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A Mourning Chorus

Wednesday, February 5, 2014
Performance: 7 pm
Walker Court, Art Gallery of Ontario

Working in collaboration with seven female singers: Marie-Josée Chartier, Katherine Duncanson, Anne Fauteux, Fides Krucker, Brenna MacCrimmon, Laurel MacDonald and Suba Sankaran from various performance backgrounds, Angelucci will present a public performance entitled A Mourning Chorus that explores the sounds of disappearing North American song-birds through the historic framework of women's public mourning rituals. The performance evening will also include a quartet performing selections from John Luther Adams Songbird (1974/80) along with other events.

Songbirds, Jon Luther Adams ~ 1974/80
Notquitespringdawn, Mourning Dove (1974/80)
Piccolos and Ocarinas ~ Shelley Brown, Camille Watts
Ocarina ~ Sara Constant
Percussion ~ Michelle Hwu, Ed Riefel

A Mourning Chorus, Sara Angelucci 2014
Conceived and directed by Sara Angelucci, composed in collaboration with (and performed by) Marie-Josée Chartier, Katherine Duncanson, Anne Fauteux, Fides Krucker, Brenna MacCrimmon, Laurel MacDonald and Suba Sankaran.

Program Notes for A Mourning Chorus by Sara Angelucci

If the boundaries of the self are defined by what we feel, then those who cannot feel even for themselves shrink within their own boundaries, while those who feel for others are enlarged, and those who feel compassion for all beings must be boundless.  -- Rebecca Solnit

It is probable that in the artistic hierarchy birds are the greatest musicians existing on our planet. – Olivier Messiaen

A Mourning Chorus
is an elegy to endangered songbirds, a lament for species permanently lost to us, an expression of mourning for our suffering planet. The work was composed through improvisations inspired by a number of North American songbirds. The vocalists, trained in a range of traditions, including Georgian, Turkish, Anglo-Celtic, South Indian, Balkan, Jazz, operatic, popular, overtone and Inuit throat singing, and extended vocal technique, were asked to move beyond mimicking birdsong, but rather translate it through their own vocal cords, bodies, and musical intelligence; merging birdsong and human-song. Singing as an act of empathy. Embodiment and empathy as both a working methodology and philosophy, formed the heart of our compositional approach.

The work encompasses a series of movements expressed through canons, duets, and forms of call and response, derived from an analysis of birdsongs. A Mourning Chorus ends in keening (from the Gaelic word "caoineadh" meaning to cry, to weep) a form of improvised vocal lament performed for the dead, and documented in various cultures around the world. In Ireland keening was performed by women.

The singing of songbirds is technically complex. While we sport a larynx through which the voice is controlled, songbirds have a syrinx positioned at the lower end of the windpipe than ours (an equivalent to our chest). The syrinx is internally double barreled, allowing songbirds the ability to do something impossible to us, produce two completely distinct sounds simultaneously, or a complex array of sounds, as they modulate pitch and volume. Songbirds (mostly male) sing to attract a mate, guard their territory, and warn of impending danger. But beyond necessity, some scientists in the field of zoömusicology believe that some bird species might also sing merely for the pleasure of it.

Songbird song is learned, passed from bird to bird, syrinx to syrinx, through the skies, through the ages. It is a wonder to consider how their songs may have evolved over time, as our world becomes acoustically noisier, as they strain to hear one another above the din of our auditory dominance, and we fail to hear them at all. If we cannot learn to listen, perceive, and feel our ecological connection, to enlarge our boundaries of compassion, then we will continue to wreak havoc not only birds but all living species, with dire consequences for the earth, and ultimately ourselves.

Singers' Bios

Anne Fauteux is a visual artist, jeweller, designer and singer based both in Montreal and Toronto. After completing a BFA at Concordia University in Montreal (1983) she spent one year in Italy to do a jewellery apprenticeship, then moved to London UK to set her studio on the Thames. This was the beginning of her endless wandering in quest for Vitamin NEW, learning a variety of trades for her art projects, including vocal skills.

Her musical adventure started with cello in the late '80s, and continued with singing from the late '90s. Through her travels and the people encountered, she's learned many different ways of using her voice: choir blending, overtones and Inuit throat singing, Georgian harmonies, singing in various “exotic” languages, vintage pop and bel canto. She has been part of two Toronto-based groups: Oufti, an a capella girl trio, and Megobrebi, a twelve-woman choir.

Her multi-disciplinary art project BOLM ( brings together her skills in sculpture, set, costume, furniture and graphic design, textiles, jewellery and sound. Since 1984, her work has been shown in North America and Europe in over 20 solo exhibitions, 70 group shows and concerts.

Fides Krucker has been an innovative interpreter of vocal music in Canada and abroad for 25 years. Her award-winning company, Good Hair Day Productions, created the electroacoustic show The girl with no door on her mouth, the immersive cabaret A little rain never hurt no one… the r n’b disability show CP Salon (now an NFB film), the boxing piece Yours to Break and the opera Julie Sits Waiting (Wamsley/Dufort). For fourteen years Fides created work with the interdisciplinary ensemble, URGE. She is learning to sing like a mermaid for Richard Sanger and Nik Beeson’s theatrical adaptation of Lampedusa’s Lighea. In May 2014 she will create and premiere a voice and movement piece with Peggy Baker in the Canadian Gallery of the AGO. Krucker teaches internationally and received a Chalmer’s Arts Fellowship in 2011 to write about voice – she is now on the second draft of this groundbreaking book.
Katherine Duncanson is an interdisciplinary performer. Her most frequent artistic collaborations have been with esteemed choreographer Peter Chin, and the award winning performance collectives, Urge and Cliq. In addition to collaborating with many Toronto based music ensembles, choirs, theatre artists, dance artists, visual artists and clowns, Katherine has also created several performance solos, and has toured coast to coast in Canada, and to points abroad.
Katherine has performed in concert halls, art galleries, town halls, gymnasiums and church basements; on Javanese hillsides, Newfoundland cliff sides, and in South Indian forests;on rooftops, treetops, ancient walls, and parking lots; in rose gardens, root cellars, thick fog, and waterfalls; on a scooter, in a subway, in a streetcar, and on the hoods of moving cars; she has sung in a silo, while tied to a tree, and once hummed under a rock while blindfolded;she has danced in National parks, bathtubs, canoes, in meadows, other peoples' lawns and while surrounded by fire. Katherine teaches voice and movement improvisation and also enjoys facilitating the creative process of choreographers in the crafting of new work. Recent facilitation projects have been with Toronto dance artists Susie Burpee, Yvonne Ng and Gerry Trentham. Katherine is one of Toronto' s most sought after instructors of Kundalini Yoga. Currently immersed in the study of Sanskrit and the Yoga of Sound she makes frequent trips to India and throughout North America to study with her mentor Russill Paul. 

Singer, composer and video artist Laurel MacDonald has performed extensively and released several CDs of her compositions for solo voice, and her music has been heard in many film, television, theatre and dance productions. She is a member of the ensemble Darbazi, performing the traditional vocal music of the republic of Georgia in concerts from Toronto to Tbilisi since 2003. She is also a member (along with sound designer Phil Strong) of Videovoce, a performance duo integrating voice with electronics and video, appearing at festivals such as NXNE in Toronto, MUTEK in Montreal, and Sound Symposium in St. John’s, Newfoundland. MacDonald’s experimental video work has screened at festivals in five countries; most recently her video installation XXIX, featuring 21 singers and 21 channels of sound, was exhibited at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, the Glasgow Short Film Festival, and at BEAST (Birmingham ElectroAcoustic Sound Theatre) in Birmingham, UK.

A multi-faceted artist, MARIE-JOSÉE CHARTIER moves easily between the worlds of dance, music, opera and multi-media in the roles of choreographer, performer, director, vocalist or teacher. 
Her choreographic works are greatly influenced by contemporary visual art, music and literature in terms of concept, composition and dynamic structure and have been presented in Canada, Europe and Latin America. In 2003, Marie-Josée Chartier founded Chartier Danse in order to support her creative activities. Acclaimed large scale productions came to life such as Stria, Red Brick, Contes pour enfants pas sages, Screaming Popes and Bas-Reliefs.  Ms. Chartier is the recipient of the K.M. Hunter Artist Award, nine Dora Mavor Moore Awards nominations winning among others for fifty-one pieces of silver. In 2012, she received the multi-disciplinary dance artist award from the Young Centre for the Performing Arts.  She is very active as artistic advisor, mentor or director for several dance artists. She continues to perform in dance and multi-media productions and pursues her guest teaching in training centres and Universities in Canada and Latin America in modern dance, voice exploration and improvisation.

DORA award-winning, twice JUNO-nominated world/fusion vocalist Suba Sankaran has effortlessly combined musical worlds, performing across North America, Europe and Asia with Autorickshaw, Trichy Sankaran, FreePlay Duo (with Dylan Bell) and Retrocity (80s a cappella revue).
Performance highlights include performing for Peter Gabriel, Nelson Mandela and Bishop Tutu, and performing with Bobby McFerrin.
Suba is in demand as a choral director, arranger, educator and composer. She has composed and produced music for theatre, film, radio and dance. Highlights include collaborations with Deepa Mehta and the CBC.
Suba is currently a Soulpepper resident artist and co-chair of the JUNO World Music Committee. She is currently working as sound designer, composer and arranger for Anita Majumdar’s new work, Same Same But Different, premiering at Theatre Passe-Muraille as well as Alberta Theatre Projects in early 2014.
Suba has performed on numerous recordings and film soundtracks and has received several awards for her musical accomplishments.

Brenna MacCrimmon has been studying and performing the music of Turkey and the Balkans for over 25 years. She has performed in Turkey and abroad with Selim Sesler (trad Turkish Gypsy), Muammer Ketencoğlu (trad Balkan) and experimental rock group Baba Zula. She has also toured across Europe with Balkan beat DJ Shantel and the Bucovina Club Orkestra. She has recorded with the above musicians and has appeared as a guest on many divers albums and film soundtracks in Canada, the US and Europe. In 2010, she found herself in Moscow as a member of the cast of Bobble with Bobby McFerrin. Her theatre work includes musical director of the award-winning Volcano production of Goodness for both the Toronto and Helsinki productions. Her current projects include a retrospective of influential Turkish song-writer Fikret Kızılok with Toronto musicians Jack McRae and Deb Sinha, an electro-acoustic mélange of Turkish and Greek songs with Berlin duo Alcalica, and a high spirited two-person Hootenany with Toronto singer Alan Gasser.

Musician Bios

Toronto flutist Shelley Brown has distinguished herself as a performer of solo, chamber, experimental and orchestral music. She has appeared on the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheater Chamber Series as a soloist and with members of the Canadian Opera Company wind section with COC music director Johannes Debus and also with the Toronto chamber collective, ArtFarm.

Sara Constant is currently studying flute at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Music, under the direction of Camille Watts. She is a member of the editorial team at The WholeNote magazine, and has a strong interest in contemporary art and music.

Michelle Hwu is actively involved in the performance and business of music in Toronto. She has made appearances with the Esprit Orchestra, Royal Conservatory Orchestra, Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony, Toronto’s Sneak Peek Orchestra as well as the Li Delun Foundation. She has toured with Canada’s celebrated National Youth Orchestra, and as a winner of the 2011 YouTube Symphony Orchestra, performed at the Sydney Opera House under the direction of Michael Tilson Thomas.

Ed Reifel has worked regularly with The Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra/Opera Atelier, The National Ballet of Canada Orchestra and the Canadian Opera Company. In 2010 Ed played as Timpani Soloist in the Canadian Premiere of Concerto Fantasy for Two Timpanists and Orchestra by Philip Glass. Ed has performed and recorded with Final Fantasy/Owen Pallett as well as John Samson (The Weakerthans) and Christine Fellows, with whom he co-founded The Correction Line Ensemble. Ed is also heard on the soundtracks to the BBC television series The Tudors, Camelot and The Borgias. In 2012 Ed performed as percussionist/vocalist in a multi media show with songwriter Christine Fellows and visual artist Shary Boyle called Everything Under the Moon. Most recently Ed’s engagements include work with the Mark Morris Dance Group for the Luminato Festival, and recordings of Beethoven Symphonies 1,2 and 4 with Tafelmusik. On February 7th, Ed will give the Toronto premiere of Maya Badian’s Concerto Grosso for Timpani with Group of Twenty-Seven chamber orchestra. 

Camille Watts is flutist and piccoloist with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, and  a member of the graduate faculty at the University of Toronto Faculty of Music. As a member of the Hear Here Productions, she has performed in abandoned ghost towns, glacier lakes, and bars. She is a founder and board member of the Artists' Health Alliance.

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