I always have a funny moment  of pleasure when one of our columnists finds himself or herself having to preface a reference to a particular upcoming event with a disclaimer – calling readers’ attention to the fact that the columnist in question is actually performing in the event they’re about to tell you about. (See the final paragraphs of Ben Stein’s and Ori Dagan’s columns in this issue for examples of what I am talking about.)

It doesn’t happen often, but often enough. And the pleasure that I get from it, every time,  is the little reminder that so many of our writers are, in fact, active participants in the musical “Beats” they write about, rather than detached observers. 

I also get some satisfaction, in those situations, from the fact that we still make the effort to point these little conflicts of interest out to our readers when they happen. It gets harder and harder when all the protocols they teach in publishing courses about keeping  one’s editorial  operations as pure as the driven snow are being blown away by the winds of digital change. It’s especially hard for the little guys like us to stick to protocols for keeping editorial and advertising separate at a time when even the big guys who passed exams in the rules are floundering for consistency.

So what am I driving at? Well, just this: this is one of those times when I am busting to use this supposedly sacred bit of editorial real estate to tell you about a whole bunch of things I would not even know about if I were wearing only my editorial hat instead of the two or three that every member of this tiny organization must juggle just to keep this little publication going.

So, damn the torpedoes!  Here I go! (I can always go back to being an editorial virgin in the morning, can’t I?)

One: Azrieli

Were you in too much of a hurry to come visit me here to notice the advertisement from the Azrieli Foundation on page 4, announcing the Azrieli Music Project ? The competition announced in the ad should make the composers among you sit up and take notice, at any rate. It offers a  $50,000 prize for a 15 to 25 minute newly composed work of “orchestral Jewish music,” by a Canadian resident; to be performed in a gala concert by Kent Nagano and the Montreal Symphony Orchestra.

The question that jumped up at me immediately was “So, what constitutes ‘Jewish music,’ in these times?”  To their credit, the AMP doesn’t duck the question. “The question What is Jewish Music? is at the heart of a constantly evolving cultural dialogue,” they say. “Taking into account the rich and diverse history of Jewish musical traditions, the AMP defines ‘Jewish Music’ as music that incorporates a Jewish thematic or Jewish musical influence. …  Defining Jewish music as both deeply rooted in history and tradition and forward-moving and dynamic, the AMP … challenges orchestral composers of all faiths, backgrounds and affiliations to engage creatively and critically with this question in submitting their work.”

Consider the following: in this month’s WholeNote listings there is a concert on March 12, jointly presented by the Ashkenaz Foundation and the Aga Khan Museum, titled “Spotlight on Israeli Culture” and featuring the Diwan Saz Interfaith Ensemble – a multicultural ensemble of Jewish, Muslim, Christian and Bedouin musicians performing “ancient music from Central Asia, Turkey, Persia and the Holy Land.” And two days later, on March 14, the Music Gallery, Ashkenaz Foundation and Koffler Centre for the Arts combine to present a work called The Lanka Suite by Tova Kardonne which, according to columnist Andrew Timar, “goes back to the Klezmer bands Kardonne played in, starting in her teens, as well as to her grandparents’ Eastern European Jewish roots” and goes on from there to engage with the social realities of post-civil war Sri Lanka, taking in, along the way, Kardonne’s   “studies of Cuban santería batá drumming, North and South Indian drumming patterns, and her participation in the Brazilian Samba Elégua group.”

With these kinds of dialogue under way in our town, it will be fascinating to see who rises to the AMP challenge. We will follow the story as it develops.

Two: IRCPA
Still on the subject of ads in the issue, please take a look at the one on page 28 for IRCPA (International Resource Centre for Performing Artists) for their series of workshops, March 27 to 29 and then April 10 to 12. Ann Summers Dossena, driving force behind IRCPA, has been preaching in the arts wilderness for as long as I can remember about the unmet needs of artists on the edge of performing careers who have nowhere to turn for support, resources and expertise when they are in the process of making the transition from a sheltered academic environment to the realities of life as  working musicians. Now finally, it seems people who should have been listening long ago are starting to listen.

I’m proud to say The WholeNote is sponsoring the third of the March sessions (Sunday March 29) right here at the Centre for Social Innovation, 720 Bathurst Street. The first five of you who respond to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. saying you read this can be my guests at the Sunday session!

Three: March for Music Therapy; MusiCounts
And still on the subject of ads, I have two more you should go and look at. First go check out the March for Music Therapy ad on page 77. It’s another example of how music can send out tendrils of re-engagement with community life and living.

And while you’re splashing around the back of the magazine, pop over to page 56 where you’ll find under “Opportunities” in our splendid revamped Classified advertising section the following all-too-easy-to miss announcement about the MusiCounts TD Community program - one of the most unequivocally useful bits of corporate sponsorship I can think of. “SUBMISSIONS ARE NOW BEING ACCEPTED” it says “for the 2015 MusiCounts TD Community Music Program, which provides access to musical instruments and equipment to thousands of children in under-served Canadian communities. The grants will be distributed in allotments of up to $25,000 totalling $220,000. Grant applications are now being accepted at www.musicounts.ca, with a submission deadline of Friday, May 8, 2015.”
And finally:
This issue heralds the beginning, in terms of coverage, of our long slow walz towards the summer, in the form of Part One of our coverage of Summer Music Education.  In Sara Constant’s story “All Roads Lead to Summmer” that introduces the directory (page 12) there is the comment that those seeking summer music education, no matter how different, are all looking for “options that  foster the ... spirit of learning and community.” 

Amen to that. All year round.

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2006-Feature_2-Till_Fellner_1.jpgTill Fellner was 18 in 1990 when he was asked to play for Alfred Brendel. It was arguably the pivotal moment of his life. Three years later he won the Clara Haskil piano competition gaining a modicum of name recognition and an entrée into the world of recordings.

The head of the keyboard department at the Vienna conservatory, where Fellner had been a student since 1981, had suggested a meeting with Brendel in a castle in Grafenegg not far from Vienna where the noted pianist was giving a recital. Fellner was invited to listen to Brendel’s rehearsal in the morning and then play a few pieces for him. The older pianist immediately started teaching by correcting what the younger man was playing. His first lesson had just begun. Brendel then suggested that Fellner call him and arrange another.

2006-Feature_1-Slattery_and_La_Nef.jpgLet us now take a moment to praise John Dowland. The early music movement owes much to the famed English composer and master of the Renaissance lute song. He gave us a sizeable body of work that has come to function as a kind of soundtrack to the English Renaissance for modern listeners. As impressive, in his own time, Dowland was famous throughout Europe, not only as a composer of popular songs (nearly 90) but also for his solo lute music (nearly 90 of those works as well).

As a Catholic in late Elizabethan England, though, Dowland found it difficult to make a living in the early stages of his career. Although he was a trained musician with a Bachelor of Music from Oxford (apparently they gave out music degrees in the 16th century too), Dowland blamed intolerance against Catholics for his inability to get a position in the English court, eventually leaving England in 1594, to make his fortune abroad on the Continent. His exceptional talents took him far and wide, and he earned renown from Denmark to Italy. After nearly two decades abroad, Dowland finally returned to England as a lutenist in the Catholic court of James I. Although the well-travelled composer was a citizen of the world who, as the story goes, eventually came home to England, he has come to symbolize a particularly English sound for the music of his time.

The Gryphon Trio’s ebullient pianist, Jamie Parker, is the most recent addition to the Conversations@The WholeNote video series. Publisher David Perlman continued his casual encounters with Toronto’s musical players in a wide-ranging interview that took place shortly before Parker and his chamber music partners, violinist Annalee Patipatanakoon and cellist Roman Borys, gave their annual Music Toronto concert at the St. Lawrence Centre February 26.

Props master Perlman had an informal questionnaire in the form of a deck of WholeNote cards with a topical allusion written on the back of each. The cards moved the chat in unexpected but entertaining and edifying directions. In response to “Music I Like,” for example, Parker spoke about one of the things that gives him and his wife (who have two boys, seven and nine) great pleasure. “To see the boys able to identify and sing along some Beatles tunes and also some Beethoven symphonies makes me very proud as a parent,” he revealed.

Am I just imagining it, or was musical life once much more tidily compartmentalized? There was the season (coinciding with the school year), on the one hand, and the summer on the other.  Within the summer there were festivals and concerts to go to , or summer camps and courses one could enrol in.

Nowadays along with overlap between the seasons, there is a blurring of the lines: between summer festivals and academies; between opportunities for music lovers to attend concerts in the usual way and opportunities to become involved in a hands-on way. For serious music students, if you take the summer to recharge your batteries, you have to wonder if you are losing ground between school years. For concert presenters and summer music educators, the challenge is to figure out how to bridge the gap without losing their identity.

2006-All_Roads_1_Boris_Brott.jpgHamilton’s Brott Festival is an interesting example. Led by conductor Boris Brott, the festival has long boasted a busy annual summer season chock-full of orchestral classics as well as lesser-known works. This year has 11 planned performances so far between June 18 and August 14 (including Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique, a concert spotlighting Italian and Italian-influenced works, a performance of a Viennese gala evening with works by Strauss, Lehár and Piazzolla and collaborations with the National Ballet and Festival of the Sound). Brott and his team show no signs of letting up.

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