News & Reviews

Lan Tung at Global TV

October 24th, 2013

Lan Tung performed on Global TV today. She is amazing!

Open Waters Festival 2014 Submissions

September 13th, 2013

Welcome to Upstream Music Association’s  annual Open Waters Festival of new and improvised music  running from Thursday January 16 - 19, 2014 at the Sir James Dunn Theatre.

The now 4 day festival presents and showcases new original music groups from across Atlantic Canada who utilize free improvisation in contexts ranging from musique-actuelle, new chamber music, nu jazz and vocal ensembles. Our enthusiastic  Halifax audience and invited industry spokespersons who share our  enthusiasm make the creation of the festival an ever evolving artistic challenge. The showcase aspect of the festival provides a platform for presenters who are interested in finding new acts for festivals, events and tours world-wide. The festival also features an educational component where young music students from the university perform in conduction orchestras developed  by advanced educators. These sessions are facilitated by our evolving creative community of professional and experienced composer/performers.

Past groups have ranged from the Motion Ensemble (Sackville/NB) to the  19-piece Upstream Orchestra  recently back from The Victoriaville Festival International de Musique Actuelle  in May 2013 with rave reviews. As a direct result of the Open Waters Festival, Indie-band Mother of Girl (the hit of last year’s festival) is soon to return from tour to Ontario including the 2013 Guelph Jazz Festival. The Brad Jefford Quartet (NFLD) performed at Open Waters Festival 2013 and gained the recognition necessary to be included in the recent 2013 Halifax Jazz Festival. 

The Festival offers  selected showcasing artists a small guarantee and works to help find accommodations for visiting artists, Artists are asked to perform 60 minute festival sets.  There is limited space and we will showcase submissions  based on the submitted music of the proposed presentation.  

Past invited impresarios who have attended the festival: Michel LeVasseur (Victoriaville), Patrick Darby (Montreal), Ron Gaskin (Toronto), Bill Shoemaker/journalist (Washington DC), Mike Chamberlain/journalist (Montreal), Gregory Oh (Open Ears Festival, (Kitchener/Waterloo)

This year we are in the process of inviting a number of presenters and impresarios including David Dacks Music Gallery (Toronto) Mauro Pessette (Souni Festival/Montreal), Ajay Heble (Guelph Festival), Ron Sweetman (Ottawa Broadcaster), Stu Broomer (journalist/Music Works) and Ken Pickering (Vancouver International Jazz Festival)

There will be a second venue featuring shorter sets following the shows at the Dunn Theatre (Cohn Arts Centre Dalhousie U.)

Please  send submissions with 3 short  contrasting audio samples, and an electronic press kit to 

The deadline is October 15th, 2013.


For further information:


Paul Cram, Artistic  Director

Upstream Music Association

(902) 461-1232 – office

(902) 817-6366 - cell


Mailing address:

Upstream Music Association

P.O. Box 36040

Halifax, Nova Scotia

B3J 3S9

Upstream Orchestra at Victoriaville

June 6th, 2013



"As a big fan of large ensembles & modern big bands, I was glad to hear the next set from the Upstream Orchestra. This 18-piece ensemble is from the Maritime provinces in Canada and led by saxist Paul Cram, who had a previous large ensemble at Victo several years back. The orchestra was conducted by Jeff Reilly who also once played in a duo with Jerry Granelli at Victo previously. They played three pieces, one by Barry Guy and two by Mr. Cram. You could tell that a good deal of time and preparation went into this concert as the pieces were well-written, tight and superbly played. Vocalist Tena Palmer was one of the highlights of this ensemble, her voice an integral part of the orchestra's tapestry and waves of lines. She often didn't sing words but used her voice in other ways. Some of the music on the first piece reminded me of a spy movie theme and featured a smokin' tenor solo from Mr. Cram. The second piece, "The Magic Order", began quietly with soft vocals, muted trumpet, flutes and other horns all sailing together. This piece reminded me of the Grand Wazoo (Zappa's large jazz ensemble from the early 1970's) which mixed free and charted sections perfectly. The last piece, "Witch Gong Game" by Barry Guy was quite intense and explosive. Different sections of the orchestra (as synth/guitar/voice/percussion) would rise or submerge within other sections, occasionally erupt with some marvelous solos from the soprano sax, voice or other players. The music recalled the great British composer Neil Ardley, who is a personal favorite of mine. I've listened to dozens of large ensembles over the past few years and this, the Upstream Orchestra, was one of the best." - Bruce Lee Gallanter, Downtown Music Gallery, NYC, 6/6/13


“Another real treat was the set by Upstream Orchestra, 18 pieces from the Maritime Provinces of Eastern Canada – not a place one usually thinks of as a  hot bed of avant-garde music. But this year was an improvising orchestra with real depth and very strong conduction by Jeff Reilly, they started off with a great run-through of Barry Guy’s Witch Gong Game* and followed it with two pieces by their musical director, Paul Cram. Big chunks of Mingus, George Russell, the ICP and much else assembled itself into a squawk-swept landscape of brilliant playing. They don’t seem to have any recordings available, but hopefully they will soon.” The Wire (UK)

  • He got his wires crossed. We finished with WWG. I’m not  unhappy to  be mistaken for Barry Guy.


October 6th, 2012


Upstream Music Association

presents its

2012/2013  SEASON



performing in

A world premiere by Toronto’s Kyle Brenders

Saturday, October 6th 8 pm @ St Mary’s University Art Gallery in Halifax

 Mr. Brenders will  conduct his new work and perform Upstream repertoire on soprano saxophone The Upstream Ensemble features Jeff Reilly- bass clarinet, Lukas Pearse - contrabass, David Burton-drums, Paul Cram-tenor sax/clarinet, Jeff Torbert-guitar, Tim Crofts-keyboards, Dawn Hatfield-baritone sax/flute, Rick Waychesko-trumpet, and Rosanna Burrill-violin.


Halifax Art Beats #1



Featuring visiting artists Eric Normand and Remy Belanger

w/Tom Walsh, Paul Cram, Arthur Bull, Dave Burton

 Tuesday, November 13th 8 pm By Donation Limited Seating Call for reservations



Halifax Art Beats #2


 Friday, November 23rd – 9 pm

Khyber Centre for the Arts, 1588 Barrington Street


Upstream will present a night of  live improvisation on 2 floors of the Khyber Arts Centre with a strong cast of  musicians performing  with video processing, dance with  electronics and storytelling featuring MC Christian Murray,  Lukas Pearse, Arthur Bull, Paul Cram, Tom Walsh,  Tim Crofts, Doug Cameron, Danny Parker, and Geordie Haley.



Fall Upstream Composer/Performer Workshops

 Commencing Sundays 2 pm to 4 pm Rm 121 Dal Arts Centre
  October 28th and December 2nd $20 registration fee

free for Dal students

Info and Registration call (902) 461-1232


of new and improvised music
January 10 - 12

Sir James Dunn Theatre, Dal Arts Centre


Featuring  ensembles from across Atlantic Canada.
Upstream Ensembles:  conducted by Jeff Reilly and Upstream’s Dalhousie Composer/ Improviser Workshop

Crofts Adams Pearse/ Brad Jefford Trio+(Nfld)/ Norm Adam’s suddenlyLISTEN,  Steven Naylor’s subText, Hourglass Ensemble (UK and NS) /Mother of Girl/Geordy Haley's Threnodies/Mother of Girl/Paul Cram Orchestra/ Desert Island Orchestra/Khyberian Knights.  



3 pm May 25th  

Victoriaville Festival de Musique Actuelle  in Quebec



Open Waters Review - January 13th/2012

January 16th, 2012

Opens Waters concert ranges from self-conducting to extended vocals
Ever since American composer John Cage performed in the middle of the last century, we have had to rethink noise.        
As Canadian contemporary composer R. Murray Schafer put it, noise is any sound we don’t want to hear.
Cage went all the way down that road until he reinvented silence in a piece call 4’ 33." The performer took up an instrument but only pretended to play or sat perfectly still.
Far from destroying sound, Cage broke silence wide open. The concert hall was filled with background sounds: the squeaks, the distant traffic, the hum of heating fans, the ticking of rooms warming up, people squirming, breathing, snuffling, feet shuffling, clothes rustling.
Cage forced us to recognize that not only did silence not exist but the environment was on stage and in your ear.
In the ’60s, American inventor Robert Moog gave this strange new world of no-longer-noise, the portable synthesizer. He triggered his synthesized sounds with a piano keyboard but it wasn’t long before any acoustic instrument could be used, including the human voice.
What was next? Dream synthesizers?
Well, right on, sort of. Performers were transmogrified by visions of synthetic sugar plums dancing with noisemakers as they sought ways to make their instruments squeak and click and tap and squeal. All they needed to turn their visions into compositions was a method. They found it in spontaneous improvisation — on the spot and in the moment.
Thursday night in the Dunn, while the weather was misbehaving itself, the Open Waters Festival 2012, billed as a "North Atlantic showcase of new and improvised music," presented the first of three concerts through to Saturday night.
Andrew Reed Miller, a double-bass player from Fredericton, an impressive player, accompanied himself with signal processors, extended instrumental tricks and a collage of psychedelic imagery as well as fragmented video clips of conductors like Bernstein and Maazel and (I think) Toscanini. He conducted himself with gestures from the invitational to the comically dismissive.
The name of the piece, all in capital letters, was L-EDGY, alluding perhaps to the disaster awaiting every would-be improviser around the corner of the next moment. It was colourful, funny and very entertaining.
Next came Sanctuary’s Peter Togni (piano), Jeff Reilly (bass clarinet) and Christoph Both (cello), improvising in the analog purity of Gregorian chant. After 12 years, Sanctuary has achieved the art of thinking, often beautifully, as one.
Next in was the Newfoundland trio Spanner. Paul Bendza, a truly pensionable Soundscape veteran of making it all up, playing clarinet, sax and his own extended vocalisms, was aided and abetted by inventive percussionist Rob Power and less-is-more pianist Bill Brenner.
As the wild man of the trio, Bendza’s robust excursions were exquisitely set like precious stone by Power’s imagination for the sound of bowls and bells and of brushes on the head of a horizontal bass drum and Brenner’s choice melodic lines and harmonic voicing on acoustic piano.
They were followed by the Paul Cram Trio. Cram burst into sound on tenor sax as though frantically trying to salt the tail of the Apocalypse by way of stratospheric star bursts and foghorn-timbre low notes, as is his wont. Danny Parker on bass and Doug Cameron on drums went the other way with an improvised jazz line played as discretely as though they were in another room. Then they came together. Fascinating.
Next Cram and Cameron were joined by extended vocalist Tena Palmer and guitarist and harmonica player Arthur Bull playing as the ensemble Aperture. On clarinet now, Cram’s interaction with Palmer was inspired. He is a master of the artistic squeak on clarinet, notes almost too high to be notated, while Palmer is a virtuoso with an ear like pure crystal and a brilliantly mercurial imagination.
The final group was Zogaku, featuring guitarist Geordie Haley and keyboardist Tim Crofts on an Electro 3 Nord electronic piano-synthesizer. It is a pity to take Crofts away from straight keyboard. On piano the limitations of the available sounds plumb the depths of his extraordinary imagination. But with the synthesizer his creativity explores new territory despite his subdued keyboard inventions. A remarkably fine trio.
Stephen Pedersen is a freelance arts writer who lives in Halifax.

ArtsEast Review of Open Waters Festival January 13th, 2012

January 15th, 2012

Saturday, January 14, 2012
Open Water Festival 2012
January 12-14, Halifax

Innovations in music happen in attics and basements, garages and private studios, even cabins in the remote wilderness. Those creations are later unveiled at festivals like Open Waters.
This strange and beautiful multi-night festival is the musical equivalent of ArtBasel, a cultural highlight for modernworks. For twenty bucks, audiences get two hours of rogue music.
Andrew Reed Miller began last night’s set by doing things to his solo double bass thatseemed, well, unnatural. Accompanied by his MacBook, a video projection screen and several mouth instruments, he performed his new original work called ‘L-EDGY’.“This is serious music,” the guy behind me said loudly after the applause ended. And he nailed it.
Next came Sanctuary, a trio inspired by Gregorian chant music from the 900s, and then Spanner, a Newfoundland trio whose percussionist, Rob Power, played an astonishing array of bells, gongs and chimes along with his giant timpani while his fellow bandmates freestyled gorgeously. 5 Flavours (whose saxophonist Paul Cram is also the festival organizer) improvised for a goodwhile and ZOKUGAKU wrapped up the night with a plethora of samples. Notes and bars set free from sheet music and scores are a joy to behold.  The breathtaking creative risks continue Saturday night. ~ Megan Power


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