SHHH!! Blog 🤫🎹🥁

Welcome to the SHHH!! Blog!

Here, you will find a running tally of ideas, images, recordings, and reflections on our duo’s numerous creative projects.

Scroll down and take a peak!

Edana & Zac

March 15, 2021

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:

February 3, 2021

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; through the CBC Listen app; or on the radio! 

December 31, 2020

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:

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 11, 2020

Season’s greetings from SHHH!! Ensemble piano/percussion duo!

We bring you good tidings and a delightful holiday video— our adaptation of Tchaikovsky’s Russian Dance, Trépak” from The Nutcracker Suite!

Check it out here: 

December 5, 2020

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 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

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:

August 29, 2020

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.

August 16, 2020

SHHH!! is really looking forward to our upcoming Tuckamore Festival “Alumni All-Stars” performance on Tuesday, August 18th! On the programme is Andy Akiho’s Karakurenai, our adaptation of Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s Fantasia for Guitar and Piano, and the world premiere of Jocelyn Morlock’s Spirit Gradient! You can be one of the first to hear this exciting new addition to the piano/percussion repertoire! It’s funky, crunchy, stylish… in a word: BAD-ASS! Tickets and info here.

We’ll be live-streaming from New Brunswick at Chez Higham-Boland, where we have been engaging in some well deserved R&R… SHHH!! style!!! … rehearsing and reading (new scores!)… and of course relaxing as well.

Our Spirit Gradient setup featuring two octaves of crotales, triangles, marimba, and piano!

Also, for our Ottawa-based friends: we are really excited to be partnering with the awesome folks at Young Arts Leaders Collective and Pure Kitchen Ottawa for the #takeoutart613 initiative! Starting this weekend, and for a limited time only, your Pure Kitchen take out meal will include a postcard with a print from a local artist and an exclusive link to a SHHH!! Ensemble curated playlist of some of our recent work. 🤤 🥑 🥦 🎶

July 29, 2020

Thanks to Music and Beyond (a classical summer music festival in Ottawa), in late June we had the unique opportunity to record at the Canadian Museum of Nature! We were completely alone in the museum, save for a few security personnel, camera crew, and a handful of other musicians. We recored a little arrangement of the Fossils movement Camille Saint-Saens’ Carnival of the Animals, naturally, this was recorded in the fossils exhibit! Enjoy!

EDIT (August 15th): You can also hear SHHH!! percussionist Zac Pulak’s Cave Drumming improvisation, released today!

June 6, 2020

Despite the continued major disruptions to our concert schedule, we’ve been keeping busy with learning new repertoire, rehearsing for live-streams, and participating in Jeunesses Musicales Canada’s Domicile Adoré / Home Sweet Home Competition! You can check out our submission below, titled Iso-Elation! Composed by Zac, the piece makes use of exclusively the Do Mi Si La Do Ré pitches, and juxtaposes the many ways an individual may feel during isolation.

April 29, 2020

New video! Recorded just after our Spirits tour wrapped up on March 15, Micheline Roi’s Grieving the Doubts of Angels is one of our favourites from the programme:

April 21, 2020

Yesterday afternoon we had the opportunity to perform a live-streamed concert as a part of the #CanadaPerforms series sponsored by the National Arts Centre, Facebook Canada, Slaight Music, the RBC Foundation, and Sirius XM Canada. It was a wonderful experience and such a privilege to be able to share our music even during these uncertain times.

We have uploaded the livestream to YouTube where you can watch the recital in it’s entirety!

April 5, 2020

For those of you enjoying a nice glass of scotch this evening… 😋 🥃 🎧

We just released a new video of the Ottawa premiere of John Gordon Armstrong’s “The Angel’s Share”. Each movement in this work is a musical exploration of the tasting notes from a particular single malt. 

To that end, here is the list:

i. Like a Fist to the Jaw (Ardbeg)
ii. Smells like Vanilla Ice Cream (Aberfeldy 15)
iii. A Spicy Little Dram (Allt-A-Bhannie)
iv. Tastes Like Bandaids (Talisker 10)
v. Like Butter (Bladnoch)

Please enjoy responsibly. 😉

March 30, 2020

Livestream SHHH!! Ensemble’s OrKidstra SHHHuffle concert, from our living room to yours, on Friday, April 3rd at 2:00pm EDT here (click the photo):

March 22, 2020

On the 13th we wrapped up our Spirits tour, and not a minute too soon! Due to precautions re: COVID-19, our concert schedule for the foreseeable future has really suffered.

The Spirits tour was an incredible experience; thank you to our many wonderful presenters and our attentive, adventurous, and generous audiences for making it all possible!!

Here are a few images from the final performance (courtesy of Ming Wu). We will also be uploading some live footage to the blog in the coming weeks.

Probably most disappointing in the COVID-cancellation saga was a three week career development residency at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity with the Gryphon Trio. Banff is a really special place for us as a duo, as it is where SHHH!! first began. It would have been incredible to be back and working with such esteemed mentors! Hopefully next year!!

Another concert that has regrettably been postponed was an upcoming collaboration with the Ottawa New Music Creators and Ottawa International Writers Festival. ONMC commissioned three new works (by Kevin Reeves, Noora Nakhaei, and Adam Saikely) for us based on literature featured at the festival. An alternate premiere date will be announced soon.

Despite the loss of concerts and opportunities we are staying positive by getting a head start on upcoming projects, organizing footage and photographs, and uploading new content. Stay tuned for all of that!!

February 14, 2020

“Truly virtuosic and intense playing from both Higham and Pulak” (Confluence Concerts)

Apropos of Valentine’s Day, SHHH!! Ensemble has been feeling the love on our Spirits tour so far! 🥰

We just completed the first leg, wrapping up a weeklong residency and recital at the Canadian Music Centre (Toronto), and performances at Conrad Grebel University College (Waterloo), Lakehead University’s LUMINA Series (Thunder Bay), and at Cambrian College (Sudbury).

We are looking forward to phase two, which begins in Winnipeg at the University of Manitoba on February 28!

Check out some gratuitous gear shots (predictably courtesy of Zac), and other pics snapped by Edana and our wonderful presenters as well:

January 24, 2020

Programme notes for Spirits:

December 30, 2019

Next on our Spirits profile is Andy Akiho’s Karakurenai. It’s ironic that this piece, meant to evoke a meditative state, created one of the biggest rehearsal headaches we have ever encountered!! 

Karakurenai juxtaposes a complex ostinato pattern (in 31/16) against a changing melodic fragment that switches between 1, 3, 5, and 20 quarter-note groupings, creating a zen-like ebb and flow. The players perform in unison for the duration of the work.

Karakurenai is part of a series of pieces collectively titled the Synesthesia Suite. Karakurenai is Japanese for crimson, which is the colour composer Andy Akiho associates with F#, a pitch prominently featured in the work.  

While preparing and researching this piece we listened to several interpretations (Karakurenai is openly scored for any instrument or combination of instruments), so there are many versions readily available. Several of these renditions seem to draw out the quirky nature of the piece, indeed, our first instinct was to do the same. 

Over the last few months, as our concept and programme have continued to take shape, we have settled on an interpretation that explores a wide range of percussive sounds and textures.

In our rehearsals we have been focussing on groove, and creating a consistent and cohesive blend. On the marimba, Zac has been experimenting with an array of traditional latex mallets. The warm but articulate “tick” created by these mallets sits nicely in the resonance of the piano played in the same range as Edana. 

Originally conceived as a personal daily exercise or meditation, we have tried to resist the urge to fill the sparse unison ostinato with preparations that distract from the harmonic and rhythmic interplay.

We are looking forward to sharing this flexible piece of musical-yoga with you soon. We cannot believe we are only one month away from the start of the Spirits tour!

December 18, 2019

SHHH!! Ensemble is spending the holidays cozied up with our scores! With our non-duo commitments “wrapped up” for 2019, we are excited to have a few weeks of dedicated rehearsal time as the only thing in our calendar.

We’ve already received a few early x-mas presents (in the form of new scores, and new projects), which we are excited to share with you soon!

On the docket this week, Micheline Roi’s Greiving the Doubts of Angels. This wonderfully expressive, at times subtle, but mostly bombastic work is one of the few pieces on the Spirits programme that we did not commission ourselves. Written for Beverley Johnston and premiered in 2002, Grieving the Doubts of Angels is an exploration of the creative process. Roi writes, “Crisis of faith. Materials and process. The creation of this piece marked the end of some fully explored materials. Grieving. New ideas appeared and the cycle of exploration began again. Doubts. The piece is an aural searching, a sorting, sifting through new compositional material. Angels.”

You can hear Beverley Johnston and Pamela Reimer’s interpretation on Beverley’s 2013 Woman Runs With Wolves album. We can’t wait to perform it in the New Year!

Best wishes for the holiday season from the SHHH!! studio! 😊 🎹 🥁 🎄 ❄️

November 30, 2019

Here is a little photo survey of the multitudinous mallet mutations of Meanwhile!

A lot has already been said about Meanwhile in our blog, so check out earlier posts for more detailed info.

One of the most interesting aspects of Meanwhile is Beckwith’s highly specific mallet/stick/brush indications in the marimba part. Experimenting with mallet choice gives the piece an extremely varied palette of sounds.

The following action shots curtesy of Ming Wu:

November 21, 2019

SHHH!! is under construction! We are hard at work preparing our new all-contemporary programme “Spirits”. Read more about it below: 

Spirits is our most ambitious project to date, featuring a newly commissioned work by Canadian composer John Gordon Armstrong as well as a host of other pieces by composers such as John Beckwith, Micheline Roi, Kevin Hanlon, and Andy Akiho. 

The programme is diversely inspired with Spirits referring/reflecting on the nature of creativity, the beyond, scotch, and more.

We are grateful for the support of the Canadian Music Centre (Toronto) who have generously welcomed us as artists in residence in their space from January 27-31, giving us the freedom to polish this challenging and exciting programme before taking it on tour. We will also perform a culminating recital at the CMC on January 31, more information on that here

SHHH!! Ensemble will be presenting Spirits at a variety of Canadian institutions including Lakehead University, Laurentian/Cambrian, Conrad Grebel, and the Universities of Manitoba, Ottawa, Alberta, and Calgary. We are also looking forward to facilitating workshops and masterclasses at several of the institutions.

In the coming weeks we will be profiling each of the works on Spirits, starting with The Angels Share, by John Gordon Armstrong.

John Gordon Armstrong’s The Angels Share is inspired by tasting notes from a variety of different single malt scotches. With evocative movement titles such as “Like a Fist to the Jaw”, “Smells Like Vanilla Ice Cream”, “A Spicy Little Dram”, “Tastes Like Bandaids”, and “Like Butter”, this new work is just asking to be served neat… please enjoy responsibly. 

In addition to learning the numerous musical notes in this epic 15 minute tour-de-force, we have also been enjoying some well deserved extracurricular research sessions (i.e. scotch tasting). Preparation is key! 

To view older blog posts visit the Blog Archive, here.