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, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Roadmaps and Rants

True to the spirit of the individual and organization in question, the announcement from Jeanne Lamon came first not as a press release but as a letter to Tafelmusik’s subscribers. “After more than thirty years at the helm of Tafelmusik, I feel it is time for me to move on to the next stage. You, as a member of our audience, are one of our most loyal supporters and I wanted you to be among the first to know.”

What she wanted us to know was that in 2014 she will be stepping down as full-time music director of Tafelmusik “to focus more on our artistic training programs which are at a very exciting crossroads.” And she went on to talk about a “national and international search for a successor” and ambitious plans for the next two years, including “acoustical renovations to our beloved home venue at Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre, more great recordings on our new Tafelmusik Media label, and the establishment of the Tafelmusik International Baroque Academy. The latter has been a long-standing dream of mine and it will take a lot of dedication, time and commitment to take this initiative to the next level. I feel very passionate about this undertaking and want to devote the time it fully deserves.”

So I had been all set this month to launch this opener with a paean of praise for Jeanne Lamon. But then I saw that my colleague, CD Discoveries editor David Olds, had already beaten me to the punch, in Editor’s Corner on page 61. So I think I will let it go, for now. Besides, right now I am green with envy at the thought of anyone having a succession roadmap that stretches all the way out to 2014. The only thing I know clearly about 2014, for crying out loud, is that sometime in the course of that year I will throw away my 2013 calendar.

For another thing, having followed Lamon’s, and Tafelmusik’s, fortunes for the better part of three decades, I am quite sure she’s going to remain so busy and so involved, for the foreseeable future, that premature eulogies will look ridiculous. So instead I’m going to jump the gun and talk about another pioneer who is about to step down, after 40 years of incalculable service to Canadian music, on Monday, December 31, 2012—CBC producer extraordinaire David Jaeger.

Jaeger joined the CBC in 1973, hot out of a Masters Degree in composition at University of Toronto. He worked first as a programmer for the program Sounds Classical, and a year later, moved on to produce a contemporary music program called Music of Today (hosted by Norma Beecroft). From the ten programs he produced with Glenn Gould on the music of Arnold Schoenberg, soon after arriving at the CBC, to his role in the commissioning and production of John Cage’s seminal work, A Lecture on the Weather, a radio-phonic work observing the American bicentennial, to the almost 30 years he produced the program Two New Hours, contemporary music was the backbone of his CBC career.

The numbers alone are staggering. He had a hand in commissioning more than 300 new works, and over 1,200 concert recordings. But the facts behind the numbers are even more impressive. In 1975 he was named the English Radio Coordinator of the National Radio Competition for Young Composers, a post he held for 27 years. He represented CBC English Radio as a delegate to the International Rostrum of Composers (IRC) in Paris for more than 20 years and, from 2002 to 2008, was the only non-European ever to preside over that body.

He commissioned R. Murray Schafer’s iconic String Quartet No.3 for Two New Hours, produced Schafer’s Wolf Music at Wildcat Lake in the Haliburton Forest & Wildlife Reserve, and Schafer’s opera, The Palace of the Cinnabar Phoenix, in the woods near Pontypool, Ontario. He created the CBC partnership with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra to establish their New Music Festival and initiated live broadcasting of that event all the way up to 2006. He also created the partnership with Soundstreams Canada to establish their Encounters series in Glenn Gould Studio, a series of radio-sponsored concerts with works by high-profile international composers sharing the stage with music by significant Canadian composers.

It is not possible to overstate the importance of his role in giving presence and heft to contemporary music in Canada.

For him, as for Lamon, the kudos will undoubtedly follow. For Lamon, I predict, the highest praise will be in the extent to which Tafelmusik continues to build upon the foundation she laid.

I sure wish I could hope the same for the CBC. 

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

An Opening Fare Well

My mighty mother, of whom I shall say a little more at the end of this farewell, had a story she loved to tell about how as a fledgling activist in the 1940s she proved her credentials to the assembled members of the South African Communist Party cell of which her then boyfriend was a member, by announcing her passion for the music of Shostakovich; then later, when she tired of the aforementioned boyfriend (and his politics), she greatly simplified her exit from the relationship by confiding to the scandalized cohort her abiding love for the symphonies of Tchaikovsky.

The WholeNote’s annual Blue Pages are always a nice reminder of how diverse the musical tastes of our community are and how much opportunity there is in a relatively peacable land to indulge one’s own musical tastes without having to deny anyone else theirs. It is a relief when matters of taste don’t have to be a matter of life and death. Enjoy the read, and may you find something delightfully unexpected (or unexpectedly delightful) in the course of it.

What’s in a Name? The recent opening of the Regent Park Arts and Cultural Centre has given a dozen other organizations the same opportunity as the Regent Park School of Music to take big steps forward. The organization Artscape, long an advocate for artists in the community, should take a bow for somehow harnessing the energies of developers and City departments to a common purpose. And beyond that, it’s no small talent to turn common purpose into a viable business plan. This is where commodities such as “naming rights” come into the picture, no less here than for the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, or the O’Keefe/Hummingbird/Sony Centre. That being said, the announcement, right as we were getting ready to go to press, that the Regent Park Arts and Cultural Centre was henceforth to be known as the “Daniels Spectrum” came as a bit of a jolt. It is hard to watch community history and the idea of art and culture casually obliterated like that. But even if Daniels, the major developer of the new Regent Park, had to plaster their name on this building along with all the others, why Spectrum? To any good hockey loving Torontonian “I’m off to the Spectrum” sounds like you’re going to watch a road game in Philadelphia. Even calling it the Daniels Arts and Cultural Centre would have been better, eh? “I’m off to the ACC” means something in this town.

Minor cavil aside, the building is going to be a real asset, for the performance spaces it includes and for the arts and community organizations it will house well. Thanks to the staff of Regent Park School of Music for helping us capture the story and thanks to RSM students Dillon, Megan, Ryan and William Chan; Siddartha Kundu; Boris, Sima and Yakov Tarnopolski; and Alex, Lilly and Sally Twin, for helping make the story a reality by appearing in our cover photo.

I said I would return to the subject of my mighty mother at the end of this, and here we are. Ina Perlman’s life’s work, two continents away, during the darkest days of South African apartheid, was with the hungry and the homeless and the dispossessed, first in the tens, then hundreds, then thousands and more. She’d have been furious at being mentioned publically like this. But she’d have liked the company she is keeping in this particular issue of the magazine. Because she understood the idea of small beginnings, things like The WholeNote Blue Pages, like the Regent Park School of Music.

Music cannot feed the body. But it can make a person hopeful enough to want to eat.

Saturday October 20, 2pm: Regent Park Arts and Cultural Centre. Space is the Place. Community celebration of music and dance. Featuring Hymn to Universe, a dance work by B. Coleman. Sun Ra Arkestra; students from Regent Park School of Music; Bill Coleman, choreographer. 585 Dundas St. E. 416-703-5479. Free; community gathering to follow. Be there.

A Reluctant Ode to the Power of Ten

The other day I found myself scratching my head a bit at a press release from an organization I confess I had never heard of— the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony Orchestra — on the occasion of, drumroll please, their 18th anniversary, their “Chai” anniversary.

“A Chai anniversary has its roots in the Hebrew word for ‘life,’ which is Chai, with its Hebrew letters adding up to the number 18. For this reason, the number 18 is a spiritual number in Judaism and represents a time to reflect, remember and celebrate,”the release explained.

My legions of faithful regular readers will doubtless both remember that I do not respond enthusiastically to anniversaries that are multiples of five and ten. Seven, I have more than once proclaimed in this spot, is of far more intrinsic interest than ten. Many a publicist in town can attest to the fact that the 10th or 20th or 40th anniversary big story idea they have floated my way has found itself dashed on the rocks of editorial indifference. “Forty? Wow! That’s only two years away from 42. Now that’s a really important one!”

So imagine my delight at receiving the above-mentioned LAJSO release about their BIG 18th anniversary! It adds another arrow to my bow, another argument the next time someone comes along and says it’s time to worship at the shrine of ten!

Come to think of it, 18 is what The WholeNote will turn this year.“A time to reflect, remember and celebrate,” indeed. Thank you LAJSO!

And wait, there’s more! Since 81 is simply the mirror image of 18, it stands to reason that the organizers of all this September’s various Glenn Gould 80th anniversary celebrations should cool their jets, and wait one more year before starting the hollering and hooting. Same goes for Murray Schafer (80). Sorry Murray.

There’s a problem though, isn’t there? Even an extra year won’t be enough time to convince the public at large that it is important for their spiritual health to re-learn their nine times tables. That’s the thing, isn’t it? Multiplying by ten is as easy as one, two, three. So if you were expecting me to say “bah, humbug” yet again to the power of ten, I am sorry. I surrender. Henceforth the number ten rules: from our cover story coverage of the two-day Glenn Gould Variations summit at Convocation Hall; to Andrew Timar’s highly personal take on the 100th anniversary of the birth of another musical titan, John Cage; to David Olds’ reflections on the 25th anniversary of Naxos Canada. I mean, everyone knows 25 is a sort of ten!

And don’t expect it to stop with this issue either. As the season unfolds, expect to see us tip the hat to some particularly notable 40ths: Esprit Orchestra, Soundstreams and Toronto Consort, to name but three.

It’s a slippery slope, I grant you. I can already hear the aforementioned publicists sharpening their digital pencils on behalf of clients who have reached 10 or 20, or 25, or 30 this year.

Even worse, in the distance I hear a rumble of discontent from some of the notable 40s to whose anniversaries only last year we turned a blind eye. Every flip flop has its consequences. So to them I say, cheer up! You’re only a year away from 42. As I said to Bob Aitken on page 28, now that’s a really important one!

As for The WholeNote, 18 feels like a really fine milestone to be reaching. Mind you, it will probably take us another two years to organize the party, anyway!

And in the meanwhile, l’chaim! To life. 

David Perlman, publisher@thewholenote.com


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