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Vancouver’s Path-Leading Music on Main Concert Series

Mythos Image credit: Music on Main
Graham Strahle
| April 23, 2019

Since it began in 2006, Vancouver’s concert series Music on Main (MOM) has become recognised internationally as one of the true pace setters in the indie classical or ‘post-classical’ space. A one-night festival to honour Steve Reich’s 70th birthday is how it started, and since then MOM has developed into an impressive year-round program that showcases many rising and leading musicians in this scene. We profile it briefly here for two reasons. One is that it is interesting to see how successful music curation works in a comparable country to our own; but another is that several Australian connections have evolved with Music On Main that make it especially noteworthy.

A snapshot of what Music on Main does is seen in its particularly eclectic line-up of concerts for coming weeks. There are US violinist Jennifer Koh (whose repertoire spans Bach, John Adams, Ornette Coleman and John Zorn), Tesla Quartet (comprising young Juilliard graduates), Canadian baroque and modern cellist Elinor Frey, and various up-and-coming musicians from Vancouver’s local scene. Performances take place in not one but several inner-city locations, chiefly the city’s former post office (Heritage Hall) and a repurposed cinema theatre (The Fox Cabaret).

A constant flow of musicians means that Music on Main does not rely on a small stable of favoured artists and keeps a fresh feel. Concerts are short, a bar is open before and after performances, and the atmosphere is open and casual. “We really want everyone to feel welcome at Music on Main concerts, and we choose venues that help create friendly, social environments,” says their website.

Music on Main also runs an annual Modulus Festival that “spotlights ground-breaking musicians and composers from the post-classical music scene”, and artistic director David Pay also programs film, dance and work by a range of interdisciplinary artists. Together they are “storytellers for a post-classical age”, observed the International Society of New Music when MOM co-hosted the 2017 ISCM World New Music New Days.

Some of those storytellers have been Australians. Just finished is Marking the Infinite, an exhibition that showed visual artworks by nine Aboriginal women: Nonggirrnga Marawili, Wintjiya Napaltjarri, Yukultji Napangati, Angelina Pwerle, Carlene West, Regina Pilawuk Wilson, Lena Yarinkura, Gulumbu Yunupingu and Nyapanyapa Yunupingu.

The Australian connection as now swung onto acclaimed Sydney percussionist Claire Edwardes, who is artistic director of one of our most innovative new music groups, Ensemble Offspring. As this year MOM’s artist-in-residence she has been leading a clutch of performances through March and April. For example, on 2 April she played works by Hollis Taylor, Kate Moore, Javier Alvarez, Tristan Coelho and Iannis Xenakis. See more details about Edwardes’ residency here.

Sydney arts administrator Simonette Turner represents a further tie with MOM. Acting Coordinator of SAMA (Sydney Arts Management Advisory Group) and Arts Practice Officer at Australia Council for the Arts, she is the recipient of a prestigious Classical:NEXT fellowship to be mentored by the aforementioned David Pay – the Australian Music Centre has just announced this (see our separate story).

Congratulations to them all.

Music on Main’s ‘Composer Essay Project’, in which composers air their thinking and views, is another enterprising facet of its activities – and worth checking out.

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