Artscape Wychwood Barns, in the event space

Music in the Barns

Creating musical events in unusual spaces is one of the signature features of Music in the Barns, an organization founded in 2008 by violist Carol Gimbel. At the time, Gimbel had an artist studio in the Artscape Wychwood Barns building which was renovated from several large early 20th-century TTC streetcar garages to create a multi-use facility that contains individual artist studios, a farmers market, a greenhouse, an event space and arts organization offices. On June 2, Music in the Barns is staging a celebratory post-Covid return with different events happening in the various Barns’ spaces to create a multi-sensory experience for the audience. 

Anchoring the evening will be a concert to finally celebrate their 2019 album – Music in the Barns: Bolton, Godin & Oesterle (newfocusrecordings.com). As Gimbel explained to me during a recent phone conversation, they had previously championed the music on the album during their concerts at the Barns, and after recording it and spending many hours editing it, they never had a chance to do the album-launch concert properly before the lockdowns began. This concert will therefore be the chance for an extended evening of celebration with all those who worked on the album. 

Read more: Creating Musical Spaces Indoor and Out | Two Visions

Women from Space founder/ organizers Bea Labikova (left) and Kayla MilmineWomen from Space is a very special festival, highlighting creativity across a diverse range of music and mixed-media work, often improvisatory, sometimes electronic, scheduled each year to coincide with International Women’s Day weekend.

First launched in 2019 just a week before the COVID-19 lockdown, the event highlights many of the ways in which women are expanding and redefining the sonic landscape, shifting any remaining boundaries between genres and fusing them into new forms. Last year, in full lockdown, founder/organizers Kayla Milmine and Bea Labikova made available an innovative three-dimensional projection box that allowed home viewers to watch the festival in a unique miniature environment. For the fourth edition, the festival is back on stage, this time in the Tranzac’s main hall for three nights and then at 918 Bathurst for the finale. As with past editions there are events that will be better experienced than described. Pre-show panels and chats, presented by Musicworks, run from 7:00 to 7:30 with four to five performances per evening beginning at 8PM.

Thursday April 28

Montreal voice-and-movement artist Susanna Hood’s past works have included explorations of sometimes subtle, sometimes visceral poets, including P.K. Page (The Muted Note) and the 15th-century Zen master Ikkyū (Impossibly Happy). Here Hood explores the saxophonist-composer Steve Lacy’s Packet settings of poems by Judith Malina, co-founder of the Living Theatre. Hood matches Lacy’s original instrumentation with two stellar Toronto improvisers, soprano saxophonist Kayla Milmine and pianist Tanya Gill. That spirit of improvisation is matched by trumpeter Nicole Rampersaud’s solo performance, while the same integration of the arts is evident in vibraphonist/pianist Racha Moukalled’s compositions, inspired by works of the pioneering abstract painter Hilma af Klint. Moukalled’s quartet includes violinist Aline Homzy, oboist/flautist Elizabeth Brown and interdisciplinary artist Ilyse Krivel. 

Read more: Women from Space: Redefining the sonic landscape

Beverley Johnston PHOTO: BO HUANGTwo concerts, one in early March, the other in early April, resonate with the day on the calendar set aside to celebrate the historical, cultural and political achievements of women: International Women’s Day (IWD) on March 8. This special day has its origins in Russia, a fact that feels significantly ironic – as I sit writing this column, Russia has begun its invasion of Ukraine. On March 8, 1917, the women textile workers of Petrograd rose up to demand “Bread and Peace” – which meant for these women an end to World War I, to food shortages and to czarism. It remained a holiday primarily in Communist countries until 1967 when second-wave feminists in Western Europe, the UK and North America adopted the date as a day of action, highlighting issues such as equal pay, reproductive rights, and the prevention of violence against women.

On March 8 of 2022, percussionist virtuoso Beverley Johnston will be performing a series of compositions that highlight various mythic and real-life female characters in a concert she is calling Finding HER Voice. When I asked Johnston whose voice she is referring to in the title she responded by saying that it has several meanings. “It can be my own voice because I’ve been incorporating a lot of voice into the percussion works that I’ve been learning, either by singing or speaking. Metaphorically, the title draws attention to how women through the ages have empowered themselves, found their voice and become stronger within themselves.” 

Johnson uses her voice in all of the pieces, and even though she is not a trained singer, she became comfortable using her voice due to her experience as a member of the URGE collective in the 1990s and in workshops with Richard Armstrong, an original member of the Roy Hart Theatre known for its pioneering of extended vocal techniques. These activities “empowered me to know that it’s okay to find that gruff quality in the voice, and allowed me not to be afraid to use my voice,” she said.

Read more: Johnston’s Voice & Devaux’s Imagined Sounds

The Piano Travels - a transmission art installation by James Bailey - is featured in NAISA’s 2022 Deep Wireless FestivalRadio art is a lesser-known creative medium yet is perfectly designed for these concert-barren times we’re in. Deep Wireless is a festival of radio and transmission art, plus encompassing installations, performances, radio programs, symposiums and a series of CD compilations. The festival is entering into its 21st year of activities, thanks to the committed vision of New Adventures in Sound Art (NAISA) and its artistic director Darren Copeland, 

When I proposed this story to my WholeNote editor, he recalled that he had performed the role of a live radio host at a very early Deep Wireless event in 2002 held at Theatre Passe Muraille. One of the memories of that event that stood out for him, he said, was a performance of Radio Music by John Cage, a work written in 1956 for one to eight performers. His mention of that event in turn jogged my memory – I too had been involved in it. Later when I chatted with Copeland about this year’s festival, he was able to confirm that, not only was I involved, but that I had actually conducted the Cage work. In fact, most of the performers were students from my sonic arts class at OCAD who executed the movements on the radio dials according to the notated score.

Read more: Radios, Pianos and Weather – Deep Wireless at 20

Kronos and Tagaq resized C Lisa Sakulensky“It’s not so much a place I go to as a place I come to. It’s a freedom, a lack of control, an exploration, and I’m reacting to whatever happens upon the path.”

Tanya Tagaq (quoted in WN May 2016)

Five years ago at the 21C Music Festival, the Kronos Quartet introduced their Fifty for the Future project, performing four of these works including the world premiere of Snow Angel-Sivunittinni (meaning “the future children”) created by the exhilarating and ferocious Inuk throat singer Tanya Tagaq. Spread over five years, the project commissioned 50 new works by 25 women and 25 men for string quartet, all designed to introduce future string quartets to the diversity of contemporary musical ideas. In The WholeNote article I wrote for the May 2016 issue, David Harrington, first violinist of the quartet, described Tagaq’s voice as sounding “like she has a string quartet in her throat.”

Read more: Music for Change: Kronos and Tagaq return to 21C
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