FIVE MIGHTILY AMBITIOUS twenty-somethings make up The Heavyweights Brass Band: Rob Teehan on sousaphone, Paul Metcalfe on sax, Jon Challoner on trumpet, Chris Butcher on trombone and Lowell Whitty on drums. Barely 18 months old, the band is psyched to make a splash at this year’s TD Toronto Jazz Festival, with a main stage show on Canada Day and a CD Release event at The Rex Hotel Jazz & Blues Bar on July 3. Aside from their cordless instruments that harken back to a New Orleans of yesteryear, what’s all the fuss about? Drumroll, please. It’s the repertoire they arrange, from Lady Gaga and Beyoncé to Michael Jackson and Justin Bieber. GASP! Can a group that covers Gaga and the Biebs be a legitimate jazz band?
“And therefore take the present time …”
JOHN TUTTLE POSSESSES a great and generous sense of timing. One of this city’s most successful and well-loved classical musicians, Tuttle has had a long list of jobs and employers throughout his career as one the country’s great organists, most dedicated church musicians and most efficient and humble choir conductors. These include St. Paul’s Anglican Church, the Canadian Children’s Opera Chorus, the University of Toronto (as University Organist, organ teacher, conductor of the Hart House Chorus and Organist and Choirmaster of Trinity College Chapel), St. Thomas’s Huron Street and the Exultate Chamber Singers.
Over each of the past thirty years, Tuttle’s range of activities has been wide and varied, but the constant has been Exultate. Founded by Tuttle in 1981 as an outlet for students of the university’s Faculty of Music to sing for fun, Exultate has grown into one of the most well-respected, disciplined and classy chamber choirs around. Tuttle announced at the beginning of last season that the choir’s 2010-2011 30th anniversary season would be his last at the helm and he conducts his final concert with them on Friday May 13 at Grace Church on-the-Hill.
When the Globe and Mail first broke the story last October that there was going to be an opera film about Brian Mulroney, an astonishing 58 readers wrote comments on the website, and all of them were pure vitriol. Clearly, Mulroney, Canada’s 18th prime minister, may well be the most hated politician in modern Canadian history.
Well, Mulroney haters (among whom I include myself) can take heart. When I watched the screener, I started to laugh from the very first frame, and was still chortling after the fade-out. In truth, Mulroney: The Opera is absolutely delicious political satire, with every character of every political stripe coming in for a drubbing. On a more serious note, opera lovers will appreciate composer Alexina Louie’s clever pastiche score and librettist Dan Redican’s hilarious rhyming couplets. Louie is one of Canada’s most important composers of new music, while Redican is a revered comedian.
In a real coup, the 75-minute Mulroney: The Opera will be shown in Empire movie theatres across Canada as a special presentation of the Metropolitan Opera’s wildly popular “Live in HD” series. The program also includes the 26-minute Behind the Curtain: The Making of Mulroney: The Opera. The first screening takes place Saturday, April 16 at 1pm, with a repeat on Wednesday, April 27 at 7pm. Peter Gelb, the Met’s general manager, even gives the tongue-in-cheek introduction from the opera company’s broadcast truck.
BROADLY SPEAKING, Western classical music has been dominated by the human voice, strings winds and keyboards. The many faces of percussion music however, so central to many other cultures, have been marginalised for most of its thousand-year history.
It was only in the 20th century that percussion instruments began to be featured as (almost) equals alongside the violin and piano. In the auteur hands of European composers such as Igor Stravinsky and Béla Bartók, Americans Henry Cowell and George Antheil, and the Franco-American Edgar Varese, both tuned and un-tuned percussion instruments began to take their place on the classical concert stage alongside more established instruments. Then in the late 1930s, west coast American composers John Cage and Lou Harrison, both students of Henry Cowell, started to write for multi- percussion ensembles.