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Choral work wins national award

Benjamin Bolden, an associate professor in Queen’s University’s Faculty of Education, has won a national competition for choral music.

[Ben Bolden]
Ben Bolden of the Faculty of Education is the winner of the 2016 Competition for Choral Writing. (Supplied Photo) 

Dr. Bolden’s composition Tread Softly, a setting of The Cloths of Heaven by poet W.B. Yeats, was recently selected by Choral Canada as the winner of 2016 Competition for Choral Writing.

As a result, the Tread Softly will be published by Cypress Choral Music, a co-sponsor of the competition, and be premiered by the 2016 National Youth Choir of Canada during Choral Canada’s Podium biennial choral conference and festival in Edmonton on Friday, May 20.

He also receives the $1,500 Dianne Loomer Award.

“Having the piece performed by the National Youth Choir is an immense privilege,” Dr. Bolden says. “To think that all these superb young musicians will be dedicating their energy, expertise, musicality and spirit to bring my music alive… it is such a gift that the music I imagine, and hope might work, and write down as black marks on a page, can actually see the light of day and become beautiful through their voices.”

Tread Softly is an a cappella choral work which Michael Zaugg, guest conductor for the 2016 National Youth Choir of Canada, says uses “a lush tonal language” to set the words by Yeats.

“The well-structured dynamic and melodic development brings the text to the forefront and engages the performer and listener alike,” Mr. Zaugg adds. “I look forward to presenting these soaring melodies and rich harmonies in concert with the National Youth Choir of Canada.”

Dr. Bolden says he was inspired to compose the piece by a TED talk by Sir Ken Robinson, an internationally-recognized expert on education in the arts, where he spoke about the importance of educating children in a way that allows them to be who they need to be, and of honouring their dreams.

“He closed the talk by reading the poem ‘The Cloths of Heaven’ by William Butler Yeats,” he says. “He was using the poem to remind policy makers, educators, and parents that, every day and everywhere, children lay their dreams at our feet. We need to tread softly.”

Dr. Bolden’s research interests include the learning and teaching of composing, creativity, community music, arts-based research, Web 2.0 technologies in education, teacher knowledge, and teachers’ professional learning. He is an associate composer of the Canadian Music Centre and his compositions have been performed by a variety of professional and amateur performing ensembles.

Founded in 1980, Choral Canada is the national voice of the Canadian choral community, representing and uniting a network of conductors, educators, composers, administrators, choral industry leaders, and more than 42,000 choral singers. 

Examining the 'multiplicity of history'

Indigenous artist Sonny Assu’s work, on display at the Union Gallery, challenges the settler-colonial lens in Canadian art.

Layers of history are on display at the Union Gallery – in a show featuring digital paintings that examine and question the ways Canada has been portrayed over time, largely through a settler-colonial lens.

In the artworks, celebrated Vancouver-based artist Sonny Assu overlays Indigenous iconography on paintings by artists such as Emily Carr, Edwin Holgate and Paul Kane, effectively conveying multiple histories at once.

Ellyn Walker and Jocelyn Purdie take in Sonny Assu's digital paintings at the Union Gallery. 

“The works speak back to these canonized images of Canadian history,” says Ellyn Walker, a PhD student in the Cultural Studies Program who curated the show as part of her research. “These famous paintings, while intentional or not, didn’t properly or accurately acknowledge Indigenous presence on the land, such as in many of the sites that they portray, and Assu’s works challenge that.”

In all the works at the gallery, Assu placed formlines – shapes and images that are specific to the Pacific Northwest and found on Indigenous arts such as textiles and totem poles – in bold, neon colours on the paintings, in an effort to “speak back to their missing histories,” explains Walker.

Assu, who is Ligwilda’xa (We Wai Kai) of the Kwakwaka’wakw nations, graduated from Emily Carr University and has won numerous awards. His work has been accepted into the collections of the National Gallery of Canada, the Seattle Art Museum, the Vancouver Art Gallery, and in various other private and public collections across Canada, the U.S., and the U.K.

“I hope the show helps people become more interested in art history, and the multiplicity of history,” says Walker. “The exhibition asks us to look critically – and look again – at artwork made in Canada, meant to represent Canada, and how the places in which we live are in fact colonial sites.”

The exhibition, which runs until March 19, also includes a curators’ discussion at the gallery on the final day of the show. Walker, along with Carina Magazzeni, will discuss “curating as research” and the possibilities and limitations associated with this pedagogical method. She also hopes to discuss her theories on “curating as relationships,” and curating as a tool for negotiation.

Jocelyn Purdie, Director of the Union Gallery, says Walker’s show of Assu’s work is one of the ways the gallery provides experiential learning opportunities for students. Walker, as part of her work in cultural studies, is on a placement and mentorship with the gallery as their programming and research assistant.

More information on the Re-mixed: Reconfiguring the Imaginary exhibition is available at the Union Gallery website, on Facebook, and by email.



Experiences in 'unlearning'

Series of events invites participants to critically explore self and world through experimental and experiential means.

Shalon Webber-Heffernan hopes that a series of performances and campus-wide events that she’s curated for her master’s thesis in cultural studies will help people think about pedagogy through a different lens – as an embodied experience.

“It’s possible to argue that any experience is an embodied experience – because our bodies are present for every experience we have,” says Ms. Webber-Heffernan. “But ‘embodiment’ and emotional knowledge are not really subjects that are truly integrated into the academic context of learning. In a way, my thesis really questions the processes of knowledge exchange that happen within institutional and neoliberal conditions, and then uses those conditions as a setting for exploring ideas of unlearning.”

Toronto-based artist Golboo Amani is part of the Performing Pedagogies events and will bring her School of Bartered Knowledge, a participatory practice in which she asks people to share with her any knowledge they have. Ms. Amani keeps a record of all the "bartered knowledge" she receives. [Photo courtesy of Golboo Amani]

Much of Ms. Webber-Heffernan’s research creation project centres around the notion of a “hidden” or “secret” curriculum – theories investigated by scholar and cultural critic Henry Giroux.

“He asks the question, what do we learn that we don’t realize we’re learning?” says Ms. Webber-Heffernan, who is studying under the supervision of Professor Clive Robertson, and working collaboratively with Professor Keren Zaiontz’s undergraduate class, Film 338: Contemporary Issues in Cultural Studies, and The School for Eventual Vacancy in Vancouver.

“My thesis creation project is about unlearning the dominant ideologies that we unquestioningly believe to be true, and using the experiential processes of performance art to corporeally examine ideas of critical race theory, post-colonial theory, gender, sexuality, aging, etc.”

For the series of events – called Performing Pedagogies – Ms. Webber-Heffernan has invited numerous local, national and international artists to take part in several performances, a “Distance Education” exhibition, a panel discussion, and an all-day workshop led by Saul Garcia-Lopez of La Pocha Nostra, an international performance art troupe based in the U.S. and Mexico.

“I am ecstatic about all the artists participating and their willingness to work with me on this project. And it is really exciting to have Saul of La Pocha Nostra here teaching their radical performance pedagogy through the workshop,” says Ms. Webber-Heffernan, who went to Tijuana last summer to take a workshop with the group.

“Their work blends hands-on exercises from various traditions such as shamanism, experimental theatre and dance, the Suzuki method. It is transformative work that challenges people to encounter ‘the other,’ embrace the differences we find amongst ourselves, and face fears. You leave with a deeper sense of understanding, of your self and each other.”

Cultural studies master's student Shalon Webber-Heffernan curated Performing Pedagogies as part of her thesis creation project.

With a background in dance and performance art, Ms. Webber-Heffernan says she’s always had a deep connection with the body and “embodied” experiences, and believes that being a socially engaged and ethical being stems from the awareness and knowledge that comes from those experiences.

“It’s all very pedagogical and capable of changing your perspective,” she says. “And that’s what I hope for these events – that they encourage people of all backgrounds and disciplines to think critically and perhaps examine hidden parts of themselves and society.”

Performing Pedagogies takes place March 14-21. It brings together many artists, including Kingston artist Andrew Rabyniuk, Toronto’s Golboo Amani, Basil AlZeri and Francisco-Fernando Granados, Saul Garcia-Lopez, and The School for Eventual Vacancy. The events take place at the Union Gallery, Stauffer Library Loggia, the Agnes Etherington Art Centre and the Isabel Bader Centre for Performing Arts.

For more information, visit the Performing Pedagogies page on Instagram or Facebook, or contact Ms. Webber-Heffernan.



Art installation examines meaning of ‘ghetto’

An art installation examining the historical use of the word “ghetto” and how the weight and meaning of the word have changed over time is being hosted at the Queen’s Centre starting Tuesday, Feb. 23.

[GHETTO: A Retail Art Installation]
'GHETTO: A Retail Art Installation' will be on display at the Queen's Centre from Feb. 23 to March 14. (Photo by University of Dayton)

The Alma Mater Society (AMS) has partnered with ArtStreet at the University of Dayton to bring an art installation entitled “GHETTO: A Retail Art Installation” to Queen’s campus. The installation is a retail art experience that seeks to take the commercialized aspects surrounding the use of the term ‘ghetto’ and turn them into social, political and economic commentary.

The exhibit will be housed in the Fireplace Lounge on the second floor of the Queen’s Centre through to Monday, March 14.

A special opening night event at Common Ground Coffeehouse will offer a panel discussion featuring Rodney Veal and Brian LaDuca, two of the artistic producers for the original installation at the University of Dayton, and Alex Chung, the AMS Social Issues Commissioner. The panel will discuss the original ideas behind the installation, the importance of language and history, and the social climate at Dayton surrounding the use of the word ‘ghetto,’ as well as the parallels and contrasts it presents to Queen’s. A question and answer period will follow as well as a casual meet and greet with Mr. Veal and Mr. LaDuca afterwards. The event starts at 5:30 pm.

The art of teaching and learning

The Centre for Teaching and Learning wants the Queen’s community to delve into their creative process for a new exhibition that aims to highlight the artistic side of teaching and learning.

The creative expressions of teaching and learning exhibition, planned for October, will display and celebrate the creativity that is essential to the process of teaching and learning.

“Much of what we do at Queen’s to enhance teaching and learning takes a methodological approach, such as looking at course design or learning outcomes,” says Peter Wolf, Associate Vice-Provost (Teaching and Learning) and Director of the Centre for Teaching and Learning, who is spearheading the project along with a committee of dedicated volunteers. “This exhibition takes a different approach that hopes to engage students, staff and faculty in reflecting on the creative and sometimes artistic elements that contribute to learning.”

Submissions are invited from faculty, staff, students and alumni in two categories. The first is for existing artifacts, the products and processes of teaching and learning from current or past courses. This may include student projects, drawings, schematics, notes or other items. The second category is a call for proposals for new creative artworks, by individuals or groups, which need not be related to a specific course. These new works should be inspired by teaching and learning, and successful proposals will receive up to $750 to create the work.

A mind map created by a student as a tool for thinking through their project is an example of an existing artifact of teaching and learning.

“Transforming thought into art and artifact allows the knowledge culled from research and academic pursuits to incubate and emerge in a new form,” says Aynne Johnston, Associate Professor of Dramatic Arts Education, Co-coordinator of the Artist-in-Community Education program, and a member of the volunteer committee. “An artifact represents the end or the process of inquiry and has the ability to incite the curiosity of the public to learn, acquire and grasp connections between theory and possible application.”

Tricia Baldwin, Director of the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts and another member of the exhibition’s volunteer committee, says the exhibition will highlight the importance of imagination in discovery and learning.

“Here at the Isabel we celebrate the creative journey of discovery through the arts, and this Creative Expressions of Teaching and Learning project will demonstrate the parallel process of discovery and learning through imagination,” says Ms. Baldwin. “This project will involve both creators and the Queen’s community in this creative fusion of imaginative pedagogy and art itself.”

The deadline for submissions of existing artifacts of teaching and learning is May 2 and the deadline for proposals for new works is March 18. Ownership and copyright for all works submitted will remain with the artists.

More information about the creative expressions of teaching and learning exhibit, including submission forms, is available on the website of the Centre for Teaching and Learning.

Luck of the draw at Cezanne's Closet

[Cezanne's Closet]
Ticket holders get the chance to select from beautiful art pieces at Cezanne's Closet, the annual fundraiser for the Union Gallery.

Some wonderful works of art are up for grabs once again at Cezanne’s Closet, the Union Gallery’s annual fundraiser.

Art pieces, juried from donations by students, graduates, professors, and community artists, are exhibited at this formal event with each ticketholder ensured of going home with a work of art.

As ticketholders enjoy hors d'oeuvres, refreshments and entertainment, ticket numbers are drawn in random order. When a number is called, the person with the matching ticket has two minutes to claim their favourite piece from the wall. This makes for an exhilarating evening, as participants keep an eye on which of their favourite pieces have yet to be taken.

Proceeds from the event go towards supporting Union Gallery, a non-profit gallery that includes exhibits of contemporary work by students from the Bachelor of Fine Arts program as well as other student artists and professionals. Located in Stauffer Library, the gallery has professional staff, but students play a large role in its operation.

Cezanne’s Closet is on Saturday, Feb. 6 at Ban Righ Hall. The preview starts at 7 pm and the draw begins an hour later.

Tickets are $150 can be purchased from Union Gallery’s website

Queen's professor earns Juno nomination

John Burge (Music) has received a Juno nomination for his compostion Piano Quartet. (University Communications)

Queen’s University professor and composer John Burge (Music) has been nominated for a Juno Award, it was announced Tuesday.

Dr. Burge, received the Classical Composition of the Year nomination for Piano Quartet, which was commissioned and recorded by Ensemble Made In Canada.

[Piano Quartet]
Piano Quartet, by John Burge (Music), was commissioned and recorded by Ensemble Made In Canada. 

Dr. Burge won the Juno in the same category in 2009 for Flanders Fields Reflections.

Back then, Dr. Burge was vacationing in the Caribbean when the nominations were announced. This time, however, he was prepared and watched the proceedings live online in his campus office.

“All things considered, it really is very exciting to feel lightning strike twice as there are always so many deserving recordings made every year in this category,” he says. “The 2016 nomination for my Piano Quartet is especially meaningful because the group that commissioned and recorded the work, Ensemble Made In Canada, have kept the piece in their repertoire and performed it almost a dozen times in Canada and the United States since its premiere performance in 2012. It is great to have your music championed in this way and I expect that they will be playing the piece a few more times over the next few years given the Juno nomination.”

Dr. Burge describes Piano Quartet as “a very traditional work in three movements that lacks a descriptive title or narrative story and is really a true example of absolute music in the tradition of Brahms or Bartok.”

In 2010, Queen’s Music Continuing Adjunct Lecturer Marjan Mozetich won the Juno in the same category for Lament in the Trampled Garden.

The Juno Awards ceremony will be held Sunday, April 3, in Calgary.

Escape for 'A Night in Vienna'

[A Night in Vienna]
A Night in Vienna, the annual gala fundraiser for Queen's Music, takes to Grant hall on Saturday,Feb. 6. (University Communications

The talented students, faculty, and alumni from Queen's Music will be up front and centre as the Queen’s School of Drama and Music hosts its gala fundraiser.

A Night in Vienna, being held Saturday, Feb. 6, at 7:30 pm, in Grant Hall, is a musical journey to Vienna. For the event Grant Hall will be transformed into a grand ballroom where concertgoers will have the opportunity to waltz the night away, or just sit back and enjoy watching the professional ballroom dancers float across the dance floor while listening to the wonderful music of Vienna. 

Tickets are available at the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts, or online at theisabel.ca.

For further information contact Shirley Roth, Project Coordinator, Queen’s School of Drama and Music at (613) 533-6000 ext. 74211 or sr14@queensu.ca.



Tragedy and triumph

Students from the Department of Drama at Queen's learn how to fight with broadswords and quarterstaffs for the upoming production of William Shakespeare's Macbeth. (Supplied Photo)

When the Department of Drama stages its winter production of Macbeth, the classic Shakespearean play will have a distinctly female feel to it.

Out of the 20 actors involved, 17 are women. The three men, in an interesting twist, will be taking up the roles of the witches.

However, this is not a retelling of the classic tragedy.

As director Kim Renders (Drama) points out, the makeup of the production is simply a reflection of the demographics within the Queen’s Department of Drama itself. The vast majority of drama students are women.

The characters themselves will remain true to their origin. Macbeth is he, Lady Macbeth is she.

“My concern is to help the actors tell the story as it was written by William Shakespeare. That’s what I am trying to do,” she says. “The story is the primary focus.”

Of course, that didn’t mean it would be easy.

Early on, as she sat went through the process of selecting the play, Renders quickly came to the realization that there aren’t many plays that have a predominantly female cast. Then she asked why she had to find a play that is mostly female. Instead she would pick a play and just cast more women in it.

The first play that came to mind was Macbeth and the more she considered it the more she thought ‘Why not?’ She placed herself in the position of a student once again and saw an opportunity.

“Wouldn’t it be so exciting as a young woman to be able play some of these really great Shakespearean characters and villains,” she says.

For the most part, however, Renders is holding closely to the script.

As with so many of Shakespeare’s plays, at the heart of Macbeth is the struggle with the human condition, good versus evil, ambition, deceit, murder. All are universal.

“They don’t have gender,” Renders adds.

Where the production does stray from the original is that there will be an opening battle scene. Robert Lindsay, a professional fight choreographer, has been brought in to teach the students how to use quarterstaffs and broadswords.

It’s another great opportunity for the young actors.

“I think everybody is loving it, especially the cast who have the opportunity to engage in the fight scene rehearsals,” Renders says. “I think the women in the cast are happy to be learning these skills. They look fabulous and are clearly having a good time.” 

Macbeth will be staged at the Studio Theatre of the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts, Feb. 3-7 and Feb. 9-11 at 8 pm, along with a 2 pm matinee on Feb. 6. Tickets are $15 for students and seniors or $22 for general admission and can be purchased at theisabel.ca, the Isabel Bader Centre Box Office (12:30 pm-4:30 pm); or at the door prior to each performance.

For more visit the Department of Drama’s website.

Giller Prize recipient visits Queen’s

Andre Alexis discusses the inspiration for Fifteen Dogs with Queen’s English graduating class.

Andre Alexis, winner of the 2015 Scotiabank Giller Prize, visited Queen’s University on Tuesday to deliver a guest lecture and take part in a book signing. Mr. Alexis kept a packed audience at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre riveted as he discussed the inspiration for writing Fifteen Dogs, which included a local tie.

“I got the inspiration for writing Fifteen Dogs while I was taking care of 11 huskies in Sharbot Lake,” Mr. Alexis says. “The feeling of being with those dogs in that environment was an essential part of how I felt about the writing of the novel. My first novel was written at Sharbot Lake, and I knew nothing. I still feel that I know nothing, but now I am paid for what I know.”

In his prize-winning novel, 15 dogs in a veterinary clinic in Toronto are granted the gifts of reason and language by the Greek gods Hermes and Apollo. The novel follows the pack as they explore these fundamentally human abilities and the differing paths it places them on. Mr. Alexis said that the book, like his previous works, allows him to explore the concepts of God, love and power in different settings in an attempt to better understand all three.

“I had a set of concerns about love, about God and about power that you can see across the books I’ve written,” he says. “My work is a constant confrontation with my religious beliefs, maybe because in some ways I haven’t gotten over the loss of the belief I had when I was younger. This constant confrontation, which each of the five novels include, is either a way of saying goodbye to the notion of the divine or keeping it close so I don’t have to.”

Mr. Alexis’ visit was facilitated by the Department of English Language and Literature, which has hosted the recipient of the Giller Prize annually for nine years.


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