Hosts of The WholeNotes 20th Anniversary Party, Sept 25, 2015, David Perlman and Mary Lou FallisAt the party after The WholeNote’s 20th anniversary concert at Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre, Friday September 25, a former Governor-General of Canada (who shall remain nameless) said to me some kind words to the effect that we were to be commended for the service we had rendered to the artistic community over the past two decades and to individuals like her who in large part get their information about what is out there musically from this publication.

My reply, if I remember correctly after two hours onstage with the inimitable Mary Lou Fallis (thank you, Mary Lou!), was that the most amazing thing is not the fact that we told the story, but the fact that the story existed to be told.

All we have done is to document one aspect of the astoundingly vibrant cultural life of the remarkable cultural fertile crescent along the Canadian shoreline of Lake Ontario. Take a quick look at the Blue Pages in the centre of this magazine and the listings in any issue of the magazine, and you will see what I mean.

Bottom line: There would be no WholeNote if there had not been an extraordinary music scene in these parts to document.

October 19: That is why we are weighing in on the topic of the federal election now under way. Because we believe the artistic life of this city and region is under threat in some very significant ways. And people who care about that should think carefully when they cast their vote.

I am not going to tell you who I think you should vote for. But I am going to tell you what I think you should vote against.

One: Vote against candidates and parties who use the word “middle class” as if they know what it means. And then go on to talk about “what middle class Canadians want” as if that were the only important thing in the election.

In a story in this issue, pianist Eve Egoyan, at some point, talks about life as “an independent artist who makes a living in bits and pieces.” Ask yourself: how many “middle class” people would describe the way they make a living in those terms? And then ask yourself how many cultural workers you know who fit that description?

Finally, ask yourself which parties’ policies are geared to the needs of the other people in our society who also “make a living in bits and pieces” but don’t have the cachet that gets artists (even starving ones) invited to dine at the tables of those who make their living in much more orderly and predictable ways.

Look to support parties with policies that support and empower the working poor, for the majority of the artists that make our society rich in ways beyond money fall into that category for a significant part of their lives, even while they bring us all joy.

Two: Vote against candidates and parties who pit cities against suburbs; and who don’t seem to understand that the only way to keep our cities truly, fully culturally alive in the ways that made this magazine possible is to enable the next generation of artists to be able to afford to live in the places where they learn and ply their trade.

Ask yourself: what will have changed irreversibly for the worse when our audiences can afford to live in a city, but the majority of the artists on its stages cannot?

Three: Vote against candidates and parties whose policies suggest they think throwing money at studying problems is actually part of the solution.

Or who base their campaigns on promises to make great new things from scratch without explaining how they will build on what is already there.

Or who say that solutions for those in the arts, whose lives are built of bits and pieces, are different than for everyone else in the same boat.

And then vote.

Twenty-year archive: Earlier in this rant I mentioned that what The WholeNote has done is to document the musical life of this thin strip of land for the past twenty years.

As part of this 20th anniversary celebration, we are pleased to announce we have digitized our first 20 years. They are available for your nostalgic pleasure at

Benjamin GrosvenorJennifer Taylor has a knack for programming. Music Toronto’s artistic producer and general manager admitted in a recent chat that while she has “a tiny reputation for piano recital debuts,  just say that I am lucky.” We met in her office in an older building high above the city’s downtown core. Glancing at the list of pianists who have made their local debuts under Taylor’s watch over the last 25 years, many of the names jump out: Pascal Rogé, Misha Dichter, Nikolai Lugansky, Markus Groh, Andreas Haefliger, Simon Trpčeski, Piotr Anderszewski, Steven Osborne, Arnaldo Cohen, Alexandre Tharaud, Till Fellner, Peter Jablonski and Benjamin Grosvenor, who returns to the stage of the Jane Mallett Theatre on October 13, a mere 19 months after his memorable debut there in 2014. Conceding that she doesn’t usually gamble on pianists as young as Grosvenor, she said: “He was the real thing.”

Grosvenor’s exceptional talent was widely revealed at 11 when he won the keyboard section of the BBC Young Musician of the Year. At 19, shortly after becoming the first British pianist since the legendary Clifford Curzon to be signed by Decca, he became the youngest soloist to perform at the First Night of the Proms. The venerable magazine Gramophone bestowed its “Young Artist of the Year” on him in 2012.

Author: Paul Ennis
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Lori FreedmanTo say it’s a month of music by Canadian composers may seem like a redundant statement for this In with the New column, as the majority of concerts I write about always feature music from our homegrown composers, improvisers and performers. However, this month is still a bit unusual, in that almost all the upcoming concerts consist of exclusively Canadian works. One composer, Linda Catlin Smith, is so lucky as to have three of her works performed all in the same weekend. Even she admits that’s a rare occurrence.

X Avant: A good example of this is the signature concert of the Music Gallery’s X Avant festival, which runs from October 15 to 18. On October 16, the MG is presenting “MG Encore” as part of the celebrations marking their 40th anniversary. In the October 2014 issue, WholeNote published an article written by Andrew Timar that spoke about some of the early history of the MG and the curatorial direction of the current artistic director David Dacks. The MG Encore concert takes a retrospective look at the gallery’s history by programming six compositions by people who have been part of that history. The entire festival, “X Avant X: MG40,” combines two concerts that provide a look back at the past and two concerts that look forward toward the sounds of the future. I spoke with Dacks about his vision for the festival.

The Encore concert was curated by Chelsea Shanoff with help from Dacks and a few members of the MG community. Using information sent to them by the Canada Council that listed all the grants they had ever received, they noted the number of pieces that had been commissioned by the MG. That list made them aware of what Dacks called “premiere culture” – the fact that so many commissioned pieces receive one performance but fail to have a second life. The Encore concert addresses that phenomenon in part and it influenced the final selection of repertoire (which was also based on a balance of musical style, era and gender).

The concert will present works by composers Ann Southam, Allison Cameron, Martin Arnold, Linda Catlin Smith, Erik Ross and Nic Gotham and will be performed by a custom-built ensemble made up of new generation players, thus giving these younger musicians an opportunity to acquaint themselves with music they may not have heard before. The concert is also a tribute to Nic Gotham with a performance of Miniatures, his final composition. These instrumental works were composed for an online installation related to Martha Baillie’s novel The Whale’s Ear, also known as The Search for Heinrich Schlögel. Postcards with excerpts of the novel were sent to friends who recorded themselves speaking the words on the card. The music was composed to accompany these extracts, and can be heard online on the In situ page at along with images of the postcards and novel extracts.

Going beyond the MG Encore concert, there are a few other retrospective events to bring your attention to, both at the MG40 festival and in the upcoming season. On the festival’s opening night – October 15 – there will be a concert featuring the current members of the CCMC, the original free music orchestra that established the MG in 1976, coupled with a performance by frequent MG visitor, clarinetist Lori Freedman, performing several new commissions, including one of her own works. Before the concert begins that evening, there will be an historic gathering of former MG artistic directors who will discuss their different approaches and the artistic direction they took while at the helm.

Forthcoming in this year’s season, Dacks is programming a retrospective of Musicworks magazine, which began as part of the MG. For that event, the OCADU Student Gallery will be turned into an installation of the Musicworks cassette archives. The season’s final concert, MG Finale, is being designed as a counterpart to the Encore event. It will be a remix concert using materials from the audio and visual archives of the MG to create an installation-like experience. Stay tuned for the date on that one.

The two other concerts of the festival present an array of music that represent current and future trends and reflect the programming interests of Dacks, who loves to create hybrid evenings of music from a variety of genres and traditions. On October 17, Tyondai Braxton, son of Anthony Braxton, will perform his complexly structured music for laptop followed by New Chance, a project by Toronto multidisciplinary artist Victoria Cheong. The evening concludes with the sounds of Pantayo, an all-women gong ensemble. The following night, October 18, the rhythms heat up with the Absolutely Free trio, electronic artists who rap and create, in Dacks’ opinion, the most interesting hip-hop music in Toronto, particularly in how they work with words.

Dacks concludes our conversation by saying that there is no better time for the Music Gallery to exist. “People are looking for complex statements of what’s going on in their lives in this city. In a beer-driven environment you just don’t get to think about these things, or present them that often.” The Music Gallery has served as a home for experimental thinking about music and sound for several generations, creating really strong memories for so many people. And with those memories come strong viewpoints of what the MG is and what it should be. “That’s OK – better that there is creative tension rather than all smooth sailing,” says Dacks. To that end, the public is invited to contribute their voices and opinions at a Town Hall gathering on the afternoon of October 17 as the MG opens it up for input as part of their strategic planning activities.

New Music Concerts. NMC opens their new season in a similar way as last year with a concert by a touring Canadian ensemble. This year it’s the Vancouver-based Turning Point Ensemble led by Owen Underhill. Beginning the tour in their hometown on October 7, the ensemble will make stops in Edmonton, Winnipeg and Montreal, arriving in Toronto the evening of October 17. Celebrating their tenth season, Turning Point is a large chamber ensemble of top-notch performers with a commitment to presenting Canadian music and the commissioning of new repertoire.

And the programming for this tour is no exception. It includes the music of one of Canada’s most internationally respected composers, Alexina Louie, with a newly commissioned work, A Curious Passerby At Fu’s Funeral, which will be premiered throughout the tour in four of the five cities. What is unique about the Toronto concert is that the entire event is comprised of music by Canadian women composers. Knowing that TPE has commissioned many works by women, New Music Concerts requested a program comprised of a selection of these pieces. When I initially saw the program list, I couldn’t help but think of my September column in which I spoke about the rising presence of women in contemporary music programming. Here is yet another example of that trend. Alongside the work by Louie, the Toronto concert presents compositions by Ana Sokolović, Jocelyn Morlock, Dorothy Chang, and Linda Catlin Smith.

Louie’s new work is structured in three movements, which she says in her program note “create a dramatic composition full of highly charged emotions and extreme ranges of heightened activity.” Part of the inspiration for this piece comes from the sounds of the sho – a multi-reed Japanese mouth organ that requires the performer to inhale and exhale through the instrument, creating clouds of sound. The sho-like chord clusters are featured in the second movement, while Asian drumming inspires the third. Overall, Louie is creating an imagined scenario between both mysterious and explosive elements.

Linda Catlin Smith’s piece Gold Leaf was originally commissioned in 2010, with a revised version just recently completed for the Turning Point Ensemble. In the piece, Smith creates a rich tapestry of sound that reminds one of a painting – some parts are thickly layered with colour, while others are thin and almost transparent, with the percussion adding a shimmering quality, like a gold leaf applied to the surface. Another TPE-commissioned work in the program is Dorothy Chang’s Three Windows, inspired by the far-western coastline of Vancouver. While in town, Chang will be interviewed by composer Paul Steenhuisen for his podcast series of in-depth conversations with composers. This series also include conversations with Morlock, Catlin Smith and Louie and is available for free download or streaming on iTunes (

Eve Egoyan and Linda Catlin Smith. If you’ve been paying close attention to the composers listed above, you’ll note that the music of Linda Catlin Smith will be performed at the MG Encore concert on October 16, and at the NMC on October 17. In addition, the weekend offers another occasion when her music will be performed – at the recital and CD launch of Thought and Desire, a new release by pianist Eve Egoyan comprised of world premiere recordings by Catlin Smith. The event will be presented at the intimate Small World Music Centre housed in Artscape’s Youngplace and will run for three nights, from October 16 to 18 where Egoyan will also perform music by John Mark Sherlock and Nick Storring. Egoyan is renowned for her intensely focused performances that bring audiences into an intimate connection with music they may not be familiar with.  This makes for a potent partnership in the interpretation of Catlin Smith’s piano works which are born out of her own intuitive connection with the instrument. As for the multiple performances of her music within one weekend, Smith says: “It will give me a chance to hear how these works are in conversation with each other and in what way there might be some kind of common thread.”

TorQAdditional October Concerts. Two notable events presented by the Canadian Opera Company this month include the world premiere of Barbara Monk Feldman’s opera Pyramus and Thisbe running October 20 to November 7, which I have written about in depth elsewhere in this issue. And as part of the COC’s Piano Virtuoso Series on October 8, a performance by John Kameel Farah of his compositions mixing a wide variety of styles and influences – early music, electronic dance, world and contemporary classical.

The TorQ Percussion Quartet presents world premieres on October 28 by Michael Oesterle and Andrew Staniland, and arrangements of works by composers Oesterle, Tim Brady and John Psathas (New Zealand). Early on in the month, on October 8 and 9, you can catch a workshop performance of Selfie, an opera composed by Chris Thornborrow presented by Tapestry Opera. Another early month event happens in Kitchener in celebration of the 30th anniversary of NUMUS on October 2 – the performance of Ghost Tango, a new chamber opera by Tim Brady with libretto by Douglas Burnet Smith. Also in the Kitchener-Waterloo area on October 17 at the Perimeter Institute, an homage to Italian minimalist painter Giorgio Morandi will take place combining improvised music with drawing gestures. The bass clarinet and percussion will recreate the voice of the Euphonopen, an instrument created for the live performance of drawing.


Two not-to-be-missed concerts in early October, already covered in the September In with the New column:

October 4: Esprit Orchestra. Compositions by Zosha Di Castri, Jörg Widmann, Omar Daniel and Thomas Adès.

October 7 and 8: Toronto Symphony Orchestra. “Barbara Hannigan Sings & Conducts” includes works by groundbreaking 20th century composers Luigi Nono and György Ligeti.

And also take note of:

October 8: Canadian Music Centre. Piano works by Canadian composers performed by Moritz Ernst.

October 10: 5 at the First’s chamber music concert includes a work by John Weinzweig (Beyond GTA).

October 15: Canadian Music Centre. Allison Angelo and Simon Docking perform and launch the CD Loves Its Light.

October 24 and 25: Aga Khan Museum. Performance of the multi-disciplinary OYAN! Project (Awakening), a work inspired by the music of internationally acclaimed Azerbaijani composer Franghiz Ali-Zadeh.

October 28: Canadian Music Centre. Ensemble Made in Canada, a rising piano quartet, performs works by John Burge.

October 30 and 31: Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony’s concert includes Steps to Ecstasy by Marjan Mozetich. 

Wendalyn Bartley is a Toronto-based composer and electro-vocal sound artist.

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This year’s summer weather has drifted gracefully on right to the end of September. While some 2,500 years ago the Greek physicist-philosopher Parmenides argued that “nature abhors a vacuum,” it also surely needs a rest. Or is September slowly becoming another August in our corner of the concert world?

Whether or not it’s because the seasons themselves are shifting and smearing established concert-going cycles, the warm September we have just experienced was oddly reminiscent of the rest of the summer music break. Several series of concerts with a world music component, and a hint of summer to them, are commencing in late September or even October. These include the Small World Music Festival, Music Gallery’s X Avant Festival, and concerts at Massey Hall, the Aga Khan Museum and the always well-attended noon-hour shows at the COC’s Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre. And Kingston, Ontario’s new jewel of a venue, the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts, launches the premiere concert of its Global Salon Series this month. Welcome aboard!

Ukrainian BanduristUkrainian Bandurist Chorus: Before I touch on a few of those concerts however, and departing from my usual chronological presentation, I would like to explore the fascinating story of the Ukrainian Bandurist Chorus. On October 24 it is presenting “Celebrating the Bandura: Past, Present and Future” at Massey Hall with Ruslana, its Ukrainian guest star. The UBC is an American-Canadian group with a history spanning two continents, but it also has a strong local membership.

Ukrainian Canadians are a significant presence in this country. They are the ninth-largest ethnic group, representing the world’s third-largest Ukrainian population after that of Ukraine and Russia. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Ukraine became an independent state in 1991. Canada swiftly recognized it, the first country to do so. Strong bilateral ties, as many readers will know,  have characterized the relationship ever since. Fewer, however, may realize that the first of these cultural links was forged generations ago.

The Detroit-based Ukrainian Bandurist Chorus’ website states that the “first professional bandurist chorus was formed in Kyiv in 1918 during the height of the country’s brief period of independence.” It was during the subsequent 1920s, a transformative period of Ukrainian national awakening, that language, culture, and specifically the UBC, “developed into a professional touring troupe,” among the most prominent of its kind.

By the next decade, however, the UBC narrative quickly turns very dark. Under Soviet leader “Joseph Stalin’s rule, artists and intellectuals were arrested, exiled or executed in an attempt to eradicate every remnant of Ukrainian culture,” states the website. “Many conductors, chorus members and blind bandurist-minstrels were accused of enticing the populace to nationalism and were executed ... their songs banned throughout the Soviet Union.”

But perhaps I’ve gotten ahead of myself here. What is a bandura, and how does its Ukrainian history tie into the group that will perform in October at Massey Hall? Ray (Roman) Beley and Orest Sklierenko, both veteran Toronto members of the UBC, helped me understand a few key notions. We spoke via a conference call on September 14.

The bandura, a kind of large-bellied lute with features of a zither, is a “multi-string plucked instrument, the voice and soul of Ukraine,” noted Beley. From all I’ve heard and read, the bandura is much more than a mere musical instrument; it symbolically embodies Ukrainian national identity, its songs reflecting the turbulent history of the Ukrainian people.

Pre-20th-century folk banduras usually had fewer than two dozen strings in diatonic tunings. Typically handmade by the musicians, no two banduras were exactly the same. The oral tradition bandurist (a.k.a. kobzar) was a troubadour who sang a wide-ranging repertoire of para-liturgical chants (kanty), psalms, social dances and epics (dumy) accompanying himself on the bandura. On the other hand the more recent Kyiv or Kharkiv style bandura, played in ensembles today, is a grander affair. It possesses 65 or more strings, some with levers enabling the bandurist to change keys during the performance. (There’s a strong GTA connection here too. I was intrigued to learn that among the leading contemporary bandura designers and makers is the Oshawa native Bill Vetzal.)

Beley picks up the story. “After years of exploitation and persecution under Soviet and Nazi regimes, in 1949 some 17 members of the all-male Ukrainian Bandurist Chorus immigrated to the United States.” Many established a home base in Detroit and Cleveland, where they continued to perform the UBC repertoire of four-part songs – tenor I, tenor II, baritone, bass – accompanied by banduras in several ranges.

“In North America, the UBC carried the torch for songs with lyrics that were banned under Soviet rule,” continued Sklierenko. “We carried on Ukrainian historical and religious traditions free of the censorship that made it impossible in the homeland at the time.” An active member of UBC since 1990 when he was just 13, Sklierenko pointed out that Canadians of Ukrainian descent have played key and very early roles in the group, “perhaps ever since the Chorus’ first Toronto performance on October 22, 1949.”

The UBC “has performed in Massey Hall several times since the 1950s,” added Sklierenko, so the upcoming 97th anniversary concert on October 24 is somewhat of a homecoming – with a special twist. Joining the Chorus on stage will be Ruslana, the 2004 Eurovision Song Contest and World Music Awards winner, an artist who can boast the best selling Ukrainian album ever, the 2003 Dyki Tantsi (Wild Dances). This remarkable singer, songwriter, producer, musical conductor and dancer also served as a deputy in the Ukrainian parliament and is an internationally recognized social activist. In 2013 and 2014 she played a prominent role in the pro-EU Euromaidan movement. Beley, a current bass bandura player with UBC, told me that Ruslana “will perform her pop hits at Massey Hall before joining forces with us in Ukrainian songs in our repertoire.”

In previous columns I’ve written about several other Toronto ensembles with proud Ukrainian roots. The activist community-minded women’s Kosa Kolektiv, and the self-proclaimed “Balkan-klezmer-gypsy-party-punk-super-band” Lemon Bucket Orkestra, presently winding up its international tour, come readily to mind. Sklierenko knows them well. “Playing a core role in community building and also on an official international level, the UBC represents the Ukrainian diaspora in Canada and in the U.S.A. In addition we are eager to reach out to both bandurist and non-bandurist groups like Kosa and Lemon Bucket. I see great potential for synergy here.”

I asked why the bandurist choruses are all male. Were they consciously modelling themselves on the practices of the earlier, exclusively male, kobzar troubadours? “Interest among Ukrainian women in taking part in the bandurist tradition has been steadily building,” noted Sklierenko. “In fact there’s an all-women’s North American bandurist chorus being formed right now.”

As co-chair of the UBC’s 2018 centennial anniversary celebrations, Sklierenko laid out the group’s ambitious three-part plan to reconnect with the homeland and to ensure the continuation of the bandurist legacy. These include “a Ukrainian tour, a fund to fuel R&D and to pass on the craft of bandura building, and an educational component including workshops.” The latter category also includes support for UBC’s summer camps in Pennsylvania, since 1979 the central site for passing on bandurist traditions and recruiting new talent. Partly reflecting the success of the camps, today the majority of UBC members are second and third generation Americans and Canadians, all of them volunteering their time to further the mission of the ensemble.

The evidence of the UBC’s plans, and of the passion and commitment to pursue them, all points to the bandurist performance legacy, sparked nearly a century ago in Ukraine, surviving well-rooted in the diaspora. The legacy also appears well-positioned to be passed on to future generations of performers in both North Americans as well as in its threatened land of origin.

Small World Music Festival: The 14th annual iteration of Small World’s signature fall Music Festival runs until October 4 this year. Its ambition is no less than to “capture the world in a ten-day festival.” This year it brings international and Canadian performers representing music from Mali, Korea, Cuba, Ethiopia, Palestine, Spain and Estonia to Toronto stages.

October 1 at Revival Bar, Vieux Farka Touré and his band makes a return Toronto visit presented in association with Batuki Music Society. Touré is best known for his virtuoso guitar style blending African guitar techniques with Western blues and rock, and an easygoing onstage charm. There’s a family touring connection to this town. I well recall seeing his Malian father Ali Farka Touré lay down seamless guitar grooves and plangent vocals accompanied by a lone gourd drummer one summer in a small open room at the Harbourfront Centre.

October 2 the emerging Estonian singer and violinist Maarja Nuut appears at the Small World Music Centre. She repurposes old Estonian village songs, dance tunes and stories, often to live looped fiddle accompaniment and solo improv melodies. Nuut’s music cumulatively builds with a minimalist texture, one which can support emotional intensity, yet never losing sight of what the composer calls a peaceful, yet “lively relaxed state which … makes you want to prolong being in the moment and concentrate.”

Krar CollectiveOctober 4 the Krar Collective will rock Lula Lounge, the trio armed with a krar (six-stringed bowl-shaped Ethiopian lyre), kebero (drums) and impressive vocals. Judging from their videos, they’re purveyors of sold grooves, expressive melismatic melodies and a huge sound. Bandleader Temesgen Zeleke uses an octave pedal as well as wah-wah on his electric krar but also plays an acoustic five-string model that is quieter and plucked rather than strummed, to support his eloquent vocals. The Krar Collective is a musically compelling, neo-traditional band taking traditional instruments, songs and genres, combining them into a new mode of delivery for their audiences. NB: for full enjoyment, come ready to dance.

End of an era, and passing it on: On October 1, the York University Department of Music presents “Faculty Concert Series: Rhythms of India” featuring Trichy Sankaran with the Autorickshaw Trio at the Tribute Communities Recital Hall. After 44 years of service at York, where he has taught generations of students, me included, Professor Sankaran has recently retired – from teaching at York, not from performing or teaching elsewhere. This concert is his parting gift to the institution he served so long. He will share the stage with the next generation, including his daughter, vocalist Suba Sankaran, co-leader of the JUNO-nominated Indo-jazz-funk fusion ensemble Autorickshaw and her bandmates, bass guitarist Dylan Bell and tabla player Ed Hanley, Sankaran students all. The musicians will perform solo and ensemble works by the master percussionist and composer. I invite all whose life has been touched by this outstanding musician – and there have been many from around the world – to attend this once-in-a-lifetime celebration. 

Andrew Timar is a Toronto musician and music writer. He can be contacted at

Clarington Concert BandNow that fall is here, information is starting to come in about the seasonal offerings of several community bands, some of them quite enticing and unusual, such as the concert offered by Clarington Concert Band on October 2 at 7:30.

The concert in question is Clarington’s annual evening of classical music, this year featuring works by Felix Mendelssohn.
It isn’t often that concert bands have string instrumentalists appearing as guests, but the Clarington Band does so quite regularly. For the third time the sanctuary of the Rehoboth Christian Reformed Church in Bowmanville, noted for its well-designed seating and exceptional acoustics, will be the scene of this year’s concert. Featured will be American violinist Andrew Sords and Canadian collaborative pianist Cheryl Duvall. This duo will, on this occasion, be joined by the exciting young American virtuoso cellist Sawyer Thomson. Another unusual note: it isn’t often that bands or orchestras give feature billing to an instrument. However, they are doing so this year, noting that Mr. Thomson will be performing on a rare Italian cello crafted by Giovanni Grancino in 1690. For more information, visit the band’s website at

Fanfarones: Every once in a while we get invitations to concerts and are unable to attend. That was the case recently when we learned of a concert (September 18 at the 918 Bathurst Centre)by a group we had not heard of before. Fanfarones is a double wind quintet who advertize their programs as “quirky, elegant music.” With a double wind quintet it is possible to have such combinations as oboe and English horn, piccolo and flute or clarinet and bass clarinet playing at the same time to broaden the range of colours. Having not heard the term fanfarones before, it was time to learn its meaning. According to the Oxford Italian dictionary the word “fanfarones” is a term from Tuscany meaning braggarts or loud mouths. One would assume that they are proud and willing to show it. The major work on their program was Rocky Mountain Suite by Toronto composer and arranger Peter Coulman.

Cobourg: Last year and the year before, we had the pleasure of joining up with the Cobourg Concert Band on their annual visit to Plattsburgh, New York, and their participation in the ceremonies commemorating the final battle of the War of 1812. Last year’s Bandstand column (October 2014) lamented that it had “rained on our parade.” This year we stayed home, and we have just been informed  that the weather was absolutely perfect. Is there a hidden message in that news?

North Durham: Although we rarely here from them, we have just heard from The North Durham Concert Band. They have started another season with rehearsals in Port Perry and have the welcome mat out for new members. They rehearse 7pm to 9pm every Wednesday, September to May. For information go to

CBA: In recent years the Canadian Band Association’s  Ontario Chapter has sponsored the CBA Community Band Weekend. The next such weekend will take place October 16 to 18. The host band this year will be the Mississauga Pops Concert Band. For information go to or

Markham Concert Band: As part of the Markham Theatre’s 30th Anniversary Gala on Sunday, October 18, the Markham Concert Band will perform not one but two concerts at 2pm and 7 pm. For information go to Included in the program will be Haydn Wood’s Mannin Veen, a rarely heard classic of the concert band repertoire. Wood was an accomplished violinist and a prolific composer of a wide range of musical styles including some 180 songs. One of these was Roses of Picardy which he wrote for his wife, soprano Dorothy Court. Wood was born in a small English town and at age 3 his family moved to the Isle of Man. The tone poem Mannin Veen (Manx for Dear Isle of Man) is based on four Manx folk melodies. It is one of only two of his works which were written specifically for wind band. 

The early part of the twentieth century saw the evolution of the concert band into such groups as those of John Philip Sousa, Edwin Franko Goldman and Guiseppe Creatore which toured the world. With the advent of radio and television such major professional bands largely disappeared. Fortunately there are in many countries true “world class” military concert bands. The bands of the Royal Marines, the US Marines, the Garde Républicaine, the Belgian Guides, the Carabinieri da Roma and many others are in that category. Unfortunately few composers of note have turned their talents towards the writing of serious works for such instrumentation.

In Search of Repertoire: Although great bands existed in the early part of the twentieth century, few composers considered writing music for such instrumentation. When bands wanted to perform concert overtures, suites and such larger works they had to turn to transcriptions of orchestral music. This frequently resulted in the need to compromise because of the problems arising for wind instruments having to play music intended for string instruments. In the early 1920s, lamenting the dearth of such music for bands, the Royal Military School of Music at Kneller Hall commissioned composer Gustav Holst to compose some music to fill the void. The Holst Suites in E-Flat and F were the result of that collaboration. Add to that a few works such as the Vaughan Williams Folk Song Suite and you have almost exhausted the repertoire.

In a recent personal search I decided to try to find some information on an excellent work that I knew of in this category but had not heard in years. I first heard composer Carl Friedemann’s Slavonic Rhapsody years ago on a double-sided 78 rpm recording. On this old record was a stunning performance of this work by the Massed Bands of the Aldershot and Eastern Commands of the British Army. All I could find was a performance on YouTube. If you hear of a work and would like to assess its suitability for your band, it’s now possible to get a good idea with a little Internet search. But be warned! The results will range anywhere from excellent to painful.

Royal Marine Bands: Earlier, I mentioned Royal Marine Bands as being top-notch. I have heard that a band of the Royal Marines will be coming to Toronto late this fall. Having served in the Navy aboard a British ship which just happened to be an admiral’s flagship, I regularly was treated to music of the Marine Band which we had on board. Some time later, back in Canada, I had the pleasure of operating the sound system for the Band of the Royal Marines Plymouth Division at the CNE Bandshell for two performances a day for two weeks. It’s safe to say that I happen to have a special affinity for Royal Marine bands and their music. So far there are no details, but I believe that this band may be performing in Roy Thomson Hall.

Setting the Bar Too High? Over the years I have often played with groups which have held their rehearsals in the music rooms of schools. In such cases it is not uncommon to read the notice boards to see what is being passed on to the future musicians of our country. These frequently have the rating systems by which the students are ranked. I have been accustomed to seeing bronze, silver and gold. In recent years some have added the category of platinum to indicate a level superior to gold. This summer I saw the latest extended ranking system. That school had band achievement awards: bronze, silver, gold, platinum, titanium and unobtainium.

What’s In a Name? In recent times it is increasingly common to hear of wind groups being called a variety of terms including “choir.” How did this come about? Having consulted The Oxford Companion to Music, the Oxford Dictionary and Webster’s Dictionary, I could not find any reference to any instrumental music. They all refer only to human voices. Wikipedia does refer to choirs of instruments, but only as a subset of a larger group. As an example they refer to “the woodwind choir of an orchestra.” If any readers have information on this trend please let us know. In a recent conversation with Michele Jacot, conductor of the Wychwood Clarinet Choir, she had no answer. In fact she expressed the possibility of a name change because she was getting questions as to the kind of ensemble she directs.

Bandstand_-_WholeNote_Cake.pngMusical jokes. A few days ago on September 25 at Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre this magazine held an amazing concert/reception to celebrate 20 completed years of The WholeNote. During the evening’s program Sophia Perlman talked about how the song she had written and was about to sing was a musical joke (as in making a sly reference to a previously composed piece of music). It put me in mind of that other kind of musical joke, namely the groaner, for which, as regular readers of this column can attest, I have a fondness. So here’s one:

A boy is about to start music lessons at school. His mother goes with him to meet with the music teacher. She insists that the boy must start his music training on the tuba. When the teacher asks why she is so insistent about the tuba, she says: “ I know he can be led astray and I don’t want him to get into any treble.”

Keep them coming: Whether it be musical jokes, daffynitions, or just interesting news about your band’s upcoming events and activities, keep them coming! We are always interested to hear from you. 

Jack MacQuarrie plays several brass instruments and has performed in many community ensembles. He can be contacted at

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