Blue Note
created by Brian Quirt and Martin Julien

"Trust Nightswimming to turn a standard performance into an experimental theatrical journey."
- NOW Magazine

View images from the Blue Note installation.

Blue Note in Spacing Magazine.

The performance score for Blue Note will be published in the Canadian Theatre Review, autumn 2009.

Music won’t 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.


Production History

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.

View Production photos...

BLUE NOTE - 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

ou 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 works series.

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, Charlie Brown.
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 member.
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