Staying Positive While Remaining Negative

Following the event formerly known as the “coolest thing we’ve done”, a.k.a. our. debut album recording, we dove into learning Kelly-Marie Murphy’s new double concerto Machines, Mannequins and Monsters! We will be premiering it with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra on January 26th, 2022.

We have been deep in the woodshed the past few weeks, grinding out what is undoubtably one of the most intense pieces we have ever had the opportunity to learn.

Machines, Mannequins, and Monsters is a taut and driving showcase for piano/percussion duo and orchestra and is inspired by the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) exhibition of the same name:

“In the first decades of the 20th century artists in Europe and the Americas brought to life of legion of unsettling figures shaped by shared experiences of sweeping technological change… Machines promised a bright, efficient future, but they also enabled a devastating warfare that mutilated soldiers’ bodies, which were then remade with prosthetics… increasingly lifelike mannequins filled shop windows [and now digitally on screens everywhere], uncanny doubles of the consumers passing by… on the silver screen, vampires, golems, hunchbacks, and other anthropomorphic monsters reflected a pervasive racism and aversion to difference”. (MoMA)

100 years later and humanity is still grappling with the same issues.

It is a peculiar feeling spending hours a day rehearsing a piece, which due to increased restrictions in response to the new COVID-19 variant, may be indefinitely postponed. Over the past eighteen months our duo has been able to weather the COVID storm through a combination of lucky timing, constant applications, and virtual pivots. For the moment we are still going forward with the double concerto, though the potential for a cancellation is forcing us to reexamine what drives us to create art.

Throughout the Murphy Double Concerto there are many special moments: big, open spaces punctuated by franticly accelerating and fractured scales in the first movement; blooms of resonance, echoes, and wisps of memory permeate the second movement; and, in the third, a relentless gallop towards oblivion.

The last few weeks have been very productive and, dare I say, enjoyable as we continue to hone this incredible new piece. No matter when the premiere takes place, it is always a pleasure to spend time with such brilliant music.

SHHH!! Ensemble wishes you a safe holiday season and try to stay positive while remaining (COVID) negative! 😉

Recording at Domaine Forget

SHHH!! just got back from an incredible week at Le Domaine Forget in the Charlevoix region of Quebec! We were recording our debut album, titled Meanwhile in the beautiful acoustic of the Domaine Forget Salle de Concert.

We spent November 20th and 21st setting up (LOTS of gear!), rehearsing, and getting comfortable in the space. The next three days were a joyous whirlwind working with tonmeister extraordinaire Carl Talbot recording some of our most beloved repertoire.

While recording, everything had to be considered: the setup (each piece had a unique percussion array, and therefore different mic and instrument placement), the physicality of music (more intense pieces were recorded either at the very beginning or very end of the day), even piano tunings had to be factored in as some pieces were so bombastic and impassioned that a tuning was required before we could proceed!

Here is a sample of our schedule from Day 2:

8h00: piano tuning

9h30: arrive at the hall and warm up while Carl and his assistant Philippe tweak mic placements and settings.

10h30: begin recording Micheline Roi’s Grieving the Doubts of Angels. We start with the very transparent opening when the piano would be at it absolute best… things gradually get more aggressive and crunchy sounding so we save that for the end.

12h55: the very understanding piano technician Michel is called 5 mins before his scheduled tuning to please-please-please come 20-30mins later so we could get a final take or two of the last energetic and wild last section.

13h25: piano tuning / lunch break. Perhaps of interest, perhaps not… meals at Domaine Forget generally consisted of cheeses, breads, preserves, and pâtés from the Charlevoix region… or tourtières from Léon & Lily boulangerie… too good! Don’t worry, we had lots of fruits and vegetables as well! 😉

15h00: meet back in the booth to go over the mornings takes and double check if anything needed to be redone. We were all good, so it was time to move on to Jocelyn Morlock’s Spirit Gradient. There was a slightly different setup for this piece so things needed to be rejigged.

16h30: begin recording Spirit Gradient. We got some great initial takes, but because of our position to get the best sound, hearing eachother was a little problematic (the tuned metal discs called crotales that I, Zac, play ring A LOT, and had to be placed far away from the piano mics… we play in rhythmic unison for much of the piece! So, not easy!). Carl outfitted Edana with some headphones that allowed her to hear me much better. After that it was smooth sailing and we got into a really good flow.

19h30: head back to the booth and check out our progress. After much close listening and debating we agreed that we were all good. A really awesome Day 2.

20h30: Day 2 complete. Back to our apartment to decompress. Edana and I got in the habit of sampling a different beer from Charlevoix each night. Always excellent.

Day 3 proceeded in much the same way, so all in all, things went swimmingly! We really enjoyed the process, working with Carl was a pleasure, and the grounds and the hall at Domaine Forget were beautiful and inspiring.

Over the three days we recorded John Beckwith’s Meanwhile, John Gordon Armstrong’s The Angels’ Share, Noora Nakhaei’s Echoes of the Past, Micheline Roi’s Grieving the Doubts of Angels, Jocelyn Morlock’s Spirit Gradient, Monica Pearce’s leather, and Kelly-Marie Murphy’s Dr. Blue’s Incredible Bone-Shaking Drill Engine.

Following the last day of recording we spent a further two days exploring the region… walks on the beach, some hiking at Parc National des Grands-Jardin, delicious dinners and wine at Le Sainti (a ten minute walk from Domaine), and checking out all of the amazing local producers of beer, cheese, honey, meat, preserves, mushrooms, and more.

Our album will be released in Spring 2022 on the Analekta label! A HUGE thank you to the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council for supporting this project.

We can’t wait to share this incredible Canadian music with you!

Fall Update

Many projects going on this fall! Here is quick overview of what’s up over the next few months:

  • October 17, Spirits recital at Pontiac Enchanté in Luskville, QC! Get your tickets here.
  • October 27, Ottawa New Music Creators (ONMC) season opening concert ft. loop pedal violists Kathryn Patricia and Radia. Get your tickets for that event here.
  • October 29, Spirits recital at Mount Allison University in Sackville, NB.
  • November 1-9, Residency at the Lunenburg Academy of Music Performance (LAMP) in Nova Scotia.
  • November 15, Video recording session ft. ONMC members and SHHH!! in the world premiere of a new work commissioned by ONMC/SHHH!! (more on this coming soon!!).
  • November 22-24, Debut album recording session at Domaine Forget in Charlevoix, QC with producer Carl Talbot for the Analekta label. HUGE thanks to the Canada Council for the Arts for funding this project! 🙂
  • December 3, ONMC Concert 2 ft. Lara Deutsch (flute) and Adam Cicchillitti (guitar).
  • Continued learning of the approximately 3,000,000 notes involved in Kelly-Marie Murphy’s new double concerto Machines, Mannequins, and Monsters! World premiere on January 26, 2022 with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra.

Never a dull moment!

Meanwhile, it’s HAPPENING!

On Tuesday last week we received the wonderful news from the Canada Council for the Arts that we were awarded an Explore and Create – Concept to Realization grant! That, combined with our earlier Ontario Arts Council Music Production Grant will allow us to proceed with recording our debut album, Meanwhile, on the Analekta label. We couldn’t be happier!

We will be recording at the beautiful George Weston Recital in Toronto with tonmeister extraordinaire Carl Talbot this fall, with a release date in early 2022.

Meanwhile‘s all-Canadian lineup surveys some of our most memorable collaborations and creative endeavours from the past few years and will include:

  • Kelly-Marie Murphy’s riveting and virtuosic Dr. Blue’s Incredible Bone-Shaking Drill Engine;
  • Noora Nakhaei’s Echoes of the Past, based on the remarkable and moving co-autobiography Sister Language by Martha and Christine Baillie;
  • John Beckwith’s Meanwhile, a haunting, reflective, and at times violent theme and variations, and the first piece written for our duo as well as the namesake of the album;
  • Micheline Roi’s powerful and expressive Grieving the Doubts of Angels, one of the few previously existing Canadian works for piano/percussion duo;
  • John Gordon Armstrong’s The Angels’ Share is a loving look at tasting notes from various single malt Scotches;
  • Jocelyn Morlock’s quirky and groovy Spirit Gradient explores the inner sound world of the horizon determining device through the eyes of a child.

We cannot wait to share this music with you! 😉🥳🎶