Acadia music festival hits Halifax market

Mezzo-soprano Paula Rockwell performing Hildegard Westerkamp's piece, "Moments of Laughters" at the Halifax Seaport Market on Saturday. (Photo: Corey Davison)

Students and faculty from Acadia University say their music festival is different every year. This year, they pushed for variety by holding one of the events at a new location: the Seaport farmer's market.

On Jan. 22, students, composers and musicians participating in the festival called "Shattering the Silence" came to Halifax and set up their booth.

The purpose behind "Shattering the Silence" was to promote and celebrate concert music and give a voice to new composers. Sponsored by the Canadian Music Centre, this was the festival's fifth year.

Small audiences gathered around the festival booth to watch performers, including flautist Jack Chen, mezzo-soprano Paula Rockwell, and the Acadia Saxophone Quartet. A variety of noises, voices and music rang out over the crowds as they browsed for food, crafts and clothing.

Festival co-director Derek Charke says he wanted to provide an opportunity for students to get involved in concert music.

"Every year we raise the bar," he said. "This year, just as we do every year, we've taken new directions. It's an important part of the festival for students to be presented with, and immersed in professional music making."

This year's festival was named "Shattering the Silence" in order to raise awareness about the impacts of sound in everyday life. Since the farmer's market is always buzzing with people, it was the perfect location to explain the meaning of the festival.

To demonstrate the importance of white noise, organizers planned a musical experiment called "food processing." Market-goers were invited to bring fruits and vegetables to a back corner of the market where they could hear their food be processed into sound.

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"Shattering the Silence" began on Wednesday and ended on Sunday. Event co-director Derek Charke said that January is the most popular month for university music festivals. (Photo: Corey Davison)

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(Audio: Lauren Naish, Images: Corey Davison)

While the intentions of the experiment were successful in drawing a crowd, the demonstration itself was a flop.

"There was just too much feedback," said Charke, shrugging his shoulders.

Charke decided to abandon the food demonstration because of the good reception the festival had already received that morning with the other musical events. He didn't want to jeopardize this by pushing the food experiment.

Returning student helps promote new music

Carmen Brayden graduated from Acadia University last year with a degree in music composition but came back this year to help with the festival.

"I'm very excited to be a part of this," she says. "It gives a different image of our society and how we are living inside of it. New music is being formed everywhere and it's very exciting."

This is not the first time Brayden has been involved in the festival. She had her pieces performed when she was in school. She also studied elements of electro-acoustic performances, much like those heard at the market.

"During my degree I became very interested in something called acoustic ecology, which is the study of our sonic environment and how it affects us," she says. "The festival is taking that concept to the max and using a lot of electronics and a lot of those technologies, combined with sounds that people have recorded from the environment."

Brayden says the festival is one example that shows the growth of the music department at Acadia.

"I came in (to the program) at a very exciting time when there were new professors and they were just starting the new music festival. Different departments are becoming strong, like the composition department. It's all working together to make a really positive experience, and a very wide exposure to a variety of music."

Jackie Phinney, a master's student at Dal, was browsing the market on Saturday morning with a friend. She said that bringing the festival to the market was a great idea.

"It's really interesting to see this in a public place where people are just expecting to come shop. Part of the idea of new music is to really take it out there," she said.

Although next year the festival will be going on hiatus, Brayden says it will return in 2013 and will be "coming back with a vengeance."

 

 

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