Short Hikes and the Long Haul

ONE OF THE THINGS I like best of all about the editor’s perch here is the enjoyment I get from the random moments, the odd little coincidences that life in the information stream keeps washing up. Last month, for example, it was choral columnist Ben Stein and world music writer Andrew Timar both popping the word “multivalent” into their columns. That’s two unrelated multivalents in twelve pages compared to zero in the previous 10,294. “Wassup with that?” one finds oneself muttering darkly.

It was almost as freaky as that moment, almost nine and a half years ago (Saturday March 2 2002 – 8pm to be precise) when two presenters, three blocks apart, put on entire concerts dedicated to the music of John Blow. John who? you ask. My point precisely. Multivalent Blow. Wassup with that indeed! I mean, it wasn’t as if 2002 was a significant anniversary date for JB – the 294th anniversary of his death, the 353rd of his christening? Not exactly grabby numbers.

And now, this month, it is happening again. Earlier today I was browsing the final page proofs, as we got ready to go to press (beaming in pride at our having finally reached the milestone of having colour pages throughout the magazine). And then I noticed an oddity in the way that two of the writers in the issue referred to Yonge-Dundas Square.

The oddity was in the fact that usually when our writers refer to a place it is because they intend to talk about something that is about to happen in the place in question. But not this time. This time both of them make mention of Yonge-Dundas specifically because it is NOT the place where the event they are talking about is going to happen.

First to do so is Allan Pulker in Classical & Beyond (page 10–12), talking about Holy Trinity Church. Holy Trinity is where Music Mondays, the quintessential grass roots urban summer music series, this year celebrates its twentieth anniversary.

“Sheltered from Yonge and Dundas by the Eaton Centre,” Pulker says of Holy Trinity, “it stands like an oasis of memories of things past.”

And then, at the other end of the spectrum, Janice Price (page 58) in talking about heavyweight contender Luminato’s new “hub” venue, David Pecaut Square, says this: “Compared to the bustle of Yonge-Dundas Square, this [David Pecaut Square] is a space of respite, where you can hear conversations and discussions …”

Spaces of respite … Oasis of memory. Yonge-Dundas? Not.

Say what you like about Yonge-Dundas (and everyone has something to say about it) you know an urban space has come of age when writers start comparing other spaces to it, confident that their readers will understand the comparison.

I like to think it’s a sign of the city’s maturation that such contrasting urban amenities (and events) can so happily co-exist, each just the proverbial short hike from the next.

Two of Toronto’s festival heavyweights, Luminato and TD Toronto Jazz have both made the short hike to David Pecaut Square this year as the place to pitch their festival tents, literally and metaphorically. It’s a flying start.

But it will be interesting to see how many years it takes before two people coincidentally saying “NOT David Pecaut Square” signals that the venue has, like Yonge-Dundas, entered the major leagues of urban lore.

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

Of This and That

EACH MONTH this season I have made a habit of dipping back in our archives to look at the the magazine we published in the equivalent month of our very first year. It’s interesting to see what changes and what doesn’t.

This month, for example I looked back at Volume 1, no.8 –
May 1996. It was a whopping 16 pages, boasting 177 concert listings – “more than ever before.” Skimming those listings now, it’s the names of performers that I notice, more than the repertoire. Some names leap out now precisely because they didn’t before. They were just starting out then. Now, sixteen short years later, they are part of our pantheon of stars, far more often heard elsewhere than in the home town. Some catch the eye for the opposite reason – “gee I wonder what ever happened to A or B.” Some I notice because what they are doing now is such a departure from what they were doing back then. And yet others because here they are, sixteen years later, recognizably still on the same shining path.

Take the following listing, for example: Tuesday May 14 1996, the Associates of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra presented a program called BASStiality – four double bassists, Tim Dawson, John Gowen, David Longenecker and Edward Tait, with Michelle Meyer soprano as their guest, in a program of music by Khatchaturian, Debussy, Mayers, Chuck Berry and Jimi Hendrix. One could weave a whole web from that one point of departure! One name, at least, is part of the fabric of this May’s issue – namely Tim Dawson, interviewed by Simone Desilets for Early Music this month because of his extraordinary work, musical and humanitarian, with The Bach Consort – work, I might add, that goes back to 1992. It’s a very interesting story.

The path from back then to here and now is not, I should add, an uninterrupted steady march toward the bigger and the better. An example: in May 1996 there was already a fine mid-sized room in town (1,200 seats) with impeccable acoustics that presented, in that one month alone, recitals by such visiting luminaries as the Beaux Arts Trio, Gustav Leonhart, Thomas Hampson, Marilyn Horne (twice), Anner Bylsma, Garrick Ohlsson, the Catherine Wilson Trio, and the Juilliard String Quartet! It’s been an uphill struggle to return the George Weston Hall to even a semblance of those glory days. A series of similar calibre has at last emerged. But for that to happen, an entirely new venue, Koerner Hall, had to come into being, and an individual with a singular curatorial vision had to be given the resources to program it.

One aspect of the Toronto musical scene that has changed, beyond all recognition, is summer in the city. When we were starting out, classical music fans would flee the city entirely – like the sensible people in Britten’s Death in Venice or else switch musical allegiances to jazz or world music for those three months of the year. (The extraordinary necklace of summer festivals around Southern Ontario bears witness to this annual migration.)

The Silver Creek Music Foundation which gave the kick start to Toronto Summer Music played a key role in the change, as did Luminato. (And a half dozen or so other players, large and little.) But those are stories for next month. Meanwhile there’s a month of the “regular” season to go (more concerts than ever!) chock-a-block with opportunity to familiarize yourself with today’s players, so that their names will leap off the page sometime down the road when you dip back into this issue of the magazine in some future archive.

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

Not Always Alive

AS FAR AS I CAN RECALL this is the first WholeNote cover (of 157) that does not directly reference an event in our live performance listings (although you will find it referenced in our admirable and burgeoning ETCeteras on page 56). Mulroney: The Opera may well be operatic, but it is not an opera in the traditional sense. It’s not even a filmed opera in the way that Live from the Met in HD is these days. The people we see singing in it are not actually singing, for one thing. And, unless some notable operatic man about town finds a way of rebuilding it, as some form of opera in concert, say, in a tennis stadium, it’s won’t likely see the operatic light of day.

Indeed some who go and see it will come away saying “Calling it an opera doesn’t make it an opera any more than calling an airline Jazz really makes it fly.” But some will say “Yes indeed!” It doesn’t have to be live to be alive.

A different example: in the little village I find myself in, right now, seven time zones and 8000 miles away from Toronto, there are about forty or fifty families that are permanent residents (among the 240 to 300 holiday homes). And every month (133 times so far) they get together, of a twilight, in one or another of their homes, to listen to about an hour of recorded music – anything the hosts want to play, along with, if they like, a few interpolated words as to why.

Different people have been the glue that has held this little club together at different times. After all, people come and go. From gathering 100 to 132 it was my mom, and especially my dad’s, turn: convening, planning, collecting the programs on slowly yellowing paper in carefully updated binders. And every January they hosted one of the gatherings, always right around their birthdays.

It was around November last that dad started to put all his failing energy into this January’s meeting of the Nature’s Valley Music Club. With the help of my sister who searched the CDs and copied tracks and typed, they got it together. The event had to be held at someone else’s home. And he couldn’t be there. But the Club all got to hear the chosen music, and through my sister’s lips, why it had been chosen.

First came a little set (Barber’s Agnus Dei; Palestrina’s Kyrie; Mozart’s Ave Verum corpus, Faure’s In Paradisum and Schubert’s Heilig ist der Herr), sung by the Choir of New College, Oxford. Then came a boisterous “I Vow to Thee My Country” by the National Symphony Orchestra. And then selections by Salamone Rossi, performed by the King’s Singers and Sarband, because “they give an example of how psalms can be a source of spirituality, a political instrument, a link between tradition and modernity, and above all a bridge connecting human beings.”

His two favourite Schubert Impromptus (C minor and G Flat major), followed that, and then two more short pieces in Hebrew by Salamone Rossi, as voiced by Boston Camerata and Joel Cohen. “I will sing unto my God, my rock and my redeemer, songs of rejoicing and of praise, of joy and gladness … in the heart of the community.” And “Let me open my lips and give utterance to song. Yea I will sing to the Living God.”

And last, from Music for a May Morning, sung by the Choir of Magdalen Choir, Oxford, “When Evening’s Twilight” by John Hatton, because it was a “madrigal of pastoral love – how the beauty of nature reminds you of someone you love.”

From January 21 to March 9 this “little tape,” as out of habit he’d have called the CD, played over and over at his bedside, in his home. Now as I write it is playing for me. And I offer it, if only in words to you.

Sometimes music doesn’t have to be live to be alive.

Juno Who; Juno Where

ONE OF MY PERSONAL favourite Juno moments of all time was, I think, in Vancouver, 2009, when four or five Barenaked Ladies vaulted onto the stage to pick up their award. It was one of those typical Juno ceremonies – more poppy moments than Remembrance Day and, like the Oscars, just enough fashion runway moments to keep me watching while I grumbled and waited for speeches I could sneer at).

And then something very unexpected happened. One of the BNL’s leaned forward into the microphone, Juno hoisted high, and said that this moment was one they wanted to share with… wait for it… their public school music teacher, because that was where they acquired the musical habit.

Fast forward to February this year, and I found myself sitting in the Harbord Collegiate Institute auditorium in downtown Toronto listening to a “Sizzling Strings”school concert, all of it ok, most of it way better than that. And with… wait for it again… one of those same Barenaked Ladies, bass player Jim Creeggan, sitting in. Not showboating, just sitting in, sawing away at his standup bass. Just there. Making the same point I heard (or thought I did) from that Vancouver Juno stage: hey kids, this is where it all starts – learning what it feels like to make live music together.

So you won’t catch me grumbling about the Junos even though much of the music I would normally listen to with any kind of serious intent will not make it into the televised evening’s spotlight; and even though the awards in the classical genre, the most in any category, will not make it onto my tv screen (and jazz, our other obsession will get nearly as short shrift.)

This year, you see, March 22, CARAS and Roy Thomson Hall have had the brilliant idea of presenting OVATION, a Juno-related event celebrating Canadian classical music.

It will be hosted by Peter Oundjian who is music director of the TSO (as you probably knew), and now also of the Scottish National Orchestra (as you probably didn’t). Congratulations Peter.

The concert will feature no fewer than eight of this year’s Juno nominees: Gryphon Trio, Amici Ensemble, Winona Zelenka, Anton Kuerti, Lara St. John, Angèle Dubeau/La Pietà, Duo Concertante (performing an R. Murray Schafer work nominated for Classical Composition of the Year) and Measha Brueggergosman. Tafelmusik which, while not nominated this year has been nominated 37 times in the past, is the icing on the cake.

These and other nominees will also be in action throughout the month, all over The WholeNote map: cellist Winona Zelenka, March 11 at St. John’s United Church in Oakville; Amici in their own concert at the Glenn Gould Studio April 3; and pianist Janina Fialkowska no fewer than three times: with the Hamilton Phil on the 5th; solo in Newmarket on the 13th, and solo in Waterloo on
the 15th.

On the jazz front, you can catch vocalist KellyLee Evans’ at The Old Mill’s Dining Room on March 14, and fellow vocal jazz album nominee Laila Biali, at Hugh’s Room on March 25, while no fewer than three instrumental jazz nominees will be at the Gladstone Hotel March 26 as part of JunoFest: Toronto’s Adrean Farrugia and Montreal’s  Chet Doxas (best contemporary jazz album) and Swiss-born Montrealer Félix Stüssi (traditional jazz album).

Competing in the same category as Stüssi, and completing our roundup, John MacLeod’s Rex Hotel Orchestra, a 20-piece ensemble formed in 2003, will be, where else, at the Rex on March 28 as part of their “last Monday of the month” residency there.

Bet they all have some public school teacher or other to thank. ν

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

Dear Die-Hard Readers

6If, as you read this opening sentence, you find your eyes gradually widening in alarm at the thought that this magazine has at its helm someone as prone to whimsical digression as this, you may derive some comfort, first, from the fact that my return to the WholeNote editorial foyer is temporary, and, second, from the fact that even such alarming roller-coaster syntactical rides as this sentence must eventually lose momentum and come to a stop, in order for me to turn my attention to the other four things I want to say as this sixteenth February of The WholeNote’s existence dawns, sullen in circumstance but radiant with hope.

First, for those who think talk is cheap, let me point out that the previous sentence, if purchased as a WholeNote classified ad, would have set me back $134.40 + $17.47 HST – a total of $151.87. That’s $24 for the basic ad (up to 20 words), and then $1.20 per word for the remaining 92. (Needless to say it would have been an appalling waste of money, especially since, unlike the always interesting actual classifieds on page 53, the paragraph contains no contact information, and neither asks nor offers anything.)

to attempt to distill the essence of this Opener’s crazy opening ramble into a succinct classified ad, it would definitely be in the HELP WANTED section and might read something like the following: INDEPENDENT music magazine desperately needing to be less ad hoc seeks managing editor for meaningful relationship. Job description and/or expressions of interest, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Now that’s more like it, wouldn’t you say? $24 for the first 20 words; plus $3.60 for the next three plus tax: If it works, it’ll be the best $31.19 we ever spent.

Third, for anyone seriously interested in inquiring about the job, responsibility for getting me to keep my cotton-pickin’ hands off this page is part of the job description, but it’s probably not as important as the ability to keep your head while all around you are losing theirs and blaming it on you. Or as important as having boatloads of curiosity about how print, web, and the new social media can be made to mesh in the little niche we occupy. “Clicks and mortar” you might call it, in the service of live local music.

Fourth, it would be remiss of me not to explain that the reason we are commencing the search for a managing editor at this particular time is because Colin Eatock, whose face and thoughts you might have been expecting to see here, has had an attack of common sense and extricated himself from the craziness of holding down both the managing editor’s and listings coordinator’s posts here at The WholeNote for nigh on two years. It is you, dear whole-hearted die-hards, who more than anyone else will be aware of the many ways in which we emerge from Colin’s two years of service-beyond-the-call-of-duty, in tidier shape, and better corporate health, than before. We are grateful and wish him well in restoring some balance to his multifaceted musical life.

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

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