prolific composers, with ties (as a student) to the University of Alberta’s composition program, and a career (as a composer) at MacEwan University.

“It is a call to come in, a welcoming”—to celebrate music at the University of Alberta, and within our larger civic circle.

La Camerata: Concerto in d minor for two violins and orchestra, BWV 1043 (circa 1718)
J.S Bach (1685–1750)
Guillaume Tardif and Yue Deng, solo violins

Guillaume Tardif. Photo by Pederson, Avenue Magazine. Supplied from Tardif.

Guillaume Tardif. Photo by Pederson, Avenue Magazine.

Turning students into professional musicians is a key part of violin professor Guillaume Tardif’s pedagogical philosophy, and for his students, playing the Bach double concerto is an “introduction to the quick pace of professional life.” Today, as in Bach’s time, string players must play their repertoire with precision and inspiration, at a few days of notice. Though composed near Leipzig, the elegant concerto is an example of Italianate music “de camera,” designed to charm gossiping guests and enliven elegant parties. Fitting that the Winspear foyer, then, is “as close as we get to the high-ceilinged Rococo palace.” (Turning, you, guest, into a cultivated donna or gentiluomo.)

Ulla in Africa (1995)
Heiner Wiberny (B. 1944)
Saxophone Quartet: Allison Balcetis, soprano saxophone;
Gavin Goodwin, alto saxophone, Augustin Nguyen, tenor saxophone, Emily Schultz, baritone saxophone

“The community of saxophones in town often go busking at the Farmer’s Market in the summer,” says instructor Allison Balcetis.

When they do, “Ulla in Africa” guarantees an engaged audience. The piece conveys the strong impression that the Ghanaian popular music Highlife, an upbeat mix of horns, guitars and local rhythms, made on the composer and his wife (the Ulla of the title). The ensemble brings the genre’s community spirit to the fore. Even when uncircled by toe-tapping market shoppers, the quartet itself—made up of a U of A instructor, once the student of the music department’s chair, an undergraduate student, and two alumni—circles through the extended Edmonton saxophone community.

50thSaxophone

U of A Saxophone Quartet performed at the CBC Community Stage, Thurs. Jan. 21, 2016 to kick off the anniversary celebrations in downtown Edmonton. Photo by Salena Kitteringham.

Robert Kpogo

Robert Kpogo. Photo by Ed Ellis.

“Gota”
Traditional, Benin
West African Music Ensemble

Robert Kpogo and Wisdom Agorde, Directors
Students of the University of Alberta

At the beginning of auditions on the first day of the West African Music ensemble, students sat and listened nervously; by the end, they were smiling and dancing. The transformation is the key to the music department’s program in world music, offering graduate studies in ethnomusicology, the resources of the Canadian Centre for Ethnomusicology, and ensembles representing the music of the Middle East, West Africa and South Asia, joined by students university-wide and members of the wider Edmonton community.

In the academic portion of the class, instructor Robert Kpogo would describe “Gota” as a modern “creation and recreation” based on spirit practices of Benin, and now used for social purposes. If you are taken by the graceful verve of the dancing and wish to imitate it yourself, notice how the back foot lifts the body up, giving the movement added dynamism. World music at the University of Alberta plays a similar function.

Mark Segger

Mark Segger. Supplied photo.

XiMe
University of Alberta Experimental Music Ensemble
Mark Segger, Leader

The Experimental Improvisation Ensemble (XiMe) is a performing group of musicians and sound artists who explore new ways of composing sound. Founded by composer Mark Hannesson, it encourages composition students to create improvisational works in alternative musical modes. But once the collaborative performance begins, the leader—today, graduate student Mark Segger—becomes an equal. How could this work? “Throwing sounds back and forth,” “quick, fast moving statements;” most of all, the dictum that “the mistake is thinking that something is a mistake.” Of course, since this is improv, what you have just read may be rendered inaccurate by the split-second decisions of the performers. This is the point: the power to challenge the fixity of conventions like the paragraph, or the eight-bar phrase.

Presenters: University of Alberta Department of Music
Event Title: 50th Anniversary Music Celebrations
Performed by: students, faculty and distinguished alumni
Date: Sunday, January 24, 2016
2 p.m.  Performances & displays, main foyer
3 p.m. Concert in Enmax Hall
Venue: Winspear Centre
Tickets: $10 student, $20 adult, $15 senior online at Yeglive and at the door.

For more details, see show page: https://uofa.ualberta.ca/events/50th-anniversary-music-celebrations

To experience the work of one of Canada’s most sought-after directors, right here at U of A Studio Theatre, that’s as good a reason as any to go see a play.

Photographed in our Toronto studio on Saturday February 23, 2008

Marti Maraden.

When it happens to be veteran director Marti Maraden at the helm of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the Bard’s playful ode to the transformative power of love, that makes it reason 11/50 in our Go See a Play series!

Marti Maraden’s impact on the national theatre scene is immense, with acting and directing credits of distinction at the Stratford Festival (18 seasons) and at the Shaw Festival (seven seasons), as artistic director of the National Arts Centre English Theatre in Ottawa (1997-2005), and as one of the initiators of the Magnetic North Theatre Festival.

Read on for Marti Maraden’s guest director notes. There is no better cure for mid-winter blahs than to slip off your parka and settle into the Timms Centre for the Arts, Feb. 4 – 13, 2016, for A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Director’s Notes
by Marti Maraden
2016 Mary Mooney Distinguished Visiting Artist

Not long ago I read about a study in which brain scans were done of people in love. The scientists conducting the study concluded that love in its early stages exhibits symptoms very similar to those of madness. This finding would fit neatly into the argument of Theseus, Duke of Athens, at the beginning of Act V in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream:

Lovers and madmen have such seething brains,
Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend
More than cool reason ever comprehends…
Such tricks hath strong imagination,
That if it would but apprehend some joy,
It comprehends some bringer of that joy:
Or, in the night, imagining some fear,
How easy is a bush suppos’d a bear!

But Theseus’ pragmatic, daylight dismissal of fantasy and imagination is challenged earlier in the play by the “deep midnight” of the wood outside Athens in which there are not only beasts of prey but fairies and hobgoblins, too. Things happen to characters who go into woods (or on sea voyages) in Shakespeare’s plays, and not all are benign. Confusions abound and nightmares occur.  But, if good fortune prevails, those who have lost themselves become whole again and lives are transformed.

Many before me have noted that the subconscious dominates the wood of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. This is clearly evident in the journey of the play’s young lovers whose sometimes outrageous conduct in the forest far exceeds the conventions of their everyday world. Though Theseus doubts the validity of their remembered dreams, all of them have been affected  and, to varying extents, altered by their experience. In a production like ours in which many roles are doubled, there are even more opportunities for a journey into the subconscious. The frequently doubled roles of Theseus/Oberon and Hippolyta/Titania echo each other in fascinating ways.  Are there still lingering doubts in the about-to-be-wed mortals that play out in the reckless passion of the fairy King and Queen?

Another bit of science: ever since childhood adventures raising monarch butterflies, I have been fascinated by metamorphosis.

Shakespeare invented the word “metamorphose” in The Two Gentlemen of Verona to express the effects of love on the young. The word is even more apt in A Midsummer Night’s Dream in which not only are the lovers transformed, but more literally, Puck, a shape-changer if there ever was one, tells us he has appeared as everything from a filly foal to a crabapple.  And Nick Bottom is “translated” to an ass before our very eyes!

Theatre is inherently an act of metamorphosis, and we hope that you will enjoy watching these gifted young actors “metamorphose.” It has been a joy for me to witness their transformation.

Feature image illustration by Alexa Guse (’15 B Des).

Presenter: U of A Studio Theatre
Event Title: A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare
Dates: Feb. 4 – 13, 2016 at 7:30 p.m.
Matinee Thursday, Feb. 11  at 12:30 p.m.
$5 preview performance on Wednesday, Feb. 3 at 7:30 p.m.
No show on Sunday, Feb. 7
Venue: Timms Centre for the Arts, University of Alberta
Single show tickets: $12 student, $25 adult, $22 senior, available online now at TIX on the Square and at the Timms Centre box office one hour before each performance.

For more details see: https://uofa.ualberta.ca/events/a-midsummer-nights-dream

The University of Alberta’s Alumni Association invites alumni and their guests for a special Backstage All Access experience at A Midsummer Night’s Dream:
Saturday, Feb. 6
Cocktail reception (cash bar): 6 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.
Presentation/discussion with Betty Moulton, U of A Department of Drama Acting Chair: 6:30 p.m. – 7:15 p.m.
Performance: 7:30 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.

Register before Feb. 1 here.

Feehan believes community-building is as important as artistic expression

Latex balloons, reflective spray paint and silver tape. These are the raw materials of Michael Feehan’s now infamous 2015 Halloween costume – the Talus Dome. The costume was both a satirical riff on the much-maligned piece of public art and a cheeky homage to its balls-out presence on the side of the Whitemud Freeway.

Mike Feehan Talus Dome“I think it has its highest level of engagement where it is now,” laughs Feehan, who graduated in 2015 with a BA in film studies and political science. “People can’t ignore it.”

Community-based arts advocacy (and a bit of rabble-rousing) is something that Feehan is passionate about. At 25, he is the youngest member of the Premier’s Council on Culture and is also deeply involved in Edmonton’s alternative art and music scenes. While still at the University of Alberta, Feehan was among the first group of students to receive a Certificate in World Sound Arts, offered by the Department of Music. The keyboard player then co-founded (along with Travis Dallyn and Nick Leeb) the not-for-profit organization The Creative Clubhouse, a multidisciplinary, collaborative art space.

“I think at first we were definitely looking for our own creative space to be away from our parents, hang out with our friends and be loud!” says Feehan. “But after that, we thought that the space had a lot of potential – something that could be opened up to create art that’s bigger than us.”

The Creative Clubhouse was the host site in 2012 and 2013 for Alberta Culture Days, which helped to spread the news about what they were offering. “Alberta Culture gave us a grant and said we appreciate your vision and we want you to do urban arts programming for a weekend,” says Feehan. Many different types of artists were hired to create a space with few boundaries and where collaboration between the arts was encouraged.

“One of my fondest memories was when someone was painting this great thing on a wall and there was a band jamming on stage and it felt like they were feeding off each other’s energy.”  

Michael feehan graffiti wall

The Creative Clubhouse is a moving venue, though not necessarily by design. Last summer their downtown location was shut down, as were other arts spaces in the area. “It’s an epidemic,” says Feehan, attributing the loss to high rents and a lack of vision on the part of landlords.

He refuses to be daunted.

In September 2015, The Creative Clubhouse organized the inaugural YEGfest event at the Heritage Amphitheatre, which was geared toward the urban art scene – from graffiti to genres of musical performance not typically represented at other festivals in Edmonton such as electronica, hip-hop and indie rock. “People have remained loyal even beyond our original space,” he says.  

Feehan is planning to pursue a graduate degree, but until then remains immersed in Edmonton’s artistic community as an advocate and contributor. Recently, Feehan wrote and directed a short film for FAVA’s Video Kitchen Class called Lost in a Bubble and he is also helping to produce and assistant-direct a feature length film by Patrick Strevens called Driftwood, scheduled to be released in 2016. 

According to Feehan, there is always more to be done, but narrowing his interests is not an option. “I can’t be singularly focused,” he says. “It’s both a blessing and a curse!”

The Creative Clubhouse on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thecreativeclubhouse

Related stories: The Pleasures and Perils of Public Art

The catalogue of 19th century violinists is so extensive that U of A violinist Guillaume Tardif is serving up a second helping.

Following up on last season’s Violinissimo concert, this Friday’s mainstage concert, Violinissimo II, turns the Convocation Hall spotlight once again onto 19th century violin heroes including Heinrich Wilhelm Ernst, Jenő Hubay, Henri Viewxtemps, August Wilhelmj, Henryk Wieniawski, Leopold Auer and Antonio Bazzini. For the full program, see Violinissimo II show page.

“There are so many great violinists from the 19th century. It really is the Golden Age of the violin,” says Tardif. “I’m filling in the holes in the history of the violin and presenting it to our crowd here at the U of A.”

With the historical panorama of that violin era comes a great wealth of technical things going on between the strings, bow and brain, even before you bring in the heart. “You are playing with the moments, with the emotions and a sense of elegance. It is a challenging program in that way. With the romantic music we are going to play, there requires a level of engagement with the music that inspires some variance here and there.”

Roger Admiral, joining on piano for Violinissimo II, concurs. The concert’s repertoire offers both immense challenges and pay-offs for musicians and audience members alike.

Roger Admiral

Roger Admiral

“This music offers great virtuosity from the violin part, but also great excitement from the romantic harmonies and rhythmic intricacies inherent in the piano part,” says Admiral.

The duo have played together for almost 10 years now and they describe their performing relationship as practically fraternal.

“Guillaume plays with great energy and precision,” says Admiral admiringly.

“Roger is a very comfortable person to be with. He is highly reliable and you can count on him. As for his artistic abilities, he’s like a sponge. He’s a deep listener and he takes the work seriously. There is no detail in front of his eyes that he isn’t going to try to put into his playing. His background and experience with contemporary music makes his sight reading skills one-in-a-million. He’s not afraid by anything you throw at him,” says Tardif.

Photos by TJ Jans.

Presenters: University of Alberta Department of Music
Event Title: Violinissimo II
Performed by: Guillaume Tardif (violin) and Roger Admiral (piano)
Date: Friday, January 15 at 8 p.m.
Venue: Convocation Hall, University of Alberta
Tickets: $10 student, $20 adult, $15 senior. Available at the door or in advance from Yeglive

For more details, see show page: https://uofa.ualberta.ca/events/violinissimo-ii

UAlberta master of the keyboard talks about handing down the piano’s powerful traditions to his students

For the second in a series of video interviews celebrating the University of Alberta Department of Music’s 50th Anniversary, we caught up with Professor Jacques Després.

Video Credits: Grant Wang. Multimedia Technician, Faculty of Arts, University of Alberta
Directed by: Steve Glassman with assistance from Russell Baker and TJ Jans
Feature photo: John Ulan

The University of Alberta’s 50th Anniversary Music Celebrations concert is set for the afternoon of Sunday, January 24 at the Winspear Centre with a dynamic roster of student, faculty and alumni talent. Lobby performances and displays begin at 2 p.m. The concert in the Winspear’s Enmax Theatre is at 3 p.m.

Featured faculty performances include acclaimed pianists Patricia Tao and Jacques Després, as well as Juno Award-winning tenor John Tessier, mezzo-soprano Elizabeth Turnbull and soprano Sherry Steele.

For more programming details and to purchase your tickets see the show page: https://uofa.ualberta.ca/events/50th-anniversary-music-celebrations

The early weeks of 2016 are jam-packed with UAlberta shows but I wanted to make sure we give 2015 a much deserved round of applause before we wade too far into the New Year. Here’s to the curious people, creative projects and processes that intrigued us the most in 2015. Here are our top five Curious Arts stories of 2015:

Tribes rehearsals sheer velocity

Tribes rehearsal at U of A Studio Theatre. April 2015. Photo by TJ Jans.

Tribes rehearsal at U of A Studio Theatre. April 2015. Photo by TJ Jans.

For U of A Studio Theatre’s production of Tribes, MFA director Amanda Bergen cast Connor Yuzwenko-Martin (’14 BA), an Edmonton-based Deaf actor, to play Billy, a young deaf man who was raised to read lips and speak rather than sign to communicate. Connor graciously agreed to share his reflections throughout the rehearsal process and his second post in the series proved to be our most popular Curious Arts story of 2015.

Darian Goldin Stahl: HABITUS

Darian Goldin Stahl's "Restless" in progress.

Darian Goldin Stahl’s “Restless” in progress.

UAlberta MFA printmaker Darian Goldin Stahl fused her sister’s MRI scans with impressions of her own skin to create a series of prints intended to humanize a medical diagnosis of chronic illness. Darian’s guest post previewing her MFA final exhibition HABITUS in the FAB Gallery deeply resonated with our readers. The show also earned a great deal of external media attention.

Sisters Devan Stahl (left) and Darian Goldin Stahl (right).

Sisters Devan Stahl (left) and Darian Goldin Stahl (right).

U of A Honour Band memories

U of A High School Honour Band members, 2015. Photo by Epic Photography.

U of A High School Honour Band members, 2015. Photo by Epic Photography.

In February 2015, a record number – more than 190 – of Alberta’s most talented high school band students from across the province gathered in the U of A’s Department of Music to rehearse and perform with faculty members as the University of Alberta High School Honour Band at the Winspear Centre. I caught up with current music students Crystal Kegler and Kelsey Getzinger, both alums of the U of A’s High School Honour Band program, to reminisce about that one time at U of A band camp.

Kasie Campbell: Scopophilia

Scopophilia ISC-winningsubmission (2)

In the Spring of 2015, for the second time in two years, a UAlberta student won the prestigious Outstanding Student Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture award from the International Sculpture Centre (ISC). Kasie Campbell’s winning sculpture, Scopophilia, was selected out of 428 art students nominated from 158 universities, colleges and art school programs worldwide. No one walks by Kasie’s art work without a second look and Donna McKinnon’s feature about this award-winning artist drew many eyeballs. Kasie’s Scopophilia was also featured in the October 2015 magazine issue of Sculpture and is on display now at the renowned Grounds for Sculpture in New Jersey until March 2016.

New Works Festival 2015

New Works Festival 2015 at the University of Alberta.

New Works Festival 2015 at the University of Alberta.

It was a bright feather in our Curious Arts cap to welcome Colleen Murphy, the U of A’s Lee Playwright in Residence, as one of our regular Curious Arts contributors in 2015. Her guest series, Lee-On-Line, was widely read, especially the post where Colleen tipped her hat to all the gutsy UAlberta artists involved with New Works Festival 2015, a student-run, student-written, student-performed, student-designed and student-directed new play festival. Look for the New Works Festival again in February 2016.

UAlberta Lee Playwright in Residence, Colleen Murphy. Photo by TJ Jans.

UAlberta Lee Playwright in Residence, Colleen Murphy. Photo by TJ Jans.

Honourable Mentions:

Curious Curators of 2015

Rosiland Breen- Apex

Rosiland Breen – Apex

A dystopia is not a welcoming place, nevertheless, Julie-Ann Mercer’s Q & A with Heather Leier on Destabilizing Dystopia, an exhibition curated at dc3 Art Projects by the Art & Design Graduate Student Association was one of our top stories in 2015.

Box Office Smash Hit of the Year

The Threepenny Opera ensemble. Photo by Ed Ellis.

The Threepenny Opera ensemble. Photo by Ed Ellis.

U of A Studio Theatre welcomed Brian Deedrick, a proud UAlberta alumnus who stages operas all over the world, back to his alma mater as guest director of The Threepenny Opera in 2015. The production smashed attendance records, selling out 6/11 performances, thanks in no small part to a wonderful DR 622 (Bertolt Brecht: theory and practice of Brechtian theatre) class collaboration with Curious Arts with students contributing a series of Brecht-themed articles and dramaturgical essays.

Remembering Tanya Prochazka

Tanya

Tanya Prochazka. Photo by John Ulan.

The whole Edmonton music community mourned the loss of U of A professor and cellist Tanya Prochazka in May 2015. Tanya was fondly remembered on the Curious Arts blog by former student and alumna Jennifer West.

Yue Deng: From China to Canada

Yue Deng

Yue Deng

Violinist Yue Deng has performed with the likes of Michael Bublé and Randy Newman, in famed concert halls like Carnegie Hall. She’s recorded with renowned French pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet and performed on albums with Barbra Streisand, Dionne Warwick and Willie Nelson. And Yue loves to teach as much as she loves to perform. My Q & A with Yue Deng took readers on a musical journey from China to Convocation Hall.

BFA and BDes 2015 Grad Shows

Hypotrochroid Pendant (Light) by Amanda Nogier

Hypotrochroid Pendant (Light) by Amanda Nogier. Featuring in Running with Scissor, 2015 U of A Bachelor of Design show.

TJ Jans’ candid interviews with the BFA and BDes classes of 2015 about their grad shows, By Risk and By Reckoning and Running with Scissors, were also favourite stories of the year.

What’s on at UAlberta in 2016?

Make sure you bookmark www.ualberta.ca/artshows for upcoming concerts, exhibits and Studio Theatre performances. Be curious in 2016!

UAlberta Art & Design faculty members reflect on what they give and receive from students

When students, staff and faculty return to the University of Alberta campus in the New Year, it will be the final week to see Art & Design 3.0 in the FAB Gallery before the show closes January 9, 2016. In the spirit of the giving season, TJ and I caught up with a few of the award-winning faculty members featured in the exhibition to ask them what they give students and receive from students.

Happy holidays to you and yours, from all of us at Curious Arts!

Liz Ingram
Professor of Fine Art Studio Practice

Liz Ingram

Liz Ingram

A beloved teacher at the University of Alberta in the areas of printmaking, drawing and intermedia for more than 40 years, Liz Ingram says Art & Design 3.0 is a very poignant exhibition for her, as it is her final year before retirement.

Tell us about your work featured in Art & Design 3.0.

For the past 35 years my creative practice has been the result of an intimate dialogue with a specific location (a quarter section and the adjacent water bodies) just west of Edson. Over the past few years I have been collaborating with my husband Bernd Hildebrandt, who is a designer, artist and poet, on a number of projects. These works were produced in collaboration with him, but also in collaboration with this particular location in the boreal forest.

The process of developing these prints ranged from photo sessions with models (friends who love to intimately contact the elements and immerse themselves in a stream on location), to digital manipulation and image construction, to digital printing, and finally completed with stone lithographic printing. In general my work represents an attempt to re-awaken awareness of our inextricable and fundamental oneness with nature, and of the elemental aspect of water to all life forms.

The work is about vulnerability and strength, about a cycle of disappearing and emerging, about wonder and uncertainty.

Prints by Liz Ingram. Photo by Louise Asselstine.

Prints by Liz Ingram. Photo by Louise Asselstine.

What do you give to students? What do you receive from them?

A key aspect of education in creative disciplines is the growth and development of a questioning spirit. This spirit can be effectively nurtured through the creative process when students are supported and carefully challenged to explore beyond their comfort zones. It is therefore my responsibility as an instructor to create an environment that is conducive to exploratory learning and that builds student confidence allowing them to take chances and to make mistakes. I try to instill the courage necessary for them to be able to expand their thinking and their practice into unknown territory.

At the same time I try to teach solid practical skills to create visual objects, images and experiences that are meaningful, relevant and contemporary. I believe that something as practical as learning how to make an etching or how to draw a cube can be introduced in such a manner as to push students to experience new ways of seeing and interpreting the world around them.

The rewards for me from working with students have been enormous! Students have constantly challenged my preconceptions and prevented me from falling into repetitive patterns in my own work. So, in a sense, we are always teaching each other and the roles reverse.

Students expand my thinking about art and about life. Over the years so many students have become friends and colleagues. Also, the immense pleasure and rewards that I receive from seeing students develop and carry on in life in a rich variety of directions is invaluable and has brought a richness that is central to my own life and is unquantifiable.

Sean Caulfied
Centennial Professor and Associate Chair in the U of A’s Department of Art & Design

Sean Caulfield

Sean Caulfield

Tell us about your work featured in Art & Design 3.0.

I felt that this faculty exhibition was a  good opportunity to make a work that stretched my studio practice in new ways. With this in mind, I created a print installation, Porosity Field, that utilized the entire wall as a composition and which combined pasted prints with sculptural elements.

Thematically, I attempted to create an open work that directs viewers to make associations to organic forms within an environment/landscape, but at the same time makes reference to smaller scales of biology within the body such as cells or organs. I hope this fluctuation of scale might speak to interconnections within ecosystems.

What do you give to students? What do you receive from them?

I try to give my students a wide range of experiences in order to ensure they have the formal and technical knowledge/skills to create sophisticated visual works. I also work to foster an open learning environment that encourages a diversity of approaches, while also stressing the importance of rigour and focus in a studio practice.

More broadly, I develop critical, independent thinking and empahsize the importance of drawing on other disciplines, artists and art forms to support creative work. Finally, I try to always underscore the importance of thinking about artistic practice in relation to the broader community, and the absolutely vital role art/culture has in maintaining healthy, innovative, societies that embrace a diversity of views and perspectives.

It is an honour to be able to work with emerging artists as they are continually challenging me to think about my own creative practice in new ways, and to question preconceptions I have about the role art plays both within and outside of the university. I feel incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to work with students as I truly believe that I learn more from them than they do from me.

Prints by Sean Caulfield. Photo by Louise Asselstine.

Prints by Sean Caulfield. Photo by Louise Asselstine.

Betsy Boone
Professor of the History of Art, Design and Visual Culture

Betsy Boone

Betsy Boone

Tell us about your work featured in Art & Design 3.0.

I decided to include work related to book design and illustration that I have written about. There are three drawings by an artist named F. Luis Mora that were produced for an article about Mexico published in Century Magazine, which was a very popular magazine at the turn of the twentieth century. One of the drawings is a design for the “initial,” which is the first letter of the first word in the article. You can see the original magazine and compare the drawings to the final illustrations.

I also included two copies of a book called Castillian Days, which was illustrated by the Joseph Pennell, along with my article about the way text and image function to mask the book’s political content. The author was John Hay, who served as U.S. Secretary of State during the 1898 Spanish-American War, and he had very definite opinions about Spain! By the way, Mora is also the artist who painted the work on the cover of my book, Vistas de España, which is also on display in the exhibition.

What do you give to students? What do you receive from them?

I try to give them tools that will make them better thinkers, better artists, better designers, and better people. Students give me ideas, and they inspire me to think harder. I can’t think of a better present!

Display of work by Betsy Boone. Photo by Louise Asselstine.

Display of work by Betsy Boone. Photo by Louise Asselstine.

Aidan Rowe
Associate Professor of Design Studies

Aidan Rowe

Aidan Rowe

Tell us about your two pieces in Art & Design 3.0.

Spaces&Places: VisioningMcLuhan@100 Limited Edition Poster Catalogue (2011)

Media: Silkscreen Limited Editions
Size of work: Numerous Posters, each 36″24″

Marshal McLuhan is considered one of the foremost intellectuals of the 20th-century. His ideas and theories resonate across a myriad of practices, subjects and disciplines. 2011 marked the centenary of McLuhan’s birth. The Spaces&Places:VisioningMcLuhan@100 exhibition brought together 10 artists and designers that explored concepts and ideas that relate to and explore manifestations of McLuhan’s ideas. As the curator and designer of the exhibition these limited edition posters were produced to both contextualise the work included and McLuhan’s work. Produced with assistance of Sergio Serrano (’06 BDes).

Design Education: Approaches, Explorations and Perspectives (2014)
Aidan Rowe & Bonnie Sadler Takach (editors)
Media: Publication
Size of work: 10″ x 8″

Design Education: Approaches, Explorations and Perspectives documents diverse approaches and practices in design education situated in local, national and international contexts. Bringing together contributions from six design academics, researchers and graduate students this publication includes in-class case studies, long-term research studies, and graduate research projects.

Display of work by Aidan Rowe. Photo by Louise Asselstine.

Display of work by Aidan Rowe. Photo by Louise Asselstine.

What do you give to students? What do you receive from them?

Hopefully I give some energy and passion for the power and possibility of design to contribute to society and better the human condition. The students give me inspiration and wonder. It is amazingly gratifying to see the growth and possibility in the students over their time here.

Event title: 50th Anniversary Exhibition: Art & Design 3.0
Exhibition dates: until January 9, 2016
Venue: FAB Gallery (1-1 Fine Arts Building, University of Alberta)
Hours: The FAB Gallery is closed over the holiday break. Opens to the public again Tuesday, January 5, 2016.
Tuesday to Friday: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Saturday: 2 p.m. – 5 p.m. Closed Monday.
Admission: Free.

For a full list of University of Alberta faculty featured in Art & Design 3.0 please see the show page: https://uofa.ualberta.ca/events/50th-anniversary-exhibition-3

UAlberta chorus master talks about choir conducting, the Madrigal Singers and U of A Music’s 50th anniversary

For the first in a series of video interviews celebrating the University of Alberta Department of Music’s 50th Anniversary, we caught up with Professor Len Ratzlaff.

Video Credits: Grant Wang. Multimedia Technician, Faculty of Arts, University of Alberta
Directed by: Steve Glassman with assistance from Russell Baker and TJ Jans

The University of Alberta’s 50th Anniversary Music Celebrations concert is set for the afternoon of Sunday, January 24 at the Winspear Centre with a dynamic roster of student, faculty and alumni talent. Lobby performances and displays begin at 2 p.m. The concert in the Winspear’s Enmax Theatre is at 3 p.m.

More than 120 choral artists, including members of the Madrigal Singers and U of A Concert Choir, along with U of A alumni members of the Richard Eaton Singers, will fill the choir loft and concert hall with their soaring voices, performing two movements from Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125 (also known as the Choral) by Beethoven. The choir will be prepared by two chorus masters, distinguished U of A professor Leonard Ratzlaff and recent DMus graduate Rob Curtis, and performed alongside student musicians of the University of Alberta Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Petar Dundjerski.

For more programming details and to purchase your tickets see the show page: https://uofa.ualberta.ca/events/50th-anniversary-music-celebrations