Duane Andrews Days Away from a Dream Show

"I recall driving along in the car with the radio on and being completely taken by a piece of music and having to go online as soon as I pulled over to find the playlist to figure out who was playing. It was James Ehnes … and this happened more than once!"

Since mastering the guitar, and particularly his Django-inspired take on jazz, Duane Andrews’ creative path has become a trailblazing one towards the apex of musicianship: innovation.

These last few years have seen him create new sounds by blending genres as diverse as jazz, NL Trad, and classical music on the same album.

He’ll continue this trend on Wednesday. The National Arts Centre Orchestra (NAC) is in town, as part of its first ever nationwide tour, and on their tour, they’re actively seeking out local musicians to collaborate with at each stop.

While in Newfoundland, they’ll be backing up Duane Andrews, this Wednesday (the 28th) at Rocket Room, at 8pm.Duane’s well-earned reputation as a talented and passionate collaborator got him the gig. His busy schedule means he’s brushed shoulders with so many people, that when so and so from the mainland asks around about local musicians, Duane’s name is on the tip of many tongues.

For example, he’s currently working on a commission for the Spectrolite Ensemble which features Vernon Regher, Patrick Cashin, and Sean Rice and Sean is a member of the orchestra and consults on programming so there.

“Somewhat serendipitously,” he adds, “I did a show in Ottawa last year and put together a string quartet with some local players. It turns out that 3 of them were NACO players and they’ll be on the Rocket Room show along with Sean and the NACO concert master so it’ll be a bit of a reunion.”

Duane and the NAC will mostly be playing songs off Duane’s most recent album, Conception Bay (which was shortlisted for The Overcast’ very own Borealis music Prize in 2016). Those songs will be treated with the added twist of having the NAC behind them. “These musicians are incredibly skilled, and players like this always bring out new in the music” Duane says.

One of those players, violinist James Ehnes, is something of an idol for Andrews. ” I’ve been a superfan of James for years. I recall driving along in the car with the radio on and being completely taken by a piece of music and having to go online as soon as I pulled over to find the playlist to figure out who was playing. It was James Ehnes … and this happened more than once!”

He says the admiration is simple: “I just find I’m incredibly inspired by his depth of musicianship and his dedication to playing the violin, and though he is technically incredible, his musicianship is far beyond that. I still feel like I’m in a dream having been able to write a piece of music for him to play, let alone having the chance to play with him.”

He’s referring to the fact that, in addition to the Rocket Room event this week, the Rotary Music Festival is happening, and they commissioned him to compose music that special guests from both the National Arts Centre Orchestra and the Newfoundland Symphony Youth Orchestra will play Wednesday at 1pm at the Holy Heart Theatre.

“There’s also his generosity and sense of sharing music,” Duane adds about Ehnes. “When he was in town a few years ago for a show, he added on a small show out in Clarenville. With all the Juno and Grammy awards he has, and tours through the most prestigious concert halls in the world, it was inspiring to see him feel the need to bring the music to places that wouldn’t normally have access to it.”

As for the impressive fusion of genres we’ll be treated Wednesday night, Duane figures these kinds of musical fusions are merely the result of following the music you love. “If you have influences that go deep enough, I think they eventually start coming out together in varying degrees.”

On the side, Duane is just finishing up a master’s degree in Instrumental Conducting. “I just sent off my last bit of work a couple of days ago … and I must say I loved my time at Memorial. I didn’t have such a great time doing my undergrad, though that was over 20 years ago, and at a different institution.”

He’d been working on large ensemble ideas independently before he enrolled in the program, but upon checking out the resources and design of the program, “I realized it was the perfect fit for the direction I was going.”

To hear that new direction, don’t miss the show!

Tickets for “An Evening with Duane Andrews and Members of the National Arts Centre Orchestra” on April 26th are $20, or $10 for students and seniors (plus taxes and fees), and available at: http://danac.brownpapertickets.com. Note: The NAC Orchestra will be performing with the Shallaway Youth Choir the following night at the Arts & Culture Centre.

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