Vicarious Guča

bbb - world viewIt’s a warm sunny weekend day in late August and here I am sequestered in my office. I’m imagining perverse things like concerts in chilly October, when I’d rather be gone fishing, metaphorically speaking that is. The lyrics of a famous 20th-century standard come to mind reminding me that it’s supposed to be the season when “the livin’ is easy.” Except it’s been a busy, busy working summer around here. But enough of my moaning. This morning I rose thinking of singing and world music festivals soon to come.

Ashkenaz: By the time you read this the always fabulous biennial Ashkenaz Festival, billed as “North America’s largest festival of global Jewish music and culture,” will be wrapping up at the Harbourfront Centre, along with almost all of the hot, long days. (We can but hope for a handful more.) This is Ashkenaz’s tenth celebration, with over 200 artists from more than 12 countries participating in dozens of events from August 29 to September 1. As usual tradition (i.e. “Havdallah”) rubs elbows with musical cross-cultural fusion (i.e. “Aaron Kula – Black Sabbath: Blues & Jews,” and “David Buchbinder’s Odessa/Havana”), along with the downright friendly-weird (i.e. “Deep-Fried Gypsy Cumbia”). You can’t say the festival doesn’t have a sense of humour.

Small World Music: The fall season starts properly with the Small World Music Festival, this year running from September 25 to October 5. The series sets out to “capture the world in a ten-day festival,” bringing the music of India, Germany, Trinidad, Serbia, Iran and Pakistan to Toronto venues.

Instead of my usual practice of chronologically going down the listings and issuing “picks” from on high, in this column I’m changing it up and sharing a more in-depth commentary on one of the concerts. I think it’s in keeping with “the livin’ is easy” attitude, don’t you?

September 26 Small World Music Festival in association with AE presents the Boban & Marko Markovic Orkestar at the Phoenix Concert Theatre. Superlatives from The New York Times and the Boston Herald precede the Orkestar’s appearance. Rather than repeating those, I propose a little vicarious field trip to Eastern Europe,  to an unlikely, remarkable festival that launched the rkestar’s success, taking this multigenerational Romani band from Serbian village weddings to large urban concert halls around the world. Consider this a page in your pocket guidebook.

What takes place in the central Serbian village of Guča is undeniably a global musical phenomenon. Since 1961 this tiny sleepy village is transformed each year into the raucous hub of the closely contested and widely popular annual Guča Trumpet Festival. It’s also the world’s largest trumpet competition – and for thousands, licence to show off, get rowdy and imbibe large quantities of their beverage of choice. A remarkable 300,000 to more than 500,000 people have swelled the village site each year, most to hear top Serbian and Balkan-style brass bands play in highly contested competitions. Some have claimed it’s the largest music event anywhere. During the festival, bands from Serbia and all over the world play on the competition stage and also wander, performing in the village’s streets night and day. This wild scene is illustrated in the 2013 U.S. feature documentary Brasslands.

The Boban Markovic Orkestar has long been among Guča’s leading contenders. It took the Best Orchestra award in 2000, as well as the coveted Best Trumpet prize for its maestro no fewer than five times. As for Boban, dubbed the “king of Balkan Brass music,” ever the gracious winner, he has retired from the competition and set his sights further afield. In the last decade he has aimed to reach international audiences through his contributions to movies, as well as by taking his funky and frenetic arrangements of dance-worthy brass music – sometimes described as “Balkan and/or Gypsy roots music” – on tour to global stages.

Following Serbian Romani tradition, in 2006 Boban Markovic formally handed over his orchestra to his son and successor, Marko, on his 18th birthday. Global Rhythm magazine opined, “With nods to klezmer, jazz, Latin and deep-fried funk injected into the mix, the … Orkestar knows where their music’s been but they’re hell-bent on slinging it straight into the future.” This multigenerational musical powerhouse has harnessed brass virtuosity, macho lyrics, lightning tempi, pop kit drumming, Romani vocals and the occasional rap, all delivered with infectious energy. The Orkestar then morphed it all into a populist style that has allowed it to segue from Serbian village celebrations to the floors of trendy Central European dance clubs.

You can join me on the evening of September 26 at the Phoenix. I’ll be the guy at the back soaking up the Orkestar’s vibrations, with a small glass of šljivovica if they stock it, toasting the end of summer.

Andrew Timar is a Toronto musician and music writer. He can be contacted at worldmusic@thewholenote.com.

 


Conversations with Vivaldi

 

“You know, my piece doesn’t erase the Vivaldi original. It’s a conversation from a viewpoint. I think this is just one way to engage with it.” – Max Richter

bbb - classicalThe opening notes seem to emanate from otherworldly ether, tentatively falling into the familiar notes that begin The Four Seasons, but there’s something quite different that’s engaging us. In a November 2012 interview with NPR’s Audie Cornish, German-born, British composer Max Richter elaborated on the opening bars of his recomposition: “I took the opening motif, which I always thought was a dazzling moment in the Vivaldi, but in the original it’s only four bars. I thought, ‘Well, why don’t I just treat this like a loop, like something you might hear in dance music, and just loop it and intensify it, and cut and paste – jump-cut around in that texture, but keep that groove going.’”

The essence of the music that was once the most recorded piece in the classical music catalogue is there but it’s got a contemporary feel, definitely not staid, bursting with energy, but not the heightened propulsion of Il Giardino Armonico, for example. In fact the clarity of violinist Daniel Hope’s crystalline playing is inviting.

The synth effects are so subtle they’re barely discernible but their presence is palpably modern, sleek and beguiling. The combination of the bones of Vivaldi’s original and the cloak Richter has wrapped it in make for a 21st-century experience that is pleasingly addictive, the kind of piece you put on repeat and listen to over and over and over. It never feels like it’s too much, its novelty easily trumped by its freshness, its mysteries slowly revealing themselves after five, six hearings.

Less than two weeks before he was to perform Richter’s Four Seasons Recomposed at the Ravinia Festival in Chicago, the acclaimed British violinist Daniel Hope participated in a live YouTube chat on June 10, 2013. (In addition to a versatile solo career, Hope was a member of the distinguished Beaux Arts Trio from 2002-2008.) Now more than a year later, in anticipation of the September 30 Toronto premiere of the Richter work, I’m watching the genuinely engaging Hope patiently answer questions.

bbb - classical2“The fact that Max Richter was willing to recompose The Four Seasons was incredibly brave and I think he’s done a fantastic job,” he begins. “I was contacted by [him] about one to one and a half years ago and told about wanting to recompose The Four Seasons,” he continues. “The first thing I said was ‘What’s wrong with the original?’ He laughed and said nothing’s wrong with the original, it’s perfect, it’s a fantastic piece but I feel that in a sense I’ve fallen out of love with it. I’ve been bombarded with it. Every time I go into an elevator or a shopping centre I hear The Four Seasons piped at me. [Max] wanted to rediscover it and by recomposing it he was rediscovering it. He asked me if I would like to take a look at it and I thought that [it] was a really interesting way of revisiting a masterpiece ... As soon as I saw the early sketches for his piece I was absolutely knocked out. I thought this was something really amazing and I wanted to be part of it.”

Hope details his contribution to the process: “I made a number of suggestions. [Richter was very open to suggestions] with regards to the tempos and some of the passagework. It was so well written it didn’t need many changes but it did need to be adapted here and there to make it more violinistic. In the recording session we created it in the moment so a lot happened with sound effects and various colours.”

Asked if he has a “favourite” movement in the piece he hedges: “My favourite season is ‘Summer.’ The Recomposed is a different piece. It has all of the great themes of Vivaldi. It has the inspiration of Vivaldi but it also has its own music. The last movement of Max Richter’s ‘Summer’ is absolutely amazing. But also the last movement of ‘Winter’ is mindblowing.”

When asked if it’s difficult not to get mixed up with the original when playing the recomposed version, Hope – who has already divulged that he’s been playing the original since he was a boy (“It’s still so modern after 350 years”) – talks about the very subtle changes in the passagework, eight notes to seven, for example. He adds that every time they play Recomposed it changes and evolves.

Elsewhere in that 2013 YouTube chat, Hope reveals that when he was four he announced to his parents that he wanted to be a violinist. That got me curious about his musical education. I found a partial answer in a different (ClassicFM) YouTube video where he talked about his crucial relationship with Yehudi Menuhin, whom he knew from an early age: “Menuhin was very, very outward-looking. He’s somebody I think about almost every day – a huge inspiration to me and to many musicians and somebody who really believed in opening your ears to any kind of music. You know his legendary collaborations with Ravi Shankar or Stephane Grappelli are things that I witnessed as a small boy (Hope was born in 1973). I was lucky enough to grow up in that environment. It taught me from an early age that you can find connections in different musical worlds if you take it seriously and you spend the time.”

It has been two years since I discovered Richter’s recomposition on a listening post at Grigorian’s when it drew me in with its compulsive originality coupled with its uncanny resemblance to Vivaldi. Happily, Soundstreams is now making it possible to hear this innovative work live with Daniel Hope as the soloist, in their season-opening concert, September 30.

It’s Still Festive: Summer’s not over until the fall equinox and the Prince Edward County Music Festival (PECMF) in Picton and the SweetWater Music Festival in Owen Sound are taking full advantage of those last seasonal days to launch their 11th editions.

The “superlative acoustics” of St. Mary Magdalene Church play home to several content-rich PECMF concerts. Augmenting the opening concerts, artistic director pianist Stéphane Lemelin joins the Penderecki String Quartet to perform Taneyev’s romantic Quintet for piano and strings in g minor Op.30 on September 19, then accompanies cellist Denise Djokic in Rachmaninoff’s Sonata for cello and piano in g minor Op.19 the following day. September 21 brings André Laplante’s deep musical sensibility to bear on a trio of Liszt piano masterworks. Highlights of the rest of the festival include the young Canadian musicians Nikki Chooi, violin, and Philip Chiu, piano, in a September 25 recital that ranges from Bach to Prokofiev, and Ensemble Made In Canada in piano quartets by Dvořák and Fauré September 26.

St. Lawrence String Quartet violinist Mark Fewer, the artistic director of the SweetWater festival, brings his chamber music versatility to bear in a concert September 19 in the historic Leith church with its ideal acoustics. Vivaldi, von Biber, Schmelzer and Bach supply the music that the celebrated baroque violinist Elizabeth Wallfisch, Lucas Harris (theorbo), Hank Knox (harpsichord) and Fewer will perform.

The next day Fewer joins his St. Lawrence colleagues and soprano Meredith Hall, flutist Leslie Newman, double bassist Joseph Phillips and pianist Kati Gleiser for a program of Haydn and Beethoven. A few days later Fewer and the other members of the St. Lawrence String Quartet, along with Wallfisch, Newman and Phillips, are joined by Brad Turner (trumpet), Drew Jurecka (violin) and David Braid (piano) for a concert showcasing Bach and Braid.

bbb - classical3U of T Faculty of Music: Before travelling to Owen Sound, Fewer, violinist Geoff Nuttall, violist Leslie Robertson and cellist Christopher Costanza (aka the St. Lawrence String Quartet) bring their infectious energy to the opening concert of the U of T Faculty of Music season September 16, which includes Golijov’s tuneful Kohelet and Verdi’s sublime String Quartet. Two weeks later, the Faculty celebrates accordion virtuoso Joe Macerollo’s 70th birthday and his appointment as Officer of the Order of Canada with an accordion extravaganza featuring current and former students and guest artists, and including compositions from Macerollo’s past plus a new commission by Anna Höstman.

Macerollo’s infectious musical spirit was most recently on display July 28 at Church of the Holy Trinity in a Music Mondays re-imagining of the songs of Kate Bush, Prince and Radiohead with soprano Zorana Sadiq where the performers “boiled the songs down to their deep, dark essence – from the Bulgarian sweep of Bush’s pop-scenas to the sweet synth build of Prince’s perfect pop.” Macerollo’s recent CD, Persuasion – The Contemporary Accordion, showed his commitment to contemporary composers Walter Buczynski, Charles Camilleri, Alexina Louie, Torbjorn Lundquist, Norman Symonds and Beverley Johnston. August 30 Macerollo hosted the always interesting CBC Radio 2 program This Is My Music. If you’re quick you can still hear it streamed on the Internet.

Flute Street at Church of the Holy Trinity: Internationally acclaimed piccolo virtuoso Jean-Louis Beaumadier and pianist Jordi Torrent will perform music by Damase, Reichert, Feld, Novak and Gyöngyösi September 26. The legendary Jean-Pierre Rampal wrote about Beaumadier: “Endowed with marvellous technique, he stands out, thanks to his winning personality and his developed artistry. It is a joy to hear him in turn dream and turn pirouettes; he is the Paganini of the piccolo.”

TSO Returns: Back from their successful European tour, the TSO begins the new season September 18 with a trio of romantic orchestral showpieces with the charismatic violinist Joshua Bell as soloist in Lalo’s Symphonie espagnole. September 20 and 21 sees concertmaster Jonathan Crow take the spotlight in Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade, the first public performance of the piece since its August CD release that marked the TSO’s new recording contract with Chandos Records. The live performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony is incentive enough to hear this iconic work but on September 23 to 25 the TSO is making it even more essential by including Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini with piano soloist Daniil Trifonov. No less than the great Martha Argerich said of the young Russian’s touch: “I never heard anything like that – he has tenderness and also the demonic element.”

Two Innovative Presenters: Two of the most creative Toronto series reinforce their programming reputations with the opening concerts in their 2014/15 seasons. September 28, the Jupiter Symphony Chamber Players bring their enthusiasm to a Mooredale Concerts program that includes Beethoven’s invigorating Septet, Dohnányi’s lyrical Serenade in C Major for String Trio and Mozart’s mysterious Clarinet Quartet in B Flat Major after K378.

And I’m particularly looking forward to the Toronto debut of the highly touted France-based Trio Wanderer (after Schubert). Their October 2 Women’s Musical Club of Toronto program includes piano trios by Fauré, Liszt and Tchaikovsky.

Paul Ennis is managing editor of The WholeNote.

 

Off To Early Starts

 

bbb - early musicWhile summer is not over, it’s time to start thinking more about getting back to the office and less about fishing on the lake. I’m happy to say that anyone returning to or remaining in town for the month of September will be amply rewarded musically.  Judging from the sheer number of performances between now and October, I think it’s safe to say that Toronto musicians are excited to get back to work and begin a new concert season.

One Toronto-based group eager to make an early start this year is Harmonie, a string-based baroque group that includes harpsichordist Janet Scott, violinists Sheila Smyth and Valerie Sylvester and viol player Philip Serna. Their first concert this season features a very unusual program, comprised solely of Dutch music from the 17th and 18th centuries; it’s extremely unlikely that anyone who attends will have heard any of this music before.

“It’s a really unknown area of music that’s different, exciting and quirky,” explains Sylvester when I ask her what inspired the group to program an entire concert of Dutch music. “The Dutch composers of the 17th century wrote unusual and beautiful music, and you won’t hear music like this anywhere else.” Why Dutch baroque music has been deemed unworthy of performance in the past is also something of a mystery – the country had a virtual monopoly on composers in the renaissance, and as the vast number of paintings from the period indicates, the 17th century was the Netherlands’ golden age. Seventeenth-century Holland saw levels of wealth and culture unmatched in the country’s history. International trade flourished, and the Dutch had money to spend on culture, be it in the form of tulip gardens, art collections or public architecture. So why not music? Sylvester speculates it had to do with Dutch politics and religion in the period. “Holland in the 17th century was newly Calvinist, so there was less church music than in previous centuries,” she explains. “It was also a republic, so there was no king to play for and no court to play at.”

A republic of rich Calvinist merchants meant no grand patrons in either church or palace shelling out for spectacular, expensive orchestras and operas – Holland doesn’t have a St. Mark’s or a Versailles to this day – but that also meant that chamber music, played by small groups of professionals or amateurs, could flourish. For Sylvester, it’s what makes Dutch music so interesting. Composers could experiment, writing quirky music to fit their fancy without worrying about displeasing a despotic boss. And Dutch chamber music from the period, Sylvester argues, is written out of a simple love of musical creativity. Composers like Hacquard and Schenck might not be household names today, but their music, more so than their contemporaries, was written in a spirit of intelligence and fun. Check out this concert September 27 at 8pm at St. David’s Anglican Church. The same program will performed September 28 at 8pm at the KWCMS music room, Waterloo.

bbb - early music2Off to the fair: If you’re looking to discover more musical groups in Toronto, or if you’re curious about early music in general, make a point of going to this year’s Toronto Early Music Fair. It’s actually been around for 30 years! An afternoon devoted to the early music scene in Toronto, it’s a great opportunity for anyone curious to get very familiar with early music very fast. This year, the Toronto Early Music Centre (TEMC) will present several mini-concerts by Toronto-based artists, including Bud Roach and Harmonie. It offers Torontonians the opportunity to hear a wide variety of historic instruments played by some of the finest musicians in the city. Recordings, early music books and publications are also on sale. The Toronto Early Music Fair takes place at the historic Montgomery’s Inn on Saturday, September 27 and Sunday, September 28. Given the number of concerts and presentations you can see over the course of a day, Fair tickets are a bargain at $10.

Extraordinary Ordinary: Another hard-working Toronto ensemble that’s starting up their season this month is the Musicians in Ordinary, the ensemble-in-residence of St. Michael’s College led by soprano Hallie Fishel and lutenist John Edwards. Their first concert this season is a program based around the covert Catholicism in England in the 16th and 17th centuries. Elizabethan England was a dangerous time to practise Catholicism openly, and this concert explores the music performed and sponsored by clandestine Catholics in a climate of religious persecution. The musicians will be playing pieces typical of late-Renaissance England, especially songs for solo voice and lute, and lute instrumental solos based on sung works. Violinist Chris Verrette will also be on hand to lead a consort of violins, and the Musicians will play works by Byrd (Catholic, employed), Dowland (Catholic, unemployed) and Wilbye (not Catholic, employed by Catholics). This concert takes place on Friday, September 26 at Father Madden Hall in the Carr building at the University of Toronto, 100 St. Joseph Street. The concert starts at 8pm, but come at 7:30 for the pre-concert talk, for insights into a time when doing so might have had you burned at the stake!

Eybler Quartet: For those more inclined towards slightly more conventional repertoire, unconventionally played, consider checking out the Eybler Quartet. They’re a Toronto-based string quartet comprised of Tafelmusik players (Julia Wedman and Aisslinn Nosky on violin, Patrick Jordan on viola, and Margaret Gay on cello) who will be getting together at Heliconian Hall to perform Beethoven’s String Quartet Op.18, No.2. It’s a solid choice for a string quartet concert on period instruments, but Eybler will also be throwing a couple of unusual pieces on the program. Cellist Guy Fishman will be joining the quartet for two double cello quintets by Boccherini and Dittersdorf. If you love Beethoven string quartets, you won’t want to miss this – Eybler is an ensemble of top-level string players that performs exceptionally well. Catch this concert on October 2 at 7:30pm.

SweetWater: Finally, if you’re looking for one more excuse to get to cottage country before winter hits, or if you happen to live in the Owen Sound area, try to get out and catch some of the SweetWater Music Festival. An all-star lineup of Canadian musicians, Mark Fewer (violin), Hank Knox (harpsichord) and Lucas Harris (theorbo), will team up with baroque violinist Elizabeth Wallfisch in a mixed program that will include Vivaldi, Bach, Biber and Schmelzer at Leith Historic Church (419134 Tom Thomson Ln.) on September 19 at 7:30pm. These are some of the best musicians in the country playing a program that will have something for everyone. If you’re in this part of Ontario, definitely consider going to this festival and this concert specifically.

David Podgorski is a Toronto-based harpsichordist, music teacher and a founding member of Rezonance. He can be contacted at earlymusic@thewholenote.com.

 

Listening Spaces

 

bbb - new musicMusic is like a creature that needs certain conditions and ingredients in order to thrive. Two essential components to create a sustainable environment for musicmaking are a space for the sound to exist within and a community of receivers open to listening in that space.

In the summer issue, I spoke about the upcoming visit to Toronto of composer Pauline Oliveros and her longstanding practice of “Deep Listening.” Having recently witnessed her keynote address, performance and deep listening workshop at the various events organized by New Adventures in Sound Art (NAISA) in mid-August, I was struck by how much her work as a composer, both in the pioneering days of electronic music and in promoting an awareness and practice of listening, has had a wide impact on the musical community.

One event I was able to experience was an outdoor participatory performance of her piece Extreme Slow Walk, a piece I had experienced back in the late 1970s at the original Music Gallery space on St. Patrick Street. The piece requires an opening up of one’s awareness to the vibratory resonance of the earth, the electrical sensations in the body and the pull of the gravitational field – all while listening to the surrounding soundscape and slowly placing one foot in front of the other. Not only did each participant experience something personally meaningful but as Oliveros commented after we completed the walk, the whole environment was responding and sounding back in its own way because of our listening. This is an example of what she calls “quantum listening.”

Arraymusic: A few years back, Toronto’s Arraymusic produced a concert of some of Oliveros’ music. In a recent interview I had with Array’s artistic director and percussionist Rick Sacks, I asked what it had required of him as a performer to realize the intentions of one of Oliveros’ pieces. His answer (that it was a process of “revelation”) underscores the difference of perspective that deep listening is built upon. Revelation, he explained, was the experience of allowing things to unfold while playing, instead of relying on the traditional performance practice of having things under control (as much as one ever can). It was an opportunity for personal growth beyond ego by following an intuitive process. Oliveros’ entire aesthetic points towards a holistic approach to life, Sacks said: when sound is given a chance to live and breathe, it follows its own course and we are taken along for the ride. But it requires the professional musician to trust that all the learned musical impulses and skills will be there when called upon by the unfolding music.

As I mentioned above, though, music also needs a supportive and thriving environment within which to do its living and breathing. Since the 1970s, Arraymusic has been an important contributor to the creation and performance of new music in Toronto and the rest of the world. With its recent change of location, Array is now uniquely positioned to offer its new venue at 155 Walnut Street as one such living space. During my conversation with both Sacks and Array’s administrative director Sandra Bell, they talked about the vision that the new space has enabled. One of the major results of the re-visioning process has been an expansion of their participation with other organizations in a series of co-productions. As well, they are equipping their space as a DIY (do it yourself) studio environment, where community members can rent the space and record audio or video on their own without having to hire a technical assistant. This keeps the costs low and accessible, helping to support young and underemployed artists. And building on their current online YouTube channel, the space will be equipped with a high definition video system to offer live streaming of concerts and events to a worldwide audience as well as creating a musical archive.

This conveniently located and great-sounding space has also expanded to incorporate other arts organizations, including plans for a future rooftop deck. It’s becoming a hub that can foster a growing community, which will in turn generate artistic synergies that arise from a common meeting space.

Although Array has always been a grassroots community organization, that trend has now snowballed, and the space come alive, with many community events. These include regular improvisation jams with local and visiting guests, lectures and composer talks (Allison Cameron, October 18 and Tamara Bernstein, November 20), a collaboration with the Evergreen Club Gamelan that includes evenings for people to gather and play the EGC instruments now housed in the Array Space, co-presentations with other music organizations, free outreach community workshops and participation in the New Music 101 library series. On Toronto’s improvising scene, Array is teaming up with both Somewhere There (September 20) and Audio Pollination (September 9 and 13). The first of Array’s own improvisation jams happens on September 10. The days of September also offer two opportunities to participate in community events: September 21 launches the first Gamelan Meetup event and September 27 provides an opportunity for a free percussion workshop.

Array is of course more than a space, for at its roots, it is a performing ensemble. Now able to enjoy their own performing space, this season’s concert series includes works by Gerald Barry, Udo Kasemets, John Sherlock, Michael Oesterle and Linda Catlin Smith. Beyond the Walnut Street address, the Array ensemble will be performing a series of miniatures composed by Nic Gotham at the book launch of Martha Baillie’s novel The Search for Heinrich Schlögel on September 16 at the Gladstone. Gotham’s miniatures were originally written for an online installation of postcards written by Baillie and read by members of the literary community.

INTERsections: Earlier in the month, Array along with other new music ensembles will participate in Contact Contemporary Music’s annual new music event “INTERsection: Music From Every Direction” from September 5 to 7, which will include a day of free performances and interactive installations at Yonge-Dundas Square on September 6. Also included in INTERsection are concert performances at both the Tranzac Club (September 5) and the Music Gallery (September 7).

Other “intersections” also occurring in September feature two of the new music groups who are also participating in Contact’s weekend event. On September 28 the Thin Edge Music Collective performs at the Array Space with guest artist Nilan Perera, and the Toy Piano Composers present a night of “inventions, oddities and hidden treasures” on September 20 at the Music Gallery. In a bit of a space switch-up, the Music Gallery is presenting an event at the Array Space on September 5 curated by Tad Michalak as part of their Departures series featuring Battle Trance + King Weather + Not the Wind Not the Flag.

bbb - new music 2Canadian Music Centre: Alongside Array and the Music Gallery, Toronto is fortunate to have the Canadian Music Centre as a space that supports new musical sounds. September events include a concert of North American music for flute and piano on September 13; an evening of words and music (texts by Gwendolyn MacEwen and Linda Hogan) on September 27; and a special event for Culture Days entitled “Create Your Own Graphic Score” with junctQín keyboard collective on September 28. The CMC has also announced their Nuit Blanche event on October 4, which will showcase the integration of global traditions into Canadian new music.

Guelph Jazz Festival: Jumping over now to the annual Guelph Jazz festival that runs September 3 to 7, there are a few performances that will no doubt be strong draws for musical experimenters. To celebrate the 100th anniversary of pioneering jazz artist Sun Ra’s arrival on planet Earth, the Sun Ra Arkestra offers a free performance at 2pm on September 6, followed by an evening performance of “Hymn to the Universe” along with the Coleman Lemieux & Company dance ensemble. The Ugly Beauties, featuring Marilyn Lerner, Matt Brubeck and Nick Fraser perform on the same day at 4pm, followed by a show on September 7 at 10:30am by renowned composer and keyboard genius Lui Pui Ming performing with Korean composer and vocalist Don-Won Kim. See also Ken Waxman’s Something in the Air column on page 73 in this issue.

On a final note for this month, the good news is that the possibilities and opportunities for the nurturing and growth of new and experimental music through thriving musical spaces is well underway. Now it’s up to the listeners to go out and experience the feast.

Additional Concerts:

Scott Thomson and Susanna Hood: “The Muted Note.” Premieres of new music, dance and poetry based on P.K. Page poems. September 5 to 7 and 27. (See next page.)

Composer Barbara Croall performs original works for traditional First Nations flutes, piano and other instruments. September 12 at Musideum.

Soundstreams: Violinist Daniel Hope is the soloist in Max Richter’s reinvention of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, September 30. See this month’s Classical and Beyond column, beginning on page 20.

Groundswell Festival with Nightwood Theatre: workshop production of Obeah Opera by composer Nicole Brooks. September 10 to 14.  See GTA Listings for details.

Wendalyn Bartley is a Toronto-based composer and electro-vocal sound artist. sounddreaming@gmail.com

 

Recitals: Past and To Come

 

features - art of songSong recitals are a thing of the past, we are told; the audiences just don’t exist any more. But perhaps that statement is premature. I can think of several recent events which suggest that there is still life there. The first was the July 20 recital in which Daniel Lichti sang Schubert’s Winterreise. The Heliconian Hall was not full but the size of the audience was respectable. I wrote about Lichti in June, so I shall only add that his singing was just as fine as I had expected.

The second was an August 6 recital given by baritone Christopher Maltman and pianist Graham Johnson to a near-capacity (and very enthusiastic) Walter Hall audience. One thing that struck me about both recitals was their seriousness: no crossover items, no vacuous chitchat. Maltman’s recital was a commemoration of the start of the Great War. The songs of George Butterworth and Ivor Gurney were central but there were other songs about war, such as the excerpts from Mahler’s Des Knaben Wunderhorn and the song from Mussorgsky’s Songs and Dances of Death. Maltman introduced the program by reading a moving poem by Wilfred Owen but he provided nothing that was extraneous to the musical experience.

The Maltman recital was part of Toronto Summer Music, which offers not only concerts by established musicians but also the Toronto Summer Music Academy, which this year provided opportunity to eight singers and five collaborative pianists. (There is a similar program for instrumentalists.) On August 8 we were able to hear all 13 performers. The standard was high: a testament not only to the innate musicality of the artists but also to the quality of the teaching (from François Le Roux and Graham Johnson, and from Christopher Newton and Steven Philcox). I thought the best of the young singers was the mezzo Evanna Chiew but there were also fine performances from Jin Xiang Yu, soprano, and Jean-Philippe McClish, baritone. Among the able accompanists, Brian Locke stood out. There was an added bonus in that we also heard the lovely violist Ryan Davis in Brahms’ Songs, Op.91.

Meanwhile I look forward to next season, in particular to another performance of Winterreise, to be sung by baritone Christian Gerhaher (February 26), to the recital by Anne Sofie von Otter, mezzo, and Angela Hewitt, piano (January 9), to the Toronto debuts of the baritone Elliot Madore (March 26) and mezzo Christianne Stotijn  (April 16) and to the Kurt Weill recital by Adi Braun (December 6).

Upcoming Events in the GTA:

September 5 to 7, The Muted Note offers songs and dances based on the poetry of P.K. Page at The Citadel and September 27 at Gerrard Art Space .

Linda Condy, mezzo, will be the singer in a free recital titled It’s Easy Being Green at Yorkminster Baptist Church on September 16 at 12 noon, donations welcome.

The first recital in the noon series at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre in the Four Seasons Centre will be a concert by the new members of the Canadian Opera Company Ensemble Studio on September 23. It will be followed, on October 2, by a concert of arias and ensembles based on Shakespeare’s plays, performed by students of the University of Toronto Opera Division, and, on October 7, by three song cycles by Derek Holman (The Death of Orpheus, A Lasting Spring, A Play of Passion) to be performed by Colin Ainsworth, tenor, and Stephen Ralls, piano. These concerts are free.

features - art of song2Last year much was made of the centenary of the birth of Benjamin Britten and the bicentenary of the births of Richard Wagner and Giuseppe Verdi. By contrast, the tri-centenary of the birth of Christoph Willibald von Gluck is now passing without notice (as is that of C.P.E. Bach). But there is one exception: Essential Opera is giving us Gluck’s rarely heard Paride ed Elena with Lyndsay Promane, mezzo, and Erin Bardua, soprano, in the title roles. The opera is staged and is performed with piano accompaniment at Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre, September 27 at 8pm; there will be another performance in Kitchener at the Registry Theatre on October 1 at 7:30pm.

Katherine Hill will be the soprano soloist in the Ensemble Polaris concert of Back to the Future: New Tunes from Sweden at 918 Bathurst Street on October 3.

On October 4 the soprano Emily D’Angelo will sing arias by Handel, Gounod and Rossini with the Greater Toronto Philharmonic at Calvin Presbyterian Church.

And beyond the GTA:

Chris Ness, piano, and Janet Ness, vocals, will perform works by Gershwin, Porter and Kern at Grace United Church, Barrie; September 10.

Daniel Lichti, bass-baritone, will be the soloist with the Nota Bene Baroque Players and Alison Melville, traverso, on September 18 at noon. On September 25, also at noon, the tenor James McLean and pianist Lorin Shalanko will perform. Both concerts are free, at the Maureen Forrester Recital Hall, Wilfred Laurier University, Waterloo.

On September 14 at 2pm, Charlotte Knight, soprano, and Jonathan Dick, baritone, will perform Schubert’s Der Hirt auf dem Felsen as well as songs by Argento and Bolcom and selections from My Fair Lady and The Phantom of the Opera. Michele Jacot is the clarinet soloist in the Schubert at Silver Spire United Church, St. Catharines.

On September 15, the Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber Music Society will present a concert in which the main work is Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire. The soprano soloist is Rachel Krehm at the KWCMS Music Room, Waterloo.

There will be a tribute to one of our most distinguished, and certainly our most inventive, living composer R. Murray Schafer, in The Barn at Campbellford on September 21 at 2pm. Donna Bennett, soprano, and Eleanor James, mezzo, will sing. The host will be Ben Heppner.

Two Postscripts: In 2012/13 the outstanding musical event was the Janáček-Kurtág double bill presented by Against the Grain Theatre. After that there was a modern adaptation of Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro, which I thought was splendid in some parts, less successful in others. But their latest offering this past June, Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande, was a triumph. It is an opera I am very fond of but I have never seen a production which was as imaginative and which was sung with the intensity that these performers brought to it.

In June I reviewed a new CD of Telemann’s opera Miraways. Since its publication Scott Paterson has pointed out to me that the main theme of one of its arias (“Ein doppler Kranz”) reappears in an instrumental trio by Handel. The opera dates from 1728; the Handel trio probably from the early 1740s. Much has been written about Handel’s borrowings but, as far as I am aware, this particular borrowing has not been noted before.  

Hans de Groot is a concert goer and active listener who also sings and plays the recorder. He can be contacted at artofsong@thewholenote.com.

 

Stellar Casting Offsets Same Old

 

For the 2014/15 opera season in Southern Ontario there will be a gap in offerings for fully-staged operas that many will feel keenly. This is the first season since 1980 in which there will be no Opera Hamilton. The company ceased operations early this year after its fall 2013 production of Verdi’s Falstaff. Management at Opera Hamilton used to say that the company functioned as the New York City Opera in relation to the COC’s Met, since OH was proud to showcase Canadian singers as often as possible. That comparison now has an ironic ring since the New York City Opera itself ceased operations in October last year. In March, Leonard Turnevicius, longtime reporter on the music scene for The Hamilton Spectator, wrote me to say, “It certainly looks as though fully staged, professional opera in Hamilton has come to an end.”

Not helping to alleviate the pall cast by the failure of Opera Hamilton was the announcement by the Canadian Opera Company that it would present only six productions in 2014/15 instead of its usual seven. The last time the COC presented only six productions was in the 2000/01 season when there was no separate COC Ensemble Studio production. (The last time the COC Ensemble Studio had its own production was in the 2007/08 season.)

Besides this, unlike last season when the COC presented three company premieres, this year not only has the COC staged all six operas before, but three of the productions are already familiar to COC audiences. What will make the new season exciting is the chance to see many well-known singers making their COC debuts.

features - on operaFinley in Falstaff: The season opener is a new production of Verdi’s final opera Falstaff by Robert Carsen running October 3 to November 1. This is a co-production with Royal Opera House Covent Garden, Teatro alla Scala, the Metropolitan Opera and De Nederlandse Opera. Many will have already seen what the production looks like from the The Met: Live broadcast of it in December 2013. Carsen has moved the setting forward from Elizabethan times to 1950s England.

For many fans the main draw for Falstaff besides Carsen’s production will be the chance to see Canadian baritone Gerald Finley in the title role, back at the COC for the first time in 20 years. Canadians in the rest of the cast include Simone Osborne as Nannetta, Frédéric Antoun as her lover Fenton, Russell Braun as Ford, Marie-Nicole Lemieux as Mistress Quickly and Lauren Segal as Meg Page. Johannes Debus conducts. 

Racette in Butterfly: Running in repertory with Falstaff will be Puccini’s ever-popular Madama Butterfly in the timeless production created by Brian Macdonald and Susan Benson for the COC in 1990. The production running from October 10 to 31 has proved so successful one only wishes the COC had asked the duo to created more opera productions. The production will mark the COC debuts of several singers. Patricia Racette and Kelly Kaduce will alternate in the role of Cio-Cio San and Stefano Secco and Andrea Carè will alternate as Pinkterton. Dwayne Croft, making his COC debut, will alternate with Canadian Gregory Dahl as Sharpless, and Elizabeth DeShong returns to the COC as Suzuki. Patrick Lange conducts.

Braun in Giovanni: The winter season begins with a new production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni in a co-production with Festival d’Aix-en-Provence, Bolshoi Theatre and Teatro Real Madrid. The stage direction is by the Russian Dmitri Tcherniakov, though Tcherniakov has not stuck to merely directing Mozart’s opera. He has also given it a new story. Donna Anna is the daughter of the “Commander” but so is Zerlina. Donna Elvira is Donna Anna’s cousin and Don Giovanni is her husband. Leporello is said to be a relative who lives with them. The production had its world premiere in 2009 at Aix and that performance was filmed and is available on DVD from BelAir Classiques for those who want to test how they like Tcherniakov’s concept.

Russell Braun will sing Don Giovanni with Kyle Ketelsen as Leporello. They will be joined by Jennifer Holloway, Jane Archibald and Michael Schade. German early music specialist Michael Hofstetter will conduct. The opera runs from January 24 to February 21.

Goerke in Walküre: Running in repertory with the Mozart is a return of Atom Egoyan’s production of Wagner’s Die Walküre, first seen on its own in 2004 and last seen as part of the full Der Ring des Nibelungen in 2006. The cast is full of singers making their COC debuts, most notably renowned soprano Christine Goerke making her role debut as Brünnhilde. Also appearing with the COC for the first time are Heidi Melton as Sieglinde, Johan Reuter as Wotan, Dmitry Ivaschenko as Hunding and Janina Baechle as Fricka. Clifton Forbis returns in the role of Siegmund and Johannes Debus conducts. The opera runs from January 31 to February 22. 

Hopkins in Barber: The spring season opens with a new production of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, last seen here in 2008. This is a co-production with Houston Grand Opera, Opéra National de Bordeaux and Opera Australia. The stage director is the Catalonian Joan Font and the production is credited to a group called Els Comediants. If these names seem familiar it is because they were responsible for the colourful rat-filled production of Rossini’s La Cenerentola seen here in 2011. Again there will be many performers new to the COC, such as Joshua Hopkins as Figaro, Alek Shrader as Almaviva and Serena Malfi and Cecelia Hall alternating as Rosina. Rory Macdonald conducts and the production runs April 17 to May 22.

Relyea in Lepage revival: Running in repertory with the Rossini is the third revival of Robert Lepage’s double bill of Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle and Schoenberg’s Erwartung. The surreal pairing was first seen in 1993 and last in 2002. The production marked the first time the COC was invited to the Edinburgh Festival and later to BAM in New York. The production, like François Girard’s Oedipus Rex in 1997, came from a time when the COC created Canadian productions that the rest of the world demanded to see rather than from simply partnering with well-known companies and seeing the results after the bigger companies had staged them.  

For this revival, John Relyea and Ekaterina Gubanova will sing Bluebeard and Judith in the Bartók while Krisztina Szabó will take on the role of the anonymous Woman in Erwartung. Johannes Debus will conduct and the double bill will run from May 6 to 23.

Atelier Breaks New Ground: While last season both productions by Opera Atelier were revivals, this season both not only are new but break new ground for the company. Running from October 23 to November 1 is OA’s first-ever production of a full-length Handel opera, in this case his Alcina of 1735. The story, from Torquato Tasso’s baroque epic Gerusalemme Liberata (1581), concerns the Circe-like sorceress Alcina who lives in a magical world composed of the souls of her past lovers. The question is whether the Christian knight Ruggiero can resist her enchantments to set these souls free.

The cast is made up of singers familiar from previous OA productions. Meghan Lindsay, who sang Agathe in OA’s Der Freischütz, returns to sing Alcina, Allyson McHardy sings the trousers role of Ruggiero, and Wallis Giunta is Ruggiero’s beloved Bradamante. They are joined by Mireille Asselin (Morgana), Krešimir Špicer (Oronte) and Olivier Laquerre (Melisso).

OA’s spring production is Hector Berlioz’s 1859 version of Gluck’s Orpheus et Eurydice. Berlioz drew from both of Gluck’s earlier French and Italian versions of the opera to recast it in his own orchestration, scoring the role of Orpheus for a contralto. Mireille Lebel will sing Orpheus, OA favourite Peggy Kriha Dye returns as Eurydice and Meghan Lindsay will sing Amour. The production is significant both for Opera Atelier and for Tafelmusik since it will mark their furthest incursion to date into the 19th century. The opera runs April 9 to 18. As usual Marshall Pynkoski will be the director for both productions and Jeannette Lajeunnesse Zingg will choreograph the artists of the Atelier Ballet.

features - on opera2TOT In Earnest: For additional fully-staged productions Torontonians have only to turn to Toronto Operetta Theatre. Its season begins with the zarzuela La Gran Vía (1886) by Federico Chueca on November 2. The work is a celebration of the old neighbourhoods of Madrid that were about to be destroyed by the Haussmann-like creation of a boulevard in the city. The TOT’s end-of-year show is a return of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado running from December 27, 2014, to January 4, 2015. The season concludes in April with a revival of the TOT-commissioned operetta Earnest, The Importance of Being (2008) by Victor Davies and Eugene Benson, based on the famous comedy by Oscar Wilde. This will be a rare occasion where a new Canadian work receives a revival after only seven years. 

features - on opera3Centuries apart: Enriching the season are two fully-staged productions of music theatre from completely opposite ends of the time spectrum. The Toronto Consort has performed many operas in concert but from May 22 to 24 it will mount a fully-staged production of The Play of Daniel, an English version of Ludus Danielis, a sung medieval play from the 13th century that tells the biblical story of Daniel in the lions’ den. Kevin Skelton will sing the role of Daniel with musical direction by David Fallis and stage direction by Alex Fallis.

In contrast to this, Soundstreams will offer the Toronto premiere of The Whisper Opera (2013) by American composer David Lang from February 26 to March 1. The opera explores the tension between our private and online selves by using a libretto made up of search-engine responses to questions of association. Soprano Tony Arnold and New York’s International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) make their Canadian debuts in an opera so quiet that it can be experienced by just 60 people at a time.

Christopher Hoile is a Toronto-based writer on opera and theatre. He can be contacted at opera@thewholenote.com.

 

Choral Scene - September 2014

 

Are there too many choirs in the GTA? I pondered this question uneasily as it became clear towards the end of the summer that a number of different ensembles, volunteer and semi-professional, were still scrambling to find singers, posting both messages to this column and on social media sites.

The stark reality of musicmaking (at least for those of us who avoided contact sports in high school) is that arts work is as competitive as any other sphere – more so, perhaps. Choirs must compete for audience share, for arts council grants, for publicity – and for choral singers. Cue the jokes about soprano glut and the bribes necessary to secure tenors.

The challenge in any community is to find the right balance of professional choral singers, volunteer amateurs, children’s choir and choral training programs, population base and audience interest. As in any crowded field, choirs have to find an angle to make them stand out from the pack. Some choirs target specific musical styles, others emphasize formal musical training or openness to untrained enthusiasts. We have yet to see a combination of choral singing and hot yoga, at least as far as I know, but it will emerge soon enough.

Sustaining cultural activity is always a challenge, and choral directors and administrators have dark nights in which they wonder If It’s All Worth It. But my answer to the column’s original question is no, you can never have too many choirs. Choral singing is one of the few areas left in which amateur musicians are actively making music in a community setting, and this can only be a good thing.

Regarding a possible singer shortage, I’d say: hey you, reading this column – join a choir! The audience for choral music is in part the same demographic that attends choral concerts. To find out about choral options, look into resources and message boards such as The WholeNote Canary Pages, Facebook choral pages (like Toronto Freelance Choral Singers) and the Choirs Ontario website.

Open rehearsals: Another way to find out about choirs is to attend an open rehearsal, which is becoming increasingly common during the autumn at the beginning of the musical season. This can allow you to meet possible choral colleagues and see the conductors in action. Open rehearsals that have been brought to my attention this month are: Bell’Arte Singers, Saturday September 13; Orillia’s Jubilee Chorale, Saturday September 27; Oshawa’s County Town Singers, also on Saturday September 27; Toronto Beach Chorale, Sunday September 28.

Some of these rehearsals (those between September 26 and 28) are taking place as part of Culture Days, an increasingly important expression of the arts in their fullest community sense. You can read more about Culture Days on page 56 of this issue, and find out more by visiting culturedays.ca.

Roll over, Beethoven: For anyone who thinks musical life is harder than it used to be, know that Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony had only two full rehearsals before its premiere, which is still about what you get these days for the first performance of a new work. The Toronto Symphony hosts the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir for three performances of the Ninth September 25 to 27.

The TMC is also hosting a special edition of one of their regular “Singsation” Saturday workshops on September 27. (Let’s hear it for Culture Days again!) These Singsation events take place throughout the year. Sheet music is provided. It’s a very good outreach project and a fun way for people to experience the city’s largest choir from another perspective. More about this series on the next page.

In brief:

The Mattaniah Christian Male Choir is based in Dundas, just outside Hamilton. They perform in Whitby on September 26, in a benefit for long-term care facilities for the elderly in Durham.

The Colours Of Music festival has a performance by That Choir (Yup, that’s their name – made you look twice, didn’t it? An ensemble’s name is another obvious way to generate interest) on September 26 – music by Bruckner, Whitacre, Mealor and others.

Wilfrid Laurier University Faculty of Music starts the academic year with an October 5 concert in Kitchener titledSing Fires of Justice for Hope.” This concert is part of an initiative at Laurier to raise awareness of Aboriginal women who have been murdered or have gone missing in Canada.

For those who have not heard a Baroque viol, there is really no instrument like it. Played well, it is mysterious and somehow melancholy, even when playing lively figures. Toronto has its own group of viol players, the Cardinal Consort of Viols. On October 5 they will team up with Waterloo’s Conrad Grebel Chamber Choir to perform of a concert English verse anthems and viol ensemble music.

Finally, the University of Toronto’s head of choral music studies, Hilary Apfelstadt, has had considerable success in creating events that build a weekend of choral activities around the work of a particular composer. This year, the weekend’s guest is Morten Lauridsen, an American composer whose music is performed throughout North America. (Coincidentally Lauridsen’s Lux Aeterna is also part of the Elmer Iseler Singers’ season opening concert October 5 at Eglinton St. George’s United Church.) Apfelstadt’s ambitious “A Celebration of the Music of Morten Lauridsen” won’t take place until October 25, so I will have more to say about Lauridsen’s work in next month’s column. But you heard it here first, didn’t you?

Benjamin Stein is a Toronto tenor and lutenist. He can be contacted at choralscene@thewholenote.com. Visit his website at benjaminstein.ca.

 

Well Tattooed!

 

Here we are; it’s September, summer is either almost over or hasn’t started, depending on who you talk to. Summer and music mean different things to different community band members. Some bands close down for summer, some are busier than ever with various outdoor performances, and some, like the Uxbridge Community Concert Band, are summertime-only bands. As for band members, many are away on vacations or at cottages, but a few get more deeply involved with music by attending music camps or summer music schools. The latter is what happened in our household. We had been involved in the administration of music camps some years ago, but going to school was different. This year we decided to enroll as participants in a music summer school.

bbb - bandstandNAbbSS: If you have not previously heard of the North American Brass Band Summer School, that’s because it had never happened before. While the all-brass band movement has its devotees in Canada and the U.S.A., the devotion to that musical genre has nowhere the following in North America that it has in Britain and in parts of Western Europe. Several leading figures in the brass band movement decided that it was time to start a summer school of brass band music somewhere in North America, at least on a trial basis. So, what better time and place than Halifax during the 35th anniversary year of the world’s largest indoor music event?

Thus was born the North American Brass Band Summer School (NAbbSS), established in association with the Buffet Group of British and European instrument manufacturers and with the Royal Nova Scotia Tattoo Society. Based on well-established and successful models in the United Kingdom, one very special additional element was added, described in the initial publicity thus: “In addition to receiving expert tuition from a team of Buffet soloists, led by the renowned Dr. Robert Childs, participants [will] also feature in the cast of the world’s largest annual indoor show, the Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo, performing to over 60,000 people alongside artists of the highest calibre from a variety of different nations.”

(An aside: when speaking with friends and acquaintances ahead of the event, I was shocked by the reactions of many. The vast majority thought that I was talking about going all the way to Halifax to have some form of visual “art” inscribed on my body. When I loftily suggested that they consult Mr. Google regarding “musical tattoos,” I was even more dismayed to only find dozens of websites describing body tattoos showing musical symbols. There was nothing to describe this type of event. So, for your information: Canada’s Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo is the largest annual indoor tattoo, each year featuring over 2000 performers from around the world. It is unique in that it is a full theatrical production, comprising costume designers, props designers, full wardrobe staff, and is presented as theatre-in-the-round. The show is intensely rehearsed over a two-week period and is a wholly combined military and civilian production. The Nova Scotia Tattoo was the first tattoo to receive royal designation on the occasion of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s 80th Birthday in 2006.)

Two to tattoo? After some serious deliberation in our house, the decision was made to apply. Needless to say, there was some trepidation. I hadn’t played in an all-brass band in almost 30 years. As for Joan, her major instrument, the flute, has no place in a brass band. As an instrumental music teacher, she had taught all of the brass instruments, but a good solid working embouchure might be another matter. Her instrument choice soon narrowed down to either a baritone horn or an E flat horn (variously called an alto horn or tenor horn). After a few warm-up tests, the E flat horn was selected as the best choice to develop a suitable embouchure with minimum discomfort. That decided, off went our registrations along with the measurements for our uniform jackets. Yes, uniform – we were going be performers in the great tattoo.

With a tuba and a bass trombone included in our instrument inventory, flying to Halifax was not an option. Since I have a cousin living in Northern Vermont, we travelled through the northern U.S. states, and if it hadn’t been for heavy rainstorms and major highway construction, it would have been a pleasant picturesque trip. Arrangements were in place for all participants in the summer school to stay together in the modern student residence at Saint Mary’s University, a far cry from the two- or three-story residences that I lived in as a student. This was a modern 20-storey building with tidy Spartan rooms and a fine all-you-can-eat per meal cafeteria. Our check-in went like clockwork and we were soon mingling with others arriving from all over North America for the first of its kind, in Canada, brass band summer school.

The following day our bus took us from the residence to the Halifax Metro Centre, a large modern hockey arena. There, we learned of our schedule for the rehearsals, classes, concerts and ten days of the tattoo. Except for sleeping and playing in a couple of outdoor concerts, our rehearsal room in the Metro Centre was to be our home for the rest of our stay. From our location about two-thirds of the way between the waterfront and the top of Citadel Hill, any excursions out of the centre meant walking up or down the very steep hill.

Mornings began with rehearsals of two groups of music. First there was the music, all on small march-sized cards, which we would play in our carefully crafted segments of the tattoo. Then there was a collection of challenging brass band works, new to most of us, which we would be performing in our outdoor concerts. These included a number of solo works to be performed by our guest clinicians, a veritable who’s who of the brass band world, under the direction of Dr. Robert Childs (formerly principal euphonium and bandmaster with the Black Dyke Band). I cannot possibly do justice to the staff by trying to compress the information on their qualifications within space limitations here. Fortunately, detailed information on all of them may be found on the website nabbss.com.

The school part of our sojourn was quite straightforward: expert instruction, well-organized rehearsals and satisfying concerts. The real challenge for all of us participants was the integration of our contribution into the tattoo. The overall tattoo show consisted of many acts on the main floor of the arena augmented by musical contributions on the main floor and in a number of higher positions surrounding.

In the almost total darkness between scenes, we had to position ourselves for each of our different playing segments, climbing up the various parts of the sets and positioning ourselves in the dark, then, when the lights came up, rapidly shifting focus back and forth between a conductor a couple of hundred feet away and the music on an instrument lyre six inches away.

Our days all started at 7am. After breakfast in the residence, our bus took us to the Metro Centre at 8:30am, then brought us back to the residence shortly after 11pm. So fair warning, if you might be considering enrolling for the 2015 school; it is not for the faint of heart. Exhausting, but fulfilling.

As for the participants, it was an amazing cross-section. Just about 50/50 men and women, they ranged from students, to retired professors, lawyers, accountants and just about any occupation you care to mention. Canadians came from Nova Scotia, Ontario and Alberta. The U.S. was represented by people from Washington, California, Texas, Kansas, South Carolina, New Jersey, Michigan, Massachusetts and others. There certainly weren’t any beginners on their instruments. In fact, many of them were top flight performers.

The day after the final performance, as we were all saying our good-byes to our new friends, one somewhat large gentleman was asked if he would come back with his tuba next year. His reply: “Yes, I would, but I would want to lose about 100 pounds.” This year was a first time trial for this summer school. The organizers had to ask the question: was the idea of a music school in conjunction with a tattoo a good one? Like any new venture it had teething problems, but overall it was excellent. It will be back, and they are already accepting registrations. If interested visit their website.

Something New: It isn’t often that we get the opportunity to report on something very unusual in a community band concert. That happened just days ago in the season’s final concert of the summertime-only Uxbridge Community Concert Band. The concert featured the premiere of a work for veena and concert band. The work, Arria, written by conductor Steffan Brunette and played by Ryerson University student Arrabi Gugathasan, layers the plucking sounds of the veena onto the subtle chords of the concert band. The title is a bit of a play on words with the musical term aria and the name of the performer. This particular instrument, a Saraswati veena, is one of several variations of the veena, a traditional Indian member of the lute family.

CBA Community Band Weekend

Each year, in early October, the Canadian Band Association (Ontario) holds its annual Community Band Weekend, where community band members from across the province get together to share ideas and make music. This year the weekend will be hosted by the Newmarket Citizens Band on October 3, 4 and 5. The final day will feature an evening concert by the “massed” band, directed by a number of top-rated conductors. For details and to register visit the website: cba-ontario.ca.

A New Band

Earlier this year I mentioned the possibility of a new start-up band for the west end of Toronto. We now have more details on the new Toronto Concert Band. Over the summer, members have been signing up, and with all sections covered, rehearsals will begin Tuesday September 9, 7:00 pm in the strings room at John G. Althouse Middle School, 130 Lloyd Manor Road, Etobicoke (near Kipling and Eglinton). Carolyn McGee informs me that more new members will be welcome. For information visit their website,
torontoconcertband.com.

Hannaford Youth Bands

The Hannaford Youth Bands have announced that their auditions will take place Saturday, September 13. For youths between the ages of 10 and 24, these bands provide excellent opportunities to develop musical skills in the brass band world. Visit their website at hannafordyouth.ca.

Definition Department

This month’s lesser known musical term is con sordino: An indication to string players to bow in a slashing, rapier motion.We invite submissions from readers. Let’s hear your daffynitions.

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

 

In The Clubs

 

bbb - jazz in the clubsSeptember signals summertime’s end but musicians are out there to warm your heart this month, as always. It’s really exciting to see some new, weekly jam sessions happening around town, several of which are organized, promoted and hosted by hugely talented young artists like saxophonist Emily Steinwall, who will be entering her 2nd year at Humber College this month. The house band consists of fellow Humber heavies Youngchan Na on guitar, Hayden Farrar on bass and Louis Baranyi-Irvine on drums. The jams run every Sunday from 4 to 7pm except for the second week of the month – so September 7, 21 and 28 at Relish on the Danforth. I caught up with Steinwall to find out a bit more about the who, the where, the how and the why behind the sessions.

What or who inspired you to start running a weekly jam session?

There is another weekly jam session in the west end run by Nick Morgan that I attend as often as possible at the Annette studios. I always have a great time at the Annette jam, and it was a big part of the inspiration to start one up in the east end. I think this type of traditional jam session is so beneficial for musicians who want to play jazz because it gives them a chance to play with new people and hear other players on the scene, and apart from the Annette jam there aren’t many other things like this happening in Toronto. I realized that there was a lack of places for people to get out and jam, though there was a huge demand for it, so I started one up at my house around the end of May … within a few weeks, too many people were coming out and I had to find a bigger venue, which is when I asked Relish. 

What makes Relish an ideal spot for this event?

Relish is a great fit for this type of jam session because it is minutes away from the subway line, already has the required equipment set up and offers cheap drinks for the musicians who come to play ($5 pints of Ontario craft beer are offered to all jammers). The people who work there are very friendly and relaxed, which gives the jam a fun and easy-going vibe.

What do musicians need to know if they are planning to come to the jam?

Rhythm section instruments will be provided, as well as microphones for the vocalists, but horn players need to bring their own instruments. Musicians who are planning to come and play should know material coming out of the Great American Songbook and other standard material – something that many people will know how to play without having to read a chart. The material played is coming straight out of the jazz/swing tradition. There are a few basic etiquette things that people should understand about jam sessions: first of all, if there are many people who want to play, don’t hog the bandstand. This means taking a tasteful amount of choruses, not having more than two horn players on one tune and only playing one or two before letting the next group get up. Give everyone a chance to play!

Secondly, be open to all levels of players and do not be a jerk. This jam is for everyone to have fun and share their joy for music, and there is no room for egos. Don’t call tunes that are obscure/heavily arranged and expect everyone to know them. Come in with an open mind and be ready to play anything … in this type of situation, simpler is better! There is no cover, but there is a tip jar for the members of the house band to get paid with. A $5 to $10 donation is recommended for people coming to play.

Here’s wishing Emily Steinwall the best of luck with this session – you’ll be seeing yours truly there often!

bbb - jazz in the clubs2Another new jam session on Tuesday evenings takes place on Bloor near Ossington at Blakbird (without a letter ‘c’) which is the downstairs of Pero Lounge. The host, Kalya Ramu, is a fantastic vocalist in her senior year at Humber. She is joined by a stellar group of young musicians: Nick Tateishi on guitar, Ewen Farncombe on keys, Connor Walsh on bass and Ian Wright on drums. May these new jams live long and prosper, creating countless memorable moments of music!

Speaking of which, Lisa Particelli, founder and host of GNO Jazz Jam, just celebrated 500 weeks of singing! This jam has travelled around the city, from Cabbagetown to the Beaches, and for years now its home has been at Chalkers Pub on Marlee Avenue. As of a few months back, in addition to Wednesday nights at Chalkers, you can find the GNO East Jam between 2 and 5pm on the last Sunday of every month at Morgans on the Danforth, with guest pianist Mark Kieswetter. All are welcome to sing with the accompaniment of this very talented musician.

I’m always happy to let readers know about new venues for live music. While these days there are only a few actual jazz clubs in the metropolitan of Toronto, hotels and restaurants that have opened up their weekends for live entertainment are always a welcome addition. The charm of Yorkville’s Toni Bulloni includes the food, service and atmosphere. There are only a few dozen seats at this intimate restaurant so the space easily becomes a cabaret. Saturday nights at 9pm and Sunday evenings at 6pm you can find entertainment by duos like Sam Broverman and Mark Kieswetter on September 6, Jordana Talsky and Mark Kieswetter on September 21, Genevieve Marentette and Mark Kieswetter on September 27, myself and Mark Kieswetter on October 4 and so on. Come and find out why Kieswetter’s a walking masterclass in accompanying jazz singers!

Of the non-Kieswetter dates, one gig of note is that of the duo performing on Saturday, September 14: Pam Hyatt and Peter Hill.

Hyatt is a gifted actress and singer, a comedienne par excellence, and one hell of a cabaret act. From the gorgeous tenderness of “Something Cool” to the sheer insanity that takes place on “Easy Street,” it’s inspiring that this lady recently released her first recording, Pamalot at age 76 years young! Peter Hill is famous for accompanying thousands of Girls Night Out singers at Lisa Particelli’s GNO Jazz Jam and maintains a busy schedule as accompanist and leader. Their collaboration is well-captured on Hyatt’s aforementioned debut album. For dinner reservations at Toni Bulloni’s call 416-967-7676.

Elsewhere in Toronto, the weekend of mid-September is a good one! The Rex alone features four fabulous shows on September 13: Danny Marks sings all kinds of blues at noon, Laura Hubert sings blues, jazz and western swing at 3:30pm, Justin Bacchus sings soul and R&B at 7pm and then for dessert, jazz fusion with Vito Rezza at 9:45pm. If you miss Rezza’s group, a great opportunity to catch them is the following weekend, September 18, 19 and 20 at Jazz Bistro, with Cat Conner’s CD Release Sunday September 21 at 7pm.

Thanks for reading, and an even greater thanks for getting out there and listening!

Ori Dagan is a Toronto-based jazz vocalist, voice actor and entertainment journalist. He can be contacted at jazz@thewholenote.com.

 

Toronto Jazz Top Ten

I was considering giving up on a career in jazz music, but on a summer night in 2005 at the Montreal Jazz Festival, when I sat in at the Hyatt Hotel and sang “Sweet Georgia Brown” in three varied tempos as a nod to Anita O’Day, I changed my mind. That night I realized how important jam sessions are as an opportunity for musicians to create music in the true spirit of jazz: without rehearsal, to an appreciative audience of jazz enthusiasts. Just got word that Novotel has sponsored the Ottawa Jazz Festival jam session and I am really hoping that in these parts and beyond, we get the official jam sessions back too! 

1909 InTheClubs

TOP TEN TORONTO JAZZ FESTIVAL TIPS:

1) Award-winning, world-renowned artist for her innovative brilliance on saxophone and flute, and jazz ambassador for her work around the world, Jane Bunnett has changed the lives of many Cuban musicians by exposing their talents to North American audiences. On her latest project, “Maqueque,” Bunnett has assembled an exciting sextet featuring the finest young female musicians in Cuba. Joining her are drummer Yissy Garcia, percussionist Dayme, Yusa on tres guitar and fretless bass, pianist Danae and Magdelys on batas and congas. Like a trusted chef in a five-star restaurant, it is inevitable that Bunnett and these young ladies will cook up a storm on opening night, June 19 at 8pm at Lula Lounge.

2) A coveted Toronto treasure, she plays all over the city and has many adoring fans, from her days in the JUNO-winning rock act Leslie Spit Treeo to her reincarnation as a singer of blues, jazz and western swing. Laura Hubert’s honesty, which delves deeply into both comedy and tragedy, is that of an actor who became a singer by accident. With a unique voice that is a bit of a surprise coming out of such a petite lady, she is capable of growling, crooning, swinging hard and moaning low. Discover Laura Hubert at the festival either on opening night, June 19 at Grossman’s at 10pm, or on June 28, 3:30pm at the Rex.

3) Here’s hoping American vocalist Dianne Reeves has a sold-out show at the festival Main Stage on Tuesday, June 24 at 8pm, and here’s hoping you’ll catch her opening act, the Brandi Disterheft Quartet. A force to be reckoned with as a bassist, composer, bandleader and recording artist, the Vancouver-born musician has released three excellent albums: her JUNO-winning Debut, slightly poppier, even catchier Second Side and the very satisfying Gratitude from last year. It’s always exciting to see where Disterheft is going next, both in the short term sense of each solo and the long term sense of her next record. She currently lives in New York City where she maintains a busy schedule as sideman when not touring. Cheers to Brandi!

4) On Sunday June 22 at 7pm, “Girls Night Out” jazz jam session host Lisa Particelli will present a group of GNOJAZZ all-stars and continue to raise money for her annual Humber College Scholarship. The award is given to a vocal jazz student who demonstrates exceptional ability and requires financial assistance with this crazy dream of singing jazz. Every Wednesday from 8pm to midnight singers of all levels are welcome to perform at this vocalist-friendly jazz jam, which can also be thought of as a jazz open mic, a truly rare and very prized opportunity not only for vocalists of all levels but really for anyone who would like to try singing with three incredible jazz musicians in a safe environment. In addition to the fundraiser, there’s a jazz festival jam session on June 25, as well as every Wednesday year-round.

5) Lovers of the clarinet, trumpet, or saxophone, go no further than KAMA on King, where Ken Peplowski, Harry Allen, Warren Vache and Houston Person, respectively, will be guesting with the Canadian Jazz Quartet on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday June 23, 24, 25 and 26 from 5 to 8pm. These days there are not many venues in this town where one can really go out and listen to this brand of instrumental, classic jazz. A rare opportunity to hear cream-of-the-crop New York players here in Hogtown, each of these concerts would be a great treat for any aspiring horn player! Tickets are $40 and are available at Ticketmaster – and a discount of 15 percent if you attend all four concerts.

6) For piano lovers, mellifluous Cuban-American Manuel Valera heads a trio at the Rex on June 20 and 21, and energetic B3 specialist Joey DeFrancesco plays the Horseshoe Tavern with his trio on July 25. Jazz Bistro features several solo piano shows of note, including Bill Mays on June 22, Gerald Clayton on June 23 and two shows per night by the Oliver Jones Trio on June 27 and June 28. Singer-pianists are a rare breed of awesome; the Bistro is expecting to sell out when London, England’s Ian Shaw performs on June 25, and the whole family can enjoy free lunchtime performances in Nathan Phillips Square led by two Canadian singer-pianists who are also exquisite songwriters: the Elizabeth Shepherd Quartet on June 23 and Laila Biali Trio on June 25; Shepherd also performs two intimate evening concerts at Musideum, 7 and 9pm on June 21.

7) String along! For guitar lovers, there are some excellent resident musicians such as the Fraser Melvin Band at Gate 403 on June 20, the Eric St. Laurent Trio at Painted Lady on June 26 and Mark Sepic at Relish on June 28; and several big tickets, including John Scofield on the Main Stage on June 26 and futurist Bill Frisell performing “Guitar in the Space Age” at the Jane Mallett Theatre on June 28. 

1909 InTheClubs28) Toronto native Beverly Taft is one of this city’s busiest jazz vocalists – she is performing four gigs at the festival: at Musideum with pianist Robi Botos on June 24 and in various ensembles at the Dominion on Queen; back to back on June 22 from 1 to 4pm with George Westerholm and the York Jazz Ensemble and 5 to 8pm with Sam Murata on violin, Tony Quarrington on guitar and special guest from Japan, pianist Yumi Nakata; and again at the Dominion on June 28 from 4 to 7pm singing bossa nova with Nathan Hiltz on guitar, Jordan O’Connor on bass and Chris Gale on tenor sax. Taft’s is a light instrument that is easy to listen to and her passion for performing this music is always evident. 

9) An exciting talent for her singing, songwriting and performance style, Maylee Todd defines genre in a sense, and though she is far from being a “jazz singer” the Toronto Jazz Festival has wisely booked her to perform at Shops on Don Mills. Comparisons to Björk and Kate Bush are likely, but here is an authentic voice of an exciting individual, not to be missed! I’m sad to miss this one myself (I’m playing at Paupers at precisely the same time!) but I will be visiting mayleetodd.com for future dates and following her on Twitter at @mayleetodd to find out where she will be next!

10) Now here’s a concept: live jazz performances at music stores! Leading up to the Jazz Festival, the 333 Yonge Street location of HMV will present three live performances at 6pm called “The HMV Underground”: the Mike Downes Trio, led by JUNO-winning bassist extraordinaire (June 16); Myriad3 (Chris Donnelly on piano, Dan Fortin on bass and Ernesto Cervini on drums, June 17); and the arresting voice of Eliana Cuevas (June 18). This is a wonderful opportunity to hear these artists up close and get an autographed copy of their recordings. What better way to get people back into the music stores?

Ori Dagan is a Toronto-based jazz vocalist, voice actor and entertainment journalist. He can be contacted at jazz@thewholenote.com.

Sound, Music and Nature's Song

1909 NewMusicAs we head into the summer season, spending time outside in the natural world is the one thing most of us eagerly look forward to after enduring the long winter months. And even though we are now witnessing the incredible enduring force of nature bursting with new growth all around us, we also know deep in our guts that life as we know it on the planet is in trouble. Already many places are experiencing the effects of climate change, super storms, rising sea levels, drought, and on and on. It has been argued by many that one of the reasons that we are in this situation is that collectively as an industrialized culture, we have lost our sense of deep respect for being in relationship and communion with nature. Our technological and unlimited growth ideologies have led to widespread misuse of the earth and its resources. So, one of the questions that I ask in response to these difficult issues is how can musical practice and sound itself cultivate a restored relationship and connection with the earth, with the land, with the natural world.

June: Since the early 1970s, Canadians have been pioneers in the field of acoustic ecology and soundscape studies, beginning with the groundbreaking work of composer R. Murray Schafer and his colleagues at the World Soundscape Project. So it is no surprise that Schafer is one of the keynote speakers in the upcoming “Sound in the Land – Music and the Environment” festival at the University of Waterloo’s Conrad Grebel College. Running from June 5 to 8, the festival/conference is the brainchild of composer Carol Ann Weaver, who is part of the music faculty at Conrad Grebel.

During a conversation I had with Weaver about her vision and motivation for creating a series of Sound in the Land festivals (2004, 2009, 2014), she spoke passionately of her love for the stillness and beauty of the wilderness. From these experiences she has cultivated a creative practice focused on listening to the soundscapes of nature and composing music in response to what she hears. It is this quest to recreate the magical moments in nature that inspired her to pull together this uniquely focused multi-disciplinary event in order to delve more deeply into the relationship between music and the natural world. The festival will combine concerts, workshops, keynote speakers and academic paper presentations to create a cross-pollination of ideas, sounds and people and the music of many musical cultures so that the “bruised and broken planet can yet be sung back into new birth.” Appropriately, Schafer’s keynote address is titled “Hearing the Earth as Song.”

Although the conference occurs early in the month after many WholeNote readers may have received their summer issue, the festival provides an important context for these larger questions of how musical practice can participate in the restoration of the planet.

The festival concerts range from soundscape music to European-based chamber, orchestral and choral, alongside African-themed, Korean, Balinese, Argentinian and First Nations music. For early risers, there will be a dawn soundwalk on June 7 and on June 8, a dawn concert at Columbia Lake that will include some of Schafer’s music specifically written to interact with the natural environment. It will also include works by composers Emily Doolittle and Jennifer Butler, both of whom have been profoundly influenced by their longtime involvement in Schafer’s wilderness collaborations. These words by Schafer sum it up: “Sing to the lake, and the lake will sing back!”

The African Kalahari Desert is also featured prominently in the festival and is the focus of the main evening event on June 7, which combines African traditional songs, African-influenced composed music and the second keynote address, “Hearing Songs from the Earth – Kalahari Soundscapes and Visuals,” by Gus Mills. Mills has spent many years researching African large carnivores and will use recordings and visuals to demonstrate the interaction between the behaviour of these species within an acoustic ecological framework. Earlier in the day, the concerts include a series of compositions created from soundscape recordings as well as the Grebel Gamelan performing traditional music from Bali.

The “Sonic Convergences Concert”on June 6 will feature four orchestral pieces, each highlighting natural themes. Included is Weaver’s piece Kalahari Calls, influenced by her experiences in Africa.  The evening will conclude with Earth Songs by Korean artist Cecilia Kim, a five-part multimedia piece combining music theatre, visuals and Korean traditional music. Texts for two of the songs are from the poetry book Where Calling Birds Gather by Canadian poet John Weier.

One final observation I’d like to make about this festival is to draw attention to the Mennonite legacy of the host college Conrad Grebel and its commitment to promoting nonviolence and justice. It is Weaver’s vision to expand that perspective to include peace and balance for the earth that makes this festival such a landmark event.

Open Ears: It seems that Waterloo is the place to be this June with the return of the Open Ears festival. Now in its 16th year, it runs from June 5 to 15 offering ten days of performances, discussions and installations presented in a range of different venuesand programmed around the overall theme of “Open Stories.” This year, the festival will be running concurrently with an exhibition of contemporary visual art organized by the Contemporary Art Forum Kitchener and Area (CAFKA) which runs through to June 29. Some of the Open Ears highlights include Griffin Poetry prize-winner and sound-artist Christian Bök (June 7); a concert combining viola da gamba and the hurdy gurdy (June 9); the Penderecki String Quartet with music inspired by T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets (June 10); the Nexus percussion ensemble appearing with Sepideh Raissadat, the first female vocalist to publicly perform in Iran after the 1979 revolution (June 13); a performance of Steve Reich’s epic work Drumming (June 14); and an opera marathon, featuring five new Canadian operas (June 15). There’s so much more in this festival; I urge you to check out the Open Ears website.

July: Moving into July and continuing with our theme of music in the environment, we arrive at Stratford Summer Music and onto Tom Percussion Island. From July 15 to July 20, the island will be filled with 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. At various times during the week, members of the percussion quartet TorQ will be on the island to perform their own “pop-up concerts” or join with the public in exploring the sounds of these instruments in the outside environment.

The TorQ quartet is in residence this year at SSM; in addition to their presence on Percussion Island they will be offering three concerts as well as running their annual Percussion Seminar designed for university percussion students. Seminar participants will offer outdoor “BargeMusic” performances and will join TorQ and guest faculty member Nebojsa Jovan Zivkovic on stage for the three concerts. Zivkovic, who now resides in Germany, is world-renowned as an expressive marimba and percussion artist and as a masterful composer. His works will be showcased on the July 25 concert, including his piece Tak-nara that features more than 75 instruments on stage. On July 20, TorQ will join with the Larkin Singers to perform works written for choir and percussion by Eric Whitacre, Riho Maimets and Colin Eatock. Their final concert on July 27 will include the Canadian premiere of the 99-percussionist version of environmental composer John Luther AdamsInuksuit.

Other new music events at Stratford Summer Music include a panel discussion on percussion music at the annualHarry Somers Forum and a return visit bythe Bicycle Opera Project, who will have pedalled from Waterloo after their performance in the Open Ears opera marathon earlier in June. The bicycle performers provide a car-free alternative to touring along with two collections of short operas and excerpts, including pieces recently talked about in this column: L’Homme et le ciel by Adam Scime and Airline Icarus by Brian Current and Anton Piatigorsky.

August: As mentioned earlier, the process of listening is of utmost importance in fostering this deeper relationship with nature. And one of most accomplished proponents of the importance of listening is American composer Pauline Oliveros, who has evolved a unique approach to not only music and performance, but also one that has influenced literature, art, meditation, technology and healing. She calls this process “Deep Listening,” and describes it as “listening in every possible way to everything possible to hear, no matter what one is doing.” This requires a heightened consciousness of the world of sound and the sound of the world, encompassing the sounds of daily life, nature, one’s own thoughts, imagination and dreams.

In one of my first personal encounters with her many years ago, she took a small group of us out into a forest to engage in this more expanded experience of listening. Not only did we listen to the soundscape, but she introduced a simple vocal composition (Sonic Meditations) during which we sang and intentionally directed our sounds to the trees around us. “They need to hear our sounds,” she said simply. This experience not only opened up a world of possibilities for my own work with sound, but this paradigm establishes a template for how we can communicate nonverbally with all living beings. It creates a model for a co-existent and reciprocal relationship, using sound and its vibrations as a vehicle for connection. In a recent correspondence I had with her, I asked specifically about her process of attunement with the environment. She stated that “the connection with all things happens through listening. When I perform it is my intent to listen inclusively to all that I can possibly hear. Inclusive listening seems to be magnetic. I have had many experiences with birds and insects gathering around me in outdoor concerts.”

Her work also challenges traditional artistic values by subtly moving the focus away from the artistic work as a separate entity and inviting each of us to open up how we are perceiving all layers of any given soundmaking or artistic experience. Her goal is to “balance out, and come to a different understanding of what can be done.” These ideas are central to cultivating our relationship with nature and expanding how we imagine sound as a significant ingredient of this connection.

In August, Toronto audiences will have an opportunity to experience her Deep Listening work. She will be delivering a keynote lecture at the Toronto International Electroacoustic Symposium on August 15 and will be giving a solo performance on August 16. She will also be doing an artist talk as part of the Sound Travels Intensive that begins on August 19. All these events are organized by New Adventures in Sound Art (NAISA) and more details can be found on their website.

QUICK PICKS

Toronto Music Garden concerts: Kahnekaronnion (The Waters): Original songs by the Akwesasne Women Singers and compositions by Barbara Croall, July 3.

Bach to the Future: Cello music by Bach, Piatti, Britten, and the world premiere of a work by Michael Oesterle, August 28.

Soundscapades: An exploration of the diverse sounds, landscapes and people of the city of Toronto with TorQ Percussion, September 7.

Wendalyn Bartley is a Toronto based composer and electro-vocal sound artist. sounddreaming@gmail.com


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