Winnipeg Jazz Orchestra teams up with local composers for emotional music with a meaning

Click to play video: 'Local composers bring internationally inspired music to Winnipeg'
Local composers bring internationally inspired music to Winnipeg
The Winnipeg Jazz Orchestra is performing with a host of local composers for Music of Our Time, taking place at the West End Cultural Centre on November 30. Sean Irvine is one of the composers and joins Global News Morning to discuss the show, and what inspired the pieces set to entertain audiences – Nov 27, 2023

For a new concert with a social conscience, the Winnipeg Jazz Orchestra is teaming up with local composers to showcase their emotionally charged pieces that cover topics that hit close to home.

The WJO’s Music for Our Time event, Thursday night at the West End Cultural Centre, tackles LGBTQ2 identity, the ongoing war in Ukraine, efforts to preserve the Amazon rainforest, and Indigenous perspectives in Canada — via composers Sean Irvine, Tetyana Haraschuk, Marco Castillo and Andrew Balfour, respectively.

“I think it’s a good reminder to us about what’s going on even beyond our own personal lives,” said Irvine, an acclaimed woodwind specialist known for his work on saxophone as well as clarinet, oboe and flute.

“I’m guilty of it. It’s always good to be able to connect outside of our own little worlds. We get very sucked into it.”

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Irvine told Global Winnipeg he has composed a suite for the event that adapts real-life stories of gay men into pieces of music — a similar concept to his 2019 album, The Oak & Alley Chapter.

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“My theme for my whole suite is within the LGBTQ+ community. I’ve taken a series of gay men’s stories and essentially transcribed and adapted them into an audio soundtrack,” he said.

“How, when people listen to this music, could they know this person? How can I do my best to represent who these individuals are through people just closing their eyes and listening.

“We’re going to see people really reaching out and feeling a whole array of emotions — sadness and being pensive and all these other things are very important emotions because they help us to process and move forward.”

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Among Irvine’s fellow artists contributing to Thursday’s concert is Tetyana Haraschuk, a Ukrainian Canadian drummer and composer with first-hand experience helping family safely cross into Poland.

Brazilian guitarist and bandleader Marco Castillo and Cree composer and conductor Andrew Balfour round out the lineup behind the music, along with the members of the community-based and critically acclaimed WJO.

More details about Music For Our Time are available at the WJO’s website.

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