I always have a funny moment  of pleasure when one of our columnists finds himself or herself having to preface a reference to a particular upcoming event with a disclaimer – calling readers’ attention to the fact that the columnist in question is actually performing in the event they’re about to tell you about. (See the final paragraphs of Ben Stein’s and Ori Dagan’s columns in this issue for examples of what I am talking about.)

It doesn’t happen often, but often enough. And the pleasure that I get from it, every time,  is the little reminder that so many of our writers are, in fact, active participants in the musical “Beats” they write about, rather than detached observers. 

I also get some satisfaction, in those situations, from the fact that we still make the effort to point these little conflicts of interest out to our readers when they happen. It gets harder and harder when all the protocols they teach in publishing courses about keeping  one’s editorial  operations as pure as the driven snow are being blown away by the winds of digital change. It’s especially hard for the little guys like us to stick to protocols for keeping editorial and advertising separate at a time when even the big guys who passed exams in the rules are floundering for consistency.

So what am I driving at? Well, just this: this is one of those times when I am busting to use this supposedly sacred bit of editorial real estate to tell you about a whole bunch of things I would not even know about if I were wearing only my editorial hat instead of the two or three that every member of this tiny organization must juggle just to keep this little publication going.

So, damn the torpedoes!  Here I go! (I can always go back to being an editorial virgin in the morning, can’t I?)

One: Azrieli

Were you in too much of a hurry to come visit me here to notice the advertisement from the Azrieli Foundation on page 4, announcing the Azrieli Music Project ? The competition announced in the ad should make the composers among you sit up and take notice, at any rate. It offers a  $50,000 prize for a 15 to 25 minute newly composed work of “orchestral Jewish music,” by a Canadian resident; to be performed in a gala concert by Kent Nagano and the Montreal Symphony Orchestra.

The question that jumped up at me immediately was “So, what constitutes ‘Jewish music,’ in these times?”  To their credit, the AMP doesn’t duck the question. “The question What is Jewish Music? is at the heart of a constantly evolving cultural dialogue,” they say. “Taking into account the rich and diverse history of Jewish musical traditions, the AMP defines ‘Jewish Music’ as music that incorporates a Jewish thematic or Jewish musical influence. …  Defining Jewish music as both deeply rooted in history and tradition and forward-moving and dynamic, the AMP … challenges orchestral composers of all faiths, backgrounds and affiliations to engage creatively and critically with this question in submitting their work.”

Consider the following: in this month’s WholeNote listings there is a concert on March 12, jointly presented by the Ashkenaz Foundation and the Aga Khan Museum, titled “Spotlight on Israeli Culture” and featuring the Diwan Saz Interfaith Ensemble – a multicultural ensemble of Jewish, Muslim, Christian and Bedouin musicians performing “ancient music from Central Asia, Turkey, Persia and the Holy Land.” And two days later, on March 14, the Music Gallery, Ashkenaz Foundation and Koffler Centre for the Arts combine to present a work called The Lanka Suite by Tova Kardonne which, according to columnist Andrew Timar, “goes back to the Klezmer bands Kardonne played in, starting in her teens, as well as to her grandparents’ Eastern European Jewish roots” and goes on from there to engage with the social realities of post-civil war Sri Lanka, taking in, along the way, Kardonne’s   “studies of Cuban santería batá drumming, North and South Indian drumming patterns, and her participation in the Brazilian Samba Elégua group.”

With these kinds of dialogue under way in our town, it will be fascinating to see who rises to the AMP challenge. We will follow the story as it develops.

Still on the subject of ads in the issue, please take a look at the one on page 28 for IRCPA (International Resource Centre for Performing Artists) for their series of workshops, March 27 to 29 and then April 10 to 12. Ann Summers Dossena, driving force behind IRCPA, has been preaching in the arts wilderness for as long as I can remember about the unmet needs of artists on the edge of performing careers who have nowhere to turn for support, resources and expertise when they are in the process of making the transition from a sheltered academic environment to the realities of life as  working musicians. Now finally, it seems people who should have been listening long ago are starting to listen.

I’m proud to say The WholeNote is sponsoring the third of the March sessions (Sunday March 29) right here at the Centre for Social Innovation, 720 Bathurst Street. The first five of you who respond to publisher@thewholenote.com saying you read this can be my guests at the Sunday session!

Three: March for Music Therapy; MusiCounts
And still on the subject of ads, I have two more you should go and look at. First go check out the March for Music Therapy ad on page 77. It’s another example of how music can send out tendrils of re-engagement with community life and living.

And while you’re splashing around the back of the magazine, pop over to page 56 where you’ll find under “Opportunities” in our splendid revamped Classified advertising section the following all-too-easy-to miss announcement about the MusiCounts TD Community program - one of the most unequivocally useful bits of corporate sponsorship I can think of. “SUBMISSIONS ARE NOW BEING ACCEPTED” it says “for the 2015 MusiCounts TD Community Music Program, which provides access to musical instruments and equipment to thousands of children in under-served Canadian communities. The grants will be distributed in allotments of up to $25,000 totalling $220,000. Grant applications are now being accepted at www.musicounts.ca, with a submission deadline of Friday, May 8, 2015.”
And finally:
This issue heralds the beginning, in terms of coverage, of our long slow walz towards the summer, in the form of Part One of our coverage of Summer Music Education.  In Sara Constant’s story “All Roads Lead to Summmer” that introduces the directory (page 12) there is the comment that those seeking summer music education, no matter how different, are all looking for “options that  foster the ... spirit of learning and community.” 

Amen to that. All year round.


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February sits in the musical calendar like a trailhead parking lot in a fine provincial park. From it you can set out on any one of a number of paths, depending on whether you are interested in explorations of the short, medium or long-term kind.

The most immediate of the outlooks February offers is what’s going on within the month itself. But be warned. For the shortest month of the year, this issue’s listings pack quite a punch! This may be because, as Jack MacQuarrie speculates in Bandstand on page 27, “all the behind-the-scenes efforts of winter rehearsals ... spring into a variety of programs well before Mother Nature takes her own leap into spring.” Or it may be that we, the audience, hardwired for frivolity during the silly season, have shown ourselves over the years to be good and ready for something more sustaining once the days begin to lengthen. Or that resigned to a month of daily grind, only music (and lots of it) will do to keep the February blues away.

Another interesting way to view this month is that it is the launchpad for the whole second half of the concert season – so if, fuelled by your own resolve, you set out this month to make some new musical acquaintance, it’s early enough in the new year that you will have other opportunities  to seek out that artist or presenter or composer or venue again, before the end of the regular season.

Beyond these two paths of inquiry, February is also the starting point for two other longer-term inquiries: first, it’s never too early, it seems, to  begin planning for summer; second, right now is when we start getting tantalizing glimpses of what the next full season (2015/16) will have to offer. In both cases, these early whispers will crescendo to a dull roar over the course of the spring, but even now they threaten to distract us from the task of living, mindfully, in the present musical moment.

Regarding thoughts of summer, as Sara Constant points out in her introduction to On The Road (page 53), planning for summer music education tends to fall into place the earliest, for educators and students alike. So we are starting On the Road a full month earlier this year, with a couple of early educator interviews to get the ball rolling.

Even more distracting than thoughts of summer in terms of staying in the musical moment, this is also the time when the town’s musical biggies make with their 2015/16 season announcements, an act akin to waving a Dufflet dessert menu in the face of diners still rewardingly ruminating over their mains.

The Canadian Opera Company was, as usual, the first out of the blocks with a mid-January launch. (Chris Hoile summarizes the essentials in On Opera on page 19.) Incidentally, this year’s COC launch set the bar very high for events of this kind; a 90-minute hosted event in the FSCPA main hall, with full orchestra and soloists onstage, providing musical emphasis for each reveal. (The audience was not your usual sprinkling of scribblers, corporate sponsors and board members either more like 800 to 1000 subscribers and  donors packed the lowers rings of the hall, many of whom were lining up close to an hour before the building opened.

The next big formal launch event, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra on January 29, will have come and gone in the very moment that this issue hits the street. But thanks to Wende Bartley’s extraordinary cover story interview with Barbara Hannigan (page 8) a few magic beans have already been spilled! The TSO has confirmed that Hannigan will be back in the fall not just to sing but to conduct! (Details in Bartley’s story.)

All potentially very distracting, but I should tell you I’ve particularly enjoyed just browsing the listings this month for all the quirky and random juxtapositions they throw up on the beach of the mind! What were the odds, for example, that two ensembles with names as eerily similar as Scaramella and Swamperella would show up side by side at the very end of the very last day in this month’s listings? (See March 7, GTA). And only two subway stops apart. Think of it: an early evening in Telemann’s Paris (bass viol, baroque violin and flute, harpsichord) followed by a short stroll to rock the Mardi Gras night away to the strains of Cajun and Zydeco dance music, as deeply rooted in the history of swampy Louisiana (named for Louis XVI) as Telemann’s Paris Quartets were in the Paris of Louis XV.

And if it’s history that we are speaking of, not least among February’s shape-shifting attributes is that, since 1979 in Toronto, and 1995 in Canada as a whole, February has been officially designated Black History Month.

Official Canadian recognition of Black History Month came, coincidentally I suspect, in the same year as the founding of this magazine, and it’s fair to say it’s been a bit of a headscratcher for us ever since. The easiest rationale is to resort to “colour-blindness”: “We write about the people involved in the music we cover race doesn’t come into it.” Next would be to quote someone like Morgan Freeman (who after all has played Nelson Mandela in the movies and therefore must be right): “I don’t want a Black History Month. Black history is American history ... There’s no White History Month.”

But, truth be told we go through paroxysms here each year, not knowing whether it honours or dishonours the intent of Black History Month to call attention to it any more than the circumstances of any particular February dictate.

Colour bind vs colour blind? I went to a Toronto Rock lacrosse game at the Air Canada Centre a couple of nights ago. It had about the same racial mix among spectators as a typical night at the Canadian Opera Company. But these days it’s the Toronto Raptors’ fans, not the Rock or the Maple Leafs, who get to roar with conviction “We The North.” 

Sometimes the most proactive thing one can do about an issue is simply and accurately to reflect the way things actually are.

So that is what we do, and if you flip the pages of this issue, rather than hyperfocussing on the cover, I think you will see that things are moving along.

As should you, if you are going to partake of February’s riches, in all their glorious shades of grey.

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If this were a concert then, right now,  I would be the gent who walks out onto the stage just when you think the show is about to start, to a smattering of applause from those of you who thought I might be the artistic director, until you realized my suit was too expensive for that.

I would have a creased, handwritten piece of paper in one hand and would sidle over to the lectern downstage right; I would tap the microphone until someone came and turned it on for me; I would introduce myself as [INSERT NAME OF IMPORTANT NONPERFORMER] in the organization; I would say say that before I can get to the prepared remarks carefully folded in the pocket of my suit jacket, there are three items of housekeeping to take care of.

One, to remind everyone that this is our COMBINED ISSUE, covering December AND January so do NOT call the office on January 2 except to leave a message after the tone wishing us a Happy New Year.

Two, to point out the revised structure AND ORDER of our listing sections as explained right here on this page (to your left);

Three, to thank the readers whose suggestions have helped us take this step forward in making the new Section C: Music Theatre listings a permanent feature of our coverage, and we welcome further input moving ahead.

If this were a concert I would then crumple up the aforementioned handwritten housekeeping notes and put them in my suit pants pocket; I would take out the carefully prepared, neatly folded, printed notes from my suit jacket pocket; I would put my glasses on, introduce myself again from my printed notes; and I would say that it is my great pleasure to welcome you to this 20th annual COMBINED DECEMBER/JANUARY issue of The WholeNote.

“Before going any further,” I would say,  “I wish to thank all those who have not only made this issue possible but have in fact enabled us to reach this memorable 20th December. But that rather than delaying the proceedings any further  I simply direct your attention to the staffers, contributors and funders in the masthead at the foot of this page, and to all the advertisers in the index of advertisers adjacent to it. Without their help, their loyalty and their love, none of this would be possible.”

I would then remember to take the microphone with me and would leave the stage to the performers, and you, dear readers, to your pleasure, after reminding you to turn off all pagers, cellphones and electronic devices.

Since  it is not a concert, however I urge you all to turn ON your cellphones, etcetera, and tweet to the world that the Dec/Jan issue is out.

If this were your concert,  on the other hand,  I would be in the audience hoping that among your resolutions for the New Year would be a couple of things relating to how you address us, the audience from the stage.

Think about this: we all have the goal of attracting new audiences, or to put it another way, audiences to whom what we do is new.  If they were guests in our house we would take it as a given that the first thing we could do to set them at ease would be to acquaint them with the rules of the house, by which I mean all the ways we do things that are particular to us rather than generally known.

If applause for example is a natural spontaneous human reflex at witnessing something spectacularly well done, or deep emotion revealed, it makes only slightly more sense to ask people to hold their applause than it does to ask them to hold back their tears. 

So if our house rule is that in fact such withholding is required, it is more and more incumbent on us to make that fact known to audiences who are new to our house.

It doesn’t cut it, in my book, to put little asterisks in a program next to sections where one wishes the audience to withhold applause and think that by so doing the job has been done, unless someone, [INSERT NAME OF IMPORTANT PERFORMER], has also called the audience’s attention, from somewhere in the vicinity of the lectern, stage right, to what the artists on stage are hoping the houserules will be. 

If I were now to practise what I have just preached, this is what I would say to you, if you were a new reader of this magazine:

 I’d say welcome, and thanks for giving us a try; I’d say if you want to get an idea of what makes us tick, flip quickly through the five listings sections of the magazine – from page 36 to page 68. Everything else around those 33 pages (over 800 individual live events) is  also in some way about those 33 pages. We exist to support the work of the people whose serious love of live music is there for you to see and hear on these days and dates.

If you are reading this in print, you should know that we do 30,000 of these, nine times a year, of which all but a couple of hundred are distributed free of charge at around 800 distribution points in Southern and Southwestern Ontario. And there is a  handy map on our website (under the “About Us” tab) which will show you where you can find us.

You should also know that the listings you have just flipped through are also free of charge, so if you feel as though the music you make belongs here, all you have to do to get the dialogue under way is to contact listings@thewholenote.com.

To all of you, regular readers and new our best wishes for a happy, hearty and hopeful year end and thank you for your kind attention! You won’t see us in print again until the end of January, so if you haven’t already, sign up for our between-issue e-letter HalfTones. (For details, see the house ad on page 18.)


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Above all else, a disclaimer: The WholeNote attests and affirms that no real clarinet choirs were harmed in the making of the licorice stick joke (page 36, col 1, para 5) in Jim Galloway’s Jazz Notes column this issue. Welcome back, Jim! 

Youthanized: It’s amazing how the keepers of various public arts and cultural purses (arts and cultural councils and funds) have the power to send the spirits of their clients and would-be clients soaring to the heights or plunging to the depths. We only qualify for one or two of these, a situation not likely to change unless “survival arts” becomes a discipline like “visual arts” for example. And at the best of times, such as right now, the money that we receive from these sources never exceeds more than five or six percent of what it takes to keep this enterprise swimming doggedly towards the economic safety of some distant (and perhaps imaginary) shore.

Starting with soaring, we are chuffed beyond measure to announce that the Ontario Media Development Corporation has agreed to support our proposal to develop an online “Listening Room” as an adjunct to our DISCoveries CD/Record Review Section.  We’ll be tweaking and testing starting this coming month, with a full scale launch in the spring. Stay tuned, And welcome aboard, Thom McKercher, who will be piloting this initiative.

The “sinking feeling” side of things is a little harder to nail down, because it’s not specific to us but rather something that the whole musical milieu we serve is going through to some extent. It is the result of the fact that, despite the emergence of new creative organizations all the time, the governments that supply the aforesaid arts councils and funds with cash are hugely resistant to increasing the amount of money available. The Ontario Arts Council, for one, has had its budgets flatlined for years. So the money available must be shared among more recipients. Older organizations find themselves threatened with “youthanizing” - letters announcing little cuts here and there, and threatening larger cuts unless the organizations in question address themselves to newer or younger or more diverse audiences. Would it not be better to have the resources to fund directly the arts and culture arising organically from these new constituencies as they emerge?

It’s not the fault of the councils and funds. It’s the chronic lack of respect that arts work gets from dumb politicians at every level. 

Election reflections, Ontario October 27 2014: Speaking of dumb politicians,make no mistake, there’s no worse feeling after an election than to have voted fearfully (“strategically” it’s sometimes called) for the lesser of two evils. And it’s especially sour when the stratagem fails. That’s what happened in my small town the last time round. The bigger bully got elected anyway, and I had the taste of it in my mouth for a long time.

So this time round I said “strategy be damned” and voted with a hopeful heart. (So how did that work out for you, Dave?)

Well, definitely no sour taste so far; and a bit less fear in the air, because it appears the strategic voters carried the day, even without my help, which is a bit of a blow to the ol’ ego.

Mine is just a small town, mind you, but I suspect that even in what are colloquially referred to as “world class cities” the same dynamic applies: you vote, then wait, en masse, to see who the real beneficiaries of the power you have awarded will be.

Best chat I had along the way during this election campaign, by far,  was not with a candidate but with a super-fine young vocalist who showed up at a fundraiser/party for a particularly hopeful mayoralty candidate in the old home town. We chatted away, while an evening’s worth of fine musicians added their musical hearts and skills to the evening’s hopeful hullabaloo.

As is so often the case, the fundraiser fell further and further behind schedule the longer it went, and our conversation had time to wander over the whole range of galas, fundraisers, benefits  and the like – events that as you know run the gamut  from “pay what you can” to hundreds of dollars a plate; and from spontaneous uprisings, organized at lightning speed in response to calamity, to events planned months in advance with military precision all the way though to huge events.

Where music and musicians fit into such events is as varied as the range and scale of the events. “Sometimes, as in a case like this” my musical companion said, “I am doing it because I would give this candidate money myself if I had money to give. And it’s funny ... I am happier sitting around here waiting my turn even if we are an hour and a half behind, than I would be if the same thing was happening at an event for which I was being paid scale or more and was just part of the decor, arriving and departing through the kitchen door like the rest of the hired help.”

“And somewhere in between,” she said, “there are the events where you know that a lot of the people involved are being paid a standard wage or fee, for the flowers, or the catering, or the invitations, but  somehow, as a musician, I’m expected to do my work for free because as an artist I should understand that it’s for a good cause. Or even more grating, that I should be grateful because I am being given the opportunity to perform for a ‘real’ audience.”

It wasn’t an embittered rant; just a bit of gentle back and forth on how it takes all kinds to make a world. And to make the world better.  

When my musical companion did finally get up to add her voice to the mix, that election fundraising night at Hugh’s Room, it was as always with all her heart and all her might; all in all the music that night made the club feel like it had rafters, ringing with hope and with laughter.
The point is that when hope needs harvesting, music is often just what is needed to gas the engine and to bring muscle to the mix. In cases like that, who benefits? Everyone.

This issue’s Galas and Fundraisers listings are chock-a-block with events at every scale of ambition and complexity from the simplest to the grandest. But the concert listings too are replete with the same impulse. Scan the concert listings for any week, and see how often a worthwhile cause is named as the beneficiary of a given event, even if it is only to enable the venue to keep the roof over the rafters the music rings round in.

Tributes Abound: Close cousin to the benefit concert, but with a differently generous impulse at its heart is the tribute concert. There are two I want to mention briefly here. One is a Counterpoint Orchestra event in memory of a longtime member, Paul Willis. You can find it November 8 at 7pm in the GTA listings and read a short “remembering” article about him in the previous issue of The WholeNote. The second is a concert in memory of organist Massimo Nosetti, November 12 at 7.30 at St. Paul’s Anglican Church on Bloor Street East (also to be found in the GTA listings). I remember an organ concert Nosetti gave there in 2012, with a 30-piece orchestra.

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This month’s issue contains at its centre our 15th annual “Blue Pages” directory of presenters - a compilation of around 150 players in Southern Ontario’s musical life. As it says in the Blue Pages intro, we make no claim to completeness.

For one thing, there’s no such thing as completeness in the area of live musical endeavour; like music itself, new voices and venues arise out of, and return, to silence. For another thing, there is no perfectly definable boundary to the range of genres we include in these pages, partly because we have limited space (in print, anyway) and partly because you our readers have limits to the time you want to spend wading through events you are not interested in, searching for the ones you might be. Again this is more of an problem in print than in digital media. Speaking of which, there are some VERY significant milestones just ahead for The WholeNote on the digital front - as next issue’s opener will reveal.

Beyond the question of logistical constraints to the range of what we cover, there is also the very interesting question as to whether the method of dividing up the musical universe into discrete musical genres, each with a separate “beat columnist,” will stand up to the demands of what promises to be an era of increasingly fluid musical practice. (Witness Andrew Timar’s story on David Dacks and the Music Gallery on page 16 and Wende Bartley’s thoughts on transculturalism immediately following it.)

Anniversaries: devotedreaders of this column both know that I have a love-hate relationship with the topic of anniversaries. (If you are reading this on our website you can simply click here to read my October 2008 reflections on the subject.) It’s a particularly thorny topic in October, when we are trying to come up with a cover image which reflects, on behalf of ALL our Blue Pages members, the range and spirit of the music we cover – a task to which we bring the same high seriousness that the Canadian Olympic Association does when choosing the country’s flagbearer for the opening ceremonies of each Olympic Games.

Anniversaries aren’t always the deciding factor, though. Otherwise this year would have been no contest, with the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, celebrating an astonishing 120 years of continuous existence (see the write-up of my chat with the TMC’s Noel Edison in “Conversations <at> TheWholeNote” on page 14).

Ten years ago Inna Perkis and Boris Zarankin of Off Centre Music Salon graced our October cover. This was partly because they had started out the same year we did, and with the same lack of any official endorsement or precedent. And partly because of their unique formula: virtuosic two- and four-hand piano playing along with chamber music and art song contributions by guest artists, all in the spirit of a 19th century salon, with ideas being tossed around with the same verve as the music.  Happily they are still at it; this October 26 is the 20th installment of their annual Schubertiad, kicking off yet another four-salon season at the Glenn Gould Studio.

Turning from the topic of the cover of the magazine to the cover of the Blue Pages, how does a photo of the city’s second largest concert hall speak to the range of music we cover? Well, there is the music that RTH/Massey presents, spanning a range of genres and cultures. Then there’s the fact that the photo covers two performance spaces – the hall inside, and the great outdoors. Then there’s the hall’s anchor tenant, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra whose individual members  are the animators and architects of dozens of other small musical ensembles in the city. And finally, there are the one-time entrepreneurial “upstarts” such as Attila Glatz and Show One Productions, for whom conquerin,g “the Hall” for the first time was a significant milestone on their road to credibility in our ever evolving, endlessly fascinating musical scene.

 (Besides which, its a gorgeous photo.)

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