Phoenix’s Season of Premieres is an introduction to new compositions and unheard voices, as well as a true investment in emerging composers, such as Katerina Gimon. With her dynamic, eclectic, and poignant compositions, Gimon has become a distinctive rising composer, improviser, and vocalist in contemporary Canadian composition and beyond. Originally commissioned for Phoenix’s 2020 -2021 season, we are so excited to finally premiere Gimon’s piece entitled “Through the Storm”. A composition originally focused on environmental distress now brilliantly yields a poignant message of hope in our current moment, after having weathered the past two years. We share this interview with you to introduce Gimon as a vital addition to the final concert of Phoenix’s 2021-2022 season: Evolve, in hopes that you might join us in witnessing her magic.
Now that it’s been two years since you thought Through the Storm would premiere, what have you learned about music composing and/or performing that you didn’t know in February 2020?
I learned that in a world of change we all need art now more than ever! Although it’s been a tough two years, it has been remarkable to see how the musical community has come together even more because of it, which is similar to the inspiration behind Through the Storm. (Even though it was written in late 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic).
What inspired you to write “Through the Storm?
When Nicholle [Andrews] and I first met to talk about the commission we bounced a number of ideas back and forth to do with nature and the environment (since the concert was for Earth Day. Environmental music has always been something I’ve been drawn to). At the time I was learning a lot about the state of British Columbia’s endangered old growth forests and deforestation and thought I might do something in this realm. But in my exploration of this idea (and falling down the rabbit hole of curiosity) I ended up coming across some interesting information that sparked the idea for “Through the Storm.” What I discovered was that the stress of storms actually causes a tree’s roots to grow stronger. I thought this was a beautiful image and metaphor for the inevitable obstacles and challenges in life – weathering the storm and coming out stronger as a result.
How do you expect these premieres to feel different than what you may have originally expected two years ago?
I know I’ll certainly be feeling a renewed sense of appreciation and gratitude in hearing Phoenix bring this to life after all this time! Especially since this was one of the first choral premieres I had postponed because of the pandemic. For me, I find every piece I write exists in a way as a time capsule of the world and who I was when I wrote it. But for this piece, with its longer period of development prior to the premiere, I think it’s begun to encapsulate the past two years instead. With its message of resilience and finding strength in our roots becoming even more relevant, its something I’ve come back to again and again over the past couple years. And so, as I listen I’ll be thinking about how we have, and continue, to weather the storm together!
What do you want the audience experiencing Through the Storm in May to listen to or for considering the massive cultural shifts that have happened since writing the piece?
Through the Storm is a song about resilience and a reminder of how in times of change or difficulty we will always find strength in our roots, our communities. This work was inspired by an interesting piece of information that I came across about trees and how the stress of storms causes their roots to grow stronger in response. I thought this was a beautiful metaphor for the inevitable obstacles and challenges we all face in life – weathering the storm and coming out stronger as a result.
Musically, Through the Storm is mysterious, striking, and energetic, taking listeners on a journey through a raging storm itself. You will hear the turbulent character of the work come across in rhythmic interjections woven throughout — in its melodies, body percussion, shouts, and layered rhythmic speech. Alongside this, fragments of folk-inspired melodic material repeat, morph, and intertwine, depicting the strength and constancy of a forest. Together, these musical ideas build up to a rousing groove and ever-changing patchwork of colours and sounds.
I hope audience members feel energized and inspired to weather the storms in their own lives.