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, publisher@thewholenote.com

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.


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, publisher@thewholenote.com

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, publisher@thewholenote.com

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