“W” for Music

27 August 2017 – Well, yes, “W” for Music is a bit of a stretch — but not if you turn the “W” upside down.

Like this.

Very M-ish, don’t you think?

However, that large & peeling old metal letter really is a “W.”

Like this.

For Woodward’s.

Woodward’s, which was Vancouver’s top shopping destination for ages after the building’s completion in 1903, but which, as institutions do, fell from grace in later economic downturns, and finally, in 2006, fell literally to the ground in a demolition and redevelopment project that attracted a great deal of bitter controversy.

The “W” that once rode high above the original building is now honoured at ground level — a fitting art installation in the public plaza in a complex that now also includes market & non-market housing units, retail shopping, green space, government offices, a daycare and an addition to the Simon Fraser University downtown campus.

It also includes, on four Sundays over this summer, free public music concerts sponsored by the Hard Rubber New Music Society — a collective of 18 musicians, founded in 1990 by John Korsrud, and an ensemble much given to commissioning new works.

Each evening concert is preceded by an afternoon open rehearsal. I attended the first two solo; today I’m joined by my great friend Sally. Each concert has a theme; this one is Voices.

It all takes place in the soaring Woodward’s Atrium that links two parts of the complex. We climb a spiral staircase for the overview.

Yes, that is a turquoise piano in the background. And yes, it is hitched to a bicycle. And yes, it was right there for the previous Spacious Music at the Atrium events as well.

But no, the turquoise piano is not in use. See? The pianist is at her own keyboard, having a quick pre-rehearsal rehearsal with one of the singers.

No wonder they’re hard at it. Jordan Nobles wrote a new work, Memento Mori, for the occasion, and this is the first time the singers have seen it.

Seated at ground level, for a moment I look up and out, up-up-up at a tower that is part of this new complex …

and then start paying proper attention to the rehearsal.

Hard Rubber founder John Korsrud prowls quietly in the background, as he does at every concert, here lingering behind the pianist.

The conductor begins working with the singers & pianist, turning notations on paper into sound waves and pleasure.

It is of course unworthy of me, shamefully trivial, but I cannot help noticing how the turquoise glint in the sunglasses on that guy’s forehead (2nd from right) tones so perfectly with his neighbour’s shirt.

No such distractions this side. I just listen. (Just!!! As if anything more were needed…)

Musicians curve toward their drop-in audience; we curve toward them. The music swirls, and rises.

And, in time, Sally & I slip out, heading for the near-by Flack Block.

It’s an outburst of Romanesque Revival extravagance, the must-have style when Thomas Flack commissioned the building in 1898, fresh back from a very successful visit to the Klondike gold fields.

It too fell from grace in later decades but, unlike the Woodward building, was fully restored (2006), not demolished.

And has the gargoyles to prove it.

It also now has the Vancouver outlet of Purebread (a Whistler-based family bakery).

So … all honour to the gargoyles, but our focus is coffee n’ treats.

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  1. It is great that many people are making music – can’t have enough – so uplifting

  2. I love free public concerts. Warsaw excelled. Your account of this one offers so many other pleasures – architectural, sly noticings, birdseye view, patches of sunlight.


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