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avec Sarah Albu


Soprano Sarah Albu moved to Montreal in 2005 to study at Concordia University where she completed two consecutive BFAs in Vocal Music and Theatre. On November 3, she’ll present a programme of new works together with trombonist Felix Del Tredici at Montreal’s Église Saint John the Evangelist (also known as the Red Roof Church).

Sarah, the performance you’re doing for IEC is related to a larger project with premieres by Canadian composers. Could you talk about that a bit?

Well, it’s a project through Jeunes Volontaires  (a Quebec government programme which assists self-employed workers in setting up their own business). I always wanted to do a solo project, but as I’m not really a composer I thought it would be a great opportunity to set up a working relationship with eight different composers.

But there are also some differences with the project you’re performing this week- pieces by Henri Pousseur and Georges Aperghis, for example. You’ve talked about how this project is related to language and memory- could you elaborate?

For one thing, language is a notion that speaks directly to composers right away, particularly when they’re working with voice. It’s one of the first things they think of; there are a lot of interesting sounds to play with in language, lots of opportunities to deconstruct or reorganize. Theatricality and delivery also offer a lot to work with. Memory comes more with repetition- for example with the piece by Pousseur [Mnemosyne I]- and how we use words as markers to orient ourselves in time. This ties in to a new piece by Mason Koenig that I’ll perform that’s based on a text by Wittgenstein talking about what the real meaning of words are and how we give these objects “sonic tags” so that we can recognize them.

I understood that you worked with Henri Pousseur’s daughter on Mnemosyne I while you were doing a residency in Banff recently.

I was actually working more on Pierrot Lunaire (by Arnold Schoenberg) with her. But she did tell me that whenever she performs the last movement of Mnemosyne she always takes a deep breath and thinks about her father, who passed away a few years ago.

I’ve really learned a lot about working on this kind of music from working on Pierrot Lunaire because there’s a lot of vocal work that sits between singing and speaking. It’s very theatrical.

The relationship between music and theatre is very important for you in your practice. How do you explore that?

I have background in both areas, but when I learn a new piece I try to approach the text as an actress first. I learn it almost separately (while making sure that I have a handle on the music), sometimes drawing diagrams or relating the performance to a story.

Really looking forward to your concert, Sarah!

– Isak Goldschneider, October 29, 2012, Montreal

Attend Sarah Albu’s concert with Felix Del Tredici, November 3, 2012

Read more about Sarah’s Trickpony project (“One year. One voice. Eight composers. Giddy-up!”)