As anyone who’s ever driven from coast to coast knows all too well, Canada is immense. And while it’s one thing to traverse it as a tourist, it’s another altogether to do it as a working musician; the combination of late nights and long drives can be deadly.
Jordan Nobles has got it all figured out, however. The co–artistic director of Vancouver’s Redshift Music is subject to many brainstorms, and his latest involves sending a sextet of scores out on the road, while the composers and musicians stay home. This new undertaking, 6-Team League, is a concert “series” that will run on the same day in six different cities: Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto, Montreal, and Fredericton. The Saturday (May 15) event is being produced by six different nonprofit societies, that have each commissioned a new work for a six-piece ensemble from one of six different composers.
“It’s kind of a simultaneous tour,” says Nobles, reached at home in North Vancouver—just a bridge away from the Cultch, where the local edition of 6-Team League will take place. “Canada is really big, and communication is so easy but travel is so costly. There’s all these communities doing stuff and I can communicate with them instantaneously, so why don’t I do that? Why don’t we all sit in our respective homes and put something together through the Internet?”
The composer and organizer ran his idea by a few new-music colleagues, and was pleased to find that, for the most part, they were up for it.
“Everybody was really willing to join in,” says percussionist Jerry Pergolesi in a separate telephone interview from Toronto, where the group he leads, CONTACT Contemporary Music, will host the Ontario version. “And when you’re dealing with six artistic directors, six ensembles of six members each, and six composers, that’s a lot of cooperation that had to happen.”
“We’re sharing composers, we’re sharing a poster, we’re sharing a program, and that’s sort of a big thing,” says Nobles. “We’re sharing all these elements of the concert, and so we get to feel like we’re involved in a larger community.”
The networking opportunities are obvious, as are the benefits for 6-Team League’s audience. When Redshift’s brand-new Negative Zed ensemble takes the Cultch stage on Saturday, a half-dozen new works from some of Canada’s best new-music composers—including Dave Wall, Gordon Fitzell, Juliet Palmer, Michel Frigon, Joel Miller, and Nobles himself—will be premiered. And to build on the sports metaphor implicit in the event’s title, everyone’s going to be pumped.
“To use another sports metaphor, though, we’re going to have to go out and play our own game,” says Pergolesi, who downplays the idea that 6-Team League is in any way a competitive event.
Nobles agrees, to a point. “I do think that all the composers have got their game face on,” he says, laughing. “A lot of them have done what looks like really impressive stuff—and, speaking for myself, I think it’s my best piece in a decade.”
And better still, he adds, he’ll have six chances to find out if he’s right.