Alex Pangman isn’t the only jazz-singing Alex in town. A recent graduate of Humber College, jazz/pop/funk vocalist Alex Tait is a versatile musician and luminous composer with many influences ranging from Jaco Pastorius to Björk Guðmundsdóttir. Be sure to check out Miss Tait’s Toronto Jazz Festival debut on July 2 at Ten Feet Tall 9pm-midnight, with three aces accompanying: Ted Quinlan on guitar, Roberto Occhipinti on bass and Ethan Ardelli on drums. Pay-what-you-can, limited seating, reservations recommended. (www.tenfeettall.ca)

Yet another sensational singer by the same first name is Alex Samaras, a young musician taking the scene by storm with his impeccable taste, flawless technique and penchant for challenging material. Friday July 9 at Gate 403 5-8pm he will be singing songs by Stephen Sondheim, specifically “Sweeney Todd & Beyond” with Ernesto Cervini on drums, Bram Gielen on bass and Tyson Kerr on piano. (www.gate403.com)

An experimenter in everything from blues to hip hop, vocalist-composer Rita di Ghent has recently assembled Rita and her Jump & Soul Seven, an irresistibly exuberant slice of old-school, with guitarist/arranger Martin Loomer, Bob Brough on tenor, Bobby Hsu on alto, Brendan Davis on bass, Don Laws on trombone, Jake Wilkinson on trumpet and Drew Austin on drums. Don’t miss ‘em Tuesday July 13 at The Reservoir Lounge 7-9pm. (www.reservoirlounge.com)

43_jefflarochelleFor some contemporary instrumental jazz with an edge, check out up-and-coming reedman Jeff LaRochelle, a Humber College student with a bold tone on the horn. His group is playing Tequila Bookworm on Saturday July 31 from 9pm-midnight. The quintet: LaRochelle on clarinet and tenor saxophone, Sabine Ndalamba on guitar, Bora Lim on keys, Julian Anderson-Bowes on acoustic bass and Eric West on drums. (tequilabookworm.blogspot.com)

Not so much a jazzer as a fiercely free improviser, another young musician to listen for is pianist Avesta Nakhaei. A proud member of the Association of Improvising Musicians in Toronto, the York University music grad approaches music with an astounding effortlessness and endless imagination. He performs at The Tranzac on Saturday August 7 from 6:30-8:30pm. (www.tranzac.org)

Great news for Danforth jazz fans! Now in its second year, the “Mosaic Does Jazz in the Park” festival will spotlight the diversity of the jazz genre throughout the summer, every Wednesday, July 7-September 1 inclusive, rain or shine, from 6-9pm in the Robertson Parkette, just west of Coxwell Avenue. This free event is open to all local residents as well as jazz enthusiasts from across Toronto. Everyone is encouraged to bring a lawn chair or blanket, and vendors from local businesses will be on-hand to provide food and refreshments to the listening audience. Acts in the series include Rick Lazar’s Samba Squad, Heather Bambrick and Jane Bunnett; and do not miss the rarely heard treat that is Michael Danso (www.michaeldanso.com), a spectacular vocalist and irresistible entertainer, appearing on Wednesday August 11 from 6-9pm at the Mosaic Does Jazz in the Park Festival.

Not only will it be a full moon, but a “Political Party” when JAZZ.FM91 on-air host and man-about-town Jaymz Bee will host an event on Tuesday August 24 at the Old Mill Inn that takes place in eight different rooms! The Dining Room and Home Smith Bar will feature jazz, and other rooms will showcase folk, avante-garde, com-

 

 

As I sit down to produce this final column before The Wholenote’s summer break, I’m in the throes of recovery from the weekend of June 12-13. It started with a dress rehearsal on Saturday afternoon followed by a performance of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony in the evening with the Kindred Spirits Orchestra. Sunday started with “The World’s Biggest Brass Event” for the International Women’s Brass Conference (IWBC). Then it was off to an end-of-season garden party for another musical group. Before long I had to leave the party early for another orchestral rehearsal of Grieg’s Piano Concerto and Sibelius’s Violin Concerto.

P25I switched from bass trombone in the Beethoven to an antique Soviet Army rotary valve baritone horn in the Colonel Bogey march at the IWBC. I also went from a tuxedo on Saturday to a T-shirt on Sunday, and from The Glenn Gould Studio Saturday to a grassy slope at the Humber College Lakeshore Campus for the IWBC. It certainly was a weekend of variety!

Now let’s take a very unscientific look at what community musical groups have planned for the summer months.

There may be the odd performance in a summer festival, but, with few exceptions, most community orchestras and choirs take a break during the summer months. Not so for community bands. A century ago, before radio and television, the “town band” was a principal source of musical entertainment for most communities in our part of the world. From its construction in 1936, for the next 40 or so years, the Main Bandshell at Toronto’s CNE featured twice-daily concerts by famous bands from around the world. In between those there were concerts by local bands, there and on the North Bandstand. I remember well the Bands of the Royal Marines and the National Band of New Zealand. All summer long there were weekly band concerts in Toronto at Kew Gardens, High Park, Allen Gardens and St. James Park. Similar concerts on a smaller scale took place in most smaller communities.

How have community bands changed? How do today’s bands perceive their roles? While some community bands do close down for a while, many simply switch to an annual summer agenda, with more emphasis on outdoor performances. So I’ve decided to look at the four modern community bands of my acquaintance, to see how each has evolved with the changing times.

The oldest of these bands is the Newmarket Citizens Band. Having operated continuously for over 100 years, it’s not surprising that this band’s activities most closely resemble those of the town band when they were first formed. They play regular outdoor concerts in a variety of venues and play for many parades for which they frequently receive honoraria. The proceeds of these have been sufficient for the band to purchase, at no expense to the members, a complete set of new blazers with embroidered crests. In appearance, this band most closely adheres to its traditional roots.

The Concert Band of Cobourg is an excellent anomaly among community bands, both in appearance and activities. A good many years ago the town band in Cobourg was struggling. Then a new resident with a solid band background moved to town. Roland White (“Roly,” as he is known), had for many years served in bands of the Royal Marines, and studied conducting under Sir John Barbirolli. Having brought many of the traditions of the Royal Marines with him, the band was adopted as the official band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines Association, Ontario, and subsequently obtained Royal permission to wear a uniform closely resembling that of the Royal Marines. Some years ago, ill health forced White to retire and hand the reins over to Paul Storms, who carries on the tradition admirably.

Every year the band travels to Plattsburgh NY in September for the Battle of Plattsburgh Commemorative Weekend. As part of that celebration, they will be performing September 11 in a parade, beat retreat ceremony and evening concert. Once again this summer, from July 6 through to August 31, they will perform their summer-evening concert-series in the Victoria Park Bandshell in Cobourg. As with the Newmarket Band, this group participates regularly in parades and other ceremonial events.

The Markham Concert Band was organized 32 years ago by a group of local residents who had a common desire to make music. A few charter members are still active in the band. Unlike traditional town bands, this group has never participated in parades. They do, however, take part in a wide range of community activities. As of this writing, they already have commitments for 12 events this summer, ranging from a Main Street Festival to a concert at the Orillia Aquatheatre. As for uniforms, they are much less formal. In winter it’s a dark green sweater with an embroidered logo, and in summer it is a golf shirt with the same logo.

The Uxbridge Community Concert Band had its origins 19 years ago and bears little resemblance to the town bands of yesteryear. It is a summer-only band, operating only during the months of June, July and August. Founded initially to provide an opportunity for high school students to continue playing during the summer, it has evolved over the years to include a core group of adult players who return each summer. In addition, many of the original students return each year when they are home on vacation from university. As for uniform, each member receives a T shirt with a new musical motif each year on payment of their dues. They do not parade, but do play for one Decoration Day ceremony for the local branch of the Royal Canadian Legion. To encourage the development of the talents of the younger members, there is within the band a smaller wind ensemble which rehearses one special challenging selection each summer. This band is a welcome addition to the summer life of the community – but it’s quite unlike the town band of old.

Enjoy your summer of music, whatever your taste in bands!

Definition Department

This month’s lesser known musical term is: DILL PICCOLINI, “an exceedingly small wind instrument that plays only sour notes.” We invite submissions from readers.

Coming Events

July 18-August 21: National Band of the Naval Reserve will be performing a series of concerts in various locations throughout Southern Ontario as part of the celebrations commemorating the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the Royal Canadian Navy.

August 8 7:00: Northdale Concert Band with conductor Graziano Brescacin presents a concert at the Upper Queen’s Park Bandshell, Stratford, Ontario. Free admission.

August 15 12:30pm: Northdale Concert Band with conductor Graziano Brescacins present a matinee concert at the Events Pavilion, Black Creek Pioneer Village, 1000 Murray Ross Parkway, Toronto. Concert is free with park admission.

August 15 6:30: Markham Concert Band with conductor Doug Manning performs at the Aquatheatre, Couchiching Beach Park, Orillia

August 22 6:30: Newmarket Citizens Band with conductor Les Saville perform at the Aquatheatre, Couchiching Beach Park, Orillia

August 29 12:30: Newmarket Citizens Band with conductor Les Saville presents a matinee concert at the Events Pavilion, Black Creek Pioneer Village, 1000 Murray Ross Parkway, Toronto. Concert is free with park admission.

September 5: Northdale Concert Band with conductor Graziano Brescacin performs at the Aquatheatre, Couchiching Beach Park, Orillia.

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

 

 

 

“I’ve been a great jazz fan my whole life. I certainly like modern jazz as well, but my favourite kind is New Orleans jazz. Something about the primitive quality, the simplicity of it, the directness. It is the one style of jazz that stays with me the most.”

So says Allan Stewart Konigsberg, better known as Woody Allen in a recent article in New York’s Village Voice.

“Early jazz was very pleasurable and very simple,” explains Allen. “After a while, that stuff became concert music, and the chord progressions got very complicated, and the harmonies got very complicated. It became less pleasurable. Not less great … But it required more concentration and more effort from the audience.”

Allen has just finished the season of sold-out Monday night appearances at New York’s up-market Carlyle Hotel where, to be honest, his fame rather than his music was the big attraction, and forking out $100 for the privilege wasn’t a problem.

He does not deny his limitations as a musician, but his love of the music is genuine.

It is, however, a form of jazz that is no longer a part of the mainstream of the music. The audience for traditional jazz has diminished, partly through attrition, changing tastes, media neglect and the fact that jazz has embraced so many different influences that it is now well nigh impossible to define. Only a few young musicians now choose to specialize in traditional jazz and you have to look to Europe to find many of them.

Certainly, early jazz and swing musicians looked upon themselves largely as entertainers. There was no comprehension that jazz music might be or develop into an art form. “Entertainment”: such a vital word when describing early jazz, and a word that’s foreign to much of today’s music.

New York, which used to be a stronghold of jazz in the tradition with places such as Eddie Condon’s and Jimmy Ryan’s still does have a few places where you can hear jazz that swings: Arthur’s Tavern on Grove Street, Il Valentino at the Sutton Hotel on E. 56th St., and on Mondays you can catch Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks (11-piece band) at Club Cache, downstairs at the Edison Hotel on W. 46th St.

Here in Toronto the longest running of these traditional strongholds has to be Grossman’s Tavern on Spadina, which this year celebrates the 40th anniversary of New Orleans Jazz every Saturday afternoon from 4:30 pm.

P24The original bandleader was Cliff (“Kid”) Bastien, and his Saturday afternoon residence at Grossman’s began when, in 1970, then-owner Al Grossman hired the young trumpeter and his Camelia Band, later called Kid Bastien’s Happy Pals, to perform every Saturday. Apart from a short period around 1980, Kid played there until his death in February 2003. But the band, now led by Patrick Tevlin, still plays New Orleans jazz to a faithful following.

C’est What has bi-weekly sessions with the Hot Five Jazzmakerss from 3-6pm, although in the next few weeks the dates are June 5 and July 4. They play a mix of ragtime, blues, spirituals and classic jazz, and they have been strutting their stuff in this downtown watering hole on Front St. E. for over 20 years. The leader is trombonist Brian Towers, and the band is dedicated to playing in the traditional style with the emphasis on entertaining their audience.

It’s worth making the observation that when I say traditional jazz, I’m using terms of reference that have changed from the old days when jazz was still relatively easy to define – the time when you were either a traditionalist or a bebopper. Nowadays, as I have said in earlier columns, it is pretty well impossible to define just what jazz is, so widespread are the influences – and Charlie Parker’s music, once considered pretty “outside,” now sounds positively traditional.

Having said that, a great spot for jazz that swings has to be Quotes on King St., opposite Roy Thomson Hall. They have established a loyal following for their Friday sessions from 5 to 8pm with the resident Canadian Jazz Quartet plus a guest each week drawn from the extensive pool of front-rank local musicians. If you want a seat near the band you have to get there early.

What makes this club so successful? For one thing the timeframe of 5 to 8 is a winner. You can make your way there after work or make it a destination. you can enjoy the music and be home by 9 o’clock, or go out for an evening on the town. It also falls into the TGIF category at the end of the work week for most people.

But there’s another significant element; the quality of the music is extremely high by any standards, and the club has become a “hang” for local musicians, adding to the cachet. In this regard it is reminiscent of the old Montreal Bistro. They do, however, take a break over the summer months, so you will have to wait until September 17, when jazz at Quotes will enter its fifth year of swinging jazz.

However, the reality is that more and more traditional jazz finds itself surviving in little enclaves, supported by a small but dedicated following. Yet there’s a vital significance to this music: every style of jazz is an integral part of the story and if you know nothing about the roots your music – or your listening experience – will be less rewarding than it might have been.

If art reflects the age, and recognizing that we are in an era of anger and frustration, then it’s no wonder that today’s music often reflects what is happening around us these days. As the Austrian writer Ernst Fischer said: “In a decaying society, art, if it is truthful, must also reflect decay.” But I like to think that music also has the power to heal, soothe and calm, and there has to be room in our lives for jazz that lifts our spirits and entertains us.

Happy listening – with the emphasis on happy!

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

 

 

 

Summer is here, bringing with it a plethora of world music events to take in, many of which will occur outdoors. Harbourfront is of course one of the biggest purveyors of music and culture on its many stages both indoor and out, but before having a look at its summer line-up, I’d like to draw your attention to a special event hosted by the Toronto Summer Music Festival. Bunraku is a form of Japanese puppet theatre, which originated in 17th-century Osaka. Puppets are often life-size, and the drama is accompanied by traditional music. On July 22, the Bunraku Bay Puppet Troupe and Imada Puppet Troupe will perform at U of T’s MacMillan Theatre, preceded by a pre-performance talk at 6:45pm. The Bunraku Bay group is the only American troupe of its kind, and they are joined by their mentors from Japan (Imada was founded in 1704!) in a series of short plays.

p22Heading down to Harbourfront, Music in the Garden curator Tamara Bernstein has once again put together a fine series of free Thursday (7pm) and Sunday (4pm) concerts, running July 1 to September 19. For the full schedule, check out Harbourfront’s website, but here are some “world” highlights: on Canada Day, the Ahkwesasne Women Singers sing traditional Mowhawk songs, and there will be a world premiere of a new piece by Barbara Croall, Agamiling (On the Shore), for Native instruments, voice, clarinet and field recordings. On July 22, folk dances from around the world will be performed by Jayme Stone (banjo), Mike Barnett (fiddle), Grant Gordy (guitar) and Greg Garrison (bass). Vancouver’s Orchid Ensemble presents “The Road to Kashgar” on July 29, featuring music inspired by countries and cultures along the Silk Road. In addition to Chinese, Indian, Jewish and Central Asian music, they’ll play works by contemporary British Columbia composers. Toronto’s own Japanese taiko ensemble Nagata Shachu performs on August 5; and sarangi virtuosa Aruna Narayan, with Vineet Vyas (tabla) and Akshay Kalle (tanpura) perform North Indian ragas designated for twilight on August 19.

Still at Harbourfront, World Routes 2010 is a series of mini festivals running every weekend from Canada Day through Labour Day. Some highlights: vocalist Cheryl L’Hirondelle presents contemporary songs expressing the Cree world view, July 1, at Redpath Stage. (Unfortunately this is around the same time as that evening’s Music Garden concert, so you’ll have to choose.) “Hot Spot” runs July 2-4; highlights include the Toronto International Flamenco Festival, featuring dancers, singers and musicians, and l’Orchestre Septentrional, an 18-piece big band from Haiti, on July 3. “Expressions of Brazil” runs July 16-18; Roda de Samba performs July 17, and 17-year-old Mallu Magalhaes performs songs from her two albums, in Portuguese, English and French. “Island Soul” presents Caribbean culture July 30-August 2; roots/reggae vocalist Queen Ifrica performs July 31, and some of Canada’s best steelpan players jam August 1 and 2.

“What is Classical?” (Aug. 6-8) explores notions of “classical” music, of both East and West. The Turkish ensemble Djoumbush joins forces with Warhol Dervish (baroque and contemporary chamber music collective) on August 7. And last but not least, the Ashkenaz Festival of Jewish culture returns for its eighth round of performances showcasing both local and international artists, August 31-September 6. For details, visit www.ashkenazfestival.com and www.harbourfrontcentre.com/worldroutes2010 for details on all Harbourfront festivals.

The 11th annual Bana Y’Afrique, a free outdoor festival of African music and culture, takes place July 24 and 25 at Metro Hall Square (King/John). Presented by Africa New Music, there will be 16 performances by groups from across Canada and one from abroad. Performers include M’bilia Bel (Congolese singer known as the “Queen of Congolese rumba”), Ethio Stars Band (Ethiopian songs from the 1960s to the present), Afrafranto (Ghanaian “palm wine music” – a style involving guitars, named after the drink served at gatherings where African guitarists played), Umurisho (a Burundian-Canadian drumming/dance group), and much more.

Staying on the outdoors theme, Yonge/Dundas Square is a hub of activity throughout the summer. The Global Grooves series includes Tambura Rasa on July 2, a cross-cultural group featuring Spanish guitar, gypsy strings, Afro-Latin percussion, Flamenco and belly dancers. Co-presented with Small World Music, another “ethno-fusion” band from Quebec, Apadoorai combines Australian didgeridoo, Reggae, Arabic, Celtic and folk music, July 23. Also a Small World co-presentation, Les Gitans de Sarajevo plays Balkan/Gypsy style music and song on August 13. For the full schedule of events at Yonge/Dundas Square visit www.ydsquare.ca and for more from Small World Music, visit www.smallworldmusic.com.

If you’re a jazz fan, the Danforth Mosaic BIA (www.danforthmosaicbia.com/blog) has a series of free outdoor concerts at the Coxwell Parkette (Danforth, just west of Coxwell station), every Wednesday evening beginning July 7. You can hear Suba Sankaran and Indian-jazz fusion band Autorickshaw on July 14.

If staying indoors is a must, head to Hugh’s Room on July 9 to hear the Gypsy jazz ensemble Gypsophilia; they’ll also be at London, Ontario’s Sunfest on July 10/11. And the Russians are coming!  The Russian Cossack State Dance Company makes its Massey Hall debut on September 1. Thirty dancers, a chorus, vocal soloists, and a 10-piece chamber orchestra present a colourful and lively evening of some of the most athletic dance and music around!

Karen Ages can be reached at worldmusic@thewholenote.com

 

 

 

What do a Medieval mystic, Santa Claus and Elvis Presley have in common? They are the centerpieces of contrasting concerts in Southern Ontario this July and August. Stylistic extremes are quite common in any healthy choral scene, but in the summer, when many choirs are on hiatus, the relative paucity of concerts makes the contrasts even more noticeable.

p20The Elora Festival (July 9-August 1) has as its centerpiece the excellent Elora Festival Singers, who are performing a range of music from works by Beethoven, Vivaldi and Handel to a Broadway concert with the great Jackie Richardson as soloist. But if I had to pick one concert to go to during the festival, I would opt for their performance of Benjamin Britten’s oratorio St. Nicholas, on July 25.

Britten is hardly a neglected composer, but I have always been curious as to why his St. Nicholas isn’t performed more often. Written in 1948, it shows all the poise and dash of the young composer of Peter Grimes, combined with the genuine friendliness towards the audience – not an especially widespread attitude in 20th-century composers – of The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra. The subject of the work is of course the Medieval bishop who was the source for the modern Santa Claus, and with Christmas concert attendance often being the economic anchor for many choral groups, I would have thought that this clearly seasonal work could do well against more familiar seasonal offerings by Handel, Bach, Monteverdi and others.

One possible explanation for St. Nicholas’s relative rarity in concert is its unusual scoring. Written in celebration of the centenary of the English boy’s school Lancing College, Britten made use of the school’s comprehensive musical resources to score the piece for tenor soloist, an adult mixed choir, a children’s choir, two pianos, organ, percussion and strings. To quote a character in Robertson Davies’s A Mixture of Frailties, it is “just the size to be neglected.” He might have been referring to St. Nicholas.

Britten’s conception of St. Nicholas himself is filled with nuance. Outwardly powerful, stern yet benign, the true character of the bishop is one of doubt and conflict. This powerful tenor role alternates between quiet soliloquies and fiery sermons, while the choral movements encompass childlike playfulness, pageantry, savage cannibalism, a wonderful depiction of a storm at sea and finally Nicholas’s death and ascent into sainthood. It is a rare treat to hear this work in concert, especially this time of year.

The Medieval mystic mentioned above is Hildegard of Bingen, and her music is the focus of a concert on August 8 given by Schola Magdalena, a five-voice ensemble of female singers based out of Toronto’s Church of St. Mary Magdalene. Hildegard was a medieval polymath of almost Leonardian scope, and recent researches into both early music and the work of female composers has brought her work, neglected for centuries, into new focus.

Medieval scholars often struggle with lost or incomplete sources in their attempts to shine a light on the past. They have been lucky with Hildegard, who left behind a clear legacy of songs, poems, books and letters that gives us insight both into the times in which she lived and the mind of an individual artist. Performers of her music have found a richness of invention, in which melody can be made to illuminate and enhance the meaning of the text in a way that can be challenging with even the most beautiful chant.

From a Medieval cleric to a modern composer’s take on a Medieval saint, to the proverbial King of Rock and Roll may seem like a unlikely leap – especially in a choral context. But Elvis Presley was a deeply religious man, who loved singing gospel music as a vocal warm-up prior to giving concerts, and whose earliest musical influences were the choirs and quartets that he heard attending church as a young child. On August 20 Hamilton’s Brott Festival Choir and National Academy Orchestra will perform Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, in good classical fashion. But on August 4 the orchestra is joined by a Gospel choir to perform Elvis: The Way it Was with vocalist Stephen Kabakos. Though the concert will likely focus on Presley’s pop songs, anyone familiar with Presley’s gospel singing can hear clearly the degree to which a song like “Suspicious Minds” draws on that influence.

Performing popular music in a choral context is much trickier than it might seem. Ease with syncopated rhythms is an essential part of the performance of popular music, and classically trained musicians can struggle to free themselves from the straightjacket of notated music, in which syncopation is often difficult to convey convincingly and idiomatically. An awareness of the backbeat (accents on two and four in a 4/4 measure) needs to inform the performance at all times, and often singers must re-jig their vocal style as well. A legato vocal line that serves Handel and Mozart is usually too heavy and rhythmically undifferentiated for popular music.

I predict that even choirs mostly accustomed to classical repertoire will begin to delve with increasing frequency into the world of popular music. The challenge for choirs and choral directors will be to recognize that good execution of popular music takes skills that classical training has neglected, and adjust and even re-train accordingly. The term “performance practice” is often applied to early music: equal care and respect is needed in the area of popular and vernacular music as well.

p21Some last notes. The Elmer Iseler Singers perform on July 11 at Westben, and at Parry Sound’s Festival of the Sound on July 30 and August 8. The 2010 Ontario Youth Choir, directed this year by Iwan Edwards appear from 27-29 August, in London, Orillia and Toronto respectively. And in a final Gospel context, at Toronto’s Fringe Theatre Festival (June 30-July 11), the play “Maurice Carter’s Innocence” will feature a Gospel choir onstage, helping to illuminate and tell the true story of a miscarriage of justice that led to one man’s wrongful imprisonment, and of the determination of those who fought for his release.

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

 

 

You’d do well to keep your frequent flyer card handy over the next two months. I know I will. We new-music seekers are going to be bouncing between Toronto and Ottawa a lot if we want to catch all the excellent programming promised by the mainstay festivals, as well as a few new offerings in a sizzling summer concert calendar.

We’ll start in Toronto with the 12th edition of New Adventures in Sound Art’s Sound Travels festival, which has a healthy run from June 26-September 26. Sound Travels takes a more grounded focus to sound and space than other NAISA festivals, bringing together a mix of interactive installations, performances, sound walks and workshops at their home in the Artscape Wychwood Barns. Featured artists include Toronto’s own Rose Bolton alongside Marcelle Deschênes, David Eagle, Ned Bouhalassa, D. Andrew Stewart, Satoshi Morita and Rob Cruickshank, among others. Full programming details are available at www.naisa.ca.

Next, we bounce over to Ottawa, where the adage seems to be “enough is never enough.” While our nation’s capital is already home to the world’s largest chamber music festival, it will welcome a new contender this summer, Music and Beyond. Running from July 5-14, Music and Beyond’s 85 concerts will forge links between music and other art forms in concerts featuring some of the greatest names in classical music. While new music from many countries can be found throughout the festival programming, those of us looking for a “bang for our buck” will want to pay attention to the mid-festival dates.

P18On July 8, CBC Radio 2, the National Gallery of Canada and Music and Beyond will unveil the results of their Gallery Project – the culmination of a national contest to choose five works of art from the Gallery to inspire new compositions. The programme includes works by a cross-country collection of Canadian composers, including Jocelyn Morlock, Denis Bédard, Michael Conway Baker, Colin Mack, Scott Macmillan, Elizabeth Raum and Kelly-Marie Murphy. The following day, Music and Beyond partners with the Ottawa New Music Creators to celebrate local composers Gabor Finta, Steven Gellman and Patrick Cardy at the Church of St. John the Evangelist. Across both days, the National Arts Centre Orchestra will open its afternoon rehearsals to the public with two new music reading sessions. Conductor Gary Kulesha will lead the orchestra in explorations of new orchestral works by both emerging and established Canadian composers. For full Music and Beyond festival details, and to purchase passes, visit www.musicandbeyond.ca.

Back in Toronto, the lovely Queen of Puddings Music Theatre will unveil its latest project from July 29-31 at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts. Beauty Dissolves in a Brief Hour comprises three distinct chamber operas sung in three languages (Mandarin, English and medieval French), exploring three cultures and three historical periods within the music of three Canadian composers: Fuhong Shi, John Rea and Pierre Klanac. Written for soprano, mezzo-soprano and accordion, these three premiere pieces are connected by the universal theme of love, and will be presented as one fully staged opera work. Two Toronto new opera pros, soprano Xin Wang and mezzo Krisztina Szabo, share the stage with accordionist John Lettieri. Tickets to Beauty Dissolves in a Brief Hour can be purchased through www.youngcentre.ca or 416-866-8666. To learn more about Queen of Puddings visit www.queenofpuddingsmusictheatre.com.

Meanwhile, running parallel to Beauty Dissolves is the Ottawa premiere of Christos Hatzis’ wildly successful Constantinople, featuring the Gryphon Trio with the extremely talented cabaret/opera singer Patricia O’Callaghan and renowned world music vocalist Maryem Tollar. This multimedia, concert-length chamber work, which has been presented to sold-out audiences on two continents, is a feature presentation of the 17th  Ottawa International Chamber Music Festival, on July 29.

While the Ottawa festival gets underway on July 24, the real new music activity starts up on August 2 with the annual New Music Marathon. This year’s version offers no less than six concerts under the New Music Dialogues banner, all housed at the handsome St. Brigid’s Centre for the Arts near Ottawa’s bustling Byward Market. Highlights include the world renowned Penderecki String Quartet performing new music by Canadian composer Marjan Mozetich; the world premiere of 9 Dances for Flute and Accordion by Toronto-based composer Juliet Palmer; Alexina Louie’s spellbinding Take the Dog Sled for two Inuit throat-singers and ensemble; and the Gryphon Trio performing works by Gary Kulesha. Adventurous listeners will want to explore the Late Night at St. Brigid’s series, where Montreal composer Nicole Lizée pushes musical boundaries with turntablist DJ P-LOVE and the maverick trio Toca Loca. Full festival details, tickets and passes are available through www.chamberfest.com.

Finally, we return to Toronto, where the Toronto Summer Music Festival will be underway July 20 – August 14. July 30 seems to be a very popular date in the festival calendar. This time, we get to hear the Penderecki String Quartet, strong champions of new music, in a programme of five new string quartets. Waterloo-based composer Glenn Buhr gets special attention in this year’s festival:  the Pendereckis will perform his Quartet No. 4 and the composer himself will give a pre-concert talk on all five new works. (I was hoping that we would get an earful of the results from Toronto Summer Music’s Composer Workshop, but this young addition to their academy programming seems to have been inexplicably and sadly cancelled.) On August 7 at the University of Toronto’s MacMillan Theatre the festival will premiere Buhr’s Song of the Earth, a companion piece to the well known and loved Mahler song-cycle. Both will appear in versions for chamber ensemble with soloists Roxana Constantinescu and Gordon Gietz. For full festival details, and to purchase tickets, visit www.torontosummermusic.com.

After all of our city and concert-hopping, we can finally take advantage of the late summer weather and rest up for the concert season ahead. But not for too long! New music makes its return on September 26 with the Toronto New Music Marathon – eight hours of continuous and contemporary sounds from Toronto’s new music creators in the lively Yonge-Dundas Square.

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

 

P16Thinking of going on an early music treasure hunt this summer? Here are some ideas for you.

If your travel boundaries lie within Toronto and the GTA, you could spend the whole summer sampling a variety of styles and genres in many different programmes:

The Italian singer/instrumentalist Viva BiancaLuna Biffi (featured in the June early music column) presents her one-woman show, “Fermate il Passo,” a programme of Italian frottola in which she sings universal tales of love – its euphoria and torments, its ultimate triumph over adversity – while accompanying herself on the viola d’arco. This Music Mondays concert at the Church of the Holy Trinity takes place on July 5.

Beaches Baroque, a duo made up of baroque violinist Geneviève Gilardeau and lutenist Lucas Harris, presents “The Bach/Weiss Sonata.” The featured work is a seven-movement sonata for violin and lute supposedly by Bach, but striking in that the lute part began life as a sonata in its own right by Bach’s friend, the virtuoso lutenist Leopold Weiss. As well, more music by Bach, Weiss and Hagen will be presented, on July 10 at Beaches Presbyterian Church.

Hildegard von Bingen’s music broke the boundaries of expression for its time, and sounds amazingly modern today. The soaring chant of this 12th-century abbess can be heard on August 8 at the Church of Saint Mary Magdalene, sung by a group that’s been acclaimed for its performances of medieval music and Gregorian chant. The five-voice women’s ensemble Schola Magdalena is led by artistic director Stephanie Martin.

And sprinkled through the ambitious Summer Music in the Garden programme of the Toronto Music Garden – a concert almost every Sunday and Thursday from now till late September – are the following hour-long programmes, each one featuring a different aspect of early music:

July 4: On the day before her Music Mondays concert (described above), Viva BiancaLuna Biffi’s imaginative show “Fermate il Passo” can be heard here too, in this lovely outdoor setting.

July 15: “In Four Hands, Twenty-Nine Strings,” baroque violinist Linda Melsted and guitarist Terry McKenna explore a whole range of styles from the 17th to the 20th century – old English dance tunes, an opera overture, tango and more.

August 12: “Inspired by Cremona” presents some of the bold new music created to showcase the unsurpassed perfection of the stringed instruments crafted by 17th-century Italian makers. Music by Farina, Merula and Castello will be performed by baroque violinists Patricia Ahern and Linda Melsted, harpsichordist Borys Medicky and lutenist Lucas Harris.

August 22: In “Masque of the Garden,” musicians of the Toronto Masque Theatre, actor Derek Boyes and baroque dancer Dorothea Ventura celebrate the Music Garden itself, with music and dances that inspired the six sections of the garden.

August 26: “Able was I ere I heard Abel” is a tribute to the 18th century’s last great gamba virtuoso, Carl Friedrich Abel. Gambist Justin Haynes and baroque cellist Kate Bennett Haynes present music by Haydn, Schaffrath, and Abel himself.

September 2: In “Bach at Dusk,” cellist Winona Zelenka’s six-year odyssey through the Bach solo cello suites is fulfilled, with her performance of the Suite in C Minor (which is actually number five in the set).

It’s so easy to “catch the fire” of a summer festival – music springing up in various places, artists and concert-goers sharing the excitement of magical moments – and I urge you to work one or more into your summer plans. Here’s some of what you might find in various Southern Ontario festivals:

July 4: North of Toronto at historic Sharon Temple, Music at Sharon presents Les Voix Baroques, a celebrated ensemble specializing in vocal works from the Renaissance and Baroque. They’ll offer music by Charpentier and Carissimi in this imposing space.

July 18: Northwest of Campbellford, the Westben Festival presents the Toronto Consort in their presentation “Shakespeare’s Songbook.” The Consort uses the songs and dances of Shakespeare’s plays to engage the audience in the wonderful world of Elizabethan music: “music for fools, fairies and Falstaff.”

July 9-August 1: The Elora Festival takes place in a village with a spectacular setting along the Elora Gorge, north of Guelph. If you go, you’ll be able to hear four early music concerts: choral works with the Elora Festival Singers and collaborating artists on July 18 (Handel and Vivaldi) and July 22 (The Tudors); the delightfully daring group I Furiosi on July 24; and “Love: Sacred and Profane” on July 31 – a programme of renaissance music presented by Ludus Modalis Vocal Ensemble from France.

July 16-August 8: At the Festival of the Sound in Parry Sound, you can hear concerts as diverse as “Sound the Trumpet” (music for trumpet, soprano and piano by Purcell, Handel, Bach and Scarlatti) on July 29; Bach’s powerful B Minor Mass on July 30; and “Baroque on the Boat” (a morning concert on the M.V. Chippewa in Georgian Bay with the Festival Winds) on August 6.

July 19-August 22: At Stratford Summer Music, gems seem to be multiplying: Winona Zelenka, having recently recorded all the Bach solo cello suites, will perform each of them in separate concerts – and as several of these are now sold out, more performances are being added as I write. (Zelenka is featured as the cover story in The WholeNote’s June issue.) As well, Bach’s Coffee Cantata can be enjoyed in the appropriate setting of a coffee house (August 13, 14 and 15); and from it another event has been brewed: “Bawk’s” (alias Tiefenbach’s) Cappuccino Cantata (or The Lonely Barista) can be savoured the following week (August 20, 21 and 22).

July 24-August 7: If you find yourself in Ottawa this summer, you must take in some events of the Ottawa Chamber Music Festival. July 28: Les Voix Humaines (gambists Susie Napper and Margaret Little) present “Master and Pupil: Sainte-Colombe, the master, and Marin Marais, his pupil”; August 1: Ensemble Caprice explores an unlikely connection in “Bach and the Baroque Gypsies”; August 5: Helene Plouffe, Mark Simonds and friends present “Discovering the viola d’amore and chalumeau”; August 5: Ludus Modalis perform “Spiritual Songs and Psalms of the Renaissance” with music by Sweelinck, Estocart, Ferrabosco, Costelley and Le Jeune. (This list is not comprehensive, so do check the listings.)

As for me, I am enslaved by a gamba and a cat, neither of whom travels very well; so I’ll probably do most of my concert-going within the boundaries of Toronto. But you never know – don’t be surprised if you find me at any of the aforementioned events. And may your own treasure hunt be fascinating!

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.

p10There are two important opera stories this month: one surrounded by a plethora of media attention, and one that should be better known. The first is the North American premiere of Prima Donna by Rufus Wainwright, at Toronto’s Luminato Festival. The second is Handel’s Giulio Cesare, marking the first time Orchestra London will stage its own opera production.

It is safe to say that no opera by a Canadian composer has ever received as much international media coverage as Prima Donna, the centrepiece of this year’s Luminato Festival. The principal reason is that its composer, Rufus Wainwright, is at age 36 already famous as a singer/songwriter. The son of folk-singers Kate McGarrigle and Loudon Wainwright III and brother of singer Martha Wainwright, he was born into a musical family and began touring with them at age 13. In 1998 his self-titled first album won him the accolade “Best New Artist of the Year” from Rolling Stone.

In 2006, Peter Gelb, the new general manger of the Metropolitan Opera, commissioned new operas from nine composers in an effort to revitalize the Met and to draw in younger audiences. Of these nine, who included Jake Heggie (Dead Man Walking), Adam Guettel (The Light in the Piazza) and Wynton Marsalis, Wainwright had made the most progress by mid 2007. But there was a problem: Wainwright’s libretto, written by Bernadette Colomine and himself, was in French. Gelb claimed that presenting a new opera not in English was “an immediate impediment.” Wainwright, however, insisted that French was part of the texture of the work.

Once the two parted company, many festivals vied to produce it. It premiered at the Manchester International Festival on July 10, 2009, with a subsequent performances in London in April 2010. Wainwright insisted that Luminato should present the North American premiere.

The opera is set in Paris on July 14, 1970, and follows a day in the life of aging diva Régine Saint Laurent. She is planning her comeback but happens to fall in love with the journalist interviewing her. Wainwright, who has long been a fan of opera and whose songs are sometimes classified as “operatic pop,” has written an homage to traditional opera. Thus, audiences need not worry that this new work will also be avant garde. In Luminato’s new production, directed by Tim Albery, Janis Kelly reprises the title role with a cast that includes local favourites Gregory Dahl as the butler and Colin Ainsworth as the journalist. Robert Houssart conducts the 57-member orchestra. The opera will be performed at the Elgin Theatre on June 14, 16, 18 and 19. For more information see www.luminato.com.

cesaroniAt the start of the month, Orchestra London takes a bold new step by becoming a producer of opera. For the past five years the orchestra under maestro Timothy Vernon has presented one opera each June at the Grand Theatre. All of these have been transfers of productions from Pacific Opera Victoria where Vernon is the artistic director. The orchestra’s first production as “Opera London” is Handel’s Giulio Cesare, directed by American Timothy Nelson, who at age 30 has already received much acclaim for his productions.

Nelson is unusual as opera directors go because he is also a musician and conductor. In 2003 he founded American Opera Theatre at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, to explore his interests in movement, music, design and opera as theatre. In 2008 he was the director and conductor of Marc-Antoine Charpentier’s David et Jonathas (1688) at the Brooklyn Academy of Music and last year, among many other credits, he was the director and conductor of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas and John Blow’s Venus and Adonis in Virginia and the director of Philip Glass’s Hydrogen Jukebox, staged as part of Obama’s inaugural celebrations. Currently he is the artistic director of the Canadian Operatic Arts Academy at the University of Western Ontario.

Known for his up-to-date takes on the classics, Nelson plans to relocate the action in Giulio Cesare from Egypt to a present-day war-torn country suggesting Afghanistan. For a highly detailed look at Nelson’s thoughts behind this concept, have a look at his blog (blog.operalondon.ca), which includes video lectures and stage designs. The cast will feature the well-known countertenor Drew Minter in the title role with Lucia Cesaroni as Cleopatra, Roseanne van Sandwijk as Sesto and Ian Howell as Tolomeo.
Beside the excitement that this project will bring to London, this is a rare opportunity to see Handel’s opera fully-staged in a house of only 839 seats. Performances are June 3 and 5 at 7:30 and June 6 at 2pm. For more information visit www.uwo.ca/music/operalondon.

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

As always in June summer festivals of various kinds are getting under way. Some are big productions that are hard to miss, while others are smaller, out-of-the way events.

Brott Music Festival

The 23rd annual Brott Music Festival, which goes on through much of the summer, opens this year in Burlington, with three performances on three consecutive Wednesdays by the National Academy Orchestra, which principal conductor Boris Brott founded as a training orchestra for young professional musicians and conductors. This year the orchestra has two apprentice conductors: Geneviève Leclair, winner of the 2010 MacMillan Prize for conducting, is a doctoral conducting student at Boston University; Samuel Tam, a graduate of McGill University, has spent the last two years as apprentice and assistant conductor at the Canadian Opera Company, and will continue his training at the University of Toronto.
Each of the three Burlington concerts will feature a young instrumental soloist: cellist Denise Djokic on June 16, clarinettist Giampiero Sobrino on June 23, and violinist Jonathan Crow on June 30.

The Canadian Aldeburgh

On June 5, the fourth annual Bayfield Festival of Song opens with a recital by soprano Virginia Hatfield, mezzo Lauren Segal and pianist Bruce Ubukata. The festival will continue until June 13 with master classes and vocal and piano recitals. Bayfield is on Lake Huron halfway between Grand Bend and Goderich.

Luminato

The fourth annual Luminato Festival runs from June 11 to 20, with many events that will be of interest to WholeNote readers. All those events can be found, of course, on Luminato’s website. Events include an opera by Rufus Wainright, a late-night performance by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and a concert on June 12 by the Vienna Academy Orchestra.

Music at Sharon

p18bSharon Temple’s annual month-long Sunday afternoon concert series, under the new artistic leadership of Larry Beckwith and Rick Phillips opens on June 6 with a recital by mezzo-soprano Wallis Giunta and pianist Stephen Philcox. This will be a great opportunity to hear this talented young singer, who, Globe and Mail reviewer Paula Citron predicts “is heading for stardom.” The series continues on June 13 with Ensemble Polaris, June 20 with the Tokai String Quartet and pianist Anton Kuerti, June 27 with pianist Alexander Seredenko, and on July 4 with Montreal’s Les Voix Baroques.

Blue Bridge Festival

Like Music at Sharon, The Blue Bridge Festival also takes place in York Region, and its artistic director Brenda Muller is also a music teacher with the York Region Board of Education. It opens on June 4 with a very eclectic programme of everything “from opera to folk, from chamber music to jazz, to the poetry of the spoken word.” All this takes place in beautiful Roches Point on the southern shores of Lake Simcoe. The festival continues the next evening with a Gala Concert in Newmarket. The third and last day of the festival, Sunday, June 6, offers a variety of events including a parade, opera singers performing from a raft and workshops at the Varley Art Gallery. For those of you who would like to make it a weekend getaway, festival pass holders will receive discounted rates from two really great local resorts, the Briars and Whispering Pines Inn.

Music Mondays and the Music Garden

You don’t, of course, have to leave the metropolis to hear music beside a lake or in an historic venue. Music Mondays offers a wonderful series of concerts at noon on Mondays at Holy Trinity Church from June right through to Labour Day and the Music Garden offers a great variety of music in an enchanting downtown lakeside location. Summer in Toronto just isn’t complete without at least one concert from each of these series.

Off the Beaten Track

Gallery 345, at 345 Sorauren Avenue in Toronto’s west end, between Lansdowne and Roncesvalles, has become a really busy venue over the past couple of years. I gave a concert there myself with pianist Elena Tchernaia, a couple of years ago – and can say from experience what a great place it is to perform in, with its lively acoustics and friendly ambience. In this magazine, there are six concerts listed there between June 4 and 30.

On June 6, the first of what I expect will be many concerts at Merriam Music in Oakville is taking place. Since Merriam Music is a high-end piano dealership, you can expect to hear high calibre music making on great instruments at these events. At this opening event the performers will be Adrean Farrugia, Robi Botos, and Stu Harrison, performing on three different pianos, covering a broad range of repertoire in a unique three-piano format. Take note, pianists: in his message to me, Stu Harrison wrote: “We’re also looking to expand the series in 2011 to include recording possibilities for artists who want an inexpensive method of recording live events on a Fazioli, or like pianos.”

I’ve often written about the Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber Music Society, which for those who live in K-W is right on the beaten path, of course. In this issue there are a staggering 16 events listed taking place in three locations, the Music Room, Maureen Forrester Hall and Keffer Memorial Chapel.

The Arts and Ideas Studio, located in what used to be a bank in an aging and definitely off the beaten track suburban location on O’Connor Drive, just northeast of St. Clair Avenue East, is used as a dance studio. With an intimate atmosphere, good acoustics and great light, however, this is a perfect venue for chamber music. The first of three concerts currently scheduled for the Studio will be on June 19, with the young jazz group Café Olé playing all original music by its leader, bassist Justin Shaskin; and the newly formed Ensemble Espressivo with clarinettist Nicolai Tarasov, Yours Truly on flute and a t.b.a. guitarist performing a delightful trio by the early 19th century guitarist-composer Francesco Molino, among other things.

Elsewhere in the News

At intermission during a performance of the opera Giiweden on May 14, I spoke to Aradia director Kevin Mallon, who told me he’d just been appointed artistic director of Thirteen Strings Chamber Orchestra in Ottawa. There’s a resonance here between orchestra and conductor. Mallon, after all, is best known as an early music specialist. It was Tafelmusik that brought him to Toronto in the first place, and he has made a name for himself and many recordings as the director of the Aradia Ensemble. Indeed, only a couple of years ago in a WholeNote review of Aradia’s Israel in Egypt CD, reviewer Robert Tomas dubbed him “Canada’s crown prince of period performance” – hastening to add that “frequently he is invited to guest-conduct standard repertoire and contemporary music.”

It will be interesting to see what new directions Mallon takes the ensemble in.

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.

Toronto is a city of constant musical discoveries. While the concert season is quickly coming to a close, the summer festival season starts to build, bringing with it a range of fresh new experiences. And for lovers of new music, June bursts open in a bouquet of new works and visiting artists.

First up is the Luminato Festival, which opens its 2010 music series to showcase new music that is resonant in both its celebratory nature and serious content.  
In partnership with Soundstreams, and with the help of 684 public voters, Luminato has selected composer Robert Johnson’s Majestic Fanfare to serve as the festival’s official fanfare. This royal flourish will accompany the Rainbow King – the ruler of the world, created by Festival artists FriendsWithYou – throughout Luminato 2010. Keep an ear open for the Luminato brass quintet, appearing throughout the festival, in order to hear this fanfare live!

Soundstreams is certainly no stranger to this ceremonial and celebratory form, engrained in musical cultures throughout the world. In 2006, they presented new works by composers and quartets from Canada, Norway, Iceland, Finland, Denmark, and Sweden in the soaring Barbara Frum Atrium at the CBC Broadcasting Centre. Sixty-plus trumpet players positioned throughout the balconies premiered these short works to usher in the 2006 soundaXis Festival.

In 2009, Soundstreams commissioned James Rolfe for a new fanfare to celebrate the Toronto Arts Foundation Awards, which was also offered as a gift to Mayor David Miller. You can get an advance listen to their latest fanfare project at the Soundstreams’ Salon 21 event on June 7, starting at 7:30pm at the Gardiner Museum. The salon is free, but be sure to reserve your seat in advance. These events fill up fast. You can do so at salonfanfare.eventbrite.com.

p20aOn June 11 and 12, we will finally get to experience the world premiere of Dark Star Requiem – the concert-length project from much-in-demand composer Andrew Staniland (winner of the 2009 CBC National Composition Prize) and internationally recognized poet Jill Battson. Staniland and Battson met as participants in Tapestry New Opera Works’ highly successful Composer-Librettist Laboratory. Their early experiments in creating opera scenes sparked an exciting new partnership that led to numerous projects, including LinguaElastic (2006) – an exploration of the contemporary collisions of humanity and electronic media through live vocal performance (by Battson) and interactive electronics (by Staniland) – for the Canadian Music Centre’s New Music in New Places series.

Tapestry invited the duo back in 2006 to write Ashlike on the Cradle of the Wind, a poetic and elegiac mini-opera that reveals our attitudes towards sex and love in the shadow of AIDS. Even in those early days, Staniland and Battson had expressed the desire to collaborate on a much larger work – a secular oratorio that tackles the major issues of our times. The current commission from Tapestry and Luminato has given them the space to bring that desire to fruition.

Tapestry’s decision to re-mount Ashlike this spring for their very first Opera to Go Revival was a prescient move in light of Dark Star Requiem’s world premiere. This full-scale dramatic work traces the 25-year history of AIDS from its origins to the present day. The evocative, poetic content weaves in topics from ecology to myth, politics to family. While the libretto includes fragments from the traditional Latin requiem mass, the overall perspective remains humanistic rather than religious. By focusing on the intimate and personal face of AIDS, Staniland and Battson hope that Dark Star Requiem will resonate with a broad audience. Based on past experiences with this duo’s work, and the remarkable creative team behind this production (The Gryphon Trio and the Elmer Iseler Singers join a quartet of talented vocal soloists conducted by Wayne Strongman), the work should resound strongly. For more information visit www.tapestrynewopera.com. To reserve tickets visit www.luminato.com.

p20bIn between the Luminato events, Gallery 345’s concert calendar is really heating up. Here, the new music comes from Edmonton-based pianist Roger Admiral, who delivers a solo recital on June 11. Admiral is a true contemporary music aficionado. He studied piano with Helmut Brauss, Peter Smith and Virginia Blaha, and graduated with a doctorate from the University of Alberta, where he now coaches contemporary chamber music. From 1990 to 1993 he was a member of the unique two-piano/two-percussion Hammerhead Consort. And since 1997 he’s been part of Duo Kovalis with Montreal percussionist Philip Hornsey. For this Toronto performance, Admiral focuses primarily on music of the “Victoria School” of Canadian composition, including works by Alfred Fisher, Linda Catlin Smith, Christopher Butterfield and Howard Bashaw. For more details, visit www.gallery345.com.

Nestled amongst all of the above is the return of the Music Gallery’s Summer Courtyard Series, taking contemporary music out of the concert hall and into the intimate setting of St. George the Martyr’s open-air spaces. Presented in partnership with Wavelength and curated in affiliation with Montreal’s Suoni per il Popolo Festival, these four concerts feature international stars from the worlds of avant-pop and new composed music who have been selected especially to suit this unique setting.

New music lovers will want to take note of the series’ opening concert, which includes New York cellist Julia Kent. After years of playing cello with a myriad of artists and ensembles, from Antony and the Johnsons to the chamber-rock trio Rasputina, Kent retired to her Lower East Side apartment to make music inspired by touring and the disjunctions of travel. Incorporating multi-tracked cello, omnichord, and field recordings from airports around the world, her melancholy compositions ache with “romanticism and rich melodicism.” Much like our own Owen Pallet of Final Fantasy fame, Kent has perfected the art of using live looping and effects to create rich layers of melody and rhythm in her solo cello concerts throughout Europe and the UK. We’ll get to experience the full effect live on June 9.

Another treat will be the double bill featuring classically trained soundscape composer/multimedia artist William Basinski with Toronto-based audio contortionist and collaborative creator Neil Wiernik. Wiernik, who also works under the pseudonym “naw” is creatively concerned with various types of storytelling, using abstract environments and spaces as his tools. We’ll get to hear both composers’ tales on June 12. For more information and to buy tickets, visit www.musicgallery.org.

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

June is the month in which The WholeNote releases its “Green Pages” guide to summer music festivals – and there are at least two with events coming up that are obvious picks for world music lovers.

p21The 11th annual Muhtadi International Drumming Festival takes place June 5 and 6. The festival launch event is June 3 at the Wychwood Barns (7 – 10pm), and a parade on June 5 leaves Ramsden Park at 10am ending up at Queen’s Park, where performances continue to 8pm, as well as noon to 8 on June 6. The festival will showcase around 30 different groups or performers, representing drumming traditions from around the globe, with a focus this year on “Women in Rhythm.” For more details, visit www.muhtadidrumfest.com.

The other major host of world music events over the summer is of course Harbourfront Centre, which launches its World Routes series of mini festivals on July 1, running every weekend through September 6. For the 2010 series, Harbourfront explores  a “global to local, and local to global” theme in its programming. Canada Day events include “Gypsy Melody,” Roma music from Slovakia at 1pm, and vocalist Cheryl L’Hirondelle presenting contemporary songs expressing the Cree world view at 6:30 (Redpath Stage). “Hot Spot” runs July 2 – 4; highlights include The Toronto International Flamenco Festival, featuring dancers, singers and musicians, and L’Orchestre Septentrional, an 18-piece big band from Haiti, on July 3. Visit www.harbourfrontcentre.com/worldroutes2010 for more details.

Harbourfront also launches its annual Summer Music in the Garden series of free Thursday and Sunday concerts at the Toronto Music Garden. On July 1, there’s a concert featuring traditional Mohawk songs sung by the Ahkwesasne Women Singers, and the world premiere of a new piece by Barbara Croall, performed by the composer and clarinetist Peter Stoll. For full schedule, visit www.harbourfrontcentre.com/torontomusicgarden.

Toronto’s Luminato Festival has a few free noteworthy events: June 12, “Rock the Casbah” and “An African Prom” runs from 1 – 11pm at Queen’s Park, and features performances by Montreal banjo maestro Karim Saada, the Maryem Tollar Ensemble, Algerian-born rocker Rachid Taha, Nigeria’s Tony Allen, Mali’s Bassekou Kouyate and American banjo virtuoso Béla Fleck. Kouyate, a master of the ngoni, the banjo’s African ancestor, was a contributor to Fleck’s film and recording project Throw Down Your Heart, which you can catch the same day at the Isabel Bader Theatre. Luminato also presents a World Music Celebration on June 20, the closing day of the festival, at Queen’s Park, noon – 6.
Another festival offering a taste of music outside the Western “classical” tradition is Music at Sharon, which presents Ensemble Polaris on June 13. They’re known to play a host of unusual folk instruments, performing music from Scandinavia, the Baltics, Scotland and Canada.

And there’s still plenty happening on the usual concert curcuit. The Canadian Opera Company continues its noon-hour concert series at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre, with Nagata Shachu, Toronto’s Japanese Taiko ensemble that performs both traditional and newly composed works, June 3. The Toronto Children’s Chorus presents “Around the World in 80 Minutes” on June 5, featuring music from Africa, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, South America, and Europe, including a new klezmer work by Martin Van de Ven, clarinetist with guest performers Beyond the Pale klezmer ensemble.

p21_shajarianIn association with Roy Thomson Hall, Small World Music presents Persian vocalist Mohammad Reza Shajarian, with the Shahnaz Ensemble, June 6. One of the most well known performers of Iranian classical music, Shajarian has had a career spanning over 40 years, both at home and internationally. He’ll be accompanied by an ensemble of 15 instrumentalists, directed by Iranian composer and tar player Magid Derakhshani. Small World also presents Italian singer/songwriter Carmen Consoli at the Mod Club on June 20. See www.smallworldmusic.com.

As well, the Toronto Chinese Music School presents a concert of classical and contemporary Chinese music, June 25 at the P.C. Ho Theatre in north Toronto. Instruments featured include the huqin, erhu, gaohu and pipa. And last but not least, Toronto’s Shevchenko Musical Ensemble presents a feast of Ukrainian and other folk, classical and contemporary music, featuring the Shevchenko Choir, the Toronto Mandolin Orchestra, vocal and instrumental soloists and the Desna Ukrainian Dance Company, June 27 at the Isabel Bader Theatre.

Enjoy the warm weather (and the music) – and see you in July!

Karen Ages can be reached at worldmusic@thewholenote.com

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