Koerner HallOn January 14, the Herculean efforts of The Royal Conservatory to save as much of their extensive 2020/21 concert season as possible suddenly turned Sisyphean when the Ontario government extended and tightened restrictions for everyone in the province. It was a cruel act of whiplash, after the RCM had managed to slow-walk a schedule that included four remarkable mid-December concerts (which I had the good fortune to attend virtually) celebrating Beethoven’s 250th birthday.

In a subsequent press release detailing the postponement and rescheduling of all concerts and livestreams until February 11, RCM added that because of the restrictions they were no longer able to have artists or production staff create livestreams. “This is a profoundly disappointing blow to all of us at The Royal Conservatory and to our artists who were so looking forward to performing.”

I contacted Mervon Mehta, RCM’s executive director, performing arts, to share his perspective with WholeNote readers. He confirmed that everything had changed since January 14. “We cancelled 18 days of concert livestreams, rehearsals and recordings from January 14 to February 11… Our entire 21C Festival has been postponed.” Is the RCM lobbying the government, I wanted to know. “Yes,” he said. “Us along with many others.”

Read more: Regulatory Whiplash on the Livestream Scene

Skylar Campbell with Alexander Skinner and Siphesihle November in Chroma, part of The National Ballet of Canada's "Modern Masterpieces" series. Photo by KAROLINA KURASHow does a theatre company stay connected to its audience when no one is allowed to be in the theatre to rehearse or perform, or to take part with the audience? As we have seen, the answer is usually to go online with shows that are live, pre-filmed, or a combination of the two, with the exact recipe varying from company to company and project to project. Nearly a year after the first lockdown began last March, the experiments in creating streaming content continue with a number of exciting new multi-part initiatives from three of our major companies debuting in early 2021. 

National Ballet of Canada

Dance fans who have been missing the National Ballet of Canada’s patented rich mix of full-length story ballets and mixed programs of shorter works that allow the company to experiment with cutting-edge choreography will be happy to tune in to the new Spotlight series on the company’s website. Short films of ballet excerpts have been curated by artistic director Karen Kain to showcase the full range of ballet performed by the company’s talented dancers and the wide variety of choreographers who have contributed to the repertoire. Each film debuts on a set date and remains available for 30 days for viewing online, at no cost, although donations are welcomed. 

The series begins with Modern Masterpieces, a showcase of three exciting short works from the recent repertoire of leading contemporary choreographers Alexei Ratmansky, Jiří Kylián and Wayne McGregor, introduced by Kain. Immediately following is Power and Passion, which, in contrast, puts a spotlight on three full-length story ballets: John Cranko’s gloriously  romantic Onegin, Christopher Wheeldon’s brilliant adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, and John Neumeier’s non-linear  version of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. February 7 will see the digital debut of a full recent ballet: Robert Binet’s The Dreamers Ever Leave You, inspired by the works of Group of Seven painter Lawren Harris. Dreamers was scheduled to be performed at Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre this past fall before the pandemic made that impossible.  Further  films will follow every few weeks highlighting the works of choreographers John Neumeier and George Balanchine, Marius Petipa’s classic The Sleeping Beauty, and a program of new works by Jera Wolfe, Alysa Pires, and Kevin Ormsby commissioned specifically for this project. For more information please visit national.ballet.ca.

Read more: The Lively Art of Stocking the Stream

Corie Rose Soumah. Photo by Nell PfeifferAs we continually lurch our way (back) towards some form of concert life in the midst of this seemingly neverending pandemic saga, how composers and musicians find solutions remains an ongoing story of adaptation, ingenuity and perseverance.

Take the 21C Music Festival for example, originally scheduled to happen from January 15 to 29. In my last column, written for the December-January issue, I spoke with composer Cecilia Livingstone about her Garden of Vanished Pleasures, slated to be programmed at the festival. As conditions grew more dire during December, with Toronto facing a lockdown, the festival was scaled down in response, with plans shifting to a series of livestream-only concerts in place of the previously planned livestream with a limited live audience. Then, on January 14, when a state of emergency was declared in Ontario, even livestream-only concerts from Koerner Hall were precluded – a blow for them and for other music organizations in the city planning to present their livestreamed events there as well. 

So now what? Another event planned for 21C I had been curious about was a concert titled FLIPBOOK: Music and Images, featuring the Glenn Gould School New Music Ensemble, which is now a free online concert scheduled for February 18. Curious to know how the plan for the event has had to change, I spoke with the ensemble’s conductor, composer Brian Current, and discovered a whole other layer of postponements and reinventions. 

Read more: What Happens When Your Art Skips a Beat?

Many would agree that 2020 was the worst we’ve ever been through and we were all anxious to see the end of “The Year of Living Covidously.” So good riddance, 2020, and don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out. But of course the root of all our problems and suffering – the pandemic – hasn’t gone anywhere and simply flipping over to January of a new year on the calendar hasn’t solved it, any more than anything else we’ve tried. And Lord knows we’ve tried lots, at least most of us. Masking up, staying at home, social distancing, keeping our bubbles small, working from home (that’s if you still have a job), forgetting what eating in a restaurant or hearing live music feel like. Stores and schools closed, then open, then sort of half-open, then not. And still the numbers go up as we chase this invisible enemy, to the point where The Myth of Sisyphus no longer seems a metaphor but something we’re living on a daily basis. Keep pushing that boulder.

None of this is to say that we should join the ranks of the anti-mask loonies or herd-immunity-at-any-cost-COVID-deniers, not at all. We have only to look south of the border to see how well that hasn’t worked, as Samuel Goldwyn might have put it. Clearly we must stay the course with these mitigation measures because they’re the best tools we have and, just as clearly, we would be even worse off without abiding them in the last year. It’s just that after nine months and counting of cave-dwelling isolation… well, it’s getting harder. To quote one of Mose Allison’s more sardonic later songs – “I am not discouraged. I am not down-hearted. I am not disillusioned… But I’m gettin’ there… yeah, I’m gettin’ there.”

Mose Allison. Photo by Mose Allison

Read more: New Year, Same Old

bannerJack as a child (circa 1930) in Walkerville, now part of Windsor ON.During a very brief period of palliative care and shortly after celebrating his 95th birthday, Jack passed away this past January, at Markham Stouffville Hospital. His Bandstand column occupied this very spot in The WholeNote, right before the listings, for more than 14 years, and readers who regularly made their way here to find him, will feel the loss, as will I. Two days before his passing he asked me to make sure to tell WholeNote colleagues and you, his readers, how much you meant to him.

Right up until COVID-19 restrictions put paid to live community music making,  Jack was still playing regularly (tuba, trombone and bass trombone) as a 25+ year member in The Newmarket Citizen’s Band, Resa’s Pieces Concert Band and Swing Machine, a Toronto based big band. “Not bad for someone with COPD” he once told me, regaling me with a tale of how his doctor had said it was impossible, so he should keep it up.

Similarly, he stuck to his WholeNote duties to the last. His final completed column for The WholeNote (December/January) was an uncharacteristically “deep dive” into reminiscing about his early years in Windsor. To the last, we were chatting almost daily about the column that would have been in this spot, on the subject of circus bands. He shared with me each nugget of information he had gleaned from sources as divergent as his own unruly archives and “Mr. Google.”

His wife of 35 years, Joan Andrews, told me last week that the plan is to have “a celebration of his life at a future date, when it is possible to gather together and create live music once again.” And what a life it was.

Jack with his trombone. Photo by Joan AndrewsIn a 2014 interview in The WholeNote, MJBuell asked Jack if there had always been music in his home: “Always” was the reply. “Lots of radio music from Detroit stations.  My parents met in a Gilbert and Sullivan production. It was in the auditorium of the place I eventually went to high school. My mother, Nan, was a semi-professional singer, church soloist, and for a time, a member of the Detroit Light Opera Company. My father, Archie, was a dedicated opera fan, and the Metropolitan Opera was on our radio every Saturday afternoon. My mother organized a vocal quartet which practiced regularly in our living room for some years. Probably my earliest musical memory would be my mother singing the role of Buttercup from HMS Pinafore as she worked around the house.” 

Jack was bitten by the band bug in grade 11 when he joined The High Twelve Club Boys Band (sponsored by a service club), and then the local Kiwanis Boys Band. The Boys Band was “borrowed” by the commanding officer of the local naval training unit who’d been asked to recruit a reserve band. Boys as young as 12 through 17, whose parents gave permission, found themselves Probationary Boy Bandsman with a uniform and rehearsal pay – for Navy parades, concerts in the park and Navy events. 

It was the start of a lifelong Navy association, going on active service after high school; as he wryly described it in the April 2014 interview article, “learning some new instruments – radio and radar.” When WWII ended he completed his undergraduate degree at U of T where he played in the Varsity Band, the Conservatory Concert Band and the U of T Symphony. One memorable university summer, he recalled in that interview, he played trombone six nights a week in a dance band at the popular Erie Beach Pavilion – six days a week, from nine until midnight. And then Sundays they’d go to Detroit and hear all the touring big bands – Ellington, Kenton, Burnett, Herman, Dorsey.

Jack (centre) and some young Navy buddies, fresh out of high school  “We were high school friends with a common interest in jazz and big band music – the boy on the right played piano quite well.”Jack MacQuarrie returned to sea during the Korean War as a Navy Lieutenant Commander and diving officer, laying aside music during those seven years, but never since. With music fuelling his lungs, mind and spirit, he returned to university, acquired an MBA and then did four years of graduate studies in engineering – investigating human performance in hostile (underwater) environments. He received a Massey Fellowship under Robertson Davies. He worked for some time at marketing in the airborne electronics business. He was a past president of the Skywide Amateur Radio Club, was the first instructor for the Hart House Underwater Club and to the last remained active in the Naval Club of Toronto. In January 2013 MacQuarrie was awarded the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal for contributions to Canada. 

In one episode he wrote about in The WholeNote, in 2014, he and Joan Andrews enrolled as volunteers in research on brain function and aging, comparing musicians with non-musicians, at the Baycrest Centre. It was one memorable story among hundreds over the years as he regaled readers with great anecdotes and dreadful puns – above all else spreading the word about all the people he was in touch with who were keeping community band music making alive. Readers so inclined can find his most recent column on our website and then scroll back in time, column after column, as I’ve been doing this last while. 

Curious as to what might have changed or not over the course of this pandemic year, I went to look at the February 2020 column (wondering for a moment if just reprinting it would serve here to give readers a taste of the man). It didn’t disappoint: from Groundhog Day to the Newmarket Citizens Band’s bright idea of building their Christmas party around an open rehearsal: “How often do tuba players chat with clarinet players, after all?”; and from Henry “Dr. Hank” Meredith’s collection of 300 bugles, to Jack’s latest musings (something he was passionate about) on what bands should and shouldn’t take into consideration when selecting repertoire. 

There’s one more snippet from that column that is a fitting place to end this – an exchange with a reader: “He [the reader, Bernie Lynch] recounted a bit about his personal band involvement, from Orono around 1946, to Weston in 1950, and Chinguacousy in 2012. ‘Never a very good performer but always a good participant,’ is how he describes himself. [Well] we need more good participants. Let us hear from more of you out in the community music world!”  

A fitting place to end except for one thing. Jack always tried to throw in something at the end – a quip, a “daffy definition,” a pun – that would get a smile.

So here’s mine: the part of his February 2020 column that he got the biggest charge out of researching and writing, was of all things, a piece of music called “The Impeachment Polka”. Jack would have liked that. 

David Perlman, with files from MJ Buell

Against the Grain’s Elliot Madore. Photo ATG THEATRENo performing arts organizations can pretend they don’t exist in a specific time and place – responding to cultural and political moments of the right now, even when the music they perform comes from very different times. Choirs are grappling with the loss of rehearsals and live performances, but they are also grappling with the overlapping realities of fighting for justice and emancipation in a very complex world.

Messiah/Complex is an upcoming new digital performance from Against the Grain Theatre (AtG). Artistic director Joel Ivany and his innovative team are taking the Handel and Jennens masterwork and breathing it alive with diverse voices, languages and cultural inspiration of people across Canada. Ivany has been joined by Reneltta Arluk, director of Indigenous arts at the Banff Centre. Together they have assembled a vast collection of performers representing every province and territory. The WholeNote had a chance to connect with artistic director Joel Ivany to share just what a complex Messiah looks like in our times. “There are complex layers to this work,” AtG’s Ivany shares. “Handel, himself, had investments in the Royal African Company. This means that he profited off of slave trade during the 1720s and 30s.” 

Connecting the history of the work to its time and place is necessary to connect to our time and place, he says. “We’ve asked Indigenous artists to learn settler music set to Biblical text. They have interpreted it and now sing it in their own language. We want to reconcile our relationship with First Nations, but it’s not easy; there are layers and it is complex. We want to support our Black, Indigenous and People of Colour community, but there’s no easy answer or quick fix.”

Read more: A Messiah for our Complex Times

The Toronto Consort’s All in a Garden Green with Alison Melville (L) and Katherine Hill. Photo COLIN SAVAGEOver the last few issues of The WholeNote, this column has explored some of the ways that presenters, festivals, orchestras and other performing groups have pivoted and adapted to 2020’s unexpected and unforeseen challenges. With the arrival of a second pandemic wave, a surge in case numbers and consequent public health interventions – most recently through the implementation of a second lockdown here, Toronto-area performers have had to dig in their heels even deeper and continue to use technology to bridge the gap between themselves and their audience.

As announcements of vaccine developments are released and plans for mass distribution are devised by governments around the world, it appears more likely that the waning of the pandemic itself is on the not-too-distant horizon, a hopeful and encouraging revelation after months of uncertainty. Far less likely though is that the return to concert halls will be suddenly reinstated as before, not with the technological advances made by so many through livestreaming and the broadcasting of pre-recorded material. 

And why should it? Although the maintenance and operation of remote viewing technologies is another line on the expenditures sheet, it is also an opportunity to increase audience bases (and revenue) by engaging with audiences that would otherwise be unable or still reluctant to attend in-person concerts. The Internet has no borders and is the perfect vehicle for making both domestic and international connections without in-person touring by planes, trains and automobiles, especially for those unable to fund such globetrotting ventures. This pandemic has brought the future closer to us, accelerating the development of technologies that support interpersonal connections and introducing us to different ways of meeting and greeting our friends, acquaintances, and even complete strangers, and it is very unlikely that we will simply revert to our old ways once COVID-19 is relegated to the history books. 

EarlyMusic.tv

Even before the arrival of the pandemic, streaming services were hugely popular, allowing anyone with a compatible device and an Internet connection to access a near-infinite variety of entertainment. Within this vast expanse of material, classical music occupies a miniscule slice of the market, primarily through Medici.tv and a few other, smaller services, which present a wide range of performances and documentaries for enthusiasts everywhere, performed by an equally wide range of musicians, orchestras and ensembles. Last month the Toronto Consort joined the party by launching EarlyMusic.tv, an on-demand online streaming service devoted entirely to the Consort and featuring a variety of audio and visual material. 

Although still in its infancy, this service clearly has great potential and is a commitment on the part of the Consort to remain active and present, regardless of external circumstances. While classical musicians can occasionally be rather backwards-looking, EarlyMusic.tv engages with the majority of available technology and is accessible through web browsers, apps on iOS and Android, streaming through Apple TV, Amazon, and Chromecast, as well as a soon-to-be-released RokuTV app. This means that no matter your choice of device, operating system and mode of access, EarlyMusic.tv will be available for viewing everywhere that there is an Internet connection.

When looking at a streaming service, the two fundamental questions that must be answered affirmatively are: “Is the interface intuitive?” and, “Is the material good?” In the case of EarlyMusic.tv, both questions can be answered with a resounding “Yes.” The online interface is very straightforward, if not slightly understated, and content is easily explored, filtered and toggled through. Visitors are able to choose between video presentations, searchable by period, composer and arranger, as well as the Consort’s album library and individual audio tracks, which are also able to be searched and filtered. 

The Android app is similarly streamlined, a mobile-friendly reduction of the online website, with identical options to the desktop site. In addition to the aforementioned filtering options, the app contains a universal search function, which returns all applicable video and audio results for the search thread, such as “Byrd” or “Guerrero.” The well-thought-out nature of the EarlyMusic.tv app is particularly appreciated, as it makes the process of accessing content straightforward and simple, with easy access to both audio and video.

If the mode of accessing content is particularly good, the content itself is exceedingly so, with high-quality video and CD-quality audio across the streaming service. The audio tracks are taken directly from the Consort’s previous recordings, providing the listener with a superb auditory experience. The videos are brilliantly done, enhancing the traditionally static concert experience by providing close-ups on soloists and ensemble members throughout, with lighting and acoustics that enhance, rather than detracting from, the musical works themselves.

For anyone with a passion for early music, EarlyMusic.tv is a terrific resource to reconnect with one of Toronto’s finest performing groups. The streaming service is straightforward enough that even the least tech-savvy person can navigate it, and the content itself is both engaging and satisfying. With a variety of material already available and more to come as Consort invites contributions from other early music practitioners, is there a better way to whittle away the winter months than immersing oneself in some of the best music from the medieval, Renaissance and Baroque eras?

Sing-Along Messiah – The 2020 Edition

A Sing-Along Messiah addict can be identified in one or more of the following ways: multiple dog-eared Watkins-Shaw scores, with the orange covers dyed brown through time and repeated use; multiple recordings of said work, from barn-burning massed-choir singspiels to lean-and-mean, historically informed interpretations; and one or more special outfits, worn once a year, specifically designated for maskless communal singing Messiah.) For all such addicts, this December will be a time of painful withdrawal, as public health restrictions continue to prohibit large gatherings, particularly those involving singing. 

Tafelmusik’s Sing-Along Messiah, 2017. Photo JEFF HIGGINSWhile in-person sing-alongs will be verboten for the foreseeable future, Tafelmusik releases their Sing-Along Messiah on Screen this December, directed by the inimitable Herr Handel himself. As Tafelmusik Chamber Choir conductor (and Handel doppelgänger) Ivars Taurins writes, “for over three decades, George Frideric Handel has stepped onto the stage to lead Tafelmusik and an audience chorus of thousands through his timeless masterpiece, Messiah, in a sing-along version. This year we must come together in spirit rather than in person. So, until we can join our voices once again to ‘raise the roof,’ I sincerely hope that our Messiah sing-along film presentation, and Handel’s music, will rekindle the flame of all that is best within us, bringing joy, peace, and hope to your homes.”

Captured live at Massey Hall in 2010, this video of Messiah excerpts features soprano Suzie LeBlanc, countertenor Daniel Taylor, tenor Rufus Müller, baritone Locky Chung, the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Choir, and a chorus of 1000 enthusiastic audience members. This video will be released on YouTube on December 17 at 7pm, and available until December 27. For those without multiple scores on their bookshelves, choruses will be available to download directly from the Tafelmusik website in the days prior to the video launch. While there is nothing that can compare with an authentically interpersonal singing experience, this is a wonderful opportunity to bridge the gap between our annual traditions and what is currently permitted; with such resources available to help us through what will undoubtedly be a strange and unfamiliar holiday season, we wait with anticipation for the joy of coming together, live and in-person, next year. 

It is encouraging to see the development of such high-quality online content as a way of combating the widespread isolation imposed by the pandemic. If you come across a technological marvel produced by one of Toronto’s early music performers that you think deserves a place in this column, let me know at earlymusic@thewholenote.com. “See” you next year!

Matthew Whitfield is a Toronto-based harpsichordist and organist.

CECILIA LIVINGSTON. Photo by Daniel Alexander DeninoI’m always curious to see what the Royal Conservatory of Music’s 21C Festival will be offering each season; this year being unlike every other performance season, I was even more curious as to what we could expect from this annual offering of new sounds and the latest in contemporary music creation. I was pleased to see that the festival will be moving ahead despite the complexities of producing concerts for limited and virtual audiences. Running from January 15 to 29, this year’s offerings will be a scaled-down version of previous years, but still filled with premieres and outstanding performers, both local and from further afield. 

We will hear concerts by two Toronto-based pianists: Eve Egoyan will perform pieces written for her imagined piano that combines original piano sounds with an extended software-based piano; and Royal Conservatory alumna Morgan-Paige Melbourne will perform two of her own compositions along with pieces by several other composers, including one by Brian Current, the director of The Glenn Gould School New Music Ensemble. The GGS New Music Ensemble will also have a concert of their own with several works combined with projected images. The well-loved Kronos Quartet will make a return visit with three different events to choose from. Their multimedia performance piece, A Thousand Thoughts, blends live music by Kronos, narration, as well as archival footage and filmed interviews. Kronos’ Fifty for the Future initiative, designed to create a repertoire of contemporary works for young string quartets they introduced to 21C audiences in 2016, will be the focus of a concert featuring four quartets from the Glenn Gould School after a two-day mentorship with Kronos. 

Read more: Cecilia Livingston’s Vocal Pleasures

As Beethoven’s 250th birthday approaches – thought to have been born on December 15 or 16 he was baptized on December 17, 1770 – there are several notable chamber music concerts being livestreamed from December 5 to December 13, the last remnants of what was to have been a year-long celebration that was curtailed by the pandemic.

Goodyear and Ehnes

Internationally acclaimed superstar and Canada’s preeminent violinist, James Ehnes, will be joined by virtuoso pianist Stewart Goodyear for a complete traversal of the ten sonatas for violin and piano in three recitals – to be livestreamed from Koerner Hall December 11, 12 and 13. Goodyear is celebrated for prodigious pianistic feats like performing all 32 of Beethoven’s piano sonatas on the same day. 

Despite the marathons and the prodigious technique and memory that they require, the basis for Goodyear’s appeal is his empathetic relationship with the music he performs and his ability to communicate that to an audience. 

Read more: Chamber Beethoven As His Birthday Beckons

What is 12-ET A440 anyway?

Over the course of more than a decade, my WholeNote editor and I have developed a certain ritual around each upcoming article. After we agree on the story that month, it’s usually followed by a conversation on the phone, where I present my take, ask practical questions, and fret about approach and tone. My editor offers editorial guidance, and invariably offers an offhand quip or two in regard to whatever I am fretting about. As lay rituals go, I find it reassuring.

This month’s conversation point revolved around “a truly fret-worthy concern,” as my editor described it – for Labyrinth Ontario, the subject of this story, and all practitioners of modal music. One of LO’s signature concerns around its core concept of “modal music” is the ever-growing bias for “flattening out” traditional regional tunings, some very ancient, and modal-melodic performance practices in favour of the ubiquitous so-called “concert pitch.” That’s the Western-origin A440 pitch, the “settler” in the tuning house, which, given its ubiquity, we may assume has been around for centuries. But no: it was reconfirmed under the name ISO 16 recently as 1975 by the International Organization for Standardization.

Concomitant with it is the older model of 12-tone equal temperament (12-ET), where the octave is theoretically divided into 12 equal intervals. Taken together, this conglomerate-tuning model, with minor deviations, defines the sound of the modern symphony orchestra, its many spinoffs, and nearly all of the world’s commercial vernacular music.

Read more: Modal Stories Are Alive and Well in the Labyrinth

"December" composer Monica Pearce. Photo MONICAPEARCE.COMFor those of you who might not have noticed, this holiday season will not be its usual live(ly) self; however, there are still exciting music theatre and dance productions to cheer the spirit coming to our screens and to at least one live stage. So to save you some shopping time, here’s a personal (and partial) list.

DECEMBER 

NOV 11 to DEC 19: The Musical Stage Company’s virtual edition of their signature concert series, UnCovered: Notes from the Heart (see our November issue), has been extended for an extra two weeks, due to overwhelming demand. The 65-minute series of new linked dramatic music videos can be watched by single ticket buyers or become the heart of a curated group experience. ONLINE. Specific day and showtime only. $25 - $40. https://bit.ly/UnCovered2020.

NOV 25 to DEC 4: Musical Concerts from the Shaw (Festival) directed and choreographed by associate artistic director Kimberley Rampersad, with music direction by Paul Sportelli. Alternating evenings feature the music of Duke Ellington, Dorothy Fields or Cole Porter followed by: 

DEC 5 to 19: Also from the Shaw, Songs for a Winter’s Night featuring favourite melodies from the holiday season. LIVE socially distanced audiences of up to 50. (Masks must be worn.) Jackie Maxwell Studio Theatre, Niagara-on-the-Lake. Tickets are FREE but must be reserved by calling the Shaw Festival’s box office at 1- 800-511-SHAW (7429)  For  details see https://www.shawfest.com/event/musical-concerts/.

DEC 4 to JAN 2: The Nutcracker (choreography by James Kudelka.) The National Ballet of Canada, in a new partnership with Cineplex, are making their signature holiday ballet available to watch on both big and small screens. Live captured at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts in 2008, the cast is led by audience favourites Sonia Rodriguez and Piotr Stanczyk as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Nutcracker Prince. Tickets $12.95-14.95 at Cineplex Theatres not affected by the lockdown, or $29.99 to stream online from the Cineplex Store. For direct links go to  or www.cineplex.com.

DEC 6, 7PM: Together, Safe & Warm. Alexis Gordon, of the Stratford and Shaw Festivals, guest stars with the INNERchamber Ensemble in an intimate program of holiday music new and old, interwoven in the characteristic company style with the stories behind the songs. The performance will be livestreamed from Revival House, the exciting performance and dining venue in Stratford.  ONLINE. One show only.  Tickets $35 (student and arts worker discounts available) www.innerchamber.ca/together-safe-warm.

DEC 12, 7:30PM: WinterSong: A Virtual Watch Party. Canadian Contemporary (formerly Children’s) Dance Theatre. The annual holiday dance special inspired by the world’s rich solstice traditions will be experienced this year through the medium of film combining choreographic world premieres with a retrospective look at iconic solstice work. Nowell Sing We, and highlights from WinterSong’s 33-year history. ONLINE. Tickets $30. www.ccdt.org

DEC 12, 7PM: Opera Atelier presents their first livestreamed production, Something Rich and Strange, a brand-new production featuring theatre music by Handel, Lully, Locke and Purcell that explores the realms of sleep, visions and dreams, plus a new creation by Edwin Huizinga for soprano Measha Brueggergosman. Streamed from Koerner Hall. One Show Only. ONLINE. The Royal Conservatory Box Office at 416-408-0208 or tickets@rcmusic.ca.

DEC 11 & 12, 7:30PM: Going Under, Toronto’s Bravo Academy Senior Troupe presents a newly adapted virtual version of Going Under by cutting-edge Canadian musical theatre creators Matt Murray (book), Colleen Dauncey (music) and Akiva Romer-Segal (lyrics): “When the subway train they are riding comes to a screeching halt, a group of high school students on the way to their graduation are caught underground, forced to face each other and their own demons, and the tragic event that tore them apart four years earlier.”  ONLINE. Tickets: $16.95-28.25 www.bravoacademy.ca/events-north-york/going-under

DEC 14: Tiny Pretty Things debuts on Netflix. Based on the bestselling Young Adult book of the same name, this new series – which explores the lives of elite professional ballet students in Chicago – has been eagerly anticipated since filming began last year. Many Canadians are part of the production team, including executive producer Michael MacLennan, music supervisors Scott Belluz and Natasha Duprey, and lead choreographer and dance consultant, Jennifer Nichols (as previewed in The WholeNote’s summer issue). 

 DEC 19 & 20: This year, Ross Petty’s annual topical fairy tale-inspired Panto has had to travel into the virtual realm. Taking that as a cue, Matt Murray’s new script for There’s No Place Like Home For The Holidays begins as Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz clicks together the heels of her ruby slippers and embarks on a magical roller coaster ride home during which she encounters new friends and panto favourites played by (among others) Dan (Plumbum) Chameroy, AJ Bridel, Eddie Glenn, and Sara--Jeanne Hosie, (last year’s hilarious Sheriff of Nottingham). Tickets: $35 per household. www.rosspetty.com. Watch anytime between 10am and 9pm ONLINE. A portion of each ticket sale goes to Kids Help Phone. 

DEC 21, 8PM: Essential Opera presents the world premiere of Monica Pearce’s new one-act opera, December, for three sopranos and string quartet. The story follows new couple Julia and Natasha as they plan to visit Julia’s family for the first time at Christmas. ONLlNE. Tickets $22.86 www.tickethalifax.com. https://youtube.com/c/EssentialOpera.

JANUARY

Read more: Yes December and January Will Still Have Their Highlights
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