We Are ALL Music’s Children

Long-time loyal readers will know that the title of this issue’s Opener is the title of one of our longest-running features/contests, compiled and edited by mJ Buell and usually found in the Musical Life section of the magazine. The feature asks you to guess the identity of a musician based on a childhood photo. Lucky winners get recordings or tickets to upcoming concerts featuring that individual.

This version of “Music’s Child” departs from that formula in a couple of ways: for one thing the photo on our cover is not that of a child, and for another, we are not going to ask you to guess who he is (Rufus Wainwright). But we will still offer you the opportunity to answer a question for the opportunity to win prizes. So, read on!

In her 1971 song River, Joni Mitchell longed for a river she could skate away on, “a river so long it would teach my feet to fly ... ” Well, summer music in Ontario, and beyond, is a bit like a river that flows both ways, with home-grown musicians on the road heading out of town, and as many from afar heading in. Two Luminato concerts at Massey Hall on June 18 and 19, titled “Joni: A Portrait in Song,” will celebrate Mitchell’s upcoming 70th birthday and Rufus Wainwright will be one of the performers helping to make the event an occasion to remember.

Like Mitchell, Wainwright is a Canadian singer-songwriter with an extraordinary range of musical appetites — seven albums of original songs, film soundtracks, song settings of Shakespearean sonnets and a full length opera, Prima Donna, which received its North American premiere at Luminato in 2011. Child of two musicians, Loudon Wainwright III and the late Kate McGarrigle, Wainwright is on a bit of a magical musical carpet ride right now. At last count there were 22 concert venues listed on his ever-changing website, just between now and the end of July, in Europe, the US and the UK. Somehow he also has three Ontario appearances wedged into what is left of 2013, including one with the TSO in October!

We don’t yet know if Wainwright will choose to sing Mitchell’s River June 18 and 19 at Massey. So “What did Rufus sing?” is the question you’ll have to answer for a chance to win this month’s contest. Send answers as usual to musicschildren@thewholenote.com. 


Where Dem Boidies Iz

If, as i suspect, my regular readers did a quick double-pump past the letter on page four so as not to miss our regular little chat, then neither of you will have the foggiest idea what the “Help The WholeNote Thrive” panel to the left of this is all about. And even less of a clue what I’m talking about when I explain that we chose the number 3,000 for the campaign because its 1/10 of the number of copies we regularly print.

So I will make a deal with you. Go back and read the letter on page four, and when you come back I will not say another word about any of all that. Promise.

Read more: Where Dem Boidies Iz

Seeing ... Orange?

“SEEING RED” is a cut-and-dried emotional state — no ifs, ands or buts about it. Someone gets your goat, pushes a very particular button and, bingo! Rage, remorse and, if one has a sympathetic judge, community service and anger management courses.

There are however those other situations where one hesitates to push the red rage button, even if only briefly, while trying to figure out whether one has actually been offended. “Are you talking to me?” DiNiro’s character in Taxi Driver would say at that point, giving the other party an opportunity to say something like “No actually, but thank you for asking. Because I can see why you would have been rather offended if that were the case.”

“SEEING ORANGE” you might call this slightly more circumspect approach to things — a warm haze that can turn either into a glow of contentment or into blazing anger, once one has ascertained whether one was being laughed at or laughed with, truly lauded or merely damned with faint praise.

Well it seems that our inaugural Orange Pages education directory, launched in March, has the eminent educator Sterling Beckwith “seeing orange” in more ways than one. This is why, in 391 words’ time, I will temporarily cede this thunderer’s podium to him, to say precisely what is on his mind. (For those of you who dare to admit that you don’t know who Sterling Beckwith is, one theory has it that he was named after a studio in the Department of Music at York University, well used not just for intimate musical performance but for workshops, seminars, symposia and the like — events related to his own personal passion which is music education.

Before he does though, here are two or three other things I’d like to note.

VANCOUVER VIEW POINT:As devoted readers of this little essay both know, we have a habit here at The WholeNote, when taking on new things, of learning to swim by diving into what we hope is the deep end and striking out for the far side. Take last month’s column, West Coast Notes, exploring the music scene in Victoria BC, for an example. Not content with just asking Ian Alexander to write about the music scene in his relatively newly adopted home town, we positioned the piece under the rubric “Canadian View Points,” evoking the grand vision of dipping our stylus in the Pacific and heading off on a grand cross-country adventure, acquiring loyal local correspondents as we go, laying the groundwork for the gathering and dissemination of vital information about live local musical activity coast to coast to coast ... but without having the foggiest idea what the very next step should be.

Well, either fortune favours the brave or fate smiles on fools, but either way, it’s opera to the rescue, as OPERA America and Opera.ca descend on Vancouver in early May for a major conference, and Christina Loewen of Opera.ca steps into the cross-Canada batter’s box with our second Canadian View Points report. Loewen being Toronto based, and the conference being a one-off event rather than part of the ongoing Vancouver scene, we’ll still have to find someone “on the ground” in Vancouver to carry the ball on an ongoing basis. So if you’re reading this in the Canadian left coast’s largest city, and don’t mind diving in the deep end, get in touch. And would-be correspondents anywhere east of Vancouver with an ongoing live local music picture to paint, take note. We’re coming your way.

And now, Mr. Beckwith, over to you.

—David Perlman, publisher@thewholenote.com

Sea to Shining Sea

As editor of this magazine I have spent a significant portion of the last 18 years attempting to see to it that we have the resources at hand for some 3,600 to 5,000 concert listings a year to be harvested, sorted alphanumerically, arranged in such a fashion that they can be readily found by whomever is looking for them, and judiciously divided up as fodder for a dozen or so writers, so that the magazine is not riddled with repetition.

You’d think that under those circumstances filing and sorting would have become second nature after a while and even, after a fashion, a source of pleasure. Well, maybe for some, but not, alas, for me. Simple decisions about where things are supposed to go can throw me into a state of crisis for longer than you would believe — longer, for example, than it takes Tristan (or any of Wagner’s other moral-fine-motor-skill-deficient heroes for that matter) to explain to the love of his life that he’s promised her to a buddy and, even though he’s really broken up about it, a promise to another guy is a promise that has to be kept.

World domination? Take the table of contents on the previous page, for example. Does my little piece on page 15 about our Conversations at The WholeNote video series really constitute a “feature”? And why is Ian Alexander’s “West Coast Report” on page 30 listed under the heading Beat by Beat when we have no plan in place (yet) to make it a regular column?

In less time than it takes me to agonize through things like this, Brünnhilde could have written a whole “tips for rookie travellers” guide for Siegfried, alerting him to the dangers of letting strangers pour your drinks.

As for calling Alexander’s “West Coast Report” a beat column, call it an exercise in wishful filing, if you like. After all there should be a way for the kind of gleaning and broadcasting of musical listings that we do to take root and flourish, coast to coast to coast, especially in this age of digital media.

So here’s to the ceremonial planting of The WholeNote’s “first spike” on Vancouver Island! The task of marshalling an army of coast to coast WholeNote beat correspondents is under way! Can world domination be far behind? (But don’t tell Mr. Alexander the grand scheme. I don’t want to scare him off.)

Agent Orange? It’s not just in the area of live concert listings that this addled and aging editor finds himself dreaming of spreading the good word far and wide. The Orange Pages in this issue, commencing on page 59, is our first full-blown attempt to come up with a forum for schools and teachers, summer camps and programs to get the word out about who they are and what they offer. Taken along with Rebecca Chua’s piece about her inspirational visit to the Sistema Toronto program, page 56, the death of the music we follow seems less than the sure thing it is so often predicted to be.

Hats off to musical nation building I say! Sea to shining sea. Class by class and beat by beat. Category by category!

Awards: The subject of categories brings us by what James Joyce called a “commodius vicus of recirculation” to the topic of award shows, something more than usually on the collective radar at this time of year.

Nominees have been announced for the April 21 annual JUNOs, this year coming from the Brandt Centre in Regina, Saskatchewan. As usual The WholeNote’s DISCoveries team has done itself proud. Of the 20 nominated albums in the four classical categories the JUNOs offer, The WholeNote had already reviewed 17 prior to the announcement of the nominees. A proud record, that one! In the three jazz categories, we reviewed nine of 15, also no mean feat. As is our custom, we will post on our website a full list of nominees in these seven categories, along with handy links to our reviews.

And still on the topic of awards, a tip of the hat to Toronto’s Mychael Danna, featured in last month’s issue of The WholeNote. Danna, as most of you will be aware, took the Oscar for his score for Ang Lee’s Life of Pi. I expect that many who saw the film and stayed through the credits were awed by the sheer number of people involved in bringing it to the screen. (I think the number 14,000 was mentioned in the credits themselves.) It would be interesting to figure out how that compares, for example, to the number of people it takes to put on all the concerts listed in a single issue of this magazine. Or to the number of people singing regularly in choirs across this land. A fair bit of sorting and filing that would take. I’d better get started.

But before I do, one last award-related note, this time in connection with the Glenn Gould Foundation’s announcement, February 21, that the tenth winner of the prestigious prize is none other than Quebec’s Robert Lepage.

It’s a boldly interesting path that the GGF is on. The awarding of the ninth prize to Leonard Cohen last time out signalled an increase in the frequency of the prize and also a significant broadening of eligibility criteria for prize winners, from a fairly narrow classical base (Oscar Peterson being the one previous exception) to a less category-driven view of music’s place in “the arts.” The leap from Cohen’s Montreal to Lepage’s Quebec City might not be significant in terms of miles. But as an affirmation of the GGF’s intention to cast off the chains of rigid categorization in deciding whom to honour, there could be no more worthy honoree than the risk-taking, genre-defying Lepage.

Each GGF prize winner also selects a “protégé” to receive an award. Cohen’s was none other than the Sistema Toronto project mentioned earlier in this opener. It will be fascinating, as events unfold, to see who Lepage selects. After all, from small beginnings ... sea to shining sea. 

David Perlman, publisher@thewholenote.com

A Sunshine State of Mind

Way back when, The WholeNote was an occasional column called “Classical Heaven on $100 a Month” in a homegrown community newspaper called the Kensington Market Drum. “Everything within a 15 minute bike ride of College and Spadina is our turf” the Drum declared, thereby, by fiat, turning everything from City Hall to Walter Hall to Dixon Hall to Barbara Hall to RTH into legitimate Kensington Market news, including all the goings on at what was then generally referred to as “The Clarke,” namely the Clarke Institute of Psychiatry, just east of us on College Street.

We’re talking the late 1980s here, folks, when a facebook was what you draped strategically over your sleeping nose to keep the summer sun off, and the good doctors at the Clarke delighted as much as all the rest of us in the simple art of coming up with clever acronyms for things. I remember, at the time, receiving one punch-drunk press release from the aforementioned Clarke Institute which managed in three paragraphs to make reference in capital letters to Seasonal Affective Disorder, Mood and Affective Disorders, and Bipolar Affective Disorder, thereby proclaiming themselves in one breath to be the answer for all that ails society’s SAD, MAD and BAD.

To their credit, it didn’t take them long to realize the error of their ways; to understand that in their line of work patients, as much as doctors, can recognize an acronym when they see it. So MAD and BAD disppeared from their PR lexicon, before too much of a fuss could be made. But Seasonal Affective Disorder has shown a remarkable tenacity. A quick Google search, right now, January 28, 2013, yields no fewer than 2,900,000 results for the phrase. Not too shabby, as pre-internet coinage goes.

Part of why SAD has stuck, here in Canada at least, is because of how completely it dovetails with the February Blues, that state of mind that dogs us all as we crawl past the turn of the year towards the spring and summer light that feel right now as if they will never return.

Well, abandon despair, all ye who enter here! In these pages are all the little signs of hope, musical candles in the dark, that you need to begin your journey back to the light: from Lunar New Year, to a Valentine-themed outbreak of Chopinesque passion, to almost weekly announcements, by various presenters, of musical seasons to come, well into 2014.

And it’s no coincidence that February and March are the months when we at The WholeNote crank up our efforts to pull together as much information as we can about what the summer offers in the way of music education. See our little house ad on page 50.

This year we are going a step beyond: putting together for March not just the summer’s musical offerings, but a directory of as much as we can gather about the individual teachers and community musical schools that offer, year round, musical solace against all the manifold despairs of the dark. We’re calling it our “Orange Pages.” Partly it’s because we’ve already assigned Green, Blue and Canary to other uses. And partly because it suggests that an active musical life can be a reliable shortcut to a sunshine state of mind. 

—David Perlman, publisher@thewholenote.com


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