JDRS 2018…. the year that was
2018 is now firmly in the history books. It was a turbulent year, as we all were made continually aware, in political and economic circles. In the local Winnipeg art scene, 2018 provided me with a number of professionally and personally satisfying moments that served as a buffer from the barrage of news, fake and otherwise, that we were all subjected to. I’m happy to share some of these moments with you.
2018 Winnipeg New Music Festival
The Winnipeg New Music Festival had iconic American composer Phillip Glass as its guest composer in residence. The Festival presented the world premiere of Glass’ String Quartet No. 8 as well as the Canadian premiere of the composer’s Symphony No. 11 (2017). Glass was also among the stellar pianists in an evening of his complete Piano Etudes.
The Festival also presented a number of world premieres by Icelandic composers including a major new work for orchestra and choir by Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson. I was pleased to be asked by the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra to record that work entitled 7 Friends
Six Sonatas For Two Violins – CD Launch
February saw the launch of an album that I recorded for two friends, who are formidable talents, Gwen Hoebig and Karl Stobbe. The album, Six Sonatas for Two Violins by Jean-Marie Leclair, was later nominated for a Western Canada Music Award and has been submitted for nomination for the 2019 Juno Awards.
Winnipeg Youth Orchestra and Miles Macdonell Choir – Nostos
JDRS was called to record a few excerpts from an new work entitled Nostos, written by composer and educator, Zane Zalis. The piece written for orchestra, choir, and soloists was performed under the direction of Daniel Scholz, the conductor of the Winnipeg Youth Orchestra. It was great to work with these young and talented musicians and singers. They brought a great deal of energy and professionalism to the session. It was easy to see that Winnipeg’s musical future will be served very well by this upcoming group.
Agassiz Chamber Music Festival 2018
I’m always happy when June arrives; it means another Agassiz Chamber Music Festival in Winnipeg. 2018 brought another week of superb music, superbly performed by some of the finest musicians in the country and from abroad. I was pleased to be asked again to record the gala concert on the final evening of the event.
Mixing at the Lyric Stage
One beautiful June afternoon, I received a phone call from the Assiniboine Park Conservancy, who run an outdoor summer concert series at the Lyric Stage in Assiniboine Park. They needed someone to mix the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra concert…..that evening. I accepted without first asking about preparation time and a sound check. When I did ask, I was told to show up an hour before the show. Oh….and no sound check. Well, the stage was already set, so I just needed to focus the mics on stage and get a rundown from the systems tech about how things were laid out. And then it was showtime. The show turned out beautifully and, as you can see from the photo, that it was a beautiful evening, as well. One of the most fun gigs of the year!
Heart of the North
Good friend and composer, Neil Weisensel, has been working on his latest opera, Heart of the North which is based on the life of Louis Riel. Neil was workshopping the music and the libretto for a week in August and he asked me to record an informal presentation of the work-in-progress before a live audience of friends at the end of the week’s work. The opera premieres in March 2019 in Regina with the Regina Symphony and Neil is hoping to have it performed by Manitoba Opera in the near future.
Hymn Sing Reunion
An old CBC Television institution, one that I personally worked on as the show’s recording engineer, had a reunion this summer. Hymn Sing, which was on the CBC TV network for 30 seasons, organized a reunion this year. Cast members from as far back as 1965 and as far away as Germany came to Winnipeg for a weekend in August to reunite and catch up on each other’s lives. As I mentioned, I worked on the program for the last four seasons of its run and worked closely with David Waters, the producer of the show. David was part of the reunion committee organizing the event, but his health took a sudden turn and he passed away in April. As a gesture to my former colleague’s memory, I recorded the concert for the organizers which was presented at the end of the reunion weekend to a packed Bethel Mennonite Church.
WCMA Win For WSO
The Shaman/Arctic Symphony, an album that I helped produce, won a Western Canada Music Award in October for the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra for Classical Artist/Ensemble of the Year.
Esprit de Choeur presents “Silk Threads”
I was thrilled to be asked by Esprit de Chouer‘s artistic director and conductor, Valdine Anderson, to record their December concert “Silk Threads”. The concert was presented at Crescent Fort Rouge United Church, with accompanist Rachel Dyck on piano and guest accompanist Richard Turner on harp.
Beside recording music, I have had a fun year of making music, too. I have been a member of the World Village Gospel Choir for several years now and have made new friends and had new opportunities to perform. This year, a number of us from the choir were asked to sing backup for a Fred Penner recording. It was recorded by friend and former colleague, Lloyd Peterson at Paintbox Studio, with a vocal arrangement by Neil Weisensel. It was a thrill to record with Fred and a nice change of pace for me to be on the other side of the glass in the studio.
In a similar vein, I was invited to sing in another choir this fall, Canticus Novum, led by choir director John Wiens. This was more of a traditionally classical style of choral singing, something that I hadn’t done since university. I really had to work on my sight-reading chops to keep up, but I managed. No pictures to prove it, but you’ll have to take my word.
Another muscle that was exercised this year was teaching. My former CBC colleague Andy Blicq, a master documentarian who teaches documentary film-making at the University of Winnipeg, asked me to teach a seminar in field sound recording to his students. This was very satisfying for me and the students were keen to pick up a few tips. Hopefully, I will get to do more of this in the future.
To cap things off, my wife Sandra and I celebrated 40 years of marriage this year. We celebrated with our family and later went on a fun trip to Montreal. We saw the sights, attended a symphony concert at their fabulous symphonic hall, saw a play, and ate a lot of great food. I’ll leave you with some photos from our 40th anniversary celebration in Winnipeg and our October trip to Montreal.
To all the great people that I have had the good fortune to work with in 2018, THANK YOU! I hope that we can do more creative things in the coming year. All the best in 2019!