Cover Image: Earthrise Over Vancouver Skyline by Alistair Eagle
Cover Design: Melanie Thompson

What the Night Bird Told the Wanderer (2011 / 2021) is an anniversary celebration project that has been a decade in the making. In 2011, the VICO marked its 10th anniversary with two major concerts: Classical Meets Intercultural, and Orchestral Evolution, featuring two large-scale compositions that combined European classical sensibilities with a whole world of intercultural possibilities. Both Night Bird Singing by Mark Armanini and Dreams of the Wanderer by Moshe Denburg were recorded at the time – but busy schedules intervened and years passed, and the recordings were never finished. Ten years later, as the VICO celebrates its 20th anniversary, composer- producers Mark and Moshe have gone back into the studio with engineer Sheldon Zaharko to mix and master their pieces, so that we may release them as a digital album.

About the Album

“We have both been with the VICO pretty well from its beginnings in 2001, and, in various capacities we have nurtured it over its first two decades. So, as two vintage director/composers of the orchestra we are proud to be putting this recording out into the world together.

It is not easy to predict the future of any important cultural entity, but let us say that the orchestra has grown in stature over the years, and true to the titles of its concert productions in 2011, it remains dedicated to the principles of having classical sensibilities be enhanced by a world of intercultural possibilities, and, by so doing, enabling the very concept of the orchestra to evolve. This has been and still is the task at hand, and we can only hope that our offerings here will give the listener a new and optimistic vista on this truly Canadian interculturalism.”

~ Mark Armanini (Artistic Director)  & Moshe Denburg (Founding Artistic Director)

Featured Artists 

Night Bird Singing (夜鶯之歌) by Mark Armanini

Song Yun (erhu) began violin and erhu study in childhood. In 1982, she won the First Prize in the nation-wide Instrumental Competition hosted by the Ministry of Culture of the People’s Republic of China, becoming a rising star of Chinese Instrumental music. The song, “A flower 一枝花” that she performed in the competition became one of the most successful contemporary erhu compositions and been used ever since in many erhu publications. In 1983, she won Best Performer in The Erhu Performing Arts Association of Beijing. In the same year, she was admitted to the Central Conservatory of Music as an undergraduate, studying under Master Mr. Liu Ming-yuan. In 1989, Song Yun won the Grand Prix of the Central TV Erhu Excellence Award; this is the top award for erhu performances in the world. She then was invited to become a member of the Chinese Musicians’ Association. In the early nineties, Song Yun went to Japan to continue her career in Chinese music performance and as a teacher. During her time in Japan, she released over one hundred CDs. She also hosted the NHK lectures in Chinese culture on Educational TV.

Song Yun performs music with a profound feeling. With her erhu technique and western violin background, she naturally adapts her musicality to both traditional Chinese and Western musical ways – an ideal intercultural artist. Song Yun immigrated to Canada in 2007, and she currently lives in Richmond, B.C and continues to engage in a variety of artistic and educational activities. She is erhu soloist with the BC Chinese Music Ensemble and the strings mentor of the BC Youth Chinese Orchestra.

Mark Armanini (composer) (b. 1952), a native Vancouverite, studied composition with Elliot Weisgarber and piano with Robert Rodgers at the University of British Columbia, graduating with a MMus. in 1984. In 1990 Mark began composing for various combinations of Oriental and Western instrumentation. Major works included …of Wind and Water, recorded in 1995 with the Bohuslav Martinu Philharmonic and Qiu Xia He (pipa); and in 2003 Incense and Flowers, Rain in the Forest, and Dance of Many Colours with the Latvian National Symphony and Vivian Xia (yangqin), Heidi Krutzen (harp), and the Khac Chi Bamboo Ensemble under the direction of Maestro John Zoltek. These pieces are collected on the album Rain in the Forest, available on the Centrediscs label. In 2000 Mark traveled to Taipei and in 2003 to Beijing and Shanghai as part of composer exchanges. In 2006 he performed at the Nanjing Jazz Festival and in 2007 travelled to Wuhan to study the ancient Marquis Yi Bell Set. During the years 2009- 2016 Mark attended the Atlas Academy, a two week intercultural orchestra intensive in Amsterdam, where his composition Chroma premiered at the Concertgebouw concert hall, as did Decor at the Amsterdam Conservatory. In 2015 Mark produced Fingertips to Freedom, an improvised piano concerto with pianist-improviser Paul Plimley, at Sono Recording Studios in Prague CZ. In November 2018 he travelled to Hanoi Vietnam for the 3rd Asia Europe Music Festival where his double dan bau concerto, Dance of Many Colours, was given its Vietnamese premiere. In 2019, he attended the Voix Etouffées European Festival in Brussels where his …of Wind and Water for pipa and string quartet was performed, with pipa virtuoso Qiu Xia He and the Selini Quartet. Currently Mr. Armanini is the Artistic Director of the Vancouver Inter-Cultural Orchestra (VICO), producer of the recently released VICO CD In the Key of the World, and an associate of the BC Chinese Music Ensemble. He is on faculty at Capilano University in North Vancouver.

John van Deursen (conductor) is that rare musician who combines both classical and jazz experience and training at the highest international levels, attested by both his appearance as conductor with the Taipei Sinfonietta in the prestigious Prague Spring Festival, and as a guest instrumentalist in the Singapore International Jazz Festival. As conductor, John has worked with the Taipei Philharmonic Orchestra, Taiwan National Symphony, Hong Kong Sinfonietta, Prince George Symphony, Symphony of the Kootenays, and conducted in such venues as the Rudolfinum in Prague, and in the main concert halls of Helsinki and Stockholm. As jazz performer, John has shared the stage with Ernie Watts, Jeremy Monteiro, Hino Terumasa, Dee Dee Bridgewater and more while his arrangements have been performed by Randy Brecker, New Orleans great Ronnie Kole, the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, the Taipei Philharmonic and other esteemed ensembles and performers. His work as composer and arranger includes a Concerto for Jazz Piano and Orchestra, and many pops arrangements for orchestra, brass quintet concert band, piano trio and other ensembles. Currently residing in Ceske Budejovice in the Czech Republic, John is working on a multi-genre project to bring new repertoire to chamber ensembles, including new arrangements of jazz classics, and Asian folk songs.

Dreams of the Wanderer by Moshe Denburg

Amir Haghighi (tenor) was born and raised in Tehran, Iran, and grew up singing traditional Persian music. He has lived in Canada since 1983. Amir has been performing Persian music and composing original songs based on the mystical poetry of Hafez, Rumi and other great Persian poets. Amir has appeared at the Vancouver International Folk Festival, the Vancouver International Jazz Festival, the Vancouver International Children’s Festival, the Chan Centre with the Vancouver Intercultural Orchestra, the Vancouver Sacred Music Festival, Global Discoveries Festival, Inter-spiritual Chantfest, Persian Cultural Conferences and events in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Seattle, Geneva, Paris, Amsterdam, Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto.

Moshe Denburg (composer) (b. 1949), who hails from a well-known Montreal Rabbinical family, came to the west coast in 1982. His musical career has spanned over 5 decades and his accomplishments encompass a wide range of musical activities, including Composition, Performance, Music Education, and Artistic Direction. He is the founder of the Vancouver Inter-Cultural Orchestra (VICO) and has been a driving force behind the ensemble’s many activities since its inception in the year 2000. He has studied music extensively, both formally and informally, and for the past 40 years has been engaged in exploring the musical resources of the non-Western world, creating music that challenges musicians of differing disciplines to work together across aural/written cultural divides, and to find a common musical aesthetic. He has traveled worldwide, living and studying in the United States, Israel, India and Japan. From 1986 to 1990 he studied composition with John Celona at the University of Victoria. He has written a large number of works for a variety of instruments from non-Western cultures (East Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Arabic and more), which have been performed and broadcast at festivals and on the radio both in Canada and abroad. He is the recipient of numerous Canada Council grants and commissions. He is an associate composer of the Canadian Music Centre, and presently serves as an artistic advisor for the Vancouver Inter-Cultural Orchestra.

Lars Kaario (conductor) founded the professional-level chamber choir Laudate Singers in 1995 and has been its sole Artistic Director. His vision for the choir has always been multi-faceted – offering the community the experience of exciting and varied choral performances, giving trained singers the enjoyment and challenge of singing in a high calibre choir, and exploring the vast choral arts repertoire while adding to it through compositional commissions. Mr. Kaario retired in 2021 after a 35-year career at Capilano University where he was Director of Choral Studies in the Diploma of Music Program and head instructor in the University’s Conducting Certificate Program. He continues to teach voice and conducting in his private studio and is enjoying directing Laudate Singers as well as the new Paragon Singers, an intermediate-level choir under Laudate Singers Society’s banner.

Laudate Singers, founded in 1995 by current Artistic Director Lars Kaario, is a chamber choir based on the North Shore of Vancouver that strives to foster the development of professional musicians and enrich the cultural fabric of our community. Laudate Singers presents repertoire across periods, cultures and genres such as Baroque, Celtic and tango. A committed champion of Canadian choral music, Laudate Singers commissions and performs new Canadian works. Since 1995, the choir has been mentoring and nurturing young composers through its composer-in-residence programme. Laudate has worked with many of the region’s finest instrumentalists including long-time collaborators Vancouver Inter-Cultural Orchestra and North Shore Celtic Ensemble.

Notes on the Music

Night Bird Singing (夜鶯之歌) by Mark Armanini

Night Bird Singing is a classic western concerto, featuring the erhu, a traditional Chinese 2-string violin. Poetically, Night Bird Singing is a cry for human compassion.  The melodic motive is a passionate plea, articulated by the haunting, soulful vocal cry of the erhu. The work, 8 years in the making, is a musical essay in concerto form on the balance between the individual and the power of the many. The listener follows the erhu in its eloquent struggle against the darker shades of the string orchestra, as soloist Song Yun’s erhu artistry paints a dazzling array of instrumental colour: string harmonics, liquid glissandi and seamless melodic lines with baroque-like ornamentation, all transform and intertwine into fresh musical figures.

A dramatic first movement climaxes with an accompanied cadenza, and is followed by an adagio with a major unaccompanied cadenza as the central movement; and in the final movement, a gentle rhythmic dance transforms into a passionate swirling finale fueled by a final accompanied cadenza.

Night Bird Singing takes a classic musical form and infuses it with intercultural content. In Song Yun’s hands, the instrument explores the outer regions of the erhu’s expression and technique. The cadenza explores the intimate sonic character of the erhu including a vivid pungent pizzicato, and strategic placing of ‘bird song’, a contemporary version of a traditional erhu improvisation featuring an improvised combination of glissandi and harmonics.

Dreams of the Wanderer by Moshe Denburg

The person of the wanderer reminds us of separation and disconnection, and is reflected in the lives of individuals as well as in the historical experiences of entire peoples. These two aspects of wandering are actually inseparable, though the one refers more to personal feelings and the other relates to feelings shared by a collectivity.

In this work the wanderer is represented by the tenor soloist, though his dreams and his message are conveyed by the entire ensemble. The texts chosen for the work deal with different aspects, or views, of the wanderer’s experience.  Ahavat Hadasa (The Love of Hadasa), speaks of the longing for a homeland, and was penned, in the 17th century, by the Jewish-Yemenite poet Shalem Shabazi. You Zi Yin (Song of the Wanderer) by the 8th century Chinese poet Meng Jiao, is a reflection on the melancholy at the beginning of the journey, the origins of the wandering. The Dying Hours, a poem written by the composer, reflects upon the utterly human longing to overcome isolation and disconnection in the sphere of love. Finally, in Nasime Shiraaz (Breeze of Home) by the great Persian 14th century poet Hafez, we obtain a glimpse of the most inward homecoming – the mystic’s yearning to unite with the divine beloved.

The wanderer’s dreams are our dreams, the ineluctable desire to overcome our psychological, spiritual, and physical isolation.

Album Liner Notes

Read and/or download the full album liner notes (link goes to a PDF).