Archive for the ‘Performances’ Category

David and Goliath Fundraiser Rocked the Dark!

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

Wow. What an amazing sold-out fundraiser on Saturday night for Echo and by Mariposa in the Schools.

In honour of Earth hour, the first half of the concert was performed with lights out. Holy Trinity Church looked beautiful in tiny pools of candlelight stretching all the way back.

Just how dark was it? Well, I got to open the show with my colleagues and co-conductors, Becca Whitla and Alan Gasser, singing a just-learned arrangement of the Afro-Cuban “Obbatala” by Glenda del Monte Escalante. You can judge for yourself:

Yep. Pretty dark. That darkness brought a huge gift, though: intense listening. Like everyone’s attention and energy brought us all palpably closer together. Makes me think we should perform in near-dark a lot more.

Echo sounded amazing. There were definitely several (many?) moments that more than a few members weren’t sure what to expect next, and we didn’t get lots of rehearsal time on a few joint numbers, but Echo members committed to the spirit of the performance and sang with great commitment and happiness. And that was clear from their performance. I had a few people say to me afterwards that the Choir sang with such visible and audible joy.   Particularly moving was the Chris Rawling’s Earth Chant that Echo sang in round behind Chris. And the close of the show, singing “Daniel in the Lion’s Den” with Ken Whitely…so wonderful!

The performers were amazing. Amazing in their performances to be sure, but also incredibly warm and generous in spirit.  Personal highlights: getting introduced to the music of Cameroonian artist Njacko Backo on kalimba; the stupendous performance by Gurpreet Chana–otherwise known as the Tabla Guy–playing his composition “Gratitude” on a percussion-like instrument that was recently invented (anyone out there remember what it’s called? A bit like an upside down steel pan, but more bell-like sound…); a wonderful and hilarious story by Marylyn Peringer; an incredible spoken word piece by Michael St. George called “I do” about his commitment to art and social justice; a raucous rendition of “It Ain’t Necessarily So” by David Anderson, accompanying himself with accordian…

I could go on, actually. There wasn’t one disappointing moment in the evening. Even the snacks were amazing.

Thanks for a wonderful evening, everyone.

If you missed this show, you’ll get a chance to catch Echo’s Spring concert on the afternoon of May 1, 2011. Details coming soon…

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Echo/Mariposa Fundraiser March 26, 2011

Monday, February 14th, 2011

David & Goliath Earth Hour Arts Celebration Fundraiser
an Evening of Music, Song and Story
to support the Echo Women’s Choir and Mariposa In The Schools

Saturday,March 26, 2011 7 to 10 p.m.

Church of Holy Trinity, Toronto

Such an exciting line-up:Ken Whiteley, David Anderson, Michael St George, Njacko Backo, Marylyn Peringer, Chris Rawlings, and the Cuban Percussion Ensemble. And of course, Echo Women’s Choir (the wonderful choir that I serve as a guest conductor this season).

Come join us! Silent Auction plus  Nibbles and Cash bar.

Tickets $25 Sponsors $100

Proceeds support 2 great organizations: Echo and Mariposa in the Schools

For more info: www.echowomenschoir.ca

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Performance Echo Women’s Choir: Dec 12

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

Come to Holy Trinity Church in downtown Toronto on Sunday December 12 at  7:30 pm to see Echo Women’s Choir perform our concert “Gardens of Song.”  It features songs from Margaret Atwood’s latest novel In the Wake of the Flood and new choral arrangements for songs written by the Juno-award-nominated Jennifer Foster.

And it featurs my conducting debut with Echo. This is a totally fabulous group of women from all walks of life and all corners of Toronto.  I’m so honoured to sing with them, and thrilled to conduct.

And Margaret Atwood may ACTUALLY ATTEND THE CONCERT.  At least, she tweeted that she was planning to come after she heard us sing at the premiere of the film In the Year of the Flood in October, Ron Mann’s documentary of her carbon-neutral, around-the-world book tour for The Year of the Flood. One of the first essays I wrote in my undergrad was on her novel Surfacing for my first class in Canadian literature.  Her books are a part of my life. And now I may actually get to meet her.

This is one of those moments in which I feel so lucky to live in Toronto.

Full details about the concert are here: http://www.echowomenschoir.ca/

Hope to see you there!

poster for Echo concert

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if i collapse onstage, just drag me off and keep singing

Monday, October 18th, 2010

last night I saw a documentary about an incredible group of singers: young @ heart. I was in the library with my kids, and my two-year-old pulled the DVD off a library shelf and handed it to me saying “der you go!”  Seemed like a sign, so I took it out and watched it.  I laughed and cried.  I was inspired and challenged.

If you’re not familiar with the doc, it’s about a  chorus of seniors in Massechussetts that sings surprising repertoire.  Surprising in the choices (80-yr-olds singing Sonic Youth? The Ramones? David Bowie?) and surprising in how poignant and appropriate and fresh the songs become through their performance and interpretation. Through their very voices.

My favourite song (although it was darn hard to choose) was “Road to Nowhere” by the Talking Heads.  I’d like to embed the video for you, but can’t–maybe due to copyright?–so please. Take a sec, and click on the link and watch it now, then close the window and come back to me:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-wgrM-R6yfY

Wasn’t that AWESOME?  I don’t know about you but there was so much that I missed in the words of the original that were striking here…”We know what we’re knowing but we don’t know what we’ve seen”  and “we’re not little children and we know what we want”.  And dig the arrangement–the solo voice and chorus completing each other’s sentences and thoughts.  Individual and collective, continuous and disjointed.  And what a brilliant mix of instruments–piano, accordian, violin, drums. As Steven Holden of the New York Times wrote about Young@Heart’s rendition of Stayin’ Alive, their perspective infuses urgency into the music and lyrics:

Sung by people approaching the end of their lives, the song is no longer about strutting through the urban jungle with your elbows out; it is a blunt survival anthem. These singers, most of them well- rehearsed amateurs, refuse to go gently into that good night. For them music is oxygen.

I was inspired on several levels.  First on the front that I imagine many people felt…a “wow! if they can do it at THEIR age, I can do anything I want! It’s never too late!”  And this is true, I feel hopeful that my getting older doesn’t necessarily mean growing useless, as our society seems to assume about ageing. But the movie’s focus on seniors, whose stories are rarely considered by people related to them, let alone features of movies, makes this an exceptional topic.  Turns out we never stop wanting to belong, to make contributions, to be creative, and to have our art and consequently ourselves, taken seriously. My grandma and grandpa were in a residential home for the last few years of their lives. It was like a purgatory. A waiting station till death.  How much different would lives be if as we grew older, we knew we could continue to be valued, contributing members to social and musical scenes?

There’s an urgency to the singing–death is near for a chorus whose average age is 80. Several members say that if something “happens” to them, they’d want the chorus to keep going.  One lady says, “if i collapse onstage, just drag me off and keep singing.”  They have a passionate commitment to their music and their community like I’ve never seen. There’s a stripped-down, raw quality to Young@Heart’s singing, and willingness or perhaps urgency to be unrefined that cuts through social mores. A leaning on each other that’s about survival as much as it’s about friendship.

Something else occured to me as I watched the singers.  Singing is less about finding a perfect voice and more about finding the right container for the voice, no matter how unusual the container or the voice. Or maybe unusual is a prerequisite.  Some of the chorus members were ‘good singers’ in the ways that we learn to recognize ‘good singing’–full, pleasant voices singing on pitch, words and melodies fully remembered. But many weren’t ‘good singers’, and those were the voices, by far, that were the most satisfying. Huge and lusty and frayed.  Filled with colours of shouting, crying, wavering, frailty, strength.  Voices bubbling over with human experience.  Voices that forgot words and rhythms.  All so satisfying, and not in a “oh aren’t they cute?” kind of way.  In a really challenging and satisfying way that spoke to the experience of being human. So it struck me that artistic excellence is not so much about perfecting our voices to shoehorn ourselves into particular established forms and expectations.  It’s about finding the container (both in repertoire and in presentation) to express our full humanness.  It’s at once familiar and strange.  Disruptive and immensely satisfying.

I guess I should let my 2-yr-old pick my movies for me more often.

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conducting myself accordingly

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

I just got back from my first rehearsal of the season with Echo Women’s Choir. I’ve sung with Echo for many years. I love the world music and community-minded, loving atmosphere.  Plus, it’s really amazing to sing with 80 other women in the incredibly resonant Holy Trinity Church in downtown Toronto (yes, this is the same Church of the Trinity Session by the Cowboy Junkies!).   I haven’t been able to sing with Echo for the last year because of school, so it feels even more lovely to be back. Like reuniting with an old, dear friend.

But this year is a little different.  Becca Whitla and Alan Gasser, the choir’s co-directors, are taking a hiatus come January to study conducting in Cuba.  They’ve asked me to lead the choir for the Spring session.

Yep.  I’m conducting an 80-voice choir for 2011.

Are you surprised at this turn of events?  I am, a little.  Oh, I have some conducting experience, and I’ve worked with many groups as a song leader, but this, I’ll admit, is pushing my experience and ability to a whole new level. I’ve considered myself more of a singer and voice teacher than a conductor.  But the  series of events that led to this opportunity unfolded  like the stars aligning. And so this opportunity is here for me now.

I am totally scared and excited. That seems like the right place to be.

At the rehearsal tonight, I was warmly greeted by many choir members, who all seemed excited at the news of my role in the new year.  It’s reassuring to have their faith.  And I’ll be conducting a few of the pieces for the Winter concert in addition to singing with the sopranos. Sort of an apprenticeship. So hopefully that’ll ease me in. Get the choir and me a little bit used to each other.

Looks like it’s going to be a big year.

oh, yes, and the spring concert is on the theme of work. The concert’s on May Day.  So if you have any suggestions for songs about working, particularly for women and work, let me know.

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the joy and agony of performance

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010
Jen and Deanna dancing

Deanna teaches Jen to two-step

We just finished our two-night run of the east-end edition of the Undone Cabaret. It was, literally, a full house both nights.  Without suggesting that our performance was awesome, I would like to state that, in general,  house concerts are a wonderful thing.  The set-up is cozy, personal, and full of sparkle. It makes everyday living extraordinary, turning intimate personal space into a public performance space.

And houses are weird performance spaces. When Jen and I first performed the cabaret at a house concert in the West End, we were confronted with a space that simply couldn’t be set up as a traditional musical concert space, with audience over here watching the performers over there.  Audience members had to sit all over the room, almost facing each other.  We needed help to figure out how to perform in this space. Under the gifted direction of Fides Krucker, Jen and I stopped thinking of the house as a challenge to overcome and more as an opportunity to be inventive with how we performed this show. And so we sang in the kitchen. We sang on the stairs. We stood on sofas, and held on to basement door handles. By really using the house as a performance space, our little musical cabaret became a full performance that straddles theatrical performance and music concert.

me singing In the Still of the Night

"In the Still of the Night"

And this weekend’s performance built on that work.  I feel proud of what I accomplished. My performance wasn’t flawless. Man, dealing with performance nerves and production anxieties meant that my challenges were cut out for me.  There were moments, though, in both nights, where I got to that sweet spot of just fully inhabiting the music in the space. Just a few moments. But they were there.  The other moments were filled with the constant running internal narration, wondering if people were enjoying themselves, wondering if I should have reviewed the words to my next song, wondering if I could chicken out and not lie across strangers’ laps while singing. Does this happen to you when you perform?  How do you move yourself out of that space to be more fully present in the performance? I found that a few check-ins with my body and voice structure sometimes helped.  Like trying to keep my palate lifted and my tongue soft. Chin down.  Soft knees.  Another useful approach was simply to listen to what was happening. Pull my attention outside of myself, and really listen to Jen as she was singing, to Tania on piano, and Chris on bass.  Truly listen and let the sound drop into my body, discover how it affected me. To be fully present in the here and now.

These weren’t fail-safe techniques, but they sure helped. I did have a fantastic time overall!

Thanks to everyone who came out to see us perform. Thanks to Chris and Tania: it’s such a blessing to perform with such accomplished musicians. Thanks to my family, including my mom who flew in from Edmonton and was affixing labels to CDs all day Friday, and my partner who took care of the food and the space and our boys AND me. And above all, thanks to Jen, my singing partner and friend.  I never would have done this show without her and I never would have discovered as much about singing and performing without sharing this journey.

Stay tuned for the next iterations of the Undone Cabaret!

Deanna and Chris

Chris and Deanna

By the way, the pics here were taken by Matthew Piers at our dress rehearsal. (Thanks, Matthew!)

If you’d like to see a few more, check out “undone cabaret” on facebook and look for our August photo album.


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undone recordings

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

Woot!  We’re going to go into the studio on Monday to record our favourite songs from the Undone Cabaret.  By “we,” I mean Jen Cook, Tania Gill (on piano), and Chris Banks (on bass). By “the studio,” I mean a big empty room that used to be a dining hall, in which my amazing colleague Augusto Monk will use his equipment to capture our magic. And maybe add some percussion?  What’d’ya say, Augusto?

I like the idea of undone recordings.  Really, I just meant recording songs from the Undone Cabaret show.  But isn’t it a bit of a mind-twister to think of a recording as unfinished?  Can we go into that old dining hall and remain open and raw and unfinished and record what emerges?  My hope is that we’ll be able to more closely capture the feel of a live performance, rather than the pinnacle of recorded perfection.

With a lot of sweat labour and some luck, we’ll have some CDs at the show on Aug 27 and 28! Have you reserved tickets yet?  Saturday is close to selling out, and Friday isn’t too far behind.  I’ve started cleaning the house–well, the front porch. But it’s a start. We’ve got a line on some chairs.  The sangria recipe is selected and the mini-cheesecakes have been identified for purchase.  Yep, the show is shaping up!

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My STAR Interview!

Thursday, August 12th, 2010

I am blessed to know many incredible women. One of those women is Sarah Hopen,  Chief Administrator of STAR Company: the Society of Technicians for Administrative Removal. STAR Company is in the business of taking care of the book-keeping, filing, and organizing of creative people so that creative people can…well…create.

Thanks for that, Sarah.

And thanks for this: STAR Company profiles an artist in each newsletter, and this month, I got to be interviewed! With Sarah’s permission, I’m reposting the interview here, but if you want to see it in its original setting, go for it.

Oh, and STAR Company runs the Starry Nights house concert series, which raises funds for Toronto’s Art Starts–a really excellent organization promoting arts-based community development in Toronto.  Starry Nights premiered Jen’s and my Undone Cabaret in May, which has opened up a bunch of new, exciting opportunities for us.

So yeah. Thanks, STAR Company.


Deanna’s Interview

Share a little bit about your approach to voice work. How did you come to be where you are today?

[Deanna Yerichuk] It’s been a long road, and there’s no end in sight. Fortunately, I’ve learned that it really is all about the journey and not the destination. My first voice teacher was Alice Wright in Edmonton, and I started studying with her when I was 17. Alice was the first person to get me to see beauty in myself. She knocked down all sorts of arbitrary walls and defenses I’d set for myself and introduced me to a whole new level of risk-taking: I found out that doing things that scared me tended to open up really interesting possibilities. I took a diploma program in music theatre (from Grant MacEwan in Edmonton if anyone is curious). I still have a soft spot for music theatre, even though I haven’t acted in years. When I moved to Toronto, I was introduced to folk music (yes, replete with guitar), world musics, and choral singing, all of which suits my desire to collaborate and discover and explore sounds outside of my comfort range. I now study with Fides Krucker who is incredible. From Fides, I’ve learned not only that it’s ok to make un-beautiful sounds, but in fact these wild and unbeautiful sounds can be immensely satisfying for both performer and audience. She has also taught me that learning how to sing is all about engaging opposites: technical precision with body and emotional intuition; mental acuity with body knowledge; learning to control with learning to let go. I’m finding singing and performing more exciting, more satisfying as I approach it less with judgment and more with curiosity. So now I perform solo and with groups and choirs, and I teach singing out of my east end studio. Oh, I also have 2 boys, which is surprisingly excellent training in creativity, curiosity, and gaining/losing control.

You are not only a vocal performer and teacher but also a researcher. Where do these experiences overlap for you? What is your area of interest right now?

[Deanna Yerichuk] Whew, that’s a tough question. These areas all overlap in sticky, tangled, complicated ways. For me, what it all finally comes down to is the human voice and its capacity to express itself. I’ve been curious for years about adults singing and reclaiming their voices: how many adults don’t sing because someone somewhere along the line told them they couldn’t. Or shouldn’t. And how finding and reclaiming their singing voices becomes a transformative experience, often also leading to finding a spiritual voice, an emotional voice, a political voice, an embodied and connected voice. I’m particularly curious to find out how singing in community changes us personally and in our communities. How has Westernized perfection of singing colonized our voices and how can we decolonize and reclaim or find our songs, our sounds, our souls? And can I ask all of these questions without losing sight of the fact that singing often brings immense joy and pleasure?

What is your absolute greatest pleasure as a singer?

[Deanna Yerichuk] There’s this…I don’t know…I think of it as the sweet spot. The moment in performance when the technician in my brain stops nattering at me, and my ego falls away. The past falls away. The future falls away. There is only now. This moment. My body, my heart and my voice all line up in one conduit of musical experience between me and the audience. I’m no longer performing…I’m…singing. This is, hands down, the most gratifying moment. So far, they’ve only come in fits and starts, but I’d like to stretch them, like toffee, throughout my performance and my practice. The sweet spot is rather elusive. I can’t hunt for it. I just have to do my work as a singer, and sink in.

Do you have any upcoming performances or workshops?

[Deanna Yerichuk] I have both! I will be performing with Jen Cook in the Undone Cabaret on August 27 and 28 in east Toronto. It’s a semi-staged house concert with Tania Gill on piano and Chris Banks on bass. We did the show is the West End in May to wonderful response, so we’re looking forward to remounting the show in a different setting. I’m also teaching a couple of classes this summer: a class that focuses on foundations of singing (starting with breathwork) and a new class called “Solo Salon” in which participants work on a solo piece with me and an accompanist over 6 weeks, and the participants perform their solos in an evening salon at my east end studio. It should be fun! If anyone wants more info, they can check out my web site at www.yerichuk.com or email me at singing@yerichuk.com

What is playing on your iPod right now?

[Deanna Yerichuk] my tastes have been largely influenced by CBC radio 2 and WFUV in New York lately: Meaghan Smith, Regina Specktor, K’Naan, the Decemberists, the Avett Brothers. Much to the surprise of my inner teenager I’m loving more country, especially Johnny Cash and Dolly Parton. Tom Waits often makes an appearance, along with Leonard Cohen.

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undone cabaret: new performance dates!

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

Jen and I are thrilled to announce that we’ve got two more end-of-summer performances planned for the undone cabaret.  Mark your calendars for Aug 27 and 28 in Leslieville–east end Toronto.  Come and see the show that has been described as “a hedonistically divine evening capable of stoking a lustful fire, and healing a broken heart.”

I’m so excited to work with Jen again–such an incredibly bright, warm, intoxicating voice. Yes, I could easily drink a case of her.  And accompanied  by Tania Gill on piano and Chris Banks on bass?  As if that isn’t total awesomeness right there.

We’ll announce more details as we’ve got them, and check upcoming performances for details.

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