Artist in Residence – Sackville Welcomes Cléo Palacio-Quintin
By Karin Aurell
This past summer, thanks to a grant from ArtsNB and CALQ, we had the great pleasure of having performer/composer/improviser Cléo Palacio-Quintin in Sackville for a whole month. I help organize music events for the Ok.Quoi?! Festival, and Cléo was our artist in residence for the festival, doing all the usual stuff – two concerts and an artist talk during the five day festival. Leading up to this, Cléo was doing a lot of computer programming – she works with live electronics that are triggered by her own movements or sounds from her flute, it’s pretty amazing. She was also collecting recorded sound and photos that we used in our final concert. But the thing that will stay with me as a lasting memory of her time in Sackville was the weekly free improv sessions that she led while she was in here.
For five consecutive Tuesdays, Cléo led us through a wide array of exercises geared to making us better improvisers. She asked us to think of descriptive words and play them. A favourite on a blisteringly hot evening was ‘cold’! She had a large collection of photos that she projected and we would use them to inspire group improvisations. She asked us to play individual 30 second and 1 minute improvisations. We also worked on some structured improv using a variety of aleatoric scores that Cléo brought.
The sessions were open to anyone, at any level, and it was fine to attend only one or two sessions. Over the course of the five weeks, we had two singers, five flute players, two clarinet players, a trumpet, a variety of string instruments and one visual artist attend, but we were never all there at the same time, which was probably a good thing since improv in a very large group can get confusing.
For our first three sessions, we used a room at the music conservatory at Mount Allison. My favourite session, however, was the fourth one, where we had moved into our rented space on 25 Lorne Street, a large scruffy storefront space where we held all the music events during Ok.Quoi?! There were only three of us there that day and I thought we made some truly beautiful music. I have had to improvise a fair bit in my musical career, but this was one of the first times that I felt really happy with the result.
The sessions finished with a concert on July 31, the final day of the Ok.Quoi?! Festival and also the start of Sackville’s beautiful indie rock festival Sappy Fest. Again, we made some really nice music, a great experience for all of us who participated and for our audience too.
I am so glad that the grant from ArtsNB/CALQ made it possible for Cléo to spend this extended time in Sackville. Thanks to everyone at ArtsNB!