MRDe-music review: Esprit Premieres
A presentation of The Esprit Orchestra
with Ryan Scott (marimba), Wallace Halliday (saxophones), Scott St. John (violin)

Thursday, May 18, 2006 8 pm
Jane Mallett Theatre, St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts, 27 Front Street, Toronto

Another night, another show. And for sure this is a GOOD review. Short too ... brevity being the soul of wit and me sure being full of it.

Again, I went out to the show as much as for music business as music pleasure but it was a GOOD thing I did , as there was some GOOD music indeed.

One of the big attractions for tonight was the work of Scott GOOD, which lived up to his last name. The work (Babbitt) was a concerto for saxophones (the soloist moved between soprano, alto, tenor and bari sax) and orhestra. The soloist, Wallace Halliday, was indeed GOOD, making the hot switching between potentially cold instruments look GOOD.

The piece itself was very GOOD ... Scott seemed to get a lot of favourable reaction from the audience and no wonder; Babbitt was many things -- well-crafted, engaging, dramatic, filled with toe tapping rhythms and tunes -- so could be enjoyed many ways. I was quite particular to the frequent walking basses and ride patterns; the incorporation of jazz elements into this work was very smooth and convincing, and the Esprit Orchestra performed these very naturally (some classical ensembles, by contrast, swing like dead cats). The ending of this piece was particularly effective ... a moment of calm eased you towards repose, but never quite fully; a return to an early mood of turmoil, then a flurry to end; surprising yet ttotally convincing and effective. Surprisingly, in a GOOD talk I had after the show, it turns out this ending stemmed from a rather stressful re-write at the last moment ... sometimes stress is a GOOD thing.

The rest of the show was uniformly excellently performed; it's a real treat hearing a GOOD performer like Ryan Scott (marimba) demonstrate his agility and mastery of the marimba in Erik Ross's showcase work Concerto for Marimba and Orchestra (an aside ... the most surprising moment in this work to my ear was a brief sectio where the marimba tremolo doubled a solo horn (I hope it was a horn and I'm not having an Alzheimer's moment) in unison; a fascinating effect and a truly great moment of contrast in the work). The Esprit Orchestra lit up the works of Andre Ristic (Sublimations) and Jose Evangelista (Violinissimo) with tight and exciting performaces; the latter piece featured the third (third in this review anyway) soloist of the evening, violinist Scott St. John. Maybe third in the review St. John appears, but this in no way means he was less than GOOD.

All in all, this GOOD review is not well written. Ironic, n'est pas?

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