To begin with, the issue’s ever so clever, if somewhat opaque, main headline was a reference to the impact that the preceding June 1995 Ontario provincial elections was already having on the music community. Remember that election? No? Well does the phrase “common sense revolution” help ring a bell? Thought it might. One of the newly elected Tory Harris government’s biggest casualties had been the Ontario Arts Council. It had its budget slashed 28.6%, had to lay off close to half its staff (41 people), and slash grants all over the place. So our “don’t just burn while Rome (i.e. the Harris govt) fiddles” headline was directed to our readers, exhorting them to write fuming letters to their MPPs, but, while waiting for a reply, to “pick one new event or ensemble you didn’t know, from the 200 listed here, and add it to your regular diet.”
Come to think of it, that’s not a bad New Year’s resolution any time.
Handel, Disney and the RCMP
But wait! For nostalgia buffs, Vol 1 #4 has more! How about this formula? RCMP + Disney=Trouble. I can’t remember too many “cultural” stories that pushed more angry buttons than when the Feds, also in mid-1995, awarded Disney a five year exclusive licence on the marketing of images of that most quintessentially Canadian of all icons – the red coated Mountie. By December the roiling and boiling was still going on, so we chipped in. Under the heading Handel’s turn we opined:
“Want to persuade Walt Disney Co. to relinquish marketing rights to the RCMP (and throw in Pluto and Goofy to sweeten the pot)? The only card you’d need would be the rights to Handel’s Messiah (for ever and ever and ever ...). ... This season alone you can hit the Hallelujah Trail no fewer than 9 times.”
Nine sure sounded like a lot back then! How many performances of Messiah are there this year? Even after a good little flurry of them in late November, there are still close to thirty left. You can find a handy list of them, titled “The Trumpet Shall Sound” in The WholeNote blog.
A promise kept
For those of you who caught the previous installment of this little series, the fact that at the top of the cover page it says “Comprehensive Concert Listings” rather than “Complete Concert Listings” may draw a bit of a smile. The “Complete” boast, as pointed out last time, was both brash and rash. But, undeterred, in Vol 1 #4 we were back to the business of making promises. Under the heading “Pulse’s Pledge – Getting the Word Out” we offered the following:
Pulse’s philosophy is to print as many copies as we can distribute effectively! We’re up to 8000 this time, but we’re willing to go a lot higher. So how about it? If you know a place that we should leave Pulse or can put out copies yourself, let us know.”
You could say that what we learned between the two issue was that if you’re going to make promises, promise things you can deliver on. So that’s what we did, literally. That little pledge has, over the years yielded literally hundreds of good distribution points. So even though we have now capped print circulation at 30,000 copies, the pledge remains: Come up with a good distribution location (your own or some place you know that wants us) and we will find copies for that location from our existing press run. E-mail email@example.com to inquire.
Who’da thunk it?!
Far and away the greatest pleasure I’m getting flipping though old issues like this is looking at the ads and concert listings from fifteen years ago side by side with those in the current issue, finding reverbs and resonances. A pleasurable frisson, you might say.
An example: fifteen years ago the Music Gallery, then at 179 Richmond, ran an ad for a two week event, titled “80 Flowers” based on the “last completed work of American poet Louis Zukofsky.” Who’da thunk that 13 years later in 2008 composer Elliott Carter, still active in his hundredth year, would compose a work (for soprano and clarinet) based on the same source. Or that, in his 103rd year, Carter would be contemplating another visit to Toronto December 10 for a New Music Concerts concert featuring this 2008 “Poems of Louis Zukofsky” along with even more recent work.
And who’da thunk where one of the “Stars of Tomorrow” at a Jan 14 1996 Mooredale concert, Isabel Bayrakdarian, would be today?
Whatsisname, in his new book, watchamacallit, says that as the short term memory goes out with the tide, the flotsam of memory is left in plain view. Indeed.
Next time: Volume 1 #5: farewell to the forward fold.
“40 fingers (David Mott, Chiyoko Szlavnics, Nick Gotham and Peter Lutek) at the Music Gallery ... Just one of 150 concerts in our listings this month (of which 38 are free)” the cover proclaimed.
Looking back, no single word we have published has ever evoked as profound and sustained a reaction as the word “Complete” at the top left corner of this cover.
Complete Live Concert Listings!? Who knows how long we would have persisted with that impossible claim? But we didn’t get the chance to enjoy our blissful ignorance. At our door within days was a list from a then unknown but already loyal reader. “You can’t call them complete,” he said. “Here are just some of the things you missed.” And he handed us a long list in small handwriting, with every entry substantiated with flyers, brochures and clippings from other publications.
Today we routinely list four times as many concerts and musical events every month as we did back then. But our longtime faithful correspondent’s monthly summaries of our sins of omission, still painstakingly handwritten, are longer than ever, and the accompanying troves of flyers, brochures and clippings as often as not require several rubber bands.
Faced with the evidence, we beat a hasty retreat from “Complete” to “Comprehensive” in the very next issue! But even the notion of comprehensiveness is more of an ideal than an achievable goal. Performers come and go, ensembles configure and re-configure. Venues arise, thrive, decline, disappear. The definition of a “concert,” our geographic catchment area, even the nature of the music we should cover are all in a state of constant flux. Overall, like healthy skin, our marvellous musical scene is constantly sloughing off and renewing itself.
The foursome on our November 1995 cover is an interesting example of this. “40 fingers” is no longer an ongoing ensemble (has not been since 1998), but do some research on any of the four players and you will get a glimpse of how one thing leads to another in this process of growth and renewal.
Chiyoko Szlavnics, for example, has added a strong visual art component to her compositional and instrumental palette, as anyone venturing to the Canadian Music Centre for Nuit Blanche would have noticed. And Nic Gotham’s opera Nigredo Hotel, written with Ann-Marie MacDonald in 1992 – you mean there was a music scene before the WholeNote? – can now lay claim, less than two decades later, to being Canada’s most often presented opera. (And Gotham now cites David Mott, his erstwhile linemate in 40 fingers as one of his two most influential teachers.)
Not everyone represented in that issue is with us. The Elmer Iseler Singers, Friday November 10 1995, were conducted by Elmer Iseler, for example, in a programme including works by Harry Freedman.
And several of the the listings inspire the question “Gee, I wonder where X is these days?” A good example? Two of the month’s 38 free listings (November 2 and 3) were lectures at Walter Hall, by none other than Jon Vickers – on “Singing Schumann’s Dichterliebe” and on “Wagner’s Operatic Roles,” respectively. Is there anyone out there who remembers those lectures?
We weren’t above a bit of editorial thundering either, back then. Take this little bit on the subject of the COC’s production of Ariadne auf Naxos at the O’Keefe:
In our September issue we wondered aloud how the Canadian Opera Company was going to manage to render the O’Keefe intimate for their production of Richard Strauss’s chamber opera ... The answer – visually they did very well by clever use of big costumes, shadow puppet effects, and a combination of compelling stillness and overdrawn buffoonery ... But all the stage magic in the world could not compensate for the big-barn’s life sucking acoustics.
It’s reassuring to see that clever creative people can come so close to making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. A better way, though, would be to start with a silk sow.
It’s interesting how things come around. Free now of its crippling acoustic obligations to the COC or anyone else, the Sony Centre can flex its muscles as a venue with no real parallel, home to spectacles that someone out there is already dreaming of.
This being the start of our sixteenth year (well, close enough) I thought it might be fun to start looking back ... waaaaaay back, to Volume 1 #2, fifteen Octobers ago (when we were still called Pulse.)
The issue had no cover photo, as you can see, just an A to Z (almost) of the Toronto music scene, made up of words and phrases in that issue. It’s all in one of those proudly illegible fonts that WordPerfect irresponsibly put in the hands of people, like us, with even less design sense than money! But I hope you can read it. It tells an interesting tale.
Of the 20 presenters named on the cover, 13 are still with us, by the same name. But
the fate of the other seven can’t be summed up in a single simple sentence.
Baroque by the Grange was actually Baroque Music Beside the Grange, as founder Alison Melville was quick to point out. First correction we ever had to run, that one was! Founder Melville is still going strong, though, with Ensemble Polaris and the wonderful “Bird Project,” among other things.
Ruth Morawetz’s Classical Cabaret is alas no longer with us. But Ruth certainly is!
Deer Park Concerts, along with Deer Park United Church, is no more, although its congregation is still intact, just a block north at Calvin Presbyterian. And its wonderful Rathgeb Casavant Organ has a new, and some say even sweeter, lease of life, at Holy Trinity Church downtown.
Livent? Don’t know what happened to Livent. But the North York Symphony, albeit under another name, still holds on, phoenix-like, to philharmonic life in the wonderful hall Drabinsky built.
We lost track of Richard Birney-Smith’s Te Deum Concerts sometime around 2002.
As for Youth Singers, I can only think we meant the Mendelssohn Youth Singers. They lost the battle a few years back. But the parent TMC continues to thrive, as anyone who attended the TSO’s wonderful season opening Mahler Symphony No. 2 last Thursday (Sept 23) will attest.
And as for the individuals named in Vol. 1 #2’s quirky abecedarius, there’s a similar mix of names and fortunes; those that are still with us, and those that though gone need not be forgotten.
Not only did Vol 1 #2 not have photo on the cover, it remains the only issue of the magazine ever published not to have a single photo anywhere. As I said at the outset: no design sense, and no money! A single “stat” was 12 bucks – as much as a classified ad!
But even if it lacked for photos, it had one thing we’ve found it hard to match in the intervening years, namely reader input. Under the heading “Hear Say: Our Readers Write” there were no fewer than six pithy letters. It was the early days of fax machines, don’t forget. Remember? Didn’t need a stamp, and the knife went in instantly! It was heady stuff.
“Loved the first issue of your ‘zine. Loathe the ‘Toronto’s music classical and new’ tagline,” snapped L.F. “To me classical means dead western european white men’s concert music. Don’t strangle a good idea with too narrow a focus.”
And E.Y. Hanley opined “If your ‘classical’ is wide enough to include medieval, how can your ‘new’ not include jazz?”
Rick Sharpe wanted an index of groups. Ben Scott wanted to know why Black Creek Library in North York had Pulse but City of Toronto libraries didn’t. And perhaps the most prophetic letter of all came from Chris R.
“Hope you’ll eventually make room for events outside Metro ... (Unless you bomb you will certainly outlast Metro, so you should be thinking about it.)”
I’ll be dipping back into the archives, as space permits, throughout this anniversary year. So get those letters rolling again if you like. The fax is always on!
Right now I’m sitting thinking of giving James Stewart, the mind behind Integral House, a call.
“Hello James,” I’ll say, “I’ve got a question about twin primes*, here, and I’m a bit out of my depth.”
“Might I ask which two?” he’ll maybe say, and I will reply, “Well, 149 and 151, actually. But they could be any two. I just need to know what to call them in relation to each other – senior/junior; elder/younger; good/evil; or what? And I want to know if there’s a name for a number, 150 in this case, that’s sandwiched between twin primes.”
I would obviously have to explain that my sudden interest in math is because this issue of the magazine (June 2010) is number 149, and the first issue of the new season will be number 151. And that sometime in between, The WholeNote will actually turn fifteen. (That’s ten issues a year. Count ‘em.)
But I don’t think I will call Dr. James Drewry Stewart today. All I’m doing today is trying to come up with a cute angle for this one story that is still delaying the departure of issue number 149 for the printer. I will save my phonecall for a much more interesting story waiting to be written, about the man behind Integral House, which is rapidly becoming one of the more interesting power points on the Southern Ontario’s musical landscape.
I was at Integral House a couple of years back, for a house concert launching that summer’s Toronto Summer Music Academy and Festival. But Vanessa Goymour, Manager of Jeunesses Musicales (Ontario), whose organization shares our enclave on the 5th floor of 720 Bathurst Street, was there just last week, for an event in support of Moshe Hammer’s “The Hammer Band” launched in 2006. “From violence to violins” is The Hammer Band motto, and they exist to do just that, providing instruments and instruction to youth who might not have access to either.
“First thing to get straight when you do talk to James Stewart” Vanessa advised, “is it’s INtegral House, not InTEGral House. I made that mistake. It’s mathematical, I guess. But there’s a great musical story there, too.”
Indeed. But, as I said, it’s a story for another day. Right now the story is twins. Issue 149, the elder twin, looks much like its older siblings – after fourteen years and ten months of doing this, we’ve got some things figured out!
But I have a sneaking suspicion that by September, when 151, the younger twin, issues forth, more than a few things are going to be a bit different around here! (After all, we’ll have turned fifteen in the meanwhile, and we all know how different from fourteen fifteen can be.)
I won’t jinx things, though, by predicting. Don’t have time, anyway. Getting this magazine (twins and all) to bed is my prime imperative.
David Perlman, publisher
*Twin primes: A twin prime is a prime number that differs from another prime number by two. Some examples of twin prime pairs are (3, 5), (5, 7), (11, 13), (17, 19), (29, 31), (41, 43), and, skipping a few, (149,151). —Wikipedia
Once you get over the shock or excitement of thinking this striking photo is of cabinet ministers preparing an arts lynching, look more closely. What they actually are is bell ringers, three quarters of the way up the steeple of St. James’ Cathedral at King and Church.
But if, for you as for me, the idea of Cathedral bells and ropes conjures the image of a mad carillonneur, Quasimodo-like, single-handedly making the whole cathedral sound like a giant glockenspiel, well again you may be disappointed. (He’s locked further up in the tower.)
Pictured here are the change ringers of St. James’, ringing the Bells of Old York. Sue White explains:
“The steeple in St. James’ housed the only set of 12 bells in North America from 1997 until Trinity Church on Wall Street in New York installed a ring of 12 about three years ago. We know that the tower here had been designed originally for change-ringing bells in 1874 but legend has it that the original bells were sunk in the St. Lawrence on their way to Toronto and have yet to be found.
“Our band of enthusiastic ringers is still trying to master the complicated art of change ringing. The bonus of bell ringing is that, once you have learned how to handle a bell, a ringer is welcome in over 5,500 towers world-wide (mostly in England, but also Australia, the U.S. and the eight towers across Canada). You will be invited to, as they say, hang on and have a ring!
“Meantime, everyone is welcome to visit us in the tower. We will be taking part in Doors Open Toronto on Saturday May 29 from 10 am. So come and visit us. Apart from the fact that we love to show people how beautiful the bells are and how glorious they sound, we are always looking for apprentices to learn this ancient art. For more information please contact: Judith Hunt, secretary, at firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Now to my point: for the full version of this story, click here.
It’s a strange feeling for me, as a 20th century print junkie, to see our website’s autonomous story-telling capacities starting to come into its own. (This month, in addition to Sue White’s “Bells of Old York”, the website contains a remembrance of esteemed choral educator Deral Johnson by Jenny Crober, one of many choral conductors on the local scene who stand in Johnson’s debt. Regular blogger Cathy Riches took in the launch of Koerner Hall’s 2010/11 season – lots to report there!)
I know some readers are going to bash us for not putting it all in print. (And believe me it’s sometimes a tough choice.) But we are not cutting back. It’s just that, if we rely solely on the magazine, we will never be able to tell all the stories out there waiting to be told. The way I am coming round to seeing things, timely use of www.thewholenote.com is one good medium for keeping you informed of all the interesting things we happen upon between monthly magazines.
As I said, I am a print junkie. But I’m open to suggestion. How about you?
—David Perlman, email@example.com