Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Symphony Under the Sky!

Greetings readers!

It's that time of the year again... the Symphony Under the Sky festival on labour day weekend September 2-5, 2011!

More than anything else, this festival has become a mother-daughter tradition in my family now. However, it wasn't always this way. My friend, Nadia, actually introduced me to the festival and we started out by volunteering. We sold Häagen-Dazs icecream bars from the cart, ushered concerts, and helped run the Teddy Bear picnic hospital. I wasn't much help with the latter position since I didn't possess any sewing skills. Thus, I was unable to mend the teddy bears brought to me. I could only deal with imaginary teddy bear flesh wounds by applying a band-aid on the affected area. 

Since that time, my sister, Sarah, and I have managed to turn our mother into a Symphony Under the Sky convert. This was definitely an experiment because my mother is not the outdoorsy type. She always wondered why Sarah and I would willingly sit outside and feed the mosquitoes at summer festivals. The first year she went to Symphony Under the Sky we thought it would be better to get her a reserved seat, however, she quickly discovered that the reserved seats do not possess the hammock-like comfort of a lawn chair. After that realization, we went to Canadian Tire and purchased some Hawaiian fabric lawn chairs. Oh, so classy. We've never looked back since. Year after year you can see us on the grass seating area lounging with our Harry Potter fleece blanket and tea thermos. It's also the only time of year when my mother indulges in western festival luxuries like jalapeno cheddar smokies and mini donuts.

This year will not disappoint as the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra has brought back conductor, Bob Bernhardt (his 6th year leading the festival!), to conduct the weekend concerts. Here's an overview of the concerts:

Friday, September 2, 2011 @ 7pm

Mozart, Handel, and Brahms... what's not to love? After the traditional playing of "O Canada," which signals the start of the festival, the program items for the evening will include: Mozart's "Concerto for Flute and Harp" showcasing the talents of the ESO's very own Elizabeth Faulkner and Nora Bumanis, Handel's "Water Music," and Brahm's "Second Symphony." A lovely way to kick off the festival with some symphonic classics.

Saturday, September 3, 2011 @ 2pm

A concert filled with Broadway classics from Andrew Lloyd Webber to Sondheim. Definitely a must-see if you're a Broadway music lover! It will also be an interesting concert since Strathcona Highschool's Les Misérables cast will be performing pieces with Edmonton-born Broadway singer, Susan Gilmour. It will be a lovely afternoon filled with music from West Side Story, Carousel, Phantom of the Opera and others.

Saturday, September 3, 2011 @ 7pm

By far my favorite evening out at the festival is the Hollywood Classics evening. There's just something magical about hearing the music from Hollywood movies in the darkened park while holding a hot beverage. The audience can expect to hear music from old Hollywood classics such as E.T. and the Wizard of Oz to modern day releases such as Pirates of the Caribbean and Batman. The Saturday night concert is always packed and for good reason.

Sunday, September 4, 2011 @ 7pm

The Sunday night performance is definitely the "Canadiana" evening out of the festival. This year it showcases the talent and tunes of Ian Tyson. His songs will include "Four Strong Winds" which is an Edmonton Folk Music Festival anthem, "Somewhere in the Rubies", "Love without End" et al. His charming cowboy twang is sure to ensnare the hearts of audiences that evening. Plus, I'm sure he'll wear his cowboy hat on stage.

Monday, September 5, 2011 @ 2pm

The Monday afternoon concert always has three elements:

1. A killer soloist
2. A world premiere by a young composer
3. Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture complete with real canons from the Royal Canadian Artillery

This year those elements will include:
1. Sarah Ho playing Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue"
2. Andrew Reid premiering his debut piece "Echoes of Time"
3. Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture complete with real canons from the Royal Canadian Artillery (as per usual)

This year's Symphony Under the Sky holds the promise of great music and soloists. If you haven't already got your ticket(s), I'd advise you to purchase them now since the shows have a tendency to sell-out. This festival really is the best way to spend the last festival weekend in Edmonton. All ticket details for weekend passes as well as individual shows can be found on their website. Prices range from $20-$39 for individual adults and $82-$125 for adult passes (depending on performance and seat location).

I hope to see some of you there! If you won't be able to make it, you can also follow me on Twitter or search for festival tweets with the hastag: #yegSUTS

You can also check out what the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra has lined up for their upcoming 2011-2012 season:

Until next time, take care readers!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Remembering Suzanne

It's hard to know exactly what to feel or say in moments like this. An onslaught of self-reflections, what-if's, paralysis, anger, and guilt all seem to amalgamate into a web of confusing emotion. I still feel disbelief. I just saw her a few weeks ago at the Edmonton Folk Music Festival! How could she suddenly not be here anymore?

Suzie and I sang together in Chamber Choir together and I treated her like any one of the talented older choristers---with fear and awe. One can't help but be a little afraid and in love with the cooler older chorister. However, there was never a reason to fear Suzie because she was always so kind to my admiring chorister self. Suzie quickly moved onto other choral groups upon entering University while I finished up my years of highschool in Chamber Choir. Even though our choral pursuits did not overlap after Chamber Choir, I felt that my life ran parallel to hers in many ways. She sang in the University of Alberta Madrigal singers, and by the time I joined that choir, she had already left. However, we both continued to sing in different womens and mixed choirs in the city. I always admired her ability to pursue her scientific interests while maintaining her musical passions. It is a balance that I strive for as well and she served as a role model for me in that respect. It is a rarity to have a fellow Science Masters student singing with as much choral passion as I.

One thing that is really unique is hearing, reading, and seeing everybody's stories and photos with Suzie that are now surfacing. Andrea Vogel composed a lovely note about Suzie that documented her memories of her through the found objects in a bag Suzie had accidentally left behind. Each of these items reflected a different part of her character. From the container that held the homemade pie she made to the water bottle filled with wine. Everybody who came in contact with Suzie has their own way of remembering her. Some are substantial and some are brief; however, they all act as pieces in the mosaic of her life.

Of course, I immediately tried recalling my moments with Suzie. As if I was afraid that these memories would degrade if I didn't. I do not confess to be a close confidant of Suzie's, instead, I considered her to be a very dear musical acquaintance and role model of mine. I would always enjoy chatting with her at music receptions and concerts and she once confessed to me that she was a reader of this very blog. I remember brushing it off with an air of flustered modesty. I was humbled to think that she would find what I had written here on this blog of interest to her.

We had this unspoken acknowledgement of one another. When I would see her in passing we would exchange a few words, perhaps when she was getting her U-Pass from me at the CAB Infolink desk, or a warm smile and wave while I was sitting down at her folk music festival tarp--- that would be enough to catch both of us up. I also remember Suzie's surprise when a fellow soprano revealed a singing relaxation technique: the mental cueing of orgasmic sensations. We all burst out laughing!

As I reflect upon these previously mentioned moments, I do feel guilty for not having known her better, however, I realize it's impossible to connect with everybody you meet in life with the same amount of attention that they all deserve. All we can do is treat people with care and respect each time we see them. I am just thankful to have known her even though our time together was brief. I suppose that is all that we can do as we make our way through this difficult time: piecing together our collective memories to construct a supportive and therapeutic network.

So as the days pass until her memorial service this Wednesday conductor, John Brough, is assembling choristers who knew Suzie to sing at her mass on Wednesday morning. Please e-mail John: jsbrough(a) for more information and details before Wednesday, August 24, 2011.

Until next time, do take care dear readers. My heart can't bear it to lose any more of you.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Folk Fest Update

My, oh my, Folk Festival is a wonderful time of year.

I went into this year's Folk Fest not knowing any of the artists. In a way, that's really the best because I went in without any expectations. Just an open mind. I always manage to find artists that I like. My two stand-outs of this Folk Festival: Jeremy Fisher and Del Barber. Both are singer/songwriters from Canada. Fisher hails from Quebec and Barber is from Manitoba. 

Fisher has this quirky and wholesome stage presence which compliments nicely with his sing-as-you-speak performance style. Wearing his skinny artist jeans, comfy v-neck t-shirt, and his curly afro, he serenaded the audience with tunes such as "Shine a Little Light" or "Cigarette" or a love song incorporating tetris and math. What's not to love? Listen to some of his tunes here.

Barber has a bit more a biting wit to him with a Canadian prairie boy wholesomeness. As he confessed, where he comes from, it's all about three things: hockey, fishing, and women. Rocking a pair of jeans, a plaid shirt and his black Ray-Bans at the festival, he sang songs about his disappointment over Archie choosing Veronica over Betty, a Junior Mint mishap on a blind date, and a breakfast date break-up in Chicago. Barber is a skilled storyteller and it felt like I was listening to an episode of Stuart McLean's Vinyl Cafe as he accompanied his stories with guitar back-up. You can listen to some of his songs here.

Other enjoyable artists I took in at the Folk Festival?

Deer Tick-an engaging rock-folk band from Rhode Island

Delhi 2 Dublin-an electric fusion of Indian and Irish music styles. They had the hill dancing on their feet in no time!

Other favorite Folk Fest moments?

Walking in the lantern parade with friends.

Watching the candlelight illuminate the Folk Fest hill.

Until next year's Folk Fest!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Folk Fest 2011

Greetings readers!

It is that time of year again... it's summer music festival season! I missed the Edmonton Folk Music Festival last year since I was in Italy, but I'm back and ready as ever this year.

For those of you who may not be familiar with attending music festivals, an enjoyable aspect of it can come in the form of "Folk Fest Stalking". For more information on what I mean, please refer to a previous post on this subject matter.

I combed through the program last night and have been researching the performers for the past few weeks but I feel like the artist of my interest this weekend will be: Jeremy Fisher. I haven't heard him live yet, but after an evening session where he'll be performing tonight, I feel like I will have a better idea of what he's like to make an informed decision.

Last night was already a fantastic night of comparing program notes with fellow friends, dancing in candlelit to the Gipsy Kings, and catching up with family familiar faces on the hill. Folk Fest is definitely one of the best times of the year in Edmonton. Great music and great company!

I'll keep you all informed on my musical discoveries this weekend. You can also follow me on Twitter since I'll definitely be posting updates throughout the weekend!

Take care and enjoy the summer weather!

Wristbands of power

Captain America even came out to play

The Gipsy Kings on stage