World-renowned percussionist bringing special performance to Calgary’s Bella Concert Hall

Dame Evelyn Glennie is known as the world’s premier solo percussionist and one of the greatest deaf musicians

By Leanne Murray | September 28, 2022 |5:00 am

Vince Ho and Evelyn Glennie have been collaborating for 12 years and have teamed up again for a performance this weekend.

Photo: Submitted

Calgarians have a chance to experience the musical stylings of a world-renowned percussionist this weekend.

Mount Royal Conservatory co-presents Dame Evelyn Glennie and Land’s End Ensemble at the Bella Concert Hall on Saturday evening.

Vince Ho is the artistic director of Land’s End Ensemble and has been a professional composer for the last 25 years. Ho and Glennie have been collaborative partners since 2010 and he has written several works for her.

“Ever since we first started working together, we just knew we had that creative synergy that was truly magical,” says Ho.

“It’s that kind of creative relationship between creator and performer that we have such a strong simpatico that we want to continue on for years to come.”

Evelyn Glennie and Vince Ho have been collaborative partners for 12 years.

Leaving a legacy

Glennie is from Scotland and started to lose her hearing at the age of eight. Within four years, she was clinically deaf.

Ho says she was rejected from every music school because she was deaf until a percussion teacher took a chance on her.

She went on to change the criteria of the music education system in the UK.

“Thanks to her, no music school in the UK is allowed to reject any student with a disability anymore,” Ho says.

“It’s up to the school to adapt to the student’s needs in hopes of helping them find a way to express themselves in probably a new way that we haven’t even discovered through musical form.”

Ho says Glennie’s legacy is to change how we see music education, how we see music performance, and how we listen to music.

Experiencing music in other ways

Ho says working with Glennie opened him up to other ways music can be experienced, which has contributed to his growth as a composer.

“Because she’s deaf, she experiences music very differently, in the sense that she uses her entire body as an ear,” says Ho.

“There are so many other ways of experiencing sound and music through other parts of our bodies, or through other parts of communication.”

Music is more than just pitches, harmonies, and rhythms, Ho says, adding it’s also about sonic textures and the energy you feel through an instrument.

“She’s opened my eyes and ears on how music can be experienced, how music can be expressed, and how music can be created beyond the western tradition of learning music.”

Ho says Glennie is a remarkable musician who delivers life-changing concerts while teaching her audience how to listen to and experience music in other ways.

“Every concert is almost like a ritual where it just opens my world up to new dimensions, or new journeys through the world of sound. And it challenges preconceived notions of what music really can be,” he says.

Evelyn Glennie is a world-renowned percussionist.

Electrifying energy on stage

Glennie performed with Land’s End Ensemble for its 20th anniversary in 2017. Ho says the concert sold out and was a huge success.

He is looking forward to having Glennie perform once again this Saturday for the Land’s End Ensemble’s 25th anniversary.

“The last time she was here, the energy was just so great,” Ho says.

“It was just electrifying what they were able to do together, the talent factor that they brought to the stage was brilliant. And the process of them working together throughout the week was incredible.”

Saturday’s concert will feature new works by composers Glennie carefully selected, including Ho.

Since the percussion instrument is a 20th-century development, Ho says it’s important to continually write new music.

“It’s not like the violin or piano where you’ve got hundreds of years of repertoire that any pianist or violinist can choose from,” says Ho.

“That’s why we wanted to commission living composers; to contribute to the growth of the percussion repertoire, but also to give them the experience of working with someone like Evelyn Glennie.”

Learning from the deaf community

Students from the Calgary Board of Education’s Deaf/Hard-of-Hearing (DHH) programs have been invited to attend Saturday’s concert and there will be an ASL interpreter for DHH guests.

Ho says there are misconceptions about the deaf and hard-of-hearing community.

“One assumes that they are limited or they can’t appreciate music. Well, that’s just nonsense and definitely, Evelyn proved it,” he says, adding that Glennie was able to use her condition to change how the hearing world experiences music.

“She taught us that music is beyond just using our ears. It’s using all other senses to be able to feel the sound or translate the sound in other ways and communicate accordingly that will connect with other people, hearing or non-hearing.”

Ho says Glennie is one of the greatest and most important deaf musicians in the world and that she is a role model who gives hope.

“It teaches the hearing world that there’s still so much that we can learn from the deaf community,” he says.

“That’s why we felt that this concert is important on so many levels. For us in the hearing world, in the deaf community, for the composers to gain the experience of working with someone like her, and also for the audience to experience something so special like this.”

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Leanne Murray

Leanne is a Calgary Citizen reporter.

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