Meanwhile Album Launches

SHHH!! just wrapped up two successful Meanwhile album launches in Ottawa and Toronto! We are so excited and encouraged by the good vibes and feedback we are getting! It was great to see so many friends, family, mentors, and new faces! 😘😘

Only one week to go before Meanwhile is available everywhere to stream or purchase!

Below, enjoy some photos from the Ottawa launch at the National Arts Centre’s Fourth Stage, shot by Curtis Perry:

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!

Some of our Summer

With all of the ups and downs that the last year has brought, thankfully this summer is shaping up to be one of our busiest and most creative! 🙂☀️🎶

That being said, we did allow ourselves a little break last week in beautiful Prince Edward County:

Since our last post:

  • Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity Evolution: Classical has continued with incredible weekly mentor sessions and EvoFest concerts. Always so inspiring. EvoFest concerts are available for free on the Banff Centre YouTube channel, here.
  • Episode 3 of NightCAPS w/ SHHH!! Ensemble aired ft. world premiere performances of Monica Pearce’s leather and Patricia Morehead’s Moon on Shimmering Water. You can still watch the performance, here.
  • On June 20th we had the pleasure of recording Monica Pearce’s leather at Revolution Recording in Toronto for her upcoming Textile Fantasies album.
  • SHHH!! percussionist Zac Pulak received a City of Ottawa Creation and Production Fund for Professional Artists Grant to complete a new solo percussion work he has been developing since the start of the pandemic (to be premiered this Fall).

Coming up:

  • Chamberfest released their season lineup! We will be performing three concerts (available online or in person)! Click here for complete details.
    1. New Music Now ft. Jocelyn Morlock’s Spirit Gradient and Monica Pearce’s leather
    2. Bring the Kids! concert ft. some really fun and engaging participatory pieces
    3. Record Centre SHHHuffle recital ft. classical arrangements plus new music by Jocelyn Morlock, Mari Alice Conrad, Noora Nakhaei, and Andy Akiho.
  • We are honoured to be partnering with the National Arts Centre as artists in residence for the 2nd instalment of the Banff Centre Evolution: Classical program. Thanks to the NAC’s support, we will spend two glorious weeks putting the finishing touches on our new repertoire at the Venturing Hills Concert Studio in Luskville, QC. The new program will be live-streamed from Venturing Hills via the Banff Centre’s EvoFest series.
  • PLANNING, PLANNING, PLANNING for the Ottawa New Music Creators’ season launch (early September). It’s going to be RAD. 🤙

More to Come SOON! 🤫😉

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: