In the end, listening and creating with sound is totally intertwined with the ear – that part of human anatomy that is always active. It’s not so easy to close our ears when we don’t want to hear something, unless we use earplugs or noise-cancelling headphones. In contrast, it’s relatively straightforward to shut out visual images – we just close our eyes. But just because we’re always hearing something, doesn’t necessarily mean we are actually listening. What happens when we are truly listening is complex, and the stakes can get really high when we’re exposed to sounds that are unusual, unfamiliar or even shocking.

2008_-_New_-_Skratch_and_Afiara.jpg21C: Starting from Skratch. This is exactly one of the driving forces behind the upcoming 21C Music Festival – to create opportunities for the presentation of courageous music, music that stretches the ear beyond what it’s used to. Now in its second year and presented by the Royal Conservatory of Music with its partners, the festival runs from May 20 to 24 and offers 60 works with 34 world, Canadian or Ontario premieres. One of the distinguishing features of this festival will be the bringing together of artists and creators from different genres and backgrounds to generate a lively onstage dialogue of new sounds and ideas.

One of the more fascinating collaborations of 21C is happening on May 23 between Afiara (the Royal Conservatory’s resident string quartet), four composers and DJ artist Skratch Bastid. Afiara violinist Timothy Kantor told me that at the heart of this combination is a meeting along the borders, a place that Bartók believed provided the most fertile ground for innovation. This particular meeting ground seeks to create a remix of what makes Toronto sound unique, given its unique cultural mix.

What is a Toronto sound? is the question under investigation. All four composers, each coming from their own distinctive backgrounds, were originally commissioned to write new works for string quartet that were influenced by popular styles. But what makes this project stand out is that things don’t stop there.

Each of the four pieces was then recorded and handed over to the renowned Maritimes-born, Toronto-based Bastid, who has created a worldwide following based on his versatility in different dance music styles and his capacity to always stretch himself in new directions. He remixed the string quartet recordings using all sorts of sounds, songs and genres as part of his response, including recording snippets of string sounds he needed from the Afiara members. To keep the musical conversation going, his remixes were then given back to the composers, who then created a new piece for string quintet in response. This step gave the composers an opportunity to listen to”the Bastid’s” sonic imaginings and then take specific ideas even further to create a live performance piece for the quartet and Bastid. All three stages of the process will be presented at the concert, so the audience can listen in to how the whole project developed. All twelve pieces will also be available on the upcoming CD Spin Cycle scheduled for release in mid-May.

21C: Saariaho. One of Europe’s leading composers, Finland’s Kaija Saariaho will be the featured artist this year, with five Canadian premieres of her works in two different concerts. Saariaho will also be involved as a mentor in Soundstreams’ week-long Emerging Composers Workshop with the final pieces performed as part of the festival. Saariaho’s music is distinctive for its ability to take the listener deep into the terrain of the subconscious through the use of sound colours or timbres. In an email correspondence I had with her recently, she talked about how different sounds, and the sounds of nature, as well as the acoustics of specific places, have always been important to her, beginning when she was a child. Her brilliance lies in how she has translated environmental sound, as well as aspects of human behaviour such as dreaming, into musical form. Because her sound palette encompasses both instrumental and electronically based sounds, she has devised ways of creating seamless connections and transformations between these two worlds.  Her approach is to use the results of a computer-based analysis of how specific sounds are constructed to create harmonic and timbral structures for her music.

You can hear how this alchemical mix of scientific analysis and creative imagination comes alive on the Koerner Hall stage on May 21 at 8pm. This concert includes three solo instrumental pieces as well as the North American premiere of her piano trio Light and Matter. Saariaho drew inspiration for it while watching the continuous transformation of the colours and light visible on the leaves and tree trunks in a nearby park outside her window. Her vocal work Grammaire des rêves (to be performed May 23 at 5pm) translates research on how our moving body affects our dreams into musical sounds and form. It will also be interesting to hear the results of her mentoring the four composers chosen to participate in Soundstreams’s Emerging Composers Workshop in the After Hours concert on May 22. Saariaho sees her role as encouraging composers “to search for their personal compositional voice, without trying to calculate what could be the most successful path to take.”

21C: At a Glance.Other collaborations that promise stimulating results include the opening 21C concert on May 20 which features a RCM-commissioned work from drum legend Stewart Copeland of The Police – a duet between himself and Canadian pianist Jon Kimura Parker. This work presents another approach to the remixing idea, with Copeland and pianist Kimura Parker combining their own pieces with renditions of the likes of Stravinsky, Prokofiev, Bach and Ravel. And yes, this theme of the mixing up of elements continues on May 22with the 70-minute multimedia work Illusions, which combines new compositions from three different composers (Nicole Lizée, Gabriel Dharmoo and Simon Martin), Ives’ Piano Trio and visuals (projections designed by Jacques Collin, a longtime associate of Robert Lepage).The festival concludes May 24 with a concert of music influenced by Latin American musical styles and rhythms presented in partnership with Soundstreams. Acclaimed guitar virtuosos Grisha Goryachev and Fabio Zanon, Argentine bandoneon player Héctor del Curto, Colombian singer María Mulata and pianist/composer Serouj Kradjian will be setting the tone on stage, along with two world premieres by Canadian composers Andrew Staniland and Mark Duggan.

Because the list of new premieres and featured performers is extensive, I recommend checking out the complete schedule for the festival.

2008_-_New_-_Dafydd_Hughes.jpgSubtle Technologies Festival. Returning to this article’s opening theme of the human ear, it’s inspiring to see how the scientific world is expanding its reaches into sound. Now in its 18th season, this year’s Subtle Technologies six-day festival, “3rd Ear: Expanded Notions of Sound in Science and Art,” runs May 25 to 31. Combining speaker and panel sessions with performances in sound, music, film and other multidisciplinary works, the festival is exploring the mind- and body-altering properties of sound, including a look at how we can work with sound as a resource for better living and social progress. Toronto’s Continuum Music is a major partner in this endeavour, and will be hosting an evening of team collaborations on May 28 between leading Canadian composers, scientists and contemporary artists. An example of the nature of these collaborations is the piece titled Ice, an immersive mixed-media and sound installation created by media artist Fareena Chanda, composer Jimmie LeBlanc and scientist Stephen Morris. To experience the full sensory process of water slowly transforming into ice, audience members are invited to completely commit their mind and body to the installation space. Other musical performance events include an algorithm-based improvisation piece by Ian Jarvis, and a collaboration of computer music and live video projections with Dafydd Hughes and Rob Cruickshank on May 29. Other highlights include the participation of composer/performers Kathy Kennedy and Nicole Lizée. Again, I encourage you to check out the full listings for the complete lineup.

Other New Music concert and opera events:  May offers new listening ground for innovations in instrumental music and opera.

Tapestry Opera presents a new twist on the traditional Medea myth with a world premiere collaboration between librettist Marjorie Chan and Scottish composer John Harris. Presented at the revamped industrial space Evergreen Brick Works, M’dea Undone runs from May 26 to 29 and offers a gripping investigation into power, influence and identity for the 21st century.

Over at the Music Gallery, the Emergents series continues on May 8 with a concert curated by Ilana Waniuk from the Thin Edge New Music Collective. She offers us an evening that combines a new work by Icelandic cellist-composer Fjóla Evans and a performance by Architek Percussion. Evans’ piece combines Icelandic folk songs, found sound, extended cell, and rímur, a unique way of intoning poetry. Architek Percussion specializes in the performance of experimental, minimalist, multidisciplinary and electroacoustic chamber music.

The veteran New Music Concerts series winds up its concert season on May 17 with a concert curated by Montrealer Michel Gonneville who brings together the music of Henri Pousseur, with whom Gonneville studied in the 1970s, and other influential Belgian composers. One aspect of Pousseur’s legacy was the vision he had for composition – that it will need to go beyond the production of finished objects and move towards a process that is more collective in nature.

Improvisation and Beyond: Certainly the rise of improvisation embodies the spirit of collective creation, and Toronto is becoming increasingly known as a hub for such activities. In May alone, several events demonstrate this trend, many of which are happening at the Arraymusic space and are ongoing monthly events: Arraymusic Improv Sessions on May 5 and June 2, Somewhere There on May 10, Audio Pollination on May 12, coexisDance on May 16, eVoid on May 22, and Toronto Improvisers Orchestra on May 31. Other concert events at the Arraymusic space include a multimedia performance work by Linda Bouchard on May 8, a Martin Arnold Curated Concert on May 18, and the Toy Piano Composers performing with TorQ Percussion Quartet on May 23 and 24. The Arraymusic ensemble presents their own events this month as well: the “Cathy Lewis Sings” concert on May 4, the Arraymusic Ensemble in their fundraising concert on May 6 and the annual Young Composers’ Workshop Concert on May 30 featuring premieres of electronic works with original projections by OCAD students.

Over at the Canadian Music Centre, there are two piano-focused events this month: JunctQin Keyboard Collective with premieres from Canada and around the world on May 3; works by Fung, McIntyre and Murphy on May 13. More Canadian piano works are part of Adam Sherkin’s concert at the Jane Mallet Theatre on May 9, with works by Gougeon, Murphy, Coulthard, Eckhardt-Grammaté and Sherkin. And a special evening of improvisation making use of Gallery 345’s beautiful grand pianos happens on May 7 with Marilyn Lerner, Casey Sokol and others.

New in Choral: To close out this very busy month, I note several contemporary works included in a variety of choral concerts:

May 4: Elmer Iseler Singers: Canadian and international composers.

May 9: Bell’Arte Singers: Hatfield, Somers, Sirett and others.

May 9: Orpheus Choir of Toronto: Enns and Gjeilo.

May 24: Oriana Women’s Choir: Luengen, Chan Ka Nin, Freedman, Healey.

May 29: Exultate Chamber Singers: Henderson, Enns, Somers, Freedman, Healey.

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

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2008_-_Classical_-_Yo_Yo_Ma.jpgYo-Yo Ma, arguably the most famous cellist in the contemporary classical firmament, has risen from his early days as a seven-year-old immigrant (born in Paris to Chinese parents, his first teacher at four was his father). A student of the legendary Leonard Rose at Juilliard, he subsequently sought a broader education at Harvard. His wide-ranging interests and musical gifts propelled him to great acclaim as a soloist, chamber musician and orchestral collaborator, culminating in the formation of the Silk Road Ensemble in 1998. As his website puts it, the ensemble “mixes the modern and the traditional, breaking boundaries of ethnicity and era ... [demonstrating] once again that there are no barriers for those approaching music with an open mind.”

In an interview with On Being’s Krista Tippett last September, Ma invokes the great cellist Pablo Casals, the scientist Carl Sagan and the violinist Isaac Stern to illustrate how getting from one note to the next has cosmic resonance: “If you look at, to quote Carl Sagan, ‘the billions and billions of stars out there’ and what stirs the imagination of a young child ... you start wondering where are we? How do we fit into this vast universe? And [you look] to Casals saying that within the notes that he plays, he’s looking for infinite variety … [and] to Isaac Stern saying, the music happens between the notes. OK, what then do you mean when you say music happens between the notes? Well, how do you get from A to B? Is it a smooth transfer: it’s automatic, it feels easy, you glide into the next note? Or you have to physically or mentally or effortfully reach to go from one note to another? Could the next note be part of the first note? Or could the next note be a different universe? Have you just crossed into some amazing boundary and suddenly the second note is a revelation?

“The realm of playing an instrument is pure engineering. But the mental process, the emotional process, the psychic investment in trying to make something easy [is] infinitely hard.”

Curiously, for a string player, in an interview with Elijah Ho for the San Francisco Examiner in January 2013, Ma responded to a question about which of the instrumentalists of the Golden Age had made the greatest impression on him by revealing his love for some of the finest pianists of the last century. His illuminating response was triggered when the journalist asked him if he ever had the opportunity to hear Vladimir Horowitz.

“Yes, I heard him once in Toronto at Massey Hall. I got one ticket to one of his Sunday afternoon concerts and I was right up, last row of the balcony. And it was just extraordinary. He played Scriabin, Rachmaninov, Scarlatti, etc. And the whole concert, he played between pianissimo and mezzo forte, until he played the Stars and Stripes encore. Then he just blew the roof off the hall [laughs]. And it was extraordinary. I loved Horowitz, I love hearing Richter recordings. I have some great recordings of Richter playing the Beethoven Sonatas. I also treasure my Schnabel Schubert recordings, I love Dinu Lipatti’s last concert in Switzerland and a lot of early Glenn Gould. I have great memories of great pianists. I never heard Rubinstein live, but I once watched the DVD of his concert in Moscow and it was extraordinary, just extraordinary. These are the gold standards, and I still hold on to them; lots of great people.”

On May 29, Ma joins the celebration of Sir Andrew Davis’ 40th anniversary with the TSO in a performance of Elgar’s intimate, passionate Cello Concerto, along with Dvořák’s the most popular concerto in the cello repertoire. Ma will undoubtedly make it all appear effortless.

2008_-_Classical_-_James_Ehnis.jpgJames Ehnes: In 2008 James Ehnes won the Gramophone Award for Best Concerto Recording of the Year for Elgar’s Violin Concerto with the Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Sir Andrew Davis. That same year Ehnes’ recording of the Barber, Korngold and Walton concertos with the Vancouver Symphony conducted by Bramwell Tovey won the JUNO for Best Classical Album of the Year: Large Ensemble or Soloist(s) with Large Ensemble Accompaniment. That same recording won the 2008 Grammy for Best Instrumental Soloist(s) Performance with Orchestra. Shortly after that breakout awards year Ehnes sat down with Andrew Palmer for an interview for All Things Strings in May 2009.

Palmer wondered how Ehnes keeps his performances fresh while on tour. Is there anyone for whom, or to whom, he performs?

“My wife [ballerina Kate Maloney, whom he married in 2004] is on the road with me a lot—she’s actually here now—and she loves music, which is a good thing because she hears a lot of it! Every time I play I want to make sure she doesn’t regret going to concerts three times a week. And there’s something else in my psychology, which may result from where I grew up: Brandon, Manitoba, in the centre of Canada. Although it has a lot of music for a city of its size, it was always a big event when major stars performed there. But they only came once, so I was thrilled when they gave it their all. On the other hand, I was left feeling very bitter if I got the impression that they played a lot of concerts and that some were important and some weren’t, and that this one wasn’t. Believe me, there were a lot like that.

“I never forget that at each of my concerts someone in the audience is hearing me for the first time. Someone is also hearing the piece of music for the first time. And it’s a point of pride that if I don’t play as close to my best as I can, there’ll be people who’ll tell their friends afterwards, ‘James Ehnes wasn’t very good,’ and I’d have to agree with them. Which would really hurt! So mostly I feel a responsibility to myself to take advantage of every opportunity to make people love the piece of music. I don’t get nerves about performing, but five minutes before going onstage I feel a huge responsibility that this had better be good, because if anything goes wrong, everyone will know. And I don’t think this psychological mechanism is such a bad thing. It keeps me on my toes.”

Six years later, the 39-year-old virtuoso returns to Koerner Hall on May 15, having just won a tenth JUNO, this time for his Chandos CD of Bartók chamber works. The Toronto recital includes Debussy’s final composition, the deeply emotional Violin Sonata in G Minor, Bach’s demanding Sonata for solo violin No. 3 in C major, BWV 1005, Elgar’s much-loved Violin Sonata in E Minor and the Toronto premiere of Alexina Louie’s Beyond Time, commissioned by and dedicated to Ehnes. Louie points out in the program note that she began by writing the last movement, Perpetual, first, setting out to compose a highly charged movement that would showcase the violinist’s prodigious technique, which seems to her to be superhuman. Knowing how the piece ended, Louie aimed to write an opening movement, Celestial, which would be as virtuosic as the finale. Since she wanted that movement to sparkle, she wrote extended passages of string harmonics to achieve this goal. She writes that the second movement, Eternal, “can be thought of as an internalized, quiet, lyrical interlude between the two fast outer movements ... The title, Beyond Time, suggests that the piece stands outside of time, in an infinite sound world — Celestial, Eternal, Perpetual.”

Daniel Hope, Paul Neubauer, Wu Han and David Finckel. Photo By Tristan Cook.jpgSeen and Heard: April 8 at Koerner Hall, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Centre gave one of the most satisfying concerts of the season. The program was comprised of music written within a 35-year span of the mid-19th century: Mahler’s youthful Piano Quartet Movement in A Minor, Schumann’s Piano Quartet in E-flat Major Op.47  and Brahms’ Piano Quartet No.1 in G Minor Op.25. Co-directors of the Society (and married to each other), pianist Wu Han and cellist David Finckel (who spent 34 years as a member of the Emerson String Quartet) were joined by violist Paul Neubauer (formerly principal violist of the New York Philharmonic) and British virtuoso violinist Daniel Hope.

Seating was fairly close with the violin and viola crowded together just beside the keyboard. The intimacy carried over into the performance which seemed the ultimate in musical sophistication. Hope sang eternal in the gem of beauty composed by the 16-year-old Mahler. Exquisite string playing throughout was finely supported by Wu’s unruffled piano; impeccable ensemble playing with great expressiveness that was never showy or gauche.

The piano was more of a factor in the Schumann, its joyful first movement anchored by Finckel’s sublime cello. The mad dance of the Scherzo was led by the cello with the piano particularly sensitive in the many quick and delicate staccato passages that had to be navigated. The Andante cantabile which followed is one of Schumann’s most beautiful creations; a real treat. The Brahms was thick with melody as various instrumental combinations came to the fore during the opening movement’s development. A beautiful theme emerged from the ethos with great delicacy on the violin as the piece continued through to the Andante con moto, its violin and cello parts reminiscent of the composer’s Double Concerto. The Gypsy tune at the centre of the Rondo alla Zingarese broadened out led by the piano to an exquisite duet between cello and viola before the violin picked up the tune, the DNA of which Brahms found (happily) impossible to shake. It was a night where the Romantic melodists reigned supreme.

Quick Picks

May 1 Evgeny Kissin’s RTH recital, which moves from Beethoven’s “Waldstein” Sonata to Prokofiev’s Fourth through three nocturnes and six mazurkas by Chopin and Liszt’s “Rackoczi March,” is almost completely sold out at press time.

May 1 Jacques Israelievitch and pianist Valentina Sadovski perform works by Schumann and Saint Saëns at Grace Church, 700 Kennedy Road, Scarborough. May 14 Israelievitch and pianist Stephen Cera play pieces by Fauré and Bridge at Briton House Recital Hall.

May 2 The Cecilia String Quartet plays Mozart’s String Quartet K590 and Mendelssohn’s String Quartet Op.44 No.2 at the Burlington Performing Arts Centre.

May 6 Emerging violinist Augustin Hadelich performs Mendelssohn’s enduring Violin Concerto Op.64 with the TSO led by Peter Oundjian. May 27 and 28 the elegant Louis Lortie is the soloist in Liszt’s Piano Concerto No.1 with the TSO under Sir Andrew Davis, the same soloist (Lortie was 18!), concerto and conductor as in the orchestra’s groundbreaking 1978 visit to China. Ravel’s scintillating orchestral version of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition completes the evening’s program. June 46 and 7 Oundjian leads the TSO’s exciting “All American” lineup: John Adams’ Short Ride in a Fast Machine; Barber’s Symphony No.1; André Previn’s Double Concerto for Violin and Violoncello (Canadian première/TSO co-commission) with soloists Jaime Laredo and Sharon Robinson; and Gershwin’s An American in Paris.

May 9 Violinist Joyce Lai and cellist Rachel Mercer are the soloists in Brahms’ compelling Double Concerto. The Canadian Sinfonietta (led by Tak Ng Lai) concludes the celebration of the composer’s birthday (May 7) with a performance of his seminal Symphony No.1.

May 12 TSO bassoonist Samuel Banks is group of 27’s recital soloist in a concert at Heliconian Hall, complimentary food provided by Cheese Magic and Wanda’s Pie in the Sky. Also May 12 members of the COC Orchestra combine their virtuosity and artistry to perform Georges Enescu’s lush Octet for Strings in C Major, Op. 7.

May 13 Kent Nagano and the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal celebrate Sibelius’ 150th anniversary with his tuneful and heroic Symphony No.2. In the first half of this TSO presentation, Piotr Anderszewski joins the Montrealers for Mozart’s magisterial Piano Concerto No.25 K503.

May 14 Artists of the COC Orchestra and guest harpist Lori Gemmell perform pastoral works by Arnold Bax (Elegiac Trio for flute, viola and harp), Béla Bartók (String Quartet No.4) and Maurice Ravel (Introduction and Allegro) in a free noontime concert.

May 16 The recently formed XIA Quartet consists of Edmonton Symphony Orchestra concertmaster Robert Uchida and TSO violinist Shane Kim, assistant principal violist Theresa Rudolph and principal cellist Joseph Johnson. It makes its Toronto debut in a wide-ranging program of Haydn, Bartók and Beethoven (the buoyant Op.59 No.1).Also May 16 Ensemble Polaris plays new music created to accompany short films (from Ryerson University’s School of Image Arts) on the idea of “home” and “away,” shot in Iceland, New Zealand, France and Italy.

May 22 Gallery 345 presents the Ton Beau String Quartet with clarinetist Peter Stoll performing Ravel’s String Quartet in F, Brahms’ Clarinet Quintet and Gershwin’s Three Preludes (arr. Stoll). Also at Gallery 345 May 30 Trio McMaster’s recital is filled with the cream of the piano trio repertoire: Schubert’s Piano Trio No.1; Fauré’s Piano Trio Op. 120; Beethoven’s Trio Op.70 No.1 “Ghost” and Mendelssohn’s Trio No.1 Op.49.

May 2425 The Canzona Chamber Players smartly program Haydn’s Gypsy Trio, Bartók’s Suite for Piano, Op.14, Schumann’s Five Pieces in Folk Style for Cello and Piano, Ravel’s Tzigane and Dvořák’s Dumky Trio with Yosuke Kawaski, violin, Wolfram Koessel, cello, and Vadim Serebryany, piano.

May 26 Mexican-Canadian pianist Alejandro Vela mixes the freshness of Latin American composers Lecuona (Noche azúlCórdobaLa comparsaGitanerías), Ginastera (Sonata No.1) and Corea (Armando’s Rhumba), with standards by Chopin (Ballade No.1) and Rachmaninov (Five Preludes, Op. 23) in his free noontime COC concert. May 28, in another free Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre recital, Toronto Summer Music artistic director Douglas McNabney offers a sneak preview featuring emerging artists and music from the upcoming festival. June 2 violinist Véronique Mathieu and pianist Stephanie Chua perform rarely heard works by women composers Heather Schmidt, Louise Farrenc, Clara Schumann, Elizabeth Jacquet de la Guerre and others in their free noontime COC recital.

May 30  5 at the First Chamber Music Series presents two sublime chamberworks: Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet in A, K.581 and Brahms’ Clarinet Quintet in B Minor, Op.115, with Yao Guang Zhai, clarinet, Marie Bérard, violin, Yehonatan Berick, violin, Teng Li, viola, and Rachel Mercer, cello.

May 31 Acclaimed cellist Winona Zelenka is the soloist in Elgar’s beloved Cello Concerto with Orchestra Toronto conducted by Kevil Malloon.

June 2 The Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber Music Society presents the Penderecki Quartet performing Beethoven’s celestial Quartet No.14 Op.131 and, with cellist Pamela Highbaugh-Aloni, Schubert’s glorious Quintet in C. The K-WCMS bills it as “Concert of the Century” rightly pointing out that these are two of the five greatest chamber works ever written.

Paul Ennis is the managing editor of The WholeNote.


Author: Paul Ennis
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Here be dragons is an English translation of the Latin phrase “hic sunt dracones,” a notation gracing a few medieval manuscript maps and reflecting the wider period practice of drawing dragons, sea serpents and other mythological creatures to identify regions of the unknown and fearful, dangerous or unexplored territories. Some researchers suggest the term may be related to the existence of giant lizards called Komodo dragons indigenous to a few small remote Indonesian islands – and which are still a tourist draw, in the region and beyond, as when in 2003 the first Canadian Komodo dragon was hatched at the Toronto Zoo.

Tales of such creatures, morphed by repeated telling into hybrid beasts, were common not only throughout Asia but also much of the world, acquiring complex and conflicting transcultural rap sheets over the centuries. The great majority – although not all – of dragons depicted in European stories and iconography represent chaos and evil (think St. George and his confrontation with his alter beast).  In Chinese legend and lore, by contrast, they are generally considered beneficial and represent orderly government, potency, auspiciousness, strength and good luck for those worthy of it. The Emperor of China often used the mythical animal as a symbol of his imperial power; in a more philosophical vein the dragon represents the yang principle complementing the phoenix’s yin. In recent decades the term “descendants of the dragon” has become a self-identifying marker of national, ethnic identity among some Chinese, both in the Chinese homelands and throughout the extensive diaspora.

A case in point is the Sound of Dragon Music Festival making its Ontario debut in five Southern Ontario venues from May 20 to 24. Its artistic director, Vancouver-based Lan Tung, explained in a recent phone conversation that the first characters calligraphed in the festival’s descriptive Chinese title refer to dragons singing across the ocean. It’s a potent poetic metaphor for music deeply rooted in Chinese tradition but expressed with a characteristic Canadian inclusive accent. Tung’s instrument the erhu, as well as others such as the pipa, zheng, sheng and ruan will share the spotlight with the violin, viola, cello, bass, flute and clarinet, enlivened with world percussion instruments. Together they perform scores by composers of several nationalities.

2008_-_World_-_Irineu_Nogueira.jpgLaunched last year in Vancouver, the festival, Tung notes, “brings a unique approach to preserving traditional [Chinese] music, while promoting creativity and innovation.” The festival’s core contingent is made up of members of the Vancouver Inter-Cultural Orchestra (VICO), along with collaborating musicians from Taiwan and Toronto. VICO, founded in 2001, has been described as “the United Nations of music” (CBC Radio) and “music that sounds like Vancouver looks” (Georgia Straight). It’s a significant and I believe particularly Canadian music development — a professional orchestra devoted to the performance of newly created intercultural music. It was one of the first such ensembles in the world and is the only one of its kind in Canada, a testament to the spirit of cultural cooperation many of us like to think exemplifies the best in Canadians.

VICO’s core roster consists of 24 musicians, trained in many world music traditions. Its mission is to “act as a forum for the creation of a new musical art form, one in which all of Canada’s resident cultures can take part….”  It moreover “serves as a voice for Canadian composers and musicians of diverse backgrounds, and fosters the creation of musical works that fuse and transcend cultural traditions.” To date VICO has commissioned and performed over 40 new works by Canadian composers.

The Sound of Dragon Festival, Tung explains, aims “to intertwine diverse styles: ancient, folk and classical Chinese repertoire, as well as contemporary Canadian compositions … and creative improvisation.” By presenting musicians from different ethnicities, nationalities, and musical genres, it aspires to “re-define Chinese music and reflect Canada’s multicultural environment.”

Each concert of the festival has a slightly different focus. It kicks off May 20 with a free concert at the Blue Barracks of the Fort York National Historic Site where members of VICO, Taiwan’s Little Giant Chinese Chamber Orchestra and the Toronto pipa virtuoso Wen Zhao perform traditional and contemporary music written for Chinese instruments, joined in the second set by guest players from  Toronto’s creative music scene to collectively explore and improvise with multiple combinations of Chinese, Western and other instruments.

May 21, as part of Small World’s “Asian Music Series,” the Sound of Dragon Festival takes the Small World Music Centre stage, presenting an intimate evening with musicians from the Little Giant Chinese Chamber Orchestra and VICO, joined by Wen Zhao, pipa soloist. The concert finale features the Toronto premiere of Vancouver composer John Oliver’s Eagle Flies to Mountain, a work which animates notions of the four elements (earth, air, water, fire) through musical combinations, and which also invokes the essential complementary duality of the ancient concept of yin and yang.

The following day, May 22, the festival moves north of Steeles Ave. to the Flato Markham Theatre. Free Chinese instrument workshops in the afternoon will be followed by an evening concert featuring a 12-member chamber orchestra conducted by the Taiwanese maestro Chih-Sheng Chen. The orchestra, consisting of VICO core instrumentalists augmented by musicians from Taiwan and Toronto, will perform Lan Tung’s 2014 signature work Sound of Dragon, a lively blend of the well-known Chinese piece Crazy Snake Dance infused with North African rhythms and sprinkled with improvised solos.

Saturday May 23, the festival shifts to the Aeolian Hall in London presented in a concert by Sunfest, formally known as the London Committee for Cross-Cultural Arts Inc. Members of VICO and Little Giant Chinese Chamber Orchestra join forces once again to present a program of Chinese folk music arrangements and commissioned Canadian works, including  “Indian, klezmer, Persian, Chinese and Taiwanese,” and no doubt Euro-North American essential features too.

May 24 the Sound of Dragon Festival completes its Southern Ontario tour with a concert at The Jazz Room, Huether Hotel in Waterloo, produced by Neruda Arts, K-W’s world music presenter.

Meden Glas: May 2 Toronto’s Meden Glas releases its debut album Balkan Mixologies at the Music Gallery. The group is directed by ethnomusicologist Irene Markoff, a specialist in Balkan and Turkish vocal styles and the bağlama (long-necked lute). Members of its expanded group and Bulgaria’s virtuoso kaval (end-blown flute) player Nikola Gaidarov will join the core quintet. Together they present a journey into the vocal styles, intricate rhythms and instrumental music of Croatia, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Greece, Turkey, Sardinia, Russia, as well as that of the Kurds and Roma. They promise an “adventure that will bend your ears and get the evening kicking with your dancing feet!” I’m in.

Footsteps of Babur: May 8 the Aga Khan Museum in conjunction with the Aga Khan Trust for Cultural Music Initiative present “Footsteps of Babur,” referring to Babur, the founder of the Mughal Empire, and the legendary lavishness of 16th-century Mughal court life in which music of many kinds and from many regions and performance genres played a prominent role. Musicians Homayun Sakhi (Afghan rubab), Salar Nader (tabla) and Rahul Sharma (Indian santoor) evoke the light refined music that filled the palace rooms of Mughal India and Afghanistan in centuries past. Sharma is the son of the important Northern Indian santoor player Shivkumar Sharma, often credited as the man who established his instrument in Hindustani classical music performance.

Jayme Stone’s Lomax Project: Also May 8, “Jayme Stone’s Lomax Project,” also the title of their delightful new album takes the Koerner Hall stage. Two-time JUNO-winning banjoist, composer and band leader Stone has distilled and reinterpreted songs made by the American ethnomusicologist and folklorist Lomax, along with his distinguished instrumental and vocal collaborators. Lomax is justly celebrated for his field recordings conducted over the 50 years straddling the middle of the 20th century. The project revives for our century the voices and spirit of that era’s rural Americana. We hear stirring renditions of sea chanties, fiddle tunes, work songs, moving Georgia Sea Islands African-American a cappella singing and Appalachian ballads. It’s an important roots revival album, and audiences can expect Stone at the core of his tight ensemble at Koerner Hall adding deft touches of his musically nuanced, never superfluous, banjo playing.

Asian Heritage Month at the TPL: May is Asian Heritage Month in Toronto. As in previous years the Toronto Public Library is celebrating it in various ways, including free music performances given by select musicians from Toronto’s Asian music diaspora. May 16 at 1pm the Richview, Etobicoke branch presents Andrew Timar (yes that’s me moonlighting as a musician) and dancer Keiko Ninomiya in a program of “Southeast Asian Dance and Music Fusion” set within a North American aesthetic. North York Central Library’s Auditorium’s stage will be particularly musically active this month. May 21 “The Music of China” takes to its intimate stage with a program of “regional, contemporary, and Western music.” For “An Afternoon of Persian Music” on May 23 the polished Shiraz Ensemble performs music from the Persian Qajar dynasty, plus works by the important composer and santur player Farāmarz Pāyvar (1933—2009), as well as improvisations.

2008_-_World_-_Shawn_Mativetsky.jpgPedram Khavarzamini and Shawn Mativetsky: May 16 Pedram Khavarzamini and Shawn Mativetsky headline at the Music Gallery in a program titled “East Meets Further East.” The concert’s goal is to highlight Iran and India’s deep drumming traditions. Montrealer Mativetsky, performing with bassist George Koller, is an accomplished tabla performer and educator, an exponent of the Benares gharana and disciple of the tabla maestro Pandit Sharda Sahai (1935—2011). Mativetsky teaches tabla and percussion at McGill University and is a passionate advocate of tabla in contemporary music of many genres. Khavarzamini, who was among the most sought-after tombak teachers and players in Teheran when he was a resident there, will perform with tar virtuoso Araz Salek. He has co-authored several books on the drum’s technique and repertoire. In the early 2000s he was invited to join the Greek music innovator Ross Daly’s group Labyrinth and moved to Europe to pursue his music career. He has toured the world with musicians such as Dhruba Ghosh, Dariush Talai, Vassilis Stavrakakis, and others.  Last year he relocated to Toronto, a move which is our city’s and our country’s gain. These two outstanding Canadian drummers will explore much of the range of their respective instruments and rhythmic vocabularies, culminating in a collective performance.

Lulaworld Festival: The Lulaworld Festival is celebrating its tenth anniversary, and this year it’s a whopper. More than two dozen concerts, family workshops, Brazilian parade and other events at the Lula Lounge and environs between May 27 and June 6 work the theme “Celebrating the Music and Dance of the Americas!” Presented by Lula Music and Arts Centre, it’s billed as the summer’s Toronto 2015 PAN AM Games pre-party, guaranteed to “get Toronto dancing to the music of the Americas.” Even if you don’t dance in public, you can expect a healthy serving of Toronto’s finest world, jazz and Latin musicians, often collaborating with international guest artists on Lula’s intimate stage. With a festival on such a vast scale, I can only hint at the musical – and dance – wealth to be discovered. 

May 27, the festival’s opening night, Toronto’s leading Brazilian dance company Dance Migration is joined by guest Sao Paolo-based percussionist Alysson Bruno and Irineu Nogueira.

May 30 the Lula All Stars release their new CD. The group of musicians with roots from across the Americas plays at Lula Lounge’s weekly live salsa series, co-led by Sean Bellaviti and Luis Orbegoso.

Saturday, June 6, the Lulaworld stage at the Dundas West Fest will be chockablock with Latin jazz, salsa, Jamaican ska, Afro-Caribbean jazz, Spanish rock and pop, Canada’s biggest participatory Brazilian drumming parade and “family-friendly workshops.” Best of all, it’s all free.

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

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The human voice is an astonishingly versatile instrument, capable of an infinite variety of tones, timbres and inflections. Something primal in us is touched by the extremes of range in the sound of a coloratura soprano or a basso profundo; the virtuoso melismatic technique of a Hindustani or R&B soloist; the mysterious, elusive harmonies of Tibetan and Tuvan throat singing; and the street-corner, sandpaper tones of Tom Waits, Billie Holiday and Joe Turner.

We have an inexhaustible fascination with vocal music. Historical documents about music that ignore technical and artistic questions often go into great detail about the sound of voices. Today’s recording industry is centred around the sound of the human voice, and our ability to mechanically engineer and manipulate sound has reached an astonishing level of ease and complexity. Paradoxically our interest in music’s most basic expression, unaccompanied or a cappella singing, is unabated and may actually be increasing.

2008_-_Choral_-_East_York_Barbershoppers.jpgEast York Barbershoppers: The awareness of tuning necessary to execute a cappella music, unsupported by instruments, can be a challenge even to experienced vocalists. In April I had the pleasure of attending a rehearsal of the East York Barbershoppers, in preparation for their May 23 concert. This event celebrates the group’s 65th year, which makes them one of the longest-running ensembles in the city. For more information see

Barbershop singing is an internationally popular a cappella genre of vocal music. It is notable not only for its particular nature – close harmony singing by male or female ensembles centred around (but not limited to) Anglo-American parlour song of the 19th and 20th centuries – but also for the rehearsal process that trains singers to listen and harmonize, and the continuing vitality of the art form all over the world. The USA-based Barbershop Harmony Society has roughly 25,000 members internationally, with chapters from Sweden to South Africa to New Zealand. Continuing to flourish without the aid of mainstream commercial promotion or institutional instruction, Barbershop has managed to sustain itself in the face of neglect on many fronts.

The East York Barbershoppers have have an ongoing lease agreement with several levels of government that allows them to rehearse regularly in Harmony Hall, 2 Gower St., a community space near Dawes Rd. in what, pre-amalgamation, was called East York. The rehearsals take place in the gym/theatre space on the main floor, but downstairs there is the specially named Quartet Room for small ensemble rehearsals and the President’s Room, a wonderful historical space filled with pictures, trophies and medals that attest to the group’s ongoing presence within the community.

Chatting with some members of the EYB prior to the rehearsal, I am regaled with an intriguing mixture of historical and technical knowledge. Ron Whiteside is a baritone who joined the EYB in 2000 and took his own ensemble, the Scarborough Dukes of Harmony, to competition wins in the 70s and 80s. He gleefully discusses a version of “Jeannie With the Light Brown Hair” that scandalized a 70s era barbershop judging team, or the pitch issues involved in tuning close-harmony seventh chords in vocal standards like “Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue” and “Ain’t She Sweet.”

Close harmony singing is challenging; you can’t assume, as a classically trained musician or experienced choral singer, that you will automatically be able to tune barbershop chords. Classical singers generally sing accompanied by piano, and the tempered tuning of the piano does not always foster sensitive ears. Piano and orchestral accompaniment can become a kind of aural crutch in which a sounding pitch is approximately matched and really sensitive intervallic tuning is neglected.

Barbershop rehearsals make very little recourse to piano, either for harmonies or melodic lines. Singers instead are given a root tone from a pitch pipe, and are expected to be able to build their harmonies from that information alone. They use sheet music in rehearsal – performances are always memorized – but are often working as much by ear and from memory as from a printed score. The singers I talked to all showed an awareness of the nature of pitch relationships and of the necessity of microtuning to give a chord a more vibrant sound, in a manner that would befuddle many musicians with more formal training.

I met some singers who had recently begun singing in the EYB and others who had been singing in barbershop ensembles literally almost all their lives. Director emeritus George Shields continues to sing with the ensemble, along with his, brother-in-law, Jack Kelly, who was a founding member 65 years ago. George and Jack are 89 and 90 years old.

Lindsay-born Pat Hannon, the ensemble’s young director, identifies himself as a fourth generation barbershopper, who grew up with the sound of close harmony in his home. Hannon points out that modern barbershop singing has both branched out from its original repertoire to include arrangements of songs such as Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” and Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours,” and at the same time is beginning to rediscover and explore its own roots in African-American culture, from which many of its traditions originated.

Before I left, the ensemble serenaded me with Hank Snow’s “You’re as Welcome as the Flowers in May,” keeping perfect tune as every member of the group filed by and shook my hand, one by one. Walking out of Harmony Hall into the cool spring night, I was glad to see that in this corner of East Toronto this charming and rigorous tradition  of a cappella community singing is healthy and thriving.

2008_-_Choral_-_Aaron_Jensen.jpgTime to SING! Barbershop and many other a cappella groups of all sizes and styles can be found at Toronto’s SING! festival, a dynamic event now in its fourth year. SING! The Toronto Vocal Arts Festival will take place May 27 to 31. SING! was co-founded by the energetic and passionate Aaron Jensen, a composer/singer/conductor involved in so many different vocal music projects that he clearly does not have time to sleep. Still, he sounds more than alert when discussing his love of singing. In response to a follow-up email question, Jensen writes: “There is no human culture, no matter how remote or isolated, that doesn’t sing. We sing to build personal bonds, to celebrate, to venerate gods, to mark rites of passage and to pass along ancient stories. Singing boosts your mental health, calms nerves, sharpens your memory, reduces anxiety and raises your spirits. Singing is intimate, evocative, empowering, and it’s just plain fun.”

Jensen’s vision for the SING! festival is one that welcomes and celebrates many genres of music in the context of unaccompanied singing. His mandate is to make the festival and attendant events throughout the year a resource and hub for vocal training and performance in Canada. Jensen has also reached out to other North American cities, and there will be an upcoming SING! festival in Austin, Texas in October 2015.

Most of the activities in the Toronto event will be centred in the Distillery district just east of Parliament and Front Streets, but concerts will also take place at Koerner Hall and Glenn Gould Studio, as well as several Toronto churches, which are some of the best performance spaces in the city.

R.A.M. to Rajaton: The Estonian National Male Choir, known in Estonia as the R.A.M. Koor performs at Christ Church Deer Park May 28. This ensemble, which celebrates its 70th anniversary this year, has recorded for both Deutsche Grammophon and Sony records. Their performance includes a premiere by acclaimed Estonian Composer Arvo Pärt : his setting of the Da Pacem Domini text, in a new version for string orchestra and male choir. The choir’s SING! concert is part of a seven-concert tour of southern Ontario. More details about the tour’s dates and locations can be found at this Facebook group:

Two other acclaimed vocal chamber ensembles will be visiting Toronto for SING! 2015. Take 6 is a jazz harmony marvel that has performed with Ray Charles, Quincy Jones and Stevie Wonder. Finnish ensemble Rajaton, less well known in North America, are multi-platinum recording artists in Europe.

The Canadian contingent: This year Canada is represented at SING! by a number of different groups, including the Nathaniel Dett Chorale, with guests Countermeasure, one of Aaron Jensen’s ensembles. In a concert titled “Jubilate Deo: Great Sacred Choral Music through the Ages,” four Toronto choirs will sing together: the Cathedral Church of St. James, Rosedale United Church, Kingsway-Lambton Chancel, and All Saints Kingsway Anglican.

There will also be a series of intriguing workshops geared towards musicians and arts managers interested in networking, developing skills and building viable ensembles. Workshop topics will address subjects such as securing funding, the logistics of management, composing music for film and television, vocal care, and songwriting and audition strategies, among others. The Take 6 and Rajaton ensembles will be hosting workshops that investigate the technical and artistic aspects of their concert work. For information on the SING! concert and workshop schedule – there are many other groups performing that are not mentioned here –go to

Other May/June concerts:

On May 9 the Orpheus Choir of Toronto, one of the city’s staunchest choral champions of living composers, presents “Touch the Earth Lightly.” The concert features the premiere of Canadian composer (and Da Capo Chamber Choir conductor) Leonard Enns’ Ten Thousand Rivers of Oil and the Toronto premiere of Norwegian composer Ola Gjeilo’s Sunrise–Symphonic Mass .

On May 10 the ECHO Women’s Choir presents “My Mother is the Ocean Sea.” The concert features special guests Lemon Bucket Orchestra’s Mark Marczyk and singer/ethnomusicologist Marichka Kudriavtseva.

On May 23 the Masterworks of Oakville Chorus & Orchestra will give a tenth anniversary concert, performing two popular modern works, Poulenc’s Gloria and Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms.

On May 24 choral audiences will be forced to choose between two different womens’ voices ensembles. The Oriana Women’s Choir performs “The Voice of Oriana: Music for a New Day,” with works by Eleanor Daley, Harry Freedman, Derek Healey and others. And the Florivox Choir performs “This Woman’s Work,” a concert that includes music by Kate Bush.

On May 31 the male vocal ensemble, the Victoria Scholars, performs “Simple Gifts,” with what the choir bills as “easy on the ears”: works by Casals, Copland, Debussy, Kodály and Lauridsen.

On June 6 the Etobicoke Centennial Choir performs “Songs of Hope, Songs of Inspiration,” a concert that includes modern choral favourites such as Paul Halley’s catchy Freedom Trilogy and Samuel Barber’s serene Sure on This Shining Night.

Also on June 6 the Voices Chamber Choir performs “Brother Sun, Sister Moon,” with a theme of choral music for the morning and the evening,  The concert includes current American choral starMorten Lauridsen’s Nocturnes and Canadian Healy Willan’s Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis.

A final thought on the subject of a cappella singing: Our love of the voice stems from our love of music, defined very roughly as pitched and coherently organized sound. The reasons why we love music are varied, complex and usually expressed with too much flowery verbosity to suit me. Music, executed well, makes us feel good. We don’t need any more justification for its pursuit than that. But there is a special and unique quality to music’s expression through the human voice. The act of singing affects us in a manner we scarcely understand, but feel at the most elemental level.

When we sing, our vocal chords become the reeds that translate vibration into pitch. Our throats become conduits for air flow, our bones conduct sound and our bodies become the echo chambers that give life and resonance to the tones we create. No matter where voiced pitch finds expression – the shower, a concert hall, a school gym, a digital or analogue recording – its source is ultimately flesh and bone. Singing is the closest we come not just to making music, but to being music. It’s the nearest a process of transmutation that human beings can experience. As we embody music, music embodies us.

Benjamin Stein is a Toronto tenor and lutenist. He can be contacted at Visit his website at

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2008_-_Beat_-_Art_Zarankin.jpgOff Centre Music Salon is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. To mark the occasion a special concert will be given on June 7 at Glenn Gould Studio. It features a great array of Canadian singers (many of whom performed with Off Centre Music Salon early in their careers): sopranos Isabel Bayrakdarian, Joni Henson, Nathalie Paulin, Monica Whicher, Lucia Cesaroni and Ilana Zarankin; mezzos Krisztina Szabó, Norine Burgess, Lauren Segal and Emilia Boteva; tenor Jeffrey Hill; baritones Russell Braun and James Westman; and bass-baritone Olivier Laquerre. Pianist-composer Jimmy Roberts will also take part.

In the beginning Off Centre Music Salon presented recitals but the directors, Boris Zarankin and Inna Perkis, soon realized that there were many musical organizations that offered recitals and that they would only be duplicating the kind of thing that was already available. Instead they hit on the notion of performing each program as a salon in the tradition of 17th-century France or early 20th-century Vienna. They were concerned that each concert should have a storyline and should include the spoken word as well as music, a practice that has now been adopted by other organizations, notably the Talisker Players. They programmed an annual Schubertiad, even before the Aldeburgh Connection followed suit. They like to present their programs as if they are improvised, although in reality everything is carefully prepared.

This season included a new venture, two concerts characterized as “dérangé,” programs that can be seen as “out of line,” and in which the music is at the intersection of Canadian contemporary, classical, jazz and folk music. The curators of the series are their daughter, soprano Ilana Zarankin, and drummer Nico Dann.

Their 2015-16 season will see a change of venue from Glenn Gould Studio to Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre, a good move, I think, since the ambience of GGS always worked against the notion of the salon that the organizers tried to create. Dates, artists and contents have already been set. The season begins on September 27 with “Russia Adrift,” a program which will focus on Russian composers who spent much of their lives in exile; the second concert on November 1, “The Geometry of Love,” will deal with the tangled relationship of composers and writers such as Beethoven, Strauss, Mahler, Rilke and Nietzsche; the musical life of Paris and Berlin in the 1920s (Les Six, the jazz music of Hindemith) will be explored on February 21; the season will end with the annual Schubertiad in which tenor Jeffrey Hill will perform Die Schöne Müllerin on April 10.

2008_-_Beat_-_Art_Szabo.jpgAgainst the Grain Theatre: Anyone who saw the magnificent double bill of Janácek’s Diary of One who Disappeared and Kurtág’s Kafka Fragments two years ago will be interested in their concerts on June 2, 3, 4 and 5 at Neubacher Shor Contemporary, in which mezzo Krisztina Szabó will sing Olivier Messiaen’s Harawi and bass-baritone Stephen Hegedus will perform Schubert’s Die Schöne Müllerin. The musical director and pianist is Christopher (“Topher”) Mokrzewski and the stage director Joel Ivany. There will be a free preview of selections from both works in the Richard Bradshaw Auditorium at the Four Seasons Centre on May 21.

Also at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre (and free):On May 5 baritone Joshua Hopkins (who is currently singing Figaro in Rossini’s The Barber of Seville for the Canadian Opera Company) will sing lieder by Schubert and Schumann; on May 19 Ekaterina Gubanova, mezzo (Judith in the COC’s revival of Bartok’s Bluebeard’s Castle), and Rachel Andrist, piano, will perform the Songs and Dances of Death by Mussorgsky; and on May 20there will be a farewell concert by the graduating artists of the COC Ensemble Studio.

New Music Concerts: On May 17 NMC will present “Michel Gonneville and the Belgian Connection” with works by Gonneville and Henri Pousseur. The soprano is Ethel Guéret and the conductor Robert Aitken, at Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre.

Recitals at Rosedale: Lucia Cesaroni, soprano, Emily D’Angelo. mezzo, and Anthony Cleverton, baritone, are the soloists in the final concert this season. The pianist is Rachel Andrist. The program includes selections fromSchumann’s Lieder und Gesänge aus Wilhelm Meister, Opus 98a, as well as works by Schubert, Duparc and Berlioz and also traditional folk songs from the British Isles, at Rosedale Presbyterian Church May 3.

Pax Christi: Also on May 3 Pax Christi Chorale will present the North American premiere of Hubert Parry’s oratorio Judith (written in 1888). The soloists are Shannon Mercer, soprano, Jillian Yemen, mezzo, David Menzies, tenor, and Michael York, baritone. The conductor is Stephanie Martin; at Koerner Hall.

Toronto Masque Theatre: Two years ago the Toronto Masque Theatre presented The Lesson of Da Ji, a new work by Alice Ping Yee Ho, with a libretto by Marjorie Chan. On May 31 the company will perform a concert version of the work. Marion Newman, mezzo, is Da Jin and other parts will be sung by Derek Kwan, tenor, Vania Chan and Charlotte Corwin, soprano, Ben Covey, baritone, Alexander Dobson, bass-baritone and William Lau, who specializes in female roles in Peking Opera. Larry Beckwith conducts; at The Music Gallery.

Other Events: Two singer-songwriters will perform in Koerner Hall: Natalie Merchant sings original works on May 1 and 2; Buffy Sainte-Marie will sing on May 7.

On May 3 Natalya Matyusheva, soprano, and Justin Stolz, tenor, will be the soloists with the Vesnivka Choir and the Toronto Ukrainian Male Chamber Choir in a program of folk songs celebrating rebirth, romance and love at Humber Valley United Church, Etobicoke.

On May 5 the mezzo Marina Yakhontova will sing “Forgotten and Famous Art Songs” from Eastern Europe and America at Windermere United Church. The proceeds will be used to assist injured and displaced persons in the Ukraine.

There will be a free noontime recital at St. Andrew’s Church on May 8. The singer is the baritone Gianmarco Segato.

Stephanie Diciantis, soprano, will sing Richard Strauss’ Four Last Songs as well as works by Barber and Rachmaninoff on May 10 at Gallery 345. At the same location, on May 27, themezzo Ali Garrison will present a program titled “New Songs from the Heart of Now: Making Songs for Our Time.”

On May 12 the Talisker Players will present “Heroes, Gods and Mortals,” a selection of adaptations of Greek myths in poetry, prose and song. The musical components consist of works by Pergolesi, Hovhaness, Plant, Turina and Weill as well as the premiere of a commissioned work by Monica Pearce (the Leda Songs, based on texts by Rilke, HD and D. H. Lawrence). The singers are Carla Huhtanen, soprano, and Andrea Ludwig, mezzo, at Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre.

On May 13 Anna Bateman, soprano, Benoit Boutet, tenor, and Jeffrey Carl, baritone, are the soloists in a performance of Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana by the Toronto Choral Society at Eastminster United Church.

As part of Jewish Music Week Tibor and Kati Kovari, cantors, will perform “Afternoon Tunes: Celebrating Israel in Song” at Miles Nadal JCC, May 14; free.

To mark the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War the Shevchenko Musical Ensemble will sing “Songs of War and Peace” with Adèle Kozak, soprano, and Hassan Anami, tenor at St. Michael’s College School May 17.

In the May 21 performance of Verdi’s Requiem by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (repeated on May 22 and 23)the soloists are Amber Wagner, soprano, Jamie Barton, mezzo, Frank Lopardo, tenor, and Eric Owens, bass. Sir Andrew Davis conducts at Roy Thomson Hall.

Sonya Harper Nyby, soprano, Laura Schatz, mezzo, Anthony Varahidis, tenor, and Michael Nyby, baritone, will be the soloists in Mozart’s Mass in C Minor, K427 at St. Anne’s Anglican Church on May 24.

The soprano Erin Cooper Gay will sing Schubert’s song Der Tod und das Mädchen; and the Halcyon String Quartet will play Schubert’s other “Death and the Maiden,” Quartet No.14 in D Minor, as well as Mozart’s Quartet No.16 in E flat at Heliconian Hall May 25.

Tapestry Opera presents the premiere of M’dea Undone: book by Marjorie Chan, score by John Harris. The singers are Lauren Segal, mezzo, Peter Barrett, baritone, James McLean, tenor, and Jacqueline Woodley, soprano May 26 at Evergreen Brickworks.

The tenor Charles Davidson will sing works by Schubert, Schumann, Weill and others at Metropolitan United Church May 30.

On May 31 the Toronto Classical Singers will present Haydn’s The Creation with Lesley Bouza, soprano, Christopher Mayell, tenor, and Bruce Kelly, baritone, at Christ Church Deer Park.

Gospel songs are performed by Joni Henson, soprano, Valerie Mero-Smith, mezzo, Alan Reid, tenor, and Sung Chung, baritone, June 3 at Humber Valley United Church.

And beyond the GTA: On May 9 there will be a performance of Haydn’s The Creation with Ellen McAteer and Chelsea Van Pelt, soprano, Chris Mayell, tenor, and Joel Allison and Tyler Fitzgerald, bass, at George Street United Church, Peterborough.

The Bach Elgar Choir of Hamilton will perform Rossini’s Petite Messe Solennelle on May 23. The soloists are Michele Bogdanowicz, mezzo, Zach Finkelstein, tenor, and Giles Tomkins, baritone, at Melrose United Church, Hamilton.

Melissa-Marie Shriner will sing musical theatre, jazz and original compositions at the Vineland United Mennonite Church in Vineland on May 30.

Hans de Groot is a concertgoer and active listener who also sings and plays the recorder. He can be contacted at 

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2008_-_Opera_-_John_Relyea.jpgFor several years April has been the one month in the year with the single highest concentration of opera presentations. This year, for unknown reasons, May claims that distinction with presentations of music drama from the Middle Ages right up to the present with a particular emphasis on new works.

c.1227 – Ludus Danielis by Anonymous on May 22, 23 and 24. The Toronto Consort has previous presented a series of highly successful concert productions of early operatic masterpieces from the 17th century. With Ludus Danielis (or The Play of Daniel), the Consort gives us an example of a sung drama written before the official invention of opera in the late 16th century. Jacopo Peri’s Dafne from 1598, most of the music now lost, is considered the earliest known opera. Yet there are examples in the Middle Ages of sung drama. One of the most notable of these is the Ordo Virtutem (c.1151) by Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179). The Ludus Danielis was written by students at the school of Beauvais Cathedral in France and recounts the story of Daniel at the court of Belshazzar. What will make this performance unusual is that it will be fully staged. Kevin Skelton in the role of Daniel joins the Consort Medieval players conducted by David Fallis and the Viva! Youth Singers of Toronto. Alex Fallis is the stage director with costumes by Nina Okens and set and lighting by Glenn Davidson.  

1781 – Idomeneo by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart on May 23.
Skipping forward 500 years from the Ludus Danielis, we come to Opera by Request’s presentation of Mozart’s opera seria about the King of Crete who prays to Neptune to save him from shipwreck vowing to sacrifice the first living being he meets on land. Unfortunately, that being is his son Idamante. Avery Krisman sings Idomeneo, Stephanie Code is Idamante and Hannah Coleman is Idomeneo’s daughter Ilia.  Annex Singers are conducted by Maria Case and the music director and pianist is William Shookhoff.

1816 – The Barber of Seville by Gioacchino Rossini from April 7 to May 22.  The COC production of Barber opened in April and was discussed in this column last month, but with 12 performances it runs deep into May. As Figaro, Canadian Joshua Hopkins, who has made a name for himself elsewhere, sings his first major role with the COC. American Alek Shrader is Count Almaviva, Italian Serena Malfi is his beloved Rosina, Italian Renato Girolami is her jealous guardian and Canadian Robert Gleadow is Bartolo’s friend Don Basilio. In May other singers assume the last four roles on May 9, 19 and 21. On May 15 members of the COC Ensemble Studio take over all the singing parts for a performance with discounted tickets. Scotsman Rory Macdonald conducts and Catalonian Joan Font directs. 

2008_-_Opera_-_COC_-_Erwartung.jpg1849 – Luisa Miller by Giuseppe Verdi on May 15. Opera by Request presents one of Verdi’s four operas based on plays by German playwright Friedrich Schiller. In the opera as in its source, Kabale und Liebe (Intrigue and Love) of 1784, Luisa is in love with a young man whom she does not know is really Rodolfo, the son of Count Walter in disguise. Walter’s steward, the appropriately named Wurm, is secretly in love with Luisa and vows to do everything he can to ruin her relationship with Rodolfo. Naomi Eberhard sings Luisa, Paul Williamson is Rodolfo, Andrew Tees is Count Walter and Steven Hendrikson is Wurm. William Shookhoff conducts from the piano.

1868 – Hamlet by Ambroise Thomas on May 9. Opera by Request’s third opera of the month is one that used to be popular until World War I. The main difficulty in English-speaking countries is that the opera has a happy ending in which Hamlet kills Claudius, is absolved of guilt and is finally proclaimed king. The highpoint of the work is a vocally spectacular mad scene for Ophélie before she drowns herself. Simon Chaussé sings Hamlet, Vania Chan is Ophélie, Domenico Sanfilippo is Claudius and Erica Iris Huang is Gertrude. As usual, the tireless William Shookhoff conducts from the piano.

1909 – Erwartung by Arnold Schoenberg.

1918 - Bluebeard’s Castle by Béla Bartók, from May 6 to May 23.
This is the double bill directed by Robert Lepage that made COC known around the world. It premiered in 1993 and has been revived in 1995 and 2001. This will be the first time the operas will have been presented in the Four Seasons Centre. Bluebeard’s Castle, performed first, is a symbolist version of the Bluebeard legend where Bluebeard’s new wife Judith comes to realize that her husband is Death itself. Erwartung means “expectation” but emphasizes the aspect of waiting more than does the English word. Written in 1909 but not performed until 1924, Erwartung is one of the few monodramas aside from Poulenc’s La Voix humaine (1959) in the operatic repertory. It follows the crazed thoughts of a woman searching for her lover. But is he dead? Could she have killed him? John Relyea sings Duke Bluebeard and Ekaterina Gubanova is Judith. In Erwartung, Krisztina Szabó is the unnamed Woman. Johannes Debus conducts.

2008 – Earnest, The Importance of Being by Victor Davies from April 29 to May 3. Toronto Operetta Theatre revives its well-received production, first seen in 2008, of an operetta based on Oscar Wilde’s famous comedy. As discussed in this column last month, the production stars Jean Stilwell as Lady Bracknell with Cameron McPhail as John, Thomas Macleay as Algernon, Charlotte Knight as Cecily and Michelle Garlough as Gwendolen. Larry Beckwith conducts and Guillermo Silva-Marin directs.

2015 – Alice in Wonderland by Errol Gay from May 7 to 10. The Canadian Children’s Opera Company presents a new children’s opera with a libretto by Michael Patrick Albano based on the classic novel by Lewis Carroll. Tenor Benoit Boutet will sing the role of the White Rabbit while all the other roles are sung by the CCOC. Ann Cooper Gay conducts the CCOC Chamber Orchestra.

2015 – Führerbunker: An Opera by Andrew Ager on May 1 and 2.
The COSI Connection presents the world premiere of what will likely be the most controversial opera of the month. The hour-long work examines the last ten days of Adolf Hitler and his associates inside his bunker before the Russians occupied Berlin in 1945. In this it covers the same territory as Oliver Hirschbiegel’s 2004 film Der Untergang (Downfall) in trying to capture the surreal atmosphere of once-powerful political leaders confronting their doom. As Ager told Musical Toronto in 2014, “People need to know we are treating it as a narration of the individuals involved, and not a glorification ... and at the same time, not a morality play.”  Jonathan MacArthur will sing the role of Hitler, Sydney Baedke will be Eva Braun with others singing the roles of Goebbels and his wife, Albert Speer and various guards. Ager, whose opera Frankenstein premiered in Toronto in 2010, will conduct a chamber ensemble and Michael Patrick Albano will direct. 

2008_-_Opera_-_Tapestry_Founder_with_AD.jpg2015 – M’dea Undone by John Harris from May 26 to 29. Tapestry Opera will present the world premiere of a new version of the Medea story in collaboration with Scottish Opera. In collaboration with Scottish composer John Harris, librettist Marjorie Chan has updated the action to the present changing Creon, King of Corinth, to an anonymous President, Creon’s daughter Glauce to Dahlia and giving Medea only one son with Jason instead of two. In Chan’s version Jason (Peter Barrett) is a war hero who becomes the running mate of the President (James McLean). When Jason announces his engagement to the President’s daughter Dahlia (Jacqueline Woodley), M’dea (Lauren Segal), Jason’s former lover and mother of his son, seeks revenge. Jordan de Souza will conduct a chamber ensemble and Tim Albery will direct. 

2015 – 21C Music Festival: After Hours #1 on May 21.  As part of the RCM’s 21C Music Festival, Bicycle Opera presents several new mini-operas that it will tour throughout Ontario. These will include The Dancer by James Rolfe, The Yellow Wallpaper by Cecilia Livingston, (What rhymes with) Azimuth? by Ivan Barbotin, Bianchi by Tobin Stokes and an excerpt from Dean Burry’s The Bells of Baddeck. The singers are soprano Larissa Koniuk, mezzo Stephanie Tritchew, tenor Graham Thomson and baritone Alexander Dobson. The musicians are violinist Ilana Waniuk, cellist Erika Nielsen Smith and Wesley Shen, music director and piano. Liza Balkan directs.

To be able to sample works of lyric theatre from a period of nearly 800 years in just one month is a luxury available in very few cities in the world. Be sure to make the most of it.

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

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2008_-_Early_-_Bach.jpgAlthough an all-Bach program is a tempting, and ambitious project for an artist, there are two perils. One is difficulty, the other, monotony. Bach seldom found himself in a mood to write anything easy, and it’s hard to give his music the flair it often deserves in performance. It also doesn’t help that a modern concert audience demands variety, and one composer alone, even Bach, is hard pressed to carry an entire evening’s worth of music.

Unless of course that Bach program is an Alison McKay multmedia project. This month, Tafelmusik presents McKay’s newest production, “J.S. Bach: The Circle of Creation,” a celebration of the genius of Bach. Like McKay’s previous productions, “The Galileo Project” and “House of Dreams,” her latest combines text, music, projected images and video, with the help of Jeanne Lamon, back to lead the orchestra, and Marshall Pynkoski, providing stage direction.

The Circle of Creation promises to be more than just a tribute to Bach. McKay wants the audience to explore not just the composer’s world, but also the world of the artisans who lived in Bach’s day — the lives of a typical 18th-century papermaker, violin carver, string spinner and performer are all examined in this concert. And if anyone thought difficulty was going to be an issue (even for Tafelmusik) consider this: Tafelmusik will perform the entire concert from memory. This will be quite a stunt, as the orchestra will be expected to pull off the first two movements of the Brandenburg Concerto No.3, highlights from the First and Third Orchestral Suites, and instrumental excerpts from a slew of cantatas. If that weren’t enough, the evening will also include a pile of the master’s chamber music, including parts of the Goldberg Variations, sonatas for two and three violins, and the Allemande of the First Partita for solo violin. It’s not exactly the sort of repertoire one jumps to include in the same concert, let alone try to do all from memory. J.S. Bach: The Circle of Creation will be performed May 6 to 10 at Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre and May 12 at George Weston Recital Hall.

While Tafelmusik promises to throw every possible form of staging, multimedia presentation, and musical direction at one of the great composers of classical music, there’s another concert gong on later this month that promises to be much more down-to-earth, but no less of an impressive affair. Bud Roach, a great lover of Italian music of the 17th century, will be presenting the music of Giovanni Felice Sances and Alessandro Grandi, two Italian composers who lived late enough in the Renaissance to consider Monteverdi as part of the musical establishment, rather than a radical. Sances was well known in his own time as a composer of opera in Venice. He later moved to Vienna where he eventually became Kapellmeister under Ferdinand III. Unfortunately for Sances’ legacy, his operas were all lost, so we have no chance of performing any of his larger-scale works. Grandi was more than a contemporary of Monteverdi – he was also a colleague, and worked under the great composer at St. Mark’s Church in Venice, where the two wrote most of their best-known works. Roach will perform a selection of Sances’ and Grandi’s works as well as accompany himself on baroque guitar, on May 31 at 2:30pm as part of the Toronto Early Music Centre’s “Musically Speaking” series of concerts. This all happens at St. David’s Anglican Church. Roach is a gifted musician who is blessed with an exceptional voice – this concert will be an excellent chance to uncover some hidden gems from Italy in the 17th century.

Speaking of Italian music, there’s another concert this month that takes its inspiration from the vocal music of Renaissance Italy – albeit with a twist. Although we definitely associate the madrigal with Italy, the genre caught on in other countries, with a few changes made in transit. Every composer in Italy felt he had to compose a madrigal to be taken seriously; even Palestrina, the composer of the Pope Marcellus Mass, got in on the craze, publishing a collection of his own madrigals (although he later claimed the work as the youthful indiscretion of a young man who should have written more masses and motets). Once the madrigal had become standard fare for Italian music lovers, and composers like Monteverdi and Gesualdo had stretched the boundaries of the genre, it eventually died out in Italy. 

Not so in England. There, audiences were too busy enduring decades of religious strife, violence, and a country in political turmoil to occupy themselves much with the arts, and so discovered the form much later. Still, by the beginning of the 17th century the English had re-dedicated themselves to capital C Classical learning and culture. The result was an eccentric, derivative look at what the Renaissance could have been – a token nod to Greek and Roman culture and learning; none of the Homeric myths, mind you. No stories of gods meddling in the lives of mortals. Rather, an overall aesthetic that sought entertainment in easygoing comedy and diversion rather than in the epic tragedy found in, say, a typical Italian opera. Presumably everyone in the country had seen enough drama and tragedy after Henry VIII’s reign.

So while your typical English madrigal of the day may have had enough sighing in it to make a sizeable breeze,  it nevertheless kept a tight rein on the emotional range of its earlier Renaissance counterpart – no broken hearts, no ruined lives and absolutely no tragic deaths allowed. There’s a reason they called it “Merrie England.”

The Cantemus Singers will pay tribute to the jolly, frivolous fun of the English Renaissance in their program “Nymphs & Shepherds,” the group’s salute to the madrigal rage that swept the kingdom for the last decade of Elizabeth I’s reign and after. Highlights will include a few true masterpieces of English vocal music, such as Thomas Morley’s Hard by a crystal fountain (from his The Triumphs of Oriana), John Ward’s Come, sable night, and Thomas Bateson’s Merrily my love and I. As well as some jolly English songs, the group will perform a few more sobering compositions, including Byrd’s exceptional Mass for Five Voices and John Sheppard’s glorious motet Libera Nos. The concert will be presented at the Church of the Holy Trinity May 30 and 31.

Finally, if you’re in the mood for something French (or Turkish), consider checking out Toronto Masque Theatre’s Les Indes Mécaniques, a choreographed adaptation of Rameau’s great opera Les Indes Galantes. The show also includes The Anahtar Project, traditional Turkish music from the days of the Ottoman Empire. It promises to be an eclectic musical evening featuring one of the great 18thcentury French operas. This concert takes place at the Fleck Dance Theatre at the Harbourfront Centre May 14 and 15.

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

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2008_-_Jazz_Stories_-_Andrew_Scott.jpgLabel executive, writer-producer, educator and jazz journalist Jeff Levenson is speaking. “Find yourself within this ecosystem” he advises. “You’re a musician, but you’re many other things as well.” 

He is one of a handful of speakers at a music business seminar co-presented by JAZZ.FM91 ( and the International Resource Centre for Performing Artists ( on April 11, 2015, hosted at JAZZ.FM91 in Liberty Village. It’s a well-attended event, with panels curated by community engagement and education manager Mark Micklethwaite and CEO of the station, Ross Porter.

“With the Music Business Seminar, we seek to help Canadian artists gain the knowledge and expertise to succeed in the Canadian music marketplace. We have brought together successful industry professional and musicians to talk about the important topics – booking performance, recording, radio airplay, promotion – and provide a forum for enterprising musicians to ask questions and interact with the experts and their peers,” says Porter.

Founder of IRCPA, Ann Summers Dossena was honoured by the international arts industry in 2012 and again in 2014. She retired from arts management in October 2013 after a distinguished, 55-year career in New York, Rome and Toronto. 

“During these years I was invited to give a number of workshops for emerging artists in Austria, Italy, Israel and the United States, with several colleagues,” recalls Summers Dossena. “When I returned to Toronto in 1977 I opened the office here and soon realized that Canadian artists needed the same help.”

In her decades of important work in the field she gained an unequalled amount of experience pertaining to artist management, personal representation, promotion and marketing. I asked Summers Dossena how the IRCPA has changed since its birth in 1985:

“The Centre now has a formal board and by-laws, and is working on a strategic plan and fundraising on two levels. One to keep our badly needed workshops and the second to create a physical centre for musicians to come together as a community to exchange ideas, share challenges, seek solutions, gain confidence, network and be mentored. We are working toward being able to own our space in a new building by the fall of 2017 to be named the IRCPA Maureen Forrester Centre, in celebration of Canada’s 150th anniversary.”

Back to the JAZZ.FM91/IRCPA Music Business Seminar which was a bargain at $30 per attendant – there was a lot of wisdom to be gained here courtesy of several invaluable panels.

“Be a positive member of the community,” said Carol Gimbel, founding artistic director of the Music in the Barns concert series. “Find people that have a similar mission,” emphasized Barry Shiffman, associate dean and director of chamber music at the Glenn Gould School, Royal Conservatory, and artistic director of summer music programs and the international string quartet competition at the Banff Centre. “If the music is good, it should speak for itself,” underlined Josh Grossman, artistic director of the TD Toronto Jazz Festival. “Your record, and 50 other records, came today,” advised Brad Barker, music director and host of Afternoon Drive, JAZZ.FM91, so “find a way to be relentlessly polite” and “if you’re thinking about recording another version of “Autumn Leaves” ask yourself if you are adding anything new.”

The recording panel shed light on the process of creating product:  Steve Bellamy, founder and president of Addo Records, and associate dean for the Humber School of Creative and Performing Arts reminded participants that “a lack of planning is where most projects go wrong”; JUNO-nominated drummer/composer and owner of Orange Grove Publicity Ernesto Cervini expressed the importance of having a good producer: “when you’re in the studio you want to be able to just play.”

The final panel of the day focused on publicity and how to make it work for you. “We don’t take artists we don’t believe in,” said Jane Harbury, president of Jane Harbury Publicity;  and Eric Alper, director of media relations, eOne Music Canada and social media icon (588,000 twitter followers as of this writing), urged attendees to “create great content all the time … learn your audience … and take polls.”

Yet, for me, it was Levenson’s opening address that remained one of the seminar highlights. Emphasizing the importance of questions over answers, he stressed the importance of passion, conviction, authenticity and above all, a sense of realism. “Musicians are heroes,” he said, “and I believe they should get paid as much as nuclear physicists, but the marketplace determines the pay.”

The hats we wear: We musicians have to wear various hats, sometimes simultaneously. I’m always reminded of this when I do my taxes. Last year I made money by singing, writing, teaching, licensing, royalties, as well as work in public relations, social media management, website management and booking musical talent. I’m very lucky to be working with music all of the time. The total of all the income sources I have listed may not have amounted to much if compared to a nine-to-five job, but I wouldn’t trade being an artist for anything in the world and one thing’s for sure: there’s never a dull moment.

Andrew Scott: In the Toronto jazz community this juggling act of jobs to support one’s artistic career is far from unusual. Take Andrew Scott, an important member of our community both as a musician as well as an educator, an administrator and an advocate. He describes the various hats he currently wears thusly:

“In terms of performing, I play with my own jazz groups of various sizes that often include the great Jake Wilkinson, Jon Meyer and Joel Haynes; I play in a very fun three baritone saxophone band led by Alex Dean called The Travelling Wall-Baris (appearing at The Rex May 15 and 16). I work in a trio setting with the ever-inspiring octogenarian Gene DiNovi and have a loose cross-border two-guitar group with Randy Napoleon. Outside of jazz, I work with the businessman/singer/entertainer Frank D’Angelo in his 18-piece R&B show band. I also write about music, compose music for film and am extremely proud to teach and work as the current acting director of Humber College’s Department of Music (2014-2015).

Asked what he would do with three more hours in the day: “Easy. With three extra hours each day, I’d spend more time with my wife and our three wonderful children.”

2008_-_Jazz_Stories_-_Chelsea_McBride.jpgChelsea McBride: And here’s Chelsea McBride, awarded the Toronto Arts Foundation’s inaugural Emerging Jazz Artist Award in 2014, in her own words:

“Where to begin! I’m a performer/composer/bandleader first and foremost – probably half or more of my performances are with bands I lead or am very involved in, though the projects I’m a sideperson on are always fun – mostly contemporary jazz groups or pop cover bands that play lots of 70s music. I’m an artistic producer with Spectrum Music – with the other producers, we handle all the logistics involved in putting on four concerts a year. We also all write for these concerts, and with the constantly changing instrumentation, it’s always a new challenge for me as a composer. And it’s lots of fun.

“I found a teaching job in Oakville before I got out of school, so I’m actually out there quite often – I teach voice and piano mostly, along with my main instruments. There’s a lot less demand for woodwinds at the school I’m at, unfortunately...

“In addition to that, I end up doing a lot of administrative work – I’m a copyist for NewYork composer Daniel Jamieson (who’s originally from Toronto), and that occasionally also involves editing/proofreading non-musical stuff, which is something I have done for a long time. And last but not least, I’m slowly getting into the grant-writing thing - this has been tricky because, being so recently out of school, I’m not even eligible for some programs still! But I have been getting lots of practice working with other people on their applications.”

Under the umbrella of bandleader, McBride is busy as a beaver: “Chelsea McBride’s Socialist Night School, (appearing this month Saturday May 23 at the Rex, 3:30pm), performs exclusively original contemporary jazz music – more groove-based than swing. Most of the music is composed by me, but not all. I also lead a sextet called Chelsea and the Cityscape, which performs more in the singer-songwriter, pop and rock vein. I play standards and a few lead-sheet original jazz tunes that don’t quite fit into either of my other band’s styles around town every so often under the moniker Chelsea McBride Group (appearing this month Friday May 1 at Habits Gastropub). I play in a video game cover band called the Koopa Troop, which is exactly what it sounds like – a bunch of jazz-school nerds playing Nintendo music better than you’ve heard it before. And last but not least, I play in the Brad Cheeseman Group (appearing May 8 at the Jazz Room in Waterloo), which is contemporary small-group jazz music played with a strong focus on the ensemble sound.”

Rounding it off: To close this month’s column, here’s another quote from the JAZZ.FM91/IRCPA Music Business Seminar, this one by Peter Cardinali, owner of Alma Records, which drew from the example of soul-jazz superstar Gregory Porter: “There are a lot of 12-year overnight successes.” As such, there is no substitute for hard work and if as an artist you don’t truly love what you do, you’re in trouble.

Thank you for reading this magazine and supporting live music. Check out The WholeNote’s jazz listings and the new column by Bob Ben, Mainly Clubs, Mostly Jazz. Be happy while you may, and Happy May!

Ori Dagan is a Toronto-based jazz musician, writer and educator who can be reached at

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A couple of weeks ago, having been lulled into complacency by a few warm sunny days, I was under the impression that spring had arrived. A few days later that illusion was shattered by the sight and sound of hail clattering on my windshield. Last night, on my drive home from a performance, I found myself humming the strains of Spring will be a little late this year only to have that confirmed when I drove in to a snow-covered driveway. Fortunately, through all of this, the community musical groups have been heralding spring in a variety of ways. I had the pleasure of attending a few of these.

Recent events: One such concert was “A Salute to the British Isles” by the Clarington Concert Band under the direction of Barrie Hodgins with the Pipes and Drums of the Oshawa Legion. What a variety. From the humour of conductor emeritus Bobby Herriot and the elegant vocal stylings of Donna Lajeunesse and Father Paul Massel to the stirring renditions of traditional Scottish melodies by the pipes and drums it was an evening to be remembered, MC’d by Colin Rowe.

With the  concert being billed as “A Salute to the British Isles,” there were questions as to how the Radetzky March, a march composed for the Austrian army by Johann Strauss Sr., qualified as British music. After all, this march was dedicated to Field Marshal Joseph Radetzky von Radetz after his victory at the Battle of Custoza. It turns out that, over the 165 years since its first performance, this march has been adopted as their official march by several military units in various countries around the world from Chile to Sri Lanka. One of those military units just happens to be 1st The Queen’s Dragoon Guards in Britain. The Radetzky March is their official regimental march. Ergo: it’s British music.

Needless to say, there was the inevitable clapping and foot stomping by the audience. It turns out that this too has a long tradition. When it was first played in front of Austrian officers, they spontaneously clapped and stamped their feet. This tradition is kept alive today by audience members around the world from town band concerts to the New Year’s Concerts of the Vienna Philharmonic.

2008_-_Beat_-_BandSTAND.jpgFlute Street: If one were to hear the term “flute street,” one might be inclined to consult the town street guide to find its location. A visit to Google could not find any street by that name in this area, but there is a fine flute ensemble in Toronto by that name. Initially formed by Nancy Nourse and Allan Pulker in 2013, as the resident ensemble for Canada’s First National Flute Convention, the group has established a special place in the musical life of Toronto. While music aficionados are familiar with the concert flute and its baby brother, the piccolo, Flute Street has been introducing audiences to several other members of the flute family. I had seen and heard alto flutes and bass flutes before, but Flute Street’s recent concert, “And the Giant Began to Dance,” introduced me to the six-foot-tall contrabass flute. I not only saw two of these, but was introduced first hand to an even bigger member of the family. Guest artist Peter Sheridan presented us with the subcontrabass flute, which was taller than anyone present, Sheridan included.

As for the concert, we were treated to a wide range of offerings from solos to works including the entire ensemble. My personal preferences were numbers featuring Sheridan on the bass flute and the contrabass flute. His warm tone and melodic phrasing on the bass flute displayed the potential of this instrument better than I had ever heard. While the subcontrabass flute did add an interesting bottom end to the ensemble, it didn’t appeal to me as a melodic solo instrument except for its novelty value. Sheridan informed us that he has just recently introduced the ultimate low-register flute. I believe that it is called the hyperbass flute with a lowest frequency of 16 Hz. He admits that this is below the audible range of his wife and many other people, but given the right circumstances it can be felt physically if not heard.

Newly unusual: Before leaving the topic of unusual musical instruments, I feel compelled to report on a recent radio program on the CBC. It was a presentation of newly crafted unusual musical instruments. The one that sticks in my mind was a large wind instrument which required two players. In the demonstration, the developer blew into the mouthpiece and operated a slide while his wife operated a set of valves. While the sound was of questionable quality, the name had a certain quirky appeal. It has been named the Humungaphonium. I have yet to see a photograph.

Tsar Trek: While miserable weather prevented me from attending their recent spring concert, the Plumbing Factory Brass Band warrants ongoing mention in this column for their imaginative programming. Following up on their previous concert, Henry Meredith crafted “Tsar Trek II – The Sequel” on their “Rousing Russian Repertoire Voyage.” Not only does this band perform to a high standard, they also set a standard which is hard to match in terms of programming of top quality music. I’m sorry that I couldn’t be there.

Uxbridge: Italian composer, Luigi Boccherini has been quoted as saying that “Without the performer the composer’s work is useless.” It would be hard to dispute that, but performers can be assisted considerably by their own careful preparation and that of the conductor. An excellent example of how a conductor may foster good preparation has recently come to my attention. The Uxbridge Community Concert Band is a summertime-only band with activities from early May until late August. Two months before rehearsals were scheduled to begin, conductor Steffan Brunette started with those preparations. Not only did he send a complete list of the proposed repertoire for the season to every returning band member, but he provided internet links to performances of every work. As long as members had internet access they could go to every number in the repertoire and listen to quality performances as often as they might wish.

Music Alive: I had heard of Music Alive before, but must confess I wasn’t quite sure just what it entailed. Suddenly, a few days ago, I received a phone call: The Newmarket Citizens Band was to play at Music Alive that night; was I available to sit in and fill a gap? A few hours later I was treated to an unexpected musical event. Music Alive is an annual festival open to all school and community ensembles and soloists operating within York Region, including public and private schools plus community bands, orchestras, choral ensembles and individual musicians. For 2015 it has an incredible assortment of musical groups and performances. With over 15,000 participants and sessions stretched over ten weeks, Music Alive is one of the largest student music festivals in the country.

This is an adjudicated, but non-competitive festival. The evening that I was there, I was with the only adult group. The main group performance was by the “Area West Elementary Enrichment Band” made up of 80-plus elementary school students. In addition, there were numerous solos and small group performances by students from Grades 5 to 8. One particular number stood out for me. Girls on two flutes and a clarinet performed amazingly well on a well-known Handel selection.

Adjudicator John Phillips, a professor from the University of Western Ontario, provided helpful inspiring comments to all participants. After we (the adult band) played our two numbers, Phillips pointed out to the young elementary school musicians how our performance was an example of one way that making music can develop into a stimulating lifelong activity.

On the horizon: On Sunday, May 24, at 3:30pm the Wychwood Clarinet Choir will present “Swing into Spring.” The feature of the afternoon will be the induction of Howard Cable as composer and conductor laureate of the choir. Cable, a member of the Order of Canada, is one of the most significant and internationally recognized Canadian arrangers and composers. With a musical career spanning more than 60 years, he has had his works performed worldwide. Cable has been composing and arranging for the Wychwood Clarinet Choir since 2012. The program will feature a selection of swing favourites arranged by Cable for the choir and young crooner Michael Vanhevel. Also on the program is an all-clarinet rendition of Rhapsody in Blue, the premiere of Three Excursions, an original composition by Roy Greaves, and Clarifunkation by Paul Saunders. Artistic director and clarinet soloist is Michele Jacot. This all takes place at the Church of St. Michael and All Angels, 611 St. Clair Ave, W.

On Saturday, May 30 at 7:30pm, Silverthorn Symphonic Winds will conclude their 2014/2015 concert season with “Year of the Dragon.” Highlights include James Hosay’s dynamic Mayan Sports Festival, Philip Sparke’s virtuosic Year of the Dragon and Adam Gorb’s Yiddish Dances, a contemporary classic based on the klezmer tradition. The concert takes place at Yorkminster Citadel, 1 Lord Seaton Road, Toronto.

Bands we haven’t heard from for some time:

Friday, May 1 at 7:30pm the Oxford Winds Community Concert Band will be “Celebrating Heroes” at Knox Presbyterian Church, Woodstock.

Wednesday, May 6 at 7:30pm the North Durham Concert Band is having a “Springtime Serenade” at the Port Perry United Church.

Friday, May 8 at 7pm the Canadian Band Association presents “Windblown Art: Young and Old Masters.” This is a combined event with the Encore Symphonic Concert Band and the National Youth Band of Canada joining forces at Encore Hall, Wilmar Heights Centre, Scarborough.

Sunday, May 24 at 7pm the North Toronto Community Band presents “Spring Rhythms: Music from Bach to Big Band,” Danny Wilks, conductor, with Jonno Lightstone, saxophone; at Crescent School.

Sunday, May 31 at 4pm the Columbus Concert Band, with guest soprano Kira Braun, will present their First Annual Gala Concert, “The Best of the Columbus Concert Band,” consisting of classical, Broadway, Dixieland, marches and jazz at De LaSalle Oaklands College. One of their band members, Alex Dritsas, is a Canadian soldier who was severely injured recently in a hockey game in Toronto. Many of the 65-member band have been donating funds for his rehabilitation. This concert will be dedicated to him and band members hope that he may even be released from hospital in time to attend. This is the first time the not-for-profit band has had a fundraising event to support themselves as all previous concerts have been to raise funds for other charities in the city.

Definition Department

This month’s lesser-known musical term is pizzicato  (pronounced pissicato): Too much coffee – time to take an urgent mid-rehearsal break. 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

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Beat_-_Mainly_Mostly.jpgWhen I think of contemporary jazz musicians who are both great singers and great pianists in equal measure, three names rise to the top of the list: NYC-based Brenda Earle Stokes and Laila Biali (both Canadian-born), and the Nova Scotia native, Steve Amirault, relatively new to the Toronto Jazz scene, The latter, though primarily known as a pianist, will occasionally bust out the mic and sing a tune or two. And when he does, it’s the warm timbre and the conversational phrasing that will draw you in. It almost sounds effortless, until you remember how much work he must have put into mastering both these instruments — yes, the voice is an instrument — to such a degree where he can be expressive and free with both at the same time.

On May 15, Amirault will be leaving to do a solo voice/piano gig in Korea for four months. So before he leaves, don’t forget to check out some of his gigs, the last in Toronto until autumn: May 1 and 10 (at Hirut and The Local Gest, respectively), with trios led by drummer Chris Wallace, who is, like Amirault, a recent arrival on the Toronto scene, and May 2 at Chalkers Pub, in his own trio, featuring jazz veterans Jim Vivian on bass and Barry Elmes on the drums. The group will be playing some of Amirault’s original music, mixed in with selections from the standard repertoire. “I’m very happy to have Jim and Barry on the gig,” he says, “Jim and I have recorded and toured together and it’s always fantastic to work with him. This will be my first time sharing the stage with Barry Elmes. Barry is a great drummer and I’m really looking forward to our musical meeting.”

Barry Elmes, by the way, will be leading his own group a week later at the Home Smith Bar, a classy, intimate venue, complete with stone walls, fine wine and the obligatory fireplace. The Home Smith doesn’t charge a cover for the top quality musicians they showcase — that cost is covered by the food and drinks, which you will inevitably be tempted into purchasing if you catch a whiff or a glimpse of someone else’s dinner!

Extraordinarily well-versed in the tradition, insistently original both as a drummer and a composer, with an enviable musical resume that includes Tommy Flanagan, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Haden, Joe Henderson and more, Elmes(and the ensembles he leads), puts on a show that is not easily passed up; when he plays two nights in a row at the same venue, I go both nights. And so should you.

The Toronto Jazz Festival begins next month, and, of course, the official listings can be found at — but check back here in June for those listings in great detail and more. Aren’t you excited? I’m excited.

Bob Ben is The WholeNote’s jazz listings editor. He can be reached at

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“Grimaud doesn’t sound like most pianists. She is a rubato artist, a reinventor of phrasings, a taker of chances.”
D.T. Max, The New Yorker, 2011

2007-Classical-Duo.jpgThe remarkable French-born pianist Hélène Grimaud last visited Toronto a year ago when she performed Brahms’ Piano Concerto No.1 with the TSO and showed off her great dynamic range. Her intimate pianism exposed the intrinsic beauty of the slow movement and she entered fully into the passion of the third movement with its rhapsodic cadenza, spurring the audience into an immediate standing ovation. The year before she held the Koerner Hall audience in her sway with a performance of her Resonances CD that moved from Mozart to Berg to Liszt to Bartók, all united by the historical fact of the composers being children of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Her upcoming Koerner Hall appearance April 19 is typical of her adventurous spirit and imaginative programming. All the pieces are united by the theme of water: Berio’s Wasserklavier III; Takemitsu’s Rain Tree Sketch II; Fauré’s Barcarolle No.5 in F-sharp Minor, Op.66; Ravel’s Jeux d’eau; Albéniz’s Almería from Iberia Suite Book 2; Liszt’s Les jeux d’eaux à la Villa d’Este from Années de pèlerinage: Troisième année, Janáček’s In the Mists I; Debussy’s La Cathédrale engloutie from Préludes, Book I; concluding with Brahms’ Piano Sonata No.2 in F-sharp Minor, Op.2.

She told William Grimes of The New York Times: “Water is the element most necessary to life, the most precious resource for our planet, the most endangered and the one that poses the greatest risk on its potential for conflict.” Explaining her process in a video for the artnet News website, she described how she spent two years “boiling down” her conception of pieces having to do with water, to reduce it to “something very pure and abstract in its expression.” There were several Liszt works that fit her original idea but the one she finally selected was the “most abstract of all his water pieces.”

“An art form has to live in the moment,” she said. “It has to sound as if it is being written while you hear it.” On the San Francisco Classical Voice website she explained to Lara Downes earlier this year that the water program is “more fragile and vulnerable repertoire, and as an audience member you have to be willing to make that journey.”

When she performed the same pieces last December in New York over ten nights, she did so in an inch of water, mixing performance art metaphors. Anthony Tommasini in The New York Times described the riveting 20-minute process of filling the 55,000 square foot Drill Hall of the Park Avenue Armory with that inch of water for “Tears Become ... Streams Become ... ” He called the collaboration between Grimaud and the artist Douglas Gordon a “compelling, boldly original work, a dramatic combination of art installation, light show and piano recital.”

Brian Levine, the executive director of the Glenn Gould Foundation, sees in Grimaud a resemblance to Gould: “She has this willingness to take a piece of music apart and free herself from the general body of practice that has grown up around it.”

Ten days after her Toronto concert she performs with the Stamford Symphony Orchestra to bring awareness to her other passion: environmental education centred around wolves – she founded the Wolf Conservation Center in South Salem, New York in 1996.

2007-Classical-Kissin.jpgEvgeny Kissin: Evgeny Kissin’s mother was a piano teacher, his father an engineer. When Kissin was born (in Moscow in 1971), his sister, who was more than ten years older, was learning the piano. In Christopher Nupen’s DVD Evgeny Kissin: The Gift of Music, Kissin tells a tale one would be inclined to dismiss as apocryphal were it not for everything that has happened to him since. He had been a quiet baby, even standing on his cot in silence as his sister practised. When he was 11 months old, he opened his mouth and sang the Bach fugue she had just been playing (the Prelude and Fugue in A-Major from the 2nd book of the Well-Tempered Clavier). By the time he could reach the keyboard he was two and on his way to superstardom.

He elaborated in an interview with Frederic Gaussin for piano mag on “Before I began my studies at the School, I had been listening to music non-stop, practically from the day I was born. I became familiar very early on with all different kinds of music and pieces, until one day I became physically able to touch the keyboard and play this repertoire, these melodies, by ear ... From the very beginning, my taste was vast, very eclectic.”

In that interview he speaks of Chopin as the composer that he plays the most, “whose music is closest to my heart.” He continues: “From a pianistic point of view, Chopin was a revolutionary, the only one (with the exception of young Scriabin, who drew much from Chopin) who demands such flexibility from the hand at the piano.” Gaussin raises the topic of Debussy – not in Kissin’s repertoire – as someone who was not “any less sensitive or technically innovative than Chopin in his personal idiom.” Kissin responds that the same is true of Shostakovich, Schoenberg and Prokofiev, adding Messiaen, “whose works I do not yet play. His music is profound, very spiritual. He’s a perfect counter-example ... I see him in a way as the last survivor of an extinct species. I will certainly play Messiaen in the future.”

May 1 marks Kissin’s first solo recital at RTH in 15 years; his most recent appearance with the TSO was in May of 2012. It’s a virtuoso program beginning with Beethoven’s Sonata No.21 in C major, Op.53 “Waldstein” with its glorious third movement, followed by Prokofiev’s quietly charming, utterly logical Sonata No. 4 in C minor, Op.29. Then three nocturnes and six mazurkas by Chopin lead into Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 15 S.244/15 “Rákóczi March,a quixotic foot stomper.

Kissin’s popularity is immense, his intellectual and musical gifts even more so. He once said that the main purpose of music is “that it elevates us into the world of the sublime.” The evening should be memorable.

Sara Constant:The WholeNote’s social media editor, flutist Sara Constant, headlines a concert titled “Xi” at Array Space April 24 featuring an intriguing line-up of mid to late 20th-century music. Stockhausen’s Xi (1987) for solo flute utilizes microtonal glissandi throughout. Denisov’s Sonata for Flute and Piano (1960) has been described as a collage of styles. Chiel Meijering, the composer of I Hate Mozart (1979) for flute, alto saxophone, harp and violin, says that he considers eroticism, sensuality and even obscenity prerequisites for a high-quality performance of his music. In each of Lutosławski’s Three Fragments (1953) the flute takes the melodic lead and the harp supplies a consistent, animated backdrop. Tsuneya Tanabe’s Recollections of the Inland Sea (1995) for flute and marimba was inspired by the scenic impression the composer had as an adult of a beautiful inland sea, Setonaikai, in the middle of Japan.  The music, he says is his effort to “express my interior vision of the sea, spreading out before me….”

Seen and Heard:The elegant Vadim Repin shone in his Russian repertoire – Stravinsky and Tchaikovsky – in Koerner Hall March 6; The Vienna Piano Trio displayed an exemplary sense of ensemble and an unusually close seating arrangement in their well-received recital March 8 highlighted by Beethoven’s Kakadu Variations and two Mendelssohn Andantes (from his Trio Nos.1 and 2; the latter played as an encore); Till Fellner brought exceptional musicianship to Mozart’s Piano Sonata K282 on March 10. Kudos to Music Toronto’s Jennifer Taylor for bringing us Fellner as well as the London-based Elias Quartet March 19. French sisters Sara and Marie Bittloch on violin and cello set the tone for the quartet’s intimate sound and its impeccable sense of ensemble. Equally attentive were second violinist Scotsman Donald Grant and Swedish violist Martin Saving. Together the foursome brought heavenly pianissimos and wonderful silences that allowed Mozart’s music to breathe in his “Dissonance” Quartet K465 and unrelenting anger and passion to Mendelssohn’s last string quartet without losing the ruminative lyricism of its slow movement.

Quick Picks:

April 8 and 9 former TSO music director Jukka-Pekka Saraste returns to conduct Mahler’s glorious Symphony No.5 and accompany pianist Valentina Lisitsa in Rachmaninoff’s romantic masterpiece, his Concerto No.2. Conductor Peter Oundjian, soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian, violinist Sergey Khachatryan and pianist Serouj Kradjian join with the TSO April 22 for a concert celebrating Armenian music. It includes a double dose of Aram Khachaturian as well as the world premiere of Mychael Danna’s Ararat, a suite Danna constructed from his soundtrack to Atom Egoyan’s film of the same name. May 6 finds Oundjian supporting the up-and-coming twentysomething German violinist Augustin Hadelich in Mendelssohn’s justly celebrated Violin Concerto, a work which will appear on his next CD later this spring.

April 8 the co-artistic directors of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, cellist David Finckel (ex-Emerson Quartet) and pianist Wu Han, are joined by the versatile violinist Daniel Hope and violist Paul Neubauer in a compelling program of piano quartets by Mahler [Movement in A Minor], Schumann [E-Flat Major Op.47] and Brahms [No.1 in G Minor Op.25] at Koerner Hall. Also at Koerner Hall, April 24, take advantage of a rare chance to hear international superstar Yannick Nézet-Séguin conduct his hometown ensemble, Orchestre Métropolitain in a program of English music: Vaughan Williams’ Symphony No.4; Elgar’s indelible Enigma Variations and his ever-popular Cello Concerto with 20-year-old cellist Stéphane Tétreault as soloist.

April 10 the Mercer-Oh Trio play Haydn, Jean Lesage and Smetana under the auspices of the Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber Music Society. Pianist Eric Himy shows off his technical prowess in a program of Rachmaninov, Scriabin, Chopin, Albéniz and de Falla April 25. Still in Waterloo, TSO violinist Arkady Yanivker leads the Toronto Serenade String Quartet in music from Latin America April 28 while on May 2 it’s Sofya Gulyak of London’s Royal College of Music who tests the mettle of the Music Room’s piano in music by Liszt, Coulthard and Mussorgsky. She repeats the program in Toronto May 3 under Syrinx’s banner at the Heliconian Hall.

2007-Classical-Mercer.jpgApril 12 Syrinx presents the Seiler Trio (violinist Mayumi Seiler, cellist Rachel Mercer and pianist Angela Park) playing Beethoven’s beloved Archduke Trio, Mendelssohn’s Trio No.2 and Kevin Lau’s Trio.

April 13 finds the Associates of the Toronto Symphony saluting the double bass with music of Rossini, Boccherini and Dvořák. Double bassist Tim Dawson teams up with violinists Etsuko Kimura and Angelique Toews. violist Christopher Redfield and cellist Marie Gelinas at Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre.

April 16 Music Toronto presents the Lafayette Quartet, an all-female ensemble who have remained together since their founding in 1986, a distinct rarity. Since then they have spent their time entertaining audiences and teaching some of Canada’s finest young string players from their base at the University of Victoria. Their program includes a middle Haydn quartet (No.28, Op.29, No.6), a late Beethoven (No. 15, Op.132) and Jean Coulthard’s String Quartet No.2, “Threnody.The latter two pieces will be part of their Chamber Music Hamilton concert April 19.

2007-Classical-Petkau.jpgApril 17, group of 27: TSO principal oboist Sarah Jeffrey brings her warm sound to Mozart’s tuneful Oboe Concerto K314; Symphonies by C.P.E. Bach (the wild and beautiful Wq.179) and Haydn (No. 19), along with Jocelyn Morlock’s addictive Disquiet complete an intriguing group of 27 program. The group’s founder and music director, the dynamic Eric Paetkau, whom I interviewed in the December/January issue of The WholeNote, has just been named music director of the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra. The night before the concert, April 16, The WholeNote will be hosting an open rehearsal of the group at the Centre for Social Innovation, 730 Bathurst St., ground floor. Doors open at 7:30pm. Experience g27’s lively playing in a casual, intimate atmosphere.

April 25 Karin Kei Nagano, the teenage daughter of conductor Kent Nagano and pianist Mari Kodama (read the glowing review of her recording of all 32 Beethoven sonatas elsewhere in this issue), joins her mother for what should be a memorable afternoon of piano music; part of the BravoNiagara! Festival of the Arts.

Paul Ennis is the managing editor of The WholeNote.

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