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March 14, 2002 Irish-Quebec concert series raises profile of new music



CRASH Ensemble

The CRASH Ensemble perform tomorrow night at the Oscar Peterson Concert Hall. The concert series ends on Saturday.

Bozzini Quartet

The Bozzini Quartet of Montreal

by Robert Scalia

Mention classical music, and Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony springs to mind. Try the same thing with “Canadian contemporary classical,” however, and the term rings hollow more often than not. Tim Brady knows it all too well.

In countries like France, Germany and Italy, the idea of a living composer isn’t a strange one, he said lightheartedly, but “we’re still trying to convince people that someone with a Canadian or Irish passport can actually compose classical music.”

So this composer, one of nine musicians in the Oscar Peterson Hall’s resident ensemble called Concerts M, is organizing Voyages: Dublin-Montreal, running from March 12 to 16.

The festival will showcase Montreal’s Bradyworks and the Bozzini Quartet (both part of Concerts M), plus Dublin’s CRASH Ensemble and Vox 21. Lectures are also part of the package.

It took a backstage conversation following his solo guitar concert in Dublin four years ago to open Brady’s eyes to the musical and social parallels between Ireland and Quebec.

The composition of classical (also called serious, or new) music has only been a feature of the musical landscape in both countries for 60 years. Young composers aren’t hemmed in by the walls of history, but are free to graze in a musical landscape that offers a broad range of tools, sounds and instruments.

Ever more bold, dissonant, evocative contemporary classical music in both cities is actually being written now, Brady said.

“Because we’re such a young musical culture, most composers are what I would call very ‘impure.’ Not many of us started piano lessons at the age of five.” A baby boomer, Brady was heavily influenced by the Beatles and 1960s pop. He was into garage bands before he studied jazz and classical music.

Those influences persist. His music reflects today’s cultural environment, where creating very strict, narrow, pure art forms simply doesn’t work.

“Let’s face it: 500 years of evolution has changed the nature of music,” he said, “so in the middle of a string quartet, I’ll throw in an electric guitar that sounds like Limp Bizkit. It doesn’t seem peculiar to me, because these are sounds I like.”

It makes for interesting music, a fusion of chamber music, jazz, musique actuelle and electronica.

Brady is relying on Montreal’s vibrant and dedicated new-music audience, which numbers in the thousands, to make the festival a success. He’s also hoping the St. Patrick’s Day spirit will lure people interested in exploring what he believes is an important facet in Irish culture.

The way Brady sees it, getting the crowd is more than half the battle. “I almost always have a positive reaction to my music wherever I play it.”

Remaining events in the festival: tonight at 8 p.m., a concert of electroacoustic music; tomorrow at 8 p.m., the CRASH ensemble from Dublin; Saturday at 8 p.m., Bradyworks and Vox 21.

For reservations, call the Oscar Peterson Concert Hall box office at 848-4848. For more information, call 848-4716.