The Hard Rubber Orchestra's Ice Age 2010 hits the rink with athletes

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      For years, John Korsrud has led a secret life, but now it’s time for the truth to come out. “I never let anyone know about this,” he whispers conspiratorially, on the line from his East Vancouver home. “But I have to admit it: I’m a huge sports fan.”

      Okay, so as far as revelations go this is not exactly on par with, say, coming out of the closet or admitting to an obsession with women who wear running shoes (see this week’s Savage Love). And for those familiar with the trumpet virtuoso and bandleader’s energetic approach to music, it’s probably not even that much of a surprise. But it certainly goes a long way towards explaining why the Hard Rubber Orchestra’s next show is going to take place in a hockey rink—at North Vancouver’s Harry Jerome Arena, in fact, on Saturday (March 20)—and why there are going to be even more athletes on the ice than musicians on the stage.

      Winter sports are the focus of The Ice Age 2010, and that’s only natural, as the show is a Cultural Olympiad production. But the show’s ice-bound surroundings aren’t going to put a chill on Korsrud’s penchant for adding circuslike spectacle to the instrumental brilliance of his all-star big band.

      “One of my faults,” he says, “is that I have a hard time thinking small. I could never just do a trio or a quartet. It’s more like, ”˜Well, we’ll do this, and we’ll do that, and we’ll add hockey players and curlers!’

      “Maybe I’m trying to make up for something,” he adds with a laugh. Or, more likely, he’s just trying to find ways to make complex music more fun. The Ice Age 2010 playbook features scores from a stellar lineup of composers, including electroacoustic wizard Peter Hannan and jazz luminaries Brad Turner, Tony Wilson, and Bill Runge. But it will also feature cameo appearances from D.O.A. singer Joe Keithley (as himself) and Double Exposure comic Bob Robertson (as Don Cherry), plus a horde of skaters, curlers, and ringette players. And, most intriguingly, it will also feature A-list figure skaters Emanuel Sandhu, Kathryn Kang, Tarrah Harvey, and Keith Gagnon, all performing new routines choreographed for the occasion by Olympic veteran Joanne McLeod.

      McLeod and her star protégé Sandhu first worked with the Hard Rubber Orchestra at the Kerrisdale Arena in 2000, as part of The Ice Age: The World’s First New Music Ice Show, and the ice-dancing coach is very glad to be back.

      “Hard Rubber’s music taps a new zone for us,” says McLeod in a separate telephone interview, noting that the band can swing from upbeat numbers to the kind of “dark, exploratory” soundscapes that would never be used in competitive figure skating. “It pushes your creative thought, in terms of choreography and movement.”

      Performing with live musicians rather than a taped soundtrack is a welcome challenge, she adds—and an additional thrill.

      “With live music, the deal is that when it comes to showtime, everything just gets better,” McLeod explains. “It’s just much more real and alive and exciting. Whatever it is in rehearsal, in performance the excitement level just goes up.”