Good first impressions: CASP's latest commission by Ana Sokolović (l-r) Danika Lorèn, Aaron Sheppard, Liz Upchurch, Emily D’Angelo and Bruno Roy in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre, 2017.

Good first impressions: CASP's latest commission by Ana Sokolović

Jenna Simeonov

This week, the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre saw a lunchtime concert that can only be described as very, very cool.

In recognition of Canada 150, the Canadian Art Song Project commissioned a new song cycle by Ana Sokolović (Svadba-Wedding); the work, entitled dawn always begins in the bones, is a large-scale work for SATB voices, piano, and various percussion instruments.

The world premiere took place in the Amphitheatre as part of the Canadian Opera Company’s Free Concert Series, and the inagurual performance was by four singers from the COC Ensemble Studio, along with pianist/percussionist Liz Upchurch (Head of the Ensemble Studio).

Sokolović’s work brims over with imagination of sound. In setting the human voice, she never seems to run out of ideas, and with this new cycle, she brought out audible reactions of delight from the audience.

(l-r) Aaron Sheppard, Emily D’Angelo, Danika Lorèn and Bruno Roy in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre, 2017.

Soprano Danika Lorèn, mezzo-soprano Emily D’Angelo, tenor Aaron Sheppard, and baritone Bruno Roy brought to life the cycle’s 16 songs, which were effectively short scenes. Director Anna Theodosakis helped create a visual arc that seemed ingeniously linked to Sokolović’s inspired sound palette.

The four singers each seemed to create 16 characters, some of them part of a small group, and some of them stand-alone figures. They were strange and specific, yet difficult to describe. They were funny, profound, and a total team; they made impossible sounds with their voices, and Upchurch had the chance to be creative - disturbingly so, at times - with a prepared piano. In “How To See a Deer”, Upchurch’s spoken English lilt had the effect of a pleasing, feminine David Attenborough.

The poetry in the cycle seemed to comment on Canadian landscapes, on the odd social interactions of humans, and on language itself as a fun toy. Sokolović added meaning of her own; the result had the audience rapt, agreeing with the composer’s personal lament that she had not known the work of all 12 poets earlier.

(l-r) Liz Upchurch, Danika Lorèn and Emily D’Angelo in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre, 2017.

Luckily, dawn always begins in the bones sees another Toronto performance, and soon. As part of the RCM’s 21C Twenty-First Century Music Festival, you can catch Sokolović’s work - plus additional gems - May 25, 7:30pm at the Temerty Theatre.

If you can make it, go see it! The music is fascinating, and the artists are top-notch. Click here for more details and to grab your tickets.

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