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Photo provided by SHHH!! Ensemble

NightCAPS: SHHH!! Ensemble series showcases local and Canadian composers

By Shireen Agharazi-Dormani on July 19, 2021

SHHH!! Ensemble is a piano/percussion duo that explores the boundaries of music through creativity and playing with complex sounds. Pianist Edana Higham and percussionist Zac Pulak work together to educate and engage communities through presenting programmes and introducing contemporary music to new listeners.

“[Zac and I] love bringing new work to life, new music into this world, and really making it our own,” says Higham. “Building these pieces with these composers is such a collaborative work image.”

Photo by Alan Dean Photography 

NightCAPS w/ SHHH!! Ensemble is a video series of new Canadian music for percussion and piano. At the start of each episode, Canadian Music Centre Ontario Region Director Matthew Fava hosts an interview with the composer and performers, which is followed by a performance by SHHH!! Ensemble. Due to COVID-19, these interviews were held via Zoom.

All of the NightCAPS episodes will be posted on the SHHH!! Ensemble’s website as well as their YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter accounts and will be free to view.

Photo by Alan Dean Photography

In Episode 1, composer Jocelyn Morlock talks about her piece Spirit Gradient. You get to learn about Morlock’s process when composing the music, along with how Higham and Pulak built their repertoire and much more. The piano/percussion duo’s performance at the end is hauntingly beautiful.

Composer Matthew-John Knights is the interviewee for Episode 2 with his piece, Water States: Ebb/Flow*. We learn of his discoveries and experiences when working with other composers, as well as where the name for his piece came from. Higham and Pulak’s performance, while much longer, is just as enjoyable and relaxing.

In celebration of their 40th anniversary, the Association of Canadian Women Composers (ACWC) supports Episode 3, which features Monica Pearce’s leather* and Patricia Morehead’s Moon on Shimmering Water*. Here, you get to learn about who played a significant role in these composers’ lives and where they are now (plus hear some jokes from Morehead). The duo’s performance, full of variety, ranges from playful to mystifying.

The fourth episode includes music by Daniel Mehdizadeh (RITUAL*) and Edward Enman (That Star is Awake*). Its release date is yet to be determined, but you can stay up-to-date by visiting SHHH!! Ensemble’s website.

“[Working with these composers] was a really great experience,” says Pulak. “All the composers that we’ve picked for the series were ones [who] we’ve either already worked with or we were really excited to work with and use this as an opportunity to explore that collaboration. It was just an overwhelmingly positive experience, I would say. It was a lot of fun.”

If you would like to see some more of their work, they have a couple of upcoming events as part of Ottawa Chamberfest.

A Bring the Kids! show is scheduled for July 22 at 10:30am, where families can introduce their children to music that is tailored to them. This performance will happen at the Steinway Piano Gallery at 1481A Innes Rd and is in-person only.

On August 1 at 5pm, you can catch the ensemble performing at The Record Centre at 1099 Wellington St. The duo will be presented by livestream and are part of the Festival Livestream Pass. Single livestream tickets are available this month. While the opportunity is limited with no available seating, you might be able to see them in person as well if local COVID-19 regulations allow it at the time.

* These are world premiere performances. Click here to donate. 100% of contributions to this campaign go to supporting SHHH!! Ensemble and offsetting the costs of running the NightCAPS series.