While the through-line of Problematic Orchestra’s upcoming concert draws on the traditional folk ethos, pinning it to that genre alone would be a mistake — it’s more of an interpretation, intentionally loose to foster the collaboration of creative minds.
“Eclectic,” is the word Daniel Janke, the director, used to describe it.
It’s no longer about playing “museum pieces by dead guys,” according to Janke, who’s also a jazz pianist on the side, but creating something fresh.
That’s because most of the pieces of music — seven — are originals, crafted by artists with diverse tastes, including Janke.
There are some adapted covers, if you will, including works by the Louvin Brothers, a country duo active in the ‘50s and ‘60s, and Italian composer Montiverde.
It’s within the group, made up of 27 artists, that these backgrounds jam, making the music almost chameleon-like.
“The musicians, in the ensemble, represent an eclectic diaspora, because some are classically trained, some are self-taught, or grew up in folk or jazz traditions, you know, so it creates for quite a mix,” he said, adding that he wouldn’t bother performing with the group had there not been any originals.
Problematic Orchestra, named for the sometime difficulty of finding musicians and the resources to play in the North, have a public performance at the Yukon Arts Centre during the winter solstice — on Dec. 21.
“It’s not stuck in orchestral music as a kind of a period. That makes it relevant,” Janke said, who conceded that the audience, in prior years, tends to be of an older vintage.
“It embraces everything,” he said. “We’re not following any doctrine of what is or what isn’t classical music. It’s not a museum piece, playing music by dead guys.”
Janke said the formation of the group is a long-term building process, and that, every year, it gets better, bigger.
While the ensemble has been playing since 1995, this is the third year its makeup has remained relatively unchanged.
There are six or seven new members this year, however, Janke noted.
Duncan Sinclair, tenor saxophone, characterized some of the songs as sounding like a circus, then, suddenly, it will taper off, transforming into a swaying classical string section.
“There’s kind of a movement in some of these tunes that’s really delightful,” he said.
“There’s even a radio at one point,” he added.
The music demands attention, Sinclair said, not passivity. Part of that has to do with the size of the group and the style in which it plays.
“It’s going to be a mixture of very, very tender and then super strong. That whole spectrum of music,” he said.
“We’ve got fewer numbers, so everybody’s gotta be on their game and the listener has to be engaged.”
An example of this, Sinclair said, is a song called “Canoeing on a Lake in Autumn,” which simulates the sensation of doing just that.
“The music cultivates the mood of ‘Gee, I’m out there, on the water, with a paddle, and I’m dipping, and I’m heading from here to there, and there’s a little bit of wind.’”
Bryn Knight, who plays violin, said the ensemble acts as an outlet for professionally trained musicians to get out there and play and engage with the community.
“All the songs have something that will appeal to the audience,” she said, “and they definitely appeal to us as musicians. They’re very interesting.”
Contact Julien Gignac at firstname.lastname@example.org