In the Sound (Always the Producer)

Lanois FeatureAs bodies begin to fill the sea of burgundy and beige chairs in legendary Massey Hall, the excitement for tonight’s show is palpable. Daniel Lanois has the opening slot for Emmylou Harris at the end of their tour celebrating the reissue of 1995’s Wrecking Ball, for which Lanois also owns producing credit. As I watch the diverse crowd trickle in, the instrumental pre show music seeping out from surrounding speakers catches me. I think it is Lanois’ music but I can’t say for sure. That guess is put to rest as Lanois appears on stage walking with purpose and perfect timing to be seated at his pedal steel. There is a smooth transition from the speakers into a live continuation. Everyone’s focus has redirected and for the first time since I can remember, there is not one illuminated cellphone in my peripheral. This crowd is here to listen.

For the duration of the first song, Lanois hasn’t looked up once, he is in the sound, and we are all there with him. His fingers move with precision against the strings and I get lost in the story that is created by them and the sounds, reminiscent of an open vintage jewelry box. The crowd’s expectations are undoubtedly safe here; he knows what he is doing. Lanois knows music like few others and this opening set is a chance for us to be reminded that not only is he a master of shaping the sound of others but he too owns his own space as an award-winning musician and songwriter.

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On The Road 2014

We’re at it again – as always this time of year, our summer issue becomes a point at which we check in with musicians from across our community who are headed “on the road” – or are staying in – for the summer months. We’ve asked local musicians of all sorts and kinds what they’re most looking forward to this summer, both as listeners and performers, and what their plans are for the 2014/15 season on the other side.

While it’s the same four questions every year, the overwhelming variety of responses we receive demonstrates just how unique each artist is, and just how far their summer travels will take them. For some insight on an array of upcoming plans – some international and some much closer to home – our publisher David Perlman sat down with TSO music director Peter Oundjian, on what he’ll be up to both on and off the podium this summer.

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Through the GLIMMERGLASS

1909 glimmerglassThe Glimmerglass Festival evolved from the Glimmerglass Opera, founded in 1975 and is now the second-largest summer opera festival in the United States. Every summer the rotating repertory company mounts performances of four productions selected from grand opera, the Broadway stage and new and lesser-known compositions. In the true sense of a festival, there are special events including interesting and informative talks by composers and artists and guest speakers. There are nearby galleries and museums.  The operas are presented in the Alice Busch Opera Theatre about 13 kms north of Cooperstown. For anyone not familiar with “Glimmerglass” it is the name used by author James Fenimore Cooper, referring to Otsego Lake on which the Glimmerglass State Park is situated.

Francesca Zambello, the distinguished stage director whose work may be seen on several outstanding new releases on Blu-ray discs including Porgy and Bess from San Francisco and Don Giovanni from Covent Garden, has been the Glimmerglass’ artistic and general director since 2011. Her personality and enthusiasm illuminate every aspect of the festival.

The four offerings for 2014 are Madame Butterfly, Carousel, Ariadne auf Naxos and An American Tragedy.

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Classical Comeback - Kolk and Karadaglić on the Concert Trail

Classical Guiter FeatureIn mid-February David Perlman and I, along with a few dozen others, braved a bitterly cold Toronto winter evening to attend the Heliconian Hall launch of Mosaic, the second solo CD by the outstanding Toronto-based classical guitarist Michael Kolk.

An hour or two later, having just witnessed as fine a display of classical guitar playing as either of us had ever seen, we found ourselves wondering: If an artist of Kolk’s world-class quality was launching a solo CD in such a small, intimate venue with 30 people attending, was the classical guitar, if not exactly on the solo concert instrument critically endangered or endangered lists, at least on the vulnerable list? Furthermore, in this age of downloading and ubiquitous social media, was the whole concept of venue even relevant any more?

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Weisbrodt's Luminato

WeisbrodtsLuminatoPhoto1Jörn Weisbrodt, 41, is the third part of the German trifecta that is moving and shaking the arts in Toronto. In 2011, he was appointed the artistic director of the Luminato Festival, and thus joins the Canadian Opera Company’s general director, Alexander Neef, and music director, Johannes Debus, as a member of the wunderkind generation of Young Turk Germans making a splash on the worldwide culture scene. (The Neef/Debus Q&A was in last month’s WholeNote.)

When the Weisbrodt/Luminato announcement was made, every news story mentioned the fact that his life partner was Canadian/American superstar, singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright. (The couple’s 2012 New York celebrity wedding had huge coverage in the international press.) One does not, however, become head honcho of one of North America’s leading festivals of arts and culture by being “husband of.”

What follows is an in-depth conversation with Weisbrodt that gives a perspective on his life history and the life skills that brought him to Luminato.

Tell me about your background. I was born in Hamburg, and I’d describe my life as a typical middle class tapestry. My dad was head of logistics at Unilever and my mother was a housewife. My brother is an engineer with Lufthansa. Instead of going into the army for mandatory conscription after high school, I opted for social service instead. I worked for 15 months in an operating theatre dressing the doctors and nurses, positioning the patients and getting all the equipment together, making sure everything was sterile. I’ve been a great defender of compulsory social service for young people ever since.

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