I recently bumped into violinist Larry Beckwith, Artistic Producer of Confluence Concerts, who told me he had an idea for a choral story. We were at New Music Concerts’ tribute evening, at Longboat Hall, honouring NMC’s founding artistic director, flutist Robert Aitken who has just stepped aside after 50 extraordinary years. Beckwith’s story idea was, however, for someone else who put in 50 years service to our musical scene, transforming it as he went!
This May, Beckwith reminded me, is the 20th anniversary of Nicholas (Niki) Goldschmidt’s third, and most triumphant, Toronto International Choral Festival, titled “The Joy of Singing (in the Noise of the World).” As Dawn Lyons described it in our May 2002 cover story, the festival was designed, with typical Goldschmidtian understatement, “to fill May 31 to June 22 with choral music from across Canada and around the world.” (“Fill” is no exaggeration: audiences aside, there would end up being over 1,000 active participants in the event! By 2002, the 94-year-old Goldschmidt (born in Austro-Hungary in 1908) was without equal in the art of organizing a really festive festival!
He had arrived in Toronto in 1946, invited to head up the University of Toronto’s new opera school, the first in the country. He was astounded by the talent he found waiting for him on the first day he walked into the Conservatory. “Soon he needed a marketplace to display his fine crop of young Canadian singers,” Dawn Lyons wrote, “a place for them to see, hear, work with and take their measure against singers from around the world.” The Goldschmidt solution? Found the Canadian Opera Company! “It was the beginning of 50 years of creating what we would now call cultural infrastructure…” Lyons wrote: “If the word festival is in the title, and the program bulges with acknowledgment of partnerships, look for Niki in the credits.”