When contemplating this month’s column I had intended to dive right into reporting on the gathering storm of performances by community musical groups for the coming fall and winter season. However, four random recent events, each with some form of musical connection, have conspired to remind me just how pervasive musical influences are in my life, and to derail me from my appointed task.

The first of these was a paper recently published in the Journal of The American Psychological Association which compared the performance of a variety of tasks by musicians and non-musicians. Having been a volunteer subject over the past few years for this study at the Rotman Research Institute of the Baycrest Centre and the Department of Psychology, University of Toronto, I waded through the academic jargon. One phrase stood out:Despite the scant data on aging and musicianship, the picture emerging is that lifelong musicianship mitigates age-related decline in cognitive tasks …” In short, making music is good for you.

I could have told them that: One year ago, I wrote about how the New Horizons Band established at Long and McQuade had grown to 24 members by its third week. It’s now a daytime group and an evening group with total memberships of 42, and a new beginners’ daytime group of 22 is under way with another slated to begin in January.

In these startup groups the social rewards of playing in some form of musical ensemble have quickly come to the fore. As we see from the academic studies, making music with friends has many rewards beyond the pleasure of creating music. If you are not musically involved now, get on the bandwagon; it’s never too late.

Second sidetrack, the ultimate in serendipity, happened a couple of weeks ago on my way home from a rehearsal. Like so many Toronto streets at this time of year, my route was undergoing major repairs. To cut a long story somewhat shorter, as I stepped out of the car to locate the source of the clanking, a gentleman walking a dog called out “it’s your tailpipe.” Soon, in his driveway around the corner, he had supplied wire and tools and had my tailpipe secured for my trip home. At some point during his mission of mercy he spotted my instrument case and said “do you play trombone?” I asked how he had recognized the case, he informed me that he played guitar and cello, and naturally the conversation shifted to music. He is from Gore Bay on Manitoulin Island, where he also sings and his wife directs a local choir. When I pulled out my wallet to buy a CD of his wife’s choir singing some of her original compositions, we had another jolt. On seeing the name Jack MacQuarrie, my name, he asked “How do you know him?” It just so happens that another Jack MacQuarrie (a distant relative whom I met many years ago) is a friend and publisher of the local Gore Bay newspaper. The beginnings of another musical friendship?

Third distraction along the way this month was hearing about a musical study by two meteorologists at Oxford and Reading Universities who traced prevailing weather phenomena in different parts of the world over the years and concluded that the content and style of many works of the classical repertoire could be directly linked to the prevailing weather in the region where the composers lived. With the help of my research assistant Mr. Google, I located not only that study, but an extensive, if less scholarly, article titled Weather in Classical Music by Richard Nilsen in the Arizona Republic. It is an extensive compendium of compositions catalogued by composer and title according to the seasons and various weather phenomena. Gives a whole new spin to the excuse of “being under the weather.”

Fourth and final digression? I was presented with an unusual opportunity to make music — the grand opening of a new municipal parking lot in a community north of Toronto. My musical zenith had arrived, I thought, and I would wait to tell you about it. I arrived in the area only to find an array of “Do Not Enter” and “No Parking” signs. You guessed it — there was no place to park. I arrived too late to play for this great event.

So, what is happening in the local music scene?

27_bandstand_christophergongosFor starters, Silverthorn Symphonic Winds (SSW) kicks off their 2011/2012 season with a free public music clinic, presented in conjunction with the Westmount Music Department and Arts Westmount Music. Led by 2010/2011 artist-in-residence Peter Stoll, clarinetist, “From Practice Room to Concert Hall” will provide tips on how to practise effectively and how to improve your ensemble playing. Not just for clarinetists, the clinic is geared toward high school instrumentalists and adult amateur musicians. For details, see this month’s Etcetera listings under “lectures.”(For the coming season, SSW has announced that its 2011/2012 artist-in-residence will be one of Canada’s most respected horn players, Christopher Gongos. In 1998, Gongos joined the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, where he holds the position of associate principal horn.)

To start their season this year, the Hannaford Street Silver Band once again joins forces with the Amadeus Choir under the baton of Lydia Adams for a performance of The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace by the Welsh composer Karl Jenkins. The work is a reflection on war and peace in a multi-cultural, global society. It draws its text from classical poets, biblical verses and traditional mass, as well as from Muslim, Hindu and Japanese sources. In the other portion of the programme on November 12, the band will be under the direction of Gillian MacKay. The HSSB will perform Kevin Lau’s Great North Overture and Barbara Croall’s remarkable Gi-Giiwe Na?, an allegory for brass and percussion inspired by Native soldiers. The men of the Amadeus Choir will join the HSSB to perform Harry Somers’ A Thousand Ages and Stephen Chatman’s hauntingly beautiful Reconciliation.

Definition Department

This month’s lesser known musical term is Articulosis: a chronic disability leading to fuzzy attempts at staccato playing.

We invite submissions from readers. Let’s hear your daffynitions.

Coming Events

Please see the listings for full details.

Jack MacQuarrie plays several brass instruments and has performed in many community ensembles. He can be contacted at bandstand@thewholenote.com.

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