Quintet revisits old folk tales

Ventus Machina performs at Brunton.

Folk tales and classical music came together harmoniously last week as Ventus Machina, a wind quintet featuring Mount Allison faculty and guests, performed a selection of pieces inspired by various storytelling traditions. The recital, entitled “Fairy Tales and Legends,” was held in Brunton Auditorium on March 13, and impressed the humble audience with a unique and fascinating collection of sounds and pieces.

The Ventus Machina quintet comprises five excellent musicians with exceptional chemistry: Mount Allison’s own Karin Aurell, on flute, alto flute, and piccolo; Christie Goodwin, oboe and English horn; Jean-Guy Boisvert, clarinet; Ulises Aragon, French horn; and Patrick Bolduc, bassoon.

Each instrument lends its distinctive qualities to the ensemble’s presence, creating an ethereal yet folkloric sound that effectively invokes the French and Acadian tales that the group strives to renew and recreate. From the lilting and airy tones of jubilant fairy tales to the dissonant and darkly textured harmonies of more somber stories, the Ventus Machina quintet constructs an instantly recognizable musical quality that expertly balances an authentic and robust homage to French cultural traditions and the virtuosity demanded by their classically inspired repertoire.

After kicking off the concert with their rendition of Mozart’s highly popular piece “The Magic Flute,” the quintet dove right into their musical storytelling by performing a recently completed piece entitled “Legends of Acadia” by Moncton composer Richard Gibson. The piece is comprised of three movements, with each one exploring a different Acadian folk tale. To help the audience visualize their rendition, the performance was accompanied by a media presentation that told each story in words and images alongside the evocative music.

As is often typical of the Acadian folklore tradition, these tales often contained elements of the supernatural. For example, the first movement, entitled “Le Vaisseau Fantôme,” explained the story of the eponymous ghost ship that was allegedly cursed by its mistreated captives, forever damned to haunt the seas. Other movements like “Évangéline” engage with Acadian social and political history by retelling the harrowing narrative of a young couple that was separated during the Expulsion of the Acadians during the French and Indian War of the eighteenth century.

The quintet also performed a variation of Maurice Ravel’s “Mother Goose Suite,” as well as Darius Milhaud’s “La Chemineé du Roi René,” a piece that invokes a diverse series of scenes and images from Medieval Provence. Finally, the ensemble concluded their performance with an arrangement of the much-celebrated “In the Hall of the Mountain King,” led by Bolduc’s sinister bassoon melodies that embodied the goblinoid figures of Edvard Grieg’s from his “Peer Gynt Suite.” While some prefer to tell stories through words, the members of Ventus Machina are proof that equally beautiful and meaningful stories can be told through the medium of music.

The ensemble was formed in 2011 as a result of collaboration between l’Université de Moncton and Symphony New Brunswick, and remains committed to representing both musical performance and education. In July 2013, Ventus Machina launched their newest addition to their selection of summer programs, entitled the Wind Masters’ Workshop. The quintet is set to perform with the Symphony New Brunswick Virtuoso this weekend in Moncton and Saint John.

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