I’m looking forward to the Classic Albums Live performance of the Band’s 1976 farewell concert “The Last Waltz” at Kitchener, ON’s Centre in the Square this evening. I wonder how authentic it will be, though: copious amounts of cocaine, “Joni Mitchell” not quite knowing what to sing in the verses of “Helpless” by “Neil Young” (himself at first unable to remember how the song goes), “Eric Clapton’s” guitar strap breaking, “Robbie Robertson” pretending to contribute to the backing vocals (while otherwise MC’ing as though it was “his” band), whether “Garth Hudson” uses a Lowrey organ instead of a Hammond, not being able to see Stratford, ON native “Richard Manuel” (d. 1986) singing lead vocals behind all of the guest artists onstage, “Levon Helm” being relatively pissed off about the whole ordeal, and so on. I can see faking Ronnie Hawkins, Neil Diamond, and Van Morrison (hell, I can fake them!), but who on Earth will be able to fake Joni Mitchell, Muddy Waters, Eric Clapton, and Bob Dylan? The Classic Albums Live folks are out of Toronto, though, so the percentage of Canadians could actually be even higher than in the original!
There was a good concert on Friday, January 20, 2012 at Kitchener’s St. John’s Anglican Church, by the visiting Canadian Chamber Choir and the Waterloo area’s DaCapo Chamber Choir. Many recent Canadian pieces were performed, including several competition winners. Featured were Erik Ross’s “Icarus in the Sea,” “Patrick Murray’s “The Echo,” Leonard Enns’ “This Amazing Day,” two pieces by Jeff Enns (no relation to Len), Imant Raminsh’s exquisite “Ave Verum,” and a piece I’ve heard DaCapo sing before and which I think is very good: Don Macdonald’s “Tabula Rasa.”
I’ve sung in similarly excellent chamber choirs, including Toronto’s Exultate Chamber Singers and the Elora Festival Singers. At one point, I sang professionally in as many as six or seven choirs in a given week, including section-lead or core positions in church and community choirs. However, without also doing a lot of solo-work and voice-lesson teaching, professional choral singing caps out at only about a quarter of a proper salary. That’s why I’m bemused by the idea of such “professional level” (i.e., unpaid) choirs. The CCC somehow manages (in our present age of collapsing arts organizations) to find enough money to fly its singers all over the country. However, can that sort of thing possibly continue indefinitely?!
As far as I know, in the new performance, Anderson didn’t really include anything from her previous work, although a pair of songs alluded to Homeland‘s “Another Day in America” (which she had spoken in “voice drag” to lower her voice electronically, although the new piece did not) and 1983-84’s Garden-of-Eden/snake-related “Langue d’Amour.” Musically, she mostly played samples and loops from two small keyboards and/or a notebook computer, speaking over them her often witty, philosophical, and/or political ideas about people, places, dreams, politics, and even her pet dog Lolabelle, who was shown playing a keyboard in some YouTube-like video clips (for a similar “performance,” from just before Christmas 2010, see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4YVnm2ZYD0s). Anderson also used several electronic effects devices and such things as pedals, triggers, and switches. On several occasions, she was much more overtly “musical,” playing her “electric violin,” which can electronically provide incredibly-dense textures and complex chord variations from only a few strings and/or pitches. Once or twice, she also played the instrument in the context of “live looping.” However, this particular Anderson work is not really concerned with the “singing” side of music at all, even though she does otherwise sometimes engage with that.
Anderson’s album Homeland includes quite a lot of Vocoder use (electronically making spoken or sung words seem like they are also being sung by an instrument), but she avoided that in this performance, possibly because she instead wanted to explore some different things. For example, she used a small pillow-speaker inside her mouth to “play” (“voice?”) a weird approximation of a violin solo. In one case, she also combined her spoken voice with a “voice drag” lowered version of it, instead of her more usual approach of keeping the two things separate (usually in different songs) or combining her spoken or sung voice with a simultaneous, electronic Vocoder part.
The audience of perhaps two hundred attentive and enraptured people consisted of a combination of middle-aged art and culture aficionados (artists, musicians, professors, etc.), science and technology professionals (some in the audience, probably from Research In Motion and various start-ups, but also including “lurking” employees of the Perimeter Institute), and younger people who were probably university students (including graduate students). Anderson knows that the audience for her more experimental and less music-oriented work is much smaller than for her pop-rock work, so it is highly commendable that she does not even remotely rest on her laurels, even though she is about to turn 65.