Reviews

Barbara Croall
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REVIEWS

Wezoowaad Anang (Shooting Star, 2012)
orchestral theatre – world premiere performance by Windsor Symphony Orchestra, Peter Wiebe, guest conductor; featuring 3 First Nations actors/dancers/singers, with choreography, dramaturgy, staging and lighting design
“a new work by Canadian First Nations composer Barbara Croall brought the audience to its feet at Windsor Symphony concerts at Capitol Theatre… the world premiere of Croall’s Wezoowaad Anang, or Shooting Star, a musical and dramatic portrait of the Shawnee chief Tecumseh.
Croall’s work is comprised of 13 vignettes from the life of the great native leader, from his birth to his battles alongside the British in the War of 1812. He was killed near present-day Thamesville, east of Chatham, in 1813. … The work, which was commissioned by WSO, is a compelling stage piece…”
The Windsor Star

“a master of orchestral colour!”
Scott Speck, conductor

“If ever there was a holistic conception of who Tecumseh really was, Wezoowaad Anang hit the mark. The unity of masterfully written orchestral music—spatially designed and with musicians themselves performing as actors in their text utterances—along with an expertly directed and choreographed theatrical performance and dance featuring elements of traditional song, made for a deeply felt and memorable experience for the audience who gave it a standing ovation and cheers. Judging from the tears on many faces, this work has longevity.”
Kurt Maher, writer and critic of music, theatre and dance

Tree People & Seven (2011)
orchestral theatre and dance– world premiere performance by Victoria Symphony Orchestra, Tania Miller, conductor; featuring 2 Aboriginal dancers and 2 First Nations vocalists/musicians, with choreography and lighting design
“A breath-taking performance, which integrates a highly original and imaginative orchestral score of theatrical sound-conception with outstanding choreography, dance and First Nations traditional-style singing and instrumentals, along with evocative and dramatic lighting design. It took the audience deep into the recesses of a painter’s creative mind and impulses, experienced as a kinetic and spiritual expression of paint, movement and light. Astonishing.”
Antonia Gruber, writer and music critic

Mijidwewinan
(Messages, 2009) large symphony orchestra and Anishinaabekwe solo vocalist and traditional flutist (Barbara Croall) – Canadian premiere performance by the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, Alexander Mickelthwaite, conductor
“L’oeuvre est très impressionnante. Mme Croall réussit à créer des ambiances sonores très subtiles qui révèlent un sens exceptionnel de l’orchestration. Elle a étè superbement exécutée par l’orchestre. Comme soliste, elle a une prestance très solennelle qui fait penser à une prophétesse. Ses déclamations parlées et chantée sont touchantes même si on n’en comprend das le contenu. L’ensemble a un caractère sacré qui interpelle et invite au recueillement.”
La Liberté

Gichi Gamiing (Great Water, 2010)
for solo piano
“Evoking impressionism and the grandeur of nature, this was probably the most accessible piece of the night—a perfect breather… Tonalities weaved in and out of each other, finding an anchor in pentatonics.”
Wordpress (California, USA)

Gookom’s Purse (2010) a multi-media, multi-disciplinary and inter-generational theatre work for Aboriginal youth and First Nations/Métis Elders; original concept, story and script in English/Ojibwe/French by Barbara Croall; original songs and music by Barbara Croall; direction, dramaturgy and choreography by Barbara Croall; costume design collaboratively by Barbara Croall, Denise Montgomery (Métis) and students of the NYA:WEH Program (SJAM); lighting design by SJAM apprentices and student assistants; featuring Aboriginal/First Nations student actors/ performers/singers/drummers/dancers; world premiere and repeat performances at Sir John A. Macdonald Secondary School (SJAM), Hamilton, Ontario
“I was so emotionally moved by the performance of this production, and especially impressed with how thoughtfully the theme of survival and recovery from residential school abuse and trauma was handled. And sign language for the deaf was provided for the entire work! I was so proud to see and hear the Aboriginal students perform so well in something that relates to their heritage, their history and their realities of inner-city life. This is a production that much deserves to be performed again and again. The beautiful music and songs seamlessly tied everything together, scene by scene.”
Agnes Bear (Anishinaabe)

Midwewe’igan
(The Sound of the Drum, 2004) for 2 Anishinaabe performers and symphony orchestra, world premiere with the National Academy Orchestra (Canada), Boris Brott, conductor
performance with the Guelph Symphony Orchestra, Judith Yan conductor (2013)

“This was the most evocative and beautiful description of nature from a distinctly First Nations perspective that I have ever heard. Such a remarkable approach to composing for orchestra, with the musicians playing in very unusual ways captured so exquisitely under a sensitive interpretation by the conductor. And hearing both of the soloists so expressively sing and speak in their indigenous language while they drummed felt like we were sent back to a time long ago. The hush of silence from the audience continued long after the piece concluded with Barbara’s traditional cedar flute solo which sounded like a fantastical ‘spirit loon’ echoing across a lake at night. We were savouring every sound just heard and the feeling of inner peace that this gave to us.”
M. Archer

performance with The Winnipeg Symphony, Alexander Mickelthwaite, conductor (2009)
“Odawa composer Barbara Croall performed her haunting Sound of the Drum with Campbell evoking the ancient custom of drum calling across lakes. Suddenly the audience was on the land, hearing the wind whooshing, courtesy of WSO violinists' bow. The unmistakable lonely call of the loon came from Croall's over-blowing and trilling flute. Deep, muted piano strings produced ominous notes while the soloists' answering drumbeats accompanied by matter-of-fact vocal expression took us to another place. Richly imaginative, this work was highly spiritual.”
Winnipeg Free Press, 2009

Dagwaagin (It is Autumn, 2008) for large symphony orchestra and Anishinaabe performer – world premiere performance with the National Academy Orchestra (Canada), Martin MacDonald, conductor
“The concert opened with a commissioned work entitled ‘Dagwaagin’ by composer Barbara Croall who also narrated the poetry in Anishinaabe. The term ‘onomatopoeic’ refers to words that imitate sounds they describe – murmur being one quoted example. Croall’s work attempts to musically portray the sounds of nature, specifically autumn. She doesn’t just see nature – she feels it, and thus has been able to capture the very essence of nature. The piece is so vivid that her audience feels it too. Conductor Martin MacDonald and the N.A.O. interpreted the composition with a tenderness bordering on veneration; at the finale I wasemotionally in awe.”
Ontario Arts Review, 2008

Mazhenaabikiniganing Aagawong (Transcription Rock, 2008) for solo piano
“The world premiere of Barbara Croall's "Inscription Rock" was equally intriguing but much darker in tone, using dampened strings to evoke elemental sounds.”
Washington Post, 2008

Mewinzha… (A Long Time Ago…, 2006)
for wind symphony and Anishinaabe speaker – world premiere and touring performances by University Of Mary Washington Wind Ensemble (Virginia)
“The concert piece that most strongly reflected American Indian traditions was Mewinzha (a long time ago), a musical depiction of the Anishinaabe creation story composed by Barbara Croall, an Odawa from Ontario, Canada, who spoke in her native Anishinaabe language as an element of the performance. The sounds of drums and turtle shell rattles also played an important role.”
U.S. Department of State (Washington, DC), 2006

Gi-giiwe na? (Are you coming home?, 2004) for symphonic brass band; featuring traditional First Nations singing/drumming at the conclusion – world premiere and repeat performances by the Hannaford Street Silver Band (HSSB), Jane Mallet Theatre, Toronto; Elgar Howarth, conductor; Anishinaabe vocalist/drummer, Barbara Croall
“… a work of great power and distinction … This work elicited a remarkable response from both the artists on stage and the members of the audience.”
Ray Tizzard, 2012

If there be butterflies all around (2003-04) for chamber ensemble – world premiere performance by New Music Concerts (Robert Aitken, Artistic Director)
“Barbara Croall’s ‘If There Be Butterflies’ recounted how a memory of swarming Monarchs turned sacred by the knowledge the butterflies had been next to a burial site of Croall’s native ancestors. Flutes, clarinet,strings, percussion and harp brought the butterflies to life in atmospheric music that fluttered and shimmered … with the sound of native flutes that eventually played a comforting Ojibwe/Odawa lullaby.”
The Toronto Star, 2004

The Meeting Point of the Seven (2002) video excerpts with original music – repeat performance of excerpts at Wilfrid Laurier University (Canada)
“The mood was established as Barbara Croall took the stage, performing haunting, elaborate birdsong-like melodies on traditional native flutes … Two excerpts from a video by Croall and Alexis Hurtadeo, ‘The Meeting Point of the Seven’, explored concepts of the Seven Sacred Anishinaabe Grandfather Teachings.‘Singing Wind Spirits’ represented the teaching of Love, and wind as the first breath, taking inspiration from the shapeshifter owl, which protects and sees everything. Sweetgrass visuals evoked dream sequences to a background of soft, impressionistic music, complementing beautifully crafted images.”
The Record (Kitchener-Waterloo ON) , 2004

Calliope (2001 ) for chamber ensemble – Canadian premiere performance by ERGO Ensemble
“ ‘Calliope’ is Croall’s re-creation of the 19th century steam-driven musical machines she saw as a child at rural fairs. Indeed, there it was: a bellowing, whistling, belching magical bit of musical confection, charmingly and impeccably redrawn by Croall and beautifully imagined by her performing ensemble.”
The National Post (Canada), 2001

Caribou Song (1999/2001) for orchestra/large symphony orchestra, featuring actor/narrator and actor/dancer, a setting of the original story Caribou Song by Cree author Tomson Highway; choreography by Peter Chin – world premiere by the Scarborough Philharmonic Orchestra; repeat performance by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra
“ The orchestra members were the caribou, using their instruments and feet to make the caribou come alive. Imagine the sound of 10,000 caribou stampeding around you while you watch two people perform a mythical dance. The music and dance sequence blended so well that you were transported to the tundra where you shared in the joyous laughter of two children as they danced to call the caribou.”
Ontario Birchbark (Canada), 2002

When Push Came To Shove (1998/2000) for large symphony orchestra – repeat performance by Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Jukka-Pekka Saraste, conductor
“A sense of musical and spiritual collapse at the end gives it a strong shape and direction … The animal-like scrabblings of stringed instruments, the ritualistic use of the tam-tam, the frenetic life-pulse of the bass drums and timpani … In the end, Croall’s piece emerged as the high point of the evening. That’s a compliment to this gifted young composer.”
The National Post (Canada) , 2000

World premiere performance by Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Jukka-Pekka Saraste, conductor
“The Toronto Symphony’s contribution to the Made in Canada Festival last night at Massey Hall offered some of the best of today’s music to an appreciative audience… “When Push Came to Shove”, a short but powerful work that set full-blooded orchestral colours in bold gestures above a dynamic timpani part.”
The Toronto Star, 1998

“… her music seemed to come from a dark, animalistic part of the body and dissolving of musical elements at the work’s end brought no sense of peace; this is hardly surprising in a piece dedicated to the memory of an aunt who took her own life at the age of 25.”
The National Post (Canada), 1998

Coyote Stories (2000) a First Nations storytelling for orchestra and narrator – world premiere performance by Kamloops Symphony Orchestra with Shuswap Elder and Storyteller, John Jules; Bruce Dunn, conductor
“… the audience was treated to the world premiere of the music commissioned by the orchestra as a millennium project. … Filled with bird calls, sounds of the wind whistling through the trees and ice crackling under foot, the modern sounds use rattles, drums and various parts of the more conventional instruments.”
The Daily News (Kamloops, BC), 2000

“ The stories were both interesting and fun, and the music was fascinating as the musicians resorted to using their instruments in unique ways to achieve the unique sounds of the forest conceived by the composer.”
Kamloops This Week, 2000

Noodin (1999) for two flutes – World premiere performance at the ADEvantgarde Festival neuer Musik (Munich, Germany), Philipp Jundt and Dorothee Binding (ERGO Projects)
“Two flutes push each other toward a typhoon – rustling, roaring, whistling, thundering and shivering. The sound dies after an orgastic dance: what remains is a play of the wind, a whisper.”
Suddeutsche Zeitung (Germany) , 1999

Canadian premiere performance, presented by ERGO Projects (Toronto)
“Croall’s ‘Noodin’ for two flutes, was a standout on Friday. It’s title apparently comes from the Ojibwe/Odawa language and means ‘there is a wind’. Brilliantly written and brilliantly performed by Dorothee Binding and Philipp Jundt, the piece captured – without taming – the elemental force of wind, spirit and nature. The players spent much of the piece blowing into their flutes without pitch – or rather, without a clear ‘sung’ pitch. But they covered a huge range of dynamics, colours and emotions – using percussive ‘spitting’, flutter-tonguing, ‘shrieks’ and, at the end, ethereal sounds reminiscent of electro-acoustics or crystalline eagle-cries … Croall’s piece was gripping from beginning to end.”
The National Post (Canada) , 1999

Klang (1996) piano & percussion duo, Echo (1996) piano trio, and Revision (1998) for chamber ensemble – Toronto premiere performance by ERGO Ensemble
“ Croall’s music has backbone, an air of no compromise, and a distinct compositional voice. It does indeed speak for itself… even when her textures are gentler, we sense that something of substance has been left.”
The Globe and Mail (Canada), 1998

Klang (1996) piano & percussion duo – World premiere performance by the Clarke-Moore Duo
“ The highlights of the concert were Feldman’s 1998 ‘Duo for Piano and Percussion’, which opened the concert, and the premiere of ‘Klang’ (1996)… In the opening section of Croall’s ‘Klang’, tubular bells evoked European church bells: the piano fought against this symbol of tradition and stability with manic fury and at times mocking parody. The piano then took an unexpected turn toward reflection and exoticism; by the end of the piece the energetic, polar opposition of the piano and percussion had evolved into something more complex and subtle.”
The Globe and Mail (Canada), 1996

Manitou (1993-94) for flute and 2 percussionists, and Six Nations (1996) for six vocalists – performed by NUMUS
“ Croall’s works, ‘Manitou’, and ‘Six Nations’ … Hommage to traditional ways makes them fascinating and Croall’s voice is clear and strong.”
The Record (Kitchener-Waterloo, ON), 1996

“Listening to ‘Manitou’ took me back to my childhood memories and to the time and place of our ancestors. The cries and calls of the mourning dove and loon, heard in between the drumming and thundering, sounded like the voices of our ancient ones calling us back to a time of beauty, mystery and spirit… summoning us, who in our time, have suffered much from colonization, genocide and the residential school experience. I cried many tears of sadness and joy, feeling healed from experiencing this music.”
Eunice Enosse (Ojibwe Elder)

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