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An improvised rock concert

Jesse Stewart and Patrick Graham
Remic Rapids Park, Ottawa
Sunday, July 30, 2011

Percussionists Jesse Stewart (Ottawa) and Patrick Graham (Montreal) presented an improvised concert of "rock" music on a fine Sunday evening adjacent to the stunning Balanced Rock Sculpture Project by artist John Ceprano.

Jesse Stewart coaxes the best sound out of two chosen rocks, in front of rock sculptures by John Ceprano. ©Brett Delmage, 2011

Besides rocks, the musicians played an unusual variety of percussive and wind instruments that were visually appealing in their own right. Patrick Graham performed on his custom-made triangle with a vibrato that echoed the changing waves on the river, while visually reflecting both the cohesiveness and stark edges of Ceprano's rock sculptures. Jesse Stewart played his Waterphone in sympathy with the Ottawa River. Both also played Graham's "windcatcher" - a string instrument that is resonated by swinging it through the air. Not to be forgotten, more traditional frame drums also made audible appearances.

The performance was completely acoustic. Performed at ordinary volumes, it encouraged the many listeners to turn up their hearing. The level of quiet for an outdoor rock concert was striking at times, and indeed, essential for the musicians' improvisations. Demonstrating that improvisation is also about listening and not just playing, they interacted with each other, and reacted with their instruments to the natural sounds of the riverfront stage: a person walking on the rocks, and the birds, for example. The audience was induced to listen to their natural surroundings in concert with the improvised music.

At one point, Stewart playfully interacted with a bird which had responded to him playing on his bird call. Stewart's choice of musical instrument almost didn't make it to the show, however. He told the audience how a salesperson at a hunting supplies store suddenly gave him stony silence instead of service, when he figured out that the waterfowl call was going to be used as a musical instrument instead of a tool for hunting birds.

After the concert concluded, many listeners took the opportunity to talk with the artists and tried playing the unusual instruments.

Jesse Stewart has played an annual concert at the Balanced Rock Sculpture Project for several years. In 2010 he played on a marimba made with cut stone: marble bars tuned in eighths of a tone (48 tones per octave).

2011 is the 25th year that artist John Ceprano has been making delicately balanced rock sculptures at Remic Rapids Park along the Ottawa River Parkway, just north of Tunney's Pasture and east of Parkdale Avenue. The project is supported by donations and the National Capital Commission (NCC). All sculptures are all created from on-site materials and precisely assembled and balanced using only rocks. They are created new each year and last from spring until fall. The best time to view them may be in the two hours before sunset. Remic Rapids Park is directly served by the NCC Ottawa River recreational path and has adjacent car parking from the Ottawa River Parkway.

    – Brett Delmage

Jesse Stewart is presenting his own visual art exhibit, Time Pieces. It opens on August 11, 2011 at the City of Ottawa Karsh-Masson Gallery.

All photos ©Brett Delmage, 2011
Rock sculptures by John Ceprano, 2011.

  1. Patrick Graham on frame drum
  2. Jesse Stewart with Waterphone
  3. Jesse Stewart with Waterphone
  4. John Ceprano is applauded by the audience
  5. Jesse Stewart makes rock music
  6. Patrick Graham and Jesse Stewart improvise together
  7. John Graham plays
  8. Patrick Graham and Jesse Stewart improvise together
  9. The audience enjoys the concert
  10. The audience enjoys the concert
  11. Patrick Graham's musical instruments
  12. A listener takes a closer look at Patrick Graham's bells
  13. Patrick Graham's triangle