Archive for November, 2009

Too Many Men, Qu’est Que C’est?

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Talking Heads, Psycho Killer

We’re talking football here, Canadian football no less, and the words too many men will haunt the Saskatchewan Roughriders for years to come after they gave away the Grey Cup last night in the dying seconds of the game – an extra green uniform on the field was all it took to allow a stunning upset by the Montreal Allouettes, a football final that will go down in the annals of CFL history.

What better opportunity to introduce a local 7-piece band who rather humorously call themselves, yes, Too Many Men, and this fabulous rendition of Psycho Killer by The Talking Heads, performed live at The Smiling Buddha Bar down on College Street back in the summer?

Too Many Men, Qu’est Que C’est?

Cello-Chanting @ St. Anne’s

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Cello-Chanting @ St. Anne’s

Through my outreach with Urban Flute Project I have enjoyed many collaborations with friends and colleagues. Lucas, the cellist in Urban Flute Ensemble, has invited me to join him for his musical chanting circles this fall, and this has been a wonderful platform to explore the more meditative aspects of sound-production.

Currently a huge area of scientific and psychological research is focused on the beneficial, healing properties of music. This participatory group affords individuals interested in breath-work, chanting, and meditative music-making a chance to learn from one another and share ideas and experience. Cello-chanting is truly restorative and energizing for everyone involved!

For upcoming workshops and chanting circles, check out Lucas Cello-Chanting website. Admission by donation, with a portion of proceeds directed to the St. Anne’s restoration campaign.

Plastique Animée on Jarvis

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Robert Aitken, Icicle

Toronto’s Plastique Animée group was looking for a new home back in September, and with a new season we have found amazing new digs at the National Ballet School over on Jarvis. I have re-connected with them and suggested that this descriptive, improvisational-sounding piece written by acclaimed Canadian flutist Robert Aitken, Icicle, might be well-suited for accompanying one of their loosely choreographed dance sequences.

I’m delighted to have been collaborating with this inspiring group of Plastique Animée practitioners. Last spring I attended numerous sessions at the Royal Conservatory, providing music and improvising on an array of world instruments for the class. One specific piece that was ideally suited to the philosophy of movement and music was Debussy’s Syrinx.

Ideally I will have the piece memorized and, perhaps attired in black dance garb, will be an active participant moving amongst the group as I play, Nijinsky-style! For a underground, ninja version of Syrinx, be sure to check out my Impressionist Graffiti, which offers up some of the finest acoustics in the city.

Bachis Interruptis

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J.S. Bach Trio Sonata (excerpt)

Hired in for a recent event down on groovy Queen Street West, my trio took the stage after Air Heart had played some trip-hop during cocktails. Here is our classical response to their amazing house music that we played as guests sat down for dinner in The Great Hall. It was an exceptional evening, especially from the musicians perspective, with a full sound system and dramatic lighting – once we were through playing, I got Max to haul out his violin so that I could grab this quick snap! Go figure that on the one night where we might finally have a chance to try a trip-hop version of Bach or Haydn that my batteries would be practically dead!

So here’s some Bachis Interruptis for you, with my batteries dying on me as we hit the first development section. I’ll let you know if there are any plans for combining classical music with trip-hop coming to a warehouse near you anytime soon!

In the meantime, come and enjoy the Urban Flute Ensemble on Wednesday, December 9th at St. Anne’s Church, just north of Dundas and east of Dufferin at 270 Gladstone Avenue. These monthly concerts begin at 7.30 p.m. and admission is by donation with proceeds going to the St. Anne’s restoration campaign.

This unique church is a real historic treasure with superb acoustics, so you are invited to come and discover St. Anne’s for yourself…and we promise not to interrupt the Bach on you!!

Classical Music meets Trip-Hop

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Airheart, Freedom

Pulled into a musical extravaganza last weekend at The Great Hall down on the S-E corner of Queen & Dovercourt, Airheart rocked the house! Who would have thought that making music could be this much fun? My only passing concern was that our humble Urban Flute Ensemble was scheduled to take the stage after this formidable duo.

Once again I’m happy to report that everything worked out fine, and with an awesome sound system in place, our trio similarly rocked the joint with our renditions of Bach, Haydn and Mozart as guests for the evening settled into dinner.

Rob doesn’t play electric violin on this particular track, but its a killer pic from that night, don’tcha think?

Heartfelt thanks to Ian, Elley-Ray and all of the performers for such an incredibly eclectic, musical soiree!

Gothic Elegy

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Elegy for Flute & Urban Orchestra

I’ve always loved this evocative building at 1 Spadina Cresent where Spadina Road is diverted around this imposing edifice just north of College Street, and many times have I imagined playing flute in this historic spire. On the heels of Friday the 13th – speaking of bad luck – and as I cycled back from a Saturday night gig with The Runaway Catholics in Kensington Market, I came across this arresting scene.

There was a chill in the air and I was just wanting to get home, but I took a few minutes to wonder at this Gothic marvel, reflect on the recent tragedies that have occurred here, and improvise on my vintage 1920’s Berlin-made Wunderlich flute. The ambient sounds of shunting streetcars and passing traffic made for a decidedly Toronto-sounding accompaniment: my Urban Orchestra!

This Gothic Elegy is dedicated to Leah Kubik who tragically fell to her death here recently and Urban Explorers everywhere. This post is also in the memory of University of Toronto art teacher David Buller, inexplicably stabbed to death in this building and whose murder remains unsolved to this day.

Note: The photo is a little blurry here, admittedly, but I like to think that what it might lack in clarity is made up for in atmosphere. Not bad for a hand-held, 2-second exposure I figure, though next time I should carry my tripod?

Duo for Flute & Air Gun

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Shakuhachi & Air Gun Improv

While we’re on a roll with unusual duos for flute and various power tools, here’s a short improv for Flute and Air Gun! I’m not sure how you might have celebrated Friday the 13th last week, but this was the basic scene that I bore witness to and found myself smack dab in the middle of. Perhaps tempting fate by joining this work crew to effect repairs on the porch roof pictured here, nothing untoward came of my little adventure, and I’m happy to report that, on a flute break, the voice of my Shakuhachi was near-conversational the way it melded in with the various construction sounds.

And of course, if you listen right to the end, you’ll hear that I let the Air Gun get the last word!

Duo for Flute & Blow Torch

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Fiddler on the Roof

In the midst of a roofing job last week, I noticed the intriguing sounds of the work being done and thought it might be fun to record a bit, especially with the weather holding so beautifully. With two of John Stewart’s roofing crews hard at it around me as I played, here is a Duo for Flute & Blow Torch, yet another world premiere on Urban Flute Project!

The roof looks great, and was completed on schedule by the end of the week – thanks to John and everyone involved!

The Runaway Catholics

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The Runaway Catholics, Calliope

Check out this spontaneous acoustic version of Calliope by The Runaway Catholics!

By chance I heard some heavenly music as I cut through Sibelius Park on my Brodie last weekend, just down the block from where I heard some rockin flute being played from nearby high-rise last spring. It was one of those disarmingly lovely, windless Sunday afternoons that Toronto seemes to get more than its fair share of, with the sun slanting through the trees and the warm air feeling like the last gasp of summer. I hesitated before doubling back to introduce myself, but am so glad that I did, as these band-members of acclaimed indie band The Runaway Catholics were good-natured enough to take a few minutes to talk a bit and run through Calliope, the song that I had just heard from a distance: what an exquisite, understated sound they have!

Turns out they have a gig tonight, and after a providing background music at an event at The Great Hall on Queen West with my Urban Flute Ensemble, I hope to catch up with these guys in Kensington Market. If you want a musical treat, follow your muse and maybe I’ll see you at Graffiti’s in the Market, located at 170 Baldwin Street. Here’s more info on The Runaway Catholics courtesy of CBC’s radio 3.

Ciao Bella

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Bella Ciao

With fellow musicians I recently provided music for the release of Ciao Bella, co-authored by Gina Buonaguro and Janice Kirk – pictured above – held November 4th at Ben McNally Books in downtown Toronto. Check out this slideshow on Phanfare for more music and images from the wonderful reception.

The music featured here is the traditional Italian resistance song Bella Ciao, and features singer Sergio Restagno, myself on flute, along with Max Scheinin, violin and Ronen Segall on accordion.

Congratulations Gina and Janice for a successful launch and the opportunity to provide music for the event!

Excerpted from Ciao Bella:

Once again Clario picked up his accordion. This time though his song was not mournful but a spirited rendition of Bella Ciao Goodbye Sweetheart, the story of a partisan whose mountainside grave was marked by a beautiful flower, as she hoped Ugo’s was.

This is the flower of the partisan.

O bella, ciao! bella, ciao! bella, ciao, ciao, ciao!

Who died for liberty.

O bella, ciao! bella, ciao! bella, ciao, ciao, ciao!