Wow – what a week! If this were a concert review column, it would be overflowing with superlatives for two very diverse concerts I attended in the past week. The week began with the Hannaford Street Silver Band’s first concert of the season with euphonium soloist David Childs. Promotional material billed this concert as “Child’s Play.” What Childs did with his instrument was anything but child’s play. The feature work was a concerto for euphonium and band by contemporary Welsh composer Karl Jenkins. Playing with no music, this young virtuoso dazzled his audience not only with his technical skills, but also with amazing musical sounds never before heard from this instrument.
If that wasn’t enough, at the end of the week, we were treated to an even more amazing performance by the Interpreti Veneziani at the Royal Conservatory’s Koerner Hall. The performance of this nine-member string ensemble from Venice prompted one very experienced and knowledgeable friend to proclaim it the best concert they had ever heard. They received no argument from me. From our vantage point in the best seats in the house, we not only heard their remarkable music, we saw them communicate with each other by knowing glances and a host of subtle gestures in the creation of their masterpieces.
Using no music throughout the first half, or during his dazzling solo rendition of a fiendishly challenging Paganini work, the cellist, Davide Amadio, was free to be in constant eye contact with the other members of the group and with those of us in his audience. He told us all in no uncertain terms that he was loving every minute of it. In short, all members of this ensemble were inside each others’ heads, and they were sharing with us in the audience their joy of performance.
This was the pinnacle of musicianship and showmanship. So why is this mini review of two professional concerts in a column devoted to community ensembles? What better way for those of us who play in community ensembles to improve our skills, and enjoy ourselves at the same time, than to immerse ourselves in the total experience of absorbing all aspects of a quality live performance. We have no illusions that we might someday perform to that standard, but it does provide both inspiration and a measuring stick should we tend to become complacent or smug about our abilities.
Many years ago, when serving in a naval air squadron, I was frequently treated to the philosophy of a friend who was one of the finest pilots to ever fly in the Canadian forces. His challenge to the junior pilots under his jurisdiction was simple and direct: “We must constantly strive for perfection, and perhaps we’ll achieve mediocrity.” A little harsh perhaps – but why not aim for the best we can achieve in music?
Having suggested that we set our sights high, how are the beginner and other startup groups faring? From Resa’s Pieces Strings, conductor Ric Giorgi tells us that they now have 22 players enrolled and inquiries coming in weekly from players interested in joining. He states: “More interestingly however is the wonderful performance this group has managed thus far. They have come together as an ensemble remarkably quickly and show every indication that despite the huge differences in skill levels, everyone seems pleased with the challenges and rewards of the repertoire and the satisfaction of making good music together as an ensemble.” Ric also reminded me of the old adage among groups seeking to recruit string players – that the audition piece for string players is “Check For Breath.” By the way, they would still welcome more violas.
The other beginner group that I have mentioned before seems to be coming along equally well. Dan Kapp conductor of the New Horizons Band at Long & McQuade tells us that, in mid December, less than three months since their inaugural information meeting, the band will be performing for the folks at a Toronto retirement residence. This group rehearses on weekday mornings so membership is limited to retirees and others who don’t have daytime commitments. In response to many requests, an affiliated band for beginners and those reconnecting with music will begin evening rehearsals in January. For information give Dan a call at Long & McQuade.
A couple of years ago I mentioned the formation of the Scarborough Society of Musicians, a band to provide the opportunity to continue to perform in a musical group after leaving high school. After a brief hiatus, the band’s directors have been busy over the past few months working on a new season to begin in January 2011, with rehearsals continuing into June 2011. As with previous years, they will be rehearsing twice a month on Saturday mornings at Dr. Norman Bethune C.I. For this year’s rehearsal schedule, membership fees and rehearsal dates visit their website (www.continuingmusic.ca). They have also created a survey to gauge the interest in music beyond high school within the community. Your response would be appreciated.
Last year at this time we reported on the joint ventures of instrumental and choral groups. Again this year, the Hannaford Band will be teaming up with the Amadeus Choir for two performances in Toronto and one in Niagara Falls (December 4, 13 and 14). A new venture this year has two Markham groups joining forces. The Kindred Spirits Orchestra and the Village Voices Choir will present two performances of the Vivaldi Gloria (December 11 and 17).
Since I am ex-navy, and a member of the Naval Club of Toronto, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention regular small combo performances two Sunday afternoons per month at the club’s new location, 1910 Gerrard Street East. Treat yourself to an afternoon of relaxing music by the Downtown Jazz Band, and enjoy an optional light hot meal. See us there December 12, January 9 and 23 at 2pm.
On the personal front, I have both happy news and sad news to report. On the happy side, members of the Newmarket Citizens Band attended the recent wedding of two band members. Ron Spencer of the euphonium section and Linda Heath of the flute section tied the knot. The band now has several couples active in the band. With a few more, they could have an all-couples band, with a few children added.
On a sad note, members of the Toronto band community are mourning the loss of Gary Cameron, a former music teacher at Danforth Technical School and Northern Secondary School. In recent years Gary was most active with the Band of the Royal Regiment of Canada, the Encore Symphonic Concert Band and a number of swing bands. We will miss him and his great welcoming personality.
Jack MacQuarrie plays several brass instruments, and has performed in many community ensembles. He can be contacted at email@example.com.