This past Friday night was a truly special one for Calgary’s new music community and a milestone for the city’s arts community as a whole. Land’s End Ensemble hosted internationally-renowned percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie its 20th Anniversary Celebration at the Bella Concert Hall, Mount Royal University, in a wrap-up recital of epic proportions capping off the new hall’s exciting début series.
The sold-out concert was the month’s hottest ticket in town, featuring percussion-themed premieres of no less than six new compositions specially written for Glennie by Allan Gordon Bell, Luna Pearl Woolf, Omar Daniel, Derek Charke and Vincent Ho, the ensemble’s artistic director and concert curator.
Ho had pulled off a coup getting Glennie to come to such a special event and to take part in what was announced as her first-ever percussion and chamber music recital. Ho had collaborated with her twice before, notably on The Shaman, a percussion concerto that was performed at Carnegie Hall’s Spring for Music Festival in May 2014. But for this remarkable night at the Bella, Ho created a new work of thunderous and often virtuoso proportions for drum kit and piano trio (see below).
Of course, Glennie is familiar to Calgary audiences in addition to orchestras the world over. She has performed with the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra numerous times and will return to do so again in the fall. But most important, it was clearly the pedigree of Glennie’s performance acumen that provided an enormous inspiration to each composer. Everyone, artist and audience member alike, thrived on her virtuoso breadth. Every new work pushed the boundaries of her expressive energies, harnessing each composer’s imaginative capabilities.[…]
The evening ended with a powerful and energetic reminder of what percussion music can be about when its intensely idiomatic conventions are translated with deft skill into all instruments. Ho’s Kickin’ it was a tribute to percussion as rhythm, haunting timbre, and pure power, an aphoristic anthem to all percussion pieces everywhere. What a positive success and a formidable way to end the evening, with Glennie kickin’ it to the end.
While we are eagerly awaiting Land’s End Ensemble’s twentieth anniversary recording to come out this fall, and my hope is to review it when it makes its appearance, it is also very appropriate to hope for a new-issue recording of this concert, one that marked a turning point not only for new music in Calgary, but for all the performing arts in firmly establishing our city’s place as a preferred new music/contemporary arts destination.
Bella Concert Hall, Mount Royal University, Calgary, Canada
31 May 2017