Brian Quirt and Martin Julien
"Trust Nightswimming to turn a
standard performance into an experimental theatrical journey."
- NOW Magazine
images from the Blue Note installation.
Note in Spacing Magazine.
The performance score for Blue Note will be
published in the Canadian Theatre Review, autumn 2009.
Music wont be made, but
maybe music can be conjured,
if you know how.
BLUE NOTE is a collaboration between theatre artists, musicians
and architects. A character study of a vocal ensemble, BLUE NOTE
follows seven singers in rehearsal, painting a picture of each person.
As in a piece of choral music, the whole story is only revealed
once the individual voices are singing together.
An elegiac investigation into loss within the realm of collaboration,
Blue Note is a work in progress, an installation rather than a traditional
theatre piece, and during both the rehearsal process and the formal
presentations the audience can observe the ensemble rehearsing,
and the performance evolving, over the exhibition period.
Nightswimming has led the theatrical development of BLUE NOTE, while
PLANT Architect Inc. has created a spatial setting to allow the
audience access to the performance, and to contain the work in a
metaphoric environment that supports the emotional and narrative
content of the piece.
Main Gallery, York Quay Centre
Harbourfront Centre, Toronto
September 11-21, 2008 - open rehearsal, noon-5pm
September 16-21, 2008 - performances, 7pm
presented by Nightswimming and Harbourfron
created by Brian Quirt and Martin Julien
design by PLANT Architect Inc.
produced by Naomi Campbell
performed by Neema Bickersteth, Jay Bowen,
Christine Brubaker, Steven Gallagher, Kate Hennig, John Millard
& Jane Miller
stage managed by Sandy Plunkett
lighting consultation by Trevor Schwellnus
apprentice director Ulla Laidlaw *
Special thanks to previous workshop participants
Thom Allison, Christine Duncan, Megan Hamilton, Andrew Kirshnir,
Doug McNaughton, Frank Moore, Imali Perera, Andrea Romaldi, Suba
Sankaran & Jovanni Sy.
Nightswimming has developed BLUE NOTE from inception
and was awarded a Fresh Ground new works commission by Harbourfront
Centre to stage this workshop production which was presented
as part of World Stage.
PLANT Architect Inc. is an interdisciplinary design
firm active in architecture, landscape, art, and graphic design,
and recently won the Nathan Phillips Square Revitalization Competition.
BLUE NOTE team: Lisa Rapoport, Chris Pommer, Mary Tremain, Matt
Hartney, Lisa Dietrich, Jessica Craig, Victoria Taylor.
* The services of Ulla Laidlaw were made possible
through Theatre Ontario's Professional Theatre Training Program,
funded by the Ontario Arts Council.
- musical repertoire:
Hush No More
Henry Purcell, from The Fairie Queen; Rise Up My Love
Healey Willan / John Millard arr.; God Moves in Mysterious Ways
R. Murray Schafer; O Magnify the Lord Gospel,
traditional; In C - Terry Riley; Choose Something Like
a Star - Randall Thompson/Robert Frost; What's The Most Exciting
Thing - Moondog; Psalm 121 Dave Brubeck; Ask
Everything - Jane Miller; Happy Together - Garry Bonner/Alan
Gordon; Now I Walk in Beauty Navaho Prayer - traditional
round; O Magnum Mysterium - Tomas Luis de Victoria; Though
My Soul May Set in Darkness round; Cantate Domino
- Claudio Monteverdi; O Sacrum Convivium - Olivier Messiaen;
I Don't Want to Know About Evil John Martyn; Chichester
Psalm Leonard Bernstein; When Jesus Wept
William Billings; O Perfect Love Dorothy Gurney /
Joseph Barnby; Crazy Gnarls Barkley; Weep O Mine
Eyes John Bennet; Ae Fond Kiss - Robert Burns/John
Millard arr.; Inchworm - Frank Loesser; A Northern Catch
- traditional; Lullaby Dixie Chicks; Cantique de
Jean Racine - Gabriel Fauré; Eighteen Alice
Cooper; Goodbye Pork Pie Hat - Joni Mitchell/Charles Mingus;
You'll Never Walk Alone Rogers and Hammerstein; Full
Fathom Five - William Shakespeare...
Hitting the right note
BLUE NOTE captures
an unspeakable sadness
You can analyze and dissect a piece
of music all you want, but the way it really works on a listener
is emotional rather than intellectual.That's also the case with
Nightswimming's Blue Note, devised by director Brian Quirt and
writer Martin Julien. Part of Harbourfront Centre's World Stage,
the show was developed through the Centre's Fresh Ground new
Presented in York Quay Centre's Main Gallery, the free show
is part installation (designed by PLANT Architect Inc.) and
part performance. You can wander in during afternoon rehearsals
or for the 6:30 pm warm-up, but the performance proper begins
at 7 pm.
The cast? A choir of seven singers who, we discover during the
show, are missing their eighth member.
Can they perform properly, both in terms of working as an ensemble
and in terms of creating the music they want to sing?
As individual ensemble members come over and share gossip and
secrets with you -- jealousy, worry about the group's staying
together, various insecurities, alliances that not everyone
knows about -- you realize that all seven feel a sense of loss
and discover what that loss means to them.
But there's also a lot of music, solo and choral, all gloriously
sung by the talented company: Neema Bickersteth, Jay Bowen,
Christine Brubaker, Steven Gallagher, Kate Hennig, John Millard
and Jane Miller. The program covers centuries of compositions,
including a Purcell song, Dave Brubeck's arrangement of Psalm
121, Rodgers and Hammerstein's You'll Never Walk Alone, gospels
like Steal Away and a throwaway phrase from You're A Good Man,
Even some of the dialogue is spoken or intoned in a choral fashion,
repeated and with overt attention to rhythm and accent; I've
never before seen spoken dialogue literally conducted by a cast
The gallery's divided into two sections by a large oval structure
covered with (mostly) white undergarments -- a visual parallel
to the under-thoughts and secrets of the characters? -- and
the action wanders from one area to another. None of this movement
is strict, though -- you can make your own show, in fact, by
choosing who to follow and whose asides you listen to.
There's an intentional sadness that infuses BLUE NOTE -- the
title refers to a note sung or played at a slightly lower pitch
than that of a work's major scale for expressive purposes --
a sadness that lies beneath the words and the music. The seven
characters aren't able to connect emotionally without their
missing eighth; similarly, a musical scale doesn't seen quite
right without the eighth note, the repeat of the home note,
from (for example) C to C.
And like all good music, BLUE NOTE works on the emotions and
moves us in a way we can't express in spoken words."
- Jon Kaplan, NOW Magazine