Friday, March 16, 2007
Art of Time Ensemble presents
Enwave Theatre, Toronto

The packed house on both sides of 30 looked like “The WholeNote” meets “Now Magazine”. Alex Pauk, conductor of Esprit Orchestra (devoted exclusively to new music) rubbed shoulders with Aislinn Nosky, violinist with Tafelmusik (“devoted exclusively to baroque music). Folk-guitarist Kurt Swinghammer chatted with Dave Matheson formerly of Moxy Fruvous, next to Omar Daniel, composer of chamber and operatic music. All gathered at Harbourfront’s Enwave Theatre to hear Franz Schubert’s “Piano Trio No. 2 in E flat, D. 929, cleverly presented by Art of Time’s Andrew Burashko as the inspiration for 10 new songs composed and performed by Canadian singer/songwriters.

It was wonderful to belong to an audience that absorbed the Schubert’s gorgeous “Trio” skillfully played by Burashko on piano, internationally renowned Erica Raum on violin, and Winona Zelenka, the TSO’s principal cellist. Burashko had chosen Schubert as ‘the’ inspirational composer because his music frequently ‘breaks into song’, as in the theme from Trio No. 2’s “Andante” that goes “ da da dadada dada dada dada dum”. This was the favoured song starting point for most of the offbeat, multitalented, intellectually interesting composer/performers.

Andy Maize, singer with countryfolkrock band “Skydiggers” backed by Michael Johnston on piano breathed a couple of wistful love ballads around the ideas of “I want you back” and “I want to love you in silence”. The songs were generally in tune with the “Trio” but didn’t reference a particular aspect I could catch.

The next presenter, John Southworth, cabaret pop/New Wave rock musician, based his first song squarely on the “ Andante “ melody. In an engaging but somewhat macabre mood, he sang a song of ‘good morning’ to dead people. His second songs’ lyrics, delivered in a falsetto, were muffled under a blanket of synthed keyboard and xylophone harmonies, but the melody had a motivic connection with the Schubert.

Sarah Slean adapted the “Andante” theme to an ecological tango called “Lonely Side of the Moon” which she sang from the piano in a beautiful, husky, cabaret Marlene Dietrich style. Her second song deviated from the task and stole a 4-note figure from Schubert’s other piano trio, the “B Flat”. Entitled, “The Rose”, Sarah’s song is an affecting outpouring about dying.

Rock guitarist, Danny Michel is a witty guy. He wondered why he tunes his guitar offstage and memorizes his music, while classical players tune right in front of you and play from ‘cheat sheets’. Based his nostalgic tune about an empty road that leads to a Guatemalan chicken box on the slowed chords of Schubert’s ‘famous’ theme. Michel instant-recorded the guitar track for recall digital playback so he could add a guitar solo of a few bars of the melody over the chords. His second tune was a sad song about a Yukon town ‘eliminated’ when the mine shuts down, to which he added electronic effects by diddling the strings with the barrel of a ball-point pen.

Martin Tielli, eclectic guitarist and mocksinger with the Rheostatics, was joined by Rheomates Rob Piltch on guitar and Jon Goldsmith on piano in Tielli’s tune called “Aluminum Flies” which he sang in falsetto making wry faces. One was reminded that Schubert was in the last stages of  syphilis while he was composing his second and final “Trio”.

All of the evening’s songs had their own tickly panache. The variety of unique approaches to Schubert was heartening. If there was a common theme, besides the “Andante’s” “ da da dadada / dada dada dada dum” it was that updating Schubert’s energy puts him closer to Tom Waits than it does to Gershwin, Berlin, Porter, Rogers or Arlen. This underbelly view of a classical/romantic icon is interesting.

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