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, 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. 

Author: Paul Ennis
For a list of writings by this author, click the name above
More from this author:

Wu_Man_1.jpgThe historic trade routes collectively referred to as the Silk Road, an interconnected web of maritime and overland pathways,  have, for centuries, served as sites for cultural, economic, educational, religious – and purely musical – exchanges. In that light, “silk roads” can be seen as a significant factor in the development of the ever-evolving hybridities that have shaped the face of the modern musical world.

In 1998 the Grammy Award-winning cellist Yo-Yo Ma proposed “Silkroad” as the name of his new non-profit organisation. That project, inspired by his global curiosity and eagerness to forge connections across cultures, disciplines and generations, has grown several branches, the first of which was the successful music performing group, Silk Road Ensemble (SRE). It has played to sold-out houses at Roy Thomson Hall in 2003 and 2009 and will return to perform at Massey Hall on September 15. (Serendipitously, Toronto audiences will have another opportunity to see the SRE up close this September. Morgan Neville’s feature-length documentary The Music of Strangers: Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble graces TIFF’s red carpet, enjoying its world premiere.)

Wu Man’s view from the pipa. Chinese-born Grammy Award nominee Wu Man, widely hailed as the world’s premier pipa (Chinese lute) virtuoso, has a unique perspective on the SRE’s career. An educator, composer and an ambassador of Chinese music, she has a prolific discography of 40 albums and counting. She was among the first musicians to get the call from Yo-Yo Ma to help in founding SRE.

Tiff_Tips_1.jpgWelcome to The WholeNote’s fourth annual guide to the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), shining a light on films in which music plays an intriguing role. This year’s selection includes a film version of one of the most compelling musicals of the new century, several titles documenting musicians and their work – from two biopics and movies whose characters revolve around music – to those featuring soundtracks integral to their films’ artistic success. With 289 feature films from 71 countries, the following 27 choices are not the product of an exact science, only a loose guide for music-loving readers with a cinematic appetite.
Author: Paul Ennis
For a list of writings by this author, click the name above
More from this author:

To The WholeNote magazine, ..

How I met my teacher

To_The_WholeNote_-_Jacot.jpgAs I sat thinking what I had accomplished on my clarinet, I realized I was just spinning my wheels – not going anywhere. I was playing in my comfort zone and in my tempo zone. I was 81 years of age and wanted to improve. But how? I had no idea” 

One day as I was reading The WholeNote magazine – the best source of what’s happening in the local music scene - I spotted an advertisement for music lessons on clarinet, saxophone and flute. The teacher’s name is Michele Jacot. “Well,” I said to myself, “why not - let’s talk” and we did. I have had other teachers over the many years, but none – and I mean none – were more knowledgeable than Michele Jacot.

The_future_of_music_back_then_1.jpgForty years ago, in late 1975,  John Peter Lee Roberts, who had been in charge of CBC Radio Music since 1964, left that position, leaving behind an impressive legacy of programming leadership. In his 11 years as Radio Music head, Roberts had commissioned 160 new works by Canadian composers. Among these was R. Murray Schafer’s Apocalypsis, now well known from its revival in this year’s Luminato Festival. Originally commissioned as a 60-minute choral work for the Elmer Iseler Singers, the work that Schafer delivered was twice that length and much more complex and ambitious, incorporating 12 choirs, soloists, sound poets, orchestra, electronics and even mime artists.

Back to top