TheWholeNote_2008_May2015_COVER_Twitter_FB.jpgSummer festival season starts off on the right foot.

With summer on the horizon and the regular concert year beginning to wrap up, the season of music festivals is officially on its way. From special summer music series to outdoor celebrations to partnerships with this year’s Pan Am games, there is sure to be something for everyone -- and from the look of the two major music festivals setting up for the coming weeks, this musical summer will be one to watch.

First of the festival early-birds is the RCM’s annual 21C, a major new music festival that boasts over 21 premieres across 5 days of concerts. With the Royal Conservatory on Bloor St. as home base, 21C’s May 20-24 programming this year pulls out all the stops, with an emphasis on musical collaborations. Internationally-acclaimed Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho makes an appearance as a featured composer and workshop leader, as well as Stewart Copeland of The Police, who joins forces with pianist Jon Kimura Parker for a show of new compositions and refreshing arrangements of well-known works. And of course, who could forget DJ Skratch Bastid -- featured on the cover of our May issue (!) -- who has been working with the Afiara String Quartet and a number of young composers to put a new spin on contemporary music.

Just in case you were thinking that getting tickets to Skratch Bastid and the Afiara Quartet’s show was a lost cause, the RCM has just announced that the concert is moving from Mazzoleni Hall to Koerner Hall, so new seats are sure to have opened up. In addition, The WholeNote has a number of all-access festival passes -- as well as tickets to Saariaho’s concert Light and Matter -- up for grabs for readers! For details, just take a look at our “Prizes” section below.

Following 21C is SING! the Toronto Vocal Arts Festival from May 27 to 31, which will feature all things a cappella. Based in the historic Distillery District (but with concert venues booked throughout the city over the weekend), SING! boasts a schedule jam-packed with workshops and concerts, and an impressive roster of local and international performers. Featured artists this year include award-winning a cappella groups Take 6 (USA) and Rajaton (Finland) as well as choirs and soloists from across the globe. One particularly intriguing concert to catch will be Kristin Hoff’s performance of Ana Sokolović’s intimate opera Love Songs -- those listening will be able to get a preview of Sokolović’s music before the premiere of her Canadian Opera Company commission, La Reine-garçon, which is slated for the COC’s 2019/20 season.

Concert tickets to a number of concerts hosted by the SING! Festival are available for readers of The WholeNote -- just scroll down to our “Prizes” section to apply for your chance to win.

Festival season in Toronto, it seems, will start off with a bang -- and these two are just the beginning of an entire summer of innovative musical programming in and around the city. To stay updated on festivals worth checking out near you, be sure to take a look at The WholeNote’s Green Pages summer festival and event directory, included in our June/July/August issue. 


This city seems to thrive with a cross-disciplinary spirit -- and a number of upcoming concerts promise a visually unique, and musically rewarding, multimedia experience.

First up is “The Distance Between,” a show co-presented by Ensemble Polaris and Baroque Music beside the Grange. The event will feature short films by Gabriele Grotto, Liz Gibson-DeGroote, Alicia Harris, Pierre Tremblay, Gerda Cammaer and students at Ryerson University’s School of Image Arts, along with newly-composed and improvised live music by Ensemble Polaris. Each of the films, using footage shot in Iceland, New Zealand, Italy and the south of France, explore the ideas of “home” and “away”. The show is this Saturday, May 16 at 8pm, and seems well worth checking out. Details at http://ensemblepolaris.com/performances/.

Later in the month is Continuum Contemporary Music’s collaborative project with Subtle Technologies, taking place this year at the new location of The Theatre Centre on Queen St. “Collide!” is a cross-disciplinary project that will combine the efforts of Canadian composers, musicians, scientists and artists to explore scientific phenomena. The WholeNote has a pair of tickets to this show up for grabs to readers -- for contest details and more on this concert, check out our “Prizes” section below.


In this issue: Win festival passes and tickets to the RCM’s 21C Festival, tickets to Toronto’s SING! festival, tickets to Continuum Contemporary Music’s multimedia show “Collide!”, a special 4-ticket and dinner package to The Play of Daniel with the Toronto Consort, and tickets to hear Stravinsky and Poulenc’s great chorus+orchestra works in Oakville. Just click on the following links for a chance to win -- feel free to enter all of the contests!

Festival Passes and tickets to the 21C Festival: May 20-24

Tickets to the SING! Festival: May 27-31  

Tickets to Continuum’s “Collide!”: May 28

4-ticket and dinner package to The Play of Daniel: May 24

Tickets to Masterworks of Oakville Chorus and Orchestra: May 23-24


The Seven Deadly Sins by the Friends of Gravity, May 22 & 23

A new group breaking into Toronto’s musical theatre scene, The Friends of Gravity present a new production of Die Sieben Todsünden -- The Seven Deadly Sins, with music by Kurt Weill and text by Bertolt Brecht. Billed as “intimately scaled, bold and contemporary in expression”, this will be a cabaret-flavoured arrangement of the originally orchestral score, with silent film taking the place of the original production’s ballet ensemble. Looks like an intriguing start to a promising new company. Details below in our listings, or at http://thefriendsofgravity.org/.

Wednesday May 20

8:30: Zula Presents. Rempis/Johnston/Ochs Trio. Chamber-jazz trio. David Rempis; Darren Johnston; Larry Ochs. The Pearl Company, 16 Steven St.,Hamilton. 905-524-0606. $15; $12(sr/st/un(der)waged.

Friday May 22

8:00: Friends of Gravity. Seven Deadly Sins. Pocket-sized production of Kurt Weill's The Seven Deadly Sins. Scott Gabriel, conductor; Stephanie Conn (Anna I & II); Max Christie, clarinet; Branko Džinović, accordion; Joelle Morton, bass. St. Bartholomew's Anglican Church, 509 Dundas St. E. 416-700-5914. $25; $20(st). Also May 23.

9:00: Afrika Djelly. "It's All About Da Beat". Music and party in celebration of International Drum Month. Djungle Bouti Orchestra; Kobèna Aquaa-Harrison, director; and others. BlakBird Jaz, 812b Bloor St. W. $10. Doors open at 8:30.

Saturday May 23

8:00: Friends of Gravity. Seven Deadly Sins. Pocket-sized production of Kurt Weill's The Seven Deadly Sins. Scott Gabriel, conductor; Stephanie Conn (Anna I & II); Max Christie, clarinet; Branko Džinović, accordion; Joelle Morton, bass. St. Bartholomew's Anglican Church, 509 Dundas St. E. 416-700-5914. $25; $20(st). Also May 22.

Monday May 25

8:00: Small World Music. A Nepal Earthquake Relief Benefit. An evening of music to raise funds for Nepal earthquake relief. Autorickshaw; FreePlay Duo; Voices of Asia project; Dorjee Tsering; Justin Gray; and others. Small World Music Centre, Artscape Youngplace, 180 Shaw St. 416-536-5439. $20.

Tuesday May 26

8:00: Jazz Bistro. CD Release: Aimée Butcher's "The World Is Alright". Aimée Butcher, vocalist/composer; Chris Pruden, piano; Brandon Wall, guitar; Jeff Deegan, bass; Robin Claxton, drums. 251 Victoria St. 416-363-5299. $15; $10(st).

Friday May 29

7:00: National Presbyterian Museum. Farewell Concert for St. James, Thamesville. Organ pieces, soprano solos, soprano duets and hymns played in the year 1900, the year the church building was opened. Dr. Roger Bergs, organist; Karianne Pasma, soprano; Suzanne Schaafsma, soprano. St. James Presbyterian Church, 29 Ann St.,Thamesville. 519-864-1119. $20(adv); $15(adv, sr/st/underemployed); $5(adv, ages 12-18); free(under 12). At the door, tickets are an additional $5.

Saturday May 30

7:00: Dixie Presbyterian Church. Musical Duets: Classical Masterpieces for the Soul. Works by Brahms, Schubert, Saint-Saens and others. Katsiaryna Khatsko, piano; Lucia Barcari and Danielle Girard, violins; Katerina Utochkina, mezzo-soprano. Dixie Presbyterian Church, 3065 Cawthra Rd., Mississauga.905-277-1620. $10. Followed by refreshments and assorted desserts.

Saturday June 6

7:00: Scola Cantorum. Spring Concert: Choral Extravaganza. Works by Mendelssohn, Bruckner, Kodaly, Vierne, Faure and Franck. Hungarian St Elizabeth Scola Cantorum. St. Elizabeth Of Hungary Roman Catholic Church, 432 Sheppard Ave. E. 416-300-9305. $20; $10(st). Post-concert reception.


Ever wanted to immediately hear exactly what our CD reviewers are talking about? The WholeNote is in the process of launching a brand-new online Listening Room, where you can take advantage of enhanced reviews with added features, including the option to listen to sample tracks from reviewed discs.

→ continue to the Listening Room


Even though the next print issue of our magazine will be the last until September, HalfTones will keep you informed throughout the summer! Here are the next issues of HalfTones coming up:

Vol 2 No 10: Wednesday, June 17

Vol 2 No 11: Tuesday July 7

Vol 2 No 12: Tuesday August 11

The special summer print issue of The WholeNote, covering June 1 to September 7, will be on the stands at the beginning of June.

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

It’s hard to believe that April Fool’s Day was less than a month ago. This is after, all a month during which not only do we at The WholeNote have to do our usual aggregating of the live local concert scene and commenting on it, but we also have to pull together our annual Choral Canary Pages — an astonishing  (to me, anyway) snapshot of the range and diversity of our readership’s involvement in playing the world’s oldest, most basic and most sophisticated instrument — the human voice. So right now April 1 feels as though it is many hours more than a simple month’s worth of work in the past.

As I am sure it must feel for the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.

Some of you may remember that Michael Vincent of Musical Toronto — the blog that, far more adequately than any of the city’s daily media, reports on the daily passage of the musical events we chronicle monthly here — got April Fool’s Day off to a flying start with the announcement that the Toronto Symphony Orchestra had acquired major new sponsorship and was, accordingly, being renamed The President’s Choice Symphony Orchestra.

Given the role that naming rights play in corporate sponsorship of Culture and MUSH (museums, universities, schools and hospitals)  the announcement was just credible enough for the joke to have real traction on April 1, only to turn really sour a week later when the actual TSO president’s choices put him front and centre in the harsh glare of public scrutiny over the TSO’s decision to “uninvite” pianist Valentina Lisitsa, scheduled to appear with the TSO that week to perform the Rachmaninov second piano concerto.

True to our calling as makers of lists here at The WholeNote, we dutifully documented, in the April 14 issue of HalfTones, our regular midmonth e-letter, the range of public reaction to the Lisitsa affair. And we also threw in an opinion of our own, which (for the benefit of those of you who don’t yet read HalfTones regularly) was this:
when the leader of an organization makes a difficult decision, as in this case the TSO’s president did, the reasons stated for that decision become part of that leader’s legacy, even more than the decision itself. Some agreed with his decision; some did not. But explaining that Lisitsa had been uninvited because her widely tweeted political opinions “might be deeply offensive to some” has put the TSO (which though private bears our city’s proud name) on a very slippery ethical slope.

(On the other hand, for those of you rubbing your hands at the possibilities the precedent sets, I invite you to sign the online petition calling for the works of all composers of the Second Viennese School to be permanently uninvited from TSO programming, because atonalism is clearly deeply offensive to some.)

Silver lining: the uninviting of Valentina Lisitsa had a profoundly moving corollary, in that a scaled-down version of the concert in question went ahead, without a soloist, without an intermission, and with only one work on the program — Mahler’s Fifth Symphony, under the baton of a former TSO music director, Jukka-Pekka Saraste.

As a piece of programming to suit the occasion, the Mahler  could not have been better chosen. The orchestra was clearly burning to DO THEIR REAL WORK, the audience was ready to listen,  and Saraste, conducting without a score, gave us all the opportunity, for 70 minutes, to traverse the entire emotional landscape of the turbulent week. Mahler Five starts bleak as can be and ends determined to be happy. Granted, cheerfulness in a major key is seldom as convincing as emotional storm and stress in a minor mode. But as the work came to a close there was consensus in the house, from players and audience alike — dammit after a week like this we have EARNED our D Major!

If only for a moment, the music itself was the only story, front and centre, which is as it should be. “THIS is what it’s really about” I heard someone say as we all stood to applaud (and I don’t think it was me talking to myself).

Koerner by name: The 21C Festival (now in its second year at the Royal Conservatory) is to a large extent the brainchild of the same individual who sponsored the performance hall that is the jewel in the crown of the RCM. This little  festival is a building project every bit as complex and important as the building it sits in and will take as much time and attention to bring to fruition. Wende Bartley’s In With The New on page 14 suggests that so far things are on the right track.

The world’s oldest instrument II: If like me you have always thought of barbershop singing or a cappella in general, as somehow inferior to “real” choral singing, then do yourself a favour and read the first half of Ben Stein’s column (page 22). And then carry on and read the rest of it! Soccer, by virtue of its lack of dependency on pads and gear and other equipment, has earned the title “the beautiful game.” Perhaps unaccompanied singing stands poised to do the same.

 We Are All Music’s Children: Somewhere along the line, in the next couple of issues (if it hasn’t happened already) the number of people interviewed  for MJ Buell’s column/contest in this magazine will pass the 100 mark; each of them has answered the same simple set of questions. No two sets of answers have been the same.  And the reservoir of people to interview will never run dry as long as music lives. Regular readers of the column, stay tuned! Come September 25 Music’s Children will be helping us celebrate The WholeNote’s 20th anniversary, and you could be at the front of the line to join the celebration.

Listen Up! If you are not in the habit of reading the record reviews at the back of the magazine (because what’s the point of reading words about music when you can’t hear the music the words are about), then you won’t have seen the bright yellow arrow sign below. Just saying!


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Feat_-_Cooper_Gay_-_2.jpg Ann Cooper Gay was born, raised and educated in Texas. There are two photographs that she digs out on cue to prove to disbelieving Canadians that she is truly a Texas girl. The first is a shot of her adolescent self in her backyard proudly carrying a rifle. The second confirms that she was a majorette in college, baton included. How this Texan became a prime mover and shaker in the Toronto music scene is an incredible journey.

Cooper Gay, 71, recently announced that she is stepping down as executive artistic director of the Canadian Children’s Opera Company. In her life she has been a pianist, organist, flutist, opera singer, elementary school teacher, college instructor, instrumental conductor and choir director, not to mention social activist, master of languages and a talented tennis player. No one who knows her believes that Cooper Gay will actually settle into a life of quiet retirement. Somewhere she will find a place to make music.

Ancestors on Cooper Gay’s maternal side arrived in Texas by covered wagon before it was even a state. Her paternal ancestors guarded cattle trains headed for the military, which included supplying the command of George Armstrong Custer.

Feat_-_Davis_-_Davis_and_Lortie.jpg"I rather suspect you are going to be running into a bit of a ‘Sir Andrew Davis, this is your life’ ambush when you hit town this time” I say into the phone. The response is an amiable guffaw. It’s 8:05am Sunday morning, Melbourne time, for him; just after 6pm Saturday night here in Toronto for me. Davis is “waking up slowly” he says, after a performance with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, the third of three towering programs over a four-week period.

Davis is Chief Conductor at Melbourne, Conductor Laureate of the BBC Orchestra, and, for the past 15 years Music Director and Chief Conductor of Lyric Opera of Chicago (an appointment recently extended through the 2020/21 season).

He is, of course, also Conductor Laureate of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, a position he assumed after being the TSO’s Music Director from 1975 till 1988. So, add the 27 years he’s been returning every year as Conductor Laureate to the 13 he spent as Music Director, and the stage is set for the “Forty Years on the TSO Podium” possible ambush I alluded to when he returns to town mid-May for a two-week, three-program stint commencing with the Verdi Requiem May 21, 22 and 23.

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2008_-_Feat_-_Glass_-_Wu_Man.jpgThe April 14 announcement of Philip Glass from the Koerner Hall stage as the 2015 winner of the $100,000 Glenn Gould Prize was perhaps more imbued with history for one of the jurors, pipa player Wu Man, than anyone else on the stage. Granted, she was just one of a distinguished international jury of ten (including jury chair Bob Ezrin). They convened in Toronto for a 48-hour period, charged with the near-impossible task in that short time of whittling down to one winner a briefing book of 80 nominees.

Where Wu Man stood out on the jury is that in her previous brush with the Glenn Gould Foundation, she was a winner herself – not of the Glenn Gould Prize, but as 1999 Gould laureate Yo-Yo Ma’s choice for the accompanying City of Toronto protégé prize, whom the laureate himself (yes so far the laureates have all been men) chooses.

Being chosen as Ma’s 1999 protégé was immensely significant for Wu Man. “When I received the protégé prize in 1999 I can say it changed my musical life,” she told me backstage at Koerner, after the announcement, “because in 1999 I was just landed in North America from China and the prize actually inspired me to think of larger musicianship and encouraged me to explore new ways to communicate with people through music. So this year I am back but since 1999 I have been working differently in music. It’s a great honour to be back and sitting in the jury side by side with all those highly respected individuals.”

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