You’d do well to keep your frequent flyer card handy over the next two months. I know I will. We new-music seekers are going to be bouncing between Toronto and Ottawa a lot if we want to catch all the excellent programming promised by the mainstay festivals, as well as a few new offerings in a sizzling summer concert calendar.
We’ll start in Toronto with the 12th edition of New Adventures in Sound Art’s Sound Travels festival, which has a healthy run from June 26-September 26. Sound Travels takes a more grounded focus to sound and space than other NAISA festivals, bringing together a mix of interactive installations, performances, sound walks and workshops at their home in the Artscape Wychwood Barns. Featured artists include Toronto’s own Rose Bolton alongside Marcelle Deschênes, David Eagle, Ned Bouhalassa, D. Andrew Stewart, Satoshi Morita and Rob Cruickshank, among others. Full programming details are available at www.naisa.ca.
Next, we bounce over to Ottawa, where the adage seems to be “enough is never enough.” While our nation’s capital is already home to the world’s largest chamber music festival, it will welcome a new contender this summer, Music and Beyond. Running from July 5-14, Music and Beyond’s 85 concerts will forge links between music and other art forms in concerts featuring some of the greatest names in classical music. While new music from many countries can be found throughout the festival programming, those of us looking for a “bang for our buck” will want to pay attention to the mid-festival dates.
On July 8, CBC Radio 2, the National Gallery of Canada and Music and Beyond will unveil the results of their Gallery Project – the culmination of a national contest to choose five works of art from the Gallery to inspire new compositions. The programme includes works by a cross-country collection of Canadian composers, including Jocelyn Morlock, Denis Bédard, Michael Conway Baker, Colin Mack, Scott Macmillan, Elizabeth Raum and Kelly-Marie Murphy. The following day, Music and Beyond partners with the Ottawa New Music Creators to celebrate local composers Gabor Finta, Steven Gellman and Patrick Cardy at the Church of St. John the Evangelist. Across both days, the National Arts Centre Orchestra will open its afternoon rehearsals to the public with two new music reading sessions. Conductor Gary Kulesha will lead the orchestra in explorations of new orchestral works by both emerging and established Canadian composers. For full Music and Beyond festival details, and to purchase passes, visit www.musicandbeyond.ca.
Back in Toronto, the lovely Queen of Puddings Music Theatre will unveil its latest project from July 29-31 at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts. Beauty Dissolves in a Brief Hour comprises three distinct chamber operas sung in three languages (Mandarin, English and medieval French), exploring three cultures and three historical periods within the music of three Canadian composers: Fuhong Shi, John Rea and Pierre Klanac. Written for soprano, mezzo-soprano and accordion, these three premiere pieces are connected by the universal theme of love, and will be presented as one fully staged opera work. Two Toronto new opera pros, soprano Xin Wang and mezzo Krisztina Szabo, share the stage with accordionist John Lettieri. Tickets to Beauty Dissolves in a Brief Hour can be purchased through www.youngcentre.ca or 416-866-8666. To learn more about Queen of Puddings visit www.queenofpuddingsmusictheatre.com.
Meanwhile, running parallel to Beauty Dissolves is the Ottawa premiere of Christos Hatzis’ wildly successful Constantinople, featuring the Gryphon Trio with the extremely talented cabaret/opera singer Patricia O’Callaghan and renowned world music vocalist Maryem Tollar. This multimedia, concert-length chamber work, which has been presented to sold-out audiences on two continents, is a feature presentation of the 17th Ottawa International Chamber Music Festival, on July 29.
While the Ottawa festival gets underway on July 24, the real new music activity starts up on August 2 with the annual New Music Marathon. This year’s version offers no less than six concerts under the New Music Dialogues banner, all housed at the handsome St. Brigid’s Centre for the Arts near Ottawa’s bustling Byward Market. Highlights include the world renowned Penderecki String Quartet performing new music by Canadian composer Marjan Mozetich; the world premiere of 9 Dances for Flute and Accordion by Toronto-based composer Juliet Palmer; Alexina Louie’s spellbinding Take the Dog Sled for two Inuit throat-singers and ensemble; and the Gryphon Trio performing works by Gary Kulesha. Adventurous listeners will want to explore the Late Night at St. Brigid’s series, where Montreal composer Nicole Lizée pushes musical boundaries with turntablist DJ P-LOVE and the maverick trio Toca Loca. Full festival details, tickets and passes are available through www.chamberfest.com.
Finally, we return to Toronto, where the Toronto Summer Music Festival will be underway July 20 – August 14. July 30 seems to be a very popular date in the festival calendar. This time, we get to hear the Penderecki String Quartet, strong champions of new music, in a programme of five new string quartets. Waterloo-based composer Glenn Buhr gets special attention in this year’s festival: the Pendereckis will perform his Quartet No. 4 and the composer himself will give a pre-concert talk on all five new works. (I was hoping that we would get an earful of the results from Toronto Summer Music’s Composer Workshop, but this young addition to their academy programming seems to have been inexplicably and sadly cancelled.) On August 7 at the University of Toronto’s MacMillan Theatre the festival will premiere Buhr’s Song of the Earth, a companion piece to the well known and loved Mahler song-cycle. Both will appear in versions for chamber ensemble with soloists Roxana Constantinescu and Gordon Gietz. For full festival details, and to purchase tickets, visit www.torontosummermusic.com.
After all of our city and concert-hopping, we can finally take advantage of the late summer weather and rest up for the concert season ahead. But not for too long! New music makes its return on September 26 with the Toronto New Music Marathon – eight hours of continuous and contemporary sounds from Toronto’s new music creators in the lively Yonge-Dundas Square.
Jason van Eyk is the Ontario Regional Director of the Canadian Music Centre. He can be contacted at: email@example.com.