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Ecology of Being world premiere goes online in August
It’s fitting that birds provide the background music to a conversation on Thursday with acclaimed musicians Duo Concertante.
The pair will next month premiere their ambitious commissioning project, Ecology of Being, which includes five original compositions reflecting on our relationship with nature.
The project was motivated by the climate emergency — a phrase that can elicit panic, but this duo exudes calm.
They sit amongst a circular grove of tall trees and colourful blooms outside the Arts and Administration Building at Memorial University, perched on benches topped with towels to soak up the remnants of a heavy rain just subsided.
“All we can hope the project might do is just encourage people to reflect a little bit more on their own relationship to nature,” says Nancy Dahn, violinist and one half of the duo, as remnant raindrops plop from a nearby tree.
“We’re old enough to fully see within our lives the changes that have happened in the world, and we’re both parents. It makes me really incredibly sad that my children are going to face such difficulties, and I feel a lot of guilt about the fact that our generation hasn't done more — have been so reckless — and just because we haven’t treasured this incredible gift of this planet.
“So for me, the project is really personal, and if it causes anyone else to think a little bit more deeply about all of that, and think about all we treasure, then that would be great.”
Dahn and her husband, pianist Timothy Steeves, have been playing together for more than two decades. As Duo Concertante, they’ve released 11 recordings, won Juno Awardsand East Coast Music Awards, and commissioned 65 new works from leading composers.
They’re also the founders and artistic directors of the annual Tuckamore Chamber Music Festival.
This year the festival will go ahead virtually from Aug. 10-19, with Ecology of Being spanning three nights during which Duo Concertante will perform five new works by Dawn Avery, Carmen Braden, Ian Cusson, Melissa Hui and Bekah Simms.
Their works range from Simms’ music inspired by the Australian wildfires, to Braden’s musings on the simple promise of a seed.
The performance will be captured in curated videos presented alongside real-time discussions with the composers and performers, giving the virtual audience a chance to ask questions.
'All music gives hope'
Steeves says the project came about as they were hearing stories every day of doom and gloom about the climate crisis.
“I think after a while people just tune it out — they just don’t want to hear it anymore. But this (project) reframes it in a different way,” he says.
“I think music and the arts has a way of personalizing things just a bit more, that people will look at the climate crisis and think about taking a more personal approach, maybe think, what can I do as an individual to help make things better? I think in the end that’s what’s going to save the planet.
“One of the biggest things about the project was thinking about what we are leaving next generations. Governments think too much, I think, about money and prosperity, but I think individual people will think, what am I leaving my children? What am I leaving my grandchildren? What can I do to solve this issue?”
And much like the humid, quiet calm that comes after a heavy rain, Steeves moves from that feeling of urgency to talk about hope, something without which change isn’t possible.
“All music gives hope,” he says.
“You can have songs or pieces of music that are inspired by incredible tragedies, but you go to listen to them because they’re beautiful, or you like the tune, and it makes you feel good. So, what’s inspiring this project is a crisis, but what will come out of it, we hope, will give people hope and inspire them to do something.”
To learn more and view the performances, visit tuckamorefestival.ca or duoconcertante.com.