Upstream Orchestra

UPSTREAM ORCHESTRA @Victoriaville International Festival May 18th, 2013 from upstream music on Vimeo.

Halifax's Upstream Orchestra  is currently riding high  from its performance at the  International Festival de Musiique Actuelle de Victoriaville on May 18th at 1 pm. The Orchestra performed The Magic Order in memory of Steve Lacy by  Upstream Artistic Director Paul Cram and commissioned by the festival , as well as a revised version of his CONVOY HFX first premiered in 2001, along with  Barry Guy's classic Witch Gong Game.

Personnel for Victoriaville concert: Jeff Reilly/conduction,bass clarinet, Tena Palmer/voice, Rick Waychesko/trumpet, Chris Mitchell-soprano sax/flute, Paul Tynan/trumpet, Kenny MacKay/alto sax, Danny Martin/trombone, Paul Cram-tenor sax/clarinet, Tom Walsh/ trombone, Dawn Hatfield/baritone sax,flute, Geordie Haley/guitar, Scott McMillan/guitar, Tim Crofts/synthesizer, Steven Naylor/piano, Lukas Pearse/contrabass-electronics, David Burton/drums, Danny Parker/contrabass,  Doug Cameron/drums, Erin Donovan/percussion, Pam Lovelace-publicist/videgrapher.


"As a big fan of large ensembles & modern big bands, I was glad to hear the next set from the Upstream Orchestra. This 18-piece ensemble is from the Maritime provinces in Canada and led by saxist Paul Cram, who had a previous large ensemble at Victo several years back. The orchestra was conducted by Jeff Reilly who also once played in a duo with Jerry Granelli at Victo previously. They played three pieces, one by Barry Guy and two by Mr. Cram. You could tell that a good deal of time and preparation went into this concert as the pieces were well-written, tight and superbly played. Vocalist Tena Palmer was one of the highlights of this ensemble, her voice an integral part of the orchestra's tapestry and waves of lines. She often didn't sing words but used her voice in other ways. Some of the music on the first piece reminded me of a spy movie theme and featured a smokin' tenor solo from Mr. Cram. The second piece, "The Magic Order", began quietly with soft vocals, muted trumpet, flutes and other horns all sailing together. This piece reminded me of the Grand Wazoo (Zappa's large jazz ensemble from the early 1970's) which mixed free and charted sections perfectly. The last piece, "Witch Gong Game" by Barry Guy was quite intense and explosive. Different sections of the orchestra (as synth/guitar/voice/percussion) would rise or submerge within other sections, occasionally erupt with some marvelous solos from the soprano sax, voice or other players. The music recalled the great British composer Neil Ardley, who is a personal favorite of mine. I've listened to dozens of large ensembles over the past few years and this, the Upstream Orchestra, was one of the best." - Bruce Lee Gallanter, Downtown Music Gallery, NYC, 6/6/13

“Another real treat was the set by Upstream Orchestra, 18 pieces from the Maritime Provinces of Eastern Canada – not a place one usually thinks of as a  hot bed of avant-garde music. But this year was an improvising orchestra with real depth and very strong conduction by Jeff Reilly, they started off with a great run-through of Barry Guy’s Witch Gong Game* and followed it with two pieces by their musical director, Paul Cram. Big chunks of Mingus, George Russell, the ICP and much else assembled itself into a squawk-swept landscape of brilliant playing. They don’t seem to have any recordings available, but hopefully they will soon.” The Wire (UK)*
*He got his wires crossed. (We finished with Wich Gong Game.  The composer is not  unhappy to  be mistaken for Barry Guy.)

Witch Gong Game - Upstream Orchestra plays Barry Guy from upstream music on Vimeo.

Upstream orchestra of core personnel performed at upstream's Open Water's Festival in 2012 and seen by visiting presenters which led to our performance at Victoriaville in 2013.

Upstream Orchestra  has undergone a rethink and rebuilding process over the  past five years. It perfomed at 1313 Hollis in the spring and again in the summer at the Atlantic Jazz Festival.  In addition to regular Composer/Performer Circle events, the group performed again recently at the inaugural Festival of Saturnalia. Veteran Upstream players and many new faces working out of a solid book of  material for flexible orchestration make up the new Upstream  Orchestra. 

Upstream Orchestra Concert:
Sonic Courage International Festival
Saturday , June 23rd, 2007
featuring Fred Frith, Lisle Ellis and Pierre Tanguay

Sir James Dunn Theatre, Dalhousie Arts Centre
Repertoire: New works by Jeff Reilly, Lisle Ellis, and Fred Frith
 Joining Frith, Eliis and Tanguay  was Janice Jackson/voice, Lee Park/violin, Ruth Boggild/flute, Suzanne Lemieux/oboe, Chris Palmer/bassoon, Jeff Reilly /bass clarinet, Rick Waychesko/trumpet,Dani Oore/soprano sax, Chris Mitchell/alto sax, Paul Cram/tenorsax, clarinet, Dawn Hatfield/baritone sax, Tim Crofts/piano, Lukas Pearse/bass, David Burton/drums, Jeff Torbert/guitar.  

Philosophy and Roots
Upstream Orchestra (UO) is a 21st Century orchestra located in Halifax, Nova Scotia. It has a seriously  elastic attitude and embraces extended improvisation and long-form composition as  central components in its process. As such,  it has as its antecedents such groups as the The Vienna Art Orchestra, The New York Jazz Composers Orchestra,  The Ensemble Moderne of Frankfurt, The AACM Orchestra (Association for the Advancement of Creative Music in Chicago) The London Jazz Composers Orchestra,, The Willem Breuker Collective, The Instant Composers Pool, The Scratch Orchestra, Hemispheres of Toronto, NOW Orchestra of Vancouver and many other similar ensembles all over the world; ensembles with high professional standards that are taking  improvisation in all its forms very seriously while exploring new compositional, notational and conducting techniques  to consistently achieve  high levels of excitement in performance by  immersing the performers  completely  in sustained moments of creation. Our role is to uphold and lead this long tradition of artistry as untraditionally as we can and  apply our growing mastery of the art-form to scale new heights on the world stage for the common good.

History  of  Upstream Orchestra 
The Upstream Music Association was incorporated on April 25th, 1990, in Halifax, Nova Scotia; three weeks prior to the first performance of the original Upstream Ensemble, before  it became the 17-piece Upstream Orchestra before becoming a 45 piece band between 1996 and 1999 when the Upstream Ensemble and Symphony Nova Scotia performed four concerts together. These last concerts horrified some and made history for others as successful post third-stream experiments. In the wake of  these collaborations it was decided to strike a more realistic middle ground between the Symphony and the original Upstream  band with the creation of a 22-piece orchestra for concerts on December 17th/18th 2001, in the Sir James Dunn Theatre in Halifax. Several new works were premiered including a Canada Council commission. In 2001 the Orchestra commissioned “Nasca Lines” a one hour work by British composer and bassist Barry Guy. This challenging new work was presented at the 2002 Scotia Festival to rave reviews and ecstatic applause. The 23 piece Upstream Orchestra performed again at  Scotia Festival on June 2nd, 2003. Francois Houle was commissioned and “Twilight Upstream” was performed along with Convoy HFX by Paul Cram and Chiaroscuro by Jeff Reilly. Alain Trudel conducted the Orchestra and Francois Houle joined the orchestra as guest soloist. After this landmark performance, Upstream’s orchestral  work was sustained  with the creation of the Halifax Plateau Orchestra  and many subsequent permutations that led to the recreation of the Upstream Orchestra as  a more project-oriented composing and performing machine able to draw on visiting composer/performers to perform with us. This period saw collaborations with Harris Eisenstadt (USA) and Michael Vlatkovich (USA) and visiting fellow Canadians : Tim Posgate, Lina Allemano, Rob Clutton, Jean Martin and Tena Palmer performing Songs of War, Liberation and Remembrance. At Upstream’s 3rd Annual Spring Fever Festival in 2004 the Orchestra performed new works with the visiting Pierre Labbe Ensemble of Montreal. In June of 2006 the orchestra  performed the music of Barry Guy along with a new commissioned work by Nova Scotian Daniel Oore and Harris Eisenstadt. There was a hiatus of  several years where the Upstream Orchestra revitalized itself several times to perform  in more economical configurations, before regrouping in force for a stunning performance led by   UK jazz composer Graham Collier  for what was to be Graham’s last concert on earth.  It is these memories that inspired the latest incarnation of  the orchestra in 2011 when we performed Witch Gong Game before Michel LeVassuer and visting guest artistic directors  at Upstream Music Association’s  Open Waters Festival/showcase


Repertoire The repertoire is continuing to grow and develop. There is a vast number of uncommissioned works and one page scores that have been written or adapted for the ensemble and its protypes over the years on an ad hoc basis. Summary List of  Extended  Works for the full Upstream Orchestra from 2000 to 2013:

Ghost-Tracks                                          Jeff Reilly
Chiaroscuro                                            Jeff Reilly
Internal Combustion                               Jeff Reilly
Convoy HFX                                         Paul Cram
Corridors of Power                                 Paul Cram
Magic Order                                           
Paul Cram
Bb Restaurant                                         Paul Cram
Twilight Upstream                                 Francois Houle
Nasca Lines                                            Barry Guy 
Witch Gong game                                  Barry Guy
Works of Graham Collier                       Graham Collier (UK)