Music to fill the air as Accolade opens

York University and the Faculty of Fine Arts celebrate the official opening of The Accolade Project, York’s new $107.5 million state-of-the-art teaching, exhibition and performance complex, with a week-long Fine Arts Festival of music, theatre, dance, film, visual arts and more, running March 20-26.

Left: The new Recital Hall

Kicking off the festival will be York’s Music Department, with a special Gala Concert March 20 celebrating the department’s new home in Accolade and inaugurating its new Recital Hall.

The York Jazz Festival continues the musical part of the celebration March 21-24 and the York University Wind Symphony and Concert Choir perform March 26. (For highlights of the rest of the week’s events, see YFile March 2.)

The inaugural Gala Concert showcases the department’s rich and diverse resident talent in a program that runs the gamut from classical to contemporary, jazz and world music. It includes the world premiere of Eclipse, a concerto for piano and a unique chamber ensemble, composed especially for the occasion by York music Professor David Mott, a celebrated composer and saxophonist. Eclipse is a 30-minute concerto in three continuous movements for piano and a 12-piece chamber ensemble of non-western and non-orchestral instruments. Mott wrote the work for, and at the request of, his York colleague, pianist Christina Petrowska Quilico.

Right: David Mott

Both Mott and Petrowska Quilico have garnered international recognition for their musicianship. Mott’s work draws on western art music, classical and jazz traditions as well as the musical styles of Asia and Eastern Europe. He was a founding member of the contemporary music ensemble Sound Pressure and performed extensively with the saxophone quartet 40 Fingers and the contemporary jazz ensemble Chelsea Bridge. Petrowska Quilico has premiered more than 100 works by leading North American and European composers. She has performed throughout Europe, the Middle East, Asia, the US and Canada.

Mott and Petrowska Quilico decided the ensemble should reflect the global character of contemporary music, and to the best of their knowledge, Eclipse is the first piano concerto composed for a world music ensemble. Eclipse morphs into musical acknowledgements of various styles around the world including Chinese, African, Indian, Indonesian, European contemporary art music, and jazz.

Sharing the stage with Petrowska Quilico are a number of York music instructors including: Kim Chow-Morris on dizi; Bassam Shahouk on oud; John Brownell on percussion; and Mott, with fellow jazz musicians Sundar Viswanathan and Kelly Jefferson. Guest artists include Joseph Petric on accordion; Rob Clutton on bass; John Farah on synthesizer and York alumna Suba Sankaran (BFA ’97, MA ’02) and Ed Hanley from the band Autorickshaw performing voice and tabla.

Right: Christina Petrowska Quilico

Other concert highlights include the York University Jazz Quartet, a student/faculty group led by nationally acclaimed jazz drummer, Professor Barry Elmes; flamenco guitarist and faculty member Roger Scannura; and excerpts from the choral suite From the Mermaid, composed by Department of Music Chair Michael Coghlan, who also composed the inaugurating Fanfare for the evening and the building launch.

From the Mermaid will be sung by the combined York University Choirs – 180 voices strong – directed by Lisette Canton, the founding artistic director of the acclaimed Ottawa Bach Choir, who joined York’s music faculty last year. Catherine Robbin, director of classical vocal studies at York, is one of the featured soloists. From the Mermaid is set to Renaissance texts by Sir Phillip Sidney, William Shakespeare and others. The Mermaid Tavern on Bread Street in Cheapside (London) was a favourite of Elizabethan writers.

The York University Jazz Festival continues the energy created by the evening gala and heats up the campus with midday and evening performances by York’s up-and-coming young jazz artists, featuring the Jazz Orchestra led by Al Henderson, four jazz choirs directed by Bob Hamper and Mim Adams, and 10 small ensembles directed by the likes of Mike Murley, Lorne Lofsky, Kevin Turcotte and Richard Whiteman.

On March 26, the 65-member York University Wind Symphony directed by William Thomas presents an afternoon concert featuring works by John Zdechlik, Samuel Hazo, Gustav Holst and James Barnes and a special guest appearance by trumpeter Chase Sanbourn. In the evening, the York University Concert Choir returns to the Recital Hall under the baton of Lisette Canton to perform Haydn’s great oratorio, The Creation.

York University’s new Recital Hall is an intimate, 325-seat concert hall with an integrated recording studio. Acoustically designed by Artec (one of the world’s foremost companies in the field, whose Canadian projects include Edmonton’s Winspear Centre and the acoustic renovation of Toronto’s Roy Thomson Hall), the hall is tunable to optimize the experience of different instruments, configurations and styles of musical performance.

The Accolade Project, to be officially launched at a ribbon-cutting ceremony on March 20, provides state-of-the-art teaching, exhibition and performance facilities in two new buildings – Accolade East and Accolade West, which frame the existing fine arts complex.

The Gala Concert takes place on March 20, at 7:30pm. Tickets are $15 ($10 students/seniors). The York University Jazz Festival takes place March 21 to 24. The midday concerts take place from 12:30pm to 1:30pm and are free. The evening concerts take place from 7:30pm to 10:30pm. Tickets are $15 for general admission ($10 students/seniors).

The York Wind Symphony perfoms on March 26 at 3pm. Tickets are $15 ($10 students/seniors) and the York  University Choir raise their voices at 7:30pm. Tickets for the choir’s performance are $15 ($10 students/seniors). All events are held in the Recital Hall, Accolade East, located on York’s Keele campus. For more information, contact the Fine Arts Festival box office at 416-736-5888, or visit the Fine Arts Festival Web site.