February sits in the musical calendar like a trailhead parking lot in a fine provincial park. From it you can set out on any one of a number of paths, depending on whether you are interested in explorations of the short, medium or long-term kind.

The most immediate of the outlooks February offers is what’s going on within the month itself. But be warned. For the shortest month of the year, this issue’s listings pack quite a punch! This may be because, as Jack MacQuarrie speculates in Bandstand on page 27, “all the behind-the-scenes efforts of winter rehearsals ... spring into a variety of programs well before Mother Nature takes her own leap into spring.” Or it may be that we, the audience, hardwired for frivolity during the silly season, have shown ourselves over the years to be good and ready for something more sustaining once the days begin to lengthen. Or that resigned to a month of daily grind, only music (and lots of it) will do to keep the February blues away.

Another interesting way to view this month is that it is the launchpad for the whole second half of the concert season – so if, fuelled by your own resolve, you set out this month to make some new musical acquaintance, it’s early enough in the new year that you will have other opportunities  to seek out that artist or presenter or composer or venue again, before the end of the regular season.

Beyond these two paths of inquiry, February is also the starting point for two other longer-term inquiries: first, it’s never too early, it seems, to  begin planning for summer; second, right now is when we start getting tantalizing glimpses of what the next full season (2015/16) will have to offer. In both cases, these early whispers will crescendo to a dull roar over the course of the spring, but even now they threaten to distract us from the task of living, mindfully, in the present musical moment.

Regarding thoughts of summer, as Sara Constant points out in her introduction to On The Road (page 53), planning for summer music education tends to fall into place the earliest, for educators and students alike. So we are starting On the Road a full month earlier this year, with a couple of early educator interviews to get the ball rolling.

Even more distracting than thoughts of summer in terms of staying in the musical moment, this is also the time when the town’s musical biggies make with their 2015/16 season announcements, an act akin to waving a Dufflet dessert menu in the face of diners still rewardingly ruminating over their mains.

The Canadian Opera Company was, as usual, the first out of the blocks with a mid-January launch. (Chris Hoile summarizes the essentials in On Opera on page 19.) Incidentally, this year’s COC launch set the bar very high for events of this kind; a 90-minute hosted event in the FSCPA main hall, with full orchestra and soloists onstage, providing musical emphasis for each reveal. (The audience was not your usual sprinkling of scribblers, corporate sponsors and board members either more like 800 to 1000 subscribers and  donors packed the lowers rings of the hall, many of whom were lining up close to an hour before the building opened.

The next big formal launch event, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra on January 29, will have come and gone in the very moment that this issue hits the street. But thanks to Wende Bartley’s extraordinary cover story interview with Barbara Hannigan (page 8) a few magic beans have already been spilled! The TSO has confirmed that Hannigan will be back in the fall not just to sing but to conduct! (Details in Bartley’s story.)

All potentially very distracting, but I should tell you I’ve particularly enjoyed just browsing the listings this month for all the quirky and random juxtapositions they throw up on the beach of the mind! What were the odds, for example, that two ensembles with names as eerily similar as Scaramella and Swamperella would show up side by side at the very end of the very last day in this month’s listings? (See March 7, GTA). And only two subway stops apart. Think of it: an early evening in Telemann’s Paris (bass viol, baroque violin and flute, harpsichord) followed by a short stroll to rock the Mardi Gras night away to the strains of Cajun and Zydeco dance music, as deeply rooted in the history of swampy Louisiana (named for Louis XVI) as Telemann’s Paris Quartets were in the Paris of Louis XV.

And if it’s history that we are speaking of, not least among February’s shape-shifting attributes is that, since 1979 in Toronto, and 1995 in Canada as a whole, February has been officially designated Black History Month.

Official Canadian recognition of Black History Month came, coincidentally I suspect, in the same year as the founding of this magazine, and it’s fair to say it’s been a bit of a headscratcher for us ever since. The easiest rationale is to resort to “colour-blindness”: “We write about the people involved in the music we cover race doesn’t come into it.” Next would be to quote someone like Morgan Freeman (who after all has played Nelson Mandela in the movies and therefore must be right): “I don’t want a Black History Month. Black history is American history ... There’s no White History Month.”

But, truth be told we go through paroxysms here each year, not knowing whether it honours or dishonours the intent of Black History Month to call attention to it any more than the circumstances of any particular February dictate.

Colour bind vs colour blind? I went to a Toronto Rock lacrosse game at the Air Canada Centre a couple of nights ago. It had about the same racial mix among spectators as a typical night at the Canadian Opera Company. But these days it’s the Toronto Raptors’ fans, not the Rock or the Maple Leafs, who get to roar with conviction “We The North.” 

Sometimes the most proactive thing one can do about an issue is simply and accurately to reflect the way things actually are.

So that is what we do, and if you flip the pages of this issue, rather than hyperfocussing on the cover, I think you will see that things are moving along.

As should you, if you are going to partake of February’s riches, in all their glorious shades of grey.

2005   Feature   Barbara Hannigan Conducting 1Being the music. This is how Canadian-born soprano and now conductor Barbara Hannigan describes her approach to performing. Two questions come to mind: How does one do this? And what are the ingredients needed to so completely embody the music as to become it? George Meredith’s words from his poem The Lark Ascending that inspired Ralph Vaughan Williams’ work of the same name suggest one answer: “The song seraphically free, Of taint of personality, So pure that it salutes the suns.” Hannigan herself gives a hint when she states: “I’m happy with my performance when I know I’ve made the connection between breath and sound, when the whole body is singing.”

Fourteen years ago the then Toronto-based Hannigan appeared on the cover of The WholeNote magazine. At the time she was performing the lead role in the operetta The Merry Widow and her European career was beginning to take off. Now living in Amsterdam, with bookings four to five years in advance, she is returning to Toronto as the featured performer at this years’ New Creations Festival presented by the Toronto Symphony. In three concerts scheduled between February 28 and March 7, Hannigan will be performing both Canadian and North American premieres of works by British composer George Benjamin and Danish composer Hans Abrahamsen.

2005   Beat   Classical   Vadim RepinRussian-born Vadim Repin may just be the best violinist you’ve never heard of. Unless you happened to catch his TSO appearance in 2007 playing Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No.2 with guest conductor Thomas Dausgaard, his only exposure here has been through recordings (most recently with Deutsche Grammophon) and YouTube clips. The clips span almost 30 years of an acclaimed career that took international flight after he won the prestigious Queen Elisabeth Competition in Brussels in 1989 when he was only 17.

In a recent telephone conversation the warm and gracious violinist described how he felt at that time: “The competition itself was really tough, very difficult psychologically and [physically]. It goes forever [one month]. For the next four years it put me in the spotlight of the music world but then there was a new winner, so forget about it. You have to do other things to get noticed and get the spotlight.”

This virtuoso, for whom technique is always a means to a musical end, never an end in itself, began violin lessons at five by “pure chance.” His mother, who had been encouraging her son to play with musical toys since he was three, took him to school intending to sign him up for accordion studies. Only violin places were available so he took up the violin. By age seven, chance took him under its wing again; his teacher advised studying with Zakhar Bron (who later taught Maxim Vengerov and Daniel Hope), a relationship which would continue for 13 years.

Looking at a forecast of dishearteningly subzero temperatures and having only just left behind what was apparently one of the coldest winters on record it’s admittedly a little hard to believe that summer is on the horizon. And yet, the summer months ahead are just where music presenters are beginning to focus their attention. Almost exactly midway through a busy concert season, it’s at this time of year that 2015/16 season announcements have started to surface and faculty positions for summer workshops are being finalized. At this point in the season, amidst their day-to-day workload, musicians are getting down to the business of filling in the blanks in their summer schedules.


Happy new year, WholeNote readers! 2015 is upon us, and while most of us are still buying new calendars and proposing (and swiftly discarding) our annual resolutions, this city’s musical life doesn’t falter for a moment. Orchestral groups are especially industrious this month, with a TSO Mozart festival in the works, and musical offerings from Esprit and Tafelmusik, among others.


c Felix Broede 1799 08 retAt this time, the people of Tafelmusik are just about halfway through their third Tafelmusik Winter Institute, an intensive period orchestra program for experienced early music performers. This year’s theme is “The String Orchestra in Baroque England,” focusing on suites by Locke and Purcell as well as concerti grossi by Handel, Avison and Geminiani. The program culminates in a pay-what-you-can concert on Saturday, January 10 at 7:30pm, where the week’s baroque string players, harpsichordists and lutenists will convene to showcase their newly-learnt skills. It will be an affordable chance to hear some excellent early music -- all the details at tafelmusik.org/concerts-tickets/free-concerts/free-pay-what-you-can-concerts-events.

Later in the month, Tafelmusik also welcomes guest conductor Kent Nagano, in 4 performances of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 at Koerner Hall January 22 to 25. The program also features Beethoven’s Mass in C Major, performed with the Tafelmusik Chamber Choir and soloists. The WholeNote has a pair of tickets to this show up for grabs to an interested reader! For a chance to win, check out our contest page here.


Esprit Orchestra also promises an interesting show this month, with “the world’s turning” on Thursday, January 29 at Koerner Hall. Click here for a recent conversation with Esprit artistic director and conductor Alex Pauk in which, among other topics, he discusses this upcoming concert -- and check out our contest page here for a chance to win tickets to the January 29 event.


The Toronto Symphony’s annual Mozart festival starts next week, featuring a number of soloists across three different concert programs. A special ticket sale for this festival has been extended until tomorrow (Friday) at 5pm: save 20% on your ticket price with the promo code MOZARTFEST. Details on the shows and how to buy tickets are available at tso.ca.


The December 26 announcement of new recipients of the Order of Canada included more than half a dozen appointments of musical interest to readers of The WholeNote, including two, the Canadian Brass’s Chuck Daellenbach and singer Suzie LeBlanc, who recently chatted with The WholeNote’s editor-in-chief.

For the transcript of the conversation with Chuck Daellenbach click here. http://www.thewholenote.com/index.php/newsroom/feature-stories/24833-behind-the-scenes-chuck-dallenbach

Click here to listen to the video conversation with Suzie LeBlanc. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uvTLB3DiYGw

Other December 2014 Order of Canada recipients include: Montreal cellist/pedagogue Denis Brott; Montreal organist John Grew; Quebec Opera’s Gregoire Legendre; indefatigable Toronto organizational mentor and volunteer John Barker Lawson; trumpeter Jens Lindemann; and Montreal conductor, pianist and new music specialist Lorraine Vaillancourt.


WIN tickets to the Hot Docs Mozart feature this Saturday; tickets to Tafelmusik’s “Beethoven Symphony No. 5” concert with Kent Nagano; tickets to see Esprit Orchestra’s “the world’s turning” featuring two world premieres and Robert Aitken in a soloist role; and a chance to see jazz fusion quartet Yellowjackets at Oakville Centre for the Performing Arts! Just take a look below and follow the instructions to enter in the contests of your choice. Feel free to enter all four!

Hot Docs “Searching for Mozart”: Saturday, January 10

WIN a pair of tickets to the first screening in Bloor Hot Docs Cinema’s brand-new series, Composers on Screen: “In Search of Mozart” at 1pm on January 10.

This series, brand-new at the Bloor Cinema and co-presented with The Royal Conservatory, takes a new look at celebrated composers. Phil Grabsky’s “In Search of Mozart”, this Saturday at 1pm, showcases more than 80 of Mozart’s compositions, performed by some of the world’s leading ensembles and musicians--and features a 25,000-mile journey along every route that Mozart travelled.

Want free tickets to the show? We have a small number of tickets available -- just email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with the subject line HOT DOCS to confirm your availability for your chance to win! Tickets are FIRST COME, FIRST SERVED. May the speediest emailer win!

(For those who can’t make it on Saturday, the next film, “In Search of Chopin,” will be shown on Sunday, March 1. Details about the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema can be found at bloorcinema.com.)

For our other contests, please click the links below:

Tafelmusik “Beethoven Symphony No. 5” with Kent Nagano: Thursday, January 22

Esprit “the world’s turning”: Thursday, January 29

Yellowjackets at Oakville Centre for the Performing Arts: Thursday, January 29


With Dec/Jan being a combined issue of the print magazine, listings information continues to stream in in early January. Jazz aficionados should click here for a complete update to the club listings. http://www.thewholenote.com/index.php/listings/intheclubsjazz

And speaking of clubs, reviewer Ken Waxman zeroed in on an upcoming show by Ken Aldcroft’s latest group on January 16:

Threads008THREADS (Quintet)
Trio Records TRP-019

By Ken Waxman

Every since he arrived in Toronto from his native Vancouver in 2001, guitarist Ken Aldcroft has been a constant presence on this city’s improvised music scene. Whether helping to organize concerts, teaching, playing solo gigs or as part of ensembles of varied sizes, he’s constantly exceeding expectations of what jazz involves. Also exceeding expectations is the first CD by his newest ensemble, which presents this music in concert at Jazz at Oscar’s this month.

Having recorded six CDs with his regular Convergence combo, Aldcroft changes gears on 10/09/11 by supplanting its free-bop orientation for one that offers more space and an almost unmetered beat. Besides Aldcroft, the only Convergence holdover is alto saxophonist Karen Ng, with the band filled out by drummer Germaine Liu plus the characteristic grooves of Josh Cole’s electric bass and Jonathan Adjemian’s analog synthesizer. With each of Aldcroft’s three originals entitled Threads plus a numeral and the disc recorded in 2013, it’s likely the CD title refers to a time of inspiration and composition.

Essentially each of the longish tunes, clocking in at between 18 and almost 25 minutes, showcases varied facets of the quintet. With percussion pulses that slide from parade band whacks to (Canadian) Indian-like rattling and back again, Threads III is the gentlest of the three, with slowly evaporating sax slurs matched with echoing guitar timbres. Threads I has more energy. Here Aldcroft’s crescendo of arpeggiated string licks faces tough, angled reed bites and buzzing synth interjections. Underneath, Adjemian’s staccato blurts plus Liu’s bass drum pops replicate an Upper Canadian version of a Second Line rhythm. Lengthiest of all, the introductory Threads II defines the quintet’s distinct parameters. Harmonized bass and guitar strums steady the beat, leaving enough openings for Ng’s blazing staccato cries, Liu’s irregular thumps and ruffs plus synthesizer fills that at points resemble Morse code, at others what an electric piano would sound like with a cold. Aldcroft’s twangs plus Ng’s volatile tone nudge the narrative towards a satisfying climax.

A notable achievement from an ensemble that offers sonic maturity, even as it’s in the process of being created.

Concert note: The THREADS (Quintet) is in concert at Jazz at Oscar’s, Hart House University of Toronto January 16.


*Saturday, January 31

3:00: Toronto Mendelssohn Choir. Community Concert. Toronto Mendelssohn Choir; Elora Festival Singers; Noel Edison, conductor. Yorkminster Park Baptist Church, 1585 Yonge St. 416-598-0422 x223. Free.

New listings in January include the following:

Tuesday January 13

1:30: Oakville Opera Guild. Tea with Opera: Don Giovanni. Guest: Howard Dyck, choral conductor. Oakville Central Library Auditiorium, 120 Navy St., Oakville. 905-827-5678. $10 minimum donation. Proceeds towards scholarship awarded annually to a young Canadian singer studying at the U of T Opera Division.

Friday January 16

8:00: The Jeffery Concerts. Latin Journey. Songs and melodies of Spain and Latin America. Works by Rodrigo, Granados, de Falla, Villa-Lobos, and others (all arr. David Jacques). Marie-Josee Lord, soprano; David Jacques, guitar; Ian Simpson, double bass. Wolf Performance Hall, 251 Dundas St., London. 519-672-8800. $35; $30(sr); $15(st).

Sunday January 18

2:00: Canzona Chamber Players. In Concert. Brahms Quintet Op. 34. Vadim Serebryany, piano; Csaba Koczó & Sonia Shklarov, violins; Yunior Lopez, viola; Peter Cosbey, cello. St. Andrew by-the-Lake Church, Cibola Avenue, Toronto Island. 416-822-0613. $20. Also 7:30pm, Music Gallery.

Monday January 19

7:30: Canzona Chamber Players. In Concert. Brahms Quintet Op. 34. Vadim Serebryany, piano; Csaba Koczó & Sonia Shklarov, violins; Yunior Lopez, viola; Peter Cosbey, cello. Music Gallery, 197 John St. 416-822-0613. $20. Also 2pm, St. Andrew by-the-Lake Church.

Saturday January 24

7:30: Pocket Concerts. Pocket Concerts: Family Edition. Mozart Flute Quartet in D Major; and others. Les Allt, flute; Cordelia Paw, violin; Rory McLeod, viola; Rachel Desoer, cello. 647-896-8295. $40; $25(age 35 and under); $12(age 18 and under). Please phone 647-896-8295 if you have questions about accessibility.

Sunday January 25

2:00: Richard Valdez. Concert Valdez - Benefit WarAmps. Benefit concert in aid of the WarAmps Child Amputees. Broadway classics and popular songs. Richard Valdez, tenor. North York Central Library Auditorium, 5120 Yonge St. 416-395-5535. Freewill donation.

2:00: Trio Bravo. Concert 2. Brahms; Piazolla, Selleck; Fauré. Trio Bravo: Terry Storr, clarinet; Baird Knechtel, viola; John Selleck, piano; Guest: John Trembath, cello. All Saints Kingsway Anglican Church, 2850 Bloor St. W. 416-242-2131. $20; $15(sr/st).

Tuesday January 27

12:30: McMaster School of the Arts. David Gerry & Michael Schutz. David Gerry, flute; Michael Schutz, percussion. Convocation Hall (UH213), McMaster University, 1280 Main St W., Hamilton. 905-525-9140 x24246. Free.

7:00: North York Central Library. Canadian Opera Company Talk: Die Walküre. An examination of Wagner's opera Die Walküre, with special attention given to the winter 2015 revival of Atom Egoyan's COC production. Guest: Wayne Gooding, editor of Opera Canada magazine. North York Central Library Auditorium, 5120 Yonge St. 416-395-5639. Free. Please call to register in advance.

Thursday January 29

8:00: Oakville Infiniti World Artists series. An evening with the Yellowjackets. Russell Ferrante, keys; Bob Mintzer, sax; William Kennedy, drums; Felix Pastorius, bass. Oakville Centre for the Performing Arts, 130 Navy St., Oakville. 905-815-2021. $60; $53(Big Ticket Member); $49(Big Ticket Plus).

Friday January 30

8:00: McMaster School of the Arts. Andreas Klein. Andreas Klein, piano. Convocation Hall (UH213), McMaster University, 1280 Main St W., Hamilton. 905-525-9140 x24246. $20; $5(st); $15(sr).

8:00: Oakville Opera Guild. Tea with Opera: Die Walküre. Guest: Iain Scott, opera educator. Location TBA, , Oakville. 905-827-5678. $10 minimum donation. Proceeds towards scholarship awarded annually to a young Canadian singer studying at the U of T Opera Division.

Saturday January 31

12:00 noon: Flautas del Fuego. Danzas del Fuego. W. F. Bach: Sonata in F Major for Two Flutes; Villa-Lobos: "Aria" from Bachianas Brasileiras No. 6; Piazzolla: "Tango Etudes" Nos. 4, 5, and 6 (arr. Exequiel Mantega); Caravassilis "Danzas del Fuego" for two flutes and percussion (World Premiere). Flautas del Fuego: Alhelí Pimienta and Izabella Budai, flutes; David Burns, percussion. Yorkminster Park Baptist Church, 1585 Yonge St. 416-922-1167. Free.

8:00: Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber Music Society. Duo Concertante. Complete music for violin/piano by Schubert; second of two concerts. Schubert: Sonatina in D, Rondo, Fantasy in C; Chan Ka Nin: Incantation. Nancy Dahn, violin; Timothy Steeves, piano. KWCMS Music Room, 57 Young St. W., Waterloo. 519-886-1673. $30; $25(sr); $20(st).

Sunday February 1

4:00: Georgetown Bach Chorale. Pas de deux. Violin and piano concert. Brahms: Sonata No. 1 in G Major; Prokofiev: Sonata No. 1 in F Minor. Edwin Huizinga, violin; Ronald Greidanus, piano. House Concert (Georgetown), 157 Main St., Georgetown. $45 advance only; no tickets available at the door.


Jim Galloway was The WholeNote's longest standing columnist, tenacious to the last. We greet the news of his passing, on December 30 2014, with sadness. We have lost a blithe spirit, a true champion of live music. On our homepage is the last column he wrote for us, just four weeks ago, followed by links, in reverse order, to his other columns. 

-David Perlman, publisher


Our next issue of HalfTones, Vol 2 No 6, is out on February 11! The next print issue of The WholeNote, covering Feb 1 to March 7, will be published on January 29.

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