Tim Brady begins his tetralogy

Co-broadcasted with Chants Libres and Le Vivier, Bradyworks and Tim Brady will present, on Friday and Saturday, Backstage at Carnegie Hall. Created at the Centaur Theatre, the work, an opera on racism and the electric guitar, is the first part of a lyrical tetralogy by the guitarist-composer.

Tim Brady has already defined the social problems he wishes to tackle in four chamber operas in a cycle entitled Hope (and the Dark Matter of History) which will run until 2026. Backstage at Carnegie Hall will explore racism. Then will come, with Informationcontrol of information and the right to abortion, then, with The Mars Projectspace colonization, for, in Sophiaconclude on climate change and artificial intelligence.

A militant sextet

The premise of Backstage at Carnegie Hallwhose libretto was written by Audrey Dwyer, is somewhat surprising: “ Backstage at Carnegie Hall is a bold, multiracial work that explores racism seen through the eyes of legendary jazz guitarist Charlie Christian (1916-1942). It transports us to December 1939, backstage at Carnegie Hall, a few minutes before the groundbreaking performance of Charlie and the Benny Goodman Sextet. For the first time, a black guitarist and a white clarinetist share the stage. At this moment, Charlie suffers a panic attack which sends him back in time. He finds himself confronted with the racism experienced in the United States and Canada, ”the statement tells us.

It cannot be claimed that the legacy of the brilliant Charlie Christian, engaged in Goodman’s sextet in August 1939, who died of tuberculosis at the age of 25 in 1942, who gave the electric guitar its letters of nobility in the world of jazz , is marked by its tangles with racism.

Asked by The duty, Tim Brady frame the point: “Racist laws were in place when Charlie Christian began his collaboration with Benny Goodman, white clarinetist, whose sextet was intentionally composed of three white musicians and three black musicians. It was a political and musical act, because the big band were either black or white — Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey on one side, Duke Ellington, Fletcher Henderson and Count Basie on the other. Whites and blacks played together in jam sessions informal, but not on stage. The sextet is therefore the recognition that music can bring us together as human beings. This musical and militant union is the starting point of the opera.

The balance

Charlie Christian’s anxieties become for Brady “a creative work that allows us to introduce magical realism: it opens up a theatrical possibility of time travel”. The guitarist will thus meet the singer Marian Anderson (the most emblematic classical artist victim of systemic racism), the luthier Orville Gibson and Rufus Rockhead, owner of a Montreal club.

Even if Marian Anderson is more associated with the racism experienced by musicians, the character of Charlie Christian allows you to evolve in the middle of the electric guitar, which is that of Tim Brady. Its orchestration is written for a chamber group consisting of keyboard, violin, bass clarinet and electric guitar. “I felt more comfortable going through it, because of my connection to the electric guitar. It is also a much less known character than Marian Anderson, which was interesting for the public”, judges the composer.

Tim Brady promises to find a balance so that the comment on racism does not overshadow Charlie Christian’s revolutionary and brilliant musical contribution to jazz. “In the opera, Charlie almost always has a guitar in his hand and talks a lot about his love for music. We touch on both subjects and we want to emphasize the primordial role of the musician. »

The musical language will be borrowed very little from the jazz of the 1930s: “I am not jazzman of the 1930s, I am a Montrealer of 2022, so this must remain my reality. Moreover, the music underlines the emotional and psychological state of Charlie, it is not there to depict the time. »

So here we are on the way to the first episode of a great adventure, not everyone embarking on the ambitious project of composing a tetralogy after Wagner!

Backstage at Carnegie Hall

Chamber opera by Tim Brady. Libretto by Audrey Dwyer. With Ruben Brutus (tenor, Charlie Christian), Alicia Ault (soprano, Time Traveler), Fredericka Petit-Homme (soprano, Marian Anderson), Clayton Kennedy (baritone, Benny Goodman and Orville Gibson), Justin Welsh (baritone, Rufus Rockhead and Clarence Christian). Bradyworks, ed. Veronique Lussier. Director: Cherissa Richards. Sets and costumes: Nalo Soyini Bruce. Lighting: David Perreault Ninacs. Centaur Theatre, September 23 and 24, 2022.

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Tim Brady begins his tetralogy


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