For those of you who visit The WholeNote website (and I hope you all do), you’ll have seen Larry Lake’s article that extensively profiles the “perfect musical storm” of star composers who are gracing Toronto stages over the next few months. Rather than re-visiting the myriad of concerts, lectures and other events that Larry has already showcased (which also includes a good overview of the many accompanying world premieres by our own excellent Canadian composers), I thought I’d dig deeper to discover those February concerts that will feature an up-and-coming generation of Canadian music creators.

On February 9 and 10, the Talisker Players continue their annual vocal chamber-music series with a concert titled “To the Sea in Ships.” As you can imagine, this is an evening of nautically inspired works exploring high seas adventures from across the ages and around the world. Amongst works by Britain’s John Ireland and Arthur Bliss, America’s Lee Hoiby and our own Sir Ernest MacMillan is a newly commissioned work by young Toronto composer Juliet Hess.

P17Hess is a University of Toronto graduate who focused her studies on composition, music education, choral music, voice, and world music. While she worked in elementary music education for the TDSB, her compositional career also started to take off. It’s this marriage of educational and vocal backgrounds that has resulted in a number of works for children’s chorus, published by Boosey & Hawkes. However, her preference is for vocal chamber music, which made her a perfect match for the Taliskers. Hess is currently pursuing doctoral studies in world music education at OISE, while maintaining a foot in the music scene as a freelance composer, percussionist and choral musician.

Her latest work, The Mariner’s Albatross, sets an excerpt from Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner for tenor, oboe, clarinet, bassoon and double bass. The specific instrumentation was chosen to express the various dramatic elements of the text, in turns plaintive, melancholy, ironic and foreboding. The musical materials use chromatic undulations to depict the sea, while maintaining the consistent meter of the poetry, perpetuating the Mariner’s interminable situation. The Taliskers will be joined by tenor Keith Klassen to premiere The Mariner’s Albatross at Trinity St. Paul’s Centre. For more information, please visit

The Montreal-based Quasar saxophone quartet will land at the Music Gallery on February 13 as part of their 15th anniversary cross-Canada tour. The programme features newly commissioned pieces from a generational and aesthetic range of Canadian composers, specifically chosen to open a window onto the diversity and richness of our nation’s musical culture. The works written by Daniel Peter Biro (Victoria), Michael Matthew (Winnipeg) and Piotr Grella-Mozejko (Edmonton) are joined by two previously commissioned pieces, from the young Quebec composer Simon Martin and pioneer Gilles Tremblay, who is receiving a major celebration of his work in Quebec this season.

Despite Tremblay’s large presence, the Montréal-based Martin still manages to draw good attention to himself. At age 28 he’s already won three SOCAN Foundation prizes, was a 2008 finalist in the much coveted Jules Léger Award competition for new chamber music, has been broadcast on CBC, and was selected to participate in the National Arts Centre’s Young Composers’ Programme. As well, he’s been commissioned and selected by the Ensemble contemporain de Montréal to participate in the Génération 2010 Canadian tour.

His work for Quasar, titled Projections Libérantes, pays tribute to the famous Quebec modern painter Paul-Émile Borduas. It is inspired specifically by the 1949 text “Projections libérantes,” and the painting “Composition 69,” which was found on the artist’s easel upon his death in 1960. In his own work, Martin uses multiphonics – an extended wind technique that produces fractured and split sounds – almost exclusively. Martin treats these multiphonics like blocks that can be superimposed and juxtaposed, mirroring Borduas’ thick, black and white impastos.

The Quasar quartet will precede their concert with an open chamber music workshop on the afternoon of February 11, also at the Music Gallery. For more details about the Quasar quartet, visit To learn more about the composer, visit the Canadian Music Centre at For concert and workshop details, visit or call 416-204-1080.

Kevin Lau is another quickly emerging Toronto composer who’s experiencing a growing demand for his music by local ensembles. Since completing his first full composition in 1999, he’s had music commissioned and performed by the Esprit Orchestra, the Cecilia String Quartet and the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra – among many other eminent ensembles such as Eighth Blackbird, the Ensemble Contemporain de Montréal and the St. Lawrence String Quartet.

This month, he unveils two new creations. On February 13, the Mississauga Symphony premieres Lau’s Voyage to the East at the Living Arts Centre on a programme of Far-East inspired music for film and concert stage. The concert includes Colin McPhee’s popular Tabuh Tabuhan, Chan Ka Nin’s Flower Drum Song and excerpts from Tan Dun’s music for the film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Then, on February 18 and 19, Lau will get to hear his latest creation, a concerto for taiko drums and strings, which will be premiered by Via Salzburg and the Onnanoko Drumming Ensemble at the Glenn Gould Studio. The combination of warm string sounds and insistent taiko rhythms should provide for interesting contrasts. For more concert details, visit and To learn more about the composer and hear samples of his past work, visit the CMC website or

On February 27 the maverick Toca Loca ensemble belatedly releases its debut album, P*P at the Music Gallery. The disc, which has been both picked and panned by critics from all over, features music by some of  Canada’s most interesting composers: think Aaron Gervais, Geof Holbrook, Veronika Krausas, Nicole Lizée, Juliet Palmer, Erik Ross, Andrew Staniland and Robert Stevenson. It seems that Toca Loca hardly ever plays Toronto these days, and having already released P*P in Berlin and Vancouver, I’m sure they’ll be pleased to finally introduce the disc to their hometown audience. On the programme are works by American early-career composer Matthew Burtner – whose music has been described as horrific, beautiful, eerily, effective and impressive – the extremely popular Australian Matthew Hinson, and the virtuosic but often humorous Canadian André Ristic. For more details visit

But, of course, this isn’t all that’s on offer. Don’t miss New Music Concerts’ ringing-in of the Chinese New Year/Valentine’s Day on February 14 with world premiere works by composer couple Alice Ho and Chan Ka Nin, or Continuum’s much-anticipated James Rolfe retrospective, “The Thread,” on February 28 at the Royal Conservatory. Check in with all that’s new in the concert listings and at

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


It’s curious how time and the seasons can have such an effect on our perception. I think that Toronto’s new-music presenters have been influenced by the approaching end of 2009 and the impending new year in their programming choices. From December into January, many concerts are looking back, marking milestones and celebrating experience, while others look forward with fresh faces and new ideas. Several other concerts bridge the divide, bringing together time-tested talents with new creative voices.

The first case in point is the Music Gallery’s collaboration with Toronto New Music Projects. This will blend the established with the emerging, for an upcoming concert/workshop involving iconic French composer Phillippe Leroux.

p11_Kasemets A teacher of electronic music composition at IRCAM in Paris and currently a visiting professor at l’Université de Montréal, Leroux has studied with many great composers of the 20th century, including Oliver Messiaen, Franco Donatoni and Iannis Xenakis. He is recognized as part of a group of music creators (among them, the highly respected Gérard Grisey and Tristan Murail) who write in the post-spectralist style – a  combination of spectralism’s concern with the deconstructed components of sound as compositional material, but filtered through temporal transformations and other playful techniques. The results can be witty and often virtuosic.
On December 6, Toronto New Music Projects showcases Leroux’s chamber music in concert, including more recent works such as Voi(REX) for soprano, live electronics, and ensemble. An expanded TNMP ensemble (Stephen Clarke, piano; Sanya Eng, harp; Wallace Halladay, saxophones; and Ryan Scott, percussion) will feature soprano Carla Huhtanen, flautist Stephen Tam and guitartist Rob McDonald. David Adamcyk handles the electronics while Gregory Oh conducts. Ticketing details are available through the Music Gallery at or at 416-204-1080.

Although the official date went past on November 16, the new-music community will fête composer Udo Kasemets’ 90th birthday on December 13th at the Betty Oliphant Theatre. For the past 50-plus years, Kasemets has been a remarkable contributor to the GTA’s experimental music scene as a concert presenter, teacher and writer.

As a composer, Kasemets is best known as one who has shared the concerns of the international avant-garde. In the early 1960s he became a leading Canadian representative of John Cage’s school of experimental music. He has made use of chance operations and unusual performance methods in an attempt to approach a Cageian fusion of art and technology. Concepts of time and space, nature and memory, ancient and modern, also recur throughout his creative practice, with explorations ranging from Chinese and Mayan civilizations and their perceptions of time, to the theoretical work of Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking.
Udo Kasemets has written an impressive body of work, and remains active into the 21st century. In recent years, a younger generation of musicians has taken up his cause, performing and recording his music. Among them is pianist Stephen Clarke, who has premiered, performed and recorded several of Kasemets’ works. This process will continue on December 13, when New Music Concerts presents Kasemets with a tribute concert, featuring the Canadian premiere of his fraCtal fibONaCciERTO (1996) for piano and large ensemble, with Clarke as soloist. The New Music Concerts Ensemble will be directed by Robert Aitken. For event and ticketing details, visit or call 416-961-9594.

Arraymusic bridges the old and the new in a slightly different manner with two reading sessions drawn from their substantial collection of commissioned repertoire (now searchable online through a new music score library.) On December 19 the ensemble will perform at the Array Studio in a pay-what-you-can afternoon reading of works by Serge Provost and Michael J. Baker. The event will repeat in the new year on January 16 with music by Jo Kondo and Scott Godin. Further details and the Array Score Library can be found online at

Continuum continues the prevalent concert/workshop combination into 2010 with “Chrysalis” – a programme of freshly hatched sounds from some of Toronto’s most promising emerging composers. Step inside the creative process on January 24 as these Toronto talents are guided by the insightful Victoria-based composer Christopher Butterfield towards further success with their featured works. Butterfield’s skill, these composer’s fresh voices and the Continuum ensemble’s unique chemistry promise a memorable event. Gallery 345 provides an inviting atmosphere for all to explore new music together. This event is open to the public free of charge. Stay tuned to for further details.

Closing out the month is a significant collaboration between the U of T, Soundstreams Canada and the Esprit Orchestra. The annual U of T New Music Festival is always an exciting event, featuring the best work by some of Canada’s rising talents. It is also a fantastic vehicle through which to showcase the University’s annual Distinguished Visitor in Composition, who this year is none other than Krzysztof Penderecki – a living legend of contemporary music. Over the last 50 years of his career, Penderecki has collaborated with some of the world’s most outstanding soloists to create an impressive catalogue of music that spans every genre – from solo instrumental to opera, from chamber to film music.

On January 25, this eight-day festival opens with a panel discussion hosted by Soundstreams Canada at the Gardiner Museum, where Penderecki will speak with Canadian composer Norbert Palej about his years composing music in Communist Poland. The following few days intersperse conversations and composer masterclasses among concerts of Penderecki’s chamber music, performed by a mix of emerging talent and leading local musicians such as Steven Dann, Erika Raum, Shauna Rolston, Peter Stoll and Lydia Wong.

The festival culminates in two concerts of Penderecki’s larger works. On January 29, the Esprit Orchestra offers “Penderecki Plus!” at Koerner Hall. The programme reflects two periods in Penderecki’s stylistic evolution. Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima for 52 strings epitomizes the 1960s avant-garde, while the for three cellos and orchestra reveals the transformation of his voice through to the present.

On January 30 and 31, Soundstreams combines the forces of the Polish Chamber Choir with the Elmer Iseler Singers and the Toronto Children’s Chorus at the Metropolitan United Church for a grand retrospective of Penderecki’s work. The programme also includes works by Henryk Gorecki and a world premiere by newly Toronto-based Norbert Palej. Full festival details are available at

And if that isn’t enough to fill your calendar, then you can join the Madawaska String Quartet on January 31 at 10 am and 1 pm back at the Array Studio for their Composers’ Open Workshp and reading session. The MSQ will take any and all composer sketches, read through them and provides feedback. While attendance for the public is free, composers may participate by donation only. Further details are available at the Array website.

If there was any ever doubt before, 2010 certainly is ringing in with the new.

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

After writing last month’s column, touching on the fragility of Toronto’s new music festivals, sad news followed. Contact Contemporary Music had to pull the plug on its New Music Marathon due to a lack of funding. This one-day, dynamic and free music festival in the heart of the city only managed to turn out two editions before it was met with financial challenges. Here’s to hoping it can get back up on its feet soon.

25_st_lawrence However, one outfit on which we can rely to remain a stable champion of new music is the St. Lawrence String Quartet, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this season.
Formed in 1989 by violinists Geoff Nuttal and Barry Shiffmann (replaced by Scott St. John in 2006), violist Lesley Robertson and cellist Marina Hoover (replaced by Christopher Costanza in 2003), the St. Lawrence first settled in Toronto to take advantage of a special training programme run jointly by the U of T Faculty of Music and the Royal Conservatory. While the ensemble was warned that the chances of survival were slim, it defied the odds with early, career-boosting collaborations with performers like violinist Jaime Laredo and pianist Anton Kuerti. A move to New York City in 1990, to study with the Emerson Quartet, led to two years as Juilliard’s graduate quartet-in-residence, and then on to teaching assistantships with the Tokyo Quartet at Yale University in 2004. In between, the quartet came to international attention by winning several key prizes, including the first Banff International String Quartet Competition in 1992.
The rest, as they say, is history. The St. Lawrence has since gone on to record with EMI, creating award-winning discs of both standard and new repertoire by contemporary composers like Christos Hatzis and Osvaldo Golijov. Currently they are the ensemble-in-residence at Stanford University, and maintain a vibrant international concert calendar of some 100-150 performances per season.
Over its history, the quartet has become well known as a champion of more adventurous works, which they present with the same characteristic passion, intensity, physicality and malleable approach to style that they bring to their entire repertoire. As the quartet has continued to age and improve technically, it has also fervently protected these qualities. “This is the constant challenge,” said Nuttal in a recent interview with The Strad magazine “to try and get better in terms of…all of the important stuff, and not lose that edge.”
It has also protected its loyalty to Canada and Canadian composers. And so – unlike some other quartet anniversaries that focus on well-worn quartet cycles – the St. Lawrence Quartet has partnered with the Canadian Music Centre, CBC Radio 2 and a handful of private donors and music presenters to commission five Canadian composers from across the country. The Quartet will arrive back in Toronto on November 16 after a tour of Atlantic Canada to present the culminating concert of this commissioning project at Walter Hall – the first time all five works will be performed together on one programme.

The St. Lawrence was hard pressed to select just five composers from the trove of almost 90 submissions they received back in the fall of 2007, when this project as launched. “To hold in our hands such a body of work from Canadians, coast to coast, was tremendously inspiring,” said Robertson, who coordinated the project. In trimming the selection down to the final group, the quartet was struck again and again by the diversity, creativity and strength of all the submissions. But in the end, only five could be selected, and so composers Marcus Goddard, Elizabeth Raum, Brian Current, Suzanne Hébert-Tremblay and Derek Charke were invited to join the St. Lawrence’s Anniversary Commissioning Team. The resulting works are themselves as diverse as Canada itself.

BC-based Marcus Goddard created Allaqi, inspired by the katajjaq style of Inuit throat singing. The title, which means “a clearing of the clouds” reflects the music’s movement from a place of darkness to brightness. Imitative textures and rhythmic patterns jump from instrument to instrument in the style of katajjaq, evaporating into folk song-based melodies, lyricism and calm simplicity. Murmurings of the opening rhythms grow again, but are softened by broad melodies that guide the work to its conclusion.

Elizabeth Raum, who hails from Saskatchewan, was inspired by the landmark Bushwakker Brewpub in Regina’s Old Warehouse District to write her work, Table at the Bushwakker. The piece’s opening introduces the various characters that are portrayed throughout the work. The scene is a typical Saturday night at the pub, where the tables are full of students, amorous couples and women out for a “girl’s night” on the town.

26a_current Toronto composer Brian Current based his work, Rounds, on initial sketches made while staying in Kyoto, Japan, over the spring of 2008 and completed during the winter months in Toronto. The title refers to the use of melodies throughout the work that overlap and layer one another, much like the musical rounds children sing in the school yards.

Suzanne Hébert-Tremblay, who makes her home in Québec, drew on a fascination with nature and birds to compose A tire-d’aile. The work is built up from the song of three specific birds: the common loon, the hermit thrush and the song sparrow. These songs make up the core musical material, which is repeated and developed through four distinct sections in the first part of the work, and then overlapped in a polyphonic style for the second part. Both parts are framed by a lyrical theme inspired by loon song.

Finally, New Brunswick-born composer Derek Charke offers a musical journey from the present to the past in his Sepia Fragments. The work plays off of several quotations, both original and borrowed, that appear to be sometimes clear, sometimes blurred, like memories captured in a time capsule. Fiddle tunes and reels dissolve to fragments of harmonics and trills. Snippets of Shostakovich transition into parlour music. Tchaikovsky-inspired tunes gives way to Vietnamese folk melody.

In addition to this culminating concert, the St. Lawrence has opened their November 16 afternoon rehearsal to the public. Anyone wishing to attend this free session may benefit immensely by observing the interaction between the Quartet and the composers, some of who will be hearing their work for the first time. The session, which will run 1-4 pm in Walter Hall, will include demonstrations and conversation with the musicians and the Commissioning Team.

For concert details and to purchase tickets, visit, call 416-978-3744 or e-mail

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

13October’s main attraction in the new music community will no doubt be the fourth edition of the Music Gallery’s X Avant festival.

Past attempts at creating a steady new music festival in Toronto have met with challenges: NuMuFest disappeared in 2001 when its key organizer could no longer offer its support and the exciting soundaXis festival barely got off the ground before going on hiatus after its 2008 edition. Both festivals were built on rich but fragile networks that challenged their stability. In light of what remains – the TSO’s continuing but contained New Creations Festival – X Avant stands out as a sustainable model for the celebration of new music in Toronto.

This year’s X Avant theme of “convergence and collaboration” is very a propos, given the importance of networks and partnerships to making such a large event a success. It is also a theme that the Music Gallery practices itself, with artistic director Jonathan Bunce working alongside guest curators Gregory Oh and Andrew Timar to deliver both this festival and the season’s programming. Inspired by Brian Eno’s idea of “scenius” – the communal form of genius created by harnessing the intelligence and intuition of a whole cultural scene – X Avant celebrates the notion of co-operation in contemporary music making. It’s a timely return to the topic, given the growing discussions around the influences and impact that networks have on the intentions, ideas and actions of artists.

Given the Music Gallery’s desire to celebrate innovation and experimentation throughout the full continuum of the creative music scene, X Avant not only spans four days, eight concerts and various workshops and symposia, but also numerous genres and generations of music exploration.

The festival opens on October 21 with one of the world’s oldest electronic collaborations. The German duo Cluster, which set many landmarks for modern-day electronic music, has re-formed after a decade-long hiatus to release their 2009 album Qua (their first in 14 years), and now to make their Canadian live debut. Cluster members Dieter Mobius and Hans-Joachim Roedelius have been collaborating since the 1960s. Their influence predates other electronic music pioneers like Kraftwerk, and extended well into the 1990s, sometimes in partnerships with talent like Brian Eno. Sharing the concert bill is relative newcomer Hauschka, the alias of German pianist/composer Volker Bertlemann, who has built a reputation with his miniature sound vignettes composed for prepared piano. In this second engagement with the Music Gallery (Hauschka paired up with John Kameel Farah for a local show in 2007), he will partner with a local string quartet to explore new musical territory.

Some of the youngest partnerships at X Avant are those suggested by the festival curators as part of a musical laboratory they are calling “Beats, Notes and Loops: A Hip-Hop/New Music Summit.” Take, for example, the three-way improv between the Evergreen Club Contemporary Gamelan, emcee Abdominal and DJ duo iNSiDEaMiND slated for October 23. Experimental turntable music will meet rap in a new music frame filtered through traditional Indonesian gamelan. What will emerge remains to be heard, but this curious combination offers interesting possibilities. Sharing the summit is the emerging yet already consummate crossover composer Nicole Lizée with DJ P-Love and chamber ensemble. Nicole has made her name in part as a member of Montréal’s indie-rock band Besnard Lakes, but more so as a music creator who crosses the boundaries between popular musical tropes and contemporary musical language. For X Avant she will present works that explore both the continuing karaoke phenomenon and the integration of turntablism into contemporary chamber music.

Other collaborations are looser, such as Czech violinist/singer Iva Bittova’s occasional creative collisions with British art-rock percussionist Chris Cutler. The two will meet again on October 24 at the Polish Combatants Hall. Still others are more regular, like the Phantom Orchard project of downtown New Yorkers Zeena Parkins and Ikue Mori. The combination of Mori’s laptop artistry and Parkins’ extended techniques on electric harp started coming together as Phantom Orchard around 2004, although the two have been friends and colleagues since 1988. The duo will perform on October 22 at the Music Gallery on a double bill with Ken Aldcroft’s Convergence Ensemble, which provides a vehicle for this improvising guitarist, bandleader, composer, producer and organizer to explore more nuanced contexts for his compositions and ensemble-based ideas. The Convergence Ensemble, which has been recording together since 2006, will take its X Avant opportunity to release a new CD.

Rounding out the festival are two very different presentations by local, long-standing new music outfits. On October 24, Arraymusic offers a new way of hearing in collaboration with the Sound, Music, Auditory Research and Technology (SMART) Lab based at Ryerson University. The auditory research at work in this concert involves a new device called the emoti-chair – a sensory substitution technology that converts sound into a dispersion of vibrotactile information and, therefore, provides greater access to music for all people, including the hearing impaired. The chairs will be test-driven through new music by percussionist and composer Rick Sacks, alongside Arraymusic standards by Jo Kondo, Michael J. Baker and Claude Vivier.

On the festival’s closing night, Continuum will converge on a set of musical works that explore the push and pull between past and present, convention and disruption, start and stop. Compositions by Chris Paul Harman, Samuel Andreyev and Lucas Franesconi play with notions of continual inception, dissolution, truncation and perpetuation by exploiting the customs of classical music construction. As well, the concert will feature the subtly shifting colours of Fuhong Shi’s Emanations and the driving rhythms of Juan Trigos’s Pulsacion y Resonancias.

In total, X Avant asserts the Music Gallery as the central hub of Toronto’s creative music scene, and offers an intense concentration of what we can expect to find expanding across the course of the season ahead. For more information about X Avant and the Music Gallery’s 2009-2010 season visit For tickets visit, call 416-204-1080, or go to Soundscapes or Rotate This.

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

Over the past several years Toronto’s new music season had been starting later and later, sometimes pushing into November. Thankfully, several ensembles have since seen the benefit of getting a jump start. As a result, we have a handful of companies launching exciting series this September. In fact, 2009/2010 looks so exciting for new music that it’s next to impossible to pick out the highlights. Caught between Tapestry’s 30th anniversary season, Soundstreams’ international powerhouse programming and Esprit Orchestra’s stellar selection of soloists and repertoire, I already feel like a kid in a candy shop! So, I’ll keep my selections within the next several weeks. Even here, it’s a challenging calendar for those intrigued by new sounds.

New Pärt

13Stratton The Toronto Philharmonia gives the season’s first big event on September 24 at the Toronto Centre for the Arts. Conductor Kerry Stratton has programmed a new-music-heavy opener with the Canadian premiere of Arvo Pärt’s Symphony No. 4.

As a young composer in the 1960s, Pärt wrote three symphonies that chronicled his struggle with the musical language of his day, a struggle that would eventually help create his world-renowned style of spiritual minimalism. The orchestral and instrumental pieces that followed tend to be brief. But now, 38 years after the Third Symphony Pärt offers his fourth, subtitled “Los Angeles” (perhaps in recognition of the orchestra that premiered the work this year.) Pärt explained in the programme notes that he is reaching out in this work to “all those imprisoned without rights in Russia.” For the composer, the symphony is meant as “carrier pigeon” that he hopes might reach faraway Siberia one day. Its sparse textures for strings, harp and percussion, slow pace and lengthy duration (37 minutes) make for a long, open and what has been described as an “extremely beautiful” journey.

Also on the programme is the world premiere of Artemis, a symphonic overture by Kevin Lau. This Toronto-based composer seems to be quickly making his mark. Since the completion of Lau’s first professional composition in 1999 he has received commissions from the Hamilton Philharmonic, the Mississauga Symphony, the Esprit Orchestra, the Cecilia String Quartet and the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra, among others. Lau is currently completing doctoral studies at the University of Toronto while he continues to attract other projects, including a 2010 commission from Via Salzburg. In discussing his most recent work, Lau describes it as a musical portrait of the Greek goddess of wilderness, inspired by Gustav Holst’s symphonic suite The Planets.

For more information about the Toronto Philharmonia’s 2009/2010 season, visit

New Hall

On September 25 – what would have been Glenn Gould’s 77th birthday – the Royal Conservatory of Music will open the doors to Koerner Hall and its long-awaited inaugural concert season. A special feature of the evening will be the world premiere of R. Murray Schafer’s Spirits of the House. The work has been commissioned by philanthropist Michael Koerner to showcase the hall’s acoustics. The programme will feature Royal Conservatory's very own ARC Ensemble, as well as the Royal Conservatory Orchestra with celebrated pianist Anton Kuerti, all conducted by Jean-Philippe Tremblay. This evening is just the start to Koerner Hall’s Grand Opening Weekend. Full details may be found at


14YongeDundasFor something completely different, head downtown to Yonge-Dundas Square on September 26 for the Toronto (new music) Marathon. This eight-hour endurance event, organized by Contact Contemporary Music, pulls together some of the best local performers and ensembles for a season-opening showcase of contemporary, experimental and improvisational music. This year’s marathon features music of Alan Bloor, Kyle Brenders, John Cage, Donnacha Dennehy, Philip Glass, Jim Harley, Brent Lee, Chad Martin, Stephen Montague, Jordan Nobles, Steven Reich, Ann Southam, Julia Wolfe and possibly even more, performed by Wallace Halladay, Jim Harley, JunctQin, Kyle Brender’s Large Ensemble, Rob McDonald, Christina Petrowska Quilico, Pholde, Quartetto Graphica, Allison Wiebe and the Contact Ensemble. The mix of established artists alongside emerging voices and new discoveries is bound to make this an exciting event. For more details, visit

Tapestry at 30

Running throughout much of the same weekend is Opera Briefs, the launch to Tapestry New Opera Work’s 30th Anniversary season. While every presentation of Opera Briefs yields great musical treats, this year’s crop of 5-minute operas will be especially intriguing as Tapestry will unveil the results of its first International Composer-Librettist Laboratory. Two composers and two writers from the UK will cross the pond to work with three returning LibLab alumni: composers Omar Daniel and Stephen Andrew Taylor, and writer Anna Chatterton. Add renowned playwright Judith Thompson to the mix and you have quite the team. Tapestry’s excellent New Works Studio Company will bring this ninth edition of Opera Briefs to life from September 25-27 in the intimacy of the Ernest Balmer Studio. For more information, visit

Nuit Blanche

Finally, starting at sundown on October 3, new music will resonate throughout Scotiabank Nuit Blanche – Toronto’s overwhelming, all-night contemporary art extravaganza.
Two projects will inhabit the Canadian Music Centre. Sky Harp: Ice Storm by Kingston-based Kristi Allik and Rob Mulder will occupy the CMC’s front garden. The Sky Harp series creates electronic soundscapes triggered by movements in the natural environment. For Ice Storm, video footage documents the effects of a 1998 disaster on Sky Harp’s star “performer” – a 90-year old elm tree. Recorded improvisations by dancer Holly Small, who interacts with the resulting soundscape, serve as a simultaneous artistic interpretation. Inside, Juliet Palmer and Josh Lacey’s Miasma offers a false haven from climate change. Overheard conversations reflect the unpredictability of our relationship to the elements. Is global warming a storm in a tea-cup? Can we divine the future in the dregs of a coffee cup? Music drifts in and out of the room, creating an alternately soothing and unsettling effect. Musicians perform within the installation at 10pm and midnight. Meanwhile, up the street at the the Telus Centre for Education and Performance, composer Brian Current directs the 12-hour installation In a large open space (Berlin 1994), based on a composition by James Tenney. The piece involves hundreds of singers and musicians positioned throughout the building, whose performances will envelop listeners in Tenney’s complex overtones. For full details, visit

2009/2010 is truly in with the new!

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