We are thrilled to be collaborating with guest musical director Noam Lemish for our final concert this season, Tower of Babel. Noam Lemish is an Israeli-American jazz pianist and composer currently based out of Toronto, Canada. He has appeared in numerous performances across the US, Canada, Europe, Israel, and in Bhutan. He has several recordings to his credit, including most recently a trio album The Turning (2016) and The Magic Clavier Book I (2015) – a solo piano album featuring 12 Etudes by composer W.A Mathieu and seven improvisations. His compositions include chamber, choral, piano, numerous jazz works and “The People’s King”: a commissioned multi-cultural suite in celebration the King of Bhutan’s 30th birthday composed while teaching music in the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan in 2010. He is a collective member in the Toronto based Israeli-Iranian Musical Initiative and a doctoral candidate at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Music program, and he sat down with our own Chelsea McBride to talk about his artistic vision and what it’s like working with Spectrum for our thought-provoking 2015-16 season finale.
Tell us a little bit about your artistic vision. Spectrum seeks to innovate through genre-defying compositions; how does this line up with what you do? What excites you about working with the Spectrum team?
My own music making has pretty much always resided “in between” genres or “beyond genre”. The fact that genre-defying work is central to the work of Spectrum is one of the things that is most appealing to me about this collaboration. Our special guest for the performance, Amos Hoffman, is a virtuoso and versatile musician, home in both the jazz and Arab classical music traditions and whose own original music often is genre-defying. Indeed, all of the musicians carefully selected to round out the ensemble are actively engaged in musical projects that stretch, push and eclipse genre boundaries. Having followed their work over the past few years, I can’t wait to hear what the Spectrum composers come up with for this concert!
One of the things I’m personally most curious about: why the Tower of Babel in particular? What about this story is significant to you?
What interests me in the Tower of Babel story is the portion that occurs before God interferes. The people of the world were working together to build a tower that reaches the sky; they were one people, united. There’s many layers to this that interest me. Maybe we don’t have to let languages, nationalities, ethnicities divide us from working together to face the challenges of this planet. That beyond those differences, we are actually all one people. That perhaps we can celebrate the beauty of these differences, of language, of cultures and still transcend them so that we remember our shared humanity. Finally, that music itself can transcend the verbal language and in its resonance even go beyond the notion of an idea itself. Sound goes beyond words, labels, ideas.
So true – I’m looking forward to hearing more about this in the pre-concert chat, too!
The next thing I’m curious about: how did you and Amos connect, and how did this particular collaboration come about?
About a year and a half ago I went down to Columbia, South Carolina where Amos Hoffman is now living to interview him for my doctoral dissertation research. My dissertation focuses on the work of prominent Israeli jazz musicians who fuse an assortment of middle-eastern influences with jazz. Of course, Amos’s work is central to this study. I had actually already started talking to then-Spectrum Artistic Director Ben Dietschi about the possibility of curating a concert that explored some cross-cultural music making. I have long been a fan of Amos’s music, and during my visit I broached the idea of this collaboration. Amos was interested and we have been working since on making all of this come to fruition.
What else do you and Amos have planned while he’s visiting?
We’ll be doing a short little mini-tour that will include a June 2nd performance in Montreal at Upstairs Jazz and a June 3rd performance in Ottawa at Black Squirrel Books.
We’re so glad you get to end the mini-tour with us! What are you most looking forward to for June 4’s concert?
I am really excited about exploring all the new pieces that have been composed especially for this concert by the Spectrum composers, the NVCR winner Nathan Marsh, Amos and myself. And, I’m really looking forward to playing with the stellar ensemble that includes Amos, Justin and Derek Gray along with Peter Lutek.
And we are so thrilled to have you. Thanks so much Noam!