Seymour Bernstein. Photo: Ramsey Fendall. Courtesy of Mongrel Media.

“Music is a reminder of our own potential for perfection.”
-- Seymour Bernstein

In last September’s issue of The WholeNote, in my preview of the Toronto International Film Festival, I wrote that the film I was most looking forward to was Ethan Hawke’s Seymour: An Introduction. It had been Hawke’s explanation of Bernstein’s teaching mantra (responding to Hubert Vigilia’s question on flixist.com, two years ago just as the film was taking shape) that piqued my curiosity and made the film a must on my TIFF to-do list.

Said Hawke: “He’s a very deep guy. I was touched by him, and I thought he had a lot to teach me about acting, and then I slowly realized that the way he’s talking about the piano relates to every profession.”

I was touched, charmed and inspired by Hawke’s moving documentary when I saw it at TIFF and couldn’t wait to see it again. Six months later, it’s begun an exclusive engagement at the Cineplex Varsity Cinemas. The second time I was even more moved. Be prepared to be charmed and inspired when you see it. It’s unmissable.

Hawke (Boyhood, Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, Before Midnight) has given us a tender, warm portrait of the captivating pianist Seymour Bernstein. Among many things Hawke’s documentary does, it debunks the axiom that those who can, do and those who can’t, teach. And it does so with wall-to-wall piano music highlighted by Bernstein’s own playing of Chopin (Berceuse, Ballade No.1, Nocturne Op.37 No.2) and Beethoven (Bagatelles Op.126, Sonata Op.111, “Moonlight” Sonata) among others, as well as some of his own compositions. 


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Christina Petrowska Quilico is no stranger to launch events. Fancies and Interludes – violin/piano duos by Gary Kulesha, Raymond Luedecke, Oskar Morawetz and James Rolfe – to be released by the CMC’s venerable label Centrediscs on June 11 is her 12th recording on the Centrediscs label and her 37th overall.

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“And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,

slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?” W.B Yeats

With apologies to W.B. Yeats, “slouching towards Bethlehem” is a perfect description of me as I walk the 15 minutes down Bathurst Street from home to the Toronto Island Airport. I am Newark bound, with my one overstuffed carry-on bag on my shoulder. It’s 6:30am on a Friday, and I have to be on the bus to Bethlehem at 10am. So I have not had time for shower, shave or coffee this balmy May 8 morning.

But I make my Porter flight to Newark with time to spare and find my bus; my little spring adventure is underway.

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TSM.jpgWhen Douglas McNabney dropped by The WholeNote office a week or two ago, it was mainly just to set up a time to sit down later in June and have a conversation – a filmed Conversation@TheWholeNote, for our YouTube series, to be exact – about his vision for this year’s Toronto Summer Music Festival. However, as often happens in these kinds of situations, one thing led to another and before we were aware of it, our conversation had already begun. In this particular case, it was especially easy to get carried away – this is the tenth anniversary year of Toronto Summer Music and McNabney’s fifth year of his tenure as the festival’s artistic director. From the look of the programming in place, this festival will have a presence in Toronto’s musical landscape this summer that will be tough to ignore.

Think of what follows as a taste of a “Conversation” to come, where McNabney will be catching up with WholeNote publisher David Perlman to talk about the business of curating a city’s music, brand-new opportunities for amateurs to get involved in the festival scene, and how to cope – or even take advantage of – the coming Panamania. Until the time comes, however, here is a little of what has been on McNabney’s mind, and on ours, as festival season swings into full gear.

WN: For now, let’s get a sense of the festival, and of the shape of it.

Directors-Stratford.jpgThe summer music festival can be a bit of a mystifying concept. At just the time of year when you would expect most concert performers to pack up their instrument cases and head to the cottage, there is, across the country, a sudden eruption of summer music-making branded as “festival season” – a phenomenon often put together by people who work throughout the year and around the clock to make it happen. And yet, despite all the similarities (weekend getaways, specially-themed concert series, multi-arts celebrations and educational initiatives), you’d be hard-pressed to find two festivals in any given summer that appear to be cut from the same cloth.

So what exactly is a summer music festival, and, apart from the fact that it’s in the summer, what are some of the factors that give each its unique fingerprint – keeping audiences and organizers alike coming back for more? Make no mistake – increasingly, music festivals are more than just blips on the regular musical calendar. These summer events have a particular capacity for going above and beyond the constraints of the average concert series, offering up an experience that is not only carefully curated but musically unique. And who better than some of the people who do that curating to talk about the unique characteristics of the festivals they shepherd into being?

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