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First Play: Gryphon Trio, Thunder Bay Symphony, Into the Wonder

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Robert Rowat

"Music is possibly the only human endeavor that has the potential to match nature's evanescent splendor," writes composer Jordan Pal in the liner notes for Into the Wonder, a new album featuring two of his compositions, performed by the Gryphon Trio and the Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra (TBSO) under Arthur Post.

Streaming in the player to your left until its Nov. 3 release, both of the album's works address natural phenomena.

The first is Starling, a three-movement composition for piano trio and orchestra inspired by mumuration, the graceful, pulsating gathering of hundreds of birds that appear to move with a collective purpose.

"Starling seeks to capture in musical form the same boundless, breathless, fleeting and visceral qualities indicative of nature," writes Pal. "Evocative and startling colours, characters and textures inspire a work that uncovers a deeply intuitive and mystical relationship to nature through sound. Musical techniques, such as aleatoric devices, spontaneous content-driven forms, and the soloists’ dynamic interactions with each other and the orchestra, assist in suggesting the intuitively ever-changing, non-linear processes of nature."

Starling was a joint commission of the Gryphon Trio and the TBSO. "The Gryphon Trio played wonderfully," Pal tells us. "The solo writing in Starling is demanding, and their performance is exciting. I'm always amazed at how these brilliant musicians assimilate the music, making it their own, so to speak."

'Mystery, awe and wonder'

Whereas Starling deals with an earthly phenomenon, the album's second work, Into the Wonder, celebrates the universe and its mysterious beauty.

"Evoking birth and death, creation and destruction, universal interconnectedness and the rapture of love, this piece seeks to capture the mystery, awe and wonder of life," Pal explains.

Into the Wonder was commissioned by the TBSO. "Arthur Post is a conductor who gets it. He understands the music, and knows how to communicate his understanding to the orchestra."

Much of Pal's recent work, in addition to Starling and Into the Wonder, looks to nature's phenomena for inspiration. "Other recent pieces are environmental advocacy works, and focus explicitly on the topic of environmental degradation," he says.

In 2016, his piece The Afar was nominated for a Juno Award for classical composition of the year. He's currently RBC affiliate composer with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and his piece Fallen will be performed by the TSO on Nov. 11.

Thunder Bay, Ont., is the smallest city in Canada to have a full-time symphony orchestra. Post's seven-year tenure as music director ended in April. "We've tackled some really wonderful, big projects, a number of commissions of Canadian composers," he told CBC. The TBSO's new music director is Paul Haas. Consult their 2017-18 season here.

Into the Wonder will be released on Nov. 3. Pre-order the album here.

More to explore:

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