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Esprit Orchestra goes to China

July 3rd, 2015 · No Comments

Trip marks 45th anniversary of diplomatic relations with Canada

The Esprit Orchestra performed The Falcon’s Trumpet by R. Murray Schafer with Robert Venables on trumpet on June 4 at the Guangxi Arts Institute Concert Hall. Courtesy Mimi Mok, Esprit Orchestra

The Esprit Orchestra performed The Falcon’s Trumpet by R. Murray Schafer with Robert Venables on trumpet on June 4 at the Guangxi Arts Institute Concert Hall. Courtesy Mimi Mok, Esprit Orchestra

By Beth McKay

Toronto’s Esprit Orchestra is fearless when it comes to musical innovation, and its brave musical style has recently landed them on the opposite side of the world. In late May, 30 Esprit musicians left Toronto for the orchestra’s debut tour of China.

Esprit’s founding musical director and conductor Alex Pauk has been nominated for the Margo Bindhardt and Rita Davies Award, a $10,000 prize given to an individual who demonstrates creative and cultural leadership in the development of Toronto’s arts and culture. The award acknowledges just the sort of initiative exemplified by this trip, and recognizes Pauk’s leadership role in bringing Esprit’s ever-evolving new musical sound to countries around the world.

Pauk hopes the trip to China will build a bridge to a future of musical exchange between the two countries, and encourage the sharing of new orchestral musical culture in the future.

“The idea is to present strongly characteristic pieces,” says Pauk about the Canadian pieces Esprit will play, noting the orchestra’s versatility and ability to perform unique music. “My work combines different aspects of what Esprit does. It combines the orchestra with digital playback sounds, like sounds of nature and electronic tones.”

The orchestra’s musical repertoire includes pieces written by R. Murray Schafer, Pauk, and his wife Alexina Louie, who will also give pre-concert talks and master classes to students throughout the tour.

Esprit is Canada’s only full-sized orchestra solely committed to performing and promoting new orchestral music. This trip to China has taken some considerable fundraising for the orchestra’s members which demonstrates their dedication to sharing new music beyond Canadian borders.

Esprit will play at multiple venues in Beijing and Nanning, returning to Canada on June 6. Pauk says that on May 29, they will be performing all Canadian music at the 2015 Beijing Modern Music Festival.

“In the future, we would really like to see some players come here [to Toronto],” says Pauk. With the foundation that has been made over the past two decades, this idea isn’t too far fetched.

The musicians do intend to do some sightseeing in China, but Pauk expects to be very busy. On June 2, Esprit will combine with the musicians of the Guangxi Symphony Orchestra to form an ensemble of over 90 players. This large orchestra will perform both a Canadian and an international program including works from Vietnamese composer ng Hu Phúc, Germany’s Jörg Widmann, and three phenomenal Chinese composers.

The trip coincides with the 45th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Canada and the People’s Republic of China, a relationship that has been growing continuously every year since 1970.

Canada is home to roughly 1.3 million Canadian residents of Chinese origin, and has a comprehensive relationship with China at many levels and in many areas, including trade, health, education, and culture, according to the Government of Canada’s website.

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