Greetings! Having survived the Ides of March and a Spring that seemed so full of peril, I thought we should take a brief look back to review what we’ve managed to accomplish over the past six months or so, as well as cast our gaze ahead towards some of our plans for the coming Summer and Fall.
At our 2018 Annual Meeting just over a year ago, responding to an operating shortfall, the BC Advisory Council and our membership approved a deficit reduction strategy outlining measures to reduce expenses and increase revenues. Those efforts have been successful, reducing expenses more than $50,000 in 2019 and leading to a small surplus, even as we found ways to increase activity, launch new programs, and produce more concerts.
In February, CMC BC co-presented an 80th Birthday Celebration of Ernst Schneider with the Okanagan Symphony. The performance in Penticton on Saturday, February 8, 2020, featured the premiere of Ernst’s sweeping new Second Piano Concerto. I was pleased to be there in order to present a Barbara Pentland Award for Outstanding Contribution to Canadian music to the orchestra and its amazing Music Director, Rosemary Thomson.
The following Monday, on February 10, we presented a posthumous 100th Birthday Celebration in our Murray Adaskin Salon for Ross Alden, a closeted and oppressed gay English composer of the last century who sought refuge and anonymity teaching in Vancouver. That concert became something of a cause célèbre, garnering more media attention than any other performance since the launch of our concert series in 2016.
A month later, on Friday, March 6, we presented Pianist Rachel Kiyo Iwaasa in a recital of Rodney Sharman Opera Transcriptions. That concert, offered free to the public, was a gem, featuring a fascinating and colourful commentary by Rodney. It was the last performance presented in the Murray Adaskin Salon before the COVID-19 shutdown forced us to cancel the balance of the season.
On February 10 our Operations Manager, Dave McLaughlin, left us to accept an outside position. Dave was a loyal, talented, trustworthy, dedicated partner and we’ve missed him. We immediately began a search for a replacement but in light of the COVID pandemic and shutdown of our centre, we stopped. Nonetheless, we should have a terrific new CMC BC Administrator to announce sometime next month.
Not having someone in that position certainly complicated managing everything under the chaotic conditions of the pandemic shutdown, but we’ve managed to keep all operations running. Invoices are being paid, grants applied for, reports prepared, and communications continue. Our concert series has moved online, and library requests and even new print and bind orders are being fulfilled.
It is important in this context that I flag what an extraordinary contribution our Librarian, Jordan Nobles, has made throughout. He is tireless, completely dedicated, innovative, a terrific colleague, and cares deeply for our composers and the extraordinary musicians who bring their music to life. He has been an outstanding partner through the most challenging of circumstances, about which enough good cannot be said.
When our national lockdown began in mid-March, we were particularly concerned with the economic impact of so many cancellations on the close-knit community of brilliantly talented musicians who are such fierce champions of new music.
So we were very happy to announce Unaccompanied the same day as that lockdown began. Unaccompanied is a new online concert series co-presented with Redshift Music Society. The series features video recordings of a live performance of a single Canadian work written for solo instrument, performed by some of the most talented musicians in Vancouver. Videos of each performance are posted every Thursday on our website and are publicized via Centrepulse, our Facebook page, Twitter, and a targeted Facebook advertising campaign.
CMC BC is funding our share of these costs through a portion of the funds originally committed to 2020 concerts. To date we have produced more than one dozen recordings and there are a sufficient number of artists committed to the project that we will be able to continue presenting a new performance every week right through until the end of August. Each musician is properly compensated and we have applied to SOCAN for an online license even though there is no revenue from the series, to ensure composers also receive some funds for the use of their music.
We have also received extensive media attention for this initiative — locally, provincially, and nationally.
Elliot Weisgarber Workshop
We were thrilled with the success of our Jean Coulthard String Quartet Readings, but we also recognize there are now a number of similar offerings available through the Langley Community Music School as well as the amazing Quator Bozzini, among others.
So we are excited this year to announce something new! CMC BC is pleased to announce the Elliot Weisgarber Workshop, this year featuring Corey Hamm and Nicole Ge Li’s PEP Piano and Erhu Project, in partnership with Composer Mentor Edward Top. The seminar will take place online this year, for the first time, and will be free of charge. Ten emerging composers from the province of BC under the age of 30 will be selected by a jury of composers.
Drawing on Weisgarber’s landmark work fusing Western and Japanese instruments and musical traditions, the two-month seminar each year will focus on the fusion of Eastern and Western traditions. This year, featuring PEP, the workshop will begin with a class on writing for Erhu as well as extended technique for piano, and offer three readings under the guidance of Edward Top, culminating in online video recordings of the final works. Additional context and discussion about cultural appropriation will also be part of the workshops.
Jordan and I have started holding weekly conversations online with a group of four or five composers each week to check in, see how everyone is doing during the pandemic, ask what people are working on, and share with them our own plans. The conversations have been fascinating and helped reconnect colleagues who have not been able to keep in touch by seeing each other at concerts. We plan to continue these informal conversations through the summer.
And we’re now planning a much bigger gathering called Composium in partnership with Christopher Reiche, bringing together dozens of composers and musicians online later this summer. Stay tuned!
Anti-Racism, Indigenization, & Decolonization Project
In January we received a grant from the Vancouver Foundation to begin a major Reconciliation Project in partnership with Dr. Dylan Robinson. Dr. Robinson is a Stó:lō First Nations scholar and Assistant Professor at Queen’s University who holds the Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Arts. His publications include his recently published book Hungry Listening: Resonant Theory for Indigenous Sound Studies; Arts of Engagement: Taking Aesthetic Action in and Beyond the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2016); and Opera Indigene (Routledge, 2011). His current research addresses Indigenous and Settler Colonial forms of perception, and listening in particular.
While we were forced to delay the start of this process due to the pandemic, we are now moving forward on three fronts.
We’re pleased to announce an innovative new project stemming from Dr. Robinson’s latest book, Hungry Listening, in partnership with Dylan and the Of The Now concert series in Victoria. (This will be our second co-presentation with that amazingly creative series.)
Subject to additional funding, the project will ask a group of non-Indigenous settler composers and sound artists to discuss ways in which their compositional practice might reckon with settler colonialism. It will feature discussions about settler colonialism, decolonizing compositional practice, and the creation of several decolonial “imagined compositions” that they will then present and discuss, all recorded and featured online.
Second, a new Anti-Racism & Indigenization Initiative led by the celebrated Kwagiulth and Stó:lo First Nations, English, Irish, and Scottish mezzo-soprano Marion Newman. Marion is working with us to create a series of online discussions involving artists, performers, and composers who are Indigenous, Black, or are people of colour, to help build connections, collaboration, and communication. We hope to open some of these discussions up for participation by BC Composers and our BC Advisory Council later in the process to further those connections and opportunities for collaboration.
And third, an Anti-Racism process that will be led by the amazing visual artist Syrus Marcus Ware. Syrus is also a core team member of Black Lives Matter Toronto, a Vanier Scholar, community activist, researcher, youth-advocate and educator. For 12 years, he was the Coordinator of the Art Gallery of Ontario Youth Program. Syrus is currently a facilitator/designer for the Cultural Leaders Lab (Toronto Arts Council and The Banff Centre). Syrus will help lead our BC Advisory Council in an Anti-Racism process that will also involve BC composers.
Murray Adaskin Salon
Last year we received $40,000 in infrastructure grants from the City of Vancouver and Canadian Heritage. The grants allowed us to upgrade the Murray Adaskin Salon by building our portable Livestream Kit (purchased by my visionary predecessor, Bob Baker) permanently into the walls of the theatre. We also used funds from the grants to help purchase the sound recording and back-end mixing and recording gear needed to turn our Salon into a state-of-the art video recording and livestream broadcasting studio.
We now have one of our Theatre Attendants learning that system, taking online courses and working in the Salon one day a week, and getting help from Jordan Nobles, who so beautifully films our Unaccompanied series in the Adaskin Salon. Our goal is to be ready as conditions permit to become the video recording and live-streaming partner for all new music artists and ensembles appropriate for the size of the Adaskin Salon.
We are beginning to re-activate our centre in line with public health and WorkSafe BC guidelines. There is nothing more important to us than the safety of patrons and our team, so we are not yet open to the public. But there is now one staff member in the centre every day, and patrons are able to arrange the pick-up of print and bind orders as well as some music loans by mail.
Before we reopen to the public, we will be making a number of additional upgrades to the centre, including new touch-less paper towel and soap dispensers in the bathrooms and kitchen as well as a hand sanitizer station at the entrance. We will also be installing new touch-less flushing mechanisms on existing toilets, and installing new self-flushing urinals in our bathrooms as well. While these are not the usual concerns of the Canadian Music Centre, the measures we are taking will ensure our space is safe for our patrons and our team once it is safe again to re-open and welcome you back.
CMC BC Website
Our website has served us extremely well over the past four years, allowing us to better fulfill the promotional leg of our tripartite mission covering performance, education, and promotion. It has also allowed us to sell thousands of dollars of concert tickets, and to tell our story and the stories of the composers we exist to champion. That website has an average of more than 1,000 unique views each month and since March has topped more than 1,700 views / month. And I should definitely here thank my husband, Tom Hudock, who created the website for us free of charge. (And also volunteers his time to take all of the photographs you see on this site of our concerts and also designs the concert programs.)
However, with the completion and integration of the powerful new CMC Canada website, which offers a unique, dedicated section for each region, we are pleased to announce we are working on a project over the summer to update and polish our section of that new website and hope to be able to transition completely to the new mother-ship sometime in August.
Jordan and I; our dedicated volunteers Bill and Gregg; our loyal team of Theatre Attendants who have helped us keep the place running these last few months; our BC Advisory Council and its Chair, Keith Hamel; Glenn Hodgins, our President and CEO; and the entire CMC family across Canada send you very best wishes for a happy Canada Day next week.
While we face many challenges and recognize the social inequities that must be addressed, and even while COVID-19 is not yet vanquished, we have a great deal to be grateful for. One of the things we are especially grateful for is your friendship, interest, and support. Thank you!