Nexus has developed its repertoire to accommodate performances with small orchestra, symphony orchestra in both classical and pop concerts, with band, wind or chamber ensembles, as well as solo programs.


 Nexus. Toronto-based percussion ensemble formed in 1971 by the US-born musicians Robert Becker, William Cahn, Michael Craden, Robin Engelman, Russell Hartenberger, and John Wyre. In programs encompassing African drumming, ragtime, 20th-century works (much of it composed or arranged by the ensemble's members), and freely improvised music, the group has mastered the many percussion instruments of the world's major music traditions and introduced numerous instruments invented by its players.

Nexus has developed its repertoire to accommodate performances with small orchestra, symphony orchestra in both classical and pop concerts, with band, wind or chamber ensembles, as well as solo programs. This repertoire included by 1991, many commissioned works, such as John Arpin'sSummer Suite (1976), Milton Barnes'Annexus (1984), Warren Benson's Winter Bittersweet (1981), Walter Buczynski'sLitanies (1988), Mark Duggan's Slow Swirl at the Edge of the Sea (1991), Harry Freedman's Touchings (1989), John Hawkins'Dance Variations (1983) and substance-of-we-feeling (1986), Jo Kondo's Under the Umbrella (1976, commissioned for Nexus by Toru Takemitsu), Bruce Mather'sClos de Vougeot (1977) and Clos d'Audignac (1984), Kirk Nurok's Nexed Rhapsody (1985), Steve Reich's Sextet (1981), Tan Pei Min's Hai-Shang-Lougu (1984), James Tenney'sRune (1988), and Toru Takemitsu's From me flows what you call Time, the last commissioned by Carnegie Hall, and premiered there, 19 Oct 1990 with the Boston SO, under Seiji Ozawa, for the hall's centennial.

Nexus made its first appearqnce with the TS in 1978, when it premiered Wyre's Connexus, and it performed the same work at its debut with the New York Philharmonic in 1984 (both were conducted by Andrew Davis). It has performed regularly with orchestras throughout Canada and the USA, and has been featured at many festivals in Canada and abroad, including the 1984 Toronto International Festival as part of 'Supercussion,' the World Drum Festival at Expo 86, the Calgary Olympics and the Tokyo Music Joy Festival (where its video, Super Percussion was filmed) both in 1988, the 1989 International Choral Festival, and the 1991 Scotia Festival.

In addition to its regular solo concerts in Canada and the USA, Nexus has toured extensively: Japan (1976, 1984, 1988), Great Britain (1978, 1982, 1984, 1988), China (1984), Korea (1984, 1988), Australia (1986, 1988), New Zealand (1986), and in a number of European countries (1981, 1982, 1984).

Nexus appeared in the NFB film Musicanada (1975), on the soundtrack of the Academy award-winning film The Man Who Skied down Everest (1974) and has been broadcast on both CBC TV and radio. It has given workshops and masterclasses in the percussion musics of the world and in improvisation at schools and universities, and has held residencies at York University and the University of Toronto.

Becker has taught at York University. Engelman, a principal percussionist 1968-72 of the TS, has taught at York University also and at the University of Toronto: Hartenberger joined the Faculty of Music at the University of Toronto in 1974. Cahn has worked only with Nexus in Canada. Craden performed and recorded with Moe Koffman, the Boss Brass, and other Toronto jazz groups. Following his death in 1982, Nexus has continued as a five-member ensemble. In Craden's memory, Wyre composed Cloches pour Michel for performance by the group (1982).

Nexus was the recipient of a Toronto Arts Award in 1989. The diverse excellence of its innovative programs has earned it a wide audience and growing recognition of both its collective appeal and also the individual virtuosity and musicianship of its members. It has become, as Robert Everett-Green said (Toronto Globe and Mail, 28 May 1990) one of 'the most conspicuous Canadian chamber ensembles on the international scene.'

Further Reading

  • Donelson, Jean. 'Nexus,' TS, Jan-Feb 1983

    MacMillan, Rick. 'Nexus triumphs in Britain,' MSc, 332, Jul-Aug 1983

    Rowland, Dora. 'And the beat goes on,' MSc, 363, Sep-Oct 1988

    Everett-Green, Robert. 'Nexus at age 20: a composite portrait,' Toronto Globe and Mail, 28 May 1990

    Jennings, Nicholas. 'Radical rhythms,' Maclean's, 22 Oct 1990

    Taylor, Kate. 'Deep in the land of Nexus,' Toronto Globe and Mail, 21 Sep 1991

    Weiss, Lauren Vogel. 'Nexus by Nexus,' Percussive Notes, vol 36, Oct 1998