The Origins of Felix the Cat

As part of our upcoming Silence Is Golden Charlie Chaplin Film Fest, we are thrilled to incorporate a classic Felix the Cat cartoon scored by the SSO.

On November 9, 1919, Master Tom, a prototype of Felix, debuted in a Paramount Pictures short entitled Feline Follies. Produced by the New York City-based animation studio owned by Pat Sullivan, the cartoon was directed by cartoonist and animator Otto Messmer. It was a success, and the Sullivan studio quickly set to work on producing another film featuring Master Tom, the Felix the Cat prototype in Musical Mews (released November 16, 1919). It too proved to be successful with audiences. Otto Messmer claimed that John King of Paramount Magazine suggested the name “Felix”, after the Latin words felis (cat) and felix (happy). The name was first used for the third film starring the character, The Adventures of Felix (released on December 14, 1919). Pat Sullivan claimed he named Felix after Australia Felix from Australian history and literature. In 1924, animator Bill Nolan redesigned the character, making him both rounder and cuter. Felix’s new looks, coupled with Messmer’s character animation, brought Felix to fame.

The question of who created Felix remains a matter of dispute. Sullivan stated in numerous newspaper interviews that he created Felix and did the key drawings for the character. On a visit to Australia in 1925, Sullivan told The Argus newspaper that “[t]he idea was given to me by the sight of a cat which my wife brought to the studio one day”. On other occasions, he claimed that Felix had been inspired by Rudyard Kipling‘s “The Cat that Walked by Himself” or by his wife’s love for strays.Members of the Australian Cartoonist Association have claimed that lettering used in Feline Follies matches Sullivan’s handwriting and that Sullivan lettered within his drawings. Sullivan’s supporters also say the case is supported by his March 18, 1917, release of a cartoon short entitled The Tail of Thomas Kat more than two years prior to Feline Follies. Both an Australian ABC-TV documentary screened in 2004 and the curators of an exhibition at the State Library of New South Wales in 2005 suggested that Thomas Kat was a prototype or precursor of Felix. However, few details of Thomas have survived. His fur color has not been definitively established, and the surviving copyright synopsis for the short suggests significant differences between Thomas and the later Felix. For example, whereas the later Felix magically transforms his tail into tools and other objects, Thomas is a non-anthropomorphized cat who loses his tail in a fight with a rooster, never to recover it.

Sullivan was the studio proprietor and—as is the case with almost all film entrepreneurs—he owned the copyright to any creative work by his employees. In common with many animators at the time, Messmer was not credited. After Sullivan’s death in 1933, his estate in Australia took ownership of the character.

It was not until after Sullivan’s death that Sullivan staffers such as Hal Walker, Al Eugster, Gerry Geronimi, Rudy Zamora, George Cannata, and Sullivan’s own lawyer, Harry Kopp, credited Messmer with Felix’s creation. They claimed that Felix was based on an animated Charlie Chaplin that Messmer had animated for Sullivan’s studio earlier on. The down-and-out personality and movements of the cat in Feline Follies reflect key attributes of Chaplin’s, and, although blockier than the later Felix, the familiar black body is already there (Messmer found solid shapes easier to animate). Messmer himself recalled his version of the cat’s creation in an interview with animation historian John Canemaker:

Sullivan’s studio was very busy, and Paramount, they were falling behind their schedule and they needed one extra to fill in. And Sullivan, being very busy, said, “If you want to do it on the side, you can do any little thing to satisfy them.” So I figured a cat would be about the simplest. Make him all black, you know—you wouldn’t need to worry about outlines. And one gag after the other, you know? Cute. And they all got laughs. So Paramount liked it so they ordered a series.

Animation historians back Messmer’s claims. Among them are Michael BarrierJerry Beck, Colin and Timothy Cowles, Donald Crafton, David Gerstein, Milt Gray, Mark Kausler, Leonard Maltin, and Charles Solomon. No animation historians outside of Australia have argued on behalf of Sullivan.

Sullivan marketed the cat relentlessly while Messmer continued to produce a prodigious volume of Felix cartoons. Messmer did the animation directly on white paper with inkers tracing the drawings directly. The animators drew backgrounds onto pieces of celluloid, which were then laid atop the drawings to be photographed. Any perspective work had to be animated by hand, as the studio cameras were unable to perform pans or trucks. Pat Sullivan began a comic strip in 1923 distributed by King Features Syndicate. Messmer took over drawing duties of the strip. The first The Felix Annual from 1924 issued in Great Britain shows the last two stories are not the usual Otto Messmer style, so a difference in Pat Sullivan drawn cartoons can be noted.

Brush up on your Charlie Chaplin!

The SSO is thrilled to be heading back to the Roxy Theatre for another Silence Is Golden event – this time we’re bringing you a Charlie Chaplin film fest!

On Friday night you can take in Chaplin’s famous talkie “The Great Dictator”, then catch a double header the next day with “The Adventurer” and “The Immigrant” both scored by the SSO.

The Adventurer – 1917

Charlie Chaplin plays an escaped convict from the state penitentiary who, clad in his striped prison uniform, is on the run from prison guards. He skillfully and athletically manages to elude a handful of guards at a rocky seashore, eventually making his escape by entering the water. Charlie opportunistically happens upon a man in a rowboat who is preparing for a swim. Charlie steals the man’s swimsuit and heads to shore. He hears cries for help as a woman (Edna Purviance), her mother, and the woman’s suitor (Eric Campbell) have all fallen into the water and are poor swimmers. Charlie rescues them all, but carelessly allows the enormous suitor to fall back into the water while he is attempting to carry him on a stretcher. Charlie rescues him once again, but the angry suitor kicks Charlie senseless into the water. Charlie wakes up in a bedroom in the lavish home of the grateful girl and her mother. He is wearing striped pajamas and for a moment he believes he is back in prison. He identifies himself as a yachtsman and is given a set of evening clothes to wear to a party. Charlie’s luck begins to run out, however. The girl’s father turns out to be the judge who sentenced Charlie to a prison term. Charlie looks vaguely familiar to the judge, but he cannot quite place him. The suitor, now especially miffed at Charlie because of the attention the girl is giving him, sees Charlie’s photo in a newspaper as a prison escapee. Meanwhile, a house employee is feeding her beau a meal in the kitchen; the beau happens to be one of the guards who was chasing Charlie on the beach. The suitor summons the authorities who pursue Charlie on a merry chase up and down the two-story house where Charlie’s acrobatic skills save him from arrest several times. Just as it looks like Charlie will finally be apprehended, he cleverly escapes again and the chase is renewed.

The Immigrant – 1917

The film begins aboard a steamer crossing the Atlantic Ocean, and initially showcases the misadventures of an unnamed immigrant, the Tramp (Chaplin) who finds himself in assorted mischief while, among other things, playing cards, eating in a mess hall, and avoiding seasick passengers. Along the way, he befriends another unnamed immigrant (Purviance) who is traveling to America with her ailing mother. The two are robbed by a pickpocket who is losing in gambling. The Tramp, feeling sorry for the two penniless women, attempts to secretly place his winnings from his card game in the woman’s pocket, but ends up being mistakenly accused of being a pickpocket. The woman manages to clear the Tramp’s name. Upon arrival in America, the Tramp and the woman part company.

Later, hungry and broke, the tramp finds a coin on the street outside a restaurant and pockets it. He doesn’t realize there is a hole in his pocket and the coin has fallen straight through and is back on the ground. He enters the restaurant, where he orders a plate of beans. There, he is reunited with the woman and discovers her mother is dead. The Tramp orders a meal for her.

As they eat, they watch the restaurant’s burly head waiter (Campbell) and other waiters attack and forcibly eject a patron who is short 10 cents in paying his bill. The Tramp, intimidated by the waiter, checks and now realizes he has lost his coin. Terrified of facing the same treatment as the man he saw thrown out, the Tramp begins planning how he will fight the huge man. Soon, however, he finds the same coin fallen from the head waiter’s pocket onto the floor and makes many failed attempts to retrieve it without notice. He finally retrieves the coin and nonchalantly pays the waiter only to be thunderstruck when the waiter reveals the coin to be fake. Once again, the Tramp prepares for the fight of his life. Just then, a visiting artist spots the Tramp and the woman and offers them a job to pose for a painting. The two agree. The artist offers to pay for the Tramp and the woman’s meal, but the Tramp declines the offer several times for reasons of etiquette, intending to eventually accept the artist’s offer; however, he’s dismayed when the artist does not renew his offer to pay at the last moment. The artist pays for his own meal and leaves a tip for the waiter. The Tramp notices that the tip is enough to cover the couple’s meal and, without the artist noticing, palms the tip and presents it to the waiter as his own payment for his and the woman’s meal. As a final riposte, he lets the waiter keep the remaining change – one small coin – after paying his bill. The waiter thinks the artist himself has given no tip whatsoever, and is clearly upset at this supposed action.

Afterwards, outside a marriage license office in the rain, the Tramp proposes marriage to the woman, who is coy and reluctant until the Tramp physically carries her into the office while she waves her arms and kicks her feet in protest.

Grab your tickets today!

Saint-Saens Piano Concerto 2

In the spring of 1868, conductor and pianist Anton Rubenstein asked Camille Saint-Saëns to arrange a concert at the Salle Pleyel in Paris, with Saint-Saëns as piano soloist and Rubenstein conducting. Upon discovering that the hall was booked for three weeks, Saint-Saëns proposed that he spend the time writing a new piano concerto that he could premiere, along with a performance of his first piano concerto (1858) and his Tarantelle (1857). Saint-Saëns knocked off the work in about two weeks, but that was barely enough time to rehearse, and the piece suffered from the lack of polish at the May 8 premiere. The audience was not very receptive, and pianist Zygmunt Stojowski famously joked that its musical styles were all over the map: “it begins with Bach and ends with Offenbach.”

Franz Liszt, however, to whom Saint-Saëns sent a copy of the score, knew a crowd-pleaser when he saw one. He wrote:

“I want to thank you again for your Second Concerto, which I greatly applaud. … you take into just account the role of the pianist without sacrificing anything of the ideas of the composer, which is an essential rule in this class of work… The totality of the work pleases me singularly. It ought to meet with success in every country.”

And indeed, the concerto soon began pleasing both soloists and audiences, who admired its dash, flair, and musical showmanship.

The concerto breaks from the ordinary by placing the ‘slow’ movement in first rather than second position. The Andante sostenuto begins with a Bach-like improvisation (hence Stojowksi’s quip) that soon segues to dramatic arpeggios–typical for Saint-Saëns, who began his career as a child keyboard prodigy. The main theme was based on a Tantum ergo motet that Gabriel Fauré had shown to his teacher Saint-Saëns, who is said to have exclaimed, “Give this to me. I can make something of it!” And so he did, pairing the melancholy tune with a second motif of his own, embellished in thirds. The movement closes with a huge cadenza for the soloist, and the reprise of the Bach motif.

From the G minor of the opening we move to E-flat major in the Allegro scherzando. Marked leggieramente, “light and brisk,” the movement is a witty conversation in 6/8 between the soloist and orchestra, with flashes of the same humor we know so well from the composer’s later Carnival of the Animals (1886).

The finale, Presto, returns to G minor in a tarantella, the fast and furious Italian form well-loved by the Romantic composers. The piano soloist exchanges rapid-fire dialog with the full orchestra, in what one current critic has described as “chase-me-Charlie up and down the keyboard.” The 2/2 rondo ends with a brilliant coda that Liszt no doubt recognized–being something of a ham himself–as a chance for the soloist to pull out all the stops and “bring ’em home.”

Tchaikovsky’s Final Symphony

After completing his 5th Symphony in 1888, Tchaikovsky did not start thinking about his next symphony until April 1891, on his way to the United States. The first drafts of a new symphony were started in the spring of 1891. However, some or all of the symphony was not pleasing to Tchaikovsky, who tore up the manuscript “in one of his frequent moods of depression and doubt over his alleged inability to create.” In 1892, Tchaikovsky wrote the following to his nephew Vladimir “Bob” Davydov:

The symphony is only a work written by dint of sheer will on the part of the composer; it contains nothing that is interesting or sympathetic. It should be cast aside and forgotten. This determination on my part is admirable and irrevocable.

This work was the Symphony in E-flat, the first movement of which Tchaikovsky later converted into the one-movement 3rd Piano Concerto (his final composition), and the latter two movements of which Sergei Taneyev reworked after Tchaikovsky’s death as the Andante and Finale.

In 1893, Tchaikovsky mentions an entirely new symphonic work in a letter to his brother:

I am now wholly occupied with the new work … and it is hard for me to tear myself away from it. I believe it comes into being as the best of my works. I must finish it as soon as possible, for I have to wind up a lot of affairs and I must soon go to London. I told you that I had completed a Symphony which suddenly displeased me, and I tore it up. Now I have composed a new symphony which I certainly shall not tear up.

The symphony was written in a small house in Klin and completed by August 1893. Tchaikovsky left Klin on 19 October for the first performance in St. Petersburg, arriving “in excellent spirits.” However, the composer began to feel apprehension over his symphony, when, at rehearsals, the orchestra players did not exhibit any great admiration for the new work. Nevertheless, the premiere was met with great appreciation. Tchaikovsky’s brother Modest wrote, “There was applause and the composer was recalled, but with more enthusiasm than on previous occasions. There was not the mighty, overpowering impression made by the work when it was conducted by Eduard Nápravník, on November 18, 1893, and later, wherever it was played.”

Tchaikovsky critic Richard Taruskin writes, “Suicide theories were much stimulated by the Sixth Symphony, which was first performed under the composer’s baton only nine days before his demise, with its lugubrious finale (ending morendo, ‘dying away’), its brief but conspicuous allusion to the Orthodox requiem liturgy in the first movement and above all its easily misread subtitle. . . . When the symphony was done again a couple of weeks later, in memoriam and with subtitle in place, everyone listened hard for portents, and that is how the symphony became a transparent suicide note. Depression was the first diagnosis. ‘Homosexual tragedy’ came later.” Yet critic David Brown describes the idea of the Sixth Symphony as some sort of suicide note as “patent nonsense”. Says critic Alexander Poznansky, “Since the arrival of the ‘court of honour’ theory in the West, performances of Tchaikovsky’s last symphony are almost invariably accompanied by annotations treating it as a testimony of homosexual martyrdom.” Other scholars, including Michael Paul Smith, believe that with or without the supposed ‘court of honour’ sentence, there is no way that Tchaikovsky could have known the time of his own death while composing his last masterpiece.

It has been claimed that Soviet orchestras, faced with the problem of an enormously popular yet profoundly pessimistic piece, switched the order of the last two movements in order to bring the work to a triumphant conclusion in line with the principles of Socialist realism.

The Russian title of the symphony, Патетическая (Pateticheskaya), means “passionate” or “emotional,” not “arousing pity,” but it is a word reflective of a touch of concurrent suffering. Tchaikovsky considered calling it Программная (Programmnaya or “Program Symphony”) but realized that would encourage curiosity about the program, which he did not want to reveal. According to his brother Modest, he suggested the Патетическая title, which was used in early editions of the symphony; there are conflicting accounts about whether Tchaikovsky liked the title.

Tchaikovsky’s “Cross”-motive, associated with the crucifixion, himself, and Tristan, a variation of which first appears in mm.1-2 of his Pathétique Symphony About this sound Play (help·info). Tchaikovsky identified with and associated the cross-motif with “star-cross’d lovers” in general, such as in Romeo and Juliet.

Tchaikovsky dedicated the Pathétique to his nephew, Vladimir “Bob” Davydov, whom he greatly admired.

The Pathétique has been the subject of a number of theories as to a hidden program. This goes back to the first performance of the work, when fellow composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov asked Tchaikovsky whether there was a program to the new symphony, and Tchaikovsky asserted that there was, but would not divulge it.

A suggested program has been what Taruskin disparagingly termed “symphony as suicide note.” This idea began to assert itself as early as the second performance of the symphony in Saint Petersburg, not long after the composer had died. People at that performance “listened hard for portents. As always, they found what they were looking for: a brief but conspicuous quotation from the Russian Orthodox requiem at the stormy climax of the first movement, and of course the unconventional Adagio finale with its tense harmonies at the onset and its touching depiction of the dying of the light in conclusion”. Countering this is Tchaikovsky’s statement on 26 September/8 October 1893 that he was in no mood to write any sort of requiem. This was in reply to a suggestion from his close friend Grand Duke Konstantin that he write a requiem for their mutual friend the writer Aleksey Apukhtin, who had died in late August, just as Tchaikovsky was completing the Pathétique.

Tchaikovsky specialist David Brown suggests that the symphony deals with the power of Fate in life and death. This program would not only be similar to those suggested for the Fourth and Fifth Symphonies, but also parallels a program suggested by Tchaikovsky for his unfinished Symphony in E flat. That program reads, “The ultimate essence … of the symphony is Life. First part – all impulse, passion, confidence, thirst for activity. Must be short (the finale death – result of collapse). Second part love: third disappointments; fourth ends dying away (also short).”

Anastasia Rizikov

It’s not everyday a stellar 19 year old pianist comes to town, and even more rare that they give their first performance of a concerto that is new to their repertoire.  March 24th we’re thrilled to be joined by Anastasia Rizikov for the Saint-Saens Piano Concerto No. 2.

Canadian pianist Anastasia Rizikov is a remarkably poised and precocious seventeen year old who is already showing signs of being “one to watch”. At age seven, she made her orchestral debut, and has since appeared as soloist with major orchestras of North America and Europe. In 2015 alone, Ms. Rizikov won first places at the Jaén International Piano Competition and the Ettore Pozzoli International Piano Competition, recorded a CD with NAXOS, and performed at the Verbier Festival in Switzerland.

Since placing first at The Vladimir Horowitz International Young Pianists Competition in Kiev, Ukraine (where she also received a special award for Best Artistic Performance) and first sharing the stage with orchestra playing Polunin’s Concertino in A minor with the National Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine conducted by Mykola Diadiura at age seven, Anastasia stepped on to the international competition circuit, winning many awards in the process. Resolving to compete in adult competitions since the age of twelve, Anastasia won first places over musicians twice her age in the following competitions: the Ettore Pozzoli International Piano Competition, along with prizes for best compulsory work by E. Pozzoli, and audience prize (Seregno, Italy, 2015); the Jaén International Piano Competition, as well as taking all three additional prizes- for the best interpretation of Spanish music, for the best interpretation of the compulsory work, and the audience prize”(Jaén, Spain, 2015); the 13th «Giuliano Pecar» International Piano Competition (Gorizia, Italy, 2013); George Gershwin International Music Competition (Brooklyn, NY, 2013); as well as Rotary International Piano Competition (Palma de Mallorca, Spain, 2011), where she became the youngest person to compete and win in their history.

In 2015, Ms. Rizikov played Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in F minor twice with the Granada Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Paul Mann in Granada and Jaén, Spain, and in 2014, tackled one of the most technically challenging piano concertos – Rachmaninoff No. 3 in D minor with Laval Symphony Orchestra in collaboration with conductor Alain Trudel in Quebec. With over 30 orchestral performances and 20 concerti in her repertoire, Anastasia has already played with such major orchestras as Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Symphony Nova Scotia, Michigan Philharmonic Orchestra, Orchestra London Canada, International Symphony Orchestra, National Academy Orchestra of Canada, Baleares Symphony Orchestra, and Sinfonia Toronto, and has worked with such conductors as Peter Oundjian, Shalom Bard, Bernhard Gueller, Alain Trudel, Boris Brott, Ovidiu Balan, and Salvador Brotons,  to name a few.

Anastasia’s concert schedules have taken her to Asia, all over Europe – Spain, Italy, Switzerland, France, Poland, Ukraine, Russia – the United States, and Canada, where she has played in such prestigious halls and spaces such as Carnegie Hall, Roy Thomson Hall, Koerner Hall, Fazioli Hall, Auditorio Manuel de Falla, Hong Kong City Hall, and the Kremlin. In 2015, Ms. Rizikov performed in major international music festivals like the Orford Music Festival, and the Verbier Music Festival. In the fall of 2013, Anastasia gave 20 performances over two weeks throughout all the Atlantic provinces of Canada as winner of the prestigious Debut Atlantic Award.

Anastasia Rizikov studies with award-winning professor Maia Spis, teacher at the Nadia Music Academy in Toronto. Since beginning her studies at the age of five, she has shown unparalleled dedication to both practice and performance. Ms. Rizikov has played in master classes for Sergei Babayan, Arie Vardi, Robert Levin, Ferenc Rados, Anatoly Ryabov, Oxana Yablonskaya, and has worked with András Schiff, Emanuel Ax, Menahem Pressler, Gabor Takács-Nagy, and Olga Kern.

In December, 2012, in honor of Glenn Gould’s 80th Anniversary Year and his Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, The Glenn Gould Foundation has provided a C1X Yamaha baby grand piano Anastasia. She has the piano on an indefinite loan-basis to aid in her artistic and career development.

Adept in English, Russian, Ukrainian (and working towards mastering her French), Anastasia has given interviews for many major newspapers as well as live television shows. She is fanatic about literature – reading being “an escape from reality and entrance to a very different world, where my imagination goes wild”, and is enthusiastic about art. Being a person who loves and understands her audience, she dreams of being able to share her unique musical voice with the entire world

Both Sides Now Downtown YXE

It’s sometimes easy to forget that the iconic Joni Mitchell grew up here in Saskatoon – in fact, Saskatoon and the Canadian prairies make many appearances in Joni’s catalogue of songs.  In Cherokee Louise we hear her talk about the Broadway Bridge, and Paprika Plains is a hymn about her love for the plains.  

To coincide with the SSO’s performance of Joni’s music from her albums Both Sides Now and Travelogue, we partnered with DTNYXE for a photo display along 2nd and 3rd Aves downtown.

The photos bridge Joni’s more than fifty year career, and each is paired with a line from her legendary song Both Sides Now.

“The title of the concert, Don’t Give Yourself Away, comes from a line in Both Sides Now,” says SSO Executive Director Mark Turner.  “There’s such an incredible passion in her eyes that is present no matter what year the photos were taken.  And her orchestral jazz recording in 2000 of Both Sides Now show that, like her eyes, her search for art and life never faded in her music and lyrics either.”

The posters are on display until March 5th – take a walk all the way down 3rd Ave to read from the first lines, “Rows and flows of angel hair” to the end of the song.

“She deserves so much more celebration than we’re able to give her, but we felt so compelled to bring this music to life as her orchestral jazz albums are amongst the best the genre has ever offered.”

The concert features Vince Mendoza who arranged and conducted both albums for Joni.  He’s joined by bassist Edwin Livingston, jazz legend Peter Erskine on drums, vocalist Sarah Slean, and the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra.

Win A Print of Denyse Klette’s Joni

“I am a Lonely Painter, I Live in a Box of Paints” – Denyse Klette

In 2017, artist Denyse Klette helped us celebrate our Mozart Festival with a one-of-a-kind portrait of Wolfgang – and when she found out that we had a concert celebrating the music of Joni Mitchell, a new idea was born.

Denyse is known for her remarkable ability to capture a moment in paint – her art is full of life and colour, and shows her absolute love of life.  The painting’s title comes from a line in Joni’s classic A Case of You, and the painting references that Joni has often said she sings her sorrow and paints her joy.

PRINT GIVEAWAY

Anyone who purchases a ticket by March 1st at 12 noon will be entered into a draw to win a limited edition artist-enhanced canvas print of the painting (valued at $995).  If you’ve already purchased a ticket for the show, don’t worry – you are already entered into the draw.  Denyse will make the draw live on stage the night of the concert.

Don’t Give Yourself Away – the Music of Joni Mitchell features the SSO conducted by long-time Joni collaborator Vince Mendoza and features Sarah Slean on vocals – the concert marks the first ever live performance of the music from Joni’s albums Both Sides Now and Travelogue.

Click here to get your tickets!

Sarah Slean – Artist Profile

When we first began to conceive of this show featuring Joni’s music from Both Sides Now and Travelogue, the big question was “who do we get to sing it?!”…the question only lingered in the air a few moments frankly, as one name was on everyone’s mind.  We needed someone who, beyond being able to sing this music, would feel this music as deeply as its written.  Sarah was the clear choice.

Her 2016 performance with the SSO was more than memorable…and we’re certain that this performance will be too!

Signed to Atlantic/Warner Records at the tender age of 19, three-time Juno nominee and modern-day Renaissance woman Sarah Slean has since released 11 albums in over 10 countries worldwide – but perhaps the most astonishing aspect of her artistry is its breadth. Over her 20-year career, Slean has published two volumes of poetry, starred in short films and a movie musical (spawning two Gemini Award nominations), penned two string quartets, held numerous exhibitions of her paintings, and shared the stage with 8 of the country’s professional orchestras. Classically trained from the age of 5, she routinely collaborates with cutting-edge contemporary classical ensembles like The Art of Time, and has been invited to sing world premieres by Canada’s leading living composers. Citing such diverse influences as Leonard Bernstein, philosophy, Joni Mitchell, Buddhism and Bach, her music borrows aspects of cabaret, rock, pop, and orchestral: all knit together by the startling poetry of her lyrics, virtuosic piano-playing, and that voice, described by the CBC as “a 19th century Kate Bush”. In addition to headlining theatres across Canada, Sarah has also toured Europe, the US and Scandinavia and has opened internationally for such artists as Bryan Ferry, Rufus Wainwright, Alanis Morissette, Andrew Bird, Feist, Ron Sexsmith, Chris Isaak, and Buck 65. Metaphysics, her first recording in 5 years, is described as a breathtaking amalgamation of Slean’s dramatic orchestral arranging and her signature take on songwriting.

See Sarah on March 3rd with Vince Mendoza and the SSO for Don’t Give Yourself Away – the Music of Joni Mitchell.

Edwin Livingston – Artist Profile

For our concert on March 3rd, we’re joined by bassist Edwin Livingston – maybe you’ve seen him on Ellen?

Hailing from Dallas, Texas, Edwin Livingston was exposed to music early on.

After receiving his B.M. in music performance he relocated to Austin, TX & New Orleans, LA, in pursuit of new musical terrain. He now resides in Los Angeles, CA.

In his various travels he has played and recorded with many notable artists and masters. Livingston has performed and/or recorded with:

Elvin Jones, Ellis, Delfeayo, and Jason Marsalis, The Headhunters, Los Hombres Calientes (Grammy nominated Latin Jazz album), Bill Summers, Munyungo Jackson, Donald Harrison, Jr., Alvin Batiste, Ronnie Laws, Debra Laws, Lionel Loueke, D.J. Logic, David ”Fathead” Newman, John Beasley, Otmaro Ruiz, Mike Garson, Russell Ferrante, Sadao Watanabe, Justo Almario, Leni Stern, Kevin Toney of The Blackbyrds, Dave Weckl, Will Kennedy, Peter Erskine, Vince Wilburn, Jr., Jimmy Branly, Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez, Tootie Heath, Dave Weckl, Joe LaBarbera, Hot Buttered Rhythm, Gecko Turner, Henry Butler, James Clay, Barbara Morrison, Queen Latifah, The Benjamin Wright Orchestra(Raphael Saadiq, Justin Timberlake, Will.I.Am, Brian McKnight, Mary J Blige, Aretha Franklin), Vince Mendoza, Bob Mintzer, Yellowjackets, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Jovanotti, Keiko Matsui, Melody Gardot, Seal, Natalie Cole and many others.

In addition to a full playing, touring, and recording career he is on the faculty at the USC Thornton School of Music, teaching bass & small ensembles in the jazz studies department. He is also part of the faculty of the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts (LACHSA).

Livingston has appeared in several feature films, including Ray and Dreamgirls, and has performed on The Late Late Show with James Corden, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, The Today Show, LIVE with Regis and Kelly and the A & E show Private Sessions with Queen Latifah.

Peter Erskine – Artist Profile

Legendary drummer Peter Erskine can be heard on Joni Mitchell’s album Both Sides Now – and now you can hear him play the music live with the SSO on March 3rd.

Peter Erskine has played the drums since the age of four and is known for his versatility and love of working in different musical contexts. He appears on 700 albums and film scores, and has won two Grammy Awards, plus an Honorary Doctorate from the Berklee School of Music (1992).

Fifty albums have been released under his own name or as co-leader. He has played with the Stan Kenton and Maynard Ferguson Big Bands, Weather Report, Steps Ahead, Joni Mitchell, Steely Dan, Diana Krall, Kenny Wheeler, Mary Chapin Carpenter, The Brecker Brothers, The Yellowjackets, Pat Metheny and Gary Burton, John Scofield, et al, and has appeared as a soloist with the London, Los Angeles, Chicago, Frankfurt Radio, Scottish Chamber, Ensemble Intercontemporain, Royal Opera House, BBC Symphony, Oslo and Berlin Philharmonic Orchestras. Peter premièred the double percussion concerto Fractured Lines, composed by Mark-Anthony Turnage, at the BBC Proms with Andrew Davis conducting, and has collaborated frequently with Sir Simon Rattle. He also premiered the Turnage opera “Anna Nicole” at the Royal Opera House in London. Turnage has composed a solo concerto for Peter titled “Erskine,” which received its world premiere in Bonn, Germany in 2013, with a US premiere at the Hollywood Bowl with the LA Philharmonic. Peter has been voted ’Best Jazz Drummer of the Year’ ten times by the readers of Modern Drummer magazine and was elected into the magazine’s Hall of Fame in 2017.

Peter graduated from the Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan and studied at Indiana University under George Gaber. In 1972 Peter commenced his pro career playing with the Stan Kenton Orchestra. Four years later, he joined Maynard Ferguson before working with Jaco Pastorius in Weather Report and moving to Los Angeles. Peter recorded five albums with the band. He won his first Grammy Award with their album ’8.30’. During this time in LA, he also worked with Freddie Hubbard, Joe Henderson, Chick Corea, Bobby Hutcherson, Joe Farrell and George Cables. Peter then moved to New York City where he worked for five years with such musicians as Michael Brecker, Mike Mainieri, Eddie Gomez and Eliane Elias in Steps Ahead, John Scofield, Bill Frisell and Marc Johnson in the legendary group Bass Desires, the John Abercrombie Trio plus Bob Mintzer’s Big Band.

Peter’s lived in LA since 1987 but has been travelling around the world all of that time, working with such artists as Diana Krall, Joni Mitchell, Vince Mendoza, Steely Dan, plus European musicians Jan Garbarek, Kenny Wheeler, Palle Danielsson, John Taylor, Kate Bush, Nguyen Lê, Rita Marcotulli, the Norrbotten Big Band in Sweden plus Sadao Watanabe in Japan. He won his second Grammy Award as the drummer of the WDR big band in Köln along with Michael Brecker, Randy Brecker, Vince Mendoza and others for the “Some Skunk Funk” album. Meanwhile, Peter keeps busy in on the road and in LA with such artists as Seth MacFarlane, Patrick Williams, plus John Beasley, Bob Sheppard and Benjamin Shepherd (all 3 musicians members of his Dr. Um Band), as well as playing in the studios. Films where Peter’s drumming can be heard include “Memoirs of a Geisha,” all three of the Austin Powers movies, “The Secret Life of Pets,” plus the title music of the Steven Spielberg/John Williams collaboration, “The Adventures of Tintin.” He also played the jazz drumming cues on the Academy Award-winning soundtrack for “La La Land,” and can be heard playing on the scores for “Sing,” “Logan” and “House of Cards.”

Peter produces jazz recordings for his record label, Fuzzy Music, with 4 Grammy nominations to its credit. Peter is also an active author with several books to his credit; titles include “No Beethoven (Autobiography & Chronicle of Weather Report),” “Time Awareness for All Musicians,” “Essential Drum Fills,” and his latest book (co-authored with Dave Black for Alfred Publishing), “The Drummers’ Lifeline.” He is also authoring a series of iOS Play-Along apps suitable for all instruments.

Peter is Professor of Practice and Director of Drumset Studies at the Thornton School of Music, University of Southern California. Peter plays Tama Drums, Zildjian Cymbals, Vic Firth Sticks, Remo Drum Heads, Meinl Percussion, and uses Shure Microphones and Zoom digital recording devices.