Friday, October 26, 2007

the cat's meow and the clarinetist's pajamas

One of the coolest and most fun Halloween shows I've heard is playing tonight and Saturday at the Beat Niq, just off Stephens Ave in downtown Calgary. The group is called Land's End, and this weekend they're performing their annual cabaret, entitled "Noche de Brujas". It's mainly Latin and South American-inspired music by Piazzolla, Gardel, Ginastera, Milhaud, Gojilov, Desenne - plus a Calgary composer, George Fenwick, who was there to introduce his piece "Black Jacques (Le chat noir)".

Land's End's cabaret is not your typical classical music concert - it's in a jazz nightclub for one thing, and all the performers are in costumes (a cello-playing cat, a witch pianist, and the clarinetist wore pajamas.) One violinist dressed as Zorro, but had to reveal himself after realizing his bow was colliding with his hat's brim, and his mask was blocking his ears. Costumed or not, all the players gave lively, passionate performances, with plenty of room for silliness and spontaneity.

I'd actually never gone to a chamber music concert in a nightclub - it wasn't the most gorgeous acoustic, but it made up for it with intimacy and ambience, and a nicely stocked bar. I maybe wasn't the only one a little unsure about how much of classical concert protocol transfers to a nightclub, but the music was so great that no one seemed tempted to talk or loudly clink silverware. It had the feeling of a concert among friends, even though the only person I knew was the bass player Trish, who invited me.

Land's End is the kind of group that you wish every town could have - adventurous, fun, exciting, committed to local performers and composers. They give 5 series of concerts throughout the year, and you can read all about them at their website: www.landsendensemble.ca.