Edmonton Winds makes a jubilant return to the Arden Theatre after a 12-year absence, and the concert’s title, We’re Back, is the ensemble’s deep expression of emotion at playing live once more.
“After 19 months of not seeing live music, this is exactly what everyone needs. We’ve been stuck watching Netflix or listening to the radio, but we haven’t been experiencing live concert music or art. Sports have been doing it for a while. The one thing we’re working hard at is rebooting the music community,” said music director Ray Baril. He is head of winds and brass at MacEwan University's department of music.
The 45-member ensemble of professional-level players, including St. Albert’s Darwin Krips (euphonium) and his wife Crystal (piccolo-flautist), will gather at the Arden on Saturday, Nov. 20 for a concert of popular classics.
At first glance the theatre space appears tight for 45 players, however Baril said, “It has a larger footprint than you might think. It fits our group well and we can maintain a comfortable level of physical distancing.”
A huge consideration was protecting the audience from the virus. The act of making music powered by human breath involves blowing air — and possibly virus droplets — across a room. Musicians will wear face masks when not playing and place bell covers over the flared part of their instruments to minimize the amount of aerosol production.
In addition, regrouping after COVID’s shutdowns demanded planning live concerts using a different metric. For Baril, that meant making sure everyone felt good about their sound.
“For 18 months, [musicians] didn’t pick up instruments. They had a lot of other priorities they had to deal with. Music became secondary, even tertiary in some cases. Most importantly, the challenges were great, but I wanted to provide familiarity.”
Since musicians were convening at rehearsals with different levels of skill, the simplest approach was to select works they had performed in previous years.
One was Percy Grainger’s British Waterside, a short, lively composition the composer adapted from early 19th and 20th century folk tunes.
“The music is very tuneful. It has great melodic lines. He challenges the listener and the player to create great lines of lyrical expression.”
Another favourite composer is Gustav Holst’s Second Suite in F, a tune that delivers a military marching flavour.
“Holst wrote significant pieces for the band. They sound great. They’re fun to play and the audience really likes them. This piece is like an old friend. You wrap yourself in a warm blanket of music on a cold day.”
On the other hand, Leonard Bernstein composed Slava! for his good friend Mstislav Rostropovich as a salute to the Russian’s first season with the National Symphony Orchestra.
“It’s another fun piece with some vaudevillian razz-ma-tazz. There are glissers in the trombone section and it’s kind of dance-like. 'Slava,' by the way, is the Russian word for glory.
From our backyard, Allan Gilliland, dean of MacEwan University’s Faculty of Fine Arts and Communication, contributes Love’s Red Rose, a nod to his Scottish heritage, and O Music, an award-nominated piece of music with Dominique Shulhorn performing a solo on alto sax.
Another great homespun work is Alberta composer John Estacio’s Prairie Ride and Sunset.
“It was first played by the Calgary Stampede Showband. When you listen to it, there are elements of cowboy movies and rhythmic rides. It has an agricultural, rural flavour of when Alberta was a settler province.”
We’re Back takes place at 2 p.m. The Arden Theatre is at 5 St. Anne Street. Tickets range from $5 to $20. Call 780-459-1542 or visit tickets.stalbert.ca/TheatreManager/1/