Last month I gave a talk to the Toronto Chapter of the Duke Ellington Society, a group of enthusiasts that gets together on the second Tuesday of every month, except for July and August.

p27The Society was founded in 1959 as the Duke Ellington Jazz Society through the efforts of one Bill Ross, a Canadian working in Hollywood who placed an ad in Downbeat magazine in late 1958, announcing that a Duke Ellington Jazz Society had been formed in Hollywood. Simply put, it consists of people who are interested in Duke Ellington: fans, musicians, researchers, scholars and writers, the common bond being a love of the music of Ellington – and, of course, his alter ego Billy Strayhorn. (It’s interesting to note that in 1968, at the Duke’s request, the word jazz was dropped from the name and all the Chapters became known as the Duke Ellington Society.)

The Toronto chapter’s origins make an interesting story, thanks to the Anger family. Rhea Anger, a champion of the music of Ellington, in response to a letter of January 29 from Ross, organized the first meeting of the Toronto Chapter, which was held on May 4, 1959. Anger was elected as the first president, and the Toronto Chapter has been meeting regularly ever since. There’s no doubt that she was a suitable choice. She was the widow of Justice Harry Anger of the Ontario Supreme Court, who had established a warm friendship with the Duke many years before. After his death, Rhea and her son, Ron, also a lawyer, maintained the relationship. Over a period of time, whenever the Ellington band came to Toronto they would be invited to the Anger home after the engagement to enjoy some home comfort. And Duke Ellington played this town many times from 1931 on. I came up with a list of 16 different venues where they performed.

Robert Fulford, in the Toronto Star, January of 1987, wrote the following: “In the early 1970s, when the Duke Ellington band was playing the O’Keefe Centre, tenor saxophone soloist Paul Gonsalves came down from the stage and stood before a middle-aged woman in the audience, affectionately serenading her as the band accompanied him. While Gonsalves played and the woman shyly smiled, Ellington dedicated the number ‘for Mrs. Anger, our dear friend.’” For years Rhea and her son Ron were familiar faces at jazz events in Toronto and their love and enthusiasm for the music never diminished.

In his book, Music Is My Mistress, Ellington wrote: “Mrs. Anger and her son, Ron, are also among our most loyal friends and supporters. They never miss our appearances in Toronto, and the city’s chapter of the Duke Ellington Society has always owed a great deal of its health to them. Canada has a character and a spirit of its own, which we should recognize and never take for granted.”

In 1987 Toronto hosted the fifth annual Ellington conference at The Inn on the Park. It was a three day event, and the musicians included two Ellington alumni: trombonist Booty Wood and bassist Aaron Bell, along with Doc Cheatham, George Kelly, Ray Bryant, Gus Johnson and from Canada, Oliver Jones, Neil Swainson, Fraser MacPherson and myself. In addition, there was a rare performance of Ellington’s extended work, The Tatooed Bride by my big band. Alice Babs, who had a long collaboration with the Duke, was present. She’s perhaps best remembered for her singing in the second and third Sacred Concerts, which Ellington wrote for her voice. It had a range of more than three octaves and was so remarkable that Ellington said that when she did not sing the parts that he wrote for her, he had to use three different singers!

In the early days of the society, meetings were held in members’ homes – but nowadays Montgomery’s Inn, at the junction of Dundas Street West and Islington, is the home of the Society. And each year the Toronto Chapter presents a fundraising concert at a date close to Ellington’s birthday, April 29. In 2011, on Saturday April 30, a group led by Dave Young and Terry Promane will be the featured ensemble. More about that closer to the date.

As a result of their fundraising activities, seven $1,000 scholarships are awarded to emerging Toronto musicians, a remarkable achievement for what is a relatively small group of enthusiasts. Speaking of which, they would welcome additional members – especially some younger blood – so if you’re interested please call Chris McEvilly at 416-234-0653 and help the spirit of Duke Ellington to live on in one of his favourite cities.

 

What’s in a Name?

When I spoke to the Toronto Duke Ellington Society the topic was nicknames given to some of the musicians who worked with him. Here are a few of them.

Trombonist Joe Nanton was one of the great pioneers of the plunger mute. He joined Ellington in 1926 and his growl and plunger sounds were a major ingredient in the band’s jungle sound that evolved in the 20s. He earned his nickname “Tricky Sam” during his first years with Ellington. There are a couple of conflicting stories about the origin of his nickname, neither having to do with his trombone technique – a common misconception.

One story is that he consistently won when he played poker with bandmates, so much so that he became known as tricky with a deck of cards. But saxophonist Toby Hardwick claimed that he was capable of “doing with one hand what someone else would do with two – he was tricky that way.” Nanton had perfected a technique of drinking on-stage without anyone noticing!

Another trombonist, Lawrence Brown, joined the band in 1932. Somewhat straight-laced, he kept away from the drinking and high-life enjoyed by the rest of the band, a rather puritan behavior that earned him the nickname “The Deacon.”

p28Tenor sax player Paul Gonsalves joined the band in 1950 and stayed for the rest of his life. His nickname was “Mex,” because people thought he was Hispanic, when in fact he was from the Cape Verde Islands. But Ellington bestowed on him another sobriquet. Because he sometimes walked around in the audience while soloing, the Duke dubbed him “Strolling Violins.”

Here’s one for punsters. In the 1950s Britt Woodman was in the trombone section. So was Quentin Jackson, whose nickname was “Butter,” thus giving rise to “Britt and Butter.” So you see, some of us don’t only play on instruments – and words seldom fail us.

Happy listening.

 

Jim Galloway is a saxophonist, band leader and the former artistic director of Toronto Downtown Jazz. He can be contacted at: jazz@thewholenote.com.

Setting the Mass” (composing music for the Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus/Benedictus and Agnus Dei) has for centuries been a central task for Western composers. The result is generally considered to be a window into heart of the composer in question, and a signal example of their piety and devotion. A public performance of a Mass is a way for people engaged in worship to pray, mourn, celebrate and in general to commune with others in praise of an elliptical, elusive, but deeply felt presence that is commonly known as God.

Or is it? Who or what do you worship when you hear a musical setting of the Mass text? Do you even worship at all?

These days, when a Mass-setting by a famous composer is as likely to be heard in a concert setting as in a church, how does a worshipful attitude manifest itself? Does one venerate the conductor? The composer (easy to venerate, since they are most likely to be dead)? Does one revere the sonic phenomenon of the very music itself, and the sensitivity and skill of the musicians involved? Perhaps we celebrate the familiarity of the experience – another night out in the company of the Verdi Requiem, or the yearly pilgrimage to a performance of Mozart’s famous D minor setting.

To what degree are concert-goers especially concerned with the ostensible object of all the musico-devotional fuss – the Christian God? If you happen to come from a non-Christian faith tradition, or profess to atheism or agnosticism – as many people filling a concert hall might well do – do you simply ignore the devotional texts and concentrate instead the music? In doing so, are you inescapably engaged in some kind of blasphemous process that’s likely to get you in trouble with your in-laws?

It’s probably safe to say that a concert performance of a Mass is neither a religious rite nor an exercise in group conversion. But there is unquestionably a qualitative difference between the above event and a symphonic concert or evening of chamber music: a sense of occasion and ritual, an echo of ancient paths newly trod. Even when neither concert-goer nor composer is especially devout – Rachmaninoff was not known for his piety, though a performance of his All Night Vigil might convince you otherwise – both the texts and the music continue to draw our fascination.

The concert Mass is really a phenomenon of the 19th century onward, and there are several examples of this kind of setting in the weeks ahead.

Fauré’s beloved Requiem setting had its premiere in the Paris church at which he was music director from 1896-1905. But it has continued to live in the concert hall, and it’s a very inviting piece for people of all backgrounds. Its delicate transparency and serenity have always seemed to me to evoke a dreamlike, pre-Christian world of classical balance and reserve. The Pax Christi Chorale perform it on October 24, along with music by English composer S.S. Wesley (2010 marks the 200th anniversary of Wesley’s birth).

On November 5 and 6, Kitchener’s Da Capo Chamber Choir teams up with the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony in a concert of music by Schubert and Schumann. The choral part of the evening is Schubert’s Mass No.2 in G. Schubert wrote six masses, and this setting was written in 1815, when the composer was 18 years old. Structurally, the Mass in G is clearly indebted to Mozart and the Austro-German Mass tradition of the 18th century. But this setting also has the Schubertian quality of deceptive simplicity, a sweet credulousness that at first masks and then reveals a deep core of emotion. The concert also features Schubert’s “Unfinished” Symphony, an unfortunate name for a work that conveys a complete mastery of symphonic form, and never feels truly unfinished at all – as does, for instance, Mozart’s renowned but (it has to be said) sketchy D Minor Requiem.

p26Murray Shafer is most likely Canada’s pre-eminent composer, and Arvo Pärt is surely the most popular living composer currently setting sacred texts. Hampered with a kind of composer’s block in the 1960s, Pärt actually found creative inspiration in settings of sacred texts from medieval and renaissance eras. Pärt’s large-scale compositions are perfect examples of sacred works that have lived and breathed most often in concert spaces, often for audiences far removed geographically and philosophically from the Slavonic church traditions from which he draws his texts. On November 7, Soundstreams Canada assembles 180 singers from their University Voices programme, conducted by Tõnu Kaljuste, in a concert of works by these two composers, “The Mystical Worlds of Pärt and Schafer.”

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra and Toronto Mendelssohn Choir’s performance of Janáček’s Glagolitic Mass on November 10 and 11 is a highlight of this season. I can’t recall a recent date in which it was performed in this area. Janáček writes in an idiom that blends both erudition and a rhythmic, sensuous appeal, and his Glagolitic Mass has proved as enduringly popular to audiences everywhere as his operas have become. The unusual name of the Mass (the English translation morphs the beautiful Czech Mša glagolskaja into a strange cross between a ominous-sounding geological landform and mouthwash) refers to Glagolitsa, the oldest known Slavic alphabet. Janáček, enchanted by the sound of the language, assembled rather chaotic translations of the Mass texts, delighting concert-goers, infuriating linguistic scholars, and providing headaches for generations of choral singers accustomed to nice, safe languages like French, Italian, German, and good old Church of England Latin. Janáček’s work takes place as part of a potentially riotous concert that includes Tchaikovsky’s Marche Slav Op. 31, Prokofiev’s bumptious Lieutenant Kijé Suite, and a new work by Czech composer Krystof Maratka.

Consult The WholeNote’s listings for more choral concerts taking place over the next few weeks.

Benjamin Stein is a tenor and theorbist. He can be contacted at: choralscene@thewholenote.com.

October seems to be a month of refreshment, as there’s so much interestingly new going on in the realm of “early” music. Three relatively new groups have upcoming concerts:

The debut performance of the Vesuvius Ensemble takes place on October 29, and its title, ”Fronna: Folk Music of Southern Italy,” gives some idea of the sunny and impassioned outlook of this group. Led by the Italian tenor Francesco Pellegrino (now teaching Italian art-song at the University of Toronto), who is joined by early-music specialists Marco Cera (oboist with Tafelmusik, who plays both reed and strummed instruments in this group) and lutenist/guitarist Lucas Harris, this ensemble is dedicated to preserving and performing the traditional folk songs from Naples and the Italian countryside. Besides baroque guitars and voice, other instruments such as the ciaramella (a type of traditional Italian shawm, related to the bagpipe) and the tammorra (a very large frame drum with bells attached to the sides) will contribute their colours.

Bud Roach is accomplished both as an oboist and a tenor. Perhaps it is the combination of these musical sensibilities that led him to found Capella Intima in 2008, in order to revive hauntingly beautiful 17th-century motets and cantatas, chamber music both sacred and secular, for voices and instruments. Their next concert focuses on the influence of the great Monteverdi, insofar as it reveals something of the talents of  those composers who worked with him and indeed were overshadowed by him. “In the Shadow of Monteverdi” presents music by Cavalli, Grandi and Legrenzi as well as Monteverdi, and will feature tenor, baritone and bass voices, as well as portative organ and cello continuo. It will be performed three times: on October 30 and 31 and November 1.

With the intent of presenting little-heard music for voices from the Renaissance and Baroque, Michael Erdman began Cantemus Singers. In a relatively short time this 16-voice a-cappella choir has developed a flourishing concert series, performing each one back to back in two different parts of Toronto. Its next performances pay tribute to Queen Elizabeth I, with madrigals, motets and sacred works – including Byrd’s Mass for Five Voices – all by composers whose intent was to please “Good Queen Bess” with flattering prose and glorious music. You can hear them in the city’s east end on October 2, and in the west end on October 3.

And more, in chronological order…

p23Tafelmusik, always ready to deliver the unexpected, presents 19th-century composers Chopin and Spohr in its next group of concerts, October 7 to 10. Featured soloist is pianist Janina Fialkowska, who will perform Chopin’s First Piano Concerto on a 19th-century Pleyel piano, with chamber ensemble arrangement. The French piano manufacturing firm Pleyel et Cie has a long and important history: Founded in 1807 by composer Ignace Pleyel, it provided pianos to Frédéric Chopin, and ran a concert hall, the Salle Pleyel, where Chopin performed his first and last concerts in Paris. The innovative company was the first to use metal frames in their pianos. Pleyel pianos were the choice of musicians such as Saint-Saëns, Debussy and Ravel.

On October 9, the Cardinal Consort of Viols presents “An English Harvest”: five-part music for the viola da gamba, including works by Dowland, Holborne, Gibbons and Tye. This concert affords a rare opportunity to spend an evening enjoying the delicately ravishing sound of five viols in consort.

Intrigue, secrets and wonderful music are the subjects of The Toronto Consort‘s “The Ambassadors,” presented on October 15 and 16. An exploration of the world of 16th-century diplomats (“bearers of lavish gifts, writers of secret dispatches, keen observers of courtly life”) and the musical riches they encountered, this pair of concerts was designed by the ever-inventive Alison Mackay.

In Kingston, the ensemble Trillio celebrates both the music of the Baroque and the riches of October with “Baroquetoberfest.” With a real sense of occasion, this energetic group delights in presentations that combine music with culinary feasts; and I can attest to the fact that you’ll not be disappointed on either count if you go. Music by Telemann, Bach, Pepusch, Schickhardt and others for harpsichord, baroque oboe, recorders, baroque bassoon and viola da gamba will be performed; and German-style sausages, apfelstreusel and other mouth-watering treats will be served, on October 16 and 17.

In Kitchener, Nota Bene Period Orchestra perform their programme, “The Grand Tour,” presenting music that a young 17th-century English traveller might have heard as he completed his education by soaking up the cultural climate of the continent. Featured in this concert is a sonata from “Il Giardino Armonico” by the 17th-century Dutch composer and viol virtuoso Johann Schenck – a work that was considered lost in World War II, but in reality was part of a collection hidden in Kiev, and only recently uncovered and returned to Germany. The sonata, scored for two violins, gamba and basso continuo, probably hasn’t been heard in Canada in recent memory – but now it can be heard, on October 17.

The Venice Baroque Orchestra performs at Roy Thomson Hall on October 26, in a fascinating concert that juxtaposes Vivaldi’s Four Seasons with a recent violin concerto by Philip Glass, The American Four Seasons. Violinist Robert McDuffie is the soloist, and also Glass’s inspiration when he composed this 21st-century companion piece to the Vivaldi.

p24Musicians In Ordinary launch their tenth official season on October 30 with Her Leaves Be Green, a charming mix of songs and lute solos from the English courts of James I and Charles I. This duo, soprano Hallie Fishel and lutenist John Edwards, regularly invites Toronto audiences into the Privy Chambers of English kings and queens to hear the intimate music provided for their majesties by the “musicians in ordinary for the lutes and voices.”

 

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

It’s that time of year when memories of the summer linger – of two or three days at a stretch when life can revolve around listening to music, when one makes a transition from the usual mode of things to a way of being in which music becomes the language of life.

In some sense, Toronto’s musical life could be seen as offering the opportunity for festival-like immersion all the time. Pretty well every night, and even every day of the week, there are concerts, frequently several at the same time. The WholeNote, of course, is like the festival programme, giving musical tourists all the information they need to plan their music festival experience in advance.

So this month’s column starts with a look at festival-like musical weekends, carved from WholeNote listings, in and near Toronto, beginning with a Friday evening event and ending on Sunday afternoon. (You could, of course, do the same thing with consecutive weekdays, but this gives you the idea.)

The first weekend of October offers build-your-own festival opportunities in Toronto and an actual festival, Colours of Music, in Barrie, about 100 km north. If you can get to Barrie on Friday morning so much the better – there are concerts at noon, 2:30 and 7:30, so you can immerse yourself right away in the festival experience. Saturday also offers three contrasting concerts: jazz at noon, violin and piano at 2:30 and, in the evening, Sinfonia Toronto with pianist Anya Alexeyev in an all-Chopin programme. Sunday offers one more concert at 2:30 in the afternoon: London’s Primus Men’s Choir with Brassroots brass ensemble. It sounds like a really glorious grand finale for the festival.

Were I a “musical tourist” in Toronto, that weekend offers an enticing opening to October; Friday, October 1, offers ten concerts in a dizzying range of genres: the Royal Canadian College of Organists’ “Organ Spectacular,” the Toronto Symphony, Sinfonia Toronto, chamber music, Cuban salsa, Somali hip-hop and the boundary-crossing Montreal musician Gabe Levine – something for everyone. (And having chosen one, you can keep going till last call by consulting our jazz listings on page 48 for after-concert fare.)

p21aYour Saturday could begin with the Canadian Opera Company’s Aida at 4:30 in the afternoon, followed by dinner at one of Toronto’s many fine restaurants and then a choice of 15 concerts, or indeed a whole night’s worth, as that evening is the annual Nuit Blanche night of music and art installations. Among the Nuit Blanche performers will be the Cecilia String Quartet, the first-prize winners of the 2010 Banff International String Quartet Competition and the first recipient of the Glenn Gould School Quartet Residency Fellowship for 2010-11. They’ll perform R. Murray Schafer’s Concerto for String Quartet and Orchestra with the Royal Conservatory Orchestra in Koerner Hall that evening.

Digressing briefly, there will be two other opportunities, to hear the Cecilia Quartet: October 7 at noon at the Canadian Opera Company’s Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre (co-presented by the COC and Jeunesses Musicales) and on October 13, performing quartets by Haydn and Mozart for the Mozart Society. Digressing even further, on p21bFriday, October 29, Mooredale Concerts has on offer the Afiara String Quartet, which won the second prize in this year’s Banff String Quartet Competition, as well as the Székely Prize for best performance of Beethoven or Schubert. The Afiara, which incidentally is composed entirely of Canadians, is currently the Graduate Resident String Quartet of the prestigious Juilliard School of Music in New York. And there will be an opportunity to hear the Afiara Quartet this month at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre as well, at noon on Thursday October 14, exactly a week after the Cecilia String Quartet. I should also point out that the Banff Competition, at which these two Canadian quartets won the top two prizes, is an elite international competition – an extraordinary tribute to the level of music education in Canada.

But returning to our “weekend-as-festival” theme, on Sunday October 8 there are 15 further concerts to choose from in our GTA listings alone, and a further eight in “Beyond the GTA” (starting on page 46). Pick your predilection, and chart your course!

The Thanksgiving Weekend (October 8 to 11) is a bit of an exception to the “every weekend is a festival” rule. Nevertheless Tafelmusik, The Toronto Symphony Orchestra and the Canadian Opera Company all have events. But the October 15 to 17 weekend is back up to speed again. As is the next, and indeed every weekend (bar three) from now till June and, yes, the start of the official festival season once again. So to summarize, if, as the days get shorter and colder, you’re looking to compensate with consecutive days of summer-like musical immersion, there’s no better “festival guide” than the WholeNote listings.

On another, and more personal, note, looking ahead to the first weekend of November, a former harmony teacher of mine, John Kruspe, his wife, Cathie, and two children, Jamie and Emily, will be performing together on Friday November 5, 7:30pm, at Walter Hall. John, an accomplished pianist, frequently performs as a solo recitalist – most recently in an all Chopin programme on September 23 in Walter Hall. Cathie, a violinist, maintains  a thriving private teaching studio, and performs as an orchestral and chamber musician. Jamie, who is 21 and also a violinist, is entering his last year of the undergraduate performance programme at U of T, studying with Jacques Israelievitch. His chamber group (a trio) won the Galimir award for the top ensemble at U of T this past academic year; and for the past two years was chosen for the Banff spring chamber music programme. Emily, who is 19 and also a violinist, is entering her second year of the same programme, studying with Erika Raum. This past winter she won the President’s Trophy at the Toronto Kiwanis festival, and like Jamie was a Banff resident this year.

This may be the last opportunity to hear the Kruspe Family ensemble, as it’s likely that soon both Jamie and Emily will be off to graduate schools and careers that might well take them far from home.

Also in early November, a very exciting new event to be aware of is the first Chinese Cultural Centre of Greater Toronto International Piano Competition, which begins on November 1 with the opening reception and a draw for performance order.  The first two rounds, November 2 to 3 and 4 to 5, and round three (six semi-finalists) November 7, all take place from 1 to 8pm at the CCCGT’s extraordinary P.C. Ho Theatre, 5183 Sheppard Ave. E. For the final, Monday, November 8, 7:30pm, three finalists will perform with the new Toronto Concert Orchestra conducted by Kerry Stratton, at the Royal Conservatory’s Koerner Hall.

The competition offers a total of $28,000 U.S. in prizes. Twenty-four young pianists from ten countries have been selected to participate.

I’ll finish with a little story. Quite a few years ago I met Laurel Fay, a New Yorker who was the author of a new biography of Shostakovich. I was introduced to her as the (then) publisher of The WholeNote magazine (which she had evidently already discovered in her short time in Toronto). In that typical not-beating-about-the-bushes New Yorker way she said to me, “Come to New York. We need your magazine there!” I rather suspect there’s more music in New York, but thanks to The WholeNote, Toronto very likely has more music for “musical tourists” to discover.

 

Allan Pulker is a flautist and a founder of The WholeNote who currently serves as Chairman of The WholeNote’s board of directors. He can be contacted at classicalbeyond@thewholenote.com.

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 www.coloursofmusic.ca 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 www.scotiabanknuitblanche.ca.

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 www.naisa.ca 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 www.newmusicconcerts.com 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 www.musicgallery.org.

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 www.thewholenote.com.

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: newmusic@thewholenote.com.

The 2010/11 season marks the beginning of a new era in the history of the Canadian Opera Company: the first season entirely planned by general manager Alexander Neef. Opera productions are scheduled so far ahead that, up till now, Neef had still been completing the plans created by his predecessor, the late Richard Bradshaw. In planning the current season, Neef seems to have looked very carefully over the company’s history to discover which operas were ripe for COC premieres and which were ready for revivals and new productions.

The season opens on October 2 with a new production of Verdi’s Aida. Incredible as it may seem, the COC has not staged this staple of the operatic repertoire since 1986! The fact that the opera premiered in Cairo in 1871 has caused various myths to accrue to it. It’s true that the opera was commissioned by Ismail Pasha, Khedive of Egypt, when Egypt was still part of the Ottoman Empire. It is not true, however, that it was written to celebrate the opening of the Suez Canal (which occurred two years earlier) or to open the Khedivial Opera House (which opened with Verdi’s Rigoletto earlier in 1871), the first opera house on the African continent.

Another myth is that you haven’t seen a “real” Aida unless you’ve seen the Triumphal March of Act 2 with live elephants. It is true that twelve elephants were part of the opera’s world premiere, but except for times when the work is staged as spectacle rather than opera (as in Shanghai in 2000), the only venue that regularly featured elephants in this scene was the outdoor Arena di Verona, seating 30,000. Yet even there, Franco Zeffirelli’s new production in 2002 replaced them with dancers.

p13The obsession with elephants and Aida in the popular imagination points to the central difficulty in staging the opera. Despite all the notions of spectacle the opera is in fact an intimate work about the complications of love and power involving only four characters. This is the aspect that director Tim Albery will emphasize. According to the COC, “In approaching Aida, Albery has taken note of how many private, intimate scenes are placed in the context of a society of great power, wealth, expansiveness and nationalism, and has considered how these characteristics are reflected in the societies of our own times. He has set the opera in a luxurious and ostentatious palace in an unspecified war-torn country. The lavish opulence of the surroundings will stand in contrast to the fundamental intimacy of many of the opera’s most important scenes.”

There will be 12 performances from October 2 to November 5. The first six will be sung by Sondra Radvanovsky, an American who lives just outside Toronto and is considered by many as the pre-eminent Verdi soprano of her generation. The second six will be sung by Michele Capalbo, a Canadian now resident in New York and recently hailed by Opera News as “a world-class Aida.” Australian-born tenor Rosario La Spina will sing Radames with American mezzo Jill Grove as Amneris, American Scott Hendricks as Amonasro, and Canadians Phillip Ens and Alain Coulombe as Ramfis and the King of Egypt, respectively.

The second offering of the season is Benjamin Britten’s final opera, Death in Venice (1973), last staged by the COC in 1984.
p14aRichard Bradshaw used to refer to the Britten operas he presented as part of the COC’s “Britten series,” and it’s heartening to see that Neef is continuing that notion. Let’s hope this is not the end of it. We’ve never had Owen Wingrave (1970) – and is it too much to hope for Gloriana (1953)?

The COC staging is a co-production with the Aldeburgh Festival and three other opera companies, and its unveiling at Aldeburgh was greeted with rave reviews. As at Aldeburgh, Japanese director Yoshi Oida will helm the production. British tenor Alan Oke, who won great acclaim as Gustav von Aschenbach, the central character, will reprise the role here. And to top it all off, Britten expert Steuart Bedford, who conducted the original production in 1973 at age 34, will conduct. British baritone Peter Savidge will sing The Traveller, a man Aschenbach encounters in many different guises in Venice, and British counter-tenor William Tower will sing Apollo. Canadian Adam Sergison will play Tadzio, the boy who becomes the symbol of youth and creativity that Aschenbach feels he has lost. To increase the sense of difference and unattainability, Britten envisioned Tadzio as a non-singing dancer. The opera runs from October 16 to November 6, 2010. For tickets or more information for both Aida and Death in Venice, see www.coc.ca.

 

Christopher Hoile is a Toronto-based writer on opera. He can be contacted at: opera@thewholenote.com.

My column is generally intended to focus on what goes on in the clubs, but every once in a while something that I feel is worthy of attention happens outside of them. (Who am I kidding – this is the first time this has happened! Thankfully I haven’t been fired.) Following the spotlight on Avishai Cohen, this column continues on page 49, drawing directly from the club listings.

p12As part of a global tour promoting his 11th recording, Aurora, Israeli-born, New York-bred jazz phenomenon Avishai Cohen makes his Toronto debut on October 19 at the Isabel Bader Theatre. A visionary composer, Cohen is a virtuoso on the bass who first came to fame when Chick Corea took notice of his talents in the 1990s. After recording 4 albums on Corea’s Stretch label, Cohen formed his own Radraz Records in 2003, releasing albums which have garnered him countless accolades over the past seven years. He is today considered one of the jazz world’s most important contemporary figures. The latest recording features several firsts for Cohen; he has added to the mix his own singing and was signed to a major label. Cohen’s busy schedule did not permit a phone interview but we did exchange a brief Q&A via email:

 

Read more: The Ever-Evolving Avishai Cohen

The Queen West spot with the hottest name, The Tequila Bookworm, will no longer be presenting live music, while a Cabbagetown hidden gem, Plum 226, has gone under, never to be unearthed. Are there any philanthropists out there who might consider opening up a jazz club in Toronto? All you’ll need is a good location, excellent music, great food, friendly service, business savvy, wisdom, luck, patience, verve and nerve. Inspired? Yes, you’ll have to be!

A WELCOME CHANGE

Ori1The Reservoir Lounge adds Thursdays to the Après-Work Series, so now Tuesdays through Thursdays enjoy jazz from 7-9pm. Last month’s cover girl Alex Pangman’s “First Tuesday” house gig has changed to every “First Thursday” of the month. Other highlights in the series this month include talented blues singer Chloe Watkinson on the 14th and splendid saxophonist Shawn Nykwist on the 21st. www.reservoirlounge.com

WARM WELCOMES

Toronto happily welcomes back jazz legend Sheila Jordan! (www.sheilajordanjazz.com) Known in the jazz world for originating the “bass & voice” duet, Jordan is one of the world’s first and finest jazz educators as well as one of the hippest 81-year-olds on the planet. In early 2009 I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing this legendary vocalist for The WholeNote and she had this to say when asked about being in the prime of her career at 80:

“I’m not as successful as most people think I am…not in America anyway. But I don’t care! I never wanted to be, you know, ‘a star’. That’s not my purpose, that’s not my calling. My calling is to be a messenger of this music, and I’m very happy being that. I’m very thrilled with the awards I’ve won and the recognition that I’ve gotten.”

from 10AM - 5 PM. Participants $120 full day / $60 half day, Auditors $50 / $30. Location to be announced. Contact: yvettetollar@hotmail.com

Ori2OOH, WHAT AN ELLING! Speaking of not-to-be-missed jazz vocalists, the incomparable Kurt Elling (www.kurtelling.com) rides a colossal wave of professional triumphs: the 2010 Grammy Award Winner and 9-time Grammy Nominee was voted DownBeat Magazine’s ‘Male Vocalist of the Year’ for 10 consecutive years and was recently described in the New York Times as “the standout male jazz vocalist of our time.” From Elling’s deeply spiritual approach to ballad singing to a gracefully virtuosic scat style to his awe-inspiring ventures into vocalese, it is virtually impossible not to acknowledge his masterful musicianship. Mr. Elling opens the Thursday Night Jazz Club Series at The Old Mill on the evening of Thursday, September 16th. This show will definitely sell out so you want to reserve your tickets lickety-split.

RHYMES WITH PEGGY Split between the jazz and classical world, Ottawa-based double bass virtuoso John Geggie will be making a rare appearance in Toronto on Friday, September 17th at Chalkers Pub. Geggie (www.johngeggie.com) is an extremely versatile musician, composer and collaborator who performs in the National Arts Centre Orchestra, and teaches double bass at Queen's University, Carleton University, the University of Ottawa and the Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam. Geggie is known to invite jazz artists from across Canada and the world to play with him in one-time-only groups, in which they perform material written by each of the artists, as well as jazz standards. Joining John Geggie at Chalkers Pub will pianist Nancy Walker, drummer Ethan Ardelli and special guest tenor saxophonist, Jerome Sabbagh from Paris, France!

GUITAR ACE Local guitarist Harley Card (www.harleycard.ca) recently represented our country as a semi-finalist at the Montreux Jazz Festival Guitar Competition. Here in Toronto Mr. Card is an active member of several ensembles including Monk’s Music, Hobson’s Choice, God’s Gift to Yoda as well as his own group which features compositions that draw from modern jazz, improvised music, folk and rock. The Harley Card Trio plays at The Emmet Ray on College Saturday September 11th from 7-10pm. 

BEYOND WORDS

Fellow member of the group Hobson’s Choice, vocalist Felicity Williams leads The Al Purdy Project, for which she has composed and arranged music set to the great Canadian poet’s words. The end result is as hauntingly beautiful as it is conceptually ambitious. The cherry on the cake is that Williams’ voice is sonically stunning, reminiscent of a young Joni Mitchell. The Al Purdy Project is comprised of: Felicity Williams, leader/voice, Robin Dann, voice, Rebecca Henessy, trumpet, Michael Davidson, vibes & marimba, Harley Card, guitar, and Dan Fortin, bass. Sample the scrumptious sounds here: www.myspace.com/felicitywilliams and then experience The Al Purdy Project live at The Tranzac on September 21st at 7:30pm.

WELCOME BACK, MANTECA!

In 2007, the Juno Award winning Canadian fusion group Manteca (www.manteca-music.com) reassembled at the Toronto Jazz Festival nearly a decade after disbanding. Appearing in Toronto for two nights only this season, September 22nd and 23rd at The Glenn Gould Studio will be rare two-night appearance by the 9-piece original jazz group that has been 31 years in the making, known for breathtaking compositions and explosive playing. In its current reincarnation, the band consists of: Henry Heillig, leader/bass, Matt Zimbel, leader/percussion, Charlie Cooley, drums, John Johnson, saxophones, Kelly Jefferson, saxophones, Art Avalos, timbales, Mark Ferguson, trombone, Steve Mcdade, trumpet and Doug Wilde, keyboards.

Ori Dagan (www.oridagan.com) is a Toronto-based jazz vocalist, voice actor and entertainment journalist. He can best be contacted at jazz@thewholenote.com This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

As I write this, on return from a Sunday evening concert at the Orillia Aquatheatre, I'm reminded of the impending end of the summer concert season. Our concert began at 6:30pm rather than the usual seven o'clock, because the days are getting shorter. September is only two weeks away, and the fall season is on the horizon. For most community ensembles this marks a beginning of sorts. Whether they have been playing all summer, with rehearsals and concerts, or have taken a complete break, most will be in transition in some way or other. Almost without exception, there will be some reflection on the past year and discussion of what changes might be in order.

P30Almost every year in Southern Ontario, September heralds the establishment of one or more new community instrumental groups with varying aspirations. So, for our inauguration of a new season of The Wholenote, it seemed to be a fitting time to visit a few new startups and some relative newcomers that have now completed one or two seasons. For our very limited and informal study of recently formed groups, I've selected the Milton Concert Band, the Scarborough Society of Musicians, the Kindred Spirits Orchestra and the Newmarket Stepping Stone Band.

The oldest of this group, the Milton Concert Band began taking shape early in 2007, when recently arrived residents and long-time friends Angela Rozario and Cheryl Ciccarelli, having recognized the growing artistic community in Milton, decided to see if there were any other area amateur musicians interested in performing together. Their hopes were immediately met, and the pair were soon scrambling to accommodate over 30 musicians and having to put others on a waiting list. Working with the town of Milton, the group was able to move to its new permanent home at Memorial Arena in September 2007. By now, the band will have concluded their regular series of summer concerts and performances at town festivals, and will be preparing for their fall on Saturday mornings, at Dr. Norman Bethune C. I. In Scarborough.

About one year later, in February 2008, the Scarborough Society of Musicians had its beginnings. It began with the discussion among a group of graduating high school students who had developed and shared a passion for musical performance and didn’t want to abandon that love after graduation. The band is a non-profit organization aimed at providing post-secondary school students who are not pursuing professional studies in music an environment to continue developing and exploring their talents. Since its inception, the band has been rehearsing on Saturday mornings, in the music room at Dr. Norman Bethune C. I. In Scarborough. I’m informed that they’ll be organizing their future activities in January, but they have already performed a concert, in July 2010. Try visiting their website: continuingmusic.ca.

The next in our recent arrivals on the community music scene is the Kindred Spirits Orchestra. Founder and musical director Maestro Kristian Alexander felt that the time was ripe for an audition-based community orchestra in Markham. The orchestra’s official incorporation was on March 16, 2009. Their inaugural concert took place on November 3, 2009, at the CBC's Glenn Gould Studio in downtown Toronto. The programme included Wagner's Siegfried Idyll and Mozart's Gran Partita.

The orchestra is still relatively small (38 musicians), which has enabled it to concentrate on developing a refined ensemble sound. For the future they hope to increase the size of their string section and, in their words, “to grow and attract more musicians, more friends, more kindred spirits."

With a relatively small string section, to date they have focused almost exclusively on baroque and classical compositions. They are very eager to broaden their repertoire and approach romantic and more contemporary works. The first such foray into works requiring significantly larger resources took place in June of this year. At that time, I had the opportunity to join the brass section in a performance of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.

For the immediate future, their growth will certainly be limited until they can move to a larger rehearsal hall. Perhaps the new Markham recreational complex will supply the answer. In the meantime, they are forging ahead with an ambitious season that will include a four concert subscription series at the Glenn Gould Studio. Concerts will include guest violinist Jacques Israelievitch performing the Beethoven Violin Concerto, and performances of Beethoven’s Sixth, Seventh and Eighth symphonies.

In addition to performances, the Kindred Spirits Orchestra has an education and community outreach programme with professional development opportunities for local music teachers and young conductors. And to promote Canadian composers and music, they have Gary Kulesha and Larysa Kuzmenko on board as resident composers for the coming season.

About one year ago, a new band for beginners and intermediate level players was established in Newmarket. Informally called the Stepping Stone Band, their message was simple: “If you took band music in high school, and years later find you have time and interest in making music, this is perfect way to get back into it. Why play at home alone? The best way to learn to read music is to play in a group or ensemble.” The group stopped rehearsing for the summer, but that wasn’t the end of playing. Several members, who had upgraded their skills during this first season, are now rehearsing regularly with the Newmarket Citizens’ Band and have been performing in concerts over the summer. As for the remaining members, they will form the core for the coming season. As of this writing, this beginner band has 12 members who want to proceed with rehearsals in September. They are hoping for at least eight additional members to proceed with the programme. If you have considered the idea of taking up an instrument again or know of someone who has, pass this message on.

The band will meet Monday nights from 7pm to 9pm at a location in Aurora, near the Aurora Public Library. Members must bring their your own instruments and music stands. Music is provided. The program will be coordinated by Joe Mariconda. For more information, please email Joe at joemariconda@gmail.com or call him at 905-836-4039.

On the new initiative front, we have four very disparate endeavours, two of which specifically target seniors. The first of these, is yet another project of Joe Mariconda. The concept is to establish a concert band programme for the seniors of York Region, based in Newmarket. The Seniors’ Centre in Newmarket has a membership of 2,000 from which to draw. If the programme sparks the interest of sufficient members, there could well be more than one band to cater to various skill levels. The band (or bands) would rehearse on weekdays for two hours once a week. Instructing and conducting duties would be shared by a team of volunteer retired music teachers. With such a team approach, there would be less of a burden on any one individual conductor, and the participants would have the benefit of coaching by conductors with skills on a range of different instruments. Contact Joe Mariconda at 905-836-4039 or by email joemariconda@gmail.com.

 

Another new band programme for seniors will appeal to those who live close to the heart of Toronto. Long & McQuade Musical Instruments have announced their Play-in-a-Band Programme, to begin in September. Designed for adults from 50 to 90 (and older), it's for those who always wanted to play an instrument and former players who want to play again. Whether you're learning to play “from scratch” or dusting off that old horn from the back of the closet, you'll will be welcome. The programme will be directed by Dan Kapp, an instrumentalist and conductor with over 30 years' experience. An information meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, September 15 at 9:30am, with the first rehearsal one week later. For information go to www.newhorizonsbloor.ca or phone 416-588-7886.

This announcement sparked my curiosity and prompted a bit of digging, since there was a Canadian Federal Government sponsored “New Horizons” program in Canada over 25 years ago. The New Horizons program, established in 1991, was the brain child of Dr. Roy Ernst at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. While the first New Horizons program in 1991 was for bands, the intent was to also start other kinds of New Horizons programs. New Horizons orchestras started a few years later. Initially, a minimum age of 50 was arbitrarily set as a guideline. Over the years that has changed. Now, for most groups, “If you consider yourself to be an adult, you’re eligible.” In my digging, I discovered that there were already no fewer than ten such groups in Ontario as members of the New Horizons International Music Association. I even learned that two of these were conducted by personal friends of mine.

Just North of Toronto a group of dedicated amateur musicians have decided that it's time to formally organize a concert band for the town of Richmond Hill. The Richmond Hill Concert Band is intended for adults with high school instrumental musical ability who may not have played for several years but are looking to regain the enjoyment of playing in a band. The origins of this group are quite creative. The Thornhill Community Band, which has been operating successfully for some years, realized that 30 percent of its members were residents of nearby Richmond Hill. It was also becoming apparent that the Thornhill band's numbers had grown to the point where they could no longer accept new members for some instruments.

The solution was to assist in the forming of a new band. This had a number of benefits. By rehearsing on a complementary night to its own rehearsals, the Thornhill Band could help mentor a new Richmond Hill band without detracting from its own organization and membership. A core group from the Thornhill band, willing to rehearse two nights a week, will ensure a balanced instrumentation at the beginning. Initially they will share the music library, and long-time experienced conductor Denny Ringler will be at the helm of both ensembles. Since a group must have charitable status to apply for an Ontario Trillium grant, and since the Thornhill Community Band is a registered charitable organization, it was eligible to apply for a grant for its progeny. They are awaiting the outcome.

To assist in its establishment, the band was awarded a grant of $2,500 for startup funding by the Richmond Hill Mayor’s Endowment Fund.  The band will rehearse Thursday evenings from 7:30 to 10pm starting September 16, 2010, in the music room at Roselawn Public School, 422 Carrville Rd, Richmond Hill. For information, please call 905-737-7265, 416-223-7152, or send an email to info@rhcb.ca.

The fourth of our new startup groups is Resa’s Pieces Strings. In previous issues we have referred to the very successful beginners' band know as Resa’s Pieces Concert Band. Established some years ago by Resa Kochberg, this band was created with the philosophy that “everyone grows musically together, with each "piece" completing the whole. Now, Resa has decided that former and/or new string players deserve the same opportunity to develop their skills. As a result, Resa's Pieces Strings or the RPS will be launched in September 2010. This new beginners' string ensemble will be under the directorship of Ric Giorgi.

The RPS will follow the same philosophy that Resa Kochberg established when she founded Resa's Pieces Concert Band some years ago. It is "to provide an opportunity for people to return to playing instruments that they had not touched for years.” If I thought that I could handle a string instrument, I would be there in a flash with a viola in hand. For information visit their website, http://www.resaspieces.org, or email strings@resaspieces.org.

With all of those opportunities available, if you have thought about getting back to music, there is no better time than now. Listen to the advice from Resa. “Recall those sounds, reawaken that talent, rediscover playing music!”

On a sombre note, it is with deep regret that we report the passing of a stalwart of the military reserve band scene in Toronto. Captain Frank Merlo, CD, OSJ, Director of Music for the Governor General’s Horse Guards Regimental Band, passed away in Toronto on July 6, 2010. Frank’s association with the regiment and the band began in 1979, and for over three decades he literally dedicated his life to both. I first met Frank when he, as a young French horn player, first became involved in the local band scene. In part his obituary stated: “As the current Senior Director of Music in 32 Brigade, his knowledge and advice was highly sought after, and the support he gave to each Commanding Officer ensured that the Regimental Band could always be counted on to provide the right ceremonial touch to any occasion. In his role as a vocal music teacher with Toronto District Catholic School Board, he influenced the musical lives of countless students. He will be missed.

Definition Department

This month’s lesser known musical term is FERMANTRA: "A note held over and over and over . . ." We invite submissions from readers.

Coming Events: Please see the listings section for full details.

Jack MacQuarrie plays several brass instruments, and has performed in many community ensembles. He can be contacted at: bandstand@thewholenote.com.

Here we are heading into a new season. Summer is a sweaty memory. Before we know it, we’ll be complaining about the cold weather. But it also heralds an upsurge in club and concert activity. There are even a couple of festivals to round out that season.

The Guelph Jazz Festival runs from September 8 to 12 and kicks off with a performance featuring accordionist Pauline Oliveros performing live in Guelph with Anne Bourne (cello), Guelph’s own Ben Grossman (hurdy gurdy) and Jesse Stewart (drums) connected to two other sites where they will be joined by Ricardo Arias on balloon (in Bogotá, Colombia) and Jonas Braasch on soprano sax, Doug Van Nort on laptop and Curtis Bahn on electronics (in Troy, NY).

Some of the other featured artists include the quartet of Bob Ostertag, Sylvie Courvoisier, Taylor Ho Bynum, Jim Black on the 9th, Henry Grimes, Jane Bunnett, Andrew Cyrille, Marilyn Crispell, a double bill of The Trio (Muhal Richard Abrams, Roscoe Mitchell, George Lewis), Sangam (Charles Lloyd, Zakir Hussain and Eric Harlan), and on the closing day – and I do mean day because it is scheduled for 10:30am – guitarist Marc Ribot, bassist Henry Grimes and drummer Chad Taylor. The festival is a veritable feast for anyone who enjoys contemporary music. Full details can be found in our listings or by going to www.guelphjazzfestival.com.

P29Then there’s the All-Canadian Jazz Festival in Port Hope, September 24-26, which will be a real celebration of Canadian jazz. The Shuffle Demons, Alex Pangman and Her Alleycats, Laila Biali Trio with Guido Basso and Phil Dwyer and the Brian Barlow Big Band with Heather Bambrick to name just a few. Again, full details can be found at www.allcanadianjazz.ca.

On October 3 at the Toronto Centre for the Arts, 5040 Yonge, the Jazz Performance and Education Centre will present a tribute to Warren K. Winkler, Chief Justice of Ontario. The JPEC Jazz Orchestra (Denny Christianson, music director), and vocalist Ranee Lee are the featured performers for this gala event.

Not Run of The Mill

The fall programming at the Old Mill certainly isn’t “run of the mill.” On Thursday, September 16, 7:30pm in the dining room, 2010 Grammy Award-winning vocal virtuoso Kurt Elling will take the stand followed by the Oliver Jones Trio on September 30, while over at the Home Smith Bar Thursday nights will feature John Sherwood, except on the 16th when Richard Whiteman will take over.

Friday nights will showcase June Garber, Luis Mario Ochoa and Julie Michaels. On Saturday nights the Home Smith will present the Bob Scott Duo followed by the trios of Gord Sheard and Paul Read.

Gallery 345 at 345 Sorauren Ave. is also coming up with some interesting programmimg this month with “The Art of the Piano,” featuring Dave Restivo and Robi Botos on the 12th, Henry Grimes, Jane Bunnett and Andrew Cyrille on the 13th, and Indo-Latin jazz from Irshad Kahn World Trio on the 19th.

Meanwhile, the Rex rolls on and Quotes will be back mid-month. So the season is well and truly under way, and you should check the listings section for more complete details of the month’s offerings.

I also did some looking back at significant and memorable events this year, and two spring to mind immediately.

The Ken Page Memorial Trust Gala in May featured a cross-section of Canadian and American artists in an informal setting, again at the Old Mill, where players were mixed and matched throughout the evening. The visitors included the Vache brothers, Allan and Warren, George Masso and the multi-talented Scott Robinson, all long-time favourites with Toronto audiences. And the local musicians included almost a who’s who on the Toronto scene with John MacLeod, Kevin Turcotte, Laurie Bower, Al Kay, Don Thompson, John Sherwood, Reg Schwager, Neil Swainson, Terry Clarke, Lucian Gray and some guy playing a bent soprano sax.

Then there was the tribute performance by members of the Rob McConnell Tentet at the Old Mill. Led by trombonist Terry Promane the band gave an exuberant evening of Rob’s arrangements – that is, until the closing number, “For All We Know,” composed by J. Fred Coots in 1934, with lyrics by Sam M. Lewis. It goes as follows:

For all we know we may never meet again

Before you go make this moment sweet again

We won’t say goodnight until the last minute

I’ll hold out my hand and my heart will be in it

For all we know this may only be a dream

We come and we go like the ripples of a stream

So love me, love me tonight tomorrow was made for some

Tomorrow may never come for all we know

Ah, they don’t write lyrics like that any more.

But on that night it was an instrumental performance – and if ever there was a demonstration of the emotional power of music it was John Johnston’s moving alto sax interpretation of Rob McConnell’s arrangement. If there was a dry eye in the room it must have belonged to someone who is emotionally deaf.

To all of you out there: fall in and get out to hear some jazz!

 

Jim Galloway is a saxophonist, band leader and the former artistic director of Toronto Downtown Jazz. He can be contacted at: jazznotes@thewholenote.com.

It’s been a busy summer for devotees of Broadway-style musicals in the Toronto area, with professional productions of Miss Saigon and South Pacific adding to the just-closed hit Jersey Boys, and with Wicked just around the corner. If your wallet feels significantly lighter, however, then relief is at hand as a new season of community musical theatre in the GTA kicks off this month. Ticket prices are significantly lower, usually in the $20 to $25 range, but the performing standard is often very high.

P28There’s the usual mixture of perennial favourites and contemporary shows, and the usual mixture of presentation styles, all of which reflect the variety in the community theatre world: the different personnel of the various groups and their musical tastes; the perceived audience market; the quite different performing spaces; and the varying musical resources they choose to use. “Something for everybody,” as the cliché goes. Even so, you can’t help wondering if there should be a bit more imagination – or possibly a bit more communication – in the programming: there are three instances of the same show being staged by two different companies, and in the case of Oliver!, the two productions will be running at exactly the same time.

Most groups choose to do only one or two shows a year, which makes for a very full schedule in November and in the spring. Surprisingly, I know of only one production in each of September, October and December. Two of those belong to the Civic Light Opera Company, the only group to present four shows a year, and whose schedule – rather like the hockey season – stretches from early September to the beginning of June (www.civiclightoperacompany.com).

It does mean, however, that they mostly avoid date conflicts with the other groups. Their first show is Paint Your Wagon, another of those shows with a gorgeous Fritz Loewe score and a problematic book by Alan Jay Lerner, which artistic director Joe Cascone will doubtless address. It runs September 8 to 25 at Fairview Library Theatre.

October sees the first of five single productions by five different groups at the Meadowvale Theatre in Mississauga, combined under the heading the Encore Series, and with attractively-priced subscriptions to all five shows (www.encoreseries.ca). Music Theatre Mississauga stages Shout! The Mod Musical, a look at the British female singers and fashions of the 1960s. It runs October 22 to 30.

A busy November starts with Scarborough Music Theatre’s Annie, the first of two productions of the show this season, and Curtain Call Players’ Bob Fosse review Steam Heat. Annie, always popular with audiences (but, trust me, not with the musicians!) runs November 4 to 20 (www.theatrescarborough.com/SMT); and Steam Heat goes from November 4 to 13 (www.curtaincallplayers.com).

Rent has proved to be particularly popular with community groups since the performing rights became available, and it’s clearly a great way to pull young performers into the theatre. Brampton Musical Theatre’s production of the show runs at the Rose Theatre for just four days, November 11 to 14 (www.bramptonmusicaltheatre.com).

The middle of November sees the two concurrent productions of Oliver!: one a short run by Steppin’ Out Theatrical Productions in Richmond Hill from November 18 to 21 (www.steppinout.ca); and the other a three-week run by Etobicoke Musical Productions from November 19 to December 4 (www.e-m-p.net).

Clarkson Music Theatre presents the second show in the Encore Series at Meadowvale Theatre, and the first of the season’s Gilbert & Sullivan productions, when they stage The Gondoliers from November 19 to 27. Civic Light Opera is the only group to try to take advantage of the holiday season in December, with the third – and revised – production of their original musical, The Wizard of Oz. Do not expect the movie! Show dates are December 1 to 19.

The new year gets off to a fairly quiet start, with only Theatre Unlimited’s Cabaret in the Encore Series from January 21 to 29 – before St. Anne’s Music and Drama Society hits the boards at the end of the month with their double G&S bill of H.M.S. Pinafore and The Zoo. Show dates are January 28-30 and February 3 to 6 (www.stannes.on.ca).

Three contemporary shows can be seen in February: Scarborough Music Theatre’s second production of the season is The Full Monty, from February 3 to 19, (should be interesting!) and Meadowvale Music Theatre stages Urinetown as the fourth show in the Encore Series, February 18 to 26. Urinetown is another show that is proving to be extremely popular with community groups: you will also be able to catch it later in the spring when EMP mount their production at Burnhamthorpe Collegiate. Civic Light Opera’s production of The Big Bang, a two-man show about a backers’ audition for an improbably ambitious new musical, runs February 9 to 26, and the month also sees the latest in North Toronto Players’ string of imaginatively updated G&S operettas: this time it’s The Mikado at the Vaughan Playhouse (www.northtorontoplayers.com).

The Encore Series wraps up with City Centre’s Peter Pan from March 25 to April 2. Otherwise, March looks like the month for Stephen Sondheim fans, with productions of Sweeney Todd by Curtain Call Players from March 24 to April 2, and A Little Night Music by Steppin’ Out from March 24 to 26. Interestingly, there is a line of thought in musical theatre that Sondheim shows are not necessarily a great choice for community groups: for a start, they’re quite complex and difficult. But feelings about Sondheim seem to be polarized – you either like him or you don’t. If you do, you’ve probably already seen all his shows several times; if you don’t, then you probably won’t be going.

April sees the second Annie production, this time by Brampton Musical Theatre from April 6 to 8, and Scarborough Music Theatre ends its schedule with Fiddler on the Roof from April 28 to May 14. Civic Light Opera rounds out the season with Cole Porter’s Anything Goes from May 18 to June 4.

Quality musical theatre at quality prices – go see for yourself!

 

Terry Robbins is a musician and musical theatre enthusiast. He can be contacted at: musicaltheatre@thewholenote.com.

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