Interesting personalities: the world of music is full of them. I’d like to tell you about a few who will be gracing our stages and charming our senses during the coming month.

early__harry_bicket_and_the_english_concertTake, for example, Jan Dismas Zelenka, one of those talented people whom history might well have completely forgotten, had it not been for the determination of some who “discovered” and sought to revive his music long after his death in 1745. This Bohemian composer, whose lifetime spanned more or less the same years as that of J.S. Bach, spent most of his career at the Dresden court (a flourishing centre of music and the arts in 17th- and 18th-century Germany) where he played double bass, conducted the Dresden Court Orchestra and became Court Composer of Church Music. His music is acknowledged as being extraordinarily creative, with unexpected turns of harmony and a freshly expressive outlook.

Of course, as part of his duties he wrote masses. One of these, the Missa votiva, has quite a touching genesis: Zelenka wrote it to give thanks after recovering from a long illness, dedicating it as follows: “J.D.Z. composed this Mass ad majorem Dei gloriam to the greater glory of God in fulfillment of a vow, after having recovered his health through God’s favour”.

You can hear it, along with a beloved motet by one of his acquaintances and admirers, in Tafelmusik’s “Glorious Bach and Zelenka” performances, which take place on various days, and at various times, between October 14 and 20.

And consider Johann Rosenmüller, 17th century German composer and virtuoso trombonist, who is credited with being an instrumental figure in the transmission of Italian musical styles to Germany. He had a promising career as teacher and organist in Leipzig, and was in line for the position of cantor at the Church of St. Thomas, but his career was abruptly halted in 1655 when he and several schoolboys were arrested and imprisoned on suspicion of homosexuality. Aha; he escaped, fled Germany and next turned up in Italy, where by 1658 he had established himself at St. Mark’s in Venice as a trombonist and composer. Years later he also held the post of composer at the Ospedale della Pietà (the girls’ orphanage soon afterward to become famous as fertile ground for Vivaldi’s prolific creative output).

Rosenmüller’s music was clearly inspired by the brilliant acoustic of the Cathedral of St. Mark’s. You’ll be able to hear the effect of this magnificent space when, on October 21 and 22, the Toronto Consort brings together voices, strings, cornetti, sackbuts, lutes and keyboards to present “Venetian Splendour: The Music of Johann Rosenmüller.”

A towering figure of the 15th century, the Franco-Flemish composer Johannes Ockeghem led a life that is somewhat obscured to us now, some five or six centuries later. We know that he was employed as a bass singer in the chapels of various royal courts, most notably the French courts of Charles VII, Louis XI and Charles VIII; that his life was very long; that though his surviving output of compositions is not large, it reveals a highly innovative style; also that he was admired throughout Europe for his expressive music and his technical prowess.

It’s obvious that he revelled in creating musical problems and working out solutions — for example, his motet Deo Gratias is a magnificent, pulsating canon for four nine-part choruses (36 parts in total). His Missa Cuiusvis Toni is a mass that may be sung in any one of four different modes, at the performers’ choosing. Enormous technical feats of composition, these — yet (to quote one account) “music of contemplative vastness and inward rapture”.

Both these works will be performed this month — the Deo Gratias in “surround sound,” the Missa Cuiusvis Toni in — well, you’ll have to attend the concert to find out which mode. They’ll be heard in the Toronto Chamber Choir’s first concert of the season, “Ockeghem: Medieval Polyphony,” on October 23.

A much-admired musician of the 21st century, the acclaimed English conductor and keyboard player, Harry Bicket, will be bringing his ensemble, the English Concert, to town — alas on one of the same nights as the Toronto Consort performs. Bicket is renowned for his interpretations of the baroque and classical repertoire and for his work in opera, though his biography is chock-full of music making in wide-ranging styles and periods, all over the world. It’s especially telling that he was chosen in 2007 to succeed Trevor Pinnock as artistic director of the English Concert, one of the finest of the U.K.’s period orchestras.

The concert takes place in an ideal venue for this group, the Royal Conservatory’s Koerner Hall, on October 21. The music is ideal too, a true representation of their art: suites from semi-operas by Purcell, solo and orchestral concertos by Vivaldi and Telemann.

early_philippe_jaroussky2_by_simon_fowlerA compelling musical personality whose star is definitely on the rise is the French countertenor Philippe Jaroussky. He’s been described as a “young singer with the tone of an angel and the virtuosity of the devil.” Perhaps because he began his musical life as a violinist, his singing displays a very pure sound quality and high, sweet timbre; this combined with his dazzling vocal feats, expressive phrasing and handsome stage presence have catapulted him into an international career in a relatively short time.

Jaroussky’s art is ideally suited to the virtuosic coloratura of the baroque; this will be evident when, on November 1 at the RC’s Koerner Hall, he’ll be joined by the acclaimed baroque orchestra from Cleveland, Apollo’s Fire, in a programme of fiery operatic arias and orchestral music, entitled “Handel and Vivaldi Fireworks.”

Others in a nutshell

• October 8: “Apt for Voices, Viols or Violons”: For its first concert of the season, the Musicians In Ordinary presents a programme of consort songs, dances, lute songs and solos from the Elizabethan and Jacobean courts, by Holborne, Byrd and Dowland. Soprano Hallie Fishel and lutenist John Edwards are joined by a renaissance violin band of five parts, led by violinist Christopher Verrette.

• October 8: Cardinal Consort of Viols presents “Oktoberfest!”:

Beautiful German music from the 16th and 17th centuries, with refreshments included, in a relaxed, friendly atmosphere at Royal St. George’s College Chapel.


• October 15 and 16: “Best of Baroque”: Andrew Davis conducts the TSO, and plays harpsichord and organ in a rich tapestry of music by Bach, including Brandenburg Concerto No. 5, Concerto for Oboe and Violin and Davis’ own orchestrations of Bach organ works.

• October 16: Windermere String Quartet on period instruments presents the fourth in their six-concert survey of “The Golden Age of String Quartets,” juxtaposing three great works by Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven.

• October 22: “A Celebration of Victoria: 1611–2011”: Tallis Choir commemorates the 400th anniversary of the death of Victoria, presenting some of his greatest works and those of his contemporaries, Guerrero, Lobo and Esquivel.

• October 29: Our ever-energetic friends in Kingston, Trillio, present their third annual “Baroquetoberfest” with music on period instruments by Telemann, Bach, Matthes and others — not to mention home-prepared German food including choucroute garnie and a German beer sampling!

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

And so a new season begins. From late summer’s vantage point, I can already see a huge range of early music activities shaping up in the coming year, from Scaramella’s “Hit and Run” in November, featuring triple harp and clown among other things, to the Royal Conservatory’s presentation of French sopranist-countertenor Philippe Jaroussky with Cleveland’s baroque orchestra Apollo’s Fire, also in November; to Tafelmusik’s period performance of Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony in May; to Nadina Mackie Jackson’s developing project “Vivaldi’s Lost Girls” (a celebration of Vivaldi bassoon concertos); and much in between. But first to the events of the present month.

Schola Magdalena

schola_magdalenaA small ensemble of six women’s voices, expressive and pure in intonation, produces an ethereal sound not too often heard in concert. Schola Magdalena is just such an ensemble, founded in 2007 and based in Toronto. You can hear them twice in the coming month, as they’ll be launching a new CD at their home venue of the Church of St. Mary Magdalene and then performing at Barrie’s Colours of Music.

The group’s director, Stephanie Martin, is organist and director of three choirs at St. Mary Magdalene, director of Pax Christi Chorale and a professor at York University. Interested in knowing what prompted her to add yet another ensemble to her very busy life, I asked her to talk a bit about Schola Magdalena’s formation and its projects.

Schola Magdalena gives her great satisfaction, she told me, “because it is a democratic group. My other ensembles require a leader/follower model, and, although a totalitarian system is efficient, it can be an undue burden on the leader. I enjoy solving musical problems with Schola Magdalena since we work as peers. Everyone is a leader; everyone is a follower … Six voices allow us to sing early polyphony which is often three parts; that gives us a nice balance of two voices on each part … Coming up with our interpretation takes a while, but we arrive at an interpretation we all like. It’s a great model for problem solving.”

Regarding plans for the future: “We’d like to tour back to Quebec where many of our French-speaking supporters are. We’ve included notes and translations in French in the CD booklet because we often sing to French-Canadian audiences — often Roman Catholic church choirs, who have a deep connection to Gregorian chant. We have an invitation to visit Spain but we need to find baby sitters for six children!”

And as for that above-mentioned CD, titled Virgo Splendens, it includes “quite a bit of Hildegard, some wonderful early English polyphony — a setting of the Magnificat — some traditional Gregorian chants which we still use in our liturgy at St. Mary Magdalene. There are also fragments from a mass by Dufay. One important element is the recording of the four “Marian anthems” that are sung throughout the liturgical year.”

Both the CD launch on September 24 and the Barrie concert on October 1 feature a selection of the above repertoire. And besides the beauty of the music on this disc, you’ll treasure it also for its cover: a reproduction of a beautiful icon — Madonna and Child — lurking obscurely in the Church of St. Mary Magdalene.

A random mention of others:

Two concerts highlighting English music for voices occur this month: On September 16, Aradia Ensemble’s “Music of the English Chapels Royal” presents anthems from the time of Charles II — music by Purcell, Turner, Blow, Locke and Humfrey. On September 24 and 25, the 16-voice Cantemus Singers offer a programme called “Rule Britannia” madrigals, motets and bar songs from the times of Henry VIII all the way to George I’s reign.

From September 21 to 25, you can hear music for courtly celebrations at the baroque courts of Poland, Sweden, England, France, Germany, Spain, Russia and Austria, presented by Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra.

On September 10 in Waterloo: Nota Bene Baroque holds a “Fundraising Extravaganza” to celebrate its 10th Anniversary Season and the launching of its new name, with mini-concerts, Baroque-inspired refreshments, an instrument petting zoo, and guest, baroque dancer Daniel Gariepy.

At the Toronto Music Garden: On September 8, you can let dusk fall over you joyfully, as baroque cellist Kate Bennett Haynes inaugurates a cycle of Bach’s Six Suites for Unaccompanied Cello with Suite No.1 in G Major. On September 18, the Vesuvius Ensemble closes the season with “I canti a Maria — Music for the Madonna,” passionate traditional songs to the Madonna from some of the many sanctuaries in the region of Naples.

There’s more! Do peruse The WholeNote’s listings to discover all that’s out there.

She can be contacted at

It’s time to pack your knapsack, your suitcase or your picnic basket and head out of town in search of different impressions. For the early music aficionado this doesn’t necessarily mean abandoning the music you’re fond of, just that you’ll have lots of chances to experience it in new places.

Bach Music Festival of Canada

First I must tell you about a new summer festival emerging in South Huron, that area situated on Lake Huron which includes several small communities such as Exeter and Zurich. The Bach Music Festival of Canada takes place from July 11 to 17, and is actually an interesting mix of Bach, contemporary and other music, culminating in a performance of Bach’s B Minor Mass with soloists, orchestra and over one hundred singers. At its helm is artistic director Gerald Fagan, known nationally and internationally as a choral conductor and pioneer.

The week is packed with concerts, workshops and master classes. Trio Alla Grande, an extremely musical and sensitive guitar trio, opens the festival with a concert of contemporary and original music, and gives an interactive discussion and workshop. Violinist Lara St. John, known as a passionate exponent of Bach, performs a recital and offers a masterclass. Renowned basso Thomas Paul, now in his 70s, shares his expertise on the singing of Bach arias in intensive workshops, with a resulting concert, “The Art of the Aria.” The Harvestehuder Chamber Choir from Germany performs with London’s Gerald Fagan Singers in a concert of Bach, Canadian and German choral repertoire.

All this, combined with participation of locally-based choristers, make this Festival an ambitious project indeed, and a wonderful gift of music to the area.

Other summer festivals:

At the Ottawa Chamberfest there’s too much to mention here, but they have a website to guide your hunt through medieval, renaissance, baroque and other categories ( I’ll point out just two performances: on July 25, Ensemble Caprice presents “Et In Terra Pax” featuring vocal and instrumental works by Vivaldi and Zelenka; on August 4, “La Poésie noble du violon sous Louis XIV” features Lully, Jacquet de la Guerre, Clérambault and others — all with brilliant performers involved.

July 19 at the Hamilton Organ Festival, you can hear organ music by Bach, Byrd and Buxtehude played by organist Matthew Coons; and during Stratford Summer Music’s “Organ Week,” music by Gibbons, Purcell and Handel will be performed on July 29, and some of the most glorious of Bach’s organ music on July 30, by Robert Quinney from Westminster Abbey. The organ in collaboration is highlighted on July 26 at Parry Sound’s Festival of the Sound: organist William McArton is joined by flutist Suzanne Shulman and trumpeter Guy Few in works by Handel, Viviani and Rameau.

Other early music can be found here too, such as a concert of solo Bach works for flute, cello and keyboard on July 27. This is one of three July concerts I’ve noticed which feature Bach solo cello suites. At Festival of the Sound it’s the first suite, played by cellist Marc Johnson. On July 2, cellist Rachel Mercer will perform suites nos. 2, 3 and 6 in Waterloo — not in a “summer” venue but in the ongoing series of the Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber Music Society. And on July 5 yet another performance, this time at Campbellford’s Westben — Concerts at the Barn, with Brian Manker, principal cellist of the Montreal Symphony Orchestr, playing suites nos. 2, 4, and 6.

At the Elora Festival, on July 16, there’s a most interesting concert of Telemann sacred cantatas — he completed several cycles of these for the church year —performed by tenor Kevin Skelton (more about him in a moment), along with recorder, harpsichord and gamba.

15_earlymusic_kevin_skeltonAt Stratford Summer Music, there’s a lovely touch of the early, “a delicious combination of musicianship and cuisine,” as lutenist/guitarist Terry McKenna performs short concerts (each showcasing a particular aspect of renaissance/early baroque music) at Rundles Restaurant, every Saturday and Sunday throughout the festival.

Whereas urban-based artists and audiences tend to migrate to out-of-town summer venues, some will also arrive in town from elsewhere. Kevin Skelton, who lives abroad, is a Canadian tenor of great accomplishment as performer, director, founder of several ensembles, contemporary dancer and published scholar who holds degrees in voice, conducting and musicology. In addition to the above-mentioned performance at the Elora Festival on July 16, he’ll be appearing at the Toronto Music Garden on July 17 with other wonderful musicians in a presentation entitled “With Joy and Light Encircled.” And, (too late to make The WholeNote’s print deadline; you’ll find it on the website at “Listings: Just In”), on July 30, Toronto’s Church of St. Mary Magdalene will resound with Gregorian chant as Schola Gregoriana Aurea Luce, a choir of men’s and women’s voices from Venice, Italy, perform.

I’ll leave it to you, the early music seeker, to find out more: The WholeNote’s summer listings, and individual websites, have all the details. The opportunity to design your own summer early music festival awaits!

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


What makes a musician a “baroque” musician? The answer to this question has evolved dramatically over the years, as consideration of how baroque music should be played moves from presenting it from a completely modern standpoint, to awareness of a sound more “informed” by the stylistic elements present in baroque times.

One of the world’s premiere baroque music training programmes is right in our midst: The Tafelmusik Baroque Summer Institute, which takes place every June in Toronto, is about to begin its tenth season. As TBSI music director, Jeanne Lamon, writes on the website, the Institute is dedicated to developing the period performers of the future. With an impressively comprehensive programme of study and first-rate teachers, it attracts student participants from all over the world.

p13_tafelmusik1There’s a component for instrumentalists, with in-depth study of their instrument in a variety of solo, chamber and orchestral settings, and for players new to period instruments, an introduction to baroque instruments, their technique and repertoire. There is even a number of baroque flutes, oboes, bassoons, stringed instruments and bows available for loan.

There’s a component for singers, offering study in solo, choral, ensemble and operatic repertoire; Opera Atelier’s Marshall Pynkoski leads workshops in scenes from baroque operas, focusing on gesture and deportment and their relation to music and text in the 17th and 18th centuries.

There’s a component for conductors and directors, too – a self-directed study for the most part – during which participants are encouraged to audit vocal and instrumental masterclasses, sit in on orchestra, choir and chamber ensemble rehearsals and attend opera workshops, lectures, demonstrations and concerts.

There are classes in baroque dance, led by Opera Atelier’s Jeannette Lajeunesse Zingg; continuo classes for keyboard players and lutenists/guitarists; classes for conductors and directors with Tafelmusik librarian, Charlotte Nediger, on sources and editions. There are private lessons, lectures and workshops on a range of topics. There is even an international exchange programme with Jeune Orchestre Atlantique, a European training orchestra specializing in classical and romantic repertoire on period instruments and directed by Philippe Herreweghe.

But wait! Why not let the voices of some who have studied at the Institute speak for themselves? Those I asked came back with a flood of enthusiastic stories, from which I’ve distilled just a little here:

p14tafelmusik2_option_1Roseen Giles, baroque flutist, relates how TBSI teachers guided her in moving from the modern to the baroque flute, and says: “Eventually it became clear that the best way to learn how to play a period instrument is through immersion in baroque playing and style, which is exactly what TBSI provides. Two weeks of having nothing but well-played early music in my ears was exactly what I needed to help me understand that baroque music was not dry and academic like I’d previously been taught, but vibrant and alive. After TBSI, I traded my silver for wood, my keys for pure intervals, and never looked back since!”

Elizabeth Loewen Andrews, baroque violinist, tells of the journey that led her through TBSI and Jeune Orchestre Atlantique to professional work with Aradia Ensemble, the Windermere String Quartet and Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra as an extra, and concludes: “So, how has TBSI impacted my musical and professional life? Pretty much in every way! It started me on the road to a much more diverse performance career, opened my mind and ears to a different world of sound, and has helped open so many doors to me in the first five years of my career. My life today would certainly not be the same without that summer!”

From soprano Johane Ansell: “The major impact that TBSI has made on my musical life: not only did it assist my solo performance skills but it also encouraged and facilitated the development of my ensemble singing, which is a useful skill to have and is applicable in all facets of vocal singing, not limited to early music singing. It is also one of the few programs that emphasize the study of the different styles of early/renaissance music: French baroque, Italian, etc., as well as the styles of different composers such as Bach, Lully and Handel. There is a reason people return to TBSI to participate more than once: it is a unique program with a LOT to offer and you get to work with the best in the business.”

Baroque violinist Alice Culin-Ellison says: “This will be my third summer attending the Institute. The first summer (at) TBSI was the first time I ever played on gut strings and learned the period performance techniques of how to hold the instrument (chin off with no chin or shoulder rest). I have nothing but fantastic things to say about TBSI. It led me to be in the process of getting my masters in early music (violin) and I have recommended it to many, many people, at least three of whom are attending this summer due to my recommendation.”

Even if you aren’t planning to participate as a student in TBSI, you can participate as an auditor of individual classes, full days or the events of the entire institute. There are also four public concerts featuring faculty and/or student performers, on June 3, 8, 12 and 15 – find details in The WholeNote’s festival listings or at


Just north of Newmarket lies a building of exquisite proportions, a National Historic Site known as Sharon Temple. Its interior space, with beautiful acoustical ambiance, is a natural venue for music (and was intended so by the Children of Peace, who built it). For several years now it’s been the home of a summer concert series, and this year co-artistic directors Larry Beckwith and Rick Phillips planned five Sunday afternoon concerts. The first one took place on May 29 and the other four run throughout June. Early music is featured in two of these. On June 5, celebrated countertenor Daniel Taylor brings his Theatre of Early Music to perform arias and duets by Handel. On June 26, the Toronto Consort presents their programme “Shakespeare’s Songbook”, featuring songs and dances from the plays of the immortal bard. A lovely way to spend a Sunday afternoon, I’d say.

The Church of St. Mary Magdalene in Toronto is famous as the place where composer Healey Willan focused much of his musical life, directing and composing for the choir and adding his musical voice to the Anglican liturgy for over 45 years. A new Friday evening concert series entitled, “Concerts Spirituels,” is beginning at the church which, as artistic director Stephanie Martin says, hopes to keep Willan’s dream alive by continuing the tradition of singing and playing wonderful music. Three concerts are planned – June 3, 10 and 17 – each featuring an a cappella renaissance mass (Victoria, Guerrero and Palestrina), a baroque chamber ensemble and organ music played on the three manual Healey Willan Memorial Organ.


Isn’t it just the luck! You write enthusiastically about the pending appearance of a special artist, then an injury prevents the concert – the whole North American tour! – from happening! The concert by Jordi Savall, Hespèrion XXI and La Capella Reial de Catalunya, that was discussed in last month’s column, and was supposed to have taken place at Koerner Hall, was cancelled, as you probably all know. But all being well, it will happen on March 1 of next year, and be enthusiastically heralded again in this column.

She can be contacted at

If I were looking for a theme for this month’s column, I might find it in the idea of music as the bringer of gifts.

Giving was certainly the intent when, in 1992, bassist Tim Dawson and his two friends, baritone Gord MacLeod and soprano Monica Whicher, performed a fundraising concert for adults with disabilities. Dawson told me a remarkable story of how this first event of The Bach Consort blossomed into a twice-yearly series which has raised significant funds for local charities over the last 19 years:

“Monica and Gord had been presenting annual fundraising recitals on behalf of adults with disabilities. I had always been interested in the music of Bach; so we simply put the two ideas together. We connected with some wonderful local charities that inspired us by their dedication and love. One of the main ones for us was Camphill Village Ontario – the local chapter of a worldwide group of rural communities for adults with disabilities. Literally dozens of other groups connected with the Bach Consort from this point and the group has raised over $400,000 for charity since its inception.”

15Remarkable too is the stature of the artists who, it seems, have clamoured to be included: among others, singers Russell Braun, Michael Schade and Kevin McMillan; conductors Nicholas McGegan, Ivars Taurins, Dame Jane Glover and – a special point of pride – Yannick Nézet-Séguin, now one of the most sought-after conductors in the world today, and who has worked with the Bach Consort five times to perform five of Bach’s major choral works. Says Dawson: “In those days it seemed that every concert with the Bach Consort celebrated another step in his rocketing career. All along the way he was generous, modest and open-hearted. Bach is a passion for Yannick and we were blessed to share those times with him.”

And throughout, all musicians and conductors have performed gratis, donating their fee to charity.

Dawson (“Head Dreamer”) concludes: “Bach’s music is so full of humanity – it seems fitting that we can enjoy and share these incredible riches while at the same time lending a helping hand to deserving groups in our community.”

On May 13, renowned Handel scholar Harry Bicket (in town to conduct Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice with the COC), will moonlight with the Bach Consort, leading from the harpsichord a performance of Handel’s cantata Silete Venti, with soprano Monica Whicher as soloist. The rest of the programme is Bach, and other featured soloists are flutist Julie Ranti and baritone Phillip Addis. This concert’s recipients are Eva’s Initiatives and the TSO Adopt a Player Programme – two charities which benefit the lives of young people in Toronto.

Jordi Savall

16As a viol player, I can’t help being excited about the upcoming concert of a master of the viol and its music, Jordi Savall. As well as a wonderful gambist, he’s a conductor, teacher, scholar and musical philosopher; his work has had wide-ranging impact in practically all aspects of early music performance over the past several decades. He speaks of “restoring musical memory,” in the sense of awakening our awareness of cultural roots – not only Western cultures, but all co-existing ones – in order that music can proceed into the future. (“A people with no memory has no future,” he says.) To this end, his research, recording and performing are geared to recreating authentic early musical environments, always with great artistry.

On May 8, with this philosophy in mind, he’ll bring to Toronto’s Koerner Hall his own two groups – Hespèrion XXI and La Capella Reial de Catalunya – along with his wife, soprano Montserrat Figueras and the Mexican chamber group Tembembe Ensamble Continuo, to present The Route of the New World: Spain – Mexico. The concert is described as a musical dialogue, featuring works by the foremost composers from Old Spain, the Mexican Baroque, and the living Huasteca and Jarocho traditions. It has been praised for its “exuberant and spontaneous creative energy,” with a presentation that is “lavish and scholarly.”

Savall says, “When you sing or play something, you touch somebody; the performer is in the process of mastering the art, and the listener becomes a kind of pupil who learns according to his or her sensitivity and abilities. The most important thing is that music is a dialogue. A musician doesn’t exist unless there is someone there with whom he or she is communicating. And the more sensitive this someone is, the more the musician can communicate. A truly living relationship is established between the two.”

A live appearance by Savall and his ensembles doesn’t happen in these parts very often, so don’t miss receiving its riches!

Others, Briefly

• May 3 to 8: An explosion of Handel, as Classical Music Consort presents Handelfest 2011, their second annual springtime Handel festival – six concerts over six days featuring some of the composer’s lesser-known music, plus a Handel Singing Competition.

• May 8: In Kitchener, Nota Bene Period Orchestra presents “Harmony in Chaos,” a programme of musical representations of disasters, both natural and man-made (nonetheless including beautiful music by composers such as Telemann, Vivaldi, Falconieri and Tomkins).

• May 11 to 14, 17: Virtuoso violinist and conductor Stefano Montanari returns to Tafelmusik, for a programme of exuberant Italian symphonies and concertos. (Note: Due to injury, Stefano Montanari will only be conducting.)

• May 13: In Kingston, the Melos Ensemble and Chamber Orchestra present “Recorders, Viols and Voices” – music from the Renaissance including a mass by Victoria, Elizabethan and Italian madrigals and instrumental music on period instruments.

• May 14: Aradia Ensemble. Bach + 1. Bach plus a singer, Bach plus a dancer and Bach plus an artist.
• May 15: Toronto Chamber Choir explores Bach’s fascination with numbers, in “Kaffeemusik: Bach and Numerology,” uncovering numerological secrets to be found hidden in the St. Matthew Passion, the B Minor Mass, and the cantata Christ lag in Todesbanden.

• May 23 and 24: Toronto Continuo Collective, the Cardinal Consort of Viols and guests present “Joyne Hands!: Chamber Music from Seventeenth-Century London,” which includes Lanier’s dramatic lament for Hero and Leander (considered the first piece of English recitative), and the sublime Royal Consorts by Lawes for four viols and two theorbos.

• June 5: Toronto Early Music Centre’s” Musically Speaking” series presents baroque music by women composers, in the Church of the Holy Trinity’s lovely acoustic.

If all this isn’t enough, don’t forget other compelling concerts mentioned in last month’s column: Toronto Masque Theatre’s “Masques of Orpheus” (May 5 and 6); Toronto Consort’s “Songs of the Celestial Sirens” (May 6 to 8); I Furiosi’s “Baroqueback Mountain” (May 7); Tallis Choir’s “Handel: Coronation Anthems” (May 7); Cantemus Singers’ Saints and Sinners (May 7 and 8).

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

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