Starting as a clarinet-piano duo in 2014, the chamber group Sea and Sky is devoted to bringing fascinating and unusual programs to new audiences across Canada and abroad. Having performed together as members of the Turning Point Ensemble and Vancouver New Music Ensemble for over 10 years, François Houle and Jane Hayes recorded two CDs in 2014 – “Sassicaia” and “Zarabandeo”. The accolades rolled in for these recordings with reviews citing “the excellence of the musicianship”, their “interpretive prowess” and “Sea and Sky’s willingness to experiment”. “Sassicaia” was nominated for a 2014 West Coast Music Award for best new classical recording and best new classical composition (Owen Underhill).
Now with violinist Joan Blackman and saxophonist Julia Nolan, the exploration of new yet approachable repertoire continues. They have uncovered rarely heard gems for duo and trio that span different genres and styles. Two new CDs have just been released focussing on the old and the new. “Dream Tracks” features works by Khachaturian, Schoenfeld, Ives, Sculthorpe and Cardy written for clarinet, violin and piano. The second CD, “Chromaticity”, features duos and trios for violin, saxophone and piano. Their repertoire has been expanded, most recently with a Canada Council trio commission written by Montreal composer Michael Oesterle, and more are in the works. We are indebted to Kwantlen Polytechnic University for their support of this project.
François Houle, clarinet
As soloist and chamber musician, clarinetist François Houle has appeared at major festivals across Canada, the United States, Europe and Australia. A prolific recording artist, he has released over twenty recordings earning multiple Juno Awards. A founding member of such critically acclaimed ensembles as Turning Point and Standing Wave, he has single-handedly expanded the clarinet’s repertoire by commissioning and premiering over 100 new works by many of today’s leading Canadian and international composers. Downbeat magazine referred to him as a “Rising Star” and “Talent Deserving Wider Recognition” and the LA Times wrote he is “a spectacularly versatile clarinetist who appears to have no limitations stylistically or sonically.”
Joan Blackman, violin
Joan Blackman is Artistic Director of Vancouver’s Vetta Chamber Music Society and former Associate Concertmaster of the Vancouver Symphony. As a chamber musician she has performed with the Penderecki String Quartet, the Purcell String Quartet and the Gryphon Trio and on numerous series including Music in the Morning, Music Fest Vancouver, the Pender Harbour Music Society Concert Series, The Jeffrey Concerts, and the American String Project. She has also appeared at the Hornby Island Festival, the Pender Harbour Chamber Music Festival, and the Victoria Summer Music Festival. Joan maintains an active performing and teaching schedule, and was the soloist in Jeffrey Ryan’s Seasons of the Sea, created in collaboration with Coast Salish/Sahtu Dene storyteller Rosemary Georgeson.
Julia Nolan, saxophone
Julia Nolan has served as a clinician and international judge in Belgium, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the US and is currently the Director of Scholarly Publications for the North American Saxophone Alliance. She is also an Artist-Clinician for Yamaha, Canada Ltd. and Rousseau Musical Products.
As an active performer, she has numerous commissioned works by Canadian composers. She recorded new works for organ and saxophone by Denis Bedard (2014) and is the featured soloist with the Naden Band of the Royal Canadian Navy (2015) performing Robert Buckley’s Prestidigitation. More recently, Julia gave the U.S. premiere of Jeffrey Ryan’s concerto Brazen with the Lubbock Symphony and premiered the concerto Cool Cut by John Oliver with Vancouver’s Turning Point EnsembleIn March 2018, Nolan will perform Stefan Hintersteininger’s Concerto on tour in Europe. Julia serves on the faculty of KPU and UBC.
Jane Hayes, piano
Since her debut with the Toronto Symphony, Jane Hayes' concerts have taken her across Canada, the United States, Europe and Mexico. An active recording artist, she has 20 CDs available including solo, chamber and orchestral works. This year, Jane is on sabbatical from her position as Director of Keyboard Studies at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. In mid-November, she gave a series of recitals and master classes in China. Her teaching had such an impact that she has been appointed Guest Professor at Henan Polytechnic University in Jiao Zuo and will return annually. She is now on a new project that will see her through the summer – promoting distance music education in Northern BC.