"Variety is the spice of life" as the old saying goes. And if that is the case, the Tuckamore Festival certainly fills the bill. On Wednesday evening we were treated to the impressive skills of the Rolston String Quartet that took us from the old world charms of Mozart and Beethoven to the new world creativity of Schafer and Staniland–and all with deceptive ease. Combine that historical breadth, technical mastery and cohesive sound as a quartet and it is no wonder why the Rolston String Quartet were the first prizewinners of the prestigious 2016 Banff International String Quartet Competition.
Music theorist Joe Argentino gave an enthusiastic and illustrated pre-concert lecture on the anatomy of the fugue and how composers Mozart and Beethoven manipulated its complexities, which gave many members of the audience an added appreciation of the near-magical skills of the Rolston Quartet. They mentioned from the stage that it was great for the four members, who all hale from different parts of Canada, to be back in their home country as part of the Tuckamore as they are currently based at Rice University in Houston. Beethoven's Razumovsky, which they performed for us on August 9th was also part of their winning participation at the Banff competition.
It was gratifying to hear Schafer's Waves and Staniland's Four Elements in insightful succession on the program. Schafer's career spans sixty years and his soundscapes were many Canadians introduction to the world of "new music". Staniland by contrast is 44 years younger but has been racking up awards for his visionary contemporary compositions since 2004. Fortunately for us in Newfoundland and Labrador, he is on faculty at Memorial University. It was heartwarming to see Staniland give his own standing ovation in thanks to the Rolston's performance of his music.
If skipping from classical fugues to contemporary soundscapes wasn't enough variety, the Tuckamore Festival's next offering, on the Thursday evening, was a late night cabaret performance by local, musical theatre darlings Justin Nurse and Jonathan Monro. They took us through a humorous and affectionate musical account of their 25-year long friendship. Spanning highschool and college auditions, sharing the musical theatre stage professionally, divorces and the birth of children, the two men performed during the evening in solo and together belting out songs and crooning tunes from cherished memories. Monro even previewed some of his material from the upcoming musical based on the Roch Carrier story The Hockey Sweater. It will premier this October in Montreal. You can imagine how fast the cell phones came out for those tunes!