Archive for May, 2009

DiaspoRadicals/VIDEOCABARET present “Cowboys and Indians “Created and performed by Anand Rajaram: reviewed by David Fujino

Saturday, May 30th, 2009

May 26, 2009, Factory Studio Theatre, Toronto.

Cowboys and Indians ( A person of colour stuck in the Wild West) deserved all the applause.

Anand Rajaram’s one-person performance was funny, abundantly physical, and very entertaining. But he had help.

Bob Wiseman’s bluesy score and keyboard grooves provided just the right emphasis for this skewed story about cultural identity — Who? and Where? is the Indian?

Many times, it was like watching a silent movie as the rousing piano played to the silent and busy actor on stage.

Dressed in a hat and brown jacket as the Cowboy; or dressed in beige trousers and an East Indian shirt as the Indian, Rajaram approached these mythological roles with a direct and sure sense of physical comedy.

As he mimed scenes from the Wild West — scenes like Indians on the warpath, a Tenderfoot stepping in horse turds, or the classic shoot ’em up in a Western bar — Rajaram’s face, torso, arms and legs, became the main attraction and occasionally the sense of a story line got lost. This was not necessarily a bad thing.

Based on the ‘fish out of water’ story, Cowboys and Indians played out as an entertaining East-Western show that, all the same, started to feel a little overlong.

But praise for Rajaram’s craft — the silent clown-mime tradition — is absolutely mandatory.

He depicted the loaded cultural myths of the Wild West with energy, humour, charm, and simplicity.

David Fujino is an actor, poet, and musician.

Music, Drama, and Children by Stanley Fefferman

Monday, May 18th, 2009

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Remember the 1968 movie musical Chitty Chitty Bang Bang? The story is set in Vulgaria where children have been outlawed by order of Baroness Bombhurst. Any child found wandering the streets is likely to be detected by the kid’s-blood-sniffing ‘Childcatcher’ and taken to the ‘Castle.’ To prevent this, the kind toymaker hides all the children in the cellar under his shop. A town without children.
Really! What could that be about?”

A blogger recently wrote that she visited a town in Vermont, which she called, ‘A Town Without Children.” She claims that she and her three children never saw another child in the town. They did see plenty of signs on establishments everywhere saying, “ No Children. Dogs Welcome.” The convenience store had “no baby items… yet it had an entire aisle of dog food.

Is that really happening? Are people preferring beagles to babies?

One guy responded to the Town Without Children blog like this:

“I am fascinated by a place without children….A place without children is a place where respectful adults can live out their lives without having to worry about other people’s bad parenting, having to be concerned for their safety when they go to a convenience store after 9pm and it is littered with teenagers and young adults (<21) who are looking to get into trouble. I think there should be more places like this around the country. Keep the kids in suburban hell with their over-achieving "keeping-up-with-the-Joneses" parents where they belong. Seems like it is happening. What could that be about? Really! In 1957, Van Johnson starred in a TV musical that was released to theatres and is still around.  The Pied Piper of Hamelin is filled with songs based on adaptations of Edvarg Grieg. The story, as everyone knows, was transmitted by the Brothers Grimm and concerns a rat infested town that hired a piper to ‘pipe’ the rats into the river but then refused to pay him, so he ‘piped’ their children away. The Grimm story reaches back to a tradition that connects these events to the year 1284 in a town (without children) in Bavaria. The novelist Richard Powers writes the following note into the Hamelin Town Records:” On June 26, 1284, through stupidity and a mass tin ear, we killed our children.”

Ouch.

On May 5, 2009, The Honourable Adrienne Clarkson hosted an evening introducing a unique new opera by R. Murray Schafer—The Children’s Crusade. Imagine this: history records that in the year 1212, 30,000 children under the age of 12 left their homes, to gather around a boy named Stephen who led them on foot 660 kilometers from Paris to Marseilles, where they expected the sea to part and show them a path to Jerusalem, where they expected the Saracens would give them the keys to the kingdom just for the asking. Instead, the ones who survived the walk were lured onto ships and sold into slavery in Africa. That same year, 20,000 children in Germany gathered around a boy named Nicholas who led them to the seaports of Genoa and Pisa, and to Rome where they were received by the Pope who told them to go home. Very few made it. You can get all the details of this story by googling ‘Children’s Crusade’.

The Opera that R. Murray Schafer based on this story, is co-commissioned by Soundstreams Canada and Luminato will open the Luminato Festival in Toronto on Friday, June 5, 2009, starring Jacob Abrahamse pictured above. Details at www.luminato.com/2009/date

Esprit Orchestra: DEMON reviewed by Stanley Fefferman

Saturday, May 2nd, 2009

Friday, May 1, 2009, Jane Mallett Theatre, Toronto.

The highlight of Esprit Orchestra’s Mayday celebration was a performance of the late Maki Ishii’s Saidoki (Demon) for solo percussion and orchestra (1992) featuring Ryan Scott. The demands of Ishii’s score kept Mr. Scott, busier than a six-armed demon selecting the right implement to strike/rub/rattle/shake the right instrument. He is pictured here coaxing subtle sonic colours out of a pair of ‘cidelos’, rectangular metal boxes with ornate cuts made in their top surfaces that produce a rich array of pitches when struck. A lot of audience attention went into watching and wondering what Scott would do next and how he could manage the multitude of changes. His virtuosity was warmly rewarded with repeated ovations.

Ishii’s music, which employs close to 60 musicians (onstage, below stage, and a big brass band behind the audience) combines Western and traditional Japanese compositional methods. I imagine Saidoki as the music of subatomic quantum spaces, the dance of quantum froth, which is to say, the music is intriguing but enigmatic, till the end, when Scott goes crazy on the tom-toms and the big brass behind blares, and the whole orchestra including 5 other percussionists pull out all the stops, then it’s May Day, May Day May Day.

Erica Goodman is one of the dedicatees of Chris Paul Harman’s Gott Lebet Noch (2008) concerto for harp and orchestra. Harman’s composition is based on a Bach chorale of the same name (eng: God Still Lives). Of his treatment of Bach, Harman says he has done some “reharmonization, fragmentation, chromatic melody alteration, retrogrades of individual phrases, layering of canons, registral displacement and extreme changes in tempi….” Because Harman did not write in extended techniques for the harp, we heard its natural timbral qualities and a sense of Bach mingle with the rarified orchestral dissonances, discords, percussive sonic booms, clangs, jangles, moaning winds and keening strings. The idea occurred that the modern title could be God Still Lives (or Not). Ms. Goodman’s extreme exertions were warmly applauded, and the piece’s other dedicatees, Alex Pauk and the Esprit Orchestra offered a bonus performance of  “Brazil”, a 1944 Academy Award nominated tune by Ary Barroso that was a lot of fun.

The Nathaniel Dett Chorale featured powerfully in Discouraged Passion (2009) by Esprit resident composer Douglas Schmidt. Schmidt’s music, which is percussively rhythmic, high-spirited and engaging, is based on a 19th Century Brazilian tango lyric sung by a lover who is breaking up with his girlfriend because he hates her family. Schmidt on his bandeon, the hand organ popularized in South American brothels, adds virtuosic bounce to the rich harmonies of orchestra and chorus. His music is interesting and entertaining.