When Mark Haney released an album in 2010 that told the story of Canadian stuntman Ken Carter, everyone assumed the daredevil, who attempted to jump a mile over the St. Lawrence River in the late 1970s, was Haney's childhood hero.
"That got me thinking about who was, and the answer is Luke Skywalker was my childhood hero," the composer and double bassist said. "But as a real-life hero, it was definitely Terry Fox. I was five-years-old when he did his run and it just always stuck with me."
Now Haney has crafted a piece that tells Fox's story within the context of the hero's journey that will premiere at Redshift Music Society's 10th anniversary concert, Meridians, at The Cultch, May 11. The work, named "3339" for the number of miles Fox ran in 143 days in 1980, debuts alongside a new composition by Benton Roark and the first performance of the MARS Quartet.
"I'm all about the story," Haney said of the inspirations for his compositions. "Storytelling is the cornerstone of what I'm trying to do."
That's why he's focused on Carter and Fox. "There's something just so Canadian about having a crazy dream and just matteroffactly going about it," Haney said.
Theatre artist Adrienne Wong will narrate the piece that will be played by Haney on double bass, Mark McGregor on flute, Marcus Takizawa on viola and Martin Fisk on percussion, as the MARS Quartet.
Drawing on American scholar Joseph Campbell's myth of the hero's journey, Haney has identified 10 stages of a hero's passage, including the call for adventure, crossing the threshold and supernatural aid.
"Wherein a classical story or a fairytale the hero would meet a wizard," Haney said. "When I was first thinking about this piece [about Fox], I was like supernatural aid, I'm screwed. But then it turns out that this weird little guy from the Ontario cancer agency kept showing up in New Brunswick, in Quebec, when things were tough and saying, 'OK guys, get to Ontario, I've got this all worked out.'"
Haney's love of math forms the architecture of the piece that clocks in at 33 minutes and 39 seconds. "Progressions based on the numbers of miles he ran, the number of miles he ran in training, the number of days something took, it's all in there, to a frightening degree," Haney said.
Listeners won't hear these figures, but Haney hopes they'll get the impression of the "vague watercolour" he's painted of each of the six provinces Fox ran through in the middle section of "3399."
Haney said he and Roark regard their new pieces as "two different sides of the same coin."
"Songs from the Rainshadow's Edge" by Roark is about the intense inward journey of trying to recover shattered bits of one's self in the wake of severe psychological trauma, whereas the underdog Fox journeys "outward" to become an icon.
Soprano Kathleen Allan plays a large role in "Songs from the Rainshadow's Edge" and the quartet will also be accompanied by Adrian Verdejo on electric guitar and Wong as narrator.
Redshift Music Society focuses on bringing the music of contemporary Canadian composers to the general public through unique musical events, often in public spaces. The society previously presented the Vertical Orchestra, with 120 musicians playing spread throughout the sevenstorey atrium of the Central Branch of the Vancouver Public Library.
Haney says he and Roark turn out multidisciplinary works to "welcome people in" to new music.
"The days of the very uptight performers all in black and solemn-faced and don't really look at the audience-that's done," said Haney, who plans to collaborate with renowned cartoonist Seth and tour with singer-songwriter Rodney DeCroo this summer. He says he'll also perform solo double bass sets that will involve "talking a lot."
Haney finds sharing personal stories helps audiences connect with new music.
"That's what both Benton and I are trying to do with this concert, give people a reason to come in and hear these stories and share in an experience."
For more information, see redshiftmusic.org or thecultch.com.
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