“Collaborating with the artists at H'Art of Ottawa over the past four months has confirmed for me the idea that we are all musicians and we are all artists,” says Ottawa composer / percussionist / improviser and Juno winner Jesse Stewart.

Two H'Art artists rehearse music on less common instruments (photo from the video by Andrew Hall)
Two H'Art artists rehearse music on less common instruments (photo from the video by Andrew Hall)

On Wednesday April 30 at the NAC Fourth Stage, he'll join the visual artists of H'Art of Ottawa, to present Turning the Page, a multi-media musical theatre piece. In the past few months, Stewart has been exploring the sounds of less-common musical instruments with these artists.

The live performance, which includes improvised music and dance, is part of a larger project. It also features a group exhibition (showing at Gallery 101 until Saturday) of works on paper by over 70 artists from H’Art of Ottawa and Arts Project Australia, two not-for-profit organizations that provide opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities to make art.

“Everyone is inherently creative. Unfortunately, some people experience barriers to expressing their creativity – often early in life – due to a variety of factors including socio-economic circumstance, physical and/or mental disability, criticism/censorship from people in positions of authority, as well as self-criticism/self-censorship. That is why I consider organizations like H'Art of Ottawa, which facilitates and validates creative expression by people who have experienced challenges in life, to be so important,” Stewart wrote, based on his experience.

And just as the H'Art artists learned from him, Stewart, who has been teaching at universities for 15 years, also learned from them. “On a practical level, I learned some things about using iPads as musical instruments and, more specifically, about the Adaptive Use Musical Instrument (AUMI) software for iPad, which we will be using in Turning the Page."

Stewart will also play a less-common instrument at the show. He'll be pulling out his Reactable, which he first unveiled at Winterlude. It allows him to mix and overlay musical and video clips in real time with the touch of a finger.

 Watch a youtube video of Jesse Stewart working with the H'Art artists and unusual musical instruments, including the AUMI.

   – Brett Delmage