March 3rd to 6th, 2020

I got the chance to revisit some of my saxophone chamber music while touring and recording with some of the best musicians in Western Canada, who also happen to be great friends.

The Proteus Quartet (Tommy Davis, Holly DeCaigny, Mark Michalak, Michael Morimoto) travelled to Saskatoon from all over Canada for a week of school concerts, a Fine Arts Research Lecture at the University of Saskatchewan, and a professional recording session with Wayne Giesbrecht.  They performed Camperville Cluster.  Saxophone and piano duo Gerard Weber and Naomi Piggott-Suchan performed and recorded Songs of Ebb and Flow.  Presenting the fiddle tunes on which these pieces were based (both their European originals and the modified versions from the isolated Eastern Manitoba communities of Ebb and Flow, Camperville, and many others) was local fiddler and Saskatoon Symphony violinist Kim de Laforest.  Here is the original proposed project description

The proposed project is a seven school tour featuring a lecture recital on the topic of folk music.

This lecture will show how a folk tune does not remain unchanged over time, especially when the music exists in an isolated community without access to recordings, and my Western Canadian attempt at a continuation of this tradition.  A clear example of folk tune evolution is found in the Ebb and Flow and Camperville communities of eastern Manitoba. These fiddle tunes, of Scottish, American, and French origins, found their way to these isolated communities and were transformed into unique versions, full of musical oddities such as strange time signatures, phrasing, and sections that were consistently played out of tune according to equal temperament. The concept behind Songs of Ebb and Flow for Alto Sax and Piano and The Camperville Cluster for Saxophone Quartet is to continue this process of transformation from the original fiddle tunes by continuing to expand on time signatures, note collections, phrasing, and finally by using a “modern” instrument. The lecture will include examples of this process, by having the original fiddle tunes performed by a guest violinist, followed by excerpts of The Camperville Cluster performed by the Proteus Quartet and Songs of Ebb and Flow performed by Gerard Weber and Naomi Piggott-Suchan.  Confirmed schools include:  St. Joseph High School, Centennial High School, Holy Cross High School, Brunskill Elementary, Evan Hardy High School, Prairie Spirit School division and the University of Saskatchewan.

The opportunity to bring these three groups together is a unique and timely one as The Proteus Quartet is a Canada-wide Quartet with members spread across the country, but they happen to be performing together throughout February for their Atlantic Debut tour.  The proposed plan is to have them stay together as a quartet, and bring them to Saskatoon at the conclusion of the Atlantic Debut tour.  Also fortuitous is the fact that they are performing The Camperville Cluster throughout their Atlantic Debut tour, bringing this “Made in Sask” music to other parts of Canada.

These two major works, Songs of Ebb and Flow and The Camperville Cluster are both large multi-movement works that represent a significant part of my work of the last four years.  Having a chance to have these two “sibling” pieces performed at a single concert with the musicians that the pieces were written for, and presented in contrast to the original fiddle tunes is potentially a very lucky one.

Finally, in light of how one of the main themes of the lecture is how recordings tend to “freeze” music, (in contrast to how music handed down aurally tends to change over time) this project attempts to take this message seriously, and have this music presented not via recording, but with real musicians performing face to face with their audience, with the risks that accompany live performance.

Paul Suchan

Author Paul Suchan

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