The Eckhardt-Gramatte National Music Competition (E-Gre) 2018 Winner’s tour starts at the Northern Arts and Cultural Centre Wednesday night.
Each year, a cross-country winner’s tour is awarded as part of the first-prize package, and this year Yellowknife is the first stop before it heads to New Brunswick on Friday.
“This is the first time since the E-Gre started in 1976 that the tour has been to Yellowknife or anywhere in Northern Canada,” stated E-Gre’s artistic director Megumi Masaki in an email.
This year’s winner violinist Amy Hillis and her pianist Katherine Dowling will perform pieces by living composers from across Canada, including Yellowknife’s own Carmen Braden.
Masaki said it’s important to showcase the work of living composers because it allows for explorations of new sounds.
“I love how performing and commissioning new music by living Canadian composers also allows performer-composer boundaries to be blurred/erased so in true collaboration, we can discover, hear and impact what is in each other’s imaginations and ears for that work,” wrote Masaki.
Braden’s work Foxy Fox’s Musical Games will be performed at Wednesday’s concert and each concert on the cross-country tour.
She said her composition is a series of interactions between two performers, in this case a violinist and a pianist.
“Each of them had different parameters, like the rules of a game, the simplest one to use as an example would be tag,” said Braden.
For example at one point the violinist is ‘it’ and they get to decide how fast the music goes.
“They get to kind of do it without telling the pianist, so the pianist just has to follow them as quickly as possible and keep the music hanging together, but at the same time have fun with each other,” she said.
“What I was imagining when I was designing these games was a couple of young fox pups or kits or whatever you call little foxes, playing in the snow and how they would tumble over each other and I was imagining that in slow motion,” said Braden.
Braden also asked performers to bring a piece from their own childhood, like a lullaby or special song, to play as part of the composition.
“In that sense, like the game idea, I want it to be different every time,” said Braden, which leaves a lot of interpretation up to performers. This approach to composition may be unusual, but Braden said she loves the collaboration.
“I like giving the musicians that I write for a chance to explore the music in a creative way, that almost approaches composition as a performer,” she said.
Masaki said they chose Braden to commission a piece for this year’s competition after hearing James Ehnes, violinist and former E-Gre prize winner, perform her piece Magnetic North.
“Plus, I had been hearing a lot of excited buzz about how Carmen’s music is tightly connected with the Northern Canadian landscape to brilliantly tell stories which grabs the listener, while simultaneously pushing the performers to go beyond their instruments and have fun,” she wrote.
Braden said she’s proud to see this tour starting in her hometown.
“I’m really excited for Northern audiences here in Yellowknife to get to hear a performer of this quality and also music of our time and of our country that doesn’t often get performed in many places in Canada, let alone north of 60,” she said.
Braden said she pushed for Yellowknife to be included in the tour, adding that the NACC has been a big part of making it happen.
“To have it start here I think is fantastic and also to have me as a local composer be on the program is also fantastic,” she said.
“I’m very excited, very proud and I hope lots of people come.”
The Eckhardt-Gramatte National Music Competition 2018 Winner’s tour starts Wednesday with a concert at the NACC at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $40 for adults and $25 for seniors and youth.