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Cathy Fern Lewis: Hot Off the Casse-Tête Trail

Cathy Fern Lewis: Hot Off the Casse-Tête Trail

July 6, 2016
British Columbia

Cathy Fern Lewis
June 28th, 2016

Just returned from my favorite wonder full, wild, woolly and weird Festival Casse-Tête, where extraordinary concerts, workshops, and panel discussions abound.

I attended with Rodney Sharman who facilitated a performance of Martin Bartlett’s important work ‘Five Directions’ played by locals, Jose Delgado-Guevara, Kaia Andal, and visiting artists Rodney Sharman, Stanley Zappa, Jason Deatherage, Francois Houle, Marina Hasselberg and myself.

Cellist Marina Hasselberg and I performed our program DEJA VOUS, older contemporary songs for cello and voice featuring ‘Cold Mountain Songs’ by Rudolf Komorous, Mark Hand’s ‘Canto’ and a newly commissioned work by Christopher Reiche (recently elected President of Canadian League of Composers) entitled ‘Messages by Hand: A Collection of Postcards’. Our concert was accompanied with projected images and we were pleased when we received a spontaneous standing ovation.

A phenomena in the reeds department this year, as in last year, was Darren Williams, whose continuum of improved music flows through his whole being and sax emerging multi-textured, multi-harmonized and multi-rhythmic and is nothing short of astonishing. It seemed he did not take a breath during the forty minute performance.

Saxophonist Stanley Zappa brought Jooklo Duo from Italy with him. This power house duo consists of virtuoso Virginia Genta, on keyboards flutes and reeds and David Vanzan, percussionist extraordinaire. Together with Stanley, this was a highlight, they are not to be missed, all acoustic, and hot hot hot.

Right off his European tour, clarinetist and electronics wizard, Francois Houle pushed the limit with his high tech blowing. So soft so loud and as the LA Times said “ no limitations stylistically or sonically”.

A great discovery for me this year is Kathleen Yearwood, electronic folksinger from northern Alberta, whose wailing and picking guitar sounds combined with her true and haunting voice that floated up to this high high place, gave a new voice to old standards Wayfaring Stranger and Motherless Child as well as a couple of her own wild and wooly tunes.

Local talent abounds! Pianist and violinist, 17 year old Kaia Andal beautifully played from memory, a work by Alexina Louie and also played in Jose Delgado-Guevara's two new works, which were reflective, atmospheric and gorgeous and beautifully played by the strings, Gabriel Jacob and so thoughtfully by Peter Stevenson on piano, it was nice to hear Barbara Parker on piano this year. From the rhythmic jazz sounds of Patrick Kilcullen to The Christians, where fuses are known to blow, there were lots of buttons, boxes and gadgets, speakers and amps, yes Prince George is making music.

They also have the most casios I have ever seen all in one place and the best restaurants, Nancy O’s, Black Duck, Twisted Cork to mention just a few that line the the downtown core surrounded by greenery and horses not too far away. The weather was also wonderful.

Unfortunately, I missed the concert given by Yawns A Fissure but fortunately, I did have the chance to improvise with them to know I want more of them and I can hardly wait to see one of their shows. In fact, the improv workshop was the highlight for me, where Rebecca and Alex graced us with their presence, together with Jose Delgado-Guevara, Carolyn McGee, Oro Barton, Kaia Andal, Rodney Sharman, Sean Bickerton, Tom Hudock, Rod and Steve Head inspired three beautiful improvs, the third concluding with the beautiful singing of a Croatian folksong by Steve Head. It felt good and real.

The panel discussions were marked with thoughtful, intelligent and thought provoking commentary, the one, on the implications and e(a)ffects of notation, history and historical contexts, have on the composing, the making and the performing of music today.

The Festival was extra special this year and marked by the presence of CMC Director Sean Bickerton, where Sean presented Jeremy Stewart with a well deserved Certificate of Excellence in recognition of the contribution he continues to make to the musical culture of Prince George, through The Dreamland School of the Arts, Casse-Tête New Music: Festival for Experimental Music, and the Prince George Symphony.

This great festival is generously and lovingly handled by poet/guitarist Jeremy Stewart, and his knowledgeable, helpful and enthusiastic musical group of volunteers. Thank you to the volunteers and numerous donors of Casse-Tête for helping to make this unique festival happen.