NOW Society Turns 40

NOW Society 40th Anniversary Celebration Installation and Performances

Nov. 15 to 18, 8 p.m. | Roundhouse Community Centre

Tickets and info: From $10 for students and musicians; $25 general; $30 pass at

New Orchestra Workshop Society (NOW) formed in 1977 with a clear mandate that has been key to its longevity: “To provide focus for the creation of original Canadian music by advancing the ideas, values and practices of creative improvisational music through performance, collaboration, engagement, mentoring and publication. This is done through workshops, concerts, festivals and recordings and the presentation of new compositions.

Four decades on, NOW continues to be key in providing rising talents the opportunity to explore the world of music that falls far outside the standard norms of simple genre classification. Through its various ensembles and orchestras, the society has presented hundreds of shows, released multiple recordings and more.

As a hub for creative players, NOW has been key in the development of some of Canada’s best-known improvisational musicians and has played host to some of the world’s leading avant-garde composers. Past graduates include such celebrated players as guitarist Ron Samworth and saxophonist Nikki Carter. As it celebrates its 40 years, present managing/artistic director and composer/pianist Lisa Cay Miller is excited about what the future holds for the society.

“As someone who has a UBC doctorate in composition and interest and experience in both the jazz and classical spheres, I find that the world of improvisation is where both sides meet up together,” said Miller. “I still compose and play regularly, but I would say that I am now best defined as an improvising pianist and composer.”

Many of the members of the various NOW ensembles have backgrounds similar to Miller. But there are also people who come from rock and other areas who all are drawn to the freewheeling nature of what NOW enables. The urge to break out of any kind of strict orthodoxy in sound, structure and form remains as strong today as it did in the 1970s.

That said, the era was a fertile one for the formation of groups such as NOW. Many cities have improvisational societies, most were inspired by the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians formed in Chicago in 1965. This group has included such celebrated artists as drummer Jack DeJohnette, trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith, the Art Ensemble of Chicago and frequent NOW collaborator, trombonist/composer George Lewis.

“Social movements in the ’70s

Source:: Vancouver Sun – Entertainment

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