Edmonton Recital Society puts on a haunting and hopeful performance for Remembrance Day
By Cory Schachtel | November 10, 2022
In 2006, Sarah Ho started the Edmonton Recital Society (ERS) with two musician friends with the vision of presenting artists who are from or have strong ties to Edmonton. “The idea was that we have a lot of really world-class talent right here, or that grew up here, so featuring them has always been a big part of our mandate, and we find that audiences are really drawn to that,” says Ho, now the Society’s artistic director, pianist and only remaining founding member.
But no one starts as a world-class talent, which is why the ERS has also maintained an emerging artists series through the years, featuring recent grads or musicians early in their careers, including Jack Forestier, who’s gone on to win major international competitions and plays in the United States. “And I think our audiences would be familiar with the names that have grown up here, like Andrew Wan, who have gone away and now have big careers, and come back and play for us,” Ho says.
The Society performs about six to eight shows per year, and since 2016, it’s put on an In Remembrance performance each Remembrance Day, to pay musical respects to people who have passed from and still suffer the effects of war. “It really came into being because of the piece that we presented that year, ‘The Quartet for the End of Time,’” Ho says. “It was written by Olivier Messiaen, when he himself was a prisoner of war. It’s a really epic, difficult piece that is not often performed live, because it’s very heavy. It’s a real undertaking for the musicians and audiences. And out of that it became an annual event, but with different music every year.”
This year’s performance will feature four pieces, with musicologist D.T. Baker reading poetry in between. “The pieces we’re playing this year, none of them are directly related to any specific war, but two of the composers were affected by war by having their music censored by certain governments, so our theme this year is more a reflection of war and trying to have a general feeling of peace. And I think [Baker’s] poetry selections will reflect that as well.”
Jennifer Higdon’s “Gentle Notion” and Andrew Waggoner’s “Just Past Llano” are atmospheric, evocative and haunting, Ho says, with Alban Berg’s “Adagio for Clarinet” being grittier and more complex. The show will end with selections from Max Bruch’s Pieces for Clarinet, Viola and Piano, which Ho says are full of passion, and will “end the concert on a bit more of a hopeful note.”
Hear this year’s In Remembrance performance November 13 at 2 p.m. at Holy Trinity Anglican Church.