01a Music LiteratureI have mentioned before that one of my great joys is when my two passions, music and literature, come together. The most recent example of this was occasioned by an email from someone I consider an old friend even though I only met him in person a year and a half ago. I’m speaking of music critic, librettist and novelist Paul Griffiths, who dropped me a modest note mentioning that the latest edition of the journal Music & Literature (No.7, ISBN 978-0-9888799-6-6) had devoted more than a 100 pages to his creative writings. I began reading Griffiths on contemporary music some 40 years ago when I was first getting interested in “the music of our time” and found in him a welcome guiding hand through the oft-times murky waters of modern and post-modern fare. Some years later I encountered his novels Myself and Marco Polo and The Lay of Sir Tristram and was intrigued by how well he captured the voice and the spirit of distant times in a contemporary way. I was aware of his collaboration with Elliott Carter as the librettist of that American icon’s one-act comic opera What Next? in 1999 and most recently that his novel let me tell you had been the source of the text for Hans Abrahamsen’s orchestral song cycle of the same name. It was this latter work which brought about our meeting.

In March 2015 the Toronto Symphony Orchestra brought Abrahamsen, Griffiths and soprano Barbara Hannigan, who had been instrumental in commissioning the work, to participate in the New Creations Festival. During his time here, Griffiths gave a lecture at the University of Toronto and graciously agreed to participate in “An Evening with Paul Griffiths,” a fundraising event at Gallery 345 to benefit New Music Concerts, at which portions of Carter’s opera were screened. It was through my position as general manager of New Music Concerts that I had the privilege of meeting and getting to know Paul and his wife Anne West Griffiths. Anne is one of the contributors to Music & Literature No.7 in the form of a series of email exchanges with Hannigan documenting the gestation of the let me tell you project. It grew from the idea of a set of songs with piano accompaniment to commemorate Griffiths’ 64th birthday, to ultimately become a half-hour-long orchestral cycle commissioned jointly by the Berlin Philharmonic Foundation and the Danish Arts Fund. The journal also includes a number of articles about that work and the texts for the three movements which Griffiths extracted from his novel.

01b Let me tell youThe premise of the book, and the songs, is the telling of Ophelia’s backstory in her own words, using only the 483-word vocabulary which Shakespeare gives her in Hamlet. It is a sparkling achievement, but more to the point, it is moving, poetic and compelling, as I was reminded when I re-read let me tell you (ISBN: 978-1-874400-43-1) upon finishing the journal. Having been at the Toronto performance I can vouch for the haunting beauty of Abrahamsen’s lush setting and I was pleased to find that there is a recording with Hannigan and the Bavarian RSO under Andris Nelsons which I have ordered from Amazon (I could not find a local source). I had hoped it would have been delivered by the time of writing this article but for now I must content myself with a YouTube excerpt from the Berlin Philharmonic. (The whole concert is available on their Digital Concert Hall.)

The scope of Music & Literature No.7 is much broader than this one work however, with several of Griffiths’ unpublished fictions and writings about such musical subjects as Bach’s solo violin pieces, in memoriam György Ligeti, Hearing György Kurtág reading Samuel Beckett and a (thus far) unproduced opera based on Gulliver’s Travels utilizing invented languages, with composer James Wood. As is the usual format of the Music & Literature series, there are three subjects included in this volume, with extensive treatments of British avant-garde novelist Ann Quin (1936-1973) and Russian composer/pianist/poet/artist Lera Auerbach (b.1973). Well worth exploring!

Other old friends I re-visited this summer were more in the folky vein. Allan Fraser and Daisy DeBolt were a duo of adventurous singer-songwriters who performed together from 1969 until 1974 and produced two albums which were very influential in my formative years. Evidently I was far from the only one impacted by their quirky style and Fraser’s Them Dance Hall Girls has become something of a cult classic still frequently heard from myriad performers on folk festival stages around the continent. 

02 Fraser and DeboltDeBolt died in 2011 and over the past five years Fraser has been compiling and cleaning up the available archival material from their time together. The result is the double LP set Fraser & DeBolt – This Song Was Borne (Roaratorio roar39 roaratorio.com) which includes 19 previously unreleased original songs and a cover of Bob Dylan’s I Threw It All Away. The collection is a mix of studio recordings, live performances and radio broadcasts and the audio quality is varied but generally quite presentable. Although perhaps of most interest to existing fans of the duo, this new release paints an intriguing picture of a seminal time in the development of the Canadian folk scene. Their music included strange transitions and surprising chord progressions, atonal interludes – especially those featuring violinist Ian Guenther – and strident harmonies combined with sweet melodies and country rhythms. Highlights for me, and recently added to my own repertoire, are The Snowdrift Song and Dandelion Wine – with Calypso Joe and Doors Will Appear (…And Swing Open) soon to be added.

03 Theodore BikelThe final old friend who “stopped by” this summer was singer/actor/storyteller Theodore Bikel (1924-2015). He feels like family because Bikel is one of my mom’s favourites and I grew up listening to his albums. It nearly broke her heart when she was unable to get tickets to a tribute show in conjunction with the Jewish Film Festival earlier this year. While I’m Here (Red House Records RHR CD 286 redhouserecords.com) is a marvellous 2-CD set which is being released in conjunction with the Ashkenaz Festival at Harbourfront where there will be two events honouring Bikel on September 4 (ashkenaz.ca). Disc One features a surprisingly strong-voiced 90-year-old Bikel telling stories of his life’s journey from pre-war Austria to Palestine, England and ultimately the U.S.A.; warm and funny and serious and inspiring all at the same time. Disc Two is a compilation of live performances in several languages, often with witty introductions, and studio recordings spanning four decades. The highlight for me is Come Away, Melinda (Before the War), the song for which my youngest sister was named. Also worthy of note is Phil Ochs’ poignant anthem When I’m Gone and Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Edelweiss which they penned especially for Bikel and the original Broadway production of The Sound of Music with Mary Martin. This is a set my mother (and I) will treasure.

We welcome your feedback and invite submissions. CDs and comments should be sent to: DISCoveries, WholeNote Media Inc., The Centre for Social Innovation, 503 – 720 Bathurst St. Toronto ON M5S 2R4. We also encourage you to visit our website
thewholenote.com where you can find added features including direct links to performers, composers and record labels, “buy buttons” for online shopping and additional, expanded and archival reviews.

David Olds, DISCoveries Editor

Material for this month’s column began with an email in early April from a young man in Hawaii saying he was sending me copies of two CDs featuring his music for baritone ukulele. I don’t think I ever responded to the email, but my curiosity was whetted – I was not familiar with the baritone member of that instrumental family – and when the discs arrived I was pleased to find them both interesting. The young man’s name is Ryan Choi (ryanckchoi.com) and the two discs present different sides of his compositional activity.

01a Choi WhenmillThe first, Whenmill (Off ODG049 off-recordlabel.blogspot.ca), presents four pieces for solo baritone ukulele in a fairly traditional contemporary classical guitar idiom. The rich tones of the instrument and the way Choi makes full contrapuntal use of its limited range makes it easy to forget that he is dealing with two fewer strings than on a guitar. Set 1 is comprised of three pieces, Quixano and Inn Blue, both from 2012, and Whenmill, composed the following year. I wish there were some program notes for the pieces, but even web searches turn up little information. The opening piece’s title, also the honorific of “Don Quixote de la Mancha,” makes me wonder if Inn Blue refers to the Don’s infamous adventure at a country inn and whether Whenmill, a word I cannot find mention of except in connection with Choi, has something to with tilting at windmills…but that is mere speculation on my part. Regardless of intent or inspiration, the “set” is a satisfying and intriguing exploration of the potential of this lesser-known instrument. At 12 minutes, the final track, South Aleksandr, composed in 2011, is longer than the other three combined and its virtuosic flamenco-like passages showcase Choi’s considerable abilities.


RyanChoi IMAGE Three DancersChoi’s other disc Three Dancers (Accretions ALP-060 accretions.com) is quite a different offering including works for “prepared” baritone ukulele, percussion and electronics, all performed by the composer. The title of the 20-minute EP, again about 20 minutes in all (and of the third track,) refers to Picasso’s painting Les Trois Danseuses and the cover art is a line drawing by Choi. The brief opening track Preparations I and IV is percussive in its approach, seemingly achieved with preparations on the ukulele similar to those which John Cage developed for piano, rather than through the use of traditional percussion instruments. It is very rhythmic and pointillistic, but relatively tame compared to the dynamic second track, Apollon at Eros, which combines hand drumming and stilted string plucking which jumps erratically, although not randomly, around the fret board. The electronic treatments are subtly present in Three Dancers, with, as far as I can tell, textures produced by reversing recorded sounds which actually seem almost as if they could be created live in real time by this accomplished player. These two releases present a remarkable portrait of an instrument not previously known for its art music potential, and of an adventurous new voice on the contemporary scene.

02 William BeauvaisI was pleased, but not surprised, by the beautiful sounds on Old Wood – New Seeds, the latest from Toronto classical guitarist/composer William Beauvais (musiccentre.ca/node/138158). The disc opens with the suite, Appalachian Colours – Gold; Red; Green; Blue, evidently inspired not by Copland’s Appalachian Spring, but rather by that iconic American composer’s orchestral suite Rodeo. From the contemplative opening movement through the lilting second and the lullaby-like third, our attention is held by the lush colours Beauvais draws from his instrument. The gently ebullient final movement, glistening like sunlight off the surface of a rippling lake, held me wrapped in its thrall from start to finish nearly seven minutes later.

Shakespeare has arguably provided inspiration for more composers than any other literary figure throughout history. Beauvais has followed this time-honoured path with a pair of works, Fallstaffe’s Lament and Fallstaffe’s Charade, the first being a suitably mournful theme and variations and the second in the form of an English jig. No explanation is given for the aberrant spelling of the character’s name (nor for a different spelling, one “l” but still the “e,” in the program note), perhaps just to evoke the Elizabethan era before spellings were standardized. Certainly the music does so effectively. We’ll return to Shakespeare later in this column but Beauvais next takes us to Eastern Europe in The Ancient Waters suite which uses two Bulgarian songs and a rhythmic Balkan folk dance.

Beauvais incorporates Renaissance-style “divisions” in the warm and luscious Open Moonflower which is paired with the cascading Shoveling Clouds. Carré St. Anne, the final track on this very satisfying disc, begins quietly but gradually builds to a driving conclusion based on a Brazilian dance form. Throughout, the recorded sound is rich, but natural, and surprisingly free of extraneous finger and string noise.


03 Pete SeegerOne thing I did not mention in the Beauvais review was that several of the tracks put me in mind of the Paul Winter Consort and how classical guitarist Ralph Towner was integrated into the fabric of that seminal crossover band in the 1970s. I mention this now because another package that found my attention this past month was a reissue of the 1996 CD Pete (LMUS 0032) along with the DVD Living Music Festival 1982 (LMU-45) featuring Pete Seeger and the Paul Winter Consort, on Winter’s Living Music label (paulwinter.com). Released 20 years ago when Seeger was 77, PetePete Seeger and Friends brings together Joanie Madden (pennywhistle), Howard Levy (harmonica), Paul Winter (soprano sax), Paul Preston (banjo, mandolin) and three different choirs, Gaudeamus, the Union Baptist Church Singers and the Cathedral Singers, in 18 songs showing the breadth of Seeger’s interest and experience. From straightforward folk songs like Kisses Sweeter Than Wine, through protest, pro-environment and pro-humanity offerings, Garbage, To My Old Brown Earth and My Rainbow Race, and to storytelling, Huddie Ledbetter Was a Hell of a Man, and traditional songs like The Water is Wide, we are presented with many facets of one of the most influential folk singers of the 20th century, someone who brought so many people together over the course of a career that spanned almost eight decades.

The DVD is a bit of a time capsule. Recorded at the Living Music Festival in 1982 when Seeger was a sprightly 63, the footage never saw the light of day until after his death in 2014 when Paul Winter sought out filmmaker Phil Garvin who fortunately still had the raw footage. The festival, organized by Winter in the Lichtfield Hills of northwest Connecticut, featured the Paul Winter Consort in selections from their album Common Ground, singer Susan Osborn and the Brazilian Pe de Boi Samba Band. Seeger performs an extended solo set singing in English, Yiddish, French and Spanish, accompanying himself on banjo, 12-string guitar and block flute. He also collaborates with the other performers and as you would expect there is lots of audience participation. It is vintage Seeger and a wonderfully nostalgic look at peace festivals of days gone by. There are bonus tracks recorded at the “Pete-nic” at Winter’s farm in 1997 and a five minute solo performance by Seeger for the Harriet Beecher Stowe Society in 2005 on the 40th anniversary of the “Bloody Sunday” Pettus Bridge March in Selma, Alabama. Although his voice had almost disappeared by that time, his energy and conviction had not flagged. It is a moving performance.

The CD/DVD set was supported by Music for the Earth, a non-profit foundation dedicated to “exploring ways that music can be used to enrich the lives of human beings and awaken a spirit of involvement in the preservation of wildlife and the natural environment of the Earth” – things to which Pete Seeger devoted his life and his art.

04 Chaim TannenbaumChaim Tannenbaum is another who has been involved in the folk music scene for more than half a century, albeit in a peripheral role. Peripheral that is if you’re not part of the Wainwright/McGarrigle musical dynasty. The erstwhile professor of the philosophy of mathematics and logic has been an integral part of that extended family throughout the decades, managing to stay as friend and collaborator with both Loudon Wainwright III and Kate McGarrigle in spite of their breakup, frequently performing with Wainwright and with Kate and Anna McGarrigle and mentoring Loudon and Kate’s precocious offspring Rufus and Martha. Tannenbaum is a multi-instrumentalist with a distinctive voice who can be heard on many of the recordings of this family compact; his production credits include the album Therapy which marked Wainwright’s return to recording after a three-year hiatus in 1989.

Evidently happy in the shadows, it took much persuasion from Tannenbaum’s friends to embark on this voyage to centre stage. His belated debut album includes a number of traditional pieces – Coal Man Blues, Moonshiner, Mama’s Angel Child – and the gospel song Farther Along and Harburg/Rose/Arlen’s It’s Only a Paper Moon. But it’s not all old-timey fare and Tannenbaum turns out to be a fine storytelling songwriter too – the CD opens out to a double panel with four paragraphs of prose I initially took to be a memoir, but which turn out to be the lyrics for his song Brooklyn 1955. The booklet includes extended encomiums by Wainwright (heard in harmony vocals on several tracks) and by record producer (not this record) Joe Boyd. Chaim Tannenbaum was produced by Dick Connette and released on StorySound Records (storysoundrecords.com). This disc is not just for aficionados of the Wainwright-McGarrigles, but it will be of particular interest to them. Highly recommended.

Concert note: Chaim Tannenbaum launches his eponymous CD at Toronto’s Tranzac Club on Sunday June 12.


05 Rufus Wainwright

I told you that Shakespeare would reappear later and here he comes. April 23, 1616 is the assumed date of the death of the Bard and to mark the 400th anniversary Deutsche Grammophon has released Take All My Loves (4795508), a setting of nine Shakespeare Sonnets by the above-mentioned scion of the Wainwright-McGarrigle dynasty, Rufus Wainwright. It is an eclectic offering, further exploring the singer-songwriter’s interest in blending the worlds of pop and high-art culture. There are readings by Siân Phillips, Frally Hynes, Peter Eyre, Carrie Fisher, William Shatner and Inge Keller, while the vocals are primarily shared by Austrian soprano Anna Prohaska and Wainwright himself, with the participation of Florence Welsh, Martha Wainwright, Fiora Cutler, Christopher Nell and Jürgen Holtz.

The project grew out of an invitation from director Robert Wilson back in 2009 – the 400th anniversary of the publication of the sonnets – to set some of them for a production of the Berliner Ensemble, a theatre company founded by Bertold Brecht in 1949. Although Wainwright’s interest in the poems dates back to his youth when he was encouraged to read them by his mother, they have been of ongoing interest in recent years. Following the cabaret style production in Berlin replete with garish costumes, the San Francisco Symphony commissioned Wainwright to orchestrate five of the sonnets for the concert hall, three of which appeared on his 2010 album All Days Are Nights: Songs for Lulu.

The current production is kind of a mixed bag, with lush full orchestral accompaniments featuring the BBC Symphony Orchestra, smaller settings with the Berlin String Section and a number of tracks with pop band instrumentation. All of the sung sonnets are introduced by a dramatic reading of the text, with the exception of Wainwright’s performance of Take All My Loves (Sonnet 40) which incorporates Marius de Vries’ recitation into the body of the song. Prohaska’s voice, celebrated across a repertoire that spans three centuries, is a highlight, especially in the gentle A Woman’s Face (Sonnet 20) and the wickedly dramatic Th’Expense of Spirit in a Waste of Shame (Sonnet 129). Wainwright’s distinctive voice is particularly effective in the title track, but his reprise of A Woman’s Face is something of a letdown with its straightforward pop arrangement and sensibility.

The extensive booklet includes an introduction by British actor Peter Eyre, full texts, translations and production credits. What is missing is an explanation of why two of the sonnets are presented in German necessitating the translations, or more properly the English originals, of All Dessen Müd (Sonnet 66) in a cabaret-like arrangement and Farewell (Sonnet 87) sung beautifully by Prohaska. I assume this has to do with the Berliner Ensemble origins of the settings, but it would have been nice if Eyre, whose English performance of Farewell with Wainwright can be found on YouTube, would have explained.

Concert note: Toronto audiences can catch Rufus Wainwright’s acclaimed recreation of Judy Garland’s 1961 Carnegie Hall show “Rufus Does Judy” June 23 and 24 at the Hearn Generating Station as part of this year’s Luminato Festival.


06 Stravinsky Soldier

Concert note: On June 18 another Luminato performance at the Hearn features soloists of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra with concertmaster Jonathan Crow and narrator Derek Boyes in Stravinsky’s L’Histoire du Soldat. Naxos recently released a new recording of that work, Stavinsky – The Soldier’s Tale (Complete) featuring the Virginia Arts Festival Chamber Players with violinist Tianwa Yang, narrator Fred Child and actors Jared McGuire (The Soldier) and Jeff Biehl (The Devil) under the direction of JoAnn Falletta (8.573537).

I have always liked this pocket drama – an hour-long Faustian story of a young man who sells his soul – or in this case his violin – to the devil and in so doing loses the things and people he loves. Composed in 1917 while Stravinsky was living in Switzerland during the First World War, it is scored for a modest orchestra of seven players reflecting the ravaged ranks of musicians who survived that conflict. Of principal interest is the violin, so dear to the soldier – its themes will reappear in Stravinsky’s Violin Concerto some 14 years later. It is a different take on the story because it is not the soldier’s greed which leads him to his fateful error. He is actually perfectly content with his modest life and his fiddle but is tricked by the devil into making the trade. Although granted fortune through the book he trades for, which foretells the future, it was never his idea and he is never comfortable in the role. Eventually he finds a way to beat the devil – by letting him win at cards – and regain his life. Spoiler Alert: all does not end well when you play with the devil and in a scene reminiscent of Orpheus’ glance back at Eurydice, the devil regains the upper hand and the violin.

The story is narrated effectively and Yang’s violin playing is flawless and convincing in this new performance. It is a welcome addition to my collection.

07 Stravinsky SacreAnd a quick final note. The Story of Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du Printemps with Valery Gergiev (ArtHaus Music 109210) is a very effective documentary film by Peter Rump. Gergiev leads the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra through a rehearsal during which he analyzes and explains his approach to the iconic work. This is intercut with commentary and piano examples by Gergiev and historic footage of Stravinsky, Pierre Boulez and Alexander Toradze. Gergiev makes a very strong case for his interpretation – rough and rhythmic, rather than romantic – and provides an insightful introduction that shows how this 100-year-old masterwork is still fresh and vibrant.

Shameless self-promotion II: I am hosting a fundraiser on behalf of New Music Concerts at “Coffee House 345” (aka Gallery 345 on Sorauren) on Wednesday June 15. I will be bringing my eclectic repertoire, 6- and 12-string guitars and a few musical friends along for the ride. Thanks to NMC’s board of directors there will be complimentary snacks and libations. For reservations call 416-961-9594.

We welcome your feedback and invite submissions. CDs and comments should be sent to: DISCoveries, WholeNote Media Inc., The Centre for Social Innovation, 503 – 720 Bathurst St. Toronto ON M5S 2R4. We also encourage you to visit our website thewholenote.com where you can find added features including direct links to performers, composers and record labels, “buy buttons” for on-line shopping and additional, expanded and archival reviews.

David Olds, DISCoveries Editor



01a Shostakovich Danel beginning of first reviewMy first thought when I opened a package from Naxos and found Shostakovich – The Complete String Quartets with Quatuor Danel (Alpha 226) was, here’s something for Terry Robbins’ Strings Attached column. Although I love them dearly, I already have half a dozen sets of the quartets and after all, how many is enough? But then I made the mistake of opening the (Pandora’s) box. So, sorry Terry! I was immediately immersed in the sound world that has captivated me time and again, since my first exposure almost 50 years ago with the Borodin Quartet’s Melodiya-Seraphim vinyl set of the then complete quartets Nos.1 through 13 (now available in a digitally remastered four-CD set from Chandos). I also remember being deeply moved by the Beethoven Quartet rendition of the 13th in a pairing with the late Violin Sonata performed by David Oistrakh and Sviatoslav Richter. That one-movement Adagio quartet, written in 1970, seemed at the time to be the epitome of darkness and quiet despair. As had been the case earlier in the cycle, Shostakovich followed this morose work with the almost playful String Quartet No.14 in F-Sharp Major, Op.142 in 1973. But as we know, especially in his final years, playfulness was at a premium and the final work in the mammoth cycle returns to doom and gloom, if perhaps with quiet resignation. The String Quartet No.15 in E-Flat Major, Op.144 (1974) is in six movements – Elegy, Serenade, Intermezzo, Nocturne, Funeral March and Epilogue – every one of which is adagio in tempo with the single exception of the Funeral March marked adagio molto (very slow). As I mentioned, there is much gentle resolve in this work with only occasional abrasive interjections reminding us that Shostakovich was not entirely willing, in the words of Dylan Thomas, to “go gentle into that good night.”

When I started to write this I did not know what form my words would take. Having spent most of the past month revisiting these great works I have had various responses to this particular set. I initially assumed it was a new recording, but careful examination of the booklet – annoyingly printed in white text on a pale green background – reveals that it was actually recorded from 2001 to 2005 by the Bayerischen Rundfunk, and a search on the internet turned up that it was initially released on the Fuga Libera label a decade ago. Although there are extensive program notes – thankfully printed in legible black text – including an encomium by Frans C. Lemaire and a 16-page essay about the quartets themselves by David Fanning, nowhere in the 50-page bilingual booklet is there a word about the ensemble itself. Fortunately they have a comprehensive and up-to-date website (quatuordanel.eu) from which I was able to glean that one of the two Danel brothers, cellist Guy, and the violist Tony Nys, have since left the quartet. The violinists Marc Danel and Gilles Millet remain and their commitment to Shostakovich is ongoing with live performances of the quartet cycle in Manchester and Lyon in recent months. The group was founded in 1991, is based in Belgium and has a particular interest in modern and contemporary repertoire – Rihm, Lachenmann, Gubaidulina, Dusapin Jörg Widmann and Bruno Mantovani – although their upcoming recording projects focus on Tchaikovsky, Franck and late Beethoven.

01b Shostakovich Emerson end of first reviewRegarding the Shostakovich set itself, I found the performances nuanced, idiomatic and convincing and at about $35 the Alpha reissue is excellent value. I have mixed feelings about the order in which the quartets are presented however. Rather than a chronological presentation, each of the five discs presents three quartets from more or less different periods. I found this most satisfying on the final disc where Quartet No.1 is followed by Quartet No.10 and then the ultimate Quartet No.15, effectively giving an overview of the composer’s oeuvre in 77 minutes. Less effective was the opening disc on which we find Quartets Nos. 2, 7 and 5. Certainly for shorter listening sessions, one disc at a time, this is a well-balanced approach. But for binge listening, as I am prone to, I prefer to experience them in the order they were written. For this sort of total immersion I recommend spending just a few dollars more for the Decca reissue of the 1999 Deutsche Grammophon recording Shostakovich – The String Quartets by the Emerson String Quartet (475 7407).

02 Ted ParkinsonThe next entry doesn’t go back quite as far as my discovery of the string quartets of Dmitri Shostakovich, but I have known multi-instrumentalist, singer/songwriter Ted Parkinson for about 35 years. He is a dear friend, so unlike my usual “professional conflict of interest disclaimer,” I must say outright that this relationship goes much deeper than that. A frequent participant in my backyard and house party jams, Ted always has something to add to the mix, whether it’s his jazz-inspired hollow-body guitar complements to the songs of others or his own quirky compositions which run the gamut from basic blues, to pop rock and alternative ballad stylings. I have known that Ted has been working on his debut solo CD for the past four years and I’ve heard various mixes during that time. I am pleased to say, as are Ted and his long-suffering (no, let’s just say very patient) wife Joan, that the finished product My Neighbourhood (tedparkinson.com) is now available. Like many first releases it is a compendium of many decades of creativity and, not surprisingly, many stylistic variations. Although Ted is adept at guitar, keyboards, reeds and drums, he has enlisted “professional help” for this project. His main collaborator is producer/engineer Fred Smith who suggested supplementary players to fill out the mix. Smith himself adds a couple of instruments dear to my own heart, tenor banjo and mandola.

Ted, a native of Whitehorse, came to Toronto, and later Hamilton and now Kitchener, via Victoria, B.C. The songs reflect various aspects of his geographic and emotional development. I can only assume that February Spring is a remnant of his days in Victoria. And speaking of his time on the West Coast, while doing some spring cleaning a couple of days ago I unearthed a relic of Ted’s years at the University of Victoria in the form of An exciting, new, four song E.P. by The Tumours released in 1980. This punk-edged, new wave band with heavy-metal lead guitar featured my old buddy on saxophone and backing vocals. After moving to Toronto in the mid-80s Ted was for a while a member of the proto-punk band Violence and the Sacred. Not much of his “angry young man” roots remain in the songs collected on My Neighbourhood, but it was a fun trip down memory lane to listen to the long lost tracks which took me back to my own time at CKLN-FM in its heyday. Highlights of the new album include the title track, My Brother’s a Mormon, Discovery and University Town. You can watch a live performance of this last on Ted’s website.

03 Fawn FritzenI mentioned that Ted Parkinson is a frequent flyer at my backyard music parties and last summer he brought a friend, well a Facebook friend anyway. It seems that in the ever-shrinking world of social media Ted came across another Whitehorse native, jazz singer Fawn Fritzen, and when it turned out that she was spending a few months of professional development in Toronto, he decided my backyard would be a good place to meet in person. So on a couple of occasions last season we were graced with her strong, warm voice and our folky ramblings expanded to encompass some jazz standards and torch songs.

I was pleasantly surprised when Fritzen’s CD Pairings (fawnfritzen.com) appeared on my desk a couple of weeks ago. Recorded in Whitehorse and at Toronto’s Canterbury Sound, the disc was produced with her longtime collaborator Daniel Janke. As the title suggests, Pairings is primarily made up of duets and features a number of iconic figures including George Koller, Reg Schwager, David Restivo, Steve Amirault, a trio comprised of Richard Underhill, Kelly Jefferson and Shirantha Beddage, and of course, producer Janke. Fritzen shows herself adept in languages with lyrics in English, German and French and a comfort zone that embraces standards (Gershwin, Caesar and Youmans, Berlin and Porter), bluesy originals, a swinging arrangement of Burton Cummings’ Straighten Out and a growly Please Send Me Someone to Love. This is quite a brave project: accompanied in most instances by only one instrument (double bass, piano, jazz guitar or percussion), and occasionally in sung duet with the accompanists, Fritzen’s voice benefits from this exposure and rises to every occasion.

Concert Note: Fawn Fritzen will launch Pairings with intimate performances in Toronto at Jazz Bistro on May 8, St. Catharines at the Mahtay Café on May 9, Waterloo at the Jazz Room May 10 (where accompanists will include Ted Parkinson) and Ottawa at the Steinway Piano Gallery May 11.

Shameless self-promotion: In one final note I would like to tell you about a performance coming up on Wednesday, June 15. I have often mentioned my administrative association with New Music Concerts and also the music parties in my backyard (and elsewhere). In a surprising act of bravado I will be donning my folky duds to host a fundraiser on behalf of New Music Concerts at “Coffee House 345” (aka Gallery 345 on Sorauren). I will be bringing my eclectic repertoire, 6- and 12-string guitars and a few musical friends along for the ride. Thanks to NMC’s board of directors, there will be complimentary snacks and libations. More details will follow in the June edition of The WholeNote, but for advance reservations you can call 416-961-9594.

We welcome your feedback and invite submissions. CDs and comments should be sent to: DISCoveries, WholeNote Media Inc., The Centre for Social Innovation, 503 – 720 Bathurst St. Toronto ON M5S 2R4. We also encourage you to visit our website thewholenote.com where you can find added features including direct links to performers, composers and record labels, “buy buttons” for on-line shopping and additional, expanded and archival reviews.

David Olds, DISCoveries Editor

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