Welcome to PRESS PLAY, our recurring web series featuring exclusive performances of extraordinary solos and duos recorded in high quality at the Canadian Music Centre in Toronto. Each jam-packed episode includes intimate and informative conversation on the how and why behind the music with host Joyce To and the artists who create the work.
Sit back, relax and Press Play!
Episode 24: Contact Organum
May 19, 2022 7pm
Canadian composer Martin Arnold joins Press Play host Joyce To in a conversation about his work Contact Organum, performed by percussionist Tyler Cunningham. Martin writes, “Contact Organum is largely a piece of 2 or 3 or 4-part organum: a melody coloured harmonically and texturally by lines created around loose sets of rules (“organum”: Latin for “tool”; a tool to “organize”—also the name for the earliest European music notated that involves some kind of harmony).”
Episode 23: The Garden of Earthly Delights
April 21, 2022 7pm
Press Play host Joyce To speaks with Canadian composer Ian Cusson about his work The Garden of Earthly Delights. Performed by violinist Carol Fujino and pianist Gregory Oh, this work is the first in a cycle of works by Ian based on paintings of Hieronymous Bosch. The Garden of Earthly Delights is a reflection on the cycle of life and death in the natural world.
Episode 22: Small Meadows in Spring
April 7, 2022 7pm
In time for the arrival of spring, Canadian composer Anna Höstman speaks with Press Play host Joyce To about her work Small Meadows in Spring, the final of three works that we present this season written for pianist and harpsichordist Wesley Shen. The work was inspired by an 1881 Alfred Sisley painting of the same title depicting a pathway winding along a river. Anna composed this piece after returning to Victoria, BC after living in Toronto for nine years.
Episode 21: Shelter
February 10, 2022 7pm
Canadian composer Dorothy Chang speaks with Joyce To about her work Shelter, performed by Sanya Eng (harp). The work reflects on the slowed pace of life during 2020 and the strengthened bonds of parents with their children through the additional time spent together at home. Written for Janelle Nadeau of Turning Point Ensemble, Shelter references Eva Cassidy’s cover of “Songbird”, a song that Janelle sang to her children during the pandemic.
Episode 20: Vines and Shadows
January 27, 2022 7pm
Press Play Host Joyce To speaks with Canadian composer Anna Höstman about Vines and Shadows, the first of three works that she wrote expressly for pianist and harpsichordist Wesley Shen. Anna writes, “When first composing for harpsichord, I was really taken by how visceral and percussive the release mechanism of the harpsichord could sound. I became interested in how letting go of pitches in an emphasized way sounded like tearing little holes in a sonority, leaving behind traces and patterns like ghosts and shadows.”
Episode 19: The Battle of Manassas
January 6, 2022 7pm
Pianist Gregory Oh discusses and performs The Battle of Manassas (1863) by American composer Thomas “Blind Tom” Wiggins.
The Battle of Manassas was Wiggins’ most popular piece, written when he was just 14 years old. It is a programmatic depiction of the Battle of Manassas which took place on July 21, 1861 during the American Civil War. Wiggins employs extended techniques on the piano, including tone clusters, predating techniques used in 20th Century composition by nearly 100 years.
Episode 18: Varied Thrush
December 16, 2021 7pm
Canadian composer Anna Höstman speaks with Joyce To about her new work Varied Thrush, performed by Wesley Shen (harpsichord). This broadcast of this recording is the premiere of the work.
Anna and Wesley have an extensive composer/performer relationship. Anna writes, “Varied Thrush was composed in the summer of 2021. It is a reverie on the tangles of forest undergrowth. My warmest thanks to Wesley Shen for his beautiful performances, and to Ryan Scott and Continuum Ensemble for the generous support in recording and presenting these pieces.”
Episode 17: The 5th Season
December 2, 2021 7pm
Japanese composer Keiko Harada joins Joyce To in conversation about her work The 5th Season performed by Rob MacDonald (guitar) and Matti Pulkki (accordion).
Keiko writes “The 5th Season indicates something that did not exist before, something that is out of the ordinary, and I have endeavoured to incorporate the new and unusual into the fabric of the work. However, following the catastrophic events on March 11, 2011, Japan has actually started to experience a “fifth season” that had not previously existed. It is a situation in which everyday life has itself become a condition that never existed before, and this has forced me as a composer to rethink the meaning of the previously nonexistent and the unusual in the domain of creativity. Far from offering any answers to the problems that the emergence of the fifth season poses, this piece itself can be likened to a large question mark.”
Episode 16: Comodidad del Aturdido
November 4, 2021 7pm
Argentinian composer Mauro Zannoli joins for a conversation about his work Comodidad del Aturdido, performed by Anthony Thompson (clarinet).
Of the work, Mauro writes, “Comodidad del Aturdido (Stunned’s Comfort), composed in 2018 for Bass Clarinet and multichannel Live Electronics, is a reaction, a scream, and a metaphor for excess information and the overload of stimuli we are immersed in. The piece is composed around a saturation process in both the instrument and electronics. A palette of saturated sounds from the Clarinet (noisy multiphonics, voice singing and shouting into the instrument, and harmonics played frenetically) feeds the electronic device, adding another noisy layer by different distortions, granulation, and feedback processes. I composed this piece in close collaboration with Martin Moore, a fantastic clarinet player with whom I have explored the timbrical possibilities of the Bass Clarinet.”
Episode 15: A Cry From An Indian Wife
October 14, 2021 7pm
A Cry from an Indian Wife was first premiered in Toronto January 2017 and is a setting of E. Pauline Johnson (1861–1913) who is of Mohawk descent. The poem was published in 1885 and was one of the first about colonial injustices written from an Indigenous perspective for a white Canadian audience. Here, Johnson complicates notions of Nationalism and Indigenous identity. Writing about the Red River and Northwest Resistance from the viewpoint of an Indigenous woman whose husband goes to fight white Canadian forces, Johnson explores the conflicted psychology of a person attempting to sympathize with the enemy.The text is based on the events of the battle of Cut Knife Creek during the Riel Rebellion. First published by Charles G.D. Roberts in the Toronto magazine, The Week, in 1885.
Episode 14: In Memoriam Muhal Richard Abrams
September 23, 2021 7pm
American composer Dr. Tyshawn Sorey joins in conversation about his work In Memoriam: Muhal Richard Abrams performed by Carol Fujino (violin) and Joyce To (glockenspiel)
Muhal Richard Abrams was one of Tyshawn Sorey’s mentors and the founding president of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians. Abrams’ legacy is at once musical, spiritual, and communal. “It is a hard connection to put into words,” says Sorey, “but there was a kinship with Muhal that I hadn’t yet experienced with anyone else. The time that I spent with him on and offstage has proven invaluable beyond measure.”
Episode 13: Narayana’s Cows
August 19, 2021 7pm
In this first Press Play episode of our 37th season, we present Tom Johnson’s Narayana’s Cows in a co-presentation with the National Youth Orchestra of Canada featuring the incredible narration of Rhoma Spencer, and the percussion and piano sections of the NYOC.
In the late 1980s, British composer Tom Johnson was fascinated by a mathematical query attributed to Narayana, an Indian mathematician in the 14th century:
“A cow produces one calf every year. Beginning in its fourth year, each calf produces one calf at the beginning of each year. How many cows and calves are there altogether after 20 years?”
Episode 12: Light and Water
June 10, 2021 7pm
Composer Linda Catlin Smith joins in conversation about her work Light and Water featuring Paul Widner (cello) and Ryan Scott (vibraphone)
Light and Water (2010) was written for Andy Smith (cello) and Rick Sacks (vibraphone) as a gift for my mother’s 75th birthday. She lived at the very end of Long Island, NY, where the light and water are always changing. – Linda C. Smith
Episode 11: Cinque
May 27, 2021 7pm
In this episode of Press Play, we feature Cinque, a piano solo in five movements by American composer Alvin Singleton, performed by Jackie Leung. Although this extraordinary work premiered in 1969, this is the first time the work has been recorded. Jackie Leung and Alvin Singleton introduce this fascinating work.
Episode 10: Malfunctionlieder
May 20, 2021 7pm
In this episode of PRESS PLAY, we feature Malfunctionlieder by Nicole Lizée. This truly captivating work pairs a duo of soprano Maeve Palmer and pianist Joy Lee with video. As you will see the result is an incredibly virtuosic work fully saturated in new technologies based in borrowed ideas. We welcome Toronto composer Bekah Simms to co-curate this episode of Press Play, with an introduction to Nicky’s work, and fascinating insight into the idea of borrowed material in contemporary music.
Episode 9: Greed Machine
May 6, 2021 7pm
Greed Machine is a short one movement piece featuring Jackie Leung (piano) and Ryan Scott (vibraphone) which explores the sustaining power and color of both instruments. The piece is based primarily upon large blocks of sustained sound with periodic interjections of running figures. The work explores the resonance of the vibraphone and piano, and as we learn directly from Mr. Singleton, is inspired by the aesthetic of the Modern Jazz Quartet featuring Milt Jackson on vibes and John Lewis on piano. Also featured in this episode is Mr. Singleton’s delightful short piano solo, written for students, Changing Faces.
Episode 8: Ricercar
April 29, 2021 7pm
Paul Widner has been a core member of Continuum’s ensemble since its creation in 1985, and here by his own request and introduced by composer Linda Catlin Smith, he performs Ricercar (originally written for baroque cello) on the modern cello.
“I love the sound of the Baroque cello, so I was very excited to write a piece for Elinor Frey, (commissioned by Daniel Cooper). I think of this piece as a melody in search of its harmony. The first part of the work explores a dance-like line; later the melody is lost into a place of utter spareness and stillness “almost like coming to terms with one’s innermost qualities“ and later again there is the appearance of a melodic chain of rich chords. My thanks go to Elinor Frey for suggesting the title (the word Ricercar means to search out), and for her beautiful interpretation of my music.” – Linda C. Smith
Episode 7: In My Own Skin
April 1, 2021 7pm
As Jackie Leung (piano) wrote to composer Alvin Singleton: “To me— In My Own Skin, seems to reflect your strong experiences with piano, jazz, and European classical training and your stance on how categorization defines oneself narrowly — instead In My Own Skin, seems to me like the music that just breathes within your own skin — as a result of your experiences with music.” – As you will hear in the episode, Mr. Singleton joins us in conversation and strongly agreed with this observation. more information HERE
Episode 6: NoaNoa
January 14, 2021 7pm
NoaNoa is a groundbreaking work written in collaboration with flutist Camilla Hoitenga, with electronics under the supervision of Jean-Baptiste Barriėre and programmed by Xavier Chabot. According to flutist Leslie Newman, “despite her desire to write a piece for solo flute, and with Camilla Hoitenga already in mind, Kaija Saariaho found the single line potential of the flute a frustration. So she found a way to make it an extraordinary, polyphonic instrument by employing singing, speaking and multiphonics. The voice is used to speak fragments of Paul Gauguin’s text – sometimes whispering, sometimes screaming, sometimes uttering a stream of percussive consonants – while at the same time playing the flute. Additionally, there are 63 pedal points written into the music with precise specificity. The pedal is used to start and end resonance, as well as to trigger pre-recorded sounds. In NoaNoa, Kaija Saariaho’s preoccupation with colour and texture distills into an exotic and sensual soundscape.”
Episode 5: Leslie Newman
December 11, 2020 8pm
Leslie Newman is not only one of the most celebrated and internationally renowned flutists in Canada, she is a musician’s musician held in the highest regard by her many colleagues. As an accomplished solo, chamber and orchestral flutist, Leslie is also a new music specialist and core member of Continuum’s ensemble. This Press Play episode features Leslie in a recital of extraordinary new solo works and foreshadows a concert soon-to-come featuring Leslie as soloist with the Continuum ensemble. In that future concert and this episode we feature world premieres by Anna Höstman and other works by Elena Firsova and Iman Habibi.
Episode 4: Amy Brandon
November 26, 2020 8pm
Based in Truro, Nova Scotia, Amy Brandon is an incredible composer who specializes in new technologies in music. Amy first worked with Continuum at PIVOT 2019 and she has recently made a splash on the international scene featured at the famed Gaudeamus Festival in Utrecht and received a new commission from the JACK Quartet in NYC. In a co-curated concert soon-to-come, Continuum will explore wearable, augmented reality and generative composition technologies with Amy. For this episode of Press Play, we discuss this exciting programming with many examples of the very newest ideas in technology and music, and explore her new app Boundary; an interactive augmented reality sound sculpture created as part of Screen Dive for the Gaudeamus Festival 2020.
Download the app HERE and play along with us at home!
Episode 3: Bongani Ndodana-Breen
November 12, 2020 8pm
South African composer Dr. Bongani Ndodana-Breen joins in conversation about his work Imbila performed by Rhoma Spencer (storyteller) and Nikki Joshi (percussion).
Little Imbila, the rock dassie, lays in the sun all day while his friends go to fetch their tails from Mamlambo, the river spirit:
The warmth of the African sun felt so good to Imbila as he stood up to stretch and yawn. “Ah, they don’t know how fine it feels to relax in the sun, rather than march all day”, he thought…
Join the family together for this clever warning about procrastination with an introduction from Bongani Ndodana-Breen; many of whom you’ll recall as the progenitor of the groundbreaking Ensemble Noir in the early 2000s in Toronto along with current members of Continuum.
Performance from Press Play Episode 3
Episode 2: HATCH Extras
October 28, 2020
If you saw our HATCH watch parties at the end of August, you already know you’re in for a treat. Some of our participants this year went above and beyond the call and recorded secondary works for your enjoyment after months of mentorship with our core ensemble members. We catch up with these extraordinary up-and-coming artists in conversation and listen to their incredible performances for the first time.
1) Roxanne Sicard, violin, performs Soliloque No. 2 (1994) by Serge Arcuri (CA)
2) Madison Freed, clarinet, performs Vocalise #1 (1989) by Murray Adaskin (CA)
3) Jackie Leung, piano, performs Improvisation: Reflecting on the poem ‘Caged Bird’ by Maya Angelou
Performances from Press Play Episode 2
Episode 1: Rodney Sharman & Atom Egoyan
October 16, 2020
Last June 5th, we were to premiere SHOW ROOM an opera by composer Rodney Sharman and librettist Atom Egoyan that was 5 years in the making and now postponed until the 2022/23 season. Join us for a conversation with Rodney and Atom alongside a world premiere piano reduction of an aria from the opera featuring mezzo soprano Andrea Ludwig and pianist Gregory Oh – and some fun!
SHOW ROOM excerpt: for Madeline* (2020)
The Pronoun Symphony (2018)