A tale of two residencies

SHHH!! has a lot to look forward to over the next few weeks! Beginning on Monday, May 10th we have the distinct pleasure of being involved in not one, but two virtual residency programs!

In one we will be mentors, and the other we will be mentees! 🙃

We are excited to be joining Daniel Mehdizadeh’s East Chamber Music Emerging Composer Festival as the Ensemble-in-Residence. Between May 10th and 16th we will be working with six composers from around the world, helping them bring their new works for piano/percussion duo to life! We have already seen first drafts of the scores, and it looks like it will be a very interesting and exciting week! The six students have already started their mentorship with Dr. Mehdizadeh.

For more information about the program and participants visit East Chamber Music’s website here. The world premieres concert will be taking place on Monday, May 17th. Keep an eye out for the link on our social media channels.

From May 10th to 22nd (and again from August 2nd to 14th) we have the privilege of taking part in the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity’s Evolution: Classical Career Development Program led by the Gryphon Trio. We were initially accepted into the program last year, unfortunately it was one of many things cancelled due to COVID. Though it is sad not to visit Banff again, we are stoked that the program has been able to pivot to an online format this year.

Over the first two week session we will be workshopping a new program with an international performance faculty and receive coaching sessions on all aspects of our artistic practice. We can’t wait!

Currently, our feet are firmly planted in our home studio in Ottawa, but with the Banff Centre program around the corner, our minds are frequently wandering back to the Rockies… It’s truly one of our favourite places, and where SHHH!! Ensemble first started!

Below, some pictures from our previous visits:

Clockwise from top left: view from the top of Sulphur Mountain, recording in Rolston Recital Hall, Bow River views, Edana’s practice buddy, a difficult decision, fat-bike exploration around Vermillion Lakes, the outskirts of the town at dusk, Mount Rundle view (5 mins from our studio), at the top of Sleeping Buffalo Mountain (overlooking the Banff Centre and the town of Banff)

Bottom picture: view from the back of Sulphur Mountain on an incredibly cold and clear day.

Leather and Metal

Unfortunately, due to the provincial stay-at-home order here in Ontario we have had to postpone the 3rd episode of our NightCAPS w/ SHHH!! Ensemble series. The lockdown will be lasting until at least May 20th, so our ability to record outside our living room is on pause until then… more time to practice I guess! Fortunately, there is no shortage of material to work on!

I (Zac) am hard at work negotiating an unorthodox setup for Monica Pearce’s leather, a brilliant new work SHHH!! will be premiering as a part of our next NightCAPS episode. The challenging and rapidly changing patterns in leather are giving me a whipping (*groan*), but I love it and it’s coming together really well!

Pictured below are the eight bell-cymbals custom made for me by Sabian Cymbals specifically for this piece, plus a couple of gongs! The bell-cymbals have a dark, complex, otherworldly sound. It’s at once a big challenge and a total pleasure to work on a piece where there are no pre-existing conventions or idiomatic patterns for the composer to work from. Initially, I set up the eight bell cymbals and gongs one way, but after several days of experimenting I realized that there were numerous other more efficient ways of organizing the ten instruments. It’s been an interesting journey… now back to the woodshed!

leather is the sixth instalment in “a set of a multiple-work piece based on the history and associations of various textiles/patterns. In each of these works, the textile or pattern is used both as inspiration (history, tone, physical characteristics) and as a physically present element, either visually or sonically. Textile Fantasies include chain mail, for percussion quartet; houndstooth, for solo piano; damask, for toy piano and tabla; denim, for two toy pianos and two percussion; and velvet for marimba quartet.”

We can’t wait to share this creative new music with you, it’s a real honour to be entrusted with the world premiere! Stay tuned for that as well as some other big announcements coming up soon!

In the meantime, you can hear some other fantastic performers interpret other works from Monica Pearce’s Textile Fantasies here:

March 15, 2021 – WholeNote Cover Story

Great (and unexpected!) way to start the week: we made the cover of The WholeNote!

In the article we talk about staying creative and positive during the pandemic, upcoming projects including our recent appointment as AD’s of the Ottawa New Music Creators, Kelly-Marie Murphy’s Double Concerto premiere with the Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra, and quinzee building technique… among many other topics!

Read the full article here: https://kiosk.thewholenote.com/?fbclid=IwAR3BvD2JXrSEwBJv6H4d_J4VXgpvt41RCd_LSW1hACLQt_FOL9N44nJX000

February 3, 2021 – In Concert Spotlight

Despite continued COVID setbacks 2021 is off to a great start! If you are reading this blog you have probably seen, or at least noticed, that we launched our NightCAPS w/ SHHH!! Ensemble series on January 30th! If not, check out Episode 1 (ft. Jocelyn Morlock and her beautiful piece Spirit Gradient), here. If you would like to support the NightCAPS series you can make a donation here.

This Sunday (February 7th) at 2:00pm SHHH!! Ensemble will be the featured artists on CBC Radio 2’s In Concert with Paolo Pietropaolo

We recorded this special edition of our SHHHuffle concert live-for-broadcast at Music Mondays Toronto (Church of the Holy Trinity) in October 2020. Needless to say, we are thrilled to be presenting our unique avant-accessible performance to a national audience through the CBC.

SHHHuffle includes music by Francis Poulenc, Andy Akiho, and Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco alongside three Canadian works: Album of Old Photographs by Christine Donkin, Echoes of the Past by Noora Nakhaei, and Spirit Gradient by Jocelyn Morlock. 

The programme will be available live via https://www.cbc.ca/listen/live-radio/2-4292-in-concert; through the CBC Listen app; or on the radio! 

December 31, 2020 – Big News

Ending 2020 on a high note! SHHH!! Ensemble is thrilled to announce that we will be the next co-artistic directors of the Ottawa New Music Creators (ONMC)! 

ONMC assists in the creation and performance of contemporary music, reflecting the diverse music and culture of Ottawa and Canada.

Read more about it here: http://www.onmc.info/news/2020/12/30/qgl8ttib9b79ayfxnamxey54w701nq

We are looking forward to joining this wonderful organization and to continuing to grow and support the new music community in the National Capital Region.

December 5, 2020 – We’re in a barn!

Yesterday we spent a foggy morning/afternoon at Venturing Hills Farm (home of the fantastic concert series Pontiac Enchanté, directed by Carson Becke). We recorded music videos for Jocelyn Morlock’s Spirit Gradient, Noora Nakhaei’s Echoes of the Past, plus a holiday surprise that will be released in the next couple of weeks! While there, SHHH!! Ensemble also took the opportunity to work with our favourite photographer Alan Dean McDowell. Here are some pics of the grounds (from Kevin Reeves) and a couple of Alan’s shots:

November 4, 2020 – ON AIR!!

On October 29th lugged our gear ALLLL the way to Toronto where we had the pleasure of recording our SHHHuffle programme (our avant-accessible mashup program that bridges the gap between classical repertoire and contemporary composition) at the Music Mondays Series in Toronto. Our first concert in months taking place outside our living room… !

The event was made even more special by CBC Radio 2 capturing the performance for broadcast! Stay tuned for more details on that soon!

Until the end of the week you can hear our Music Mondays SHHHuffle concert (featuring music by Poulenc, Akiho, Nakhaei, Donkin, Morlock, and Castelnuovo-Tedesco) via the following link:


October 11, 2020 – Musical Language

Through September we have been digging into a new project in collaboration with the Ottawa International Writers Festival, Ottawa New Music Creators, and three Ottawa-based composers in the world premieres of three new works inspired by literature featured at the festival. This project was initially slated to take place in May, but COVID restrictions and postponements have seen it delayed until October 18th (next Sunday at 8pm EST).

The three works are:

  • “Good Citizens” by Kevin Reeves was inspired by Maria Reva’s novel Good Citizens Need Not Fear. Using Prokofiev’s 3rd Piano Sonata as a point of departure, Reeves’ work is a driving and unique piece for marimba and piano.
  • “Motel of the Opposable Thumbs” by Adam Saikaley was inspired by Stuart Ross’ poetry collection of the same name. Motel makes use of undulating, psychedelic, rhythmic dissonances and harmonies, following the equally esoteric arc of Ross’ collection (which he based on the structure of Bartok’s 4th string quartet!)
  • ” Echoes of the Past” by Noora Nakhaei was inspired by Martha and Christina Baillie’s collection Sister Language which is a catalogue of the correspondence between two siblings. Martha is a multimedia artists and Christina was a writer challenged by schizophrenia on a daily basis. Their writings give us a rare window into the struggles and triumphs that attend a serious neurological disorder, the urge of two humans to communicate even in the hardest of times, and the love that can grow and flourish under conditions of adversity.

[October 18th EDIT] You can now view the concert via the following link: https://writersfestival.org/events/fall-2020-live/musical-language

August 29, 2020 – #TakeOutArt613

Now that our two week run with the Young Arts Leaders Collective / Collectif des jeunes leaders en arts‘ #takeoutart613 initiative is over, we would like to share our curated playlist with the wider public!

Even though our postcards are no longer available at Pure Kitchen Ottawa, we’d still recommend listening to these tracks while chowing down on a Royale with Cheese (Zac’s choice) or a Warrior Bowl (Edana’s).

Thanks again for the opportunity!

SHHH!! Ensemble’s #takeoutart613 Playlist.