A celebration of artful spontaneity is coming to the Sunshine Coast, as a longtime Vancouver-based nonprofit invites the public to express creativity alongside world-class musicians.
The New Orchestra Workshop Society (NOW) will unite the talents of vocalists and instrumentalists for its Exaltation Dance Party on March 1 at Roberts Creek Community Hall.
“Improvised music [involves] jumping in — sometimes with some parameters, but often with none — and starting and seeing where it goes,” said Lisa Cay Miller, NOW’s artistic and executive director.
The NOW Society was founded in 1977 to connect musicians by creating a community dedicated to improvisation. Egalitarianism and the importance of listening have been essential values of the organization over its five decades, said Miller. She herself is a jazz pianist with a doctorate in composition from the University of British Columbia.
“We’ll be taking whatever skills that we each have as musicians,” explained Miller, “and then bringing that to play, sometimes playing things we’ve never played before, sometimes referring to our traditions or responding to other traditions, sometimes extending the instruments past what they’re normally used for.”
Attendees will be seated around the perimeter of the performers and encouraged to respond through impromptu movement.
At similar events held previously at NOW’s dedicated space near Vancouver’s Chinatown, the musicians themselves roam the studio, relaxing the bonds that traditionally tether them to the stage.
NOW’s collaborations between performers and spectators evoke the musical dialogue between a live electronic DJ and gyrating dancers, but with instruments normally associated with jazz: saxophone, bass, drums, and trumpet.
Three Sunshine Coast contributors plan to join the multinational lineup of nearly a dozen musicians.
Vocalist Viviane Houle is a recording artist and professional performing improviser who has sung with Vancouver Opera and the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. Sax player Graham Ord has performed across North America, Japan and Belgium. Ord regularly appears with the Anagram ensemble, specializing in jazz and Latin repertoire. Freelance bassist James Meger co-curates an interdisciplinary performance series called Sawdust Collective and plays with his recently-founded band called How to Do Nothing. During the pandemic-triggered slowdown in gigs, Meger improvised by finding work on a Sunshine Coast fishing vessel, harvesting prawns instead of plucking bass.
The March 1 dance party is the result of a chance conversation between Miller and New York City-based trumpeter Aquiles Navarro. The two artists appeared at last year’s A L’ARME! Festival in Berlin. Navarro was booked to play at Vancouver’s Chan Centre this month with the jazz band Irreversible Entanglements, which is headlined by Moor Mother (Camae Ayewa).
“Aquiles mentioned he would love to stay around a little longer,” Miller recalled. “And I said, let’s make that happen. I’ve been really interested in the Sunshine Coast, and I love the feeling there of how the community helps each other out. It’s a really great match for how we do things in our practice.”
The improvising musicians will include professional violinists (and siblings) Joshua and Jesse Zubot. Amsterdam-based guitarist Jasper Stadhouders is also appearing. Toronto-based saxophonist Karen Ng, who performs with improvising ensembles including the Rob Clutton Trio, p2p, Kind Mind, Craig Dunsmuir and the Dun Dun Band is another Canadian contributor.
Audience members will bring their own food and drink to fuel a full-body synergistic experience.
“Music is so instant,” said Miller, “and in improv everyone is responding instantly. So you have access to a type of communication that is timeless and deep, both joyful and heavy, sad and wonderful.”
Tickets for the Exaltation Dance Party are priced on a sliding scale. Browse to nowsociety.org/event/concert-events for details.