I just sent out the following as a newsletter to my mailing list (see link on right-hand sidebar) since I haven't been making any updates lately. It's been a busy summer, here's what I've been up to lately:
The Heavyweights Brass Band played the Toronto TD Jazz Fest main stage, the Beaches Jazz Fest, the Brampton Global Jazz and Blues Festival, Havana Cultura Festival, and the Harbourfront Centre Hot and Spicy Food Festival. We also released our debut CD, “Don’t Bring Me Down” and have been getting good press, including full-page feature articles in the Toronto Star and Toronto Sun, and reviews/mentions in The Globe and Mail, Exclaim!, NOW Magazine, Winnipeg Examiner and others (see “Press” page on our website). We’ve also been getting extensive airplay on JazzFM 91.1 and CBC Radio as well as campus radio stations across the country - in fact the album is now number one on the national campus radio jazz charts! We have some upcoming gigs around town including opening for Trombone Shorty at the Opera House in November, and we’re looking forward to doing a national tour of jazz festivals next summer.
Saidah Baba Talibah won the inaugural Soundclash Award, a $5000 prize for emerging artists, presented by Harbourfront Centre. Her debut album “(s)Cream” was officially released on Last Gang/Universal earlier this summer; the album was NOW Magazine’s Disc of the Week and received a 4/5 rating. The band just shot a music video for the song “So Cool” last week, and we’ll be embarking on a tour of England and France in December of 2011. http://www.sbtmusic.com
The Boxcar Boys released our debut album “Don’t Be Blue” in June and received a 3.5/4 star rating from the Toronto Star. We played the Beaches Jazz Festival mainstage and were well received. We spent the summer busking around town and roaming Ontario Place, where we booked about a dozen full-day gigs over the summer. We also played Scotiabank Buskerfest to thousands of people over the course of a weekend. The album is now getting airplay on Jazz FM 91.1. We have a big show coming up at Hugh’s Room on September 22nd, and in October we will travel to Niagara Falls for the Ontario Conference of Folk Festivals, where we have been selected as official alternate showcasers.
Nick Teehan and the band had a busy summer preparing for Nick’s first full-length album project, which we finished tracking about a week ago. In addition to playing sousaphone throughout, I created some string arrangements for two of the tracks and assisted with horn arrangements; the album will be finished later this year and I’m very excited and proud to be watching my little brother take his music to the next level. We also played around town in the summer, sharing bills with the Lemon Bucket Orkestra and with Freeman Dre and the Kitchen Party.
The Lemon Bucket Orkestra, as always, could be found wherever there was a party, often in Trinity Bellwoods Park, Kensington Market, or our home base of La Palette (the little cafe on Queen Street), spilling out in to the street to continue the party until the early morning. We played at many community events including Artspin, the Trash Art Festival, and the 5th anniversary Blackout Party. As I write this I am on a train to Montreal where we are playing the Montreal Ukrainian Festival; we’re playing the Toronto Ukrainian Festival next weekend. We’ll also be shooting a short film next week showcasing our bandleader Mark Ihnatowycz’s poetry about busking.
Aside from all these “official” events, there were many wedding receptions, private parties, impromptu patio jams, and general good times. I played on boats, on rooftops, on parking garages, in buses, standing on tables, parading around parks, on the street. It was a fun summer!
On the composition front:
My first film project - Tulip, Texas, and Us, directed by Lee Filipovski - premiered a few months ago at the Ryerson University Film Festival. I worked with sound designer Ranno Tisklar on the score, contributing original music, some of which was performed by members of the Lemon Bucket Orkestra. Lee is currently shopping the film to various film festivals around the world.
I’m currently hard at work on a documentary short film where I’m taking sole responsibility for a film score for the first time. It’s called The Sugar Bowl, and it’s a portrait of the Phillipines as it continues to grapple with the crash of its sugar industry some 30 years ago. The directors, Rich Williamson and Shasha Nakhai, have assembled beautiful and haunting footage that has plenty of room for expressive and powerful music. I’m really excited about this project. The film will premiere at the Toronto REEL Asian Film Festival in November.
The Vancouver Chamber Choir will premiere my choral work “I Died for Beauty” on October 21st in Vancouver, and may perform it on their tour east coast in spring of next year. They recently premiered a commissioned work of mine, “There Will Come Soft Rains”, in May of this year.
The Edmonton Symphony Orchestra will perform my JUNO-nominated orchestral work, “Dreams of Flying”, on October 6th in Edmonton.
I’ll be commencing my duties as Composer-in-Residence with Sinfonia Toronto, a professional string orchestra based in Toronto. The group will perform the Toronto premiere of my piece “Zephyr” on November 18th, and I’ll be writing a new piece to be performed in the spring. Where possible, I’ll attend their other Toronto concerts and be speaking about the other new works on the program.
I’m continuing my position as Composer-in-Residence at the Church of the Redeemer; I wrote two choral pieces for the church over the summer, and am at work on a third. I continue to sing in the choir at redeemer as well. I’ll be keeping up my “side” career as a choral singer around town, albeit a bit more sporadically this year, but I do expect to sing on a handful of concerts with the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir again this season.
On the personal front - I had to move from my beloved home in Kensington Market due to the landlords’ deciding to sell the house we were renting. But on the plus side, I’ve moved into my own place for the first time in my life - a basement apartment in the Bloor/Dovercourt area - and I’m loving it. My landlord, who lives upstairs, is an amateur musician and built the apartment specially for recording; it’s got soundproofed walls and audio cabling running through the ceiling. Plus he loves it when I bring my bands over to make noise. Pretty sweet!