Not your grandma’s chamber music

Musical ear candy – that’s how Daniel Janke describes the Problematic Orchestra.

“It’s pretty wacky music,” he said of the 20-person chamber music group he directs. “Some of it is very playful, as the title implies.

“It’s not often you get a chance to enjoy such a large ensemble, and one that performs in almost a gymnastic way, musically.”

Yukoners will have the chance to hear the group at the Yukon Arts Centre December 21, when the Longest Night Society presents the Problematic Orchestra at its annual winter solstice event.

Janke, who moved to the Yukon in the ’80s, says the solstice event started in 1995, though it looked a bit different at the time. Back then, the focus was on storytelling as well as song. The event took the odd hiatus over the years, and now exists primarily as a musical evening.

Janke says that, with the exception of a 16th century arrangement by Claudio Monteverdi, the concert features work exclusively by northern composers. These include Carmen Braden, Olivier de Colombel, Scott Maynard and Andrea McColeman. As well, the orchestra will perform a commission Janke worked on for the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.

That piece was commissioned for the TSO’s Canada Mosaic – a Canada 150 performance featuring new music from composers from every province and territory. It culminated in a performance at Toronto’s Roy Thomson Hall in early November.

The music on December 21, presented in partnership with the TSO, will be a mash-up of classical that also blends folk and pop. That’s the hallmark of the Problematic Orchestra, Janke said. It’s not your standard chamber music.

In fact, the show, which typically sells out the 425-seat Arts Centre, has been attracting more and more young people each year.

So, too, has the orchestra itself, said Janke, who has a background in jazz and folk.

“We’re starting the process to see if we can build a semi-professional chamber orchestra in the Yukon,” he said, noting more and more people are coming to the territory every year – people who have studied music and want to be part of something like the Problematic Orchestra.

Building it up simply depends on how many musicians are here and want to play.

“It’s all kind of a work in progress,” he said.

Right now, the orchestra is focussed on rehearsals for the solstice. They started the last day of November, which Janke said is a bit late, but all the music has been written and the orchestra is feeling good.

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