ESCAPE TO FREEDOM is a workshop presentation of composer Sandy Moore’s 12 scene opera for soprano (Janice Isabel Jackson) and ensemble based on the life of Mona Parsons (1901–1976) from Wolfville, Nova Scotia. The opera focuses on Mona’s WWII experiences (1941-1945) – her arrest, interrogation, sentencing, deportation, captivity, and escape from Vechta prison in March, 1945, during an allied bombing. After a harrowing journey through war torn Germany to the Dutch Border, she was rescued by Canadian Soldiers. An unlikely war hero, Mona Parsons became one of the first – and few – women to be tried by a Nazi military tribunal in the Netherlands and the only female Canadian civilian to be imprisoned by the Nazis in Occupied Holland, where she was tried and sentenced for execution. After her appeal she was granted life imprisonment at hard labour, then deported to POW camps in Germany. The Escape To Freedom presentations came on the heels of a workshop which was generously funded by the Canada Council for the Arts.
Echoes of Time – Sagas, Tales, and Myths was a co-production between Vocalypse Productions and Neptune Theatre, Halifax, Nova Scotia. Echoes of Time was performed by soprano Janice Isabel Jackson and actor Andrew Chandler and was based entirely on the mini opera genre. All of these operas have been chosen for their connections to Saga, Tales, and Myths. Echoes of Time presents works which are, highly accessible and dramatically effective. Echoes of Time is where bel canto meets contemporary music meets theatre meets story telling.
MINT or Music in New Technologies Conference took place between November 16th and 18th, 2018 in association with The University of King’s College and Upstream Music Association. MINT asked the following questions: How can advances in new technologies change the experience of making music (the musician’s perspective) and listening to music (the audience’s perspective)? What are the musical and performative implications and applications of the vast array of new technologies that are now emerging? The main thrust of MINT was NOT the presentation of academic papers. Rather, we solicited presentations that include demonstrations, performances, audio/visual samples, and as much music making as possible. During breaks between presentations, participants had the opportunity to directly engage with these new technologies in 3 interactive rooms. MINT focused on 3 main topics: The Voice and New Technologies, Improvisation and New Technologies, New Innovations in Musical Expression (NIMES)
Participant comments include:
“MINT was an amazing confluence of people from all over the world who are exploring the outer edges of new technology in musical expression.”
“Excellent conference. I liked the size of the conference, the variety of speakers, the format, and the ethos.
An impressive variety of possibilities presented in an intimate conference of sharing and practice.”
“MINT was an amazing opportunity to meet those who are breaking barriers and crossing into unchartered territory – whether with a newly invented instrument, a new way of processing, or a new way of thinking.”
Between May 4th and 6th 2018, Vocalypse Productions in association with Upstream Music Association presented a weekend of 3 concerts, including an improvisation workshop, culminating in the Canadian premiere of CO2 – Cycle de Lieder on May 6th, 2018 at 3pm.
CO2 – Cycle de Lieder is a multifaceted project conceived and composed by internationally recognized Belgian composers Patrick Defossez and Anne-Gabriel Debaecker based on a libretto by famed French surreal sci-fi writer Jean-Bernard Pouy. CO2 – Cycle de Lieder is in collaboration with the French Duo Autres Voix de Piano, French Ensemble Zellig and Canada’s Vocalypse Productions with Halifax soprano Janice Isabel Jackson.
Rarely heard instruments like the octobass flute are combined with keyboards, piano, live electronics, glass singing bowls, live video processing, and the female voice in songs that are unexpected, unorthodox, and otherworldly. CO2 is a fusion of opera, art song, improvisation, and new music technology.
Miss Fortune’s Portmanteau was a re-imagining of events in the lives of 7 Victorian Halifax women, presented against the beautiful back drop of the Women’s Council House at 989 Young Avenue, in Halifax. The show ran between Sunday November 23rd and Sunday November 30th, 2014. The audience experienced a unique and lively hour of music, theatre, performance, and improvisation, during which Miss Fortune’s Portmanteau (an antique steamer trunk) came alive with images, costumes, objects, smells and sounds. The audience was not only watching the show, but was on stage with each character, as if taking part in the action.
HOWL was a suite of three mini-operas performed by Janice Isabel Jackson in 8 performances between May 2nd and 12th, 2013, in co-production with the Dalhousie Art Gallery in Halifax. Jackson was inspired to initiate this project as she stopped in front of a bookstore and was immediately drawn to one particular item in the window display – Allen Ginsberg’s HOWL. The title poem of this collection is his famous rant about the self-destruction of his friends in the Beat Generation (“I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness … ”).
Trudeau: Long March / Shining Path was jazz opera with libretto by Nova Scotia’s very own George Elliott Clarke and music by D.D. Jackson, which makes an irreverent, jubilant portrait of the life and politics of one of Canada’s most controversial political heroes, Pierre Elliott Trudeau.
Presented between June 16th and 20th, 2010 in the Sir James Dunn Theatre, Halifax, the cast consisted of five singers, three men and two women, some playing multiple roles in order to represent many of the key characters that Trudeau meets in his fictionalized life-journey, among them Fidel Castro, Mao Zedong, John F. Kennedy, Nelson Mandela, Oscar Peterson (Or Roscoe Robertson here), Margaret Trudeau, and two composite fictional characters, flautist and poet Yu Xuanji and reporter Simone Cixous.
The music utilizes a flexible ensemble of three musicians, with each player assuming a range of musical roles. The intent is to provide fresh settings for the world-wandering Trudeau with the requisite exoticism and variety. The result is a fresh and exciting mix of Cuban, Chinese, and contemporary classical themes fused with jazz and improvisational elements interwoven into the predominantly notated musical textures.
Irrevocably Blue: Music Inspired by the Art of Douglas Walker was a co-production between Vocalypse Productions and Dalhousie University Art Gallery and took place during an exhibition of paintings by visual artist Douglas Walker. The concert featured Janice Isabel Jackson (soprano), Geordie Haley (electric guitar), and Lukas Pearse (electronics, double bass, and video processing) who performed both composed and improvised works inspired by Walker’s paintings. Irrevocably Blue was generously funding my Nova Scotia’s department of Communities, Culture, and Heritage.
PROTEST was presented in association with Upstream Music Association, in the OPEN WATERS Festival on January 8th, 2017. PROTEST featured works for soprano, recorded sound-score, and choral improvisation including 3 world premieres and spanned several generations of composers who have one thing in common: bringing awareness of and bearing witness to social and political issues through the lens of contemporary music. Compositions include: Luigi Nono’s La Fabbrica Illuminata, which highlights the conditions of Italian factory workers in the 1950’s; Sandy Moore’s new work Sentinels, specifically written for The Voice Dancers; Janice Isabel Jackson’s Yoko inspired by Yoko Ono’s reaction to the recent U.S. election; and American composer Rachel Devorah Trapp’s ethel, featuring suffragette Ethel Smyth’s fight for the vote in Victorian England.
The Voice Dancers: Maureen Batt, Rebecca Crewe, Jackie Dunsworth, Elizabeth Eve, Sheilagh Hunt, Barbara Lounder, Shelley Meisner, Karen Robinson, Fiona Ryan
Special thanks go to Arts Nova Scotia, Upstream Music Association, Lukas Pearse, Andrew David Terris, and the Voice Dancers for making this concert possible.
‘The Damned’ was a concert of new chamber works based on composer Sandy Moore’s conceptual explorations from Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth,’ and included three world premieres for solo piano, voice and string quartet. This concert was presented at the Saint Mary’s University Art Gallery on Thursday, May 28, 2009 at 7 pm and featured soprano Janice Isabel Jackson, Jane Levitt viola, Chris Church and Sean Kemp violin, and Norman Adams on cello. The motivation for presenting this concert came from Sandy’s musical score which he created for a production of ‘Macbeth’, mounted by the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, January 2008.
The program included: a Solo Piano Collection which are in nature, like Haiku, generally sparse, meditative, emotionally sorrowful and jarring by turns, evoking the expansion and contracting of time. The music of String Quartet No. 3 created an inner landscape, a place of serene dissonance. Musically, Moore broke new ground with the aria, based on Lady Macbeth’s text from Act V Sc. i. He states: “It is not my intention to present or portray, but to reveal a state of being accursed. Each performer will be conducted through expressions from sorrow to savagery.”
The Damned was a coproduction between Vocalypse Productions and Saint Mary’s University Art Gallery located on the ground floor of the Loyola building at 5865 Gorsebrook Avenue, Halifax.
Vocalypse Productions presented the world premiere of Vonda de Ville in Temporal Follies with music and libretto by Lukas Pearse. Vonda was a fully staged, large scale, one hour dramatic musical work involving voice (Janice Jackson) in combination with recorded sound and live electronics (Lukas Pearse). It was presented between February 3rd and 9th at the Bus Stop Theatre, Halifax, Nova Scotia and was supported by the Canada Council for the Arts.
The narrative goes as follows: In an effort to kick start her career in the late 19th century, a vaudeville singer, Vonda de Ville decides that “new technology” is her key to stardom – she seizes an opportunity to become one of the early recording artists. Her colleagues mock her interest in this new-fangled machinery which steals her voice away only to be replayed later, without her presence, at a penny arcade. She thinks they’re silly and superstitious, so she takes the gig. But something strange and unexpected happens. Her voice actually separates from her body and spirit, and thus begins a century-long journey through space and time, where the voice and the spirit of the long-dead singer wrestle for reconciliation. Her spirit desperately seeks closure, an exit from the stage. More than anything, she wants the final curtain to fall.
Bradyworks (Montreal) and Vocalypse (Halifax) presented the world premiere of Ghost Tango, a riveting new chamber opera that tells the poignant story of a Canadian woman trapped in Argentina’s Dirty War. Twenty years after being abused in an Argentinian prison cell, she thinks she recognizes her tormentor on a cruise ship. When the ship runs aground, he is seriously injured, and the woman is faced with a terrible moral dilemma. Should she forgive her torturer and allow him to continue his life without fear of exposure and prosecution? Or, due to unexpected and fortuitous circumstances, should she put an end to his life in a well-deserved act of revenge?
With a dynamic score by virtuoso guitarist Tim Brady and libretto by award-winning poet Douglas Burnet Smith, this world premiere opera had audiences on the edge of their seats.