LIGHTING THE WAY: DR. TOM HUNTER...

BY TATIANA ZAMORANO-HENRIQUEZ *Permission to reprint granted by the Vancouver Arts Colloquium Society Over the years the integral humanizing qualities of humanity have become almost non-existent, as our economic model is responsible for prioritizing monetary endeavours rather than the arts. Theses values have fragmented our way of being and devalued the arts as art has now become commercialized for profit and disconnected from our culture.  This almost irreversible divide has hindered our relationships with others and ourselves as it has detached us from our histories, cultures and knowledge.  The formation of this divide has left us stranded and we have become like a wave of sailors trying to navigate the seas without a compass where we have not only lost our sense of direction but also our purpose. However, art has the power to steer us back in the right direction as it illuminates our path by reconnecting us with our origins, which allows us to embrace diversity, and knowledge that then has the potential to lead to community. The world carries with it a kaleidoscope of art forms and rooted within them are diverse cultures that are entrenched with an array of histories and knowledge that shape our values. This is paramount as it is our values that construct the stories that we relay to others and ourselves about what is important. Therefore, it is these values that shape not only who we are as human beings but who we will become and the responsibility we hold to the future generations. Values create empathy and it is this compassion that allows individuals to embrace new cultures and form profound and intricate relationships that have the power to produce viable communities where culture becomes a way of life.  This is why art is integral...

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Making Genuine Connections Through Music...

By Jamie Zabel* Walking into the Musical Voice Lab for the first time is an intimidating experience. As a newcomer to the program, this is certainly what I felt at first. However, the actual experience, while it may press your boundaries, is nothing but uplifting. Sitting around the circle of participants and hearing the chatter of people around you, you can tell that friends have been made and that trust has been built. This is inevitably the result of the Musical Voice Lab’s fantastically warm and bubbly facilitator, Jane Perrett. Her open and inviting presence, as well as her willingness to help with even the simplest questions about voice, breaks down any walls that people might have coming into the program.  The Musical Voice Lab is a Skill Share project run by the Vancouver Arts Colloquium Society (VACS) that aims to help people discover and develop their voices. As of now, participants meet once a month to learn songs from a variety of genres as well as vocal techniques. Jane is a Dramatic Coloratura Soprano, meaning that she can hit the high notes with ease while also having a rich darkness to her tone. Performing has been a passion of Jane’s for most of her life, starting as early as high school where she would treat her classmates to performances of ABBA’s “I Dreamed a Dream,” and other popular songs. She would always be the first to volunteer whenever there was an opportunity to sing. While her first love is singing for people, Jane “always knew in the back of [her] mind that [she] wanted to teach.” When Keiko Honda, the president of VACS, approached her about running the Musical Voice Lab, she was hesitant but allowed the courage gained from her passion for...

Something to Dance About  ...

By Chloë Lai Photo courtesy of  Chloë Lai As I followed Keiko and the volunteers into the Beyond Music meeting space at the Musqueam Cultural Centre, I was greeted by the sound of lively chatter and haphazard violin-string plucking. Then one of the students spotted me and said, “Who’s that?” Good question.  It was something I’d spent the past two months (or the past 15 years, if I’m being completely honest) trying to find the answer to. I was fresh from a research trip to Borneo, where I had reached out to my paternal grandmother’s side of the family. She is Kadazandusun, an ethnic group indigenous to Kota Kinabalu in the Malaysian state of Sabah. My father and I drove all over her hometown of Penampang interviewing as many elders as we could find. We learned about cultural taboos, rituals surrounding birth, marriage and death, and hilarious flirtation techniques that involved licking fruit sap from someone’s neck.  Several of the elders we spoke with were related to us by blood or marriage, others were introduced to us by friends. More than half of them had never seen or heard of us. Regardless of whether they knew us or not, our shared ancestral connection meant that we were welcomed with open hearts at every turn.  As someone who’s spent over a decade in a city known for being aloof, I was overwhelmed at this reception. I was determined to find ways to keep that spirit of connection alive once I came back to Vancouver.  The Beyond Music students told me that their favourite thing about the program so far was learning to play the violin. One of the students even held her violin case in her arms throughout the entire session. Since music is one...

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More Than Just Teaching...

By Susan Tsang Photography by Kenta Moike John Yan—an aspiring violinist and an UBC integrated science major—arrived at Vancouver Arts Colloquium Society (VACS) office on a Monday afternoon, accompanied by an electric violin after his practice session. Before his interview, he played a little to show how the electrical instrument differentiates from the traditional violin. He explained that playing both of the instruments are the same, but their sounds vary because the electric violin would only come to life with the amplifier. Even though the electric violin barely made any sound, John could not help but fiddle with it.  John playing the electric violin mirrored his first experience with the violin thirteen years ago. “I don’t know (why I liked the violin, because) in the beginning, I didn’t even make any sound. I just felt it was pretty cool.” John had embarked on a soulful path with music in a more or less ordinary way: his parents wished that their child would learn an instrument. Under their encouragement, John fell into the embrace of music briefly before piano proved to be a chore. Fortunately, violin was challenging but fun. “Violin is definitely my go-to instrument,” said John. He was grateful that he would have a chance later down the road to share his music and knowledge with other young kids who might not had the same opportunity as he did. His chance arrived when he was going through his toughest time adjusting his lifestyle to the university life during the first year.  John expressed the challenges of playing violin after graduated high school: “I joined the UBC Orchestra. Since I’m not a music major and didn’t know many people, I felt a disconnection between me and them.” He needed the human connection in the...

Rule #1: Gerard Satamian Followed No Rules In Composing Classical Music...

By Susan Tsang As I was expecting to enjoy a queue of singers performing their pieces at the Opera Zone, I was thoroughly impressed already by the first performer Gerard Satamian’s En Sourdine. His buoying baritone voice lightly rode the sad wave of music that was accompanied by the piano. His melancholic composition from 2008 moved me and left an profound mark on my first experience with classical singing. I was compelled to talk to him about composing music and being a musician in Vancouver.  Growing up in Beirut, Lebanon, Gerard had the support of his family to hone his musical talent even hough they might not have been rich in resources. He had studied in the Beirut National Conservatory of Music when he was thirteen-year-old and earned his piano Master degree at Gomitas Conservatory of Music in Yerevan. After Gerard had moved to Vancouver in 1989, he continued to perform and went on releasing albums Canada, Mon Amour (2010), Frisson Infini (2010),  Forget Me Not (2009), Flowers and Thorns (2004), and Dry Fig Trees (2004). Gerard proved that artists can create outside the box, even in the strict, prestige world of classical music. How is being a musician in Vancouver different from being a musician in the Middle East and other places that you lived in? Gerard Satamian: Vancouver is such a beautiful place. It inspires you to paint if you’re a painter; to compose if you’re a musician. It has such a high standard of life here. I was in LA for awhile, and it wasn’t inspiring. I couldn’t last long so I came back here. I missed all the beautiful mountains, nature, and the ocean. These are inspirational.  Can you tell me what inspired you to write Barcarolle Triste (another of Gerard’s...

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Exploration of Our True Voices: The Beginning of the VACS Musical Voice Lab...

By Susan Tsang “Skillsharing” might sound like a strange, and even confusing term when you first stumbling upon it. To simply put, people skillshare when they exchange their skills with one another, whether they are singing, improvise acting, or cooking. Skillshares is only a part of a bigger picture of connecting the community through meaningful interactions. Vancouver Arts Colloquium presents a series of skillshares workshops that link people in one place to build our skills as well as the community. On June 18, as soon as the Upcycling Fabric workshop led by the creative Colleen Rhodes had been completed, people trickled into the room for the Musical Voice Lab to learn from the skilled Dramatic Soprano Jane Perrett. Our group consisted a wide range of people aged from ten to sixty but we openly shared our experiences (or lack of experiences) with one another. We got to know each other as past choir members, curious people, some who had taken lessons before and ceased singing for years, and I belong to the last group. Like everyone else, I was excited to pioneer the unexplored territory of our voices. Most of us had found out about the workshop through Jane. We were attracted to her uplifting voice and exhilarating opera performances. Along with her friend Leo (also a singer and an instructor) who played the piano and offered tips, we were set to generate music together. First, we touched base with the basic Italian “i” (pronounced “e”). Jane instructed that saying “i” correctly is the foundation of singing; knowing how to imitate properly with our voices is helpful for beginners to polish the basic skills. The process was a novel and interesting one because it was like learning a new language, we tightened our lips...

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The Opera Zone

By Lara-Sophie Boleslawsky (Vancouver Arts Colloquium Society) Photos by Noriko Nasu-Tidball Walking in, one is greeted by a jovial atmosphere; the afternoon sunlight filters into the room, illuminating the dark wood of the piano at the front of the room. There is a small buzz, with the audience waiting in anticipation for the concert to begin. We begin with the classics: Jane Perrett’s soprano voice is soars as she sings ‘Quando Me’n Vo’, teasing her lover as Musetta in Puccini’s La bohème. It is then Gerard Satamian’s turn to take the stage, and the tone immediately shifts as he laments love in Poulenc’s heartbreaking ‘Les chemins de l’amour’. Each performer embodies not only their respective characters, but also the songs themselves. It is a truly magnificent spectacle, and the brief intermission is needed, if only to refresh after the emotional outpour of each performance.      Indeed, we are treated not only to Jane Perrett and Gerard Satamian’s brilliant voices, but also to breathtaking piano instrumentals by Jane’s son, David. Performing classics such as Chopin’s ‘Prelude in B Minor’ and Beethoven’s first movement of ‘Leichte Sonate in G Major’ he brings a voice to these songs, flitting about the room as if truly alive.      Following the intermission is a brief performance by mezzo soprano Ayako Komaki. She beams brightly before beginning her performance, only to transform before our very eyes, becoming the tragic Queen Dido, mourning her own lamentable future whilst singing ‘When I am Laid in Earth’. The intensity present in the room soon reconstructs, with Jane Perrett’s rendition of the classic Disney tune, ‘When You Wish Upon A Star’, whereupon everyone is urged to join in. Continuing along this nostalgic frame, Gerard Satamian ends the concert with ‘If I Were A Rich Man’...

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The Opera Zone When: Sunday, April 3rd, 2pm Where: KCC Seniors Multi-Purpose Room Open to the Public, FREE, ALL are...

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  Hello, Opera Zone Series is Here Every 1st Sunday afternoon! Bring your friends and come listen and sign along with professional opera singers! Amazingly beautiful pieces are on the program. Tea and cookies at intermission   March 6th, April 3rd, May1st, June 5th, July...

Tetsu Taiko

By Ellen McLaren Photos: Noriko Nasu-Tidball   Drums almost all handmade, leather skins are stretched taught across recycled wine barrels, wood still fragrant. In North America, this is the norm among taiko, percussionists finding it more practical to make their own drums than import them from Japan, where the prices run much higher. Since his entrance into the taiko world, Doug Masuhara has joined the ranks of BC drum makers. His odaiko, the largest taiko drums, sound rich and deep, craftsmanship clearly on par with musicality. Not that Doug would ever say so himself. Despite his success with taiko – establishing his own performing group, Tetsu Taiko, and managing several practicing circles – Doug remains exceptionally humble. He attributes many of his accomplishments to the hard work of his daughters, without whom he may have never tried out taiko drumming at all. Until 2000, taiko had no presence in Doug’s life. A Vancouver native, Masuhara is sansei, third generation Japanese Canadian. Growing up, he mostly connected with his Japanese heritage through his grandparents. Other than that, however, his homelife remained fairly western in nature. Certainly, traditional Japanese drumming was not something frequently heard. It was only fifteen years ago, at the Steveston Buddhist Temple, that Doug had his first introduction to taiko. In a workshop led by Shinobu Homma, of Chibi Taiko, a Burnaby based drumming group, Doug began his taiko lessons. Initially organized for children at the temple, “I was the only adult there,” he says, “and I was the most nervous!” They practiced mostly on car tires, using bachi drumsticks, also homemade from wooden dowelling.             Under the tutelage of Shinobu and his assistant instructor Naomi Shikaze, for two and a half years Doug, his daughters, and a handful of other students...

An Issue on “Arranging and The Royalty”...

  By Dr. Richard Niles Photo courtesy Dr. Richard Niles   I have been a professional arranger in popular music since 1975. Most people, even some musicians, have little idea what that means. Many think that studio musicians make up their parts in a joyous act of spontaneous inspiration. So what do arrangers do, anyway? Consider the explosive, instantly recognizable brass melody in the opening bars of “Dancing In The Street” by Martha and the Vandellas. Who wrote it? If you assumed it was written by the songwriters, Marvin Gaye, William Stevenson and Ivy Hunter, you would be wrong. Paul Riser, one of Motown’s staff arrangers, composed that melody and decided on the instrumentation of trumpets, trombones and saxophones to play it. Riser, usually un-credited, composed instrumental lines such as this to enhance many hits and act as a “hook” to the listener, encouraging them to buy the records.        My book presents the work of some of the most influential arrangers in pop, artists who have been uncredited, undervalued and misunderstood. Yet, despite being “invisible” to the public,  during a critical period of popular music history arrangers have played a significant part in the evolution of musical genre and content. In the U.S. arrangers have the opportunity to be recognized by the Grammy  Awards in two categories—Best Instrumental Arrangement and Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalists. At least winners and nominees can use this to promote themselves and bring in more offers of work. In Britain and the rest of the world there is no such award. The financial rewards of an arranging career are limited. Arrangers are paid a fee for each job. It’s not huge. Keep working, get jobs in every week and you can pay the mortgage. Arrangers receive no royalties unless they...

A Sense of Place in History...

“A Sense of Place in History” An Interview with Brian Robertson Interview  by Espen Fikseaunet* Photos by Noriko Nasu-Tidball *Studying social anthropology at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim and currently enrolled in the First Nation Studies at UBC   In the southernmost part of Dunbar, not too far from the Musqueam reserve, I meet with Brian Robertson. At the sound of the doorbell I open the door to find a very tall, middle aged man, dressed in semi-formal attire. Nothing about his style reveals the fact that he’s an artist –  nor, for that matter, do we have any telltale clues that he’s a historian and scientist. He reveals all that later on. As we exchange polite greetings the discussion soon moves on to Norway, the country where I’m from, and one of many countries that Brian has visited. Already he’s beginning to talk about some of his experiences and opinions, so we decide to move to the table where the conversation can be recorded. With maple tea and dark chocolate in front of us, we launch into the first question. – What led you into music? “Well, it’s one of those situations where I’ve kind of evolved into being a musician and a singer/songwriter. Playing music, much less creating and performing it, was not something I started until well into my life.” Brian goes on to explain how he loved dancing as a child, and how that prepared him for his musical endeavors later in life. Eventually he picked up the guitar and started singing in his late twenties. His main genre is Folk Music, possibly as a result of the strong tendency towards Folk in the 60s and 70s when he first started out as an artist. Some years after...