jeremy berkman

Beyond the Gates

The latest news from School of Music faculty

Dr. Robert Taylor

Dr. Robert Taylor

"Northern Star,” a new composition by Dr. Dorothy Chang, débuted at the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra in October. Dr. Chang composed the piece as part of a large-scale work for orchestra and dancers, in collaboration with four other composers, Vince Ho, Dinuk Wijeratne, Maxime McKinley, and Derek Charke, along with choreographer Yukichi Hattori. The performance is available online, along with a documentary that includes interviews with the composers.

In November, Vern Griffiths performed as soloist and host in his kids’ show Wall to Wall Percussion with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. In the coming months, he will perform the same show with the Edmonton Symphony and Calgary Philharmonic.

Prof. Nancy Hermiston received the Honorary Alumni Award for 2017 from Alumni UBC, recognizing her as “a devoted and enthusiastic educator. She has nurtured the development of many promising young singers, and her willingness to share her love of classical music with the wider community has enriched the cultural life of Vancouver.”

Dr. Robert Taylor recently completed a one-week residency at the Singapore American School, where he worked with band students in grades 6–12, provided professional development sessions for music faculty, and guest conducted a program of 13 works with five different ensembles. 

Standing Wave won the 2017 Western Canadian Music Award for Classical Artist/Ensemble of the Year at BreakOut West for their album New Wave. The ensemble includes UBC Music faculty members Vern Griffiths and Christie Reside, as well as alumni Allen Stiles (BMus ’84, MMus ’86) and A.K. Coope (BMus ’90). The recording includes contributions from composer Michael Oesterle (BMus ’92) and producer Will Howie (BMus ’04).

Turning Point Ensemble

Turning Point Ensemble

As part of World New Music Days, Turning Point Ensemble and Ensemble Contemporain de Montreal (ECM+) performed “Evta,” a new violin concerto by Canadian composer Ana Sokolović, along with works by Bauck, Torio, and Pieniek. The performance featured School of Music Faculty Jeremy Berkman (trombone), Ingrid Chiang (bassoon), and Brenda Fedoruk (flute), as well as alumnus Nick Anderson (horn), and alumni/current students Julia Chien (percussion, BMus ’14) and Sarah Kwok (viola). Watch the performance online

In September, Prof. Terence Dawson was the soloist for a Wednesday Noon Hour performance of Poulenc's "Aubade", with a chamber orchestra comprised of faculty and students, and conducted by Dr. Jonathan Girard. The concert, which also featured Popper's "Requiem for Three Cellos and Piano" (Prof. Eric Wilson, plus DMA students Laine Longton and Oskar Falta) was dedicated to the memory of Prof. Emeritus John Sawyer, and was a celebration of 50 years of concerts in the Music Building. Professor Dawson also sat on the piano jury for the 2017 Federation of Canadian Music Festivals National Competition in Ottawa this summer, where he gave a masterclass. Finally, he was a faculty member at the VSO Summer Institute in Whistler for the third consecutive year.

As a soloist, Dr. Corey Hamm performed Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 3 in C major, Op. 26 with the Vancouver Island Symphony, and had engagements with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, Nu:BC Collective, Vancouver Chamber Music Society, and Turning Point Ensemble. With PEP (Piano and Erhu Project, with Nicole Li) he presented four World Premieres and three Canadian Premieres at ISCM World New Music Days, and performed at the Shanghai Conservatory. He was a judge for the inaugural Vancouver International Music Competition and Boesendorfer Piano Competition. 

Turning Point Ensemble on Thirst, community, and the business of making a living in music

Jeremy Berkman.  Photo: UBC Music

Jeremy Berkman. Photo: UBC Music

When trombonist and School of Music lecturer Jeremy Berkman formed Turning Point Ensemble (TPE) with a group of like-minded musicians in 2002, their ambition was to raise the profile of the music they loved.

“We were all busy in our lives professionally, but we were rarely being engaged to perform music of the 20th century that we thought important to play,” Berkman says.

As a large, nontraditional chamber orchestra dedicated to performing new and underappreciated works by the likes of Luciano Berio, Barbara Pentland, and Paul Hindemith, they knew that passion alone wouldn’t be enough to sustain them. They needed to take an entrepreneurial approach to their project.

“What's very important to realize as a student of musical performance,” Berkman says, “is that you are not only a potential employee, but also a future employer and entrepreneur and can create the work you wish for. That's what we did — we developed a business plan, attracted a Board of Directors, and created an organization that would support the musical activity we wished to engage in.”

Their approach has led to big things. The ensemble, whose members have included UBC faculty Brenda Fedoruk (flute), Vern Griffiths (percussion), Benjamin Kinsman (horn), Heidi Krutzen (harp), and Jim Littleford (trumpet) has released four albums, scored films and multimedia projects, and been recognized with a number of awards.

TPE's fourth album,  Thirst , has been nominated for a Juno Award (Classical Composition of the Year).  Image: Redshift Records

TPE's fourth album, Thirst, has been nominated for a Juno Award (Classical Composition of the Year). Image: Redshift Records

This year, TPE is nominated for a Juno Award (Classical Composition of the Year) for their recording of Ana Sokolović’s “And I need a room to receive five thousand people with raised glasses…or…what a glorious day, the birds are singing ‘halleluia.’” The song appears on the ensemble’s new album Thirst, a collaboration with the vocal chamber group musica intima and several different composers, released by Redshift Records.

“The success we've achieved has been beyond expectations — and yet what we had hoped for,” Berkman says.

Along the way TPE has helped build a community of musicians and collaborators across disciplines: “If musicians can be their best selves, I believe they are community service workers, enriching their resident community and by expansion, the community of listeners… making music that takes us as participants and listeners on a journey where we feel differently and more connected at the end,” he says.   

TPE is an ensemble-in-residence at the UBC School of Music, and in that role Berkman hopes to create “unique opportunities for UBC students as well as for TPE players to be part of the special UBC musical community. I welcome any input from readers as what they would like that to look like!”

JEREMY BERKMAN Q & A

How and when did Turning Point Ensemble form? There’s a strong UBC connection, isn’t there?

Turning Point Ensemble was formed by its musician members in 2002 with a curatorial mandate. We were all busy in our lives professionally, but we were rarely being engaged to perform music of the 20th century that we thought important to play. What's very important to realize as a student of musical performance is that you are not only a potential employee, but also a future employer and entrepreneur and can create the work you wish for. 

That's what we did — we developed a business plan, attracted a Board of Directors (an early President of our Board was Dr. Kurth [Director of UBC School of Music]!), and created an organization that would support the musical activity we wished to engage in, and help fill what we felt was a gap in the musical offerings in Vancouver. The success we've achieved has been beyond expectations — and yet what we had hoped for. 

 

 
 

"As a student of musical performance... you are not only a potential employee, but also a future employer and entrepreneur"

– Jeremy Berkman

 
 

Many of the TPE instrumentalists teach at UBC, so early on we asked whether we could develop a relationship with UBC as an Ensemble in Residence. Though TPE has held this title, what it means is frankly still under discussion, and as the Director of Education and Community Engagement (and a trombone instructor at UBC) I am hoping to move that discussion along in the next couple years to craft a partnership with UBC that is vital, that provides unique opportunities for UBC students as well as for TPE players to be part of the special UBC musical community. I welcome any input from readers as what they would like that to look like!

Your latest album, Thirst, is a collaboration with the choral group musica intima and two composers, Julia Wolfe and Ana Sokolović. How did the project come together?

Turning Point Ensemble is a chamber orchestra in a sense, but with one instrument on a part, we strive for a chamber music sensibility, which really means a different relationship with our conductor than might be traditional in a [more traditional] orchestral culture.  

A model for us early on was musica intima, a conductorless chamber vocal ensemble, and it only took us — what, 12 years? — to collaborate on a project! But we had talked about it for a while,  but it was the artistic management of the Chan Centre that actually inspired the realization of our desired collaboration when they were planning to host a series of "new music" concerts and asked three ensembles who had performed there to develop the programming — musica intima, Turning Point, and Nu:BC

The Telus Studio Theatre at the Chan Centre is a fantastic venue for music-making, and so when we imagined our concert, we began to also ponder how we could create a legacy of our collaboration. Ana Sokolović had composed an amazing piece for us, and musica intima asked her to revise a great vocal piece of hers, “Dring, dring...” We added a solo cello piece to almost create an entire program of Ana's wonderful music. But, wanting to share in the making of this album (a pretty innovative collaboration for a co-produced album of a professional choir andchamber orchestra), we decided we also wanted to include composer Julia Wolfe's “Thirst” — the title cut, so to speak.

Now who to produce it?  One of our favourite, award-winning producers, Karen Wilson, lives in Vancouver — she’s a UBC alumna — so we engaged her, and clearly she and engineer Will Howie worked their magic on the recorded sound, putting the music on the Juno radar.

Thirst has the fingerprints of UBC faculty and alumni all over the album, from the musicians to the producer and recording engineer. Can you talk about the role community plays in a project like this one?

 If musicians can be their best selves, I believe they are community service workers, enriching their resident community and by expansion, the community of listeners, with realizations of examples of what humanity does at its best — making music that takes us as participants and listeners on a journey where we feel differently and more connected at the end. That can't be done or effective without a supportive and welcoming community. In the case of this project,  a diverse set of stakeholders that share a desire to join forces to build something none of us could do ourselves alone. 

With that in mind, the communities we worked with on this project — composers, instrumentalists, vocalists, organization administrators, educators, record company managers, venue staff, government and foundation and individual financial supporters (Thirst could not have happened without support from the British Columbia Arts Council and the Chan and Martha Lou Henley Charitable Foundations) — all made it easier.

There's a great saying that it's amazing how much can get done if it doesn't matter who gets the credit — [Thirst] is yet another example of that saying's wisdom.

 What’s next for Turning Point?

 The ensemble will be performing two concerts as part of the Coastal Jazz and Blues Festival in late June. We're thrilled to perform music for a chamber orchestra informed by the language of jazz with premieres of new compositions, and a revised composition from Turning Point Ensemble clarinetist, Francois Houle. More information on these performances are on our website.

Turning Point is also heavily involved in educational programming, leading composition residencies in Surrey at L.A. Matheson Secondary, and this summer in Smithers, B.C., as part of Orchestra North and the Spirit of the North Festivals.
 

Banner photo: Chris Randle

The Juno Connection

Congratulations to Alexander Weimann, Turning Point Ensemble and Musica Intima on their Juno nominations!

Alexander Weimann

Alexander Weimann

Thirst

Thirst

Weimann is the Principal Artist and Director of our Baroque Orchestra Mentorship Program. He’s nominated for Classical Album of the Year: Vocal or Choral Performance with Bach: Magnificat BWV 243, his recording with Arion Baroque Orchestre.

Turning Point Ensemble and Musica Intima are nominated for Classical Composition of the Year for their recording of Ana Sokolović’s “And I need a room to receive five thousand people with raised glasses…or…what a glorious day, the birds are singing ‘halleluia.’” The song appears on the new album Thirst, a collaboration between the two groups released by Redshift Records.

Musica Intima is an internationally renowed vocal chamber group, while Turning Point Ensemble is a large chamber ensemble dedicated to "linking modern and contemporary music to music of our time and other artforms." A number of UBC faculty members and alumni perform in these two boundary-pushing Vancouver-based ensembles and were involved in the recording. Faculty members include:

Karen Wilson (BMus’74) produced the album. Will Howie (BMus’04) was the recording engineer and digital editor.

The Juno Awards will be announced on Sunday, April 2nd. We're keeping our fingers crossed!

Listen: