One of the pioneering works of 20th-century modernism, with a new dance score by an Indigenous choreographer. A selection of simple—but not necessarily simplistic—songs first made famous by Muppets. An outdoor concert featuring some of Vancouver’s finest brass players, using wooden instruments carved in a local park.
As intriguing as these events all sound, there’s one question that’s puzzling us: what’s the through-line? Fortunately, Little Chamber Music artistic director Mark Haney, whose eclectic and ambitious company will present all three events in scenic Mountain View Cemetery, has the answer.
“For me, the way they connect is about partnership,” he explains, checking in with the Straight from a bench in front of the CBC’s downtown headquarters. For the concert Moonshine, Arnold Schoenberg’s 1912 masterpiece Pierrot Lunaire is being produced in conjunction with the Blueridge Chamber Music Festival and choreographer Olivia C. Davies, with Blueridge co–artistic director Dory Hayley singing the title role.
Brought to You by the Letter J, which will be presented twice, will be curated by Haney and his life partner, pianist and songwriter Ida Nilsen, with an all-star cast singing and playing the songs of long-time Sesame Street composer Joe Raposo. “The first albums I was truly addicted to were Sesame Street albums, in particular Ernie’s Hits and Oscar the Grouch’s Let a Frown Be Your Umbrella,” Haney reveals. “And in both of those, the songs I loved the most were written by Joe Raposo, so I’ve kind of been a fan of his since childhood. Ever since I took the reins of Little Chamber, I have wanted to do a Joe Raposo concert—and it took seven years, but we’re here, and it’s great.”
The final part of Little Chamber Music’s summer season will be both a visual and a sonic spectacle: in the nine-piece band Treesong, trombonist Brad Muirhead and other brass virtuosos will put aside their usual instruments and perform on large and sonorous “Fuhorns” carved from local deciduous trees by musician and visual artist Dave Gowman. Adding to the celebratory feel is the fact that Muirhead’s extroverted scores will be performed outdoors.
“It’s going to start with a call-and-response thing spread out around the cemetery, and then over the course of about the first half-hour, all the horns are going to congregate at the East Fountain, this circular area with a fountain in it, ringed by trees. And that’s where the bulk of the performance will take place,” Haney says. “I keep telling people that you haven’t seen or heard anything like this—and that’s just so true. The horns are so unique, the sounds they make are so unique, and if you know Brad, then you know he’s a unique composer and musician.”
There’s considerable method behind all of this madness. Not only is Little Chamber Music doing a smart thing by programming music—in the case of Brought to You by the Letter J, at least—that avant-garde connoisseurs, indie-rock fans, and small children will enjoy, but all three programs are free. And in that sense, the company’s August trifecta is a collaboration with the audience as well as with a very diverse crew of artists.
“Strength in numbers, right?” says Haney. “You’re always stronger with more good people than with less, so I just see this as a natural progression of everything we do.”
Little Chamber Music presents Moonshine at Mountain View Cemetery’s Celebration Hall at 9 p.m. on Sunday (August 4). Brought to You by the Letter J takes place at 3:30 and 7 p.m. on August 11, also in the Celebration Hall. Treesong plays the cemetery at 7:30 p.m. on August 18.