The 2016 What Next Festival of New Music continues May 19 with the world premiere of Sidewalk Flowers by HPO Composer-in-Residence Abigail Richardson-Schulte.

Sidewalk Flowers is based on the Governor General’s Award-winning picture book of the same name. Written by poet JonArno Lawson with tender and evocative illustrations by Sydney Smith, Sidewalk Flowers is a wordless tale that is simple and complex, wistful and big-hearted. The music is commissioned by McMaster’s LIVELab with support from the Incite Foundation for the Arts.

An ode to the importance of small things, small people and small gestures, this book comes to life in Abigail’s brand new narrative vocal piece. The touching story is told by voice without words, string quartet, piano, electronics and on-screen illustrations. Abigail was inspired by the simple story of how a parent walking a child home from school can become a lesson to us all. The concept behind the orchestration of the work is surprisingly simple: each instrument represents an element from the story. The voice without words represents the child, the electronics represent the cityscape, the piano represents the “sidewalk flowers” and the string quartet supports the unfolding story as its presence increases with the increasing use of colour throughout the book. The music itself is also beautifully simple, to best capture the spirit of the book. Abigail writes:

“I have been a big fan of JonArno Lawson’s honest, wise and fun poetry for some time now. In fact, I have already used a number of his poems in my choral music. I particularly admire his ability to write poetry for both children and adults, a switch which I am increasingly doing in my own orchestral music. JonArno grew up with my husband in Dundas, and in fact, was best man at our wedding. He has had much success as a poet (which is hard to do!) but we were particularly delighted to hear of his recent Governor General’s Award. Upon discovering Sidewalk Flowers, I instantly realized that it could be told with music. The on-screen illustrations will move in time with the music, allowing us to experience the journey and the sonic environment as it is revealed in front of us. The wonderful Active Acoustics in the LIVELab will immerse us in this urban story.”

Don’t miss the premiere of Abigail’s Sidewalk Flowers Thursday, May 19 at 7:30pm at the McMaster LIVELab (1280 Main Street West). Click here for directions and more information.

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