The effect of too many winter days indoors and the budding promise of spring seem to have inspired new music presenters to think of movement in March, and especially of the human desire to dance. Or perhaps it’s my own craving for unbundling weather – where we can move more freely – that’s making me see choreographic connections. Regardless, no fewer than six concerts this month touch on the subject openly or in more subtle ways.

New Music Concerts’ celebration of British composer Jonathan Harvey may be the most tangential to the theme, but I can’t go without mentioning it. Harvey’s remarkable training and unique opportunities for musical exploration have allowed him to gather influences from Berg, Messiaen and Britten to Babbitt and Boulez, which he then infuses with the power of Stockhausen and his own investigation of the mystical. Early successes have since opened doors for Harvey to compose for just about every classical genre, and for some of the world’s best soloists and ensembles. But his skill and imagination seem best applied to electroacoustics, which is the main feature of this March 6 concert at the Betty Oliphant Theatre.

Programme notes for works like The Riot (the only non-premiere here) read like descriptions of choreography. Musical themes bounce about sharply, join in polyphonic ensembles or re-combine in new configurations. Scena for solo violin and large ensemble develops just like a classical ballet. Be sure to arrive early for a pre-concert event, where U of T’s gamUT ensemble will deliver the world premiere of Harvey’s Vajra. Harvey is in constant demand for commissions, meaning his dance card is plenty full, so any chance to catch a new work of his is a special one. To learn more or buy tickets, visit

On March 17, pianist Christina Petrowska Quilico will unveil the results of her Glass Houses Revisited recording project in a live concert at the Glenn Gould Studio. The CD, released on Centrediscs, consists of extensive revisions to nine selections from the original 1981 Glass Houses by composer Ann Southam, and was Petrowksa Quilico’s last Southam collaboration before the composer’s sudden passing last November.

In her incomplete programme notes, Southam explained the genesis of the work: “I have called these pieces Glass Houses in order to identify them as minimalist music. The best known composer of this style of music at the time… The tunes in Glass Houses were inspired by… Canadian east coast fiddle music. Generally speaking, these tunes are spun out… until all tunes are present, at which point they wind back to the beginning.”

Petrowska Quilico describes Glass Houses Revisited as “fiendishly difficult,” comparing the cycle to Ligeti’s etudes, Liszt’s Transcendental Etudes and to the complexity of Bach’s counterpoint – fleet, virtuosic dances around the keyboard. It’s interesting to note that Southam was a celebrated composer of music for dance, having written over 40 scores for the likes of Patricia Beatty and the New Dance Group of Canada (now the Toronto Dance Theatre) and for other companies and choreographers such as Danny Grossman, Dancemakers, Rachel Browne and Christopher House, including House’s acclaimed choreography set to Glass Houses. To learn more about Ann Southam and her work, visit ickets,

Continuum returns to Toronto from the 2011 Montréal/Nouvelles Musiques Festival for a March 20 concert at the Music Gallery. Titled “Step, Turn, Kick,” the programming here is grounded in the idea of “dancing in the mind.” At its core is a quartet of new pieces by Canadian composers Cassandra Miller, Nicolas Gilbert, Linda C. Smith and Lori Freedman, that, taken together, can be imagined as a French baroque dance suite for the 21st century. Also featured is the Canadian premiere of Marc Sabat’s John Jenkins, a work inspired by the prolific 17th-century English composer and dance master. Rounding out the concert are solos and duos by UK’s Michel Finnissy and Holland’s Martijn Padding that express an impulse to move. To learn more about Continuum, visit Tickets will be available at the door.

23_deromeI’m very eager to hear Julie-Anne Derome in recital on March 24 at the Jane Mallett Theatre. This new music specialist presents an ambitious programme rich with Canadian content. She will open with the brief but intense Ivresses, songes, sourdes nuit by Québec composer Jean Lesage. Its percussive sonics and other dramatic effects make it ripe for use as a solo dance soundtrack. Chan Ka Nin’s very popular Soulmate, taken from his figure-skating-inspired Poetry on Ice, will offer a nice counterbalance. And closing the evening is Tracking for solo violin and live video by Laurie Radford. Radford defines “tracking” in the sense of the title as “the coordination of speed and gesture for two points locked in a reciprocal force and action.” Put simply, the act of both leading and following, as in a pas de deux. Radford further explains that tracking implies linked relationships between time, material and action, controlling energy and gravitational force. All very heady stuff, but it sounds very dance-like to me! More details are available through

The Scarborough Philharmonic carries through the dance theme to April 2 with a new work by their Composer-in-Residence, Alex Eddington. Entitled Dancing about Architecture, Eddington describes the work for nine wind instruments and percussion as “a new way to organize a dance suite”, inspired by Jean Cocteau’s phrase “Give me music I can live in like a house!” This concert at the St. John the Baptist Norway Anglican Church also features world premieres by Toronto’s Phil McConnell and American composer Bruce Broughton. For more details and to reserve tickets, visit

We end on a high-energy note on April 3 with the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony and their premiere of Brian Current’s Whirling Dervish for sufi whirling and orchestra. If you have never experienced Sufi whirling – a dynamic, dancing form of mystic meditation – then you’re in for a treat. It can be a mesmerizing experience, and I’m sure Current has come up with some excellent new music to make this an event that will spin us right into spring! For more details, visit

From dances of the mind to mystic motion, new music never ceases to move us. So be sure to get in with the new via the WholeNote concert listings here and online at ν

Jason Van Eyk is the Ontario Regional Director of the Canadian Music Centre. He can be contacted at

Why is it that the winter months attract new music festivals? Is it because Canadian artistic directors feel that we contemporary music lovers are a highly dedicated lot, determined to weather the cold, the snow or any storm to experience the latest premiere or discover that new composer? Or is it simply now a matter of tradition? One of our hallmarks – the Winnipeg New Music Festival – celebrates 20 years of new music making this season. Whatever the case, we must all be attending these festivals with enough verve and volume that our country’s music institutions are encouraged to keep offering us more. For, just as Winnipeg, Halifax’s Open Water Festival and the U of T New Music Festival are all wrapping up in the first days of February, the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra is gearing up for the sophomore edition of its What Next? Festival.

p16_17_parmela_attariwala_and_shawn_mativetskyIn 2011, What Next? expands upon its successful inaugural celebration by placing an emphasis on the multidisciplinary. From February 3 to 6, HPO-invited creators will cross-pollinate, taking to various locations throughout the city to present intriguing collaborations across different genres. Among them are numerous champions of Canadian composers’ music, such as violinist Parmela Attariwala and tablaplayer Shawn Mativetsky, who perform together as the Attar Project, and who often also incorporate South Asian influenced dance. Pianist Eve Egoyan and artist David Rokeby will present their mesmerizing Surface Tension project for disklavier and interactive video at the Art Gallery of Hamilton, where the McMaster Cybernetic Laptop Orchestra and Percussion Ensemble (led by composer DavidOgborn) will also unleash cutting edge sounds. In addition to these collaboration concerts and their related panel discussions, What Next? will also feature three chamber music concerts by HPO musicians. Friday’s “Rain Coming” will celebrate Canadian women composers Abigail Richardson and Nicole Lizée; Saturday’s “Buzz and Hum” will feature chamber music for brass by Jacques Hétu, Jeffrey Ryan, Scott Good and Michael Horwood; and Sunday’s “Kiss On Wood” showcases string music from Kotoka Suzuki, Toru Takemitsu and others inspired by nature, pop and cartoons. For complete details on the 2011 What Next? Festival visit

If you can’t make it to Hamilton for What Next? then there’s a nice duo of concerts in Kitchener-Waterloo that you may want to catch. On February 9, mezzo-soprano Ramona Carmelly will resume the role of famous Canadian painter Emily Carr for a reduced remount of Jana Skarecky’s Emily, the Way You Are at Conrad Grebel University. This one-woman opera, based on a libretto by poet Di Brandt, was premiered by Carmelly and the Talisker Players at the McMichael Gallery in 2008, as part of the New Music in New Places series. An excerpt of this performance, along with programme notes, can be found in Skarecky’s profile as part of the Canadian Music Centre’s Influence of Many Musics online project at Then, on February 12 at Centre in the Square, the Grand Philharmonic Choir, the KW Symphony and violist Rivka Golani, all under the baton of conductor Mark Vuorinen, will premiere Kingston-based John Burge’s latest large-scale work. Entitled Declaration, the score takes its inspiration from the text of the United National Declaration of Human Rights, which was drafted by a Canadian – John Humphreys – during his tenure as the UN’s first Director of the Human Rights Division, and was globally adopted over 60 years ago.

If Hamilton and KW are too far away for you, especially in this winter weather, then there’s a trio of Toronto concerts to consider. First is Trio Voce’s February 17 appearance in the Music Toronto series. Alongside works by Shostakovich and Beethoven, this accomplished, all-female and Canadian piano trio will give the Toronto premiere of American composer Jonathan Berger’s Memory Slips. A Professor of Music at Stanford University, Berger is also an active researcher in a wide range of fields relating to music, science and technology. He’ll be present for this concert at the Jane Mallett Theatre to explain, amongst the music making, his current research and personal experiences with music, memory and aging. To learn more and purchase tickets, visit the St. Lawrence Centre box office at

On February 24 Soundstreams invites Les Percussions de Strasbourg to Koerner Hall as part of the ensemble’s 50th anniversary tour. Co-founded in 1962, this sextet is the first known Western percussion group. Their exceptional longevity, artistry and commitment to new music have inspired the creation of hundreds of works. Their anniversary program cradles a world premiere from Canadian composer Andrew Staniland, who has a strong command of percussion writing, between contemporary classics by Xenakis (his iconic Persephassa) and John Cage (Credo in US.) For more details and to purchase tickets visit

p16_17_vincent_ho_portrait_photo_by_hans_arnoldThe Array Ensemble will take to the Music Gallery on February 27 to perform a collection of Canadian works drawn from their extensive score archive. This program of pieces from Martin Arnold, Scott Godin, Michael Oesterle and Rodney Sharman will be complemented by a newer work for the ensemble from past Array Artistic Director Linda Catlin Smith, which was premiered last season as part of the Contemporary Classics concert. Array has been very diligent in cataloguing their extensive score library, which includes over 250 commissioned works. Thankfully, they’ve made this catalogue publicly available online at It’s a useful tool for new music geeks like me. More information about the upcoming concert and how to buy tickets is also available at the Array website.

As I mentioned, February is bookended by yet another new music festival. This time it’s the TSO’s seventh New Creations, which will focus on cross-border exchanges, with music by guest American composers John Adams and Jennifer Higdon. Canada is represented here not only by TSO Composer Advisor Gary Kulesha, who will have his Torque performed on March 5, but also by Winnipeg-based Vincent Ho, in the form of his percussion concerto, The Shaman, which was premiered by remarkable Dame Evelyn Glennie during this year’s Winnipeg New Music Festival and will be repeated here on March 2. The work’s title is inspired by Ho’s impression of Glennie as a musical shaman, bridging human and spiritual worlds with her spellbinding performances. Adams is well represented with his now classic Short Ride in a Fast Machine and other works, and also with a TSO co-commission, City Noir. However, I’m particularly looking forward to the festival finale concert on March 10 with guest artists eighth blackbird. This dynamic ensemble will join the orchestra in a freshly commissioned chamber concerto from Higdon, which will sit alongside the world premiere of our own R. Murray Schafer’s latest symphonic work, simply titled Symphony No. 1. For more info about the 2011 New Creations Festival and to buy tickets visit

From the multidisciplinary to the simply symphonic, new music never ceases to seduce us. So be sure to get in with the new via our concert listings here and online at

Jason van Eyk is the Ontario Regional Director of the Canadian Music Centre. He can be contacted at

This time of year and the ensuing holiday cheer inevitably result in a rash of Messiahs, Nutcrackers, and other ubiquitous advent events. But those with a taste for the new shouldn’t fear. There’s still plenty to satisfy now and into the new year. In fact, Toronto music presenters have produced such a rich arrangement that curious ears will be challenged in deciding what to hear.

p16December 3 is a good case in point, when the calendar is triple booked with new music. Wind enthusiasts will want to make their way to MacMillan Theatre to hear the U of T Wind Ensemble perform Christos Hatzis’ Tongues of Fire. This eclectic percussion concerto was originally commissioned by the Scotia Festival in 2007 for full orchestra and soloists Beverley Johnston and Dame Evelyn Glennie. The work caught the ear of conductor Glenn Price, who commissioned Toronto composer Kevin Lau to arrange a wind ensemble version for an international assortment of eleven ensembles. Beverley Johnston serves as soloist for this Toronto premiere, part of an all-contemporary programme, with works by Americans Joseph Schwanter and Morten Lauridsen, and Canadian John Estacio. Call 416-978-3744 for more info.

Those with a taste for French music should visit the Alliance Française, where pianist Adam Sherkin, soprano Jennifer Taverner, flautist Tristan Durie and toy pianist Stéphanie Chua perform a sonic architecture of music by Iannis Xenakis and Philippe Leroux. Details are available by phone at 416-922-2014. Meanwhile, those seeking the latest sounds from New York City can shuttle over to Gallery 345 to hear Canadian pianist Vicky Chow. An internationally accomplished soloist and new-music collaborator, Ms. Chow has worked with top-tier composers such as John Adams and Louis Andriessen. In addition to being a member of the illustrious Bang On A Can All-Stars, she is the pianist for the Chicago-based avant-garde Opera Cabal and NYC’s ai ensemble. For her visit to Toronto, Ms. Chow performs an assemblage of world and Canadian premieres by the likes of Bang on a Can colleagues David Lang and Evan Ziporyn, as well as works by early-career composers Ryan Anthony Francis, Daniel Wohl, Eliot Britton and Andy Jakub Ciupinski. For more info visit or call 416-822-9781.

Those who want to avoid selection stress should wait until December 4, when the San Agustin Duo appears at Gallery 345 in an all-Canadian programme of music by women composers. Violinist Emma Banfield and pianist Diana Dumlavwalla perform a gamut of Canadian violin literature, from pioneer Gena Branscombe through to contemporary classics from Kelly Marie Murphy and Alice Ho.

On December 10, there’s a mixed double bill to challenge your choice-making skills. Canadian violinist Leila Josefowicz appears at Koerner Hall with a programme including Stravinsky and Shostakovich, but more notably a recent work by world-famous Estonian composer Erkki-Sven Tüür. Tüür’s music isn’t often heard in Toronto, and I can’t really describe it well myself, but this Conversio for violin and piano has been compared to a cross between Steve Reich and Messiaen. Sounds intriguing. Meanwhile, over at the Isabel Bader Theatre, New Music Concerts continues its decades-long relationship with the long-lived American composer Elliott Carter, who continues to create at a remarkable rate. This concert features the Canadian premieres of several new works written within the last two years, among them the long-awaited Flute Concerto. Carter gets his tribute concert on the eve of his 102nd birthday no less! More details are available at

p18We arrive at mid-month with a simple selection of demanding but mesmerizing music by Hungarian composer György Kurtág. On December 16, mezzo Krisztina Szabó and pianist John Hess offer a programme of vocal and chamber works in tribute to this most important Hungarian composer. The noon-hour concert at the Richard Bradshaw Theatre will feature Kurtág’s harrowing Attila József Fragments for solo voice, Three Old Inscriptions for voice and piano, as well as works for solo piano and piano four hands. More details are available at

Then you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy the holiday season and rest up before the New Year. And I assure that you will want to recharge your batteries, because the January new-music schedule is jam-packed with not-to-be-missed events.

We start with the spectacular, Victoria-based Aventa Ensemble, which returns to Toronto on January 4 to launch their 2011 Canadian tour at the Music Gallery. The programme includes a word premiere from Vancouver-based Jordan Nobles for spatialized ensemble, alongside works by Quebec’s quirky André Ristic and a contemporary classic from Pierre Boulez.

New Music Concerts opens the second half of their season on January 14 at the Music Gallery, with the renowned Diotima Quartet in a programme of recent works by 21st century, heavy-hitting composers like James Dillon, Emmanuel Nunes, Roger Reynolds and Thomas Larcher. This music selection – all Canadian premieres – has been carefully curated in co-operation with NMC to represent the range of international composers that both groups have worked closely with over the years.

On January 16, Mooredale Concerts pairs trombonist Alain Trudel and organist Peter Webb for an unique afternoon concert. The programme includes works by well-known 20th century composers Holst, Schnittke, Messiaen and others, but also features the world premiere of Flow for trombone and organ by Vancouver Symphony Orchestra composer-in-residence Scott Good. More details are available at and 416-587-9411.

The following day, Continuum launches its season with a one-two punch. On January 17, soprano Carla Huhtanen joins Continuum’s ensemble to release Raw, the Centrediscs CD of James Rolfe’s chamber music, marking in the process a 20-year partnership between the presenter and one of Canada’s most accomplished composers. A scant week later, on January 24, Continuum collaborates with students from OCADU to explore associations between visual and musical arts. Choosing from some of Continuum’s best repertoire – including thirteen works by the most adventurous Canadian and international composers – students filter music through the visual in various curatorial fashions. For more info visit or call 416-924-4945.

In between, on January 22, Tapestry New Opera Works delves back into its library of contemporary stage works to pick the most memorable arias for “The Tapestry Songbook.” The selections have been carefully made by long-time Tapestry collaborator Chris Foley and will be performed by members of the Tapestry New Work Studio Company alongside recent workshop participants. For more info, visit or call 416-537-6066.

Spanning the last week of January is the ever-expanding University of Toronto New Music Festival, which this year hubs around distinguished visiting composer Chen Yi. Now based in the USA, Chen is a prolific and highly awarded Chinese composer who blends musical traditions from the East and West, thus transcending cultural boundaries. The ten events that cover the January 23-29 festival dates include composer talks, student recitals, faculty concerts and multimedia events, and feature no less than six concerts of Chen’s music. For full details visit

Once again, on January 25 we arrive at a choice challenge. At noon, wind and string ensembles from the Glenn Gould School fill the Richard Bradshaw Theatre with a celebration of the Argentine composer Osvaldo Golijov. In addition to select Golijov works – Lullaby and Doina for mixed chamber ensemble and a new work for violin and piano – the programme includes pieces by Ginastera and Prokofiev that reflect Golijov’s rich cultural heritage. And while Chen Yi gives a talk at Walter Hall, Soundstreams will be presenting works by other Chinese composers at Koerner Hall, most notably fellow American Tan Dun and his Ghost Opera. This chamber work for string quartet and pipa explores ancient Chinese shamanism. Surrounding Ghost Opera are a premiere from Canadian composer Dorothy Chang and works by Chen Xiaoyong. You can find details at

The month closes out without conflict (but perhaps very full ears) on January 30 at Koerner Hall, where Esprit Orchestra will partner with the Elmer Iseler Singers for a powerful programme hinging on Giya Kancheli’s Styx for orchestra, chorus and viola. Haled as a 21st- century choral masterpiece, Styx is dedicated to departed composer colleagues Schnittke and Terterian. The masterful violist Teng Li joins Esprit as soloist. The programme is completed with a counterbalance of works from Ligeti and Canadians Douglas Schmidt and José Evangelista. More details are available at

From cheer to lament, new expressions through music never cease. So be sure to get in with the new via The WholeNote’s concert listings, here and online at

Jason van Eyk is the Ontario Regional Director of the Canadian Music Centre. He can be contacted at

Emerging and early career composers are making their mark all over the November concert calendar. No less than half a dozen upcoming Toronto events feature fresh and fascinating works by new, international and increasingly noticeable local names – sometimes in showcase formats, but just as often tucked into more traditional programming.

p22bOne of those more noticeable locals is composer Kevin Lau, who will have his symphonic work Artemis performed by the Sneak Peek Orchestra on November 6 at the Calvin Presbyterian Church. Lau is a remarkably prolific young composer, gifted with a strong control of his craft and an easily approachable musical voice. As a result, he already holds to his credit commissions and premieres from the likes of the Esprit Orchestra, the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra, the Toronto Philharmonia and the Cecilia String Quartet. He’s also co-founder with conductor Victor Cheng of Sneak Peek, one of Toronto’s fastest-rising symphonic ensembles, and one that specifically showcases the talents of this city’s emerging professionals.

Lau describes Artemis as “a musical portrait of the Greek goddess in the manner of Holst’s The Planets, whose seven movements are based on the Greek deities’ Roman counterparts. The movement “Mars, the Bringer of War” was particularly influential in the conception of this piece. At the same time, I sought to emphasize qualities which I thought would befit a more feminine warrior: speed and swiftness, lightness, agility.” Artemis will sit alongside Glenn Buhr’s slow and spacious symphonic miniature Akasha, and more classical fare from Brahms and Berlioz. For more info visit

The following afternoon marks the beginning of Alain Trudel’s appointment as the Hannaford Street Silver Band’s principal guest conductor. Oddly enough, the programme will include a brass band arrangement of Holst’s The Planets and a new work from another of our local emerging talent, composer Rob Teehan. We heard a lot about Teehan last month during his residency at the Colours of Music Festival in Barrie, where he had no less than three world premieres, including two for major choral and orchestral forces.

When I asked him about his latest work, titled Wildfire, he explained “It’s very fast, very rhythmic, aggressive, somewhat dark, and it will push the players to their limit. I think I wrote it because I spent the summer writing beautiful, slow music and I needed a change of pace. It was nice to get back to brass writing, since that’s my original background, as a tuba player.” This is Teehan’s second time working with Trudel. The first was for his orchestral work Dream of Flying, which was premiered and recorded by the National Youth Orchestra of Canada, and subsequently nominated for a 2010 Juno. For more info about the concert and to get tickets, visit

p24aOn November 10 and 11, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra brings back the distinctive voice of early-career composer Krystof Maratka. We first heard of Maratka in 2004 with the world premiere of his Otisk, a TSO commission that came only two years after this Czech-born, Paris-based composer started making a significant mark in Europe. Now 38 years old – still an early age in any composer’s creative development cycle – Maratka has amassed commissions, premieres and residencies with some of the world’s leading cultural institutions, not to mention two CDs dedicated to his music. He returns to Toronto with his 2002 viola concerto Astrophonia, which has been described as a “poetic voyage on the origins of the cosmos.” The two-movement work is dedicated to his wife, violist Karine Lethiec, whose strong interest in the alliance between music and the universe has clearly inspired the concerto’s theme. At 23 minutes in length, it’s a substantial work around which Peter Oundjian has built this Slavic Celebration concert, including works by Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev and Janáček. For more details and to purchase tickets, visit

The centerpiece of this month’s emerging composer theme falls on November 14, when New Music Concerts plays host to Ensemble contemporain de Montréal +, and their biennial “Generation” tour. Building on its mandate to encourage and support musical creativity, ECM+’s project offers a unique and extensive professional development platform for composers under the age of 35. Since 1994, it has been discovering and nurturing the next generation of Canadian music creators, most of whom go on to make significant marks on the national and international music scene. The only project of its kind in Canada, Generation encourages musical research through live experimentation. Over the course of two years, four carefully selected young composers explore their musical voices by developing new works in collaboration with the ECM+ ensemble and their remarkable director Véronique Lacroix. The results are then presented in a cross-Canada tour, which – in addition to creating major exposure – builds new professional networks for these emerging talents.

The 2010 Generation composers are Simon Martin (Montreal), Christopher Mayo (Toronto/London, UK), Cassandra Miller (Victoria) and Gordon Williamson (Toronto/Bloomington, Indiana). Despite their young age, all of them are Associate Composers of the Canadian Music Centre, and many carry a cache of international experience and high-level accolades. For example, Gordon Williamson was a finalist in the CBC’s recent “Evolution” Young Composers Competition and Simon Martin has been a finalist in the prestigious Jules Léger Prize for Chamber Music. Chris Mayo and Cassandra Miller both already have international careers, most notably in the UK and the Netherlands respectively. Consequently, the Generation tour is a rare chance to hear some of the absolute best up-and-coming Canadian voices. For more info about the Generation program visit To purchase tickets for the November 14 concert at the Music Gallery visit

p24bBut the discovery of new musical voices doesn’t stop there. Both York University and the University of Toronto showcase new music by their student composers on November 16 and 30 respectively. On November 18, 32-year-old Polish-American (and now Canadian) composer Norbert Palej – a recent addition to the U of T faculty – joins clarinetist Peter Stoll on stage at Walter Hall in a free lunchtime concert of his works for clarinet. That same evening, the Gryphon Trio performs selections from their Young Composers Program alongside core repertoire by Ives, Beethoven and Dvorak for the Music Toronto series. So be sure to get in with the new via The WholeNote’s concert listings here.


Jason van Eyk is the Ontario Regional Director of the Canadian Music Centre. He can be contacted at

October continues to be a crossover month in the new-music calendar, with four festivals overlapping with several season openers.

p15We start north of Toronto at the closing weekend of Barrie’s Colours of Music Festival, where Toronto composer Rob Teehan is in residence. These two days include no less than three world premieres from the prolific early-career composer. On October 2 in the afternoon the extremely talented Duo Concertante – violinist Nancy Dahn and pianist Timothy Steeves – perform a new work by Teehan alongside pieces by Prokofiev, Schubert and Chan Ka Nin. If you can’t catch them here, you can also hear Duo Concertante at Walter Hall in Toronto on October 7, where they will premiere a new work by Chan, which incidentally also appears on their recently released Wild Bird CD on the Centrediscs label (reviewed in this month’s WholeNote). The following afternoon, the combined forces of the Primus Men’s Choir and Brassroots ensemble deliver an all-Canadian programme, featuring Teehan’s latest creation in combination with work by Western composers Stephen Hatfield and Allan Gilliland. The festival wraps up Sunday evening with a gala concert featuring Sinfonia Toronto and a stellar roster of soloists ranging from harpist Judy Loman to flautist Marc Grauwels and – you guessed it – an orchestral world premiere from Teehan.

Those who can make it to the festival a little earlier should catch violist Rivka Golani’s concert with the fantastic young TorQ percussion ensemble on October 1. Golani single-handedly established the viola and percussion combo as a made-in-Canada genre through her many commissions, and this programme offers some of the best in the bunch. You can find full festival details online at or by calling 705-725-1070.

Scotiabank Nuit Blanche will just be getting underway as Colours of Music closes up. This overwhelmingly successful, all-night contemporary art extravaganza gains more sonic content every year. For its fifth edition, which starts in Toronto at sundown on October 2, there are no less than five new-music projects worth mentioning. The Canadian Music Centre explores the interface between art and music in its Intimate Music project. Berlin-based Chiyoko Szlavnics pursues intimacies through her minimalist composition drawings, while Toronto’s John Oswald creates musical experiences for cozy spaces in Chalmers House.

Over at the ROM, you can find Laurel MacDonald’s sonic video installation XXIX, which depicts 29 singers performing in 29 languages, their voices emanating from 29 speakers. A few doors down, the Royal Conservatory will pulse with live music and projections all night long, including a series of videomusic performances. Travel over to the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre to catch the junctQín keyboard collective tackling Douglas C. Wadle’s Invention in Three Parts performance installation. Simultaneously, a sound artist will create a live mix from the sounds of a performing solo cellist.

Push further west to catch Micheline Roi’s Obsolescence at 601 Christie. This sound installation inverts the roles of current and outmoded technologies to question the ever-evolving means by which music reaches us. Loudspeakers become antique ornaments while an antique piano evolves into a transducer for other sounds. Get full details for these and other works at

New Adventures in Sound Art’s annual SOUNDplay festival overlaps its opening with Nuit Blanche. Roi’s Obsolescence is just part of their extended line-up of installations and concerts that cross paths between sound art and new media, all leading to new avenues for exploration. As artistic director Darren Copeland explains “Sound artists are continually challenged to reevaluate their artistic practice in the light of changing technologies. SOUNDplay is a starting point for exploring new possibilities of sound in relation to other artistic media and sensory experiences.” To date, confirmed artists include Mike Hansen, the Off-Centre DJ School with Erik Laar, Eric Powell, Helen Verbanz, Deb Sinha, Krista Martynes, Julien-Robert Legault Salvail and the Avatar Orchestra Metaverse with Tina Pearson. More programming details are to be announced, so stay in touch with to learn more.

Those who didn’t catch Rick Sacks’ spectacular conveyer belt percussion performance at last year’s Nuit Blanche can get an earful of his unique music creations on October 13 when New Music Concerts gives Rick the stage at Gallery 345 for “The Musical Theatre of Rick Sacks.” This fundraising concert features no less than three Toronto premieres of Sacks’ percussion performance pieces, including Light at the End of the Tunnel, Mbira Sketch for MalletKat and MalletKat Sketch II on a Bohlen Pierce Scale, the last performed with guest Peter Hannan. Details are available through and tickets can be purchased at 416-961-9594.

p16But the really big talk of October is the Music Gallery’s fifth X-Avant festival, which attempts to answer the question “What is real?” Guest curator Gregory Oh has been brought in to offer an answer through his wide-ranging programming that pulls at the threads of musical authenticity – letting them unravel enough to see what lies behind our presumptions of what makes music “real.”

X-Avant was originally conceived as the Music Gallery’s season-opening celebration, cutting across programming lines to showcase the depth and breadth of its myriad annual offerings. Oh has taken that intent to heart, bringing together a cross-section of artists, but in much more wildly unusual combinations. Take for example the festival-opening concert on October 16, which pairs Detroit techno pioneer Jeff Mills, whose electronic experiments meld with live acoustic performance and IRCAM inspired sound collage, with Montreal percussion band Big Zang, whose repertoire is inspired by the sound of DJ culture that Mills helped invent. It’s this type of cross-pollination that pervades X-Avant from beginning to end.

On October 22, X-Avant presents a madrigal ensemble, the RCM New Music Ensemble, and blues band Deep Dark United who will all join forces to re-interpret Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire. The closing “Dance Dance Revolution” collides live choreographic projects inspired by John Oswald’s Plunderphonics, George Aperghis’s dramatic music, and a virtual ballet created for a popular multi-player gaming environment. No convention is safe from Oh’s wild imagination, as you’ll see at

This is by no means all there is to hear. For example, Esprit Orchestra opens its season on October 17 at Koerner Hall with a long-awaited local premiere of Thomas Ades’ Asyla, among a stack of other great works. So be sure to get in with the new via The WholeNote concert listings here and online at

Finally, I must end with a correction and a clarification, both for my September column. First, the correction: one of the works appearing on Esprit Orchestra’s May 15 concert is indeed by music director Alex Pauk (not “Paul,” as printed.) The clarification is to say that, despite its longevity, Les Percussion des Strasbourg is a slightly rejuvenated ensemble. In the mid-to-late 70s, the founding members “sold” the name to some of their students. To be accurate, it is these students and their successors who are celebrating the ensemble’s 50th anniversary this year. Many thanks to percussionist Robin Engelman for supplying that detail.

Jason van Eyk is the Ontario Regional Director of the Canadian Music Centre. He can be contacted at:

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