Carol Gimbel, Girl At The Barns, Performs at the Luminato Festival June 22nd – By Joy Tanner
The entire story was cloaked in secrecy. There were no hard facts; no idea what the piece was actually about. Just a note asking if I’d be interested in writing a story. Slowly, it unfolded; Carol Gimbel, Girl At The Barns, an incredibly talented violist. A few days later, The Luminato Festival. A week later, arranging to meet. Clues dropped here and there, a tease for what was to come. The interview itself, almost a disaster. The busy Kensington Market coffee shop was packed; a cacophony of noises, impossible to single out any one voice. The recording device conked out (damn cell phone), so Carol was whisked away (to her consternation) to an unfamiliar backyard – the Photo Booth application running on the computer. We had a half hour to get this done.
Carol could have been in Tunisia, Dubrovnik or the Amalfi Coast. Her mass of black curls piled high on her head, glamorous sun glasses gave her an air of Hollywood and her tomato red peasant blouse (“It’s from Mexico”), the essence of relaxed sophistication. Don’t let that image fool you. Carol has a mercurial mind, is incredibly driven and has unbounded sense of creative entrepreneurialism. Did I also mention, wildly talented? So. What was the interview really about? She had managed to score a highly coveted spot in Jorn Weisbrodt’s Luminato Festival. But the lineup had not yet been official. Nothing could be printed until it had been. Hence the secrecy.
Last year, Carol organized a project called 1,000 Strings. This should give you an idea of how big Carol thinks. Toronto saxophonist and composer, John Oswald wrote a piece called Spector that he and Carol performed at the Drake Hotel. “I asked John if he wanted to do the backing track live.” Carol explained, “A backing track is a string quartet layered on itself a thousand times. So I said, let’s do it live.” This was five weeks before the Toronto INTERsection Festival, an all day music marathon featuring local musicians, playing at Yonge and Dundas Square. Carol continues, “You’re at Yonge and Dundas Square! I wanted to do something to suit that.” Her friend, Tad Michalak, a production designer had been corroborating with John Oswald on a different project. A couple of phone calls later, and the three were working together. “The stars aligned and we decided to go for it. We sent out the call and it went wildfire.”
So, how does one find one thousand string players in the GTA and surrounding area? “I’m a little bit of a renegade, so I wrote this letter to Norman Lebrecht,” Carol smiles. Situated out of London, he happens to be a Who’s Who of music and cultural affairs. His blog, Slipped Disc, is the premiere place for international classical musicians. She relives the call to Lebrecht, “I’m a fan of your blog, and I’d never reach out on a cold call, except we’re trying to do something big.” Within two hours, he’d put it up on his site. “That was a big hit for us, because Strings Magazine and The Violin Channel picked it up and it went viral. We started writing everyone were knew, The Canadian Music Association, The Royal Conservatory, The Toronto Star and all the schools.”
“Anybody could play. John made a video that was a kind of a ‘how to’ for string players,” Carol explains. And what happened was remarkable. “ We had children from aged three to players who were eighty-three. Families played together, people from the music community who hadn’t seen each other came together. It was this amazing sound that encompassed the intersection. People couldn’t ignore it; the piece sounded like the earth opened up. It was a sea of people. It was a beautiful moment.”
Carol is a busy woman, pairing up with fellow collaborator, New York City based pianist, Cullan Bryant, on Radio Free Brooklyn – one of the top five internet radio stations in the world. Together, they play “the best recordings ever made of everything. We cross genre, from Frank Zappa to Lou Reed to Beethovan.” Carol is obviously having fun with this project. The show is called Why Do We Only Listen To Dead People, and you can catch the show every Sunday between 5 pm and 6 pm. Log on to radiofreebrooklyn.com or you can find the show on the TuneIn app.
Also on the docket is an untitled album in the midst of the editing stage. “It’s all music we’ve performed at The Wychwood Barns,” where her group is based out of. The pieces include Daydream Mechanic, a string quartet by Michael Oesterle and All That Is Solid Melts Into Air, a composition by Scott Godin, which was “specifically rearranged for Music In The Barns. It is also a line from The Communist Manifesto,” relates Carol. The third piece is by composer Rose Bolton, called The Coming Of Sobs. The album will likely be released late fall or early spring, “when it’s really ready to come out.” Look for this on her website, musicinthebarns.com.
The untitled album is not the only collaboration with Rose Bolton, who composed Song Of Extinction, which will be premiering at this year’s Luminato Festival, at the Hearn Generating Plant. “Song of Extinction has been on the burner for three years.” It is the brain child of local filmmaker Marc De Guerre and Rose Bolton. They approached Carol, “I was thrilled, because I was interested in presenting a multimedia work.” The fifty minute piece, curated by Carol and performed by her quartet, includes a libretto by Order of Canada poet, Don McKay. It features large scale projections, moving images and electronics. One of the largest features of Song Of Extinction is a twelve piece chamber ensemble and a children’s choir. In total, about fifty people on stage. “In trying to explore the space at the Hearn, we are looking at staging the children’s choir behind the audience. It should be very interesting!”
Carol truly is a creative power house, and so it is apropos that her newest adventure will take place at The Hearn Generating Plant. It is her most “ambitious project to date.” Originally conceived for The Barns, “the Luminato idea started to give birth when Tim Jones, CEO of ArtScape was at our show in 2014 and told us we should collaborate with Luminato.” So the seed was planted. “And certain things aligned and Jorn (Weisbrodt, Artistic Director of the Luminato Festival) and I connected.” Wiesbrodt gave her a tour of the Hearn, “It’s such an amazing space.” The project solidified. This massive venue is perfect for the premiere of Song Of Extinction, which addresses the theme of human destruction and devastation on the planet. Expect to be moved by this piece.
Tickets can be purchased at the Luminato website, luminatofestival.com. Standard tickets are $30.00, but $60.00 VIP tickets will get you into the cocktail reception and reserved seats. Don’t miss this impressive, multidisciplinary event, June 22, at The Hearn Generating Plant.
Joy Tanner hails from Pittsford, New York. Graduating with honours with a double major in English and Theatre from SUNY Potsdam, she also holds a diploma from the British American Drama Academy (London/Oxford). She moved to Canada in the early 90′s, and has been acting professionally on both the big and small screens for over 20 years. She is best know for her roles in Cold Squad, Life With Derek and DeGrassi The Next Generation. Recent film credits include The Phantoms, The House At The End Of The Street and Neverlake.