HPO and Thought Beneath Film: The Collaboration Process

In a unique collaborative performance, this Supercrawl the HPO works with local rock band Thought Beneath Film to create a concert experience that spans the classical and rock genres.

“I speak on behalf of my entire band, Thought Beneath Film, when I say that we’re incredibly excited about our collaboration with the HPO at the James Street Supercrawl this year. While Hamilton has long been one Canada’s ‘music capitals’ given its wealth and variety of musical talent, it’s unfortunate that the various musical movements have remained so segregated from each other,” says Brent Wirth, lead singer of Thought Beneath Film.


Thought Beneath Film

“The city has so many amazing and diverse musical traditions happening simultaneously from classical to jazz to hip-hop to indie rock, and I think it’s about time that audiences start seeing some cross-pollination and collaboration between all of these genres. It’s so vital in keeping the ball moving forward creatively and to ensure the constant generation of new ideas and styles. For this reason, we’re absolutely thrilled to be able to collaborate with musicians that are coming from a completely different tradition and set of experiences than us.”


Principal Bassist Rob Wolanski

Working with the HPO’s principal Double Bass Player, Rob Wolanski, Wirth and the HPO have curated an inventive performance that features reinterpretations of orchestral classics and will explore Though Beneath Film’s own original material through the orchestral lens.

“As someone who has always been involved in many very different genres of music, I’ve come to realize that great music and fantastic players are everywhere regardless of genre,” says Rob. “I’m hoping our audiences will find something unexpected and exciting about the genre they don’t normally listen to and will want to hear more. This project will feature some very unique arrangements, many of which have been written specifically for this show.”

Be sure to get a good spot in front of the stage to have a good view of the HPO Strings and Thought Beneath Film as they perform unique cross-genre works from traditional orchestral repertoire to original works by Though Beneath Film.

The HPO and Thought Beneath Film appear at Supercrawl on Saturday, September 13 at 6:15pm at the TD/Arkells Stage (Wilson and James Street North).


Two things you need to know about “Genre Hopping”

music-genres2Rock. Country. Blues. Classical. We tend to feel like we need to fit musical creations into one specific genre in order for us to understand where it belongs in the music world. But what if we took these barriers down? Does a musical work need to be composed to “fit” one of these genres? Is there a genre that includes two genres of music? How about three…four…fivesixseven – our heads are going to explode!

The cross-pollination of different musical categories is still a relatively new concept for music listeners, until you realize it’s been going on for quite some time. Classical music has a habit of getting slotted into an elitist and untouchable corner where only musical academics are allowed to “adequately” enjoy it. Perhaps this is because classical music is the oldest musical genre and thought to be a treasure trove of masterpieces that has been 500 years in the making. But when you listen to musicians like 2Cellos, Frank Zappa, The Piano Guys, Yo-Yo Ma and Emerson, Lake and Palmer (and loads more you can find here), you realize this concept isn’t so scary and can be downright enjoyable. We just see the same piece of music re-imagined in a new light.

So here are two things you need to know about cross-genre music.

1. Rock did it first, but Classical is doing it too.


Emerson, Lake & Palmer

There’s been an urge from musicians across all genres to break down these barriers for quite some time. Classical music has only recently expanded its reach from its own sub-types to other contemporary styles, unlike popular progressive rock bands in the 70s who made the leap quite a bit earlier.

Originally a blues band, British rock group Jethro Tull didn’t reach their pinnacle of fame until they began to create more ambitious sound by incorporating elements of jazz, folk and classical music, making the band’s genre uncategorizeable at the time. Emerson, Lake and Palmer covered Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man and Hoedown by using instrumentation to re-contextualize these classical pieces for rock fans. The 90s Icelandic band Sigor Ros goes beyond incorporating stylistic nuances of classical music by having Jón Þór Birgisson play bowed guitar.

Classical musicians are conversely bridging the gap too. Yo-Yo Ma released “Appalachian Journey,” an album that throws the cello into music devoted to old misty mountain songs. 2Cellos and The Piano Guys have gone viral with their popular covers of Disney and Mumford & Sons songs. And Punch Brothers have taken the mandolin and given it a good old southern twang.

The bottom line is we like to hear things we know presented in a new way. BUT we’re not always open to hearing something outside our comfort zones.

The next point should address this issue.

2. Audiences need to open up a little. 

Punch Brothers

Punch Brothers

On the flip side, audiences also need to be more open to these experiences. “I don’t think classical musicians are any more reserved on average than non-classical musicians, but it’s actually the audiences that are far more reserved” says Chris Thile from classical/bluegrass band Punch Brothers. “I do think it’s important that people who profess to really be interested in music to expose themselves to the width and breadth of the great music that’s available to them – and that’s everything.”

Once you listen to cross genre collaborations, it becomes clear there is JUST a stylistic and ascetic approach to playing a piece of music. So continue to enjoy the genre you have an affinity with, but also get ready to be wowed by an artist out of your musical genre purview who might just blow you away.

That being said, get ready for Supercrawl next week when HPO Strings take the stage with Thought Beneath Film for an unforgettable collaboration of rock music re-imagined through the orchestral lens.

Musicians perform on Saturday, September 13 at 6:15 on the TD-Arkells Stage (James Street North at Wilson).

Watch Punch Brothers’ Chris Thile talk about “genre hopping” while he serenades you with his mandolin.

35 pictures that sum up a pretty fantastic 2013-14 Season!

The 2013-14 season was a special year for the HPO. We hosted the circus, mixed beatboxing with classical music and said farewell to Maestro James Sommerville to name a few memorable moments…but before we launch into a thrilling new concert season, take a look back at some of these amazing memories from last year.


Brahms inspires poetry in Hamilton

muse-copy-184x300It’s always exciting when one art form inspires the creation of another.  Four years ago, author and journalist James Strecker attended an HPO performance and penned this ode to Brahms’ dramatic First Symphony.  We are honoured that he would choose his experience at our orchestral concert as fodder for this poignant and touching poem.  Enjoy it in its entirety below.

“We shall live again in the sanctity of love, for Brahms has been the voice of creation.” 
-James Strecker


        to the HPO 

The beginning sounds the heartbeat of destiny.

The players are now doubly become
the mouthpiece of a mountain
and the echo of one love yearning.

Fate allows no denial and speaks the endless
crags of destiny, but who reflects the eternal sky
and dances, heel and heel,
upon each star that sits heavenly?

It is man the maker who gilds
his courage with despair; he thus speaks love
for these players, compelled and impassioned
as they are, into sound.

A maestro’s hand gives purpose to the players’
will and ordains the shaping of resonance
and bends each voice into meaning
for one and many solitudes.

Now music, like a sage, considers the fate
that is given to a life; it confirms the hue of love
that is also a wound, accepts the gentle
heart’s resolution that itself knows only to be
answered and not to ask again what cannot be.

Who shall concede a love that masks the world
and gives resolute peace that too is destiny?
For love gives nothing in answer but love itself.

What should be love is sadness,
what should be love is denied and so music speaks,
wanders in hope, steps back,
and becomes more resolution.

Let us imagine colour then,
not grey of sorrow, but blue that cannot be sky
or green that knows not grass nor leaf,
or any hue that is man unfulfilled in love.

As if to descend and find their way, the players,
like mind in sonority, mindful of spirit carved
with hesitation, hear horn that summons order.
One hand for all spirits shapes a hymn-like
tranquility that denies not wisdom nor sorrow.

So imagine each one in his voice transformed and
made new. Or is each one anonymous in blessing
he or she gives, unknown to the wonder they do,
a part that knows no other part of unison sound.

Or is he who leads the players now transformed?
Does he find himself now a clarity of means
in prayer to beauty that Brahms provided,
for new life again, some lifetimes ago?

Who would not be inspired and incarnate
of hope that almost knows the world we live?

Should we not give voice in our hearts
to the hope we are also fated to sing, as we,
unknown to ourselves in pain and wonder,
give witness to this wounded declaration of love?
We shall live again in the sanctity of love,
for Brahms has been the voice of creation.

What more can music of destiny ask of him?