COC’s Johannes Debus and Alexander Neef

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Their birthdays are a month apart. They have just turned 40. They are both German, but they never knew each other in their home country. They also just happen to be the leading lights behind the Canadian Opera Company.

General director Alexander Neef was appointed in 2008, and music director Johannes Debus the following year. Together they represent the wunderkind generation who are the new movers and shakers in the arts.

We three met in Neef’s office for a wide-ranging conversation about the COC in particular, the arts in general, and, of course, living in Toronto. Debus came across as an idealist, Neef as a realist.

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Behind the Scenes - Chuck Daellenbach

chuck-daellenbach-koerner-hall-lobbyIn anticipation of the Canadian Brass’ upcoming appearance April 27, the final concert in this year’s Mooredale Concert Series, I tracked tuba player Chuck Daellenbach down for a thoroughly entertaining hour-long chat at his south Rosedale Toronto home, middle of March 2014.

What follows is a full length transcript of  that chat: a conversation that roamed here and there over the whole 44 years of the Brass’ existence: commissioning and arranging, their momentous 1977 groundbreaking trip to China, recording, media, player personnel and more. Or you can click HERE for a flip through replica of the article the way it appears in the April 2014 print edition of The WholeNote Magazine. (Story commences on page 11.)  Either way, what follows gives a taste of the indefatigable Daellenbach, now the only member of the original quintet still in full-time performing harness with what is undoubtedly the best-known Canadian chamber ensemble of our (and perhaps all) time. Enjoy.

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Symbiotic! Music & Dance

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Peggy Baker has a firm principle concerning her choreographic relationship with music. She will not allow tape if the piece was meant to be performed live. If she commissions work from a composer who is a devotee of electronica, that is a different story. “Music is the fastest way to connect to your own physicality,” she states, “and it is magical when live music vibrates through your body.”

In Baker’s new dance show, he:she, which opens at the Betty Oliphant Theatre on March 29, the worlds of acoustic and electronic music come together in compositions by Chan Ka Nin, Heather Schmidt and Alain Thibault. Joining the six dancers will be clarinetist Max Christie, cellist Shauna Rolston, and composer/pianist John Kameel Farah. The latter will provide the improvised score for the world premiere of Aleatoric Duet No. 2.

Not surprisingly, Baker has had a connection with live music her whole life. When she was in training, her dance classes had live accompaniment. Two husbands, Michael J. Baker and Ahmed Hassan, were composers and musicians. When she performed with the White Oak Dance Project, founded by dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov and choreographer Mark Morris, a chamber orchestra toured with the company.

Baker returned from her years in New York with a gift. As a testament to her enormous talent, Morris had given her his solo Ten Suggestions, set to Bagatelles, Op. 5 by Alexander Tcherepnin. To perform the work, she needed a pianist, and that is how Baker met Andrew Burashko. What followed has been many fruitful years of collaboration between live music and dance. Says Baker: “Andrew said that if we were going to work together, we had to choose important music, and I made dances to Brahms, Prokofiev, Poulenc, Philip Glass. Andrew introduced me to a fantastic world of music.”

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Lawrence Cherney Inter~Nationalist

cherny on wallBack in 1941, before Lawrence Cherney was even born, in the pages of a book titled One World, a failed candidate for the presidency of the United States gave the artistic director of Soundstreams a guiding theme for much of his career.

In fact, Wendell Willkie might almost have written the very words of the Peterborough-born oboist and English horn player’s welcome to his audience for November’s “Reimagining Flamenco” presentation in the newly refurbished Jeanne Lamon Hall at Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre:

 “... Never have the world’s cultural heritages been so accessible to all, so available to be explored, appreciated and transformed,” Cherney wrote in the Soundstreams program. “No culture or heritage can survive in a vacuum, preserved in a museum in splendid isolation. Cultures interact, resonate with their surroundings. They’re in a constant state of evolution and revolution in direct relation to the ebb and flow of those surroundings.”

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Lutoslawski’s Legacy - A Personal Reminiscence

lutoslawski and aitken{The following is excerpted and adapted from a text delivered by Robert Aitken at the Symposium “Lutoslawski – Music and Legacy” held on October 26, 2013 at the Schulich School of Music of McGill University in collaboration with The Polish Academy of Arts and Sciences in Krakow and The Polish Institute of Arts and Sciences in Canada, to commemorate the centennial of composer Witold Lutoslawski’s birth.}

There are many things in life which come to be obvious. As the years go by you forget when you learned them and think that you always knew them. They become truisms that you expect everyone to know — a kind of self-evident knowledge. Was there actually a time in my life when I did not understand that Poland was truly a leader in contemporary music? I just knew it and continued to believe so for many years up to the present. So when I was invited to give this reminiscence on Witold Lutoslawski I was pleased to rethink this important part of my past to ascertain just when and what it was that brought about my great interest in Polish music and led ultimately to inviting Lutoslawski to Toronto.

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