Shattering the silence

2/5/20132 min read

Jocelyne and I have just returned from an amazing jewel of a music festival - Shattering the Silence, in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, on the campus of Acadia University. Shattering the Silence is an annual festival organized by composer/flutist Derek Charke and conductor Mark Hopkins. In residence this year were the agelessly inventive composer Michael Colgrass and the scintillating, fearless Quasar Saxophone Quartet from Montreal. I was one of seven composers invited to contribute a work for flute and percussion to the closing event, a memorable Nova Scotia-style Kitchen Party in Dr. Hopkins' home. Each of us was given the same ten-second fragment, and we were asked to embed this on our work; the result was a panoply of seven beautifully varied works within a unified context, performed by Derek and percussionist Mark Adam The performances were interspersed with breaks for wine and Dr. Hopkins' irresistible pumpkin soup and chili.

The night before the Party, Dr. Hopkins had assembled the Acadia Youth Band, Symphonic Band, and Wind Ensemble for a gala concert with Quasar, culminating in a stupendous performance of Colgrass' Urban Requiem, conducted by Dr. Hopkins - this work is now an indelible part of my musical landscape. Earlier in the day we heard the Acadia Gamelan - yes, this small university has a topnotch gamelan, under the direction of Ken Shorley. - They chose to perform in their beautiful, tiny, resonant studio, offering a program including two fine student works (Liam Elliot and Lucas Oickle), one by Shorley, and a classic by Lou Harrison.

We had arrived on the third day of the festival; we'd been invited to critique Dr. Jennifer King's performance class. This was a perfect point of entry (even though we had already missed two wonderful days); it was a real joy to me to resume contact with young musicians, particularly when they were as receptive, sensitive and talented as these. In fact, the flavor of the entire Festival was pervaded by the effervescence and enthusiasm of Acadia's music students. The day concluded with a breathtaking recital by Quasar, including a richly textured work by Derek Charke, and concluding with a wonderfully raucous Frank Zappa encore.

This Festival owes its existence to the indomitable mix of gusto, energy, and mind-blowing organizational capacities of Derek Charke and Mark Hopkins, as well as to the dedication they inspired in all the participants, and their inspired decision to invite Michael Colgrass and Quasar. It was a rare and precious experience, and one which has left me with a strong appetite for getting back to work!