You can imagine the Music and Beyond directors meeting to decide what to present to their Ottawa audiences. Now, how are we going to capture peoples' interest this year? they must have asked each other. On this year's list were combinations of music and law, music and Shakespeare, music and haute cuisine, circus acrobatics, pizza concerts, music plus art, etc. One of the "...and Beyond" events in the latest Music and Beyond festival was Monday's creatively programmed concert in which every item on the programme had some connection to gardens or plants. The concert began at 11am, but for the hour before that I could have taken part in some easy yoga stretches on a mat. I didn't arrive early enough for this and anyway thought my bike rides to and forth would be exercise enough.
The two pianists, Luke Bell (who looks like a blond Schubert) and Valerie Dueck, opened the concert with a duet from Ravel's Mother Goose Suite: Le jardin féerique. Solos for the piano followed, first by Ms. Dueck playing a Dupont piece, Du soleil au jardin, then the famous and sentimental To A Wild Rose by MacDowell. My son and I used to try out a version of this for 'cello and piano. The next piece, Debussy's Jardins sous la pluie, performed by Mr. Bell, was much harder and faster moving, not something I could have attempted, although my mother told me today that she used to play it.
The second, longer half of the concert was taken up by the performance of a decidedly strange, modern work by a young composer and Yoga practitioner Elissar Hanna, who was on stage to direct it, wearing a black shawl. Also on stage were Mr. Bell and his page turner, two percussionists with a whole array of instruments, two trumpet players and a trombonist, and four singers. They gave us Ms Hanna's version (did she write the words as well or were they a paraphrase of the Qur'an?) of the Garden of Eden story. Satan, or the Serpent, was Iblis in this version, so it wasn't the same as in Genesis. The singers doubled as narrators, intoning the story between arias in their speaking voices. The words of God were spoken in unison by all four of them, an effective ploy that reminded me of the special effects in the film Prospero's Books. Most of the narrative was accompanied by thundery rolls on the timpani, and in the fourth section, by weird sounds from elsewhere in the percussion section. The brass added their voices here and there. As far as I remember, the only completely unaccompanied part was at the point of the story where God Created Eve (soprano solo).