Movement, progression and sound at the art gallery

GroundSwell promises an atmospheric night at the New Music Festival

Artists take part in a performance of :Spin by local composer Gordon Fitzell. The work is being performed at this year’s New Music Festival. Supplied

Jim Hiscott is one of the curators of GroundSwell, the influential Winnipeg music group that presents five new symphonic shows a year.

Since its inception in 1991, Hiscott has been involved in Groundswell, and, in turn, GroundSwell has been involved in the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra New Music Festival.

“This concert is different than our individual concerts in GroundSwell,” Hiscott says. “Every year we each propose a concert and we discuss that amongst ourselves to try and make sure there’s variety, not only amongst the season, but what we did last year. We try to have the creative inspiration of each of our artistic directors there, so in that sense we try not to have people compromise too much.”

There is quite a bit of variety in GroundSwell’s evening at this year’s NMF. The Jan. 31 show at the Winnipeg Art Gallery will showcase pieces from Gordon Fitzell, Michael
Matthews, Diana McIntosh and a world premiere from Hiscott called After Sorrow for string trio.

“I actually wrote it in 2001,” he says. “You’re always looking for a moment that it would work. You’re always working on something new, too. In this case it was a piece I kept on going back to.

I don’t want to give it all away, but there’s balloons involved.

Jim Hiscott, curator, GroundSwell

“In this concert we have some pieces that are more energetic and more electronic and this piece is an acoustic piece. It’s an emotional piece, it sort of starts from the idea of having been some sort of event that was difficult and gradually overcoming that event and so by the end becoming more positive.”

Fitzell’s piece, which opens the show, is an installation entitled :Spin (mislabeled in the program as Aeolian Mobile 1).

“There’s sound involved. There’s a visual element and part of it - I don’t want to give it all away, but there’s balloons involved,” he laughs. “With an installation you often think that it’s static, but with this piece does have movement and progression and sound.”

The piece from Matthews, the artistic coordinator, is called Vertical Garden which also played at last year’s concert at Prairie Scene in Ottawa at the National Arts Centre.
A compact epic, it’s played between the flute and electronics.

McIntosh’s offering will be another world premiere. You, Me and The Tree was commissioned by the WSO, through both the Winnipeg Arts Council and the Manitoba Arts Council. It’s a solo piano piece involving electronic manipulations, loops and voice transformations. The second part of the program features a special performance by the
Bedroom Community from Iceland, featuring Daniel Bjarnason, Nico Muhly and Valgeir Sigurdsson.

“There’s a certain atmospheric, environmental feel about three of the pieces, but not all of them,” he laughs. “But you want to have contrast as well, so there’s contrast. Mix is a good ingredient in the program, and you try to shape it by what comes first, what comes next, what’s a good ending piece. I’m hoping all of this will work well in succession.”

Check out GroundSwell’s contribution to the New Music Festival on Tuesday, Jan 31 at 7:30 p.m. at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. Tickets are $25 plus fees at Ticketmaster. Visit

Published in Volume 66, Number 17 of The Uniter (January 25, 2012)

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