Paul Bley and Pierre Boulez – not really famous but …….

There are entertainers who are just that – entertainers. There are entertainers who are musicians and musicians who are entertainers. Sometimes it is hard to tell exactly which is which. Then there there are musicians who are just that – musicians. Then again  there are those musicians who go beyond the accepted artistic norms of their era and create their own categories. Two such musicians are the Canadian Jazz Pianist Paul Bley and the French modern classical composer Pierre Boulez. Both of these exemplary musicians passed away this month (January 2016).

Paul Bley, born November 10 1932, died January 3 2016

Paul Bley North Sea Jazz Festival in the Hague in 1990

Paul Bley is a Canadian Jazz Pianist born and raised in Montreal. He was essentially a child of the Be-bop era who performed with some of the jazz greats of the era (including Charlie Parker). He started studying violin at 5 and piano at 8, and as a teenager began playing piano professionally as Buzzy Bley. In 1949, as a senior in high school, he briefly took over Oscar Peterson’s job at the Alberta Lounge in downtown Montreal. Mr. Bley left for New York in 1950 to attend the Juilliard School of Music. During his early years there, he played with the saxophonists Lester Young and Ben Webster. Keeping a hand in his hometown jazz scene, he helped organize the Jazz Workshop, a musician-run organization in Montreal that set up out-of-town soloists with local rhythm sections; in February 1953 he booked Charlie Parker for a concert and accompanied him. That concert was recorded, one of his first extant recordings before his first album as a leader, made nine months later with a trio that included Charles Mingus on bass and Art Blakey on drums. Through the mid-’50s, he was an adept bebop player with a spare style.

As he matured he went further afield in his musical explorations to become involved in what became known as “free form jazz”. In my opinion, what set him apart from the frenzy and frantic performances of other “free form” artists was a more melodic and measured approach. During his time in New York playing with the saxophonists Albert Ayler and Sonny Rollins, he defined as well as anyone the blurry line between the scratchiness of free improvisation and the virtuosity of the jazz tradition. His solo performances are said to have had a significant impact on the extended solo performances of Keith Jarrett.

He often talked about being eager to get outside his own habits. In  the 1981 documentary “Imagine the Sound” he professed not to practice or rehearse, out of what he called “a disdain for the known.” He did not stake his work on traditional notions of acceptability, or the approval of the listener. With that particular musical philosophy it is easy to see why he is not a household name even in his own country.

Paul Bley was appointed a member of the Order of Canada in 2008.

Although I don’t have an extensive collection of his music I do treasure and enjoy the recordings he made in 1961 (Fusion and Thesis) with the Jimmy Giuffre 3 (Jimmy Giuffre on Clarinet, Paul Bley on Piano and Steve Swallow on Double Bass). The albums were re-released as a double CD by ECM records in 1992. For that I am forever thankful. Another CD of interest is the 1993 duo recording he did with fellow Canadian, saxophonist Jane Bunnet called Double Time (released by Justin Time). Although  Jane is better known for her extensive explorations of Cuban music the album shares some of the “spacey” textures of the Jimmy Giuffre 3. I am sure these albums are only the tip of the iceberg.

Here is an audio clip from the Jimmy Giuffre recordings and a clip of Paul Bley in an interview.


 Pierre Boulez,  born 26 March 1925 , died 5 January 2016

Pierre Boulez

“Pierre Boulez, the French composer and conductor whose career spanned from the avant-garde post-World War II era to the computer age, has died, according to the French culture ministry. He was 90. Boulez famously challenged his peers and his audience to rethink their ideas of sound and harmony. In his music, Boulez often created rich and contrasting layers that were built on musical traditions from Asia and Africa, and on the 12-tone technique pioneered by Arnold Schoenberg — as in his 1955 work, Le Marteau sans maître (The Hammer Without a Master).”

To be honest I am more familiar with his reputation than with his music. Classical music of the 20th century was mostly overshadowed by the music of the Romantic Era and that made it extremely difficult for musicians and composers who tried to create a new vocabulary. Pierre Boulez was one of a number of musicians trying to create a “new music”. Among concert goers “the new music” tends to alienate audiences and it is only though the dedicated efforts of musicians like Pierre Boulez  that the music moves forward and, possibly in time, develop a dedicated audience.

This short YouTube video of his most famous composition LE MARTEAU SANS MAITRE  will give listeners some idea of the challenges they face when exploring the music of Pierre Boulez. This is not your typical symphonic fare.


These two musicians may not be well known and they played music that, by and large, most audience would chose to ignore. However, they have demonstrated that there is more to music than three guitars and a back beat.


“Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” — Intense!!!!

Cat poster 4 x 6

Family politics and sibling rivalry have been around since the beginning of time. All the way from royalty right down to the neighbour just across the street it is one of life’s constants. From Shakespeare’s King Lear to the play that is currently on the stage of the Studio/Stage Door in Cranbrook it is the raw source material of great literature. Once again Director Terry Miller and the Cranbrook Community Theatre have stepped up to the plate and this time they have taken on the monumental Cat on a Hot Tin Roof by Tennessee Williams. For this undertaking Terry has enlisted the following actors in the following roles:

  • Jennifer Inglis as Margaret
  • Sean Swinwood as Brick
  • Alexander Gilmour as Big Daddy
  • Nicola Kaufman as Big Mama
  • Brent Gill as Gooper
  • Nikole Spring as Mae
  • Galen Olstead /Bob McCue as Reverend Tooker
  • Peter Schalk as Doctor Baugh

This is a big three act play that, with intermissions runs for three hours. Set in the delta plantation home of Big Daddy Pollitt in the summer of 1955 it covers all the big themes – sibling rivalry, thwarted professional ambitions and dreams, alcoholism, greed, mendacity, sexual desire and sexual confusion, illness and death. You name it and it’s all in there. Here are some images from the dress rehearsal on Wednesday January 13, 2016 –

200. Sean Swinwood as Brick    206. Jennifer Inglis as Margaret  204 Nicola Kaufman as Big Mama    214. Sean Swinwood as Brick   210. Nicola Kaufman as Big Mama

216. Jennifer Inglis as Margaret 230. Sean Swinwood as Brick  236. Jennifer Inglis as Margaret  232. Sean Swinwood as Brick  250. End of scene one302. Brent Gill as Gooper   306. Galen Olstead as Reverend Tooker  314. Gooper and Mae  318. Mae and Margaret    326. Jennifer Inglis as Margaret   328. Big Mama and Big Daddy312. Gooper, Mae and Big Daddy       338. Nicola Kaufman as Mae  336a. Big Daddy342. Brick and Big Daddy     346. Brick  355. Big Daddy   356. Big Daddy and Brick362a. Rev. Tooker  412. Mae and Gooper  414. Big Mama416. Peter Schalk as Doctor Baugh   420. Big Mama and Dr. Baugh   430. Peter Schalk as Dr. Baugh426. Mae Big Mama and Gooper438. Mae and Margaret  428. Big Mama   448. Big Mama and Gooper 502. Curtain106. Header three



Vocal Showcase

Vocal Showcase

This concert at the Knox Presbyterian Church was a great opportunity see and hear what the young performers of the area have to offer. This is possibly the finest small performance venue in the area and one likely to show off their talents to best advantage.  All of these performers have been through the local education system and have come out the graduate end with an unbridled passion for making serious vocal music. Most, if not all, have gone onto post secondary education in music and a number have already obtain their degrees in music. So here they are:412. The entire cast

and this is what they did on this special night in this special place.

Caitlin McCaughey – Caitlin is currently studying opera at the University of Toronto with 104. Catlin McCaugheyDr. Darryl Edwards and during this past summer she attended the Centre for Opera Studies in Italy.  For this concert she performed Quando men vo from Giacomo Puccini’s opera La Boheme. For her second piece she chose Ah! Je Veaux vivre from Charles Gounod’s Romeo and Juliet. Caitlin plans to pursue a professional career in Opera.

Danielle Nicholson is a lyrical Mezzo-soprano who is 114. Danielle Nicholsoncurrently completing her A.R.C.T. Performance Diploma with the Royal Conservatory of Music  and is planning to begin her BMus in Vocal Performance at either UBC, University of Toronto or McGill.  She chose Must the Winter Come So Soon from Samuel Barber’s Vanessa and Faites-lui-mes aveux  from Charles Gounod’s Faust.

Courtney Green is currently the head teacher 130. Courtney Greenand choreographer at Stages School of Dancing in Golden. Her selections were Breathe from In the Heights by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Leonard Bertein’s Glitter and be Gay from Candide.


Heather Byford. After graduating from Mount Baker 140. Heather ByfordHigh School Heather attended the University of Lethbridge and obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Classical Music with a major in Vocal Performance. She has returned to the East Kootenays with the intention of starting her own teaching studio. Heather selected La Mer est plus belle from the music by Claude Debussy and the poem by Paul Verlaine. Her second selection was Cruda Sorte! Gia so per practica from Giachino Rossini’s L’Italiana in Algeri.

Darren Adams is in his third and final year of the Acting for Stage and Screen Program 150. Darren Adamsat Capilano University in Vancouver. Darren performed Try Me from Jerry Bock’s She Loves Me and Jason Robert Brown’s The Old Red Hills of Home from Parade. He was joined by Courtney Green for a duet performance of Jason Robert Brown’s I’d Give it all to You.

164. Darren and Courtney

Justin Swanson is a third year undergraduate at the McGill University Schulich School 180. Justin Swansonof Music. He has been studying for five years with aspirations of becoming an opera singer. He performed Francesco Paolo Tosti’s Ideale (lyrics by Carmelo Errico). He followed that up with a refreshing performance of the old war horse Mother Machree. He was joined on 202. Danielle and Justinstage by Danielle Nicholson for a duet performance of Come What May from the Baz Luhrmann’s movie Moulin Rouge.

The mezzo-soprano Amanda Weatherall is no stranger to performances in the Knox Presbyterian Church. She is 220. Amanda Weatheralla fourth year vocal performance major at Western University studying under Todd Wieczorek. She has participated in professional development programs offered by the Canadian Operatic Arts Academy and the Accademia Europea Dell’Opera and is looking forward to her first full operatic role, Trisbe, in La Cenerentola. For performance on this evening she chose Charles Gounod’s Que fais-tu, blanche tourterelle? and Alma Mahler’s Laue Sommernacht (lyrics by Gustav Falke).

Former Kimberley resident Clara MacLeod is happy to 240. Clara MacLeodback in the area and for her performance this evening she chose A Change in me from Alan Menken’s Beauty and the Beast and How Lovely to be a Woman from Charles Strauss’ Bye Bye Birdie.


Jocelyn Molnar received her Diploma of Music 260. Jocelyn Molnarfrom Capilano University in 2014 and has also received  a significant number of awards and scholarships. For the evening’s performance she chose Frere! Voyez! du gai Soleil from Jules Massenet’s Werther and Ah, Love, but a Day written by Amy Marcy Beach. Amanda Weather and Caitlin McCaughey returned to the stage for a duet performance of Leo Delibes Sous le Dome epais from Lakme. Amanda sang the mezzo-soprano part and Caitlin the soprano part. As always, this was an extremely popular selection. And not be forgotten the accompanists for the evening were Arne Sahlen and Erica Ortlieb (Ross). Arne’s solo performances of We Three Kings and Beethoven’s second movement of the Pathetique were enjoyable instrumental interludes in a night of vocal music.072. Erica and Arne

Here are some more images from the evening’s performances

118. Danielle Nicholson    116. Danielle Nicholson   112. Danielle Nicholson  134. Courtney Green 144. Heather Byford

070. erica Ortlieb (Ross) and Arne Sahlen 184. Justin Swanson  206. Danielle and Justin 160. Darren Adams  224. Amanda Weatherall  050. Elizabeth Ross MC  246. Clara Macleod

This was a wonderful night of music and the organizers should be very happy with the turn out. The venue was full to overflowing.

020. Xmas Candle