Source & Inspiration III
The Art of Time Ensemble
January 29th, 2009 @ Harbourfront Centre
By Gabrielle Charron-Merritt
Source. The place from which everything appears, akin to water and its small-stream beginnings, headed for the ocean. In the ocean of music, from where does the water come? The source of music is two-fold; it is part nature (the mind and the body being able to produce sounds) and nurture (the mind and the body being able to reproduce sounds). There are some musicians who write songs, and others who play covers. Most do both, because neither source of inspiration is better than the other, and even original material contains a few stolen ideas from Music’s past.
The Art of Time Ensemble, a chamber music collective, successfully combined three forms of music and three types of musicians during Korngold: Source & Inspiration: classical music and musicians who play the “covers” of dead composers, popular music and singer-songwriters who write original music and lyrics, and modern music and composers who often write music for films and commercials.
The ensemble has hosted such evenings before. For each, a different classical composer was chosen (previous composers include Schumann and Schubert). This year, the early 20th-century composer Erich Korngold (1897-1957) was chosen. The evening first featured Korngold’s Suite for Two Violins, Cello and Piano, Op. 23, played by members of the ensemble. In the second half of the performance, singer-songwriters Martin Tielli, Danny Michel, and John Southworth performed songs that they wrote, inspired by the suite. These songs were also arranged by present-day composers and accompanied by the Art of Time Ensemble.
Korngold was an interesting choice. Although he composed music for opera, orchestra, and chamber ensemble, a big part of his career was focused on writing music for film. He is best known for scoring The Adventures of Robin Hood, featuring Errol Flynn. This movie music was not much different from the classical music Korngold had been writing in Europe. Written in the 1930s and 1940s, it marks the Golden Age of Hollywood, where production companies hired full-sized orchestras to perform scores. Korngold helped shape this music, and most likely influenced film composers like Carl Stalling, who wrote the music for Looney Tunes. Incidentally, some of the composers involved in this evening also work in professional film.
So, what was the evening like?
Serious. Silly. Charming.
In the first half, I felt the formality of a concert hall. Everyone in the audience was still, leaving applause for the end of the suite rather than clapping between movements. The room seemed to relax when the singer-songwriters came out one-by-one to perform their songs. They delivered their distinctive pre-song banter, talking about anything from their level of nervousness to the song’s history. Before each song, the piano quintet played the excerpt from the suite that had been used as inspiration. The songs featured the stories of sailors, liars, and Korngold himself; the most memorable line came from John Southworth, who sang “werewolves on reefer, androids on ether”, in his song “Athabasca”.
All the performances were captivating and inspiring. The evening celebrated Korngold and many professional musicians of our times; genres mixed well and helped strengthen the idea that collaboration is important in the musical world today.