When asked what comes to mind with the word ‘Impressionism,’ one immediately thinks of Monet, Renoir and Degas. Artists who ventured into nature to create works directly, rather than create sketches to develop into carefully crafted works in a studio. Art historians estimate that the period lasted from roughly 1860-1920. 

Impressionism in music existed as well, although musicologists will argue that it started and ended a little later than the noted timeframe for visual artists. Debussy (who famously composed Clair de Lune) and Ravel (Pictures at an Exhibition) are two of the best known composers associated with the movement, although both famously rejected the label. However, their music fits what is frequently associated with Impressionistic music, including the use of extended harmonies, an exploration of orchestration and texture. The result, and beauty of this music, is its ability to evoke moods and atmospheres by creating images through elements of music. 

For local composer, Robert Bruce, bringing this evocative effect to Hamilton audiences is twenty years in the making. Primarily a composer for film and television, Bruce is no stranger to enhancing emotions and bringing them to life through music. His well-loved live music/silent film programs were presented in the Studio at Theatre Aquarius until 2018.

Like his past works, Eternal Spring, Bruce’s latest creation, is a multidisciplinary work with music at its center. Originally composed in 1998, Eternal Spring went through numerous incarnations before reaching its current format- a challenge that every artist can relate to. Bruce knew a dancer was required to properly convey the emotional complexity of the work, but timing, location or vision always seemed to present a challenge in completing the piece.

Enter Kate Hilliard. The Toronto-based dance artist performed with now-defunct companies Le Groupe Dance Lab (Ottawa) and Fortier Danse-Création (Montreal) before teaching performance dance and acting at Ryerson University. Her recent work, La Jeune Femme et La Mort, a trio with Robert Abubo and Jeremy Mimnagh was produced by the Dance Made in Canada festival in 2015 and The Citadel Bright Nights festival in 2017. A multidisciplinary artist herself, Hilliard is pursuing a degree in Art History to contribute to the curation of movement outside of formal theatre spaces.

“Kate has engaged on a very deep level artistically,” Bruce stated over email. “Once we got on track in our rehearsals, things came together fairly quickly.”

The performance space itself is an additional partner in the multidisciplinary program. Eternal Spring‘s only Hamilton performance will take place on February 29 at the Rock on Locke (St. John the Evangelist Church on Charlton West). The church has a history in Hamilton going back 125 years- or to roughly the time period that Bruce is taking inspiration from. The piece had its Toronto premiere in the fall at the Church of the Redeemer (162 Bloor Avenue West). That building opened in 1979.

At fifty-five minutes in length without an intermission, the program requires stamina from its two performers. All music for the performance will be executed by Bruce; Hilliard will enter during the first piece and will continue in an unbroken dance narrative until the last. For more information, or to purchase tickets, please visit www.robertbrucemusic.com 

Photo courtesy of Robert Bruce Music.

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