The Feast of Sound and the Human Spirit

Poster, 2 guitars creating an outline of a head
Courtesy of ISC: used with permission

Erin Thrall, strangely, is a vocalist with a non-singing organization. This is not so unusual, though, as she explains that “My role is the Director of Education & Outreach for the Instrumental Society of Calgary. When I first moved here (about 15 years ago) people seemed to be doing things in their own corner, and I think it’s really changed for the better: there’s a lot more cross-pollination in the city in classical music . . . Our essential thing is that we showcase local, professional, classical musicians in the chamber music setting. Like a lot of CPO players, (New Works Calgary, or) the Inglewood String Quartet.

“We’re a home for musicians that want to play chamber music.” And her job in Education & Outreach includes sessions in schools, palliative care facilities, hospitals and sometimes, even concert halls.

On May 29th, in the St. Stephen’s Anglican Church, the ISC is putting on the full meal deal: a physical, mental, spiritual and emotional buffet during the Sound & The Human Spirit day-long event, with three parts running from 1:00 pm to 7:00 pm. The Art of Letting Go workshop explores “performance practice, rhetoric, ‘flow’ and improvisation” for both the performer and audience ; the Intersect panel with health practitioners and musicians will discuss “Health and Wellness Through Ancient and Modern-day Practices of Music”; and the Interplay concert, wherein a live performance of Messaien’s Quartet for the End of Time, “reaching into the depths of human pathos and emotions, (dancing) with violence, tender longing and serene hope,” will somehow connect all the dots.

While this may sound a little intense, don’t be misled by the big finale: there’s quite a day-long smorgasbord here.

“(Kevin Komisaruk, concert musician and member of the U of Toronto’s Music and Health Research Collaboratory) speaks the medical language, the musical language and the spiritual language in a way I haven’t really heard anybody do before. He helps musicians get past some of their musical obstacles in their work with sick and dying people.” In that sense, the Collaboratory website describes its vision to promote “Healthy People, Healthy Communities, and a Healthy World through music (and engage) Minds, Culture, and Values around music.” This portion, including a master class with a couple of ISC musicians, is for both the audience and performers to intake, as is the entire day.

The smorgasbord really expands in the panel discussion, as First Nations’ connectedness, Sanskrit Yoga philosophy, music therapy and medieval herbology (and the intimate networks between all of these areas and their musics and sounds), are woven together by scholars, practitioners, musicians and the engaged listeners.

“I’m not clear on (Medieval composer Hildegard von Bingen’s) link between her medical writings and . . . her music, but her music is chant, which links us to (the Sanskrit Yoga) mantra, so we’re getting to the link between the use of chant (in) musical healing” Erin describes, noting that all of the workshop presenters could each give a day’s worth of material on their topic. And that’s before even mentioning the Alberta Health Services’ music therapist, the Tsuu T’ina wellness consultant, or the Anglican minister, musician and author.

“(The ISC has) developed what we call the Third Pillar (Onstage, and Education & Outreach are the first two Pillars), outside of our regular activities, which involves the whole organization.. . . We tried to price the event so that if people can’t stay for all 3 (events) that it’s still worth their while to come and experience maybe 1 of the workshops and the concert, and eat something (as food is provided throughout the day), and it’s not a bad deal.

(It’s for) anybody who loves music and is curious about how music impacts our well-being. . . . I keep asking myself, ‘Why are we doing this?’ It’s to become more conscious of how music affects us; to learn about ourselves as musicians; and to put a new lens on the role of the classical musician, not just as elite performers, but perhaps as purveyors of well-being to people who need it.”

And, to hear some cool tunes, too. Call 1-844-598-1273 for ticket information.

Posted by Hannah Rutherford

Author: Carey Rutherford

Swallowed by the mutual loves of words and music (but far too chicken-shit to perform them with a band), Carey’s writing career started slowly as a freelance writer in 2003, starved him nearly to personal bankruptcy until 2008, and changed directions while writing for FastForward, Beacon Calgary, GayCalgary, and Examiner magazines. With the death of many old-school periodicals, and the explosion of musical diversity in Calgary, the modern approach to writing about live music performance in the Calgary region presented uncluttered landscapes for the focussed passion that Carey’s conversations with musicians, drag queens, festival producers and small animals has uncapped. He was moulded by the brilliance of paper-based periodicals old and new (Life, rolling Stone, Swerve! and Adbusters etc.), and sees the info-verse as needing creative, empathetic, but clear-eyed Agents to communicate these performances.