John Oliver, composer

News Archive

Up Wind second performance a hit with musicians and audience

My composition UP WIND, originally commissioned and performed by the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra in 2004, got its second performance during the recent VSO New Music Festival. The orchestra was conducted by Maestro Bramwell Tovey.
It is a rare treat to get a second performance of a new composition for orchestra. A small minority of pieces get the chance to be heard a second time. When I attended the first read-through of my UP WIND a few days before the start of the recent VSO New Music Festival, I was pleased to talk to several musicians who had performed the work ten years earlier. Many remembered it well and were quick to get up to speed for this performance. This is the great advantage to a second performance, especially if those performing played the premiere. So now we can really make music! A new work has never been heard by anybody, composer included. But with a second performance, the musicians (and the composer) are past the first performance jitters, and so music-making comes sooner and more deeply. It also gives the composer a chance to reconsider details of the score. In my case, I took the opportunity to improve some of the orchestra in a passage of the first movement. The VSO were making beautiful music by the second rehearsal. And we could have recorded the dress rehearsal, they were so good.

All this to say that, if the music really is good – and I’m not shy about saying this is one of the best pieces I’ve written for orchestra – then that second performance will really prove the muster of the music. There are many really great Canadian orchestral pieces that haven’t had their second performance yet. They should. I can think of several pieces written within the last decade that would enchant audiences.

In any case, to get a sense for the concert event itself, have a read of photographer Alex Waterhouse-Hayward’s review on
his blog.