by Anna Alger
Stereo Live Toronto’s collaboration with Brendan Canning last night was a uniquely beautiful event, marking the first of three concerts in a series of intimate evenings at the Campbell House Museum. A string quartet composed of Edwin Huizinga (violin), Keith Hamm (viola), Joseph Johnson (cello), and Aaron Schwebel (violin) performed two sets of selected works by Haydn and Beethoven, followed by a less structured handful of songs with Canning.
The music of Beethoven began the night in a small room on the second floor of the museum, which proved to be a wonderful acoustic environment for the string quartet. Expressive melodic lines, rich harmonies, and physical performances abounded from all four players as they navigated the twists and turns of various movements.
After an intermission, the quartet moved on to perform pieces written by Haydn. These were more frantic and cello heavy, notably relying on an almost call and response communication between the various instruments. The music was full of such energy and life as the performers nearly left their seats all together in the heat of heavy crescendoes.
After a short break, Brendan Canning sat down with an acoustic guitar to play with Hamm, now on the mandolin, and later Huizinga, again on violin. As is indicative of just how small the Toronto scene is, Canning explained that he had met Huizinga as they were next door neighbours and this had led to his involvement with Stereo Live.
Canning invited a friend of his to sing harmonies on “Never Go To The Races,” a gentle song from his solo record released in 2013, You Gots 2 Chill. It had a lilting, almost lullaby-like quality to it that was welcome on such a cold winter night. The set had a mostly improvisational nature, evident at times such as when Canning asked Huizinga and Hamm to play something in D major so that he could tune his guitar, and they broke out into a jig that had the audience stomping along. One of the highlights of the evening was an “experimental” piece the three collaborated on which featured heavy use of Canning’s various pedals. He mentioned after the performance that even he hadn’t been sure of what would happen musically.
The first Stereo Live Toronto concert definitely proved to be a resounding success. Musicians from the classical and indie rock worlds, which are often seen as completely different, converged to find common ground while showcasing their strengths as individual musicians and strong figures in their respective genres.