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. 

publisher@thewholenote.com


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

In Syncopated Tıme

One of the oddities of 17 years of seeing The WholeNote safely to bed is a chronic state of never knowing quite what month it is. This may seem odd to the reader, given that the backbone of what we do month in and month out is to break the world of music down into its constituent daily instances. If anyone should know what day it is, you’d think it would be someone who spends half their working life compiling calendars of events.

But therein lies the problem: on June 20, for example, the focus of my work was sifting through concert listings covering the period July 1 to September 7, not just in our usual “GTA” and “Beyond GTA” contexts but over the whole vast canvas of Ontario and beyond, following the music as it runs with the summer sun into every imaginable corner of the region, indoor and out, urban and rural. And every so often I would find myself so taken with the idea of some concert in, say, Stratford in mid-August that I would in my mind’s eye be a month or so further into the future than I am.

No time of the year is this time warp more disconcerting than in the preparation of this summer double issue. Imagine the slight chill, dear reader, on finding myself reading on June 20, the longest day of the year, the very last listing in our GTA section, for a concert in the Summer Music in the Garden series at the foot of Spadina Avenue, stating that the concert will be shorter than normal “due to the early sunset.”

Discombobulating as all this is, I can tell you that its obverse is far worse — namely the number of times in a typical year that I find myself realizing that I have only just missed some great concert, the night before, because I thought it was long gone, having encountered it first a whole month previously, sifting through the listings, waiting to put The WholeNote to bed. “Should have read the blasted magazine,” I grumble to myself, but often I don’t because the one I am “reading” is the one that you, dear reader, will read not this time round but the next.

As I write this, my excuse for July’s concerts vanishing without a trace from my personal concert going calendar is somewhat different. It is June 26 as I write, somewhere high over the Atlantic, about to arc south of Lisbon and then Algiers, to the horn of Africa, and then on again, on one of those “maybe too late” journeys that each of us takes once or twice in a lifetime.

And so it is that instead of saying at this point, as I usually would, that I hope we cross paths during this summer, I say, instead, I hope to see you sometime on its other side, a season of earlier sunsets than this one promises to be.

And a nod to The WholeNote team for getting this magazine safely to bed in my absence, as your reading this proves they have done.  

David Perlman, publisher@thewholenote.com

Passing the Torch

6One or two of you will remember that in last month’s For Openers I raked the Glenn Gould Foundation over the coals for cutting the Award’s classical balls off. So you may be surprised (and maybe disappointed) to hear that, only a couple of weeks later, I attended the May 14 Massey Hall gala concert at which Leonard Cohen received the ninth Glenn Gould Foundation Award, stood for every standing ovation, and wiped away more than a couple of tears.

You might be less surprised, if no less disappointed, if you had known that in my only slightly more demented university days, I was the individual who could, on a given day, rise up from the audience at a mass meeting in the Great Hall, blast the organizers for irrelevance, and lead a walkout, headed for the cafeteria. And, only a couple of weeks later, storm into the cafeteria, bellow at the chip-and-gravy-eating masses to get up off their apathetic arses, and lead a sheepish throng back to the Great Hall for a meeting.

You might be even more forgiving if I explain that I bought my first guitar in 1968 specifically to learn Suzanne, in the hopes of persuading Moira LePage to let me touch her perfect body with anything. And this was half way round the world, long before I even knew, let alone cared, that Leonard Cohen was a Canadian.

It was a wonderful evening, full of nuance and grace, a funny funny story from Cohen himself about the first of his two meetings with Gould himself (as a reporter), and another fine account, from Adrienne Clarkson, herself, about how she tried unsuccessfully to get a literary travel grant from the Canada Council, back in its infancy, for this hot young Montreal poet she “held a torch for” to come do a reading for the young ladies of St. Hilda’s (University of Toronto). Cohen himself did get a Canada Council Grant in those early years, it was explained – a princely $26, the first money anyone ever gave him just to “be a writer.” (In return, he donated his $50,000 prize back to the Canada Council.)

Suzanne remained, blessedly, unsung, and the only snippet of Hallelujah came in a little video clip sung and played by the children of Sistema Toronto, the organization Cohen chose to receive the City of Toronto Glenn Gould Protégé Prize that goes with the Award. (Oscar Peterson chose Benny Green for his protégé when Peterson won the third GGF award in 1993, and Benny Green has a concert during this year’s Toronto Jazz Festival, June 28 at the Church of the Holy Trinity. But that’s another story.)

Sistema Toronto is an offshoot of El Sistema. Founded in 1975 by Venezuelan economist and musician José Antonio Abreu, El Sistema is a publically financed, voluntary sector music education program in that country, responsible for bringing music lessons to almost half a million children, many of them otherwise at risk. It has also spawned scores of community orchestras, and produced astonishing musical talents, such as the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s current conductor Gustavo Dudamel. Abreu, you may remember, was the previous GGF Award winner, two years ago.

That was one of the teary moments in the evening for me, when two of the children from Parkdale Junior School, where Sistema Toronto is now quietly, and astoundingly, taking root, stepped onto the stage to accept the prize. I’m not sure what was more moving: watching an old man, still full of fire and grace bend to pass the torch, the gift of making music, across one generation to the next; or watching a movement that offers so much musical hope successfully transplanted from statist roots to a tiny patch of individual Toronto soil.

Either way, the torch was passed. Long may it burn.

David Perlman, publisher@thewholenote.com

Correction

The Choirs Ontario Leslie Bell Prize for Choral Conducting, announced on page 55 of last month’s magazine, incorrectly stated the eligibility  requirements for candidates and their nominees.

A corrected notice can be found under COMPETITIONS on page 44 of the current issue.


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