HalfTones - Vol 2 #2 - October 15, 2014

red-bull-flying-bach-cast-in-singaporeEarly Music, New Spaces

Fall is officially upon us, and a number of music presenters are making the most out of the changing seasons as an opportunity to experiment with new ideas. In the coming weeks, early music groups in particular get the nod for programming much-loved classics with an unusual—or seasonally appropriate—twist.

Tafelmusik’s Tafelscene program, geared at audiences aged 35 and under, gears up for Concert 2 of their popular series Baroque + Beer, at the Tranzac Club. This time around, it’ll be an October 30 “Hallowe’en Madness edition,” which promises attendees “a night of beer, music, and spooky good times in honour of Hallowe’en.” Advance tickets are $20 and include beer samples. For details on this ages 19-35 event and other upcoming Tafelmusik programming for audiences of all ages, check out http://www.tafelmusik.org/concerts-tickets/tafelscene-35-under/baroque-beer-halloween-madness-edition (tafelmusik.org).

In the same vein, Red Bull, of all presenters, brings to Toronto this week an intriguing marriage of Bach and breakdancing. October 16 to 19 at Massey Hall, Red Bull presents Berlin-base dance troupe The Flying Steps, performing with Swedish dancer Anna Holmström to the live accompaniment of excerpts from J.S. Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier. For an idea of how The Flying Steps interprets Bach with breakdance, here’s a clip from one of the group’s earlier performances in their 2014 tour:

If you don’t yet have plans this weekend, this show may just be one to put on your calendar. More info is available at http://www.masseyhall.com/eventdetail/redbullflyingbach, or at http://www.redbull.com/ca/en/music/events/1331678191814/red-bull-flying-bach-canada.

Music That Meets the Eye

On October 19 and 20, Continuum Contemporary Music presents “Souvenir,” an event that features a world premiere nearly 20 years in the making. Six Canadian composers—Linda Bouchard, Alice Ho, Jocelyn Morlock, Michael Oesterle, Randall Smith and Hiroki Tsurumoto—have teamed up with filmmaker Gary Popovich to craft a six-movement, hour-long film shaped by the evolution of our world. The event is billed as a collaborative creation of music and images that “move from our cosmological beginnings through the geological underpinnings of life on earth; major events in human development; and through perpetual cycles of creation and destruction, dizzying heights and meaningless depths.” Souvenir’s soundtrack will be played by performers from the Continuum ensemble, alongside vocalists Shannon Mercer (soprano) and Krisztina Szabo (mezzo-soprano).

“Souvenir” is on at Betty Oliphant Theatre; tickets are $30 with discounts available for seniors, arts workers and students. For a sneak peak, take a look at this video, or visit continuummusic.org.

"One To Watch" is here to watch!  Irmina Trynkos

Feb 2013 WholeNote reviewer Terry Robbins flagged violinist Irmina Trynkos as "one to watch" in a write-up of her debut CD with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. He'll be at her October 25 performance with Sinfonia Toronto at the Toronto Centre for the Arts. So watch for his blog. Or better still, go hear for yourself. 

Music on Film

Finally, Music on Film, the popular series co-hosted by the RCM and Hot Docs, returns October 28 to March 31, showcasing five different music documentaries. Each screening will also feature guest artists in conversation with Mervon Mehta, the Royal Conservatory’s executive director of performing arts.

Fados, the first film of this year’s series, will be at the Bloor Hot Docs cinema on Tuesday, October 28. This Portuguese film, directed by Carlos Saura, examines the musical genre of fado through an exploration of the city of Lisbon. Find out details on this film, and others in the series, at http://bloorcinema.com/templates/content/music_on_film.


WIN tickets to the TSO’s “Romeo & Juliet” concert featuring violin superstar Nicola Benedetti (along with a collection of Benedetti’s CDs); tickets to the Royal Canadian Military Institute’s 25th annual Massed Military Band Spectacular at Roy Thomson Hall; places in "The WholeNote publisher’s party” at the Ken Page Memorial Trust annual gala and more! Just click the links below and follow the instructions to enter in the contests of your choice. Feel free to enter all three!

TSO with Nicola Benedetti

RCMI Band Spectacular

KPMT annual gala



jesus-statue-timothy-schmalzThis October 24 at 7pm, the Church of St. Stephen-in-the-Fields presents a gala evening to raise funds for a permanent bronze version of Timothy Schmalz’s sculpture “Whatsoever You Do,” also known as “Panhandler Jesus.” The evening includes two sets of live music as well as food and wine, featuring performances by pianist Richard Herriott, flautist Isabella Budai with pianist Pei Chen, soprano Mikahi Vergara, and folk artists The Band and Dinah Thorpe, to name a few.

Schmalz’s sculpture has a storied past, its original resin cast having been stolen from the church and then promptly returned with an apology note last winter, only to have shattered from the cold one month later. The community is looking forward to welcoming a permanent version of this work, and this gala will provide the means to help cover the final costs of the art piece.

Tickets are available at the door on the 24th for $20, but reservations are requested; for details, visit saintstephens.ca.

Other new or corrected (*) listings this month include:

Thursday October 16

8:00: Mikhail Turetsky. Soprano. Vocal performances in a variety of styles and languages. Queen Elizabeth Theatre, 190 Princes' Blvd. 416-721-4662; 416-226-9151. $55-$95.

Monday October 20

9:30: The Rex Hotel. Mike Herriott and the OTR Band. Tunes by Freddie Hubbard, The Who, Herriott originals, and a special tribute to the late great Kenny Wheeler with a Wheeler arrangement Wheeler of one of Herriott's pieces. Mike Herriott, trumpet; and others. 194 Queen St. W. 647-888-6707.

Friday October 24

6:00: Guelph Youth Singers. GYS Fall Gala: Giving Youth a Voice. Fall fundraising gala with music by GYS Choir III and SATB Choirs. Markus Howard, conductor; Ken Gee, accompanist. Hanlon Convention Centre, 340 Woodlawn Rd. W., Guelph. 519-821-8574. $100.

7:00: St. Stephen-in-the-Fields. Gala Fundraising Evening. Fundraising gala to cover costs of Timothy Schmalz’s “Panhandler Jesus” sculpture. Richard Herriott, piano; Pei Chen, piano; Isabella Budai, flute; Clement Carelse, organist; Neil Houlton, organist; Mikhai Vergara, soprano; and others. 103 Bellevue Ave. 416-921-6350 or 437-345-5889. $20, reservations required.

Wednesday October 29

8:00: Flato Markham Theatre. Mercedes Cheung, violin. Violin recital by 12-year old Mercedes Cheung. Works by Bach, Paganini, Tchaikovsky, Brahms, Waxman, Gade, Khachaturian, and others. Mercedes Cheung, violin; Jeanie Chung, piano. 171 Town Centre Blvd.,Markham. 905-305-7469. $20; $5(child/st).

Thursday October 30

7:00: Astana Opera. Voice of Asia. Works by A. Zhubanov, L. Hamidi, E. Rakhmadiev, T. Muhamejanov, Verdi, Tchaikovsky and others. Yerzhan Kulibayev, violin; Astana Opera House Symphony Orchestra and Chamber Choir; Abzal Mukhitdinov, conductor; and others. Sony Centre For The Performing Arts, 1 Front St. E. 1-613-695-8055 x221. $25 and up.


Check out David Podgorski’s blog post on the Toronto Early Music Fair, now online at thewholenote.com! Read it here


Our next issue of HalfTones, Vol 2 No 3, is out on November 13! The next print issue of The WholeNote will be published on November 1.

Please contact halftones@thewholenote.com with any HalfTones inquiries.


This month’s issue contains at its centre our 15th annual “Blue Pages” directory of presenters - a compilation of around 150 players in Southern Ontario’s musical life. As it says in the Blue Pages intro, we make no claim to completeness.

For one thing, there’s no such thing as completeness in the area of live musical endeavour; like music itself, new voices and venues arise out of, and return, to silence. For another thing, there is no perfectly definable boundary to the range of genres we include in these pages, partly because we have limited space (in print, anyway) and partly because you our readers have limits to the time you want to spend wading through events you are not interested in, searching for the ones you might be. Again this is more of an problem in print than in digital media. Speaking of which, there are some VERY significant milestones just ahead for The WholeNote on the digital front - as next issue’s opener will reveal.

Beyond the question of logistical constraints to the range of what we cover, there is also the very interesting question as to whether the method of dividing up the musical universe into discrete musical genres, each with a separate “beat columnist,” will stand up to the demands of what promises to be an era of increasingly fluid musical practice. (Witness Andrew Timar’s story on David Dacks and the Music Gallery on page 16 and Wende Bartley’s thoughts on transculturalism immediately following it.)

Anniversaries: devotedreaders of this column both know that I have a love-hate relationship with the topic of anniversaries. (If you are reading this on our website you can simply click here to read my October 2008 reflections on the subject.) It’s a particularly thorny topic in October, when we are trying to come up with a cover image which reflects, on behalf of ALL our Blue Pages members, the range and spirit of the music we cover – a task to which we bring the same high seriousness that the Canadian Olympic Association does when choosing the country’s flagbearer for the opening ceremonies of each Olympic Games.

Anniversaries aren’t always the deciding factor, though. Otherwise this year would have been no contest, with the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, celebrating an astonishing 120 years of continuous existence (see the write-up of my chat with the TMC’s Noel Edison in “Conversations <at> TheWholeNote” on page 14).

Ten years ago Inna Perkis and Boris Zarankin of Off Centre Music Salon graced our October cover. This was partly because they had started out the same year we did, and with the same lack of any official endorsement or precedent. And partly because of their unique formula: virtuosic two- and four-hand piano playing along with chamber music and art song contributions by guest artists, all in the spirit of a 19th century salon, with ideas being tossed around with the same verve as the music.  Happily they are still at it; this October 26 is the 20th installment of their annual Schubertiad, kicking off yet another four-salon season at the Glenn Gould Studio.

Turning from the topic of the cover of the magazine to the cover of the Blue Pages, how does a photo of the city’s second largest concert hall speak to the range of music we cover? Well, there is the music that RTH/Massey presents, spanning a range of genres and cultures. Then there’s the fact that the photo covers two performance spaces – the hall inside, and the great outdoors. Then there’s the hall’s anchor tenant, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra whose individual members  are the animators and architects of dozens of other small musical ensembles in the city. And finally, there are the one-time entrepreneurial “upstarts” such as Attila Glatz and Show One Productions, for whom conquerin,g “the Hall” for the first time was a significant milestone on their road to credibility in our ever evolving, endlessly fascinating musical scene.

 (Besides which, its a gorgeous photo.)

Milestones 2: TorQ at Ten


If you had found yourself at Stratford Summer Music this past July anytime between July 15 and July 20, you might well have spotted a sign or two pointing the way to something called “Tom Percussion Island.” Had you followed the signs, you’d have found yourself meandering among what The WholeNote’s new music columnist Wende Bartley described in our summer issue as “nine percussion-based instrumental exhibits on display for audiences to engage with, including a tongue drum made from a hollowed-out apple tree trunk, fire drums made from cut and tuned fire extinguishers, a piano dulcimer made from a 110-year-old piano flipped on its side and a Dream Gong Maze for you to get lost in.”

If you were lucky, you’d also have run into the percussion quartet TorQ there, “performing their own ‘pop-up concerts’ or joining with the public in exploring the sounds of these instruments in the outside environment.”

Read more: Milestones 2: TorQ at Ten

Conversations The WholeNote - Gathering Steam

With repatriation of our “studio” facilities and means of production to our own office at the Centre for Social Innovation, 720 Bathurst, our Conversations <at> The WholeNote video series looks set to gather steam heading into the 2014/15 season.

Conversations-EdisonDuring September, publisher David Perlman continued his series of conversations with Toronto’s musical players with a wide-ranging interview with Noel Edison, conductor of the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir and the Elora Festival Singers, and artistic director of the Elora Festival. Fresh from the Mendelssohn’s second rehearsal of a very busy new season, Edison spoke of the choir’s new blood and the rigorous audition process involved in adding it, of the juggling act to keep his organizations in sync and the ingenuity needed to stoke the flames of budgets approaching one million dollars a year.

It was also fascinating to hear him speak of the connection his mother had to the Mendelssohn in the 1950s. (She was in the soprano section.) Because of his parents’ friendship with the MacMillans (“Lady Mac and Sir Ernest”), they used to host the post-Messiah parties at their house in Rosedale, all-night affairs since in those days Messiah would start at eight and end five hours later. “Oh you know, those tempos in the 1950s,” Edison recounted. “I mean, ‘Comfort ye in every valley’ took close to 15 minutes!”

And detailing the audition process: “I don’t hear them sing until they get through a really tough rhythmic audition first and once that’s done, if they pass that with flying colours, then I’ll listen to the voice. But the rhythm has to be first and foremost. And it’s proved to be very successful.”

Edison spoke effusively about the sound of the choir: “It’s a very different sound now. It’s a far warmer tone – to me. It’s the tone I love. I love that warmth, I love that rich sort of Mahlerian, chocolatey sound. That’s the sound I very much express with.”

For an unforgettable anecdote involving a party at Edison’s own Elora home and countertenor Daniel Taylor’s singing of Lois Marshall’s signature folk song “Ae Fond Kiss,” watch the full interview with Edison on The WholeNote’s YouTube channel. (You can access the channel directly from our website by clicking on “Our Videos” under the News tab.)

The interview with Edison is only one of dozens you will find there.  The most recent before the Edison finds publisher Perlman in conversation with David Fallis, artistic director of the Toronto Consort.

Conversations-FallisFallis’ enthusiasm is contagious as he outlines a brief history of the Consort and his own involvement with the group – he joined in 1979; the Consort began in 1972. After a few words on the nature of consort music – “what’s on the page is very much just the beginning of the beginning” – he moves on to Renaissance singing. He points out that a vocal treatise (on how to sing) was basically a compendium of ornaments, “which is to say you can’t be a singer if you can’t ornament.” He discloses how each Toronto Consort concert season is constructed, using the current year as an example, including The Play of Daniel, “the pinnacle of medieval music theatre,” and likely the high point of what promises to be an engaging season.

He twinkles especially as he speaks of “Paris Confidential” the opening concert of the new season November 7 and 8. It was designed by Alison McKay (his wife) “who is a wizard at designing programs with imagery and spoken word and music and weaving them in fascinating ways.” It plunges right into Renaissance Paris roughly in the 16th century, which he points out, was a very critical time in the development of both the city and early modern France itself. Paris then was an intellectual centre and a hub for the new technology of publishing with very important printers. He compared the fact that lute music was written in tablature to apps today. Then as now, figuring out how to make the best use of new technology was key.

The three years of Conversations <at> TheWholeNote are becoming an interesting archive of insights into a whole range of people, caught at a particular moment in time. While the interviews may rapidly lose the topicality of the specific moment that was the reason for the visit, it’s especially diverting to revisit them when the subjects are back in town. Wallis Giunta, for example, has been the subject of two conversations in the past two and a half years. From October 23 to November 1 she’s singing the role of Bradamante in Opera Atelier’s production of Handel’s Alcina. And it’s instructive to see Jan Lisiecki’s poise in his conversation a few days before he turned 17, given that in November he will be back playing Beethoven’s Piano Concertos 3, 4, and 5 with the TSO.

Conversations-OundjianAnd as for Peter Oundjian, the TSO’s peripatetic music director, Conversations <at> TheWholeNote caught up to him just two months before the orchestra’s recent European tour, the outcome of which, you can read about in William Littler’s article “Waving the Musical Flag,” elsewhere in this issue.

Among others captured in these conversations, and active in this month’s concert scene: Amici Ensemble’s Serouj Kradjian, soon after joining the group; new music champion, pianist Christina Petrowska Quilico; and Stephen Ralls (interviewed here with Aldeburgh Connection partner Bruce Ubukata before their final season gala concert).

Like the magazine itself, the series is a work in progress, always putting substance before style. Like the magazine, it is also a priceless archive-in-the-making.

Paul Ennis is managing editor of The WholeNote.

Waving the Musical Flag

Waving The Musical Flag-TafelmusikThe year was 1951, the month November and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra was about to venture beyond the borders of Canada (indeed, of Ontario) for the first time. Destination? Detroit.

Only this was the period when the junior senator from Wisconsin was looking for suspected communists beneath every bed and the orchestra happened to include players being denied entrance to “the land of the free and the home of the brave” through the pinkish hue of their political complexion.

Torontonians felt a sense of outrage. Our orchestra should go intact or not at all, some voices argued. The conductor, Sir Ernest MacMillan, Canada’s first and only musical knight, felt differently. He wanted the engagement. So he dumped the so-called Symphony Seven and the orchestra wound up making its American debut without them.

Read more: Waving the Musical Flag

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