HalfTones - Vol 2 #4 - December 12, 2014

Music for the New Year

dancingWelcome Vol 2, No 4 of HalfTones -- our update on extra December musical news, and the last issue before we hit 2015! While for some concert presenters, the onset of the New Year is a welcome break and mid-way point in their busy 2014/15 seasons, there are some brave performers who are taking up the challenge of bringing the city some New Year’s musical cheer.

As usual, Attila Glatz Concert Productions is the big New Year’s presenter this year, with concerts at Roy Thomson Hall both on New Year’s Eve and January 1. They’ve been at this since 1995, and this year’s shows represent their 20th round of New Year’s celebrations. Their big production, beginning at 2:30pm on January 1, is a “Salute to Vienna” gala concert that includes everything from operetta excerpts to Strauss waltzes to polkas. Billed as “North America’s Finest New Year’s Concert,” this show promises a New Year’s Day to remember. The day before this New Year’s Day extravaganza, Attila Glatz also presents “Bravissimo! Opera’s Greatest Hits” on December 31, featuring a star-studded cast and excerpts from works by Puccini, Verdi Rossini, Offenbach and others; all this, and out by 10pm so as to still be able to party the New Year in! For details on both concerts, visit glatzconcerts.com.

The Musicians in Ordinary are also working hard over New Year’s, ringing in 2015 in true Baroque style. Their New Year’s Day matinée concert features works by Scarlatti, Corelli, Vivaldi, Pez and others at Heliconian Hall, and promises to be a beautiful show. And if trekking through town on the first day of the new year doesn’t appeal to you, the group reprises their concert on January 2 at 8pm. All the details are in our listings and at musiciansinordinary.ca.

Finally, if you’re on the hunt for a New Year’s party of a jazzier nature, there are a number of upcoming shows that will be of interest. The Home Smith Bar, Palais Royale and the Toronto Don Valley Hotel are all host this year to shows featuring some excellent musicians (and great food). The Home Smith Bar’s New Year’s Eve Jazz Party features Alex Pangman and her Alleycats; the Toronto All-Star Big Band hosts the gala evening at the Toronto Don Valley Hotel; and Palais Royale presents Aura Rully, world-renowned jazz vocalist and Duke Ellington’s own protégée. A ticket to any of these shows includes dinner and dessert, as well as, of course, some champagne to ring in what we hope will be an excellent year ahead.

Vocal Smorgasbord

Shout-outs to some of Southern Ontario’s innovative choral and vocal programming in the coming days.

There are a number of vocal and choral shows coming this month, in addition to the usual carols and holiday tunes, that look like promising options for December concertgoers. The first couple of shows, two Messiah concerts coming up this weekend, may not seem at first glance like original programming but in fact represent some special variations on a holiday classic. The Cellar Singers perform the Messiah this Friday in Bracebridge and Sunday afternoon in Orillia -- the only performances of the work in Central Ontario with professional orchestra and soloists. They also just might have in their midst a Messiah record-holder in Orillia’s Sue Newman, who between performances, workshops and rehearsals has sung Handel’s classic masterpiece over 450 times. All the info at thecellarsingers.com.

Pax Christi Chorale’s Children’s Messiah also promises something a little different, especially for those who know some younger Handel fans. The show features favourite choruses and arias in a more casual setting that is free for kids and PWYC for adults. The show is 4pm this Saturday December 13 in the beautiful acopustic of Church of St. Mary Magdalene; details at paxchristichorale.org/childrens-messiah/.

For something celebratory but a little less holiday-themed, George Koller’s “International Divas” series presents its final concert in a three-part series on Dec 21 at Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre. The show features a number of female performers in an entirely acoustic setting. For this “season finale,” Koller presents vocalists Rita Chiarelli, Lara Solnicki, The Ault Sisters, Sharlene Wallace, Maryem Hassan Tollar and Hisaka. Find out more at http://internationaldivas.net/.



barley corneThe Toronto Consort presents “Yuletide Revels from the Renaissance” with their concert, “The Little Barley-Corne,” this weekend! Joining forces with superstar folk-fiddler David Greenberg, this program of holiday festivities features English ballads, French noëls, country dances and more -- celebrating both the holiday season and the re-release of the Consort’s “Little Barley-Corne” CD.

In a special contest with The WholeNote, the Toronto Consort is offering PAIRS OF FREE TICKETS to their December 14 Sunday matinee show (3:30pm) to the first 10 WholeNote readers who respond correctly to their skill-testing question! Just email editorial@thewholenote.com with your full name and answer the following question for your chance to win:

When was the Toronto Consort album The Little Barley-Corne originally released? (hint: check the Toronto Consort website, torontoconsort.org!)

First 10 correct responses receive a pair of tickets for Sunday! On your marks, get set...email!


New or corrected (*) listings in December and January include the following:

Monday December 29

8:30: Hugh's Room. A Jazzy Holiday Party to benefit St. Francis Table @ Hugh's Room. The Music of Thelonius Monk. The Westend All Star Jazz Musicians: Jane Bunnett; Adrean Farrugia; Sophia Perlman; Daniel Barnes; Larry Cramer; Chris Butcher. 2261 Dundas St. W. 416-531-6604. $20(adv); $22.50(door).

Wednesday December 31

7:30: Jazzy Events/Palais Royale. Aura & Friends: A Jazzy 2015 New Year's Eve. Dinner, dance and live entertainment. Aura Rully; and others. Palais Royale, 1601 Lake Shore Blvd. W. 1-888-222-6608 or 416-606-9402. $175. Doors open at 7pm; event runs until 3am. Black tie welcome/jacket required.

Saturday January 3

12:00 noon: Northumberland Learning Connection. Opera Brown-bag Lunch Talks: Le Nozze di Figaro. Half-hour talk and Metropolitan Opera HD broadcast. Mozart: Le Nozze di Figaro. Elizabeth Wilson, speaker. Capitol Theatre, 20 Queen Street, Port Hope. 905-885-1071. $5. Coffee and tea included.

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.


For those of you who now finally have the time to do some stress-free internet surfing, our latest “Conversation <at> The WholeNote,” with renowned pianist (and the star of this month’s magazine cover) Angela Hewitt, is up on our website! Check out this and other video interviews with local performers and music professionals on our video page at http://www.thewholenote.com/index.php/newsroom/our-videos


Our next issue of HalfTones, Vol 2 No 5, is out on January 8! The next print issue of The WholeNote, covering Feb 1 to March 7, will be published on January 29.

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

If This Were A Concert ...

If this were a concert then, right now,  I would be the gent who walks out onto the stage just when you think the show is about to start, to a smattering of applause from those of you who thought I might be the artistic director, until you realized my suit was too expensive for that.

I would have a creased, handwritten piece of paper in one hand and would sidle over to the lectern downstage right; I would tap the microphone until someone came and turned it on for me; I would introduce myself as [INSERT NAME OF IMPORTANT NONPERFORMER] in the organization; I would say say that before I can get to the prepared remarks carefully folded in the pocket of my suit jacket, there are three items of housekeeping to take care of.

One, to remind everyone that this is our COMBINED ISSUE, covering December AND January so do NOT call the office on January 2 except to leave a message after the tone wishing us a Happy New Year.

Two, to point out the revised structure AND ORDER of our listing sections as explained right here on this page (to your left);

Three, to thank the readers whose suggestions have helped us take this step forward in making the new Section C: Music Theatre listings a permanent feature of our coverage, and we welcome further input moving ahead.

If this were a concert I would then crumple up the aforementioned handwritten housekeeping notes and put them in my suit pants pocket; I would take out the carefully prepared, neatly folded, printed notes from my suit jacket pocket; I would put my glasses on, introduce myself again from my printed notes; and I would say that it is my great pleasure to welcome you to this 20th annual COMBINED DECEMBER/JANUARY issue of The WholeNote.

“Before going any further,” I would say,  “I wish to thank all those who have not only made this issue possible but have in fact enabled us to reach this memorable 20th December. But that rather than delaying the proceedings any further  I simply direct your attention to the staffers, contributors and funders in the masthead at the foot of this page, and to all the advertisers in the index of advertisers adjacent to it. Without their help, their loyalty and their love, none of this would be possible.”

I would then remember to take the microphone with me and would leave the stage to the performers, and you, dear readers, to your pleasure, after reminding you to turn off all pagers, cellphones and electronic devices.

Since  it is not a concert, however I urge you all to turn ON your cellphones, etcetera, and tweet to the world that the Dec/Jan issue is out.

If this were your concert,  on the other hand,  I would be in the audience hoping that among your resolutions for the New Year would be a couple of things relating to how you address us, the audience from the stage.

Think about this: we all have the goal of attracting new audiences, or to put it another way, audiences to whom what we do is new.  If they were guests in our house we would take it as a given that the first thing we could do to set them at ease would be to acquaint them with the rules of the house, by which I mean all the ways we do things that are particular to us rather than generally known.

If applause for example is a natural spontaneous human reflex at witnessing something spectacularly well done, or deep emotion revealed, it makes only slightly more sense to ask people to hold their applause than it does to ask them to hold back their tears. 

So if our house rule is that in fact such withholding is required, it is more and more incumbent on us to make that fact known to audiences who are new to our house.

It doesn’t cut it, in my book, to put little asterisks in a program next to sections where one wishes the audience to withhold applause and think that by so doing the job has been done, unless someone, [INSERT NAME OF IMPORTANT PERFORMER], has also called the audience’s attention, from somewhere in the vicinity of the lectern, stage right, to what the artists on stage are hoping the houserules will be. 

If I were now to practise what I have just preached, this is what I would say to you, if you were a new reader of this magazine:

 I’d say welcome, and thanks for giving us a try; I’d say if you want to get an idea of what makes us tick, flip quickly through the five listings sections of the magazine – from page 36 to page 68. Everything else around those 33 pages (over 800 individual live events) is  also in some way about those 33 pages. We exist to support the work of the people whose serious love of live music is there for you to see and hear on these days and dates.

If you are reading this in print, you should know that we do 30,000 of these, nine times a year, of which all but a couple of hundred are distributed free of charge at around 800 distribution points in Southern and Southwestern Ontario. And there is a  handy map on our website (under the “About Us” tab) which will show you where you can find us.

You should also know that the listings you have just flipped through are also free of charge, so if you feel as though the music you make belongs here, all you have to do to get the dialogue under way is to contact listings@thewholenote.com.

To all of you, regular readers and new our best wishes for a happy, hearty and hopeful year end and thank you for your kind attention! You won’t see us in print again until the end of January, so if you haven’t already, sign up for our between-issue e-letter HalfTones. (For details, see the house ad on page 18.)


Angela Hewitt’s 2020 vision

The following story is based on a videotaped conversation at The WholeNote between Angela Hewitt and David Perlman on November 12, 2014 . Click the image below to view/hear the entire conversation.

As Pamela Margles notes in her review of of Angela Hewitt’s newly released Bach: Art of the Fugue in this issue of The WholeNote (page 77 of the print edition) “it was four years ago that Hyperion released all of Canadian pianist Angela Hewitt’s recordings of Bach’s solo keyboard works as a 15-disc boxed set. It was a huge project, but it didn’t include Bach’s monumental late work, The Art of the Fugue.”

“That is when everyone started writing to me of course,” says Hewitt. “You know, why haven’t you done The Art of the Fugue.” She hadn’t even performed it before then, she says, let alone contemplated recording it. “Growing up, it wasn’t even really considered a keyboard piece, or even anything you performed much. For one thing it had long been considered something of an academic work – Bach seeing what he could do with fugues, double fugues, triple fugues, mirror fugues. And there was the fact that in the first edition it was written as an open score, one voice per stave, like a string quartet.”


Read more: Angela Hewitt’s 2020 vision

Your Survival Guide to the Season’s Messiahs

Messiah - 12When it comes to our December issue, no topic it seems has the power to set the pigeon among the cats more effectively than the perennial popularity of Handel’s Messiah. Our choral columnist Ben Stein simply states that he is going to assume that the readers of this column need no urging from him to find a Messiah performance (and then goes on to talk about an admittedly interesting array of other choral events over the holidays and beyond. Our early music columnist Dave Podgorski is slightly less categorical proffering that from his vantage point, Tafelmusik’s sing-along Messiah and Aradia’s Dublin Messiah are the only two Messiahs in Toronto he thinks you need to see. (And like Stein goes on to talk about an equally interesting array of other musical options.) Even CD reviewer Hans De Groot, after singing the praises of a new CD of Messiah from the Boston Handel and Haydn Society (liberally laced with Canadian vocal and instrumental talent, I might add) feels it necessary to add the remark that when asked to review the recording, his first thought was: Another Messiah – who needs it? (Before going on to say that in this case, he couldn’t have been more wrong.)

Our experts notwithstanding, there’s something about Herr Handel’s 24-day opus that continues to captivate, year after year. This year we have scoured the listings and come up with 32 performances by 20 organizations. Five period-instrument groups account for ten performances. Nine modern instrument organizations offer a further 14. Two organizations serve up four performances accompanied by organ. And a further four give single performances that include excerpts from the work.

Read more: Your Survival Guide to the Season’s Messiahs

The World in Christmas Music: Aaron Davis at Work

Davis 14It was a dark and snowy afternoon Wednesday, November 19, 2014. The first significant snowfall of the year blanketed the city sidewalks and the air was decidedly crisp. I subwayed to Hugh’s Room on Dundas West for the launch of Toronto diva Measha Brueggergosman’s new album Christmas (Warner Music Canada) and its 19-date Canadian tour. It was a treat to witness the New Brunswick native, so at home in concert recitals and opera, in such an intimate dinner club concert setting. Though only in her 30s, she is that rare breed today: Canadian classical music royalty. Brueggergosman is a glittering diva combining superb vocal and acting chops, a bona fide classical celebrity in a country where the two words don’t usually crop up in the same sentence.

As thrilling as it was to witness the Grammy-nominated, JUNO-winning star deftly working the music – and her fans in the room – I was primarily there to see the singer’s musical director, arranger and pianist Aaron Davis at work. But first, full disclosure: my path crossed Davis’ at York University’s Music Department back in the mid-1970s. He was deeply immersed in jazz then and I in everything but. We did however share some common ground in the study of the music of several West African, Caribbean, and South Asian cultures.

Read more: The World in Christmas Music: Aaron Davis at Work

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