NORTH BATTLEFORD — Going for baroque. It’s a clever play on words for the name of Chinley Hinacay and Matthew Robinson’s saxophone tour. Yet, in some ways, the figurative meaning behind the “going for broke” phrase is not so far a stretch as you may think.
On Sunday, the two saxophone performers, who were accompanied by local product Cole Knutson, performed for nearly 90 minutes at Third Avenue United Church.
In a performance that saw the audience taken for twists and turns on what they would typically deem as “classical music,” those in attendance were glued to their seats.
One particular example was the piece Shinai by François Rossé, which saw the three performers set up in a triangle format at the front and back of the church. From there, the musicians played to the acoustics of the room, shifting back-and-forth suddenly through gasps of air and short to medium punctuated notes.
While the music was riveting, so, too, was the dialogue between the performers and the audience. Between each of the pieces, all three performers took turns educating the crowd on the background and significance of each piece that was about to be played.
Not to mention the numerous laughs that were drawn on multiple occasions over the duration of the performance, as both Robinson and Hinacay would preview pieces and their performances in a manner that kept the atmosphere light-hearted and festive.
The spirit of the project, according to Robinson, is to take risks on tour (location-wise) and take their act as many places as possible, no matter how large the audience may be.
“If doing this means another duo can perform in the future and people are aware of it, then that is more than enough.”
The Prairie Saxophone Initiative is driven by Hinacay and Robinson, whom both share a strong desire in elevating the standard of saxophone performance and pedagogy throughout Canada. Additionally, the program is committed to collaborating with composers from under-represented communities.
For example, a future goal is to have 60 unique 60-second pieces composed by up-and-coming Canadian composers, all of which can one day be interweaved into future performances.
Neither of the performers were exposed to the potential of the saxophone as a classical instrument until their late teens and early university, a trend they hope to reverse with the initiatives mentioned above.
Part of that collaboration also includes performing with local artists during their tour, which in this case, happened to be North Battleford’s very own Cole Knutson. The local product began with a solo piece, before joining the dynamic saxophone duo via the piano, the organ, and the saxophone (a piece which he studied in university).
His return was not unnoticed. Knutson took the time to shake hands and speak to everyone who came up to see him, a direct reflection of those who have invested in his personal and professional development.
According to Knutson, that commitment from the community since he began his musical journey is something he is always looking to pay forward.
“There’s a lot more on the line personally to give them the best performance I can …When you’re playing for people you love, you really want to do well.”
Music is a form of communication and dialogue, and with playing experience, comes recognition of the micro signalling that often goes unnoticed amidst a performance. Whether it is how a person breathes, or how fast an individual’s vibrato is, performers will react to what they are both seeing and hearing around them.
What was communicated on Sunday was a sense of refinery, a sense of grandiose, a sense of awe, and for some a newfound appreciation for the saxophone as a classical instrument.
Next up, for Hinacay and Robinson, is a stop at Jackfish Lake Monday for a private performance, before heading west to play in Edmonton on Wednesday evening at Holy Trinity Anglican Church.
Meanwhile, Knutson’s hometown concert series continues this Saturday, July 16 at 3 p.m. at Third Avenue United Church once again. Arlene Shiplett, raised in North Battleford and now hornist with the Saskatoon Symphony, and Jaya Hoy, also raised in North Battleford and Knutson's former piano teacher will be a part of the performance, with Knutson on the saxophone.