Album marks end of ‘quite a ride’ for ensemble

Photo courtesy of V. Tony Hauser

Members of Ensemble Made in Canada, Western's musical Artists in Residence, have released a CD - with original pieces by composers from across Canada - as their Mosaique tour ends. The ensemble: Angela Park (piano), Rachel Mercer (cello), Elissa Lee (violin), Sharon Wei (viola).

Many months and thousands of kilometres since they started their cross-country project to bring new Canadian classical music across cultures and languages, Ensemble Made in Canada is showcasing its work in a special concert at Western on Jan. 21.

Later in the week, it will release its CD, The Mosaïque Project, in St. Catharines.

“It’s been quite a ride,” said Sharon Wei, leader of Ensemble Made in Canada, Western’s Ensemble-in-Residence.

The CD is already being touted by CBC Music producer Robert Rowat as one of the must-listens of Canadian new classical releases.

The group has also won a fan in former Governor-General Adrienne Clarkson, who called the Mosaïque project a “unique, vivid, artistic expression.”

The ensemble commissioned works from 14 composers to reflect and celebrate Canadian diversity: music in a variety of genres and from a range of cultures. And then, in a three-year journey, they performed the pieces in concerts in 50 communities across the country, including audiences in the experience by inviting them to draw mosaic squares representing their Canadian perspectives.

Then, late last year, the four musicians who make up Ensemble Made in Canada – Wei on viola, Angela Park on piano, Rachel Mercer on cello and Elissa Lee on violin – recorded the music at Glenn Gould Studio in Toronto.

Both Wei and Park are professors who teach at Western’s Don Wright Faculty of Music.

During the Jan. 21 event at Western, the group will be among several artists presenting their projects to a broader audience as part of a research-creation showcase highlighting the intersection of research and art.

As part of the ensemble’s public concert, four of the composers will speak about their pieces, the quartet will perform and speak about their journey and funding, and several of the mosaic tiles will be on display, Wei said.

“We had no idea at the beginning how many tangents could come out of this project,” Wei said.

And still, it doesn’t feel as if the creative well is even close to dry. “I feel like we haven’t really finished because we have all these ideas for what we could do next.”

One of her favourite memories of the tour will be their time in Iqaluit at Inuksuk High School, where they played their pieces for students and student drum dancers performed for them.

“It was minus-45 (degrees) in November and there was so much warmth in the room.”

Another highlight was being able to work with dedicated teachers across the country who were finding new ways of bringing geography, culture and music learning to their students, she said.

An official CD launch will take place on Jan. 24 in St. Catharines. It will feature a livestreamed concert, lights and videos.