If on a winter (Sunday) night a traveller happens upon the post-industrial areas of the Junction Triangle, she could do much worse than head to the 227 Sterling for some music, education and hanging. Although it’s the playground for some of the best musicians in Toronto, Somewhere There series is the best kept musical secret in town. The weekly series is unique: it invites participation from the audience and it lets us observe the rehearsal, workshop, read-through, discussion, trials — in a word, the process. The working part is mixed with performances of the finalized pieces. One Sunday last year I ended up being the one-woman-audience for the six-member jazz improv ensemble and was treated to a full concert with many Q&A breaks.
This January and February Somewhere There is hosting a series dedicated to the voice art, choir singing and conduction of the very unconventional kind. The Process Revealed – Voice Project Workshop with Christine Duncan and Friends features Grex (tonight and next Sunday), Broulala (Feb 27) and the improv Element Choir workshop on the remaining Sunday. Alex Samaras, Tova Kardonne, Felicity Williams, Tyson Kerr and Robert Fowler sung a selection of works by Meredith Monk, Arvo Pärt, Tova Kardonne’s new vocal piece, a few ‘games’ (a highly technical term involving moving chairs; you need to be there) and drive-tested a possible piece that could be described as ‘Natural-to-fricative-and-back, and you won’t even notice the transition’. Next Sunday they will sing in Russian.
The dynamo conductor behind the Element Choir and the series, Christine Duncan, shared with me some of the codes and tricks of improv conducting and I left the place fascinated and productively confused. I will probably be tossing and turning in bed tonight trying to figure out what a Christine’s folk game is. One kind has to do with assigning the three randomly selected sections of the chorus three different Christmas carols, asking them to remove the lyrics and use their own words instead, and then by some magic conducting this into one choral song. Another one is… um, I already forgot. I need to return on Sunday and try to figure this out. I stumbled into Wonderland.
Alex Samaras, I hear, still frequently works with Meredith Monk, so here’s the documentary that Peter Greenaway made about her.