Pianist Casey Sokol takes centre stage in Faculty Recital Series

Musical explorer extraordinaire, pianist Casey Sokol takes centre stage on March 8 for the final concert in the Faculty Recital Series of York University’s Music Department. He will be joined by acclaimed musician and CBC broadcaster Andrew Craig (BFA ’93) in a performance of inspired improvisation, taking place at 7:30pm in York’s new recital hall.

Right: Casey Sokol

The concert, aptly titled Object of Play, will capture the spirit of innovation and adventure central to improvised music-making, offering listeners unexpected sonic delights created in the moment, on the keyboard and beyond.

Sokol will lead off the program with series of solo improvisations on a grand piano, followed by free music played with an ensemble of pre-recorded piano tracks as well as digital delay, where the immediate past rejoins the present moment.

Sokol and Craig will join forces in a performance of Three Dances for Two Prepared Pianos by American composer John Cage. This is a rare opportunity to hear this dynamic work, which is seldom presented in live performance due to the complexity and difficulty of using a pair of prepared pianos.

Sokol loves the piece. He gave it its Canadian premiere (with his York faculty colleague, Christina Petrowska Quilico) in 1989. "It’s a knockout," he said. "Prepared pianos emit a wonderful kaleidoscope of sounds that are still new and exciting to the ear. It’s an exhilarating experience for both the performer and the listener."

A veteran performer of classical and contemporary chamber music as well as improvised music, Sokol maintains a busy teaching, performing, touring, directing and recording career. He has appeared widely as soloist and with a variety of ensembles, including the York Winds, Canadian Contemporary Music Collective and Sound Pressure. His performance credits span the concert stages of three continents, from Los Angeles to Japan, and many leading European music festivals, including the Avignon Festival in France and Germany’s Pro Musica Nova Festival.

Sokol has also left indelible imprints in a wide range of creative collaborations. Highlights include an adaptation of the medieval mystery play, The Clown of God, with New York director André Serban, and Cagewake, a music-circus with 150 performers, which Sokol conceived and produced. With Tokyo’s UNO Man Butoh Company, he composed and produced a multimedia performance of the first multi-lingual Renga, a medieval Japanese poetic collaboration. He also produced and co-directed the North American premiere of the epic setting of Confucius’ text, The Great Learning, by the English avant-garde composer Cornelius Cardew.

Sokol’s 24 recordings have been broadcast widely on Canadian, European, American and Japanese radio and television. A founding member of Toronto’s Music Gallery, he has taught piano, improvisation and musicianship in York’s Music Department for more than 35 years. His exceptional contributions in the classroom won him an Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Association Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2001.

Left: Andrew Craig

Guest artist Craig, a former student of Sokol, is the popular and respected host of CBC Radio Two’s national concert program, "In Performance". He is also the host of the upcoming television reality show "Triple Sensation", a national talent search for Canada’s finest actor who can sing and dance.

The multi-talented Craig is a highly accomplished vocalist and instrumentalist as well as a composer and arranger for recordings, theatre, film and dance; musical director for theatre, concerts and television productions; and producer of studio albums and live concerts. 

As a performer, Craig has worked with such diverse artists as vocalist Molly Johnson, Maritime fiddling-sensation Ashley MacIsaac, award-winning jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis and the Nathaniel Dett Chorale, Canada’s Afrocentric choral group. He has directed musical theatre for Toronto’s Mirvish Productions and CanStage, and produced musical tributes for Nelson Mandela and Quincy Jones. Most recently, he arranged and musically directed A Gospel Christmas Celebration for CBC Radio and Television.

The recital takes place Thursday, March 8 at 7:30pm in the Tribute Communities Recital Hall, located in the Accolade East Building at York’s Keele campus. Tickets are $15 and $5 for students. To order, call ext 55888 or visit www.yorku.ca/perform/boxoffice.