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Evergreen Club Contemporary Gamelan

24 Jun

If one ignores the fact that over half their players are new to the group, one could say the Evergreen Club has been around for 30 years.  Blair Mackay  the Club’s director since 1993, acted as host for the 2nd of 2 concerts held at Array Space on 22 June, 2014.

For some reason Blair chose to program music written for the club in the early 1990s. This decision was not explained and I thought it a bit odd that none of the music written for them in the last decade or more had been programmed.  Only four of the10 performers could be considered Club old timers, Blair Mackay, Andrew Timar, Mark Duggan and Bill Parsons. Perhaps some of them had played these works 20 years ago. Perhaps that, or lack of rehearsal time could explain the vintage repertoire.

The two opening works were by Andrew Timar, the Club’s resident Suling (flute) player and one of its founding members. Then followed works by the late Nic Gotham, Henry Kucharzyk, the late John Wyre and finally the club founder in 1983, John Siddall.

All the works were engaging if sometimes too long. With the exception of  Andrew Timar’s The Quality of Mercy, all were well played.  The Quality of Mercy opens with a number of conducted single strokes, none of which were together.  I mentioned this to a friend of mine who told me the effect was intended. Sorry, I apologize.

There was some brilliant xylophone playing by Mark Duggan on what sounded to me like simple wooden slats. Michelle Colton played steel pan in John Wyre’s Island of Silence (1994). There were no program notes, an ommission I found inexcusable for older works and especially for an anniversary concert. I believe Island of Silence was written for Paul Ormandy and if memory serves, the premier was in the Glenn Gould theater. Michelle’s performance on steel pan was fluid and well-balanced. Her steel pan notes end with a “twang” and that was more than a bit disturbing. At any rate, to my ears the steel pan simply did not fit into the ensemble’s sound.

Henry Kucharzyk’s 1992 Toy Garage was for me the best work on the program with Palace (1993) by Jon Siddall a close 2nd.

It used to bother me that everything the Club played was in the same key. The thought again crossed my mind, but this evening it was not off putting. The club has good players and their control of complex rhythms and dynamics is remarkably good.

All the more reason to wonder how a group that commissioned composers such as Lou Harrison, John Cage, Gilles Tremblay, Jim Tenney and more, has survived 30 years in Toronto and today, is unable to attract an audience larger than about 25 people. I was told attendance at the first concert of these two was similar. That is pitiable. Was the lack of attendance due to World Cup soccer, lack of promotion, or a lack of interest?

The reasons for poor attendence are often difficult to determine, but one must wonder how the group’s development is being handled. Blair welcomed the new members to “the Evergreen family”, Ryan Scott, Dan Morphy, Michelle Colton, Rick Sacks, Etienne Levesque and Adam Campbell. They are some of Toronto’s best and busiest musicians.

Are they now members of the Club, or was Blair’s reference to family a bit disingenuous? If allowed input, they’d surely elevate audience size and much more. I’m very interested to find out if the new blood has some effect on the Club’s future.

 

 

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