New music for old instruments

by William Norris, Managing Director

Contemporary music and period performance may not, at first sight, be obvious bedfellows. But, it may surprise you to know, it’s an area that Tafelmusik has a track record in. In past years we have worked with composers including Mychael Danna, Emily Doolittle, Christos Hatzis, Ruth Watson Henderson, Grégoire Jeay, Marjan Mozetich, Michael Oesterle, Imant Raminsh, James Rolfe, Jeffrey Ryan, and Linda Catlin Smith to create new works for both choir and orchestra. For a period band that’s not such a bad list!

Of course there is little point in us commissioning new music that could be played by anyone — if that were the case then it would make more sense for composers to work with a modern orchestra. Rather, we prefer to work with composers who are intrigued by the possibilities that period instruments bring. Composers who want to make the most of the different timbres and textures possible with our instruments.

On Wednesday we embarked on a new contemporary music adventure, as we start a new project in association with Musica Reflecta and the Canadian Music Centre. We’re going to be part of an ongoing project called Opus:Testing which gives emerging composers the chance to explore new territory in their writing — in this case that new territory is period instruments. Over the course of two workshops, Opus:Testing provides an open and safe space for artists to explore, collaborate, and create.

Walking through period performance with the composers. Canadian Music Centre
Walking through period performance with the composers. Canadian Music Centre

Four musicians from Tafelmusik will be participating, working with eight composers who have each prepared some musical sketches to work on during tomorrow’s first workshop. Following the workshop, composers can revisit and fine-tune (pardon the pun) their work drawing upon the learnings of the session, before musicians and composers regroup for a second and final workshop.

We’ll be bringing you further blogs charting the progress of the project and are also pleased to be able to tell you that the second workshop (at the Canadian Music Centre, Sunday March 26th at 7:30pm) is open to the public, so do come along to hear what emerges from this new initiative.

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