November is a month when many concert series have their season openers — a good chance for me to talk about some of my favourite groups.

Definitely in this category is Toronto Masque Theatre (TMT). This company is touched by magic — the magic of the masque, both ancient and contemporary, which they present in myriad entertaining productions that fuse different aspects of the performing arts; since 2003 they’ve staged close to 25 critically acclaimed multimedia productions ranging in repertoire from the late Renaissance to the modern day.

19-20earlymusicdali-rhino 1Their upcoming show, “Fairest Isle,” showcases the wealth and breadth of Purcell’s genius with pieces drawn from his semi-operas: The Fairy-Queen, Dido and Aeneas, King Arthur and The Indian Queen, along with music he composed for the Church and Court. TMT’s press release promises that it will be “an exhilarating combination of dance, theatre, orchestral music and song: a chance for audiences to glimpse the baroque splendour of the work Purcell created for London’s theatre of the time.”

Henry Purcell is obviously dear to the heart of TMT. In an ambitious five-year program, they’ve produced all of Purcell’s major theatre works, culminating in performances of, and a symposium on, King Arthur in 2009 to mark the 350th anniversary of the composer’s birth. Artistic director Larry Beckwith comments enthusiastically: “Purcell’s music is full of genius, craft, warmth and humour. He was so adept at supporting the meaning of the great — and sometimes not so great! — texts he worked with. The tunes are memorable and moving, the instrumental writing is first-rate, and the overall thrust of his work is lively and full of humanity.”

There’s a real treat in store if you go to see them! Performances are on November 16 and 17 at the Al Green Theatre. Pre-show chats featuring Beckwith and special guests take place 45 minutes before each show.

A look at the package in which Scaramella’s 2012-2013 season is wrapped will give you an idea of the artistry, ingenuity and care poured into each of their concerts. Go to the opening page of the brochure or the website, and you’re spun inside on the fronds of an exquisite spiral — actually a photograph of a staircase inside the lighthouse in Eckmuhl, Brittany (reminiscent of the scroll of a musical instrument, muses artistic director Joëlle Morton). Once landed, you’ll find your eye alighting on a set of particularly attractive images, each of which points in some way to the overall theme of this season: innovation and technology — a theme that takes on a variety of guises.

A photo of Salvador Dali engaged in serious discussion with a rhino gives some idea of what’s in store for their first concert. It’s all about animals and the ways that have been found to depict their sounds on musical instruments. As Morton says, “Our multi-talented musicians will be called upon to conjure cows, horses, ducks, frogs, geese, pigs, chickens, dogs, doves, frogs, bees, sheep, a stag, a snake, cicadas and cats.” They’ll do this in a multitude of pieces, from composers such as Biber, Bach, Handel and Copland to Elton John, George Harrison, Loudon Wainwright and traditional tunes. And who are these multi-talented performers? They include Elyssa Lefurgey-Smith (baroque violin), Katherine Hill (soprano), Joëlle Morton (violas da gamba), Sara-Anne Churchill (harpsichord) and Kirk Elliott (aptly dubbed “one-man-band”). “Lions and Tigers and Bears, O My!” takes place at Victoria College Chapel on December 1.

Two violinists in Toronto on the same weekend approach the performance of early music from different perspectives. November 7 to 11, one of the foremost international baroque violinists appears with Tafelmusik: Gottfried von der Goltz began his career as a “modern” player but decided to switch to the baroque style; in so doing, he found everything he needed to build an international career. Now violinist and director of the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra, he is Tafelmusik’s guest in “Mozart’s World,” as soloist in the Mozart Violin Concerto in A and as director in works by Haydn, Franz Beck and Josef Kraus.

19-20earlymusickoh 1Also on November 11, a violinist you may have heard last June in Toronto’s Luminato Festival performing the solo violin role of Einstein in Philip Glass’ opera Einstein on the Beach, appears in recital at RCM’s Mazzoleni Hall. Jennifer Koh is a consummate and very thoughtful artist who believes strongly that connections exist in all music from early to modern, since music reflects humanity’s common experiences in every society and every age. This conviction has led to the evolution of her project “Bach and Beyond” — a set of three recitals that seeks to reveal the connections in solo violin repertoire, from Bach’s six Sonatas and Partitas through to newly commissioned works. Her recital in Toronto is the second of these. She’ll perform two solo works by Bach, plus the Bartók Solo Sonata and a world premiere: Kline’s Partita for Solo Violin, written for her.


November 17 at the Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber Music Society: Canadian pianist Shoshana Telner has enjoyed a flourishing career as soloist, chamber musician and teacher and currently teaches in the music faculty of McMaster University. In this concert she performs Bach’s Six Keyboard Partitas — music (described by one listener) that puts you “within that holy moment.”

November 17 and 18 (Toronto), November 24 (Hamilton): Capella Intima was founded in 2008 by the talented tenor and baroque guitarist, Bud Roach, expressly to present vocal chamber music of the 17th century. Roach has recently been immersed in research into the lost art of the self-accompanied singer, work that’s resulted in a beautiful recording of secular arias by Grandi. (Go to Capella Intima’s website to hear excerpts and find out more about the project.) Some of this music will be presented in the three upcoming performances: intimate arias by Grandi, Sances and Strossi, featuring soprano Emily Klassen and tenor Bud Roach, who also accompanies the songs on baroque guitar.

November 18: Organist Philip Fournier came to Toronto from the USA in 2007, bringing with him an impressive history of scholarship and experience in the fields of organ performance and choral directorship. He gives a recital, “Organ Music of the 17th Century,” on the magnificent three-manual mechanical action organ at The Oratory, Holy Family Church — music by Praetorius, Sweelinck, Scheidt, Frescobaldi, Byrd and Bach.

November 18: The Windermere String Quartet on period instruments continue their journey through the “Golden Age” of string quartets with a performance dedicated to youthful works. In “Young Blood” they play works by Mozart, Schubert and Arriaga — musical geniuses who, by the age of 19, had already displayed their mastery of the form. Lucky for us that they were so precocious because they had not much time to develop: they all died tragically young.

November 27 also at the Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber Music Society: Lovers of the viol should flock to this concert given by the internationally renowned bass viol duo Les Voix Humaines. Their concert titled “The Sun Queen” refers to King Louis XIV’s favourite instrument, the viola da gamba, and includes original compositions and arrangements of French chamber music of the 17th century. This is music which (in their words) “reflects the growing taste for private pleasures, making use of a language which is at once moving and discreet, evoking a world where freedom and intimacy go hand in hand.”

Choral concerts involving early music are well represented; here are a few of them: Cantemus Singers: “Make We Merry!” (November 17 and 18); Georgetown Bach Chorale: Handel’s Messiah (November 17 in Goderich, November 18 in Brampton, November 23 and 25 in Georgetown); Melos Choir and Chamber Orchestra: “Celebrating the Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II” with Handel’s Coronation Anthems (November 18 in Kingston); Larkin Singers: “Bach Motets” (November 24); Elmer Iseler Singers: Handel’s Messiah (November 30); Tafelmusik: “French Baroque Christmas” (December 5, 6, 7, 8, 9); U of T Schola Cantorum: Handel’s Coronation Anthems (December 7).

For details of all these and more, please see The WholeNote’s daily listings. 

Simone Desilets is a long-time contributor to The WholeNote in several capacities who plays the viola da gamba. She can be contacted at

October brings an interesting variety of early music activity: historical instruments performing a range of music from the middle ages to the classical period; philosophies expressed through music and historically interesting pairings of old and new; the celebration of a milestone anniversary and brand new initiatives in the field.

early music pages 30-31 toronto consor toption1The Toronto Consort celebrates its 40th anniversary this season — no mean accomplishment for an early music group that started relatively modestly. They’ve weathered many personnel changes in their long history, and therefore also shifts in their sound and to some extent their focus, according to performers and instruments available during any given period. Sadly also, they’ve seen the recent death of a well-loved co-founder, Garry Crighton. There are also elements of constancy, including the involvement since 1979 of the energetic David Fallis, artistic director since 1990, who has led them through projects such as providing authentic period music for the 10 part television series The Tudors. What better way to celebrate the success of 40 years than with a season opener showcasing masterpieces from the English Renaissance, including music the Consort recorded for that TV series, crowned with the magnificent 40-part motet Spem in alium by Thomas Tallis? To perform this work they will be joined by members of Toronto’s Tallis Choir. “The Tudors” is presented at Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre on October 19 and 20.

Voice and instruments: Just announced, the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Music is establishing an exciting new program in early music that comprises both voice and instrumental components under the direction of countertenor and early music specialist Daniel Taylor. The list of musicians involved as instructors is impressive and includes respected local early music specialists as well as distinguished guests such as soprano Emma Kirkby and violinist Adrian Butterfield. Musicians from Tafelmusik and the Theatre of Early Music (Taylor’s own early music choir and orchestra) will appear in concerts this year with the newly formed Schola Cantorum.

In Taylor’s own words:“My vision is one which brings faculty and students together. With the support and guidance of my gifted colleagues, we hope to bring what is sacred back into the process of exploring this magnificent yet neglected early repertoire. The U of T offers students an unparallelled opportunity in Canada to study with the most sought after artists in the field of early music. We offer an exceptional program which meets the needs of our exceptional students. Any misconceptions that the study of music written between 1000 and 1800 is limiting in any way will fall away.”

early music pages 30-31daniel taylor option 2One of the program’s first public performances is on October 18, when U of T presents “Songs of Love and War,” opera scenes from the Baroque, staged by Tim Albery and conducted by Kevin Mallon, in the Music Room at Hart House.

Some concerts open a window onto a world of ideas, or universal truths. “Hildegard of Bingen and the Living Light” is one. Arising from a deep commitment to the precepts of this 12th century abbess, healer, writer and composer, it’s a one woman show created by the American mezzo Linn Maxwell, in which she becomes Hildegard, telling her story and expressing her philosophy of the world through actual songs and writings while providing her own accompaniment on the psaltery, organistrum (an early hurdy gurdy) and harp. This performance, taking place on October 23 and 24 at Regis College Chapel, is a co-production of TrypTych and Opera by Request.

Obviously a man of ideas who operated under an assumed name referring to musical pitches, Pierre Alamire was not only a merchant, a diplomat and a spy for the court of Henry VIII, but also one of the 16th century’s most skilled music copyists and illuminators. On October 28, the Toronto Chamber Choir will be projecting some of his beautifully illuminated copies as they perform music by contemporaries Josquin, Ockeghem, de la Rue and Willaert. “Mysterious Pierre A-la-mi-re”is an afternoon Kaffeemusik, one of those presentations given twice a year by the Choir and their music director, Mark Vuorinen, which seek to both entertain and inform.

And though I’m not sure whether I Furiosi’s “Losers”exactly falls into the category of universal truth, their October 19 concert explores the theme of loss (they quote Oscar Wilde: “To lose one parent ... may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness”) — but not necessarily in a vein of melancholy. “We tend to make things just a little bit funny,” soprano Gabrielle McLaughlin assures me. The concert featuring works by Froberger, Handel, Purcell and others includes guests, baritone David Roth and harpsichordist Michael Jarvis, and takes place at a new venue, St. David’s Anglican Church.

The juxtaposition of old and new turns up more than once this month, in various guises.Here are four events, each with its own take on this concept:

The marvellous violinist, Anne-Sophie Mutter, appears with the Toronto Symphony on October 3 and 4, playing two contrasting works: In tempus praesens written for her by the contemporary Russian composer Sofia Gubaidulina and Bach’s A minor Violin Concerto. You will not hear Bach clothed in the pure transparency of period performance style but you will hear a performance of power and conviction played by a master of her instrument who seeks to express the music’s truth with great artistry.

If you have a penchant for the charms of the recorder and enjoy hearing what it can do in both early and contemporary styles, you’ll be well satisfied on October 9 as the COC presents, in its Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre series, the terrific recorder quartet Flûte Alors! — four young virtuosos from Quebec who play like a dream. They’ll offer an eclectic mix of styles, from the Baroque to contemporary pieces — “Bach to the Beach Boys” as their publicity tells us.

For a time, much of Bach’s music was considered old fashioned and virtually forgotten. But the revival of the St. Matthew Passion in 1829 by the young Felix Mendelssohn kindled the realization that this indeed was music of a towering master, consequently spawning myriad compositions inspired by Bach’s genius. You can savour some of the evidence of his influence on later composers in the realm of choral music, as the Tallis Choir opens its season with four Bach motets and four beautiful works by romantic composers: Brahms, Bruckner, Rheinberger and Mendelssohn. “Bach & The Romantics” is presented at St. Patrick’s Church, Toronto on October 13.

Nota Bene Baroque is the Kitchener-Waterloo region’s own baroque orchestra, with an imaginative three-concert season. They have a very interesting idea for their opener on October 21 titled “Something Old, Something New,” and that is to keep you guessing (for awhile) whether the music you’re hearing is by a baroque or a living composer — there’ll be both on the program, but all composed in baroque style. It’s the audience’s task to discern which pieces have been recently written and which really come from the baroque era. A good chance to hear “baroque” music you’ve truly never heard before!

A few others: The Cardinal Consort of Viols presents an evening of consort songs and instrumental music, featuring Elizabethan and Jacobean composers such as Byrd, Weelkes and Dowland — but not just any music: it all pays special tribute to ladies both real and mythological. The beautiful genre known as the consort song — voice accompanied by viols — features soprano Dawn Bailey as soloist in “Musicke for the Laydies”, which takes place at Royal St. George’s College Chapel on October 6.

Despite earthquakes, war and eruptions of Mount Vesuvius, baroque Naples boasted a vibrant music scene. In concerts entitled “Bella Napoli,” Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra collaborates with the Vesuvius Ensemble and percussionist Ben Grossman to celebrate the musical richness of Naples and southern Italy with rarely heard comic opera arias, tarantellas and street songs; but also concertos and sonatas by Leo, Vinci, A. Scarlatti and Durante. For Tafelmusik, a new first: collaboration with an ensemble that specializes in traditional regional music. Performances take place October 11 to 14 at Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre.

The Windermere String Quartet on Period Instruments launches their season with the next in their series “The Golden Age of String Quartets.” For this they’ve chosen quartets by Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven, linked both by the composers’ admiration for each other and by the fact that each was composed as part of a set of six: the Haydn, from his Op.33 set; the Mozart, one of his six quartets dedicated to Haydn; the Beethoven, one of his Op.18 quartets which were inspired by Mozart’s genius in writing for the genre. The concert takes place at St. Olave’s Anglican Church on October 14.

For details of all these, and others not mentioned, please refer to The WholeNote’s daily listings.

Simone Desilets is a long-time contributor to The WholeNote in several capacities who plays the viola da gamba. She can be contacted at

A sheaf — no, a barrow-full — of material has landed on my desktop, documenting so many interesting events taking place, far more than seems usual for the month of September, the very beginning of the season. Where to begin, how to tie it all together?

An observation arises, prompted by a concert happening early in September, that lute-like instruments make their gracious appearance all through the month; you can follow them around in several different settings, played by some wonderful artists. That thought is the thread that weaves together this month’s column.

23 early lutelegendsensemble  1 sian richardsLutes, lutes, everywhere lutes:First, to the aforementioned concert. Entitled “Beyond the Silk Road,” it’s the inaugural concert of the Lute Legends Ensemble, three musicians whose specialities are linked by ancient traditions. Bassam Bishara plays oud, Lucas Harris plays lute, and Wen Zhao plays pipa. Harris explains: “The oud is the oldest instrument and the ancestor of the other two. We think that it traveled both East and West on the ancient Silk Road, becoming the 4-stringed pipa in China and the medieval lute in Europe.

“Each of us will be playing two instruments: Bassam will play his regular 6-course oud as well as his new 8-course oud (evidence of which was discovered in a very ancient manuscript about four years ago). Wen will play her normal pipa with metal strings as well as her silk-strung pipa. And I’ll be switching between a Renaissance lute and two different Baroque lutes (one will be in a Chinese pentatonic tuning that I invented to play with Wen).”

The concert will bring the three instruments together in “a cross-traditional experiment for the 21st century.” It takes place at Trinity-St. Paul’s Church on September 8.

23 early matthew wadsworth  2Then there’s the theorbo, described by performer Matthew Wadsworth as “a giant lute” — it’s the formidable long-necked fellow whose presence in any ensemble simply cannot be ignored, with a powerful, very resonant bass register. The instrument developed from the bass lute in the late 16th century, answering the growing need for solid bass support for melodic lines.

It seems that the theorbo’s first appearance this month is at the Toronto Music Garden, where three superb musicians — baroque violinist Christopher Verrette, baroque cellist Kate Bennett Haynes and English theorbist Wadsworth — present a concert entitled “One Hundred Years of Venice,” performing works by Castello, Ferrari, Kapsberger and Vivaldi (who all lived and worked in Venice). We’re particularly fortunate to be able to hear Wadsworth, widely considered to be one of the foremost lutenists of his generation and in great demand as soloist, continuo player and chamber musician on both sides of the Atlantic. This concert takes place on September 16.

23 early henry prince of wales 1610 robert peake - 50 A theorbo will be in the capable hands of Benjamin Stein, as he leads a performance of the magnificent Monteverdi Vespers of 1610, sung one to a part by ten of Toronto’s top choral singers, accompanied by a sparse band of instrumentalists. Stein remarks: “We’re keeping the orchestration very spare, according to Monteverdi’s original score, hoping that the spareness of it allows people to hear the interweaving of voices, and the nature of the text setting, and also allows the continuo team to play and embellish in a stylish manner.” This is the first of this season’s Music at Metropolitan’s Baroque and Beyond series, happening on September 22.

Theorbo and lute (played by Michel Cardin) make up one-half of La Tour Baroque Duo (the other half is recorder and harpsichord, played by Tim Blackmore). You can hear this New Brunswick-based duo in a delightful program in a delightful setting, in their concert “The Last Time I Came O’er the Moor” — suites, variations and sonatas based upon traditional and popular Scottish airs, by Scottish baroque composers and others — presented by the Toronto Early Music Centre at Montgomery’s Inn, the evening of September 29. And don’t forget TEMC’s 28th annual Early Music Fair — a Culture Days event — happening from noon to 4:30pm, also on the 29th at Montgomery’s Inn — you might encounter lutes, viols and lots else!

Another Toronto Culture Days mini-concert showcases the very busy lutenist Lucas Harris, who will perform exquisite lute solos from 18th-century Germany, followed by a question and answer session (your chance to find out more about the lute). Part of the Toronto Centre for the Arts “Season Launch Open House,” this performance takes place at the George Weston Recital Hall on September 30.

The Musicians In Ordinary are back, with their built-in lute/theorbo player John Edwards. This duo brings scholarly research to each of their performances. Their first concert of the season,” His Perfections Like the Sunbeams,” commemorates the life and untimely death of Henry, Prince of Wales, “the best king Britain never had” according to Edwards; had he not died of typhoid at age 18 and been succeeded by his hapless brother Charles, history would have been changed! The concert, taking place on October 6, features the latest avant-garde composers of the time, some of Henry’s favourites: Ferrabosco II, Notari, Coprario and Johnson. Performers include theorbist Edwards and soprano Hallie Fishel with guests, violinist Christopher Verrette and gambist Justin Haynes.

As for that other lute-related instrument, the viol, I’ll mention briefly that you can hear its lovely voice in the following concerts: Music Mondays presents The Cardinal Consort of Viols’ “Rest Awhile Your Cruel Cares,” with music by Dowland, Locke, Jenkins and Purcell (September 17). In Barrie, Colours of Music presents “Fit For A King” — music by Purcell (both Henry and Daniel), Handel and C.P.E. Bach, featuring members of Baroque Music Beside the Grange and two baroque dancers from Opera Atelier (September 26). And in addition to his performance with the Musicians In Ordinary, mentioned above, gambist Haynes will contribute a solo prelude by Marais in a concert of the St. Vincent Baroque Soloists — a program of vocal and instrumental music from the 12th to 18th centuries (September 29).

Lute-free zone:Other events not including lute, oud, pipa, theorbo or viol (though I may well be wrong about that in some cases):

The vibrant English choral group the Tallis Scholars, celebrating their 40th anniversary next season, will visit UofT’s music faculty this month with a program entitled “Miserere: Sorrows of the Virgin Mary.” It features the Renaissance repertoire for which they’ve long been famous — Allegri’s Miserere, and music by Victoria, Praetorius, Guerrero and others (September 12).

Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra’s opening group of four concerts, “Bach Brandenburg Concertos,” is indeed “an exuberant season opener,” with the grand sonorities of horns and oboes in Brandenburg Concerto No.1, the showcasing of the strings in No.3 and the rich world of solo harpsichord, violin and flute of No.5, plus a flourish of trumpets, oboes and drums in the Orchestral Suite No.4 (September 21, 22, 23 at Koerner Hall; September 25 at George Weston Recital Hall).

Glenn Gould would be celebrating his 80th birthday on September 25. Unbelievable to think of; but consider this: by that time, J.S. Bach would have attained the age of 327½ years. A concert presented by the Royal Conservatory pays tribute to both these timeless and towering musical geniuses, with a program entitled “David Louie Celebrates Bach and Gould.” RCM faculty member and harpsichordist, Louie, performs Bach’s Italian Concerto, selections from Partita No.4, and with the help of some fine musical colleagues, the Musical Offering. (September 23)

As a preview to their 40th anniversary opening concerts in October, the Toronto Consort brings Janet Cardiff’s award-winning sound installation Forty-Part Motet to Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre, as part of Nuit Blanche. This work, based on Tallis’s Spem in alium for 40 separate voices, consists of 40 speakers arranged in a large room, each one representing one voice of the Tallis motet (September 29).

So there you have it, in a nutshell. Welcome, everyone, to the start of a new season!

Simone Desilets is a long-time contributor to The WholeNote in several capacities who plays the viola da gamba.  She can be contacted at

Summer is theseason when everybody wants to be somewhere else. This includes those searching for live music — people who live in cities travel to villages and barns, lakesides and country churches; those who live in rural settings perhaps find the opportunity to make their way to city venues. This column is dedicated to helping you find your way to some of the wonderful early music events going on in “other” Southern Ontario places during the summer months.

Summer is a good time to be in Ottawa; with this city’s two music festivals, there’s a healthy offering of early music. The first of these, Music and Beyond (July 4 to 15), presents no less than 80 concerts; among them you can find such treasures as all six Bach motets performed by the Ottawa Bach Choir and its director, Lisette Canton (July 7). In a Coffee Concert titled “Four Centuries of Bach,” you can hear Bach chamber music performed by acclaimed baroque violinist Adrian Butterfield and several other respected period musicians (July 5). You can experience Handel’s Water Music played on a barge which travels up and down the Rideau Canal, with the London Handel Players and the Theatre of Early Music (July 8). Or you can attend a “Baroque Opera Soirée,” presented by The Theatre of Early Music, actor Megan Follows and five well-known singers: sopranos Karina Gauvin and Nancy Argenta, countertenor Daniel Taylor, tenor Charles Daniels and baritone James Westman (also July 8).

At the Ottawa Chamberfest (July 26 to August 9) there are further treasures to be found: renowned American lutenist Paul O’Dette presents a program of Anonymous, Bacheler and Dowland (August 9). The internationally recognized Gesualdo Consort Amsterdam presents “Sweelinck and Gesualdo: Masters of the Madrigal from North and South” (August 5). British cellist Colin Carr performs all six of Bach’s unaccompanied cello suites in two concerts (August 1). Les Voix Baroques present “Da Venezia,” a choral celebration on the 400th anniversary of the death of Giovanni Gabrieli (August 3). And on the same day, the Eybler Quartet gives their program “I’m Mozart,Too!” which features quartets by three composers (Bologne, Arriaga, Kraus) whose short lives and colossal talents were often likened to Mozart’s.

In the city of Stratford, Stratford Summer Music (July 16 to August 26) offers a myriad of interesting events, among them a celebration of the organ and a celebration of Bach. From July 26 to 29 there’s a “Young Canadian Organist and Heritage Organ” series (subtitled, “A Salute to Glenn Gould and the Organ”), during which portions of Bach’s The Art of Fugue, and other Bach works, will be performed by organists Andrew Adair, Sarah Svendsen and Ryan Jackson. The series concludes with an exploration of the hymn tradition as revealed in so many of Bach’s works, with organist Christopher Dawes leading a vocal and instrumental ensemble. On August 1, American pianist Simone Dinnerstein plays a program of Bach keyboard suites and partitas. Dinnerstein has an outstanding international reputation particularly for her Bach playing; she has been described by the New York Times as “an utterly distinctive voice in the forest of Bach interpretation.” On August 15, you can hear another mightily accomplished pianist, Canadian David Jalbert, who performs Bach’s Goldberg Variations. The Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra, with countertenor Daniel Taylor and baritone Tyler Duncan, give two performances of Bach — cantatas either complete or excerpted, plus other music — on August 18 and 19.

In the township of Uxbridge lies an imposing building: the Thomas Foster Memorial temple was built in 1936 as a family legacy by this former MP and Mayor of Toronto from 1925 to 1927. It was inspired by the Taj Mahal and Byzantine architecture, and features solid bronze doors, hand-painted and fired stained glass windows, and terrazzo and marble floors. Music is performed there every Friday night, and from all reports the acoustics are ideal for early instruments. Two concerts will be of special interest to the early music afficionado: On August 3, The York Consort of Viols — a quartet of musicians from Toronto and Buffalo — presents “Heart’s Ease,” a program of music of the late Renaissance including pieces by Caurroy, Byrd, Farina, Tomkins, Gibbons, Holborne and others. On August 31, the Shimoda Family Ensemble presents a concert of baroque music for recorders and harpsichord.

“Perched on the edge of a spectacular gorge and nestled along the banks of the Grand and Irvine Rivers lies the enchanting village of Elora …” begins the promotional blurb for the place that is home each summer to the Elora Festival (July 13 to August 5). On July 26, you can hear a cappella music from the Renaissance sung in a church setting, by the men’s vocal quartet New York Polyphony. On July 29, Purcell’s opera “Dido and Aeneas” will be presented in the Gambrel Barn, with the Elora Festival Singers, Festival Baroque Players and Noel Edison, conductor.

The above-mentioned New York Polyphony will go on to Niagara-on-the-Lake’s festival Music Niagara (July 13 to August 11), performing a vocal feast of chant, polyphony and renaissance and modern harmonies on July 28.

Another idyllic place to hear music in the summertime is Parry Sound on Georgian Bay, with its Festival of the Sound now in its 33rd season. Here you can attend two concerts of baroque music on the same day, July 31, as Bach and Handel concertos, sonatas and other pieces are performed by soprano Leslie Fagan, flutist Suzanne Shulman, oboist James Mason, violinist Julie Baumgartel and others.

In Toronto:The Gladstone Hotel on Queen St. W. is the venue for Volcano Theatre/Opera Underground’s production of A Synonym for Love. A detailed description of this opera/cantata can be found in Chris Hoile’s On Opera column this issue; I’ll simply say that it’s based on a forgotten Handel cantata Clori, Tirsi e Fileno, composed in 1707 and thought lost until the score was discovered 250 years later. It features three singers and a live baroque orchestra playing period instruments, and runs from August 20 to 31.

The Toronto Music Garden’s Summer Music in the Gardenseries is a cornucopia of interesting performers, sometimes by artists we’d rarely have a chance to hear otherwise. I have fond memories of past concerts: the Italian singer of frottole, Viva BiancaLuna Biffi, who sang her tales while accompanying herself on the vielle; also the tenor Kevin Skelton, a Canadian who lives and works mostly in Europe, with his lovely singing of sacred works by Telemann and Schütz. Three upcoming concerts will interest the early music seeker: August 9, Arcadian Visions: Montreal violist Pemi Paull performs visionary music from the 17th century to the 21st, including music by Biber and others; August 19, Nymphs, Masques and Madness: From Montreal, Les Amusements de la Chambre performs music from 17th-century Italy and England, interspersed with new music inspired by baroque forms by Canadian composers; September 6, “Bach at Dusk”: Baroque cellist Kate Haynes continues her cycle of Bach’s suites for solo cello with the exquisitely dark Suite No.2 in D Minor.

And finally, a delight:The winner of the 2012 Canadian Music Competition’s biennial Stepping Stone competition is Vincent Lauzer, a young recorder player from Quebec, who plays his instrument with amazing virtuosity and style and is already a multi-award winner. You might have heard him as a member of the electrifying recorder ensemble Flûte Alors! His CMC win ensures that he’ll be invited to play at the Gala concert on July 6, at the MacMillan Theatre, U of T Faculty of Music. You might see me there!

And so, whether or not you go “somewhere else” to find it, I wish you all a happy summer full of music. 

Simone Desilets is a long-time contributor to The WholeNote in several capacities who plays the viola da gamba.  She can be contacted at


June is a month of transitions, the waning concert season having mostly drawn to a close, the summer festivals having barely emerged. Fortunately though, there are still several very interesting events happening that showcase the “early” side of music, enough to keep you going throughout the month.

There’s a strong interest in chant at Toronto’s Church of St. Mary Magdalene. In this “oasis in the city for contemplative music,” you can hear chant, or chant-influenced music, throughout the liturgical year. There’s even a chant club, open to anyone, in which participants learn about chant through both singing and instruction in its history, theory and technique. For more about this, go to their website:

If chant is of special interest to you, you might want to take advantage of a full day of chant-focused workshops, presentations and rehearsals offered on June 9, with Schola Magdalena and the SMM Ritual Choir. The day is surrounded by concerts: on Friday June 8, Schola Magdalena women’s ensemble for medieval music performs masterpieces of the School of Notre Dame de Paris, including Sederunt by the 13th-century Perotinus; on June 9, workshop participants and singers from SMM present an evening of Gregorian chant, Marian anthems by Lassus, and music by Hildegard von Bingen.

The above two concerts occur also as part of the Concerts Spirituels 2012 series, presented at St. Mary Magdalene on Friday evenings in June (the June 9 Saturday concert being the one exception). Others in order of appearance are: American organist, Rich Spotts, and the SMM Ritual Choir, perform the Gregorian chant-based music of Tournemire, June 1; a program of chamber music including works by Vivaldi, June 15; and the SMM Gallery Choir performs Lasso’s Missa Entre Vous Filles, the Buxtehude Magnificat, and music by Willan, June 22.

early_holy_family_church_-_scanned_from_the_wholenote_july-aug_1997One of the joys of working at The WholeNote is discovering connections, hidden in the musical kaleidoscope and just waiting to be uncovered. In preparing to write about Philip Fournier’s organ recital at The Oratory, Holy Family Church, I was led back to the 20th issue of our magazine — July/August 1997— where, on page 31, a short lament was written on the destruction by fire of Holy Family Church (did I take the accompanying photo?). Well, in the intervening 15 years this west-end Toronto church has now been rebuilt and the organ replaced with a magnificent Gabriel Kney/Halbert Gober tracker organ which Fournier says “is easily one of the finest instruments in Toronto. The unusually reverberant nave it speaks into further limits its circle of peers.”

The organist, Philip Fournier, has the credentials to be a very good judge of organs. His bio is impressive; organists among us especially will recognize names that figure significantly in his background. For example, he studied Gregorian chant at Solesmes, France, with the famed Dom Saulnier; he was the first Organ Scholar at the College of the Holy Cross, Worcester USA, and was subsequently named a Fenwick Scholar, the highest academic honour given by the College. He won the Historical Organ in America competition in 1992 and performed at Arizona State University on the Paul Fritts organ, and was awarded a recital on the Flemtrop instrument at Duke University. Now organist and director of music at St. Vincent de Paul in Toronto, he gives recitals regularly at the Oratory. He is also guest organist of the Toronto Tallis Choir, artistic director and continuo player of the St. Vincent’s Baroque Soloists, and is active as a composer.

Fournier’s recital on the Kney/Gober organ is designed to show off the capabilities of this instrument, with music by Sweelinck, Buxtehude, Weckmann and Bach. It takes place at the newly rebuilt Holy Family Church on June 10.

Spadina Museum holds their outdoor concert series, Music in the Orchard, every spring, with four concerts coming up. On June 17, you can hear a concert of “live outdoor audible acoustic music” (by his own affirmation) by Mike Franklin— he’s a versatile multi-instrumentalist and singer who specializes in European medieval, renaissance and traditional music, and I can attest that he always presents a very imaginative program.

And if you happen to be in the vicinity of the Church of the Holy Trinity (behind the Eaton Centre) at noon on Equinox or Solstice days, you can catch Mike creating a sonic landscape at the outdoor labyrinth there (this year, the Summer Solstice occurs on June 20). One late-September day, I heard him cast a cloak of sombre magic over the labyrinth and those who chose to walk it, with a hurdy-gurdy and with a most otherworldly shawm.

The Cardinal Consort of Viols and a special guest perform in the Toronto Early Music Centre’s Musically Speaking series on June 17. “Music for Queen Elizabeth I” pays tribute to not only the first Queen Elizabeth but also the second, in celebration of her majesty’s Diamond Jubilee; and the music of course is English— Byrd, Gibbons, Dowland, Holborne and Bull. As for the special guest— well, he’s an accomplished countertenor whom we don’t get to hear enough these days: Frank Nakashima (who counts eight years as The WholeNote’s Early Music columnist among his many artistic ventures). The concert takes place in a setting that is proving to be just right for intimate music-making: St. David’s Church, Donlands and Danforth.

Surely one of the most exquisite concert settings around is Sharon Temple in the municipality of East Gwillimbury. Music has resounded within the walls of this stunningly beautiful edifice ever since it was built by the Children of Peace in 1831. The concert series Music at Sharon, whose co-artistic directors are Larry Beckwith and Rick Phillips, makes its home there every year in June. Of the four concerts, two involve music of the 18th and 17th centuries (respectively): on June 10, “Zelenka Plays Bach” features three of the Bach solo cello suites (nos. 1, 3 and 6) played by cellist Winona Zelenka— one of the most compelling cellists around, whose recording of Bach’s six suites for unaccompanied cello won her a 2011 JUNO Award nomination in the small ensemble/solo classical category; and on June 17, a concert version of Purcell’s opera Dido and Aeneas will be presented, with soprano Meredith Hall as Dido, baritone Todd Delaney as Aeneas, and the Toronto Masque Theatre.

Publicity for Music at Sharon urges you to “Plan to arrive early to picnic on the beautiful park-like grounds and tour the site’s unique heritage buildings, before moving inside the Sharon Temple for the pre-concert chat at 1:15pm followed by the 2pm concert.” Sounds like a plan for a wonderful afternoon!

Readers may recall June 2011’s Early Music column, which covered Tafelmusik Baroque Summer Institute’s yearly program in some depth in many of its aspects: instrumental, vocal and conductor/director studies; lectures, masterclasses, workshops and more. (You can find this column on The WholeNote’s website at thewhole­— go to “About Us” and click on “Previous Issues.”) It’s a very successful format which is repeated this June at the University of Toronto from the 3rd to the 16th of the month. Four concerts are spawned during its run: June 4, “Delightfully Baroque,” with music performed by the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Choir; June 9, “Musical Interlude,” a casual noon-hour concert of baroque chamber music by TBSI faculty; June 13, “The TBSI Orchestras and Choirs,” directed by Jeanne Lamon and Ivars Taurins and featuring Institute participants; and June 16, “The Grand Finale,” a baroque extravaganza in which participants and faculty perform together. A lively baroque experience in a bustling city!

early_benjaminbagby_4_by_gilles_juhelSpeaking of “lively baroque experiences” in bustling cities, June 21 to 24 is a festive time to be in Montreal because the tenth anniversary of the Montreal Baroque Festival is happening; and though their theme this year is “The Apocalypse,” this is qualified by the subtext “Transformations, Revelations” — with the implied meaning that wonderful things are about to occur. Of this there can be no doubt: a look at their schedule reveals four days packed with events, from rendez-vous in a café to a “Parade for the Apocalypse,” to many concerts with terrific performers. You can witness a horse ballet presented at Louis XIII’s engagement in 1612, with horses from the Equimagie stables and music later transcribed by Lully. There is a dramatic monologue on the ancient epic story of Beowulf, the young hero slain by a dragon, formidably delivered by Benjamin Bagby (medieval specialist, singer and co-founder of the medieval vocal and instrumental ensemble Sequentia) who accompanies himself on the harp and has presented it to great acclaim over the past 20 years. There’s music by Hildegard von Bingen, Biber, Bach and others, including Telemann’s great sacred oratorio Der Tag des Gerichts (The Last Judgment). Performers include virtuoso natural trumpeters Jean-François Madeuf from France, and Graham Nicholson from Holland, as well as an array of top-notch musicians and ensembles whom audiences, especially in Quebec, are lucky enough to hear regularly. I hope you’ll be able to join them.

Simone Desilets is a long-time contributor to The WholeNote in several capacities who plays the viola da gamba. She can be contacted at

Back to top