Sea monsters, airships and a dream come true.
Yellowknife’s habit of forming occasional pop-up orchestras continued this weekend, accompanied by four painters from the Borderless Art Movement.
Around 25 musicians performed an hour’s music by Mussorgsky and Dvorak while the artists worked collaboratively on a giant canvas to interpret the sounds.
Entitling their show “From the Old World to the New: A voyage in music and art,” the painters drew inspiration from Dvorak’s New World Symphony to create art mimicking explorers’ maps of old.
“It’s pretty amazing how it unfolds,” said Mark Rendell, a violinist in the orchestra, as he admired the finished artwork. “It starts as four separate pieces then slowly bleeds together into one, gigantic map with sea monsters, castles, flying dirigibles and all sorts of wonderful things.”
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The Borderless Art Movement’s Rae Braden, one of the painters, told Moose FM: “We research the music ahead of time so we know the movements, what the composer was thinking. We have things we know we’ll start off with but, after the first 10 minutes, it’s a free-for-all.
“We were basing our image off an old world map. Some of those longitudinal and latitudinal lines – once we started doing those, that’s when it came together.”
For conductor Bill Gilday, the show marked a personal milestone.
“This is the first time we’ve had an actual orchestra,” said Gilday. “The last time we did it, two years ago, we did The Planets by Holst. There weren’t enough instruments in town so we actually used about eight singers – the choral parts covered some of the brass parts as we were short brass players.
“This is the first time I’ve actually had an orchestra which was all instruments, and that’s actually my first orchestral concert, if you like, since I left university.
“When I left university in 1971, I intended to be an orchestral conductor. But I came up here, my life changed and I ended up being a teacher. So actually, this is my dream come true tonight – to have my first orchestra.”
The city’s Northern United Place held a packed crowd for Friday’s opening performance, with another showing set for Saturday night.
Yellowknife has no permanent orchestra but one appears once every year or two for special events. The group often struggles to find particular instruments: this time, there was no bassoon and the orchestra had to rely on just one viola and one percussionist.
Jo Pamplin was a driving force behind organizing the latest performance, while Jo Russell arranged the music – turning music devised for 70-plus instruments into a show two-dozen amateurs could deliver.
“It’s music that we all had to push ourselves a lot to try to learn. We’ve been at it for over two months now and I think it all came together tonight,” said Rendell.
“It’s a serious time commitment but I’d love to see it happen more than once every year or second year.”