Last to Bed

6Faithful fans of my little column both know that from time to time I go into a rant here about how this is the one remaining piece of copy preventing the issue from going to press, and how much I hate being the one responsible for the magazine not going to bed. (Or as a slight variation, a rant about how much I hate the fact that it’s the magazine that’s preventing me from going to bed.)

So now that’s over with, instead, a late night end-of-year toast to the best damned staff a publisher could ever wish for, and an acknowledgment of the fact that it’s only because each and everyone of you, at one time or another is “the last to bed,” that this little beauty ever gets to press.

A toast, I say, to the hard-working people:

… who work all night to rebuild the server when it crashes mid-cycle;

… who stay through blizzards to make sure the 65 listings that come in after deadline still get into the magazine even though we could just shrug and leave them out;

… who come up with a fantastic extra five hundred words at three am because a certain boneheaded editor in chief puts the same article in on two different pages;

… who stay long past midnight rejigging the routes for our thirty drivers because aforesaid boneheaded e.i.c./publisher gets the production schedule so terribly wrong even though he’s done it 174 times;

… who work half the night on the ad tracking sheet because they’ve spent all day hand-holding someone who’s never made an ad before through the process of making one;

… who right now sits patiently waiting for this last piece of copy, to make one last beautiful page;

… so our loyal printer can get in his car at two am and pick up page proofs;

… so we can still make our deadline in spite of the fact that the publisher was so busy toasting his staff that he forgot what he was trying to say, and sat staring at the computer screen for half an hour after writing this sentence, thereby nearly undoing all the hard work of the aforementioned best damned staff a publisher could ever wish for.

So, what else?

Oh yes, in case you haven’t noticed, dear readers, this is OUR DOUBLE ISSUE.

DO NOT phone me on January 2 to yell at me because The WholeNote has not arrived at your library. I will yell at you for demonstrating that you do not read my editorials.

To all, may music move you in many ways as you make your way through the joys and pains of the season.

To those who make the music, thereby giving us a reason for doing what we do, long may you prosper (or alternatively, may you prosper before long).

And now, to bed.

David Perlman,


October 13 I felt like I knew a whole lot more about my fellow-Ontarians’ attitudes to the arts than I did the previous day. I knew, for example, that:

• 83% of Ontarians listen to music on a local radio station at least once a week

• 45% listen to music through a website or other streaming radio

• 79% of Ontarians read articles in newspapers or magazine at least once a week

• 60% attend professional music concerts “at any frequency,”  another 55% attend professional stage plays or musicals and 51% visit art museums or art galleries

• Of the 43% of Ontarians who dance socially, 61% said it is “very important” to them

• 80% of respondents who visit art museums and galleries also reported it is “very important” to them. The home is the predominant setting for engaging in music (89%), dance (51%) and visual arts (71%) activities

• 45% and 48% of respondents do music and dance activities in restaurants, bars or night clubs, respectively

• Ontarians who engage in participatory music activities attend concerts by professional musicians at a rate that is two to three times higher than those who do not

• 95% of Ontarians said they would like to be doing more arts activities than they are doing now.

The thing that happened overnight between October 12 and October 13 to make me so much better informed was that the Ontario Arts Council (OAC) released the findings of a major commissioned report, the Ontario Arts Engagement Study, that looked at “the full spectrum of arts activities from traditional audience-based activities (such as attending performing arts events or visiting an art gallery) to personal practice activities (such as playing a musical instrument, painting, or taking dance lessons), including arts participation via electronic, print and digital media (such as radio, television or the Internet).” And it explored “the importance of these arts activities to Ontarians, the settings in which arts activities take place, the relationships between personal arts practice and attendance, and the patterns of engagement across regions and demographic groups such as age and gender.”

So as I said, October 13 found me better informed than I had been the day before, but not necessarily a whole lot wiser.

Thankfully along with the report there was a “List of Things To Think About” (for people like me, I guess, who find information a obstacle to thought).

“The report raises questions and implications for arts organizations seeking to enhance their relationships with audiences” it said, and went on with its questions. There were eight. So far I’ve got as far as three:

Given the pivotal role of electronic, print and digital media in the landscape of arts engagement, how might arts organizations reach more deeply into the population through these media?

How will online activities, such as downloading music, change the way we deliver our artistic product?

How can arts organizations move forward and meet audiences, especially the younger ones, where they are and where they want to be?

Aha. Now there’s a plan …

Fable Manners 2

There was once upon a time a creek so dark and murky that it took its name from the colour of its waters.

One particular summer, it rained so much that the creek became a roaring river too wide to leap or swing across; and in its temporarily swollen waters, Crocodile took up residence, lurking opportunistically, with only eyes and nostrils showing.

All up and down the creek’s one bank Monkey foraged tree to tree till almost all the fruit on that side was gone. Finally, there was only one granadilla, somewhat wrinkled, still up for grabs. Monkey eyed it dubiously, then hungrily gazed at the fruit-laden trees on the far bank, then apprehensively down at the dark water.

“Hey Monkey, I can carry you safely to the other side on my back” said the almost invisible owner of a very impressive voice. “You won’t even get your feet wet. I promise.”

“Oh great!” said Monkey, and hopped on.

But once too far from shore for Monkey to hop off, Crocodile said “Monkey I am hungry. Prepare to die.” “But how can that be?” said Monkey, puzzled. “I mean, you promised.”

“I don’t have to keep promises,” said Crocodile. “After all, I am a crocodile.”

“Well how was I to know you were a crocodile,” said Monkey. “You see, I left my brain — the tastiest part of me, by the way — hanging from that tree back there. I am reconciled to my fate. But I beg you, carry me back to get my brain, first. That way you get the tastiest bit, and my spirit can depart my body in peace instead of wailing forever through these woodlands in search of my lost mind. I beg you, just let me put my brain back in my head, and I promise I will hop back on and you can have your way with me.”

Safely back in the tree, Monkey plucked her brain from the tree where it was dangling, and put it back into her head through her mouth, careful not to spill even the tiniest drop.

“Hey Monkey, what about your promise?” asked Crocodile after a while. “Oh, that” said Monkey. “What kind of idiot do you think I am? Anyone with even half a brain can see that you are a crocodile.”

Blue Pages

Swing merrily through the branches of this year’s 2011/12 Blue Pages, dear reader, and the fruits of your labour will be that you come away with a much richer sense of the variety and curatorial creativity that continue to make the Southern Ontario music scene one of the most vigorous and diverse anywhere. These 164 profiles, written by the presenters themselves, are not of the largest, or smallest, or tamest or wildest of the musical presenters out there, but rather, some of each. Our dedicated team at The WholeNote has been rounding up these profiles since mid-summer but, our best efforts notwithstanding, there are always, by deadline, potential Blue Pages members that this year remained uncorralled. So check back online regularly and watch the forest grow!

Hats off, finally, to you, the true blue audience for live music in our neck of the woods, day in and day out. After all, without you, what would be the point?

—David Perlman,

Fable Manners

6_editors_openerJust about everyone I know has, somewhere tucked away inside their brain, some version of the fable of the grasshopper and the ant. You know the one: the grasshopper spends the warm months singing away, while the ants (and even sometimes the uncles) work like the dickens, planting, reaping, harvesting. Come the winter the shivering grasshopper, dying of hunger, asks for food and instead gets the moral of the story rammed down its throat.

Growing up, I had a talent for standing stories on their head, like the one in the bible about the bratty kid with the slingshot picking on the big lumpy guy with the thyroid problem. But I don’t think it ever occurred to me to question that the angels were on the side of the ants, and the grasshopper got what he (or more often she, especially in the paintings) deserved.

So, it’s a fable that’s always been particularly tough on me, especially at this time of year. Here at The WholeNote, you see, we’ve just put out a combined July/August issue instead of the habitual one a month. We took a whole two weeks off — a veritable binge of idleness … tainted almost from day one with the certainty that, as for the grasshopper, there would be a deadly reckoning somewhere up ahead.

It’s always tough to enjoy the gentle slipping of summer into fall when one has a chronic case of G.A.S. (grasshopper apprehension syndrome). But it’s ten times worse at a historic moment like this when, as happens from time to time, it’s the ants that are in government at almost every political level. There they go in their ugly black limo carapaces, quivering in anticipation at the thought of all the tongue lashings they will get to deliver once the legislature or house or hall reconvenes in the fall; looking forward to taking down a peg or two the indigent and the artists — all those who don’t know what “real” work is.

It’s time I think to stand this story on its head too. In my new ending the ant waggles its antennae at the grasshopper and makes its speech about “Idleness bringing want,” and how “To work today is to eat tomorrow.” And the grasshopper says to the ant, in the vernacular, “F**k off and die, dude. Here I spend the whole goddamn summer playing my mandola so you have music to work to, and now you tell me to go get a job!?”

So all hail the pickers and players and singers, slip-sliding your way from summer to fall, rejuiced and rejuvenated and ready to roll! Rest assured, there’s an extra seat at the just society’s table for anyone who can sing for their supper as sweetly as you-all do. And may all your seats be full of bums.

It’s a Whole New Summer - From Pitching Pecaut Square in June to Manning a Booth at Yonge-Dundas September 3

It’s hard to believe that at the moment of writing this (June 28), with this July/August combined issue not yet on the street, another edition of Luminato has already roared through town and the TD Toronto Jazz festival is nearly half over. David Pecaut (formerly Metro Square) has had its new musical tires well and truly kicked. Looks like the new square in town might have some staying power as a musical place.

Equally hard to believe, when our next issue hits the street August 31 (after a very well earned break, I might add), we’ll still be three days away from one last urban musical party of the summer — the annual ten hour New Music Marathon at Yonge-Dundas Square. The event is the brainchild of CONTACT Contemporary Music’s Jerry Pergolesi, and you’ll find us (The WholeNote) among the groups there, first issue of the regular season already in hand to give away. It is impossible to imagine that we will be as tired and grumpy then as we are right now, at the end of a gruelling year. So drop by for a chat, and stay for a while to let your ears be surprised by something new.

Speaking of venues, it’s fascinating to watch how thoroughly and rapidly Koerner Hall at the Royal Conservatory’s Telus Centre has woven itself into the fabric of the city’s musical life. Partly it has to do with the Hall’s own concert series, with Mervon Mehta wielding his curatorial baton with extraordinary deftness. And partly it has to do with the range and quality of the existing musical organizations that have recognized the Hall’s potential and stepped forward to rent it, providing the Hall with a consistently high calibre of musical occupancy. TD Jazz and Luminato are the two most recent cases in point. But the venue now features significantly in the plans of literally dozens of other ensembles eager to carry what they do to a new level. Some test the waters with one-off galas. Some plan one larger scale concert for Koerner in their season. Some take the plunge and risk all, as Esprit Orchestra did last season, and will do again this year.

One that has been interesting to watch is Toronto Summer Music which was incubated (as so many other initiatives have been over the years) in the U of T’s Faculty of Music, just a stone’s throw down Philosopher’s Walk from Koerner. Last year, by my count, TSM had three concerts at Koerner, this year, eight.

Now if the powers that be at the RC would just find a way to let The WholeNote back into the Telus Centre.  It’s something to do with free publications not fitting their brand. Then students at the RC aspiring to the heights of musical glory displayed on the Koerner’s stage could also be reminded, daily, of the thousands of opportunities this town affords to work incrementally towards their dreams.

From all of us to all of you, our wishes for a restorative and musically adventurous summer, wherever you may find yourselves.

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