Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Festival Fever Erupts with February

Evelyn Hart gave a riveting performance in St. John's.

Masterful is the single word that keeps coming to my mind after the Tuckamore Festival opening night performance.  It was a privilege to attend an evening where there was so much talent all on one stage.  My evening started with the preconcert talk conducted by CBC's Ramona Dearing.  Her questions to Lisa Moore and Andrew Staniland were very insightful and both Lisa and Andrew were refreshingly frank about their creative process.  There wasn't a single canned (as in processed food) question or answer.  Both Lisa and Andrew shared their triumphs and woes and the amount of respect for each other's artistic gifts was palpable.  We all sat on the edges of our chairs leaning forward with interest. My only regret was that I wished more people had attended because the interview did an incredible job of contextualizing the performance that would follow it. 

I had read February before, which weighs in with more than 700 pages, and I knew that it would be a difficult job to make excerpts for the performance.  Claire Wilkshire chose the sections that Evelyn Hart would read.  I use "read" loosely because Hart is a consummate performer.  She dominated the stage as soon as she made her opening entrance.  I was surprised that Nancy Dahn and Timothy Steeves could hold their own, as musicians, against a talking role.  Our society is biased towards the spoken word.  Afterall, talking is something that most Newfoundland and Labradoreans excel at.  By contrast, classical music and especially contemporary composition has a much smaller appreciative audience.  To make matters even more complicated there was also a video that was projected; I imagine that was to contribute to visual interest.  Frankly, there were times I didn't know where to look.  There was a lot to compete for our interest.  And it was just all so good that you didn't want to miss anything.  You could say it was the entertainment equivalent of an all you can eat buffet stuffed to overflowing with appetizing dishes.
Andrew Staniland, let's hope this province
 hangs on to him.

To their credit, Duo Concertante did an excellent job of putting together the musical selections for the first half of the evening.  It was light and different to audiences here and it balanced the sobriety and tragedy that the second half of the evening would feature.  I think that presenting audiences with difficult material is a very hard thing to do.  It is like reconciling opposites. How do you get an audience to follow you through the depths of despair?  How do you get them to willingly suffer pain?  The short answer is that you seduce them with excellent music played excellently. Well, Duo Concertante with the help of Andrew Staniland's composition and Evelyn Hart's consummate performance combined their remarkable skill set to do just that.  I tell 'ya, it made for one hell of an opening act for the Tuckamore Festival.  I don't envy anybody who will follow them during the next several days.  Let the festival fever commence!
Lisa 's book sprang into prominence by winning the Canada Reads competition.

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