The undoubted operatic highlight of May is the world premiere of the "The Shadow" by Omar Daniel to a libretto by Alex Poch-Goldin. The work is presented by Tapestry New Opera Works and features baritone Theodore Baerg, counter-tenor Scott Belluz, soprano Carla Huhtanen, tenor Keith Klassen and baritone Peter McGillivray.

 

Alex Poch-Goldin (above) & Omar Daniel

 

Read more: On Opera: May 09

With the myriad of spring concerts behind most community musical groups, it seemed like an opportune time to express some personal opinions which have been festering in my head for some time. Over the past two weekends, during which I have attended three concerts and one play, and played in one performance, a few pet peeves have boiled to the surface of my consciousness. This seemed like a good time to pontificate on my aversion to the many distractions to which concert goers and performers are subjected. Let's just lump these all under the heading of distractions.

Before mounting my high horse about audience decorum, I feel compelled to recall two incidents years apart that evoke laughter for me. The first happened many years ago when I attended my first symphony concert after my arrival in Toronto. It was at a time when there were regular "Prom Concerts" at Varsity Arena. These were promoted as less formal than the winter concerts at Massey Hall. Unfortunately, the interpretation of the term informality by the two elderly ladies seated directly behind me, went too far for my liking. Throughout the entire concert I was "treated" to the incessant rhythm of clicking knitting needles.

Read more: Distractions

Walk like a man, talk like a man,” or so the song goes. When people think of a man with a high voice, they often think of Frankie Valli, Neil Sedaka, Smokey Robinson, or Art Garfunkel. Michael Maniaci, a male soprano, is a 32-year old singer whose voice is being compared to that of many female sopranos. What’s the difference? Female sopranos are from Venus, and the male sopranos, from Mars, right? I’m afraid to ask.

Singing as a boy, Maniaci discovered a love for music and singing. Then, reaching puberty, his voice didn’t change, or at least, not much. To this day, as far as we know, he remains to be the only natural male soprano on the operatic stage today. I ask if his vocal range is the same as a female soprano.

More or less,” Maniaci replies, “I mean, my voice most naturally rests in sort of a high lyric mezzo tessitura. I call myself a soprano because I’m not a countertenor and the roles that I sing are substantially higher that what traditional countertenors can do.” He adds, “If people are expecting to hear a countertenor, then I will be far from what they expect.”

Read more: Early Music: April 09

Sometimes I feel like I'm wearing too many hats..... as advertising coordinator for this publication, as a freelance oboist... and then there's this column, dear to my heart, but not always given the time and depth it deserves. But there are too many things coming up this month and a “highlights in brief” summary is better than nothing!

April 3, Roy Thomson Hall presents Scotland the Brave, an extravaganza featuring over 100 performers including full orchestra, highland dancers, choir, pipe-band, drum corps, Celtic fiddlers, and young tenor Greg Moore among the soloists.

World Music photo Apr 09
Alireza Ghorbani

Small World Music presents Bajofondo, an 8-piece electronica-infused tango rock band whose members hail from Argentina and Uruguay, April 5 at the Mod Club; Small World also presents Alireza Ghorbani, one of Iran's top vocalists, and Shiraz (classical Persian music ensemble), part of the Sounds of Persia series, April 9 at Harbourfront's Enwave Theatre. Cape Verdean singer Carmen Souza performs at the Lula Lounge, April 22 (see www.myspace.com/carmensouza).

Toronto's Ensemble Polaris, so named because it performs music inspired by and features instruments from northern countries, presents a program titled Viking Vacation Destinations, April 24 at the Edward Day Gallery. Scandinavian and Mediterranean influenced music is brought to you on guitar, violin, bagpipes, cello, hurdy-gurdy, nyckelharpa, recorders, seljefløyte, etc. I've heard this ensemble and they're pretty unique! York University's Department of Music presents its World Music Festival featuring its student ensembles. The Cuban, Klezmer, Mande drumming, Ghanaian drum and dance, and Brazilian Samba groups perform on April 30, and the Caribbean Ensemble, African American Piano Players, Chinese Orchestra, Korean Drum Ensemble, and Japanese Ensemble perform May 1. The Canadian Opera Company's noon hour series of free concerts presents an Introduction to South Indian Violin, with Subhadra Vijaykumar, May 7 at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre.


Beyond the GTA: the Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber Music Society presents the Orchid Ensemble in contemporary arrangements of Chinese music as well as works by Vancouver area composers, April 4, 57 Young St. West in Waterloo. And last but not least, Kitchener's Open Ears Festival of Music and Sound (April 24-May 3) presents a number of world music ensembles this year: The Flying Bulgar Klezmer Band performs April 25 at the King St. Theatre Centre; Safa, comprised of Sal Ferraras (percussion), Francois Houle (clarinet), and Amir Koushakni (Setar, Tar, vocals), perform both improvised and composed works, influenced by Turkish and Judeo-Arabic traditions, but mostly based on Persian repertoire, April 30 at Zion United Church; Red Chamber, a quartet performing on traditional asian instruments has a repertoire from 917 AD to the present, spanning many world cultures. They're at Church of the Good Shepherd on May 1; Nagata Shachu Japanese Taiko Ensemble performs May 2 at Your Kitchener Market; and The Evergreen Club Contemporary Gamelan is featured in Gamelan (and on): The Enduring Legacy of Lou Harrison, May 2 at the King St. Theatre Centre. They'll perform both contemporary and traditional works.



 

Who is 90 years old, male but known as “mother”, brought new meaning to the word vibrato, can hear a wrong note from fifty paces, has more yarns than a knitting store and still plays a sexy saxophone?

The answer is Gordon Evans, one of the great musicians in Canada who celebrated his 90th birthday last month. We had a party for Gordon and rarely has a room been more filled with love and good vibes. Musicians, friends and admirers were there - young and old - all with lives touched by Gordon Evans.

22_Gordon Evans1

Read more: Jazz Notes: April 09

To celebrate the breath of spring, the three breathtaking LaBarbera brothers will play a concert at the Humber College Lakeshore Auditorium. All born in upstate New York in the 1940’s, saxophonist Pat, drummer Joe and trumpeter John have each enjoyed a lucrative career and rarely have the opportunity to perform together. This highly anticipated event takes place on April 8th at 8:00pm, with general tickets at $20 and $10 for seniors.

23_labarbera
Pat LaBarbera

A noteworthy CD release this month is that of contagiously groovy guitarist, Dr. Andrew Scott. His third record, Nostalgia, is devoted to bebop heads derived from hits of the American Songbook. Americans Dan Block on tenor sax/clarinet and Jon-Erik Kellso on trumpet are featured alongside Dr. Scott, with the rhythm section rounded up by Canadian all-stars: pianist Mark Eisenman, bassist Pat Collins and drummer Joel Haynes. Arrive early at The Pilot Tavern on April 11th from 3:30 to 6:30.

This month The Rex Hotel Jazz & Blues Bar welcomes a plethora of out-of-towners, including New York City’s Rudder, Oren Neiman and Dan McCarthy; Rochester’s Madeline Forster; Snarky Puppy from Texas; San Francisco’s Transit Collective; Montréal’s Viva Nova, Bharath Rajamkur and Joel Miller and Frenchman Phillipe Lejeune. Dates and details are available at www.therex.ca.

Financial perils cannot be good for fundraisers, making benefactors all the more treasured. Jazz For Herbie (www.jazzforherbie .org) is dedicated to granting life-saving or life-altering surgeries to the world’s children by bringing them to Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children. The 8th annual benefit will feature venerable vocalist Jackie Richardson, eternal hipsters The Shuffle Demons and rising star Laila Biali. The Old Mill houses Herbie on April 18th from noon to 3:00pm, with single tickets at $50. If you cannot afford this but still wish to contribute to a good cause, vocalist Amy Noubarian is holding a fundraiser for The Ride to Conquer Cancer at Gate 403 on April 26th from 2:00-8:00pm.

Ori Dagan

 

I prefer to set this column’s tone with anecdotes or insights; this time round I’m obliged to start with apologies for two errors in last month’s column. First, the final concert in the TSO’s New Creations Festival took place March 11, not 12 as was written. Second, the Opera to Go concert slated for the Living Arts Centre March 26 took place at the Enwave Theatre at Harbourfront Centre. My sincere apologies for any confusion or complications that may have been caused.

From a new music perspective, March was a real contender for the title of opera month, with Queen of Puddings wrapping up its premiere of James Rolfe’s Inês, Tapestry offering a quartet of new creations for Opera to Go, and Opera in Concert premiering Charles Wilson’s re-worked Kamouraska. However, in scanning the April and early May listings, there are a few events that still fit the bill, even if occasionally from an oblique angle.

Read more: Operatic Tangents

For a number of different reasons, I find myself sitting here preoccupied with the old question “How many angels can dance on the point of a needle?” The origins of the question are nearly as debatable as the various answers to it. What delights me is that the debate assumes that there are angels. And, equally delightful, that they can dance!

What got me thinking about this? One thing was that someone asked me “How many potential choristers will be reading WholeNote’s May Canary Pages?” I found myself trying to come up with a total, based on last year’s Canary Pages. How many choirs? How many singers already in each? So, that’s about 12,000. But what about lapsed choristers ready to take the plunge again? And what if each of them has just one friend, who had never been in a choir, but inspired by association finds themselves suddenly seized by a secret powerful longing… .

Read more: Paeons and needles

Preparing to write this month’s column, no fewer than three announcements for significant events featuring Silver Bands landed on my desk. In order: the Hannaford Silver Band’s 6th annual Festival of Brass; the Weston Silver Band’s Concert with special guest Douglas Yeo (bass trombone of the Boston Symphony); and the Metropolitan Silver Band’s 75th anniversary celebration. My editor seemed to find this more significant than I did, so I took to the internet to find out if there were important distinctions between Silver Bands and Brass Bands.

Read more: BandStand and Podium

What a wealth of chamber music there is on offer this month! The early days of April offer two opportunities to hear Arnold Schoenberg’s seminal early work, Transfigured Night — April 2 in its original string sextet version by the St. Lawrence String Quartet complemented by former quartet members, cellist, Marina Hoover and violinist/violist, Barry Shiffman, and April 3 by Sinfonia Toronto in the string orchestra version.

April 3 Amici will present “Poulenc’s Musings,” a program of Francis Poulenc’s chamber music, including his famous Sextet with the brilliant TSO wind principals, and his “Story of Babar” for piano, with Steven Page (formerly of the Barenaked Ladies) as narrator. Definitely not your average evening out!
Those who love Haydn’s string quartets will have two opportunities to hear the Eybler Quartet play an entire program of them: on April 6 at the Church of St. George-the-Martyr, and on April 9 at the Music Room of the Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber Music Society. And all this in just the first 9 days of the month. (See the listings for many others, or better still search for chamber music in the listings on our website.)

Read more: Chamber wealth - Quodlibet: April 09

Once again the stars have aligned to make April the most opera-intensive month in Southern Ontario.  At time of starting to write this article there were no fewer than fourteen examples of music theatre on offer spanning the 17th to the 20th century. (There have been a couple of hiccups, as you will see, but opera lovers will still have quite a task deciding how to fit them all in.)

Here they are in chronological order.

Read more: FOCUS On Opera: April is Opera Month
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