Abstract colours

Open Waters Festival 2021


Open Waters Festival 2021: New Music for the New Decade!

A new event streamed online each day from January 6th - 16th, 2021.

Welcome to the Open Waters Festival of New and Improvised Music! 
Bienvenue à ce festival d'envergure canadienne et internationale! 

The Open Waters Festival is a truly amazing event on the Halifax winter cultural calendar, uniquely situated at the beginning of January. Every year it offers a rich and challenging programme guaranteed to jar us out of any post-holiday temptation to hibernate!

This year is unique in so many ways and our Artistic Director has risen to the challenge, assembling an excitingly diverse virtual programme – presented for our very real enjoyment! This work of curation will bring an unparalleled range of new music performers, styles and configurations to interested listeners. And the festival pass must be the best bargain on the cultural marketplace right now!

This year’s necessarily more regional focus—with some significant and exciting contributions from cutting-edge musicians in Québec and Vancouver— allows us to appreciate even more the dynamism and depth of the scene in Halifax and Atlantic Canada. From the cross-fertilization with indigenous traditions you will hear with Allan Sylliboy and the Thundermakers to the remarkable showcase of contemporary piano music assembled by Jennifer King, from the reunion of Crofts/Adams/Pearse to the first presentation of original pieces by Janice Jackson: this is a truly formidable assembly of shows, to be enjoyed in your home. I can’t imagine our audience having a better virtual musical experience during this period of restricted live shows.

Welcome, then, to this Atlantic Bubble festival, designed precisely to burst our bubbles of isolation, complacency or discouragement. Let’s take it all in!

2020 has been a remarkably successful year for our Association in spite of the constraints and uncertainty of the COVID times. On behalf of the Board, Staff and membership of Upstream, I thank all of our audience members and urge you to get more involved in 2021. Please consider joining Upstream if you aren't yet a member. Please donate to our significant Paul Cram Creation Award or make a more general donation in support of our ongoing work in New Music presentation and outreach. Consider volunteering for next year’s festival or for our season's other activities when we resume in-person activities. Above all, make a New Year's resolution to attend more concerts in 2021 virtual and—we hope before too long—  real. And please help us spread the word about Open Waters and our other events through your social media and other networks. 

Bon festival à tous et à toutes!
Have a great festival!  

Dr. Christopher Elson
Professor French and Canadian Studies
King's Carnegie Professor 


New Music for the New Decade! 

We respectfully acknowledge that the Open Waters Festival takes place at K’jipuktuk, in unceded Mi’Kmaw territory. 

The Open Waters Festival (OWF) of New and Improvised Music is officially opening January 6th and ending on the 16th with a new event steamed online each day. 

The enthusiasm and support for creative music in our community gives us something to look up to. Finding a way forward with Open Waters Festival in this abstracted online format offers inquisitive artists and curious audiences connections from which we all benefit.   New solutions with open ears, open minds and open hearts!  We know that this OWF is compressed from previous years, but stay tuned for the RIPTIDE solo series that will follow through the winter months, flowing new and improvised music forward, cutting through the breaking waves…

Lukas Pearse
Artistic Director


The Upstream Board is chaired by Chris Elson and served by Marilynne Bell, Brian Crawford, Tom Donovan, Geordie Haley, Dawn Hatfield, Michael Lee, Shelley MacPhail, Nancy Morgan and Lelland Reed.

The Upstream staff includes Lukas Pearse, Gay Hauser, Sebastien Bezeau and Morgan Rogers (co & co).  

We wish to thank: Norman Adams, Melissa Andrew, Joan Craig, Simon Docking, Peter Dykhuis, Chris Elson, Fountain School of Performing Arts, etc. Press and Atlantic Digital, Andrew Jackson, Alan Sylliboy, Mohammed Sahraei, Stephen Osler, Jacqueline Warwick, and all the incredible musicians who play with us. 

We are grateful for our public support: The Canada Council, Canadian Performing Arts Fund of the Dept. of Canadian Heritage, Arts Nova Scotia, the Nova Scotia Dept. of Communities Culture and Heritage and HALIFAX.

Our community support comes from The Craig Foundation, The SOCAN Foundation, the International Institute for Critical Studies in Improvisation, The Canadian New Music Association, Vocalypse Productions, suddenlyLISTEN Lyle Tilley Davidson, etc. Press and Atlantic Digital.

Our Upstream Music donors 2020: Brian Bartlett, Marilynne Bell, Joan Craig, Brian Crawford, Shauna DeGruchy, Tom Donovan, Chris Elson, Dawn Hatfield, Gay Hauser, Linda Hodgins, Michael J, Lee, James MacKelvie, Lukas Pearse, Martha Radice, Lelland Reed, Chris Spencer-Lowe, John and Lois Thompson, Sarah Wakely and Carol-Ann Wien. Thank you.

Paul Cram Creation Award Donors:
$1000.00 + Tim Brady, Ruby Cram, Mary Vingoe and Upstream Music 
$100.00 + Robert Bauer, Marilynne Bell, Jerome Blais, Hugh Davidson (in memory)
Tom Donovan, Chris Elson, Gay Hauser, Linda Hodgins, Wendy Lill, Mark Miller, Steven Naylor, Lukas Pearse, Norma Smith, Dave Staples.
$25.00 + Anonymous, Gina Brown, Michael Fuller, Jeff Reilly, Sarah Wakely.

Upstream Members 2020-21: Mark Adam, Norman Adams, Brigitte Albert, Melissa Andrew, Elizabeth Beale, Marilynne Bell, Sebastien Bezeau, Brian Crawford, Shauna DeGruchy, Tom Donovan, Tom Easley, Chris Elson, Mary Ferguson, Geordie Haley, Dawn Hatfield, Joanne Hatfield, Gay Hauser, Dylan Hay, Linda Hodgins, Andrew Jackson, Matthew Jahns, Jennifer King, JF LaFleche, Laura Lee, Michael Lee, Wendy Lill, Dan MacCormack, Dave MacDonald, John MacLeod, Harold McGee, Jim McKendrick, Kevin McNeilly, Joel Miller, Nancy Morgan, Daryl Nichol, Stephen Osler, Sheila Paterson, Lukas Pearse, John Plant Music, Lelland Reed, Gavin Rhodes, Donald Robadue Jr., Nicholas Ross, Fiona Ryan, Chris Spencer-Lowe, Richard Starr, Diana Torbert, Andrew Terris, Mary Vingoe, Sarah Wakely, Mike Whitehouse, Carol-Ann Wien and Linda Winham. 

Upstream Music Association is a registered charity #1361524669RR001. All donations are gratefully received. Thank you!

Festival Schedule


Alan Syliboy & The Thundermakers

 (Joanne Hatfield, Lukas Pearse, Evan Syliboy, Gina Burgess, Shawnee Paul and Aaron Prosper)

An intimate musical setting of Mi’kmaw songs and stories.

Once again this year, we will team up with the Scotia Festival of Music for a night of musical discovery and experiment. 

Alan Syliboy is a renowned Mi’Kmaw visual artist, author and activist, and with his group explores improvised storytelling and spoken word.

The Thundermakers are led by Alan and include Evan Syliboy, Joanne Hatfield and Lukas Pearse.


Janice Isabel Jackson, vocalist

Janice Isabel Jackson (composer and performer) will present a cycle of 13 solo songs entitled Oh Death based on poetry by artist Annie Martin which form part of a larger multidisciplinary project between the 2 artists.  Some of the songs are unaccompanied, while others use bells, drums, sand paper, clapping, etc. as an undercurrent of support for the text.  During a period of research and immersive reflection on the phenomenology of death and dying, Annie wrote a series of poems in which the central characters address death as an interlocutor, conversing with and about death from a wide variety of cultural perspectives.  Central to our consideration of addressing death has been our sense that death is intertwined with and woven into life, and that life and death sustain one another. The mystery of encountering death is integral to our lives as we live them. It is our hope that this performance will invite and sustain reflection and conversation about our shared mortality and livingness.

Janice Jackson has sung over 240 world premieres, many works written specifically for her, and performed with contemporary music ensembles and in modern music festivals and concert halls around the world -Beijing, Paris, Vienna, Amsterdam, Hamburg, Torino, Toronto, Montreal, New York, Berlin, Johannesburg, Cape Town and more.  She has appeared in countless contemporary music festivals including the November Festival (Ghent), Wien Modern (Vienna), Ludwigs Lust (Hamburg), The Proms (Amsterdam), IRCAM (Paris), Big Torino 2000 (Turin), and the Diem Festival of Electro-acoustic music (Denmark).   She is the Artistic Director of the Halifax based contemporary vocal music society Vocalypse Productions, a presenter of contemporary voice projects.  Her duo, Newfangled, with pianist Barbara Pritchard focuses on new Canadian compositions for voice and piano.  She also performs in the Teleet trio, which combines western and middle eastern instruments in exotic arrangements of international folk songs.  In 2018 – 2019 she performed throughout France in CO2 Cycle de Lieder, a multimedia project by Belgian composer Patrick Defossez, which combined stunning live video graphics with rare and exotic instruments.  Last season she premiered the role of Mona Parsons in Vocalypse Productions’ world premiere workshop performance of Escape to Freedom by Sandy Moore.  In 2018, Jackson was honored with the Friends of Canadian Music Award through the Canadian League of Composers and the Canadian Music Centre.  She has also received an Established Artist Award from the Creative Nova Scotia Leadership Council and an award from the Lieutenant-Governor of Nova Scotia for her contribution to Nova Scotian culture. 


Crofts/ Adams/ Pearse

The Crofts / Adams / Pearse is Tim Crofts, Norman Adams and Lukas Pearse, three of Eastern Canada’s most active and exciting musicians in improvised music. The Trio explores music in the moment, at the frayed edges and deep wells of improvised chamber music.  They compose in real time making pieces out of sounds sourced from their instruments in both traditional and most unusual ways: always anchored in listening.  Because of this emphasis on spontaneity, their concerts are always unique and revitalizing. They create otherworldly atmospheres right before your very ears. The trio released Sonomatopia their first CD in 2009, and Literal Lateral with prominent American percussionist Gerry Hemingway in 2015. After a few years of hiatus, they’re happy to reassemble to help celebrate suddenlyLISTEN’s 20th year!


Improvisation Talk Back: Six strings Start Talking

Five guitar improvisors each on their own paths meet for the first time in performance, followed by the audience’s discussion of what is involved with such improvisation, moderated by Upstream’s Music Association’s Artistic Director, Lukas Pearse on double bass.  Guests this year include Sam Wilson, Kim Barlow, Yousef Mousavi, Dilshan Weerasinghe and Ross Burns.

This is a chance to peer inside the varied approaches improvisors bring to their art form, and an opportunity to behold the real-time creative negotiations this collective attains.

All questions welcome!


Upstream Quartet, Dawn Hatfield, Geordie Haley, Andrew Miller and Lukas Pearse, with special guest Behrooz Mihankhan

Both a subsection of the larger Upstream Ensemble and a group unto itself, the Upstream Quartet features 4 improvising composers, drawing upon a shocking breadth of collective musical vocabulary.  Free jazz folk funk standard futuristic minimal blues classical maximalism, sounds and songs…And yet the group sounds like itself, carrying forward the expansive traditions of Upstream, decoding the inheritance of the Halifax improvisational repertoire into a cohesive unit.  

For this special OWF 2021 performance, the group will be joined by:

Behrooz Mihnakah – pianist/composer 
Dawn Hatfield – woodwinds
Geordie Haley – electric guitar
Lukas Pearse – double bass
Andrew M. Miller – drums

Iranian composer, pianist, and singer/songwriter Behrooz Mihankhah started performing professionally as a singer/songwriter in India in 2011. In 2013 he shifted his focus to piano and composition when he went to Swarnabhoomi Academy of Music in Tamil Nadu, India in 2013.  Along with a major in piano and composition he studied jazz, western harmony, Carnatic music and Konnakol. While in India, he played, toured, and had multiple television performances with various ensembles.  He toured throughout India (New Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai, Rajasthan, Mumbai) and Eastern Canada (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, PEI) . Behrooz holds a Bachelor of Music from St. Francis Xavier University in Jazz Studies and a Music Arts Diploma from the Nova Scotia Community College. Since 2015 Behrooz has lived in Halifax where he has been writing, producing, performing, and touring with local bands such as Superfluid, Lazeez and Open Borders and Lately he is in the process of creating his debut full-lenght Jazz album as well as a bi-lingual singer-songwriter album.


Jennifer King

New pieces for piano by Atlantic composers Emily Doolittle, Sandy Moore, Richard Gibson and more.

The music on this program comes from an upcoming album O Mistress Moon: Canadian Edition. The album is to be released by Leaf Music from 2021- 2022 and is funded by FACTOR.  It is a curated and narrative collection of twelve Canadian piano solos about the moon, outer space, and the night and highlights both their folkloric name and more importantly the Mi'kmaw names for the moon. This album features all Canadian content by a Canadian artist and is contemporary classical music chosen for its relationship to our environment, for the prosperity of Canadian works and composers in a manner that is accessible to a wide-ranging audience.
Composers include: Derek Charke, Sandy Moore, Richard Gibson, Emily Doolittle, Amy Brandon all with Atlantic Canadian connections, along with Kevin Lau (Toronto-based) Jean Coulthard (Vancouver), and Sophie-Carmen Eckhardt-Gramatté (Winnipeg). Selections from the album will be performed.

An experienced, versatile, energetic and skilled musician, Jennifer King works with many respected soloists and multidisciplinary artists throughout Atlantic Canada. Her artistic agility can find her accompanying at universities, touring as a soloist, or working on a multidisciplinary project with other artists. Recently Jennifer has explored working in theatre-based works. She performed in PEI’s 2019 Fringe Festival in a co-written show about the suffragettes, The Bessie Carruthers Study Club, acting as British composer Ethel Smyth. She is also the musical director/pianist for Light in the Forest, a multi-media mental health awareness theatre production produced by silk artist, Holly Carr. 
With a special interest in new music, Jennifer enjoys opportunities to perform Canadian premieres, but also loves exploring older hidden gems as both a solo and chamber musician. 

In 2019, Jennifer’s recording, O Mistress Moon, was nominated for the ECMA and Music Nova Scotia’s Classical Album of the Year. Her second recording, Doolittle: Minute Etudes “Excerpts” (Live) was released in August of 2019 and a You Tube video, funded by FACTOR, was released in September 2019. Her latest solo album in 2020 is Twilight Hour Collected Stories for Piano whichhasan accompanying animated video created by singer/animator/filmmaker Katrina Westin. Canada Council for the Arts funded the video under their Digital Originals 2020 grants. 


India Gailey new music for solo cello

India Gailey is a cellist, composer, and improviser who crosses many eras and genres, most often performing the realms of classical and experimental music. Pinned as a “young musician to watch” (Scotia Festival), she has performed across Canada, the United States, and Germany as a soloist and collaborator. She is a member of the environmental ensemble New Hermitage, which recently released their fifth album, Unearth, to critical acclaim. India is the recipient of numerous honours, including awards from the Nova Scotia Talent Trust, the Canada Council for the Arts, and McGill University, where she earned her Master of Music in cello performance. https://indiayeshe.com/ 

Turquoise is a collection of India’s own compositions and improvisations revolving around the notion of interdependence. Channeling elements of post-minimal, alternative, and medieval soundworlds, she uses her cello both alone and with electronics to create surreal masses of sonic poetry. 


Open Borders - Mohammad Sahraei, Yousef Mousavi, Behrooz Mihankhan, Matt Gallant and Lukas Pearse

Open Borders is an international music group based in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Open Borders creates original compositions as well as reworks old traditional songs from all around the globe.


Herd of Pianos featuring Tim Crofts

If you remove me
from the hinge
we can swing freely
on the breeze

Seven pianos you say? In an underground bunker? The answer was immediate and continues to unravel. Seven pianos. Three times. Seven minutes. Three ways. Three me. One you. Multiplicity on multiplicity.  

Halifax improviser Tim Crofts likes the piano, really he does. Tim explores the full sonic capabilities of the acoustic piano through extended techniques and a wide range of piano preparations. He is able to coax a variety of colour and extreme dynamic contrast through employing traditional and non-traditional techniques in tandem. He has performed in numerous settings and with numerous new music and improvised organizations. However, never before has he faced seven grand pianos. Will he succeed? Tune in to find out.  


Éric Normand and Robin Servant

On-Line from Rimouski

Éric Normand and Robin Servant both develop a unique and roundabout way of playing their instrument like you've never heard it before. They lead careers amalgamating international collaborations, improvisation, composition and sound installation.

Éric Normand is an improviser, bassist, instrument designer, composer, songwriter, singer and record and concert producer. He defines himself as an epidisciplinary musician, a free electron driven by its yearning for meetings.
As an improviser, he develop a personal and radical playing on a homemade electric bass equipped with mics and objects feedbacking and vibrating in small electronic devices, creating electric flux interrupted by the instrumental gesture.

With this set, he prefer to play duets, with Jim Denley (flute and sax), Philippe Lauzier (bass clarinet and sax), Xavier Charles (clarinet), Pierre-Yves Martel (viola de gamba and electronic), Jean-Luc Guionnet (saxophone), in addition of several spontaneous encounters.

He also composes for ensemble and multi-disciplinary projects.

Interested in collective creation and orchestral improvisation, he lead for seven years the Grand groupe régional d’improvisation libérée (GGRIL), a 15-piece band that have worked with composers such as Evan Parker, Jean Derome, Robert Marcel Lepage, and Michael Fischer.

His music has been programmed by or performed in several festivals in Canada, Australia and Europe. It has also been broadcasted by Radio-Canada, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, CBC, Radio Grenouille, and several college radio stations.

“… one of Canada’s most creative musical visions.” — Stuart Brommer, The Wholenote (Canada)

“… a highly disciplined approach to noise making.” — Dan Bigna, Real Art

Robin Servant is a musician with a passion for traditional musics, improvisation and composition.  He has worked in many traditional music groups (trio Salicorne, Tord-Vis, la Marée montante) and improvised music groups (GGRIL, Escarbilles).  He tries to make connections between popular traditions and contemporary musics.  His work is organised around 2 axes : sharing the experience and experience of the moment.

With Du souffle et de l’espace, he explores the acoustic of the places he visits by making them vibrate with his accordion, drivers  and electronics.

Robin also works as a composer and a sound designer for the screen.  He has collaborated in over 50 productions over the years.

In a addition to his solo recording, he also released this year Double entendre a pandemic postal collaboration with Halifax guitarist extraordinaire Geordie Haley, both available on Tour de Bras.


Joel Miller with Mark Adam and Nicholas D’Amato

Joel Miller revisits the music from his ECMA-winning album Dream Cassette and UNSTOPPABLE. Influenced by his daughter’s listening of Virgin Radio pop and raucous melodious funk, saxophonist Miller collaborates with long time Nova Scotia-based rhythm conspirator Mark Adam New Brunswick’s Stephen Lewis (The Big Band of Fun) for some wailing soulful sax attack and fun creative layers of infectious groove.

Miller has built an award-winning career developing an individual voice that incorporates the folk and pop music of his youth with more recent explorations into Afro-Latin and contemporary classical music.  He remains a perennial figure in radio charts and Best Of lists. In 1997, on the heels of his début record, Find A Way (1997, Isthmus/Page Music), Miller was awarded the Grand Prix of the Montreal International Jazz Festival. His bands include musicians of international acclaim, including band-leader Christine Jensen, drummers Matt Wilson & Brian Blade; and guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel (Mandala, Effendi 2005) and pianist Geoffrey Keezer ( Swim, Origin Records, 2012).  Swim won a Juno for Best Contemporary Jazz Album and was named Jazz Album of the Year by La Presse and The Ottawa Citizen. His project, Dream Cassette, won an East Coast Music Award in 2016.

Mark Adam has shared the stage and studio with many of Canada’s leading artists across many musical styles. From jazz with Phil Dwyer, Laila Biali, Dave Restivo and Mike Murley, to award winning classical recordings with Derek Charke, the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra and WIRED Ensemble, Mark’s love of music knows no bounds. He has recorded with George Canyon and Dave Gunning, worked with leaders in modern dance at the Toronto Dance Theater and the National Ballet and enjoys a career in music production developing artists such as Carmen Braden, Kim Barlow, Pat LePoidevin and Tom Easley. Mark is an associate professor at Acadia University and appears as a guest presenter for festivals, universities, high schools and conferences across Canada.

Bassist Nicholas D’Amato spent nearly twenty years in New York City playing clubs,concert halls, broadway, record dates, jingle houses, television shows, radio broadcasts, the circus, and famous NYC venues like Jazz at Lincoln Center, The Blue Note, Birdland, The 55 Bar, and The Jazz Standard. Nicholas has performed in more than 40 countries, playing many of the world’s biggest festivals and stages, including The Hollywood Bowl, Montreux Jazz, North Sea Jazz, Jazz in Marciac, Monterey Jazz, Newport Jazz, Montreal Jazz, Koerner Hall, Glenn Gould Studio, and appeared on The Tonight Show, The Today Show, and many TV broadcasts around the world.

Since 2007, he has been bassist for Verve and Concord Jazz recording artist, Lizz Wright. A partial list of others he has performed with includes, Elle King ( RCA Music ), Rachel Platten ( Sony Music ), Shayna Steele ( Snarky Puppy, Moby ), Wayne Krantz, David Binney, Raul Midon, Laila Biali, Tracy Bonham, Toby Lightman, Janita, Brain d’Arcy James, Alex Lacamoire ( Hamilton ), Nick Howard ( The Voice Germany ), Popa Chubby, Tom Brislin ( Yes, Spiraling ), Tom Kitt ( Next to Normal ), Mike Murley, David Braid, Michael Occhipinti, Dinuk Wijeratne, Ian Janes,and Meaghan Smith.

Nicholas now lives in Nova Scotia, Canada and in addition to touring and recording, he is part of the full-time music faculty at Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia.

Co-owned and operated by Jason Merrill and Stephen Lewis (Stephen Lewis & The Big Band of Fun), Marshall Studios is an avenue for music production, video creation, creativity, and learning in the city of Fredericton. They specialize in capturing high quality video and audio of live performances both in the studio or on location. Marshall Studios have had long standing contracts with The Harvest Jazz & Blues Festival, Parkindale Productions, Feelsgood Folly Fest, Fest Forward, and an immense roster of Atlantic Canadian artists. In addition to live videos, they have recorded award winning/nominated albums for Jamie Comeau & The Crooked Teeth (recording of the year award 2020 MNB) and Colin Fowlie ( Socan song of the year nomination 2019).


Brian Borcherdt, Kim Barlow, Mairi Chaimbeul, Sahara Jane

Brian Borcherdt, Kim Barlow, Mairi Chaimbeul, and Sahara Jane have developed unexpectedly into a new musical entity while they’ve been improvising in the old Catholic church in Canning, NS these past months. The music they are making on harp, electronics, banjo, guitar, and sarangi, is different from anything they have done before in their other projects, and they are all thrilled to bits at the discovery. 

Mairi Chaimbeul is a harpist from the Isle of Skye who teaches at Berklee School of Music and has toured with Darol Anger as well as her prog-trad band the Aerialists.

A well-travelled songwriter, Sahara Jane's Indian and Persian influences sit comfortably alongside downtempo beats, jazz and folk. Sahara plays sarangi, voice and jaw harp in this group.

Kim Barlow is an enduring presence in the Canadian indie-folk scene, with classical training and a longtime love of odd forms and improvised music. Kim received a grant from Canada Council for the Arts to run a series of improvised music concerts and workshops in Wolfville this year, which has led to many new collaborations and morphed into this ensemble. 

Yarmouth-raised Brian Borcherdt fronts the international touring band Holy Fuck, making electronic music with an expanding array of found objects and pawn shop finds. After fourteen years of touring, with highlights such as Lollapalooza, Fuji Rocks, Coachella (twice) and the aforementioned Glastonbury (three times) as well as support tours with MIA, Hot Chip, and Wolf Parade, Borcherdt returned to Nova Scotia to rediscover the musical roots of his youth. He is currently still working with Holy Fuck but has turned his attention towards new projects, mentoring, and producing as well as remaining active with his solo project Dusted, and now this.


Process: Meredith Bates, Peggy Lee, Aram Bajaklan

Meredith Bates, violin, Peggy Lee, cello, and Aram Bajakian, guitar, are three highly respected West Coast musicians, making waves on the North American creative music scene. Thoughtful and intuitive improvisors, who will offer a moving set of effortless, joyful, creative, inspired, and connected music. They are all great friends, but this will be the ensemble’s first time performing as a trio.