Ritual and That Star Is Awake @ Chamberfest

Last week we had the pleasure of premiering two new works by our friends and composers Daniel Mehdizadeh and Edward Enman at Chamberfest’s New Music Now! We have known both composers since our student days at the University of Ottawa in the early 2010s! The concert was made even more special as we shared the program with music by fellow SHHH!! friends, collaborators, and Ottawa connections John Gordon Armstrong and Kelly-Marie Murphy.

Mehdizadeh’s Ritual is an abstract exploration of an imagined and nameless ritual… dark and brooding, at times groovy and at other times spacious and sinister.

Contrastingly, Enman’s That Star is Awake explores “the idea of a child experiencing the sight of the stars, the moon, the sun, and discovering what they are, and how they are what they are… stars are big exploding balls of gas… they can also be a smiling character in a children’s book… this piece is somewhere in between.”

We look forward to performing these two beautiful new works again in a couple of weeks at Γ‰tΓ© Musical de Barachois in New Brunswick!

Photos by Curtis Perry:

May/June Roundup

It’s been a busy (and awesome, and beautiful, and nourishing, and other lovely adjectives) few weeks… here’s the scoop! πŸ₯„πŸ¦πŸ‘‡

May 24-June 1: Back at the barn

We spent a week and a bit at Venturing Hills Concert Studio rehearsing and putting the finishing touches on our Spirits program… we also ogled at birds, horses, and the inspiring sunsets over the Eardley Escarpment.

June 3-5: Open Ears Fest

SHHH!! performed Spirits at the Open Ears Festival of Music and Sound in Kitchener-Waterloo! We had a blast sharing incredible new music by composers like Andy Akiho, Kevin Hanlon, Micheline Roi, John Beckwith, John Gordon Armstrong, Monica Pearce, and Jocelyn Morlock!

It was also great to hear Carmen Braden perform her Seed Songs with a killer band and experience Grace Scheele’s Not Yr Angel Bby Harpist.

June 6: Super News From SOCAN

We got word from the SOCAN Foundation that we have received funding to commission NYC based composer Harry Stafylakis. We’ve asked him to write us a fast and furious “SHHHred-isode”… stay tuned for that!

June 7: World Premiere of “Enable Original Sound”

In the words of SHHH!! percussionist Zac, “I don’t always compose, but when I do it is always for percussion!”

Commissioned by the Centre d’Excellence Artistique d’Ontario at Γ‰cole Secondaire De La Salle, Enable Original Sound engaged graduating music students at the school who, due to COVID restrictions for most of this year, were unable to play their normal (non-percussion) instruments. Zac coached them on basic percussion skills and wrote a piece for them! They rose to the occasion and played beautifully!

June 9: Final mixing session at Le Lab

Meanwhile is almost here! We spent the afternoon at Le Lab Mastering in Montreal with our producer Carl Talbot working on the Dolby Atmos mix. It sounds incredible and we are so excited to share this music with you!!

June 11: “Odaabaanag” at Pique Summer 2022

Together with Debaser, Jumblies Theatre, Ottawa New Music Creators, and No Borders Voices we presented Odaabaanag at Pique Summer 2022. Odaabaanag is a suite of two original musical compositions by Melody McKiver and Beverley McKiver, inspired by the words and stories of Garnet Angeconeb, Josephine King and Tom Chisel from Obishikokaang (Lac Seul First Nation). It was a deeply moving and very special experience for us (and for everyone that attended the concerts!).

What’s Next?

We are working towards the world premieres of Daniel Mehdizadeh’s Ritual and Edward Enman’s That Star Is Awake at Ottawa Chamberfest’s New Music Now event on August 1st, continued preparations for the launch of Meanwhile, prepping a brand new program to be debuted at Γ‰tΓ© Musical de Barachois on August 25th , and planning ONMC’s next season… never a dull moment!

Gone Fishhhing

About a week ago we got hit with our biggest COVID-era cancellation. We were devastated. Since then, a big “Gone Fishhhing” sign has been posted on our studio doors. This week we plan to get back into the swing of things: learning new notes and telling everyone about this really cool thing we did! πŸ˜ŽπŸ‘‡

One of our dream projects over the past year has been to find a piece that would allow us to collaborate freely with a variety of other musicians in a hip, accessible, and groovy way.

The Answer? Jesse Stewart’s In Sea

In an ocean of open score oeuvres, we came across many good candidates: some were more obvious (like Terry Riley’s In C), some were more obscure (like Erik Griswold’s Action Music), but none felt quite right for this particular project. What we really wanted was a tailor made piece that featured our duo as a sort of anchor (sorry, but there will be many nautical puns here…), augmented by an indeterminate ensemble comprised of any number of any instruments.

Co-commissioned by SHHH!! Ensemble and the Ottawa New Music Creators, In Sea is a new work for flexible ensemble by Ottawa’s Jesse Stewart. Inspired by Terry Riley’s open score classic In C, In Sea is Stewart’s 21st century take on the well known minimalist work.

A huge thank you to the Canadian Music Centre and Picanto (a new video hosting site dedicated to Canadian new music) for their support through the 7X Video Production Fund. We are honoured to be one of seven artists/collectives from across the country to be awarded this funding. Our video premiere drops on February 7th as a part of the Picanto 7X Festival!

On November 15th we filmed the world premiere performance with eight Ottawa New Music Creators at the Ottawa Art Gallery with stunning artwork by Gatineau, QC artist AM Dumouchel as our backdrop. We had a whale of a time! πŸ³πŸŽΆπŸ˜€

The incredible musicians involved in the world premiere recording are:

  • Raphael Weinroth-Browne, cello
  • Travis Mandel, trumpet
  • Ben Glossop, bassoon
  • Yolande Laroche, clarinet
  • Sean Clarke, flute
  • Alex Moxon, guitar
  • Erica Miller, violin
  • Kathryn Cobbler, viola

Audio/video recorded was provided by Julian Bertino Sound and Nikolas Labossiere. Stills and additional footage by ONMC’s Exec-extraordinaire Curtis Perry.

Back in November, we were between waves of COVID and the public health guidelines in Ottawa allowed us to meet to rehearse and record for one glorious day of sonic exploration. In the company of such fine musicians recording was **preemptive cringe** plain sailing.

With so many COVID-cancellations plaguing our winter schedule we have been buoyed by this upcoming pandemic-proof premiere!

Following the premiere screening of In Sea on the Picanto platform, SHHH!! is looking forward to continue to perform this new work and using it as a way to connect with other artists and new audiences!

Some pictures from the recording day by Curtis Perry:

Hope to sea you on the 7th! πŸ™‚

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! πŸ˜‰

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 EnchantΓ© 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! πŸ™‚
  • 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!

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! πŸ™ƒ

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: