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Viðarneisti Review: Sounds of the "New Iceland"

Iceland, the land of fire and ice has become well known for its own genre of music, a combination of pop and folk. This week, the Mae Wilson Theatre was host to a unique Canadian version of this fusion, coming out of the ‘New Iceland’ milieu of Manitoba which many Canadians of Icelandic heritage call home.

Viðrneisti is the duo of Cathy Wood—clarinet and Victoria Sparks—marimba. The unique tonal combination of instruments gives these two artists the opportunity to interpret music in a style all their own. Due to the unusual combination of instruments, they have commissioned many of their performance pieces.


From the evocative melodies of Into Dreams and A Colour Undiminished, both expressing intensely personal emotional experiences of the composers, to Winter Songs, vividly portraying the experience of winter from the perspective of those who know how to enjoy winter, the sounds envelop the listener in sound poems of story. Along the same vein but in a more literal sense, Two Songs pictures the immigrant experience, complete with creaking timbers of the ship and poignant memories of the old country, while the appearance of faeries highlights the folklore of Iceland. Well known for its epic poetry, the Icelandic influences in this performance give us story in sound.


On the lighter side, Cathy and Victoria’s interpretive version of tango and jazz pieces influenced by Morton Gould charm the audience with their sense of playfulness. Somewhere Over the Rainbow and A Little Prayer highlight the sonority and beauty of the marimba, giving listeners the somewhat novel experience of a percussion instrument in a leading solo role.


Closing out the evening with questions from the audience and giving concertgoers the opportunity to experience playing the marimba capped a delightful evening by engaging with the artists personally, leaving us with memories of enchanting music and personable, friendly artists.

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