Slocan Valley musician and actor Rowan Tichenor held a farewell concert the evening of May 13 at the Silverton Gallery, featuring three distinct sets of music. Tichenor is planning to pursue a career in music in Vancouver. Judging by the finesse with which he delivered an entire evening of original music, he should do well. This is one major talent who has arrived.
In true self-effacing fashion, Tichenor introduced the event by saying, “Welcome to my massive, extravagant, self-indulgent concert for my birthday.” The evening opened with songs from Goodbye to Fairytales, his most recent compositions detailing the desolate emotional landscape of a collapsed marriage. Whether using piano or guitar for accompaniment, Tichenor demonstrates an innate understanding of counterpoint. He makes creative use of dissonance and percussive rhythm to convey emotional turmoil, contrasted with softer, more melodic sections that skilfully recreate melancholic contemplation. It’s as accurate a musical portrayal of the aftermath of relationship breakup as I’ve ever heard, where both lyrics and music combine to devastating effect.
Tichenor’s second set focused on piano works, demonstrating a stunning capacity for classical-style instrumental compositions that represent what he calls ‘fantastical narratives.’ At times his piano works reminded me of the great pianist Keith Emerson of ’70s classical/progressive rock band Emerson, Lake and Palmer. His disarming modesty showed through again with his apologies for the occasional fumbled section, claiming that the piano wasn’t his idiom. He needn’t have bothered – the audience was transfixed. Some of this set hearkened back to Tichenor’s training at the National Theatre School with his original compositions for the play Restoration by Edward Bond and one written to accompany Chekhov’s play The Seagull. Some of these songs had a jaunty, almost Gilbert and Sullivan flavour to them, particularly the last number when he was joined by singers Kevin Heschedal, Alison Girvan and Tana McPhee.
The final set featured Tichenor on electric keyboard, Tom Padfield on drums, Adam Harvey on trumpet and featured Alison Girvan on vocals. Girvan’s sweetly inflected vocals were an ideal vehicle for Tichenor’s emotionally honest and vulnerable lyrics, this time creating an almost jazz sensibility but with a definite element of the popular song. Padfield’s cymbal flourishes added a nice touch and Harvey’s trumpet helped carry the melody without being intrusive. Even without bass or guitar to bolster the rhythm section the songs worked seamlessly. Once again, Tichenor showed complete ease and fluency with a musical style quite distinct from the first two sets of music.
Tichenor is one of those rare self-taught musicians who just happens to be gifted enough to carry it off in great style. He says he’s been playing music since age six and has put in the requisite 10,000 hours. It shows. In this age of market-driven genre pigeonholes, the term ‘Renaissance Man’ may be anathema to record companies but it’s an apt one to describe artists of Tichenor’s ability. With his combination of modesty, originality and genuine talent, this native son of the Slocan Valley will likely make his mark on contemporary music.