Give Yourself A Jazzy Little ChristmasWith Christmas fast approaching – where did the year go? – an overview of gifts any jazz lover would love to receive. And remember, sometimes to get what you really want, you have to buy it yourself.

BooksFirst, two with a Canadian perspective:

Claude Ranger: Canadian Jazz Legend – Mark Miller, 2017. Available from indigo.ca in e-book, paperback, and hardcover formats. Not exactly hot off the press, Miller’s latest release was reviewed by Stuart Broomer in the September 2017 issue of The WholeNote. But like all good jazz books it has a lasting relevancy. It tells the story of one of Canada’s greatest and most enigmatic jazz artists while attempting to explore the mystery of his eventual unravelling – Ranger, presumed dead, has been officially listed as a missing person for 14 years. Mark Miller is a first-rate writer, but an even better researcher, and the tale he weaves here makes for a compelling read. Readers should look forward to Miller’s forthcoming work in progress, a book on another of our great originals, guitarist Sonny Greenwich.

Live at the Cellar – Marian Jago, UBC Press. A very recent and welcome addition to books on Canadian jazz, this was released in October. Jago, a Halifax-born saxophonist who now teaches at the University of Edinburgh, examines the development of Canadian jazz through the lens of an iconic club on Canada’s opposite coast: The Cellar in Vancouver, during the hot-house period of the late 1950s and early 1960s. It abounds with rare photographs, musical analysis and anecdotes about, and from, many notables who were there, including Jerry Fuller, Fraser MacPherson, Terry Clarke, P.J. Perry and Don Thompson, who wrote the foreword. It’s a handsome and interesting book; I’m about halfway through and thoroughly enjoying it.

Playing Changes: Jazz for the New Century – Nate Chinen, Paragon. Hardcover, 288 pages, August 14, 2018. Chinen has covered jazz for 20 years in The New York Times, Jazz Times and elsewhere. His wittily titled, double-entendre-titled book – warm, richly detailed and incisive – offers a look at the state of jazz right now and highlights the important changes – technological, practical, ideological – that contemporary musicians have negotiated in the new century. It’s a kind of jazz version of Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock and is informative reading for those who are attempting to understand the torturous and ever-shifting changes of the current jazz landscape. I’m not sure yet that I agree with everything Chinen has to say, but he offers a convincing and refreshing rebuttal to any notions that jazz is irrelevant, or even close to being dead.

50 Years at the Village Vanguard: Thad Jones, Mel Lewis and the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra – Dave Lisk and Eric Allen. Hardcover, 328 pages. A sumptuous, coffee table-style book which celebrates and documents the history of one of the greatest large ensembles in jazz history, covering the noted founders but also the band’s survival and development well past their deaths. It contains scores of rare photographs, musical commentary, interviews with key members past and present, and a complete discography of the band’s massive output. People wax about the “jazz tradition” all the time, but the story of this great band in its natural habitat is the jazz tradition, continuing before our very eyes.

Sophisticated Giant: The Life and Legacy of Dexter Gordon – Maxine Gordon. October 30, 2018. University of California Press. Hardcover, 296 pages. Available in stores and online. I haven’t read this book yet but judging from reviews, it looks promising. A close-up look at the life and music of one of the great individualists and innovators in jazz history, written by the woman who is not only his widow, but an accomplished jazz writer in her own right.

CDsToo many to list, but here are a few I’ve enjoyed of late:

An Evening of Indigos – Bill Kirchner. Jazzheads, 2015. This beautiful 2-CD set is the entirety of a 2014 concert soprano saxophonist Kirchner gave in the Jazz Performance Space of The New School in New York City, where he has taught for over 25 years. He is joined by Carlton Holmes on piano, Holli Ross on vocals and bassist/singer Jim Ferguson in varying combinations. As the title suggests, the program is reflective in nature, though not monochromatically so – a mixture of some fine originals and choice standards, all performed with a startling, almost vulnerable intimacy. This is something of a musical banquet which repays repeated listening. Those who wish to know more about Bill Kirchner may read a piece I wrote about him at wallacebass.com.

Both Directions at Once: The Lost Album – John Coltrane. Recorded March 6, 1963. Released June 29, 2018 by Impulse! Records. Not much needs to be said here, this is a fascinating discovery of an entire session by Coltrane’s classic quartet at their peak and as such belongs in any jazz fan’s collection.

Three from Mosaic Records The superb mail-order CD-reissue company has three recent, essential historic releases, available at mosaicrecords.com. They may seem pricey at first glance, but given the rarity of the music and the as-always-superb production values, these are actually a bargain:

The Savory Collection: 1935-40 - 6 CDs, $99 US. Bill Savory was a recording engineer in NYC whose day job was editing transcription recordings for overseas consumption. By night he took to recording the blazing jazz being played in various clubs such as The Famous Door, the Onyx and others. His collection of tapes languished unknown for years until recently when they were discovered, curated and partially issued as downloadable files by jazz scholar and saxophonist Loren Schoenberg. Mosaic has gathered more of them and issued them on CD for the first time. The quality of both the music and sound is staggering; featuring the Count Basie Orchestra, Fats Waller, Coleman Hawkins, the John Kirby Sextet and many others.

Classic Brunswick & Columbia Teddy Wilson Sessions: 1934-427 CDs, $119 US. A cornucopia of great music from the most artistic swing pianist of them all, leading a stunning array of star-studded groups. Much of it is seeing the light of day for the first time in decades. So this is not to be missed.

Classic 1936-47 Count Basie & Lester Young Studio Sessions8 CDs, $136 US. This set features Basie and Young, both together and separately, during their respective primes. Many fans will already have some of this music in their collections, but probably not all of it; and thanks to Mosaic’s superb mastering, it’s never sounded this good. Desert island music.

DVDsNeither of these are particularly new, but are of such high quality that even fans who have already seen them would like to have them to watch over and over again.

I Called Him Morgan – Directed, produced and written by Kasper Collins. Released 2016, available at amazon.ca and other sites. This documentary tells the complex and cautionary tale of the relationship between star trumpeter Lee Morgan and his common-law wife Helen, who rescued him from severe heroin addiction, nurtured him back to health and oversaw the most successful years of his career, only to shoot him dead on the bandstand at Slug’s in February, 1972. The story is told so well that even those who could never otherwise forgive Helen Morgan for the murder are forced to view her with compassion and to admit that she paid sorely for the crime; and that if left to his own devices, Lee Morgan would have died long before he did at her hand.

The Jazz Loft According to Eugene W. Smith – Directed by Sara Fishko. Released September, 2016; available at amazon.com. For my money, this is the best jazz documentary ever made. Fishko and her team did a phenomenal job of editing a mountain of raw material into a linear and cohesive story, which tells two tales. Firstly, that of Eugene W. Smith, the Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer who virtually created the photo-essay genre while at Life magazine, and who took some of the most famous black-and white photographs of the 20th century. In the mid-50s he began to unravel under the pressure of his own obsessiveness with his work, leaving his wife and children and taking a loft in an abandoned, rat-infested building located in New York’s flower district, where he lived between 1957 and 1965. While there he took over 40,000 photographs and secretly recorded 4,000 hours of the jazz played in the all-night jam sessions that were held in the building for years. These form the soundtrack for the movie, a kind of rare insider’s view into an underground scene only a city like New York could produce. Zoot Sims, Pepper Adams and Bob Brookmeyer were among the “frequent fliers” and Sims in particular receives a lot of attention. There are jazz tales from other denizens of the building such as drummer Ronnie Free, who arrived from the South an innocent with much promise but got hooked on heroin and barely survived. And there’s a stunning sequence between composer/arranger Hall Overton, who had a studio in the building, and Thelonious Monk, preparing the music for Monk’s Town Hall concert featuring a ten-piece band which rehearsed in the building. This doc makes a fascinating peak period in jazz history come alive. I could watch it every day, but I’d never get anything done.

I’d like to add to this jazz Christmas list my best wishes to WholeNote readers everywhere for a safe and joyous holiday and a Happy New Year. 

JAZZ NOTES QUICK PICKS

DEC 7, 8PM: Koerner Hall. Royal Conservatory of Music presents Paquito D’Rivera with the Harlem Quartet. The great alto saxophonist/clarinetist in an interesting program featuring some rags, Debussy, Bolcom, Webern and music reflecting his Cuban roots.

DEC 8, 8PM: Gallery 345; 345 Sorauren Ave. The Art of the Piano: Hilario Durán. If you like Cuban-inflected jazz piano – and who doesn’t these days? – this is the concert for you; in an intimate setting with an excellent piano.

U of T 12tetFEB 6, 7:30PM: Walter Hall, Edward Johnson Building. 80 Queen’s Park. U of T 12tet, directed by Terry Promane. I love small big bands ranging from 9 to 14 members and this, comprising some of the best jazz students U of T has to offer, is an excellent one, expertly directed and arranged for by Promane.

Toronto bassist Steve Wallace writes a blog called “Steve Wallace jazz, baseball, life and other ephemera” which can be accessed at wallacebass.com. Aside from the topics mentioned, he sometimes writes about movies and food.

Rose - A Name Means a Lot: (from left) Michelle Bouey, Raha Javanfar, Scott Hunter, Hailey Gillis, Nicole Bellamy, John Millard, Mike Ross and Frank Cox-O’Connell. Photo credit: Daniel Malavasi.In the new year, one of the most exciting shows coming up is the world premiere by Soulpepper Theatre Company of Rose, a new musical inspired by Gertrude Stein’s first children’s book, The World Is Round. Yes, that Gertrude Stein, who wrote “A Rose is a Rose is a Rose.” A real Rose, a little girl neighbour of Stein’s, had inspired her to write the story, and when author Margaret Wise Brown (Goodnight Moon) approached Stein on behalf of new publisher Young Scott Books in 1938 to see if she might be interested in writing a children’s book for them, she sent this manuscript. With clean-cut yet whimsical illustrations by Clement Hurd (also of Goodnight Moon) to give a tangible reality to the whimsical yet deeply philosophical story of a young girl trying to make sense of her world, the book became a classic that was reprinted several times, although it isn’t as well known today.

As soon as I heard about the project to turn this unique children’s story into a musical I wanted to know more and reached out to Soulpepper to get in touch with the creators, well-known composer and music director Mike Ross (music and book) and writer/actor Sarah Wilson (lyrics and book).

What follows is an absorbing conversation I had with Wilson, leaving me even more intrigued than before about the show itself.

WN: How or why did Gertrude Stein’s rare children’s book The World is Round become the inspiration or starting point for your new musical?

SW: Mike and I had talked about making something together, specifically adapting something for all ages, but we hadn’t found the right thing yet. We had a couple of false starts on other projects before I came across an excerpt from The World is Round online and was drawn enough to it that I ordered it. I thought it was weird and wonderful and musical and so I showed it to Mike, who agreed.

You have worked together before at Soulpepper, but what brought you together to create this piece? 

Yes, we were part of the first Academy, so we’ve known each other a long time now. A really great thing about Soulpepper is that you kind of swim around one another for years and get to know each other and find creative partnerships in a really organic way. So we’d acted in shows together and we’re good friends, but it wasn’t until years later that we started batting ideas around to create something.

Rose is listed on the Soulpepper website as a project ImagiNation commission.” Can you tell me about this program and how Rose will fit with its mandate?

It’s a commissioning project for new Canadian work. Practically, it means that we get resources (time, space, people, money) to create and workshop, and potentially a full production. The support let us do the concert two years ago, which was invaluable, and has let us be ambitious. We’re free to write a bigger show for more performers, hire a choreographer so we can have full production numbers, test material out both in-house and publicly…it gives you practical support to dream.

Have you stuck closely to the story of Rose in the book, and her journey to understand and feel comfortable in the world, or have you made changes/additions to make it more contemporary or Canadian? 

Anybody familiar with the book will certainly recognize it as the source, but we’ve created a more active, accessible narrative. It’s based on the book, but expanded. Rose is set in a little mountain town that’s familiar but not naturalistic, so it’s got that kind of fairy-tale quality. We don’t specifically reference Canada, but there’s a lot of maple flavour. Some loggers. Some plaid. A certain kind of small-town snow-globe feel that I associate with home.

The style of Gertrude Stein’s writing in the book can seem too adult as it is so abstract and without much punctuation, and yet it also sounds – when read aloud – very like the way a child tells stories to other children. Have you kept this style of the text in your book and lyrics? 

We’ve used Stein’s text in many ways in Rose. Some of the more typical Stein poetry – the stream of consciousness, fantastic rhythmic stuff is how Rose thinks to herself, her brain chatter when she’s all alone. She’s isn’t outgoing, she knows she’s different somehow from other kids, but she’s got an incredibly rich inner life and that kind of runaway-train kid-think is best expressed by Stein. Other characters express themselves differently. There’s a town full of people who love Rose, but don’t think like her or talk like her. Some are more straightforward, like Rose’s best friend Willie, so while his text and lyrics aren’t direct pulls from the book, they use bits of Stein, an idea or a phrase as a jumping-off point. Other characters have their own eccentricities and rhythms.

Lyrically, I’ve also used a pretty simple vocabulary. Stein has a famous quote where she says “I like words of one syllable” and although this wasn’t a conscious choice initially, I’ve found that what we’re trying to do is best served by simple language. Big ideas in little words, and sometimes arranged in unusual ways.

Can you tell me about the process of tackling this material and adapting it into a musical that could appeal to all ages and yet still have the flavour and philosophy of Gertrude Stein’s original story?

Flavour is a good word to describe it. I love the energy and strange sense of Stein’s work, but we didn’t want to make an avant-garde musical. Rose is different than anything I’ve seen, but it’s not abstract, it’s not remote. You don’t require knowledge of Stein or a degree in literature or anything like that to enjoy it.

We both really responded to this story of a nine-year-old girl trying to figure out who she is, asking big questions that sometimes she’s not even sure she understands. Nine is such an important age. It’s so young, but it’s also a time that your mind starts to really zoom in and out on the world. You’re grappling with everyday things, but underneath that there are much larger questions lurking. And they’re questions that can last a lifetime.

Our Rose is warm and big-hearted and really funny. I guess in writing it I check in a lot with my own taste and sensibilities. I love challenging, off-centre work, but not in a cerebral way. I respond to it viscerally – I find it exciting, and so it’s a process of trying to wrangle that energy and marry that to our own ideas and desires to create something new. When I see a show, I want heart and brains and humour. And I want to feel welcome. I want to feel people trying to express something that’s difficult to talk about. And I think that’s what we’ve done.

What sort of balance is there between spoken dialogue and song? Is there a special way words and music work together on this show that is different from or similar to other shows you have created or worked on? 

It’s not a sung-through show – there are spoken scenes as well as songs. There’s a ton of variety in Rose. In some ways it’s a very traditional story, beginning with “Once upon a time,” but then from there, we go everywhere.

Has the three-year development process, including the concert presentation in 2016 given you any surprises in rehearsal or in front of its first audiences? Has the show changed during the process from what you thought it would be? 

We started this process very open-minded. We didn’t have an end goal of what we thought it would or should be, but it’s been amazing to see it grow. Sometimes we find files of writing or MP3s from years ago and it’s so neat to see how it’s evolved.

The concert was especially useful. Since then, the major part of our process has been book work, which then necessitates a lot of song rewriting, so there’s a ton of new material since then. But it was very encouraging in that I could see that even though there was a lot of work to do, there was a strong heartbeat.

Will the designs by Lorenzo Savoini for the show be inspired or influenced by the book’s famous Clement Hurd illustrations? 

Yes! They’re such beautiful illustrations, so that influence is absolutely there. Lorenzo’s created a gorgeous container for our story to unfold, and that container is that terrific pink of the pages of The World Is Round. Both the illustrations and Lorenzo’s design live in that sweet spot between childlike and sophisticated. The first time I saw Hurd’s drawings they struck me as both unlike anything I’d ever seen and at the same time totally familiar. The design lives in that space, too.

Mike and I have handed Lorenzo, our costume designer Alexandra Lord and our director Gregory Prest a ton of challenges, and what I’ve seen so far has been so inventive and enchanting. I think it’ll be a real pleasure to spend time in the world they’re creating.

If you had to sum up the show in one sentence for prospective audience members what would you say? 

This is a grown-up show for kids and a kids show for grow-ups – it’s beautiful, funny and unusual and you’ll leave humming.

That’s kind of a cheat sentence, but there it is.

(For a first taste and glimpse of the musical go to the Soulpepper YouTube channel to hear the song A Name Means a Lot performed by Hailey Gillis. Rose opens at Soulpepper on January 17 and has already been extended to February 24.)

Looking Back (And Immediately Ahead)

Fantasticks: For one night only, on October 30, Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt’s sweet-yet-tart chamber musical The Fantasticks came back to life in a delightful semi-staged concert at the Stratford Festival as part of the Forum series. I know the music well, but had never seen the show live – although it is famous as being the longest-ever running musical off-Broadway. It was fascinating to see this version which was true to the original but subtly revised for 21st-century sensibilities, including changing the two fathers of the original to two mothers. In the role of El Gallo, the mysterious character who acts as narrator and mastermind of the plot, TV star and former Stratford company member Eric McCormack led the cast with great warmth and style.

Red Sky: Another highlight of the season so far for me was Red Sky Performance’s most recent dance theatre creation, Trace, which premiered at Canadian Stage in early November sweeping audiences to their feet. A powerful and inspiring envisioning of Anishinaabe sky stories, this production is, in my opinion, the best yet from Red Sky. All the elements: Jera Wolfe’s athletic sculptural choreography, the atmospheric music of Eliot Britton and projections by Marcella Grimaux, are reaching for new heights and attaining new levels of artistry through their combination in the service of specific, yet universal, storytelling.

Coming up in December: All the usual seasonal favourites including Ross Petty’s annual panto (this year The Wizard of Oz), the National Ballet’s Nutcracker, and many versions of A Christmas Carol are on tap. On December 8, there is also a first public workshop of a new family-oriented musical version of Jack & the Beanstalk by classically trained Canadian composer William Lavigne. Inspired by the traditional musicals of Gershwin, Bernstein and Rogers and Hammerstein, Lavigne says that he really wants to “present a new theatre piece that is musically accessible and suitable for all ages to enjoy, based on a story that is relatable to everyone.” Benoit Boutet, Gabrielle Prata, and Adi Braun lead the cast in this first public outing of the in-development Jack & the Beanstalk at the Royal Conservatory’s Temerty Theatre. 

Vanessa Sears is YPT’s Mary Poppins

MUSIC THEATRE QUICK PICKS

DEC 1 TO JAN 6: Young People’s Theatre. Mary Poppins.

DEC 7, 7PM: Brampton Music Theatre. Mary Poppins (full-length version). As the sequel to the original movie takes over cinemas, two productions of the recent stage version of Mary Poppins (book revised by Julian Fellows) are playing in time for the holidays. YPT’s shortened version, ideal for young children, this year directed by well-known performer Thom Allison, has excellent word of mouth

DEC 1, ONWARDS: Mirvish Productions. Come from Away. If you haven’t seen it yet, treat yourself and loved ones to this ridiculously good and truly heartwarming Canadian musical soon transferring from the Royal Alex to the Elgin Theatre and with a run extended to at least June 2019

DEC 5 TO 16: Civic Light Opera Company. Scrooge, the Musical. Music, lyrics and book by Leslie Bricusse. As a longtime fan of Leslie Bricusse’s lyrics for Victor/Victoria I am very intrigued by this version of A Christmas Carol.

DEC 8 TO 30: National Ballet of Canada. The Nutcracker. One of the best introductions to the ballet for children, and for many families an annual outing; possibly more popular than ever now that a new film version has just appeared.

JAN 4 TO 27: Tarragon Theatre. Kiviuq Returns: An Inuit Epic. Music, drumming, dance and storytelling combine in a new modern evocation of the legendary figure of Kiviuq: hero, seeker, wanderer by the Qaggiq Collective; all in Inuktitut.

JAN 17 TO 27: Mirvish. The Simon and Garfunkel Story. This immersive concert-style presentation of a biographical walk-through of the musical partnership, with large-scale screen projections and a full band, is said to be a must-see for fans and should be a good fit for the intimate CAA Theatre.

JAN 29 TO FEB 9: Tapestry Opera. Hook Up. Another exciting world premiere from Tapestry, this time dealing with the very current issue of consent in a university setting. With a young cast of classically trained singer/actors, a contemporary book by Julie Tepperman and score by Chris Thornborrow, word is that Hook Up is part opera/part musical.

Toronto-based “lifelong theatre person” Jennifer (Jenny) Parr works as a director, fight director, stage manager and coach, and is equally crazy about movies and musicals.

The end of the old year and beginning of the new features a mix of old and new operas and old operas rejigged to be like new. There never used to be so much variety at this time of year, but it’s a challenge operagoers will gladly have to get used to.

(from left) Betty Allison as the Trainbearer, Susan Bullock as Elektra and Ewa Podleś as Klytämnestra in the Canadian Opera Company’s production of Elektra, 2007. Photo Michael CooperElektra: The production on the largest scale in these two months is the Canadian Opera Company’s remount of Richard Strauss’ Elektra running for seven performances from January 26 to February 22. This will be the second revival of the imaginative production directed by James Robinson since its debut in 1996. It is especially noteworthy that this productions stars two former COC Brünnhildes. Christine Goerke, the COC’s most recent Brünnhilde, sings the title role and Susan Bullock, the Brünnhilde for the COC’s first ever Ring Cycle in 2006, sings Elektra’s hated mother Klytämnestra. Bullock previously sang the role of Elektra when the COC last presented the opera in 2007. Soprano Erin Wall sings Elektra’s sister Chrysothemis, baritone William Schwinghammer sings Elektra’s avenging brother Orest and COC favourite, tenor Michael Schade, sings Klytämnestra’s lover Aegisth. Johannes Debus conducts the score of this opera that inhabits the same rich, violent sound world as its immediate predecessor by Strauss, Salome, and is a real showpiece for the orchestra.

WOW Factor: Though they are largely unseen by the general public, the COC has steadily been developing a repertory of operas for children that it tours to schools all around the province. Lately, the COC has taken to giving the public a look at these charming works. Its newest is WOW Factor - A Cinderella Story with music by Gioacchino Rossini from his Cinderella opera La Cenerentola (1817) adapted by Stéphane Mayer with a new English libretto by Joel Ivany, artistic director of Against the Grain Theatre. Ivany is well-known for his ability to write new libretti to existing music as he has done for AtG’s Mozart series of Figaro’s Wedding (2013), Uncle John (2014) and A Little Too Cosy (2015). One can tell that La Cenerentola has undergone quite a lot of musical adaptation since the original runs about 148 minutes whereas WOW Factor runs only 50 minutes.

Rossini’s opera has no Fairy Godmother and neither does Ivany’s adaptation. In his updated version the hit singing show WOW Factor arrives at Cindy’s school. Students jump at the chance to compete for the top prize – especially with pop sensation Lil’ Charm rumoured to be there. Shy Cindy dreams of sharing her talents with the world but friends become mean girls when she steps into the spotlight. The question is can Cindy, driven by her desire to sing, and with a bit of help from a reluctant pop star and his sidekick, overcome her fears to find her own unique voice? The roles are sung by members of the Canadian Opera Company Ensemble Studio and before each performance, young audience members can take part in interactive activities related to the opera. The recommended age is from 5 to 12 years old.

Performances at 11am and 2pm take place on both December 1 and 2 in the Imperial Oil Opera Theatre and tickets are free for children under 12. The 11am performance on December 2 is designated as a relaxed performance and people of all abilities are welcome.    

TOT’s Fledermaus: Meanwhile, as it has done for more than 30 years, Toronto Operetta Theatre continues its service of helping Torontonians bridge the old and new years with operetta as it has done for more than 30 years. This year it revives its production of Johann Strauss, Jr.’s Die Fledermaus for five performances from December 28, 2018, to January 2, 2019. Die Fledermaus, the peak of the Golden Age operetta, which has become over time intimately associated with New Year’s Eve in Europe and abroad, stars Lara Ciekiewicz, who previous was a stunning Sylva Varescu in Kálmán’s The Gypsy Princess in 2011. Also in the cast are tenor Adam Fisher, who sang Paris in TOT’s La Belle Hélène earlier this year, Caitlin Wood as Adele and TOT favourite Elizabeth Beeler as Prince Orlovsky. Derek Bate conducts and Guillermo Silva-Marin not only directs but plays the role of Frosch, the jailer.

Silva-Marin’s re-imagination of the role of Frosch is one his best ideas in this Die Fledermaus, last seen in 2010. Typically, the role is played by a comedian who does a long spoken routine in Act 3 before the singing recommences. Silva-Marin avoids this general slump in the action by making Frosch a would-be opera singer who gets into a competition with the tenor he has locked up in the cells. This not only keeps the music going but is far funnier than any spoken-word routine I’ve seen.

Lucia Cervoni. CREDIT Tom WolfHamilton and Kitchener: Since the demise of Opera Ontario in 2014, symphonies in the two cities served, Hamilton and Kitchener, have begun including opera in their programming. In Hamilton the Brott Festival Orchestra has mounted a fully staged opera for several years during the Festival’s summer run. The Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony has also begun adding opera to its schedule due to popular demand. On January 11 and 12 it will perform Bizet’s Carmen in concert with mezzo soprano Lucia Cervoni in the title role and tenor Ernesto Ramirez as Don José. The cast will also feature baritone Alexander Dobson; sopranos Midori Marsh, Claire de Sévigné and Autumn Wascher; baritone Chad Louwerse; the Opera Laurier Chorus, Laurier Singers and Alumni Choir; and the Grand Philharmonic Children’s Choir. Daniel Isengart is the director and Andrei Feher is the conductor.

Hosokawa’s Raven and Maiden from the Sea: Those interested in contemporary opera should know that renowned Japanese composer Toshio Hosokawa is in residence at the University of Toronto Faculty of Music this season. The faculty is staging several concerts to celebrate Hosokawa’s work, one of which is devoted to two of the seven operas he has written. The program is made up of Hosokawa’s setting of The Raven as a monodrama from 2012 and Futari Shizuka (The Maiden from the Sea) from 2017.

Hosokawa wrote The Raven, based on Edgar Allen Poe’s 1845 poem, for Swedish mezzo-soprano Charlotte Hellekant after he had heard her sing in his opera Matsukaze (2011). Hosokawa has noted the similarities in theme between The Raven and Japanese Noh drama in which creatures of nature play an important part. While all the roles in Noh are traditionally played by men, Hosokawa has said that having a mezzo-soprano interpret the part of the Narrator who mourns her lost love purposely reverses the tradition in order to broaden the theme to feelings of loss in general.  

Futari Shizuka (which literally means “The Two Shizukas”) was conceived as a companion to The Raven. It is based on a Noh drama attributed to Zeami Motokiyo (1363-1443) about the departed spirit of Shizuka Gozen, or Lady Shizuka, who possesses the body and soul of a young beautiful girl. Hosokawa’s librettist Oriza Hirata has updated the action to the present by making the girl a refugee who has made it to the Mediterranean Sea, and sings of her sorrow for wars and hateful disputes. Soprano Xin Wang will sing the role of the young girl. Ryoko Aoki, a Noh singer and dancer, will be the spirit of Lady Shizuka, the role she created in 2017. The double bill takes place in Walter Hall of the Edward Johnson Building at the University of Toronto on January 17 only. clip_image001.png

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

National identity and culture play a profound and vital role in the artistic self-perception of a country’s performers and composers. Looking back on the Renaissance and Baroque eras, it is clear that unique combinations of pedagogy, performance practice, politics and technique led to the development of identifiable national schools, particularly in France, Germany, Italy and England. These schools are where we see the development of such localized phenomena as the polyphony of Tudor England, the chorale-based compositions of Lutheran Germany, and the development of Italian operatic and dramatic forms.

The annual arrival of Christmas brings with it a host of music from across Europe, connected through various forms of Christianity, but unique in individual flavours and styles. Last month we were introduced to the villancicos navideños, an ebullient form of proto-popular Christmas music native to Spain; this December and January we are fortunate to hear a wide range of music from other cultural hotspots, performed by some of our city’s finest ensembles.

Jubilance and Joy

No name is more synonymous with the German Baroque than Johann Sebastian Bach, whose choral compositions combined Lutheran theology with divinely inspired music. Bach’s Christmas Oratorio is a classic Christmas composition from the Baroque era, compiled and composed between 1733 and 1734 to celebrate the Christmas season in Leipzig. Although considered a single, freestanding work (catalogued as BWV 248) this “oratorio” is a series of six individual cantatas that were performed during the time between Christmas and Epiphany and divided between the Thomaskirche and Nikolaikirche. Monumental in scope and brilliant in its musical expression of Bach’s beliefs and theology, the Christmas Oratorio is, along with the Passions, the closest Bach came to writing a dramatic work. The Toronto Classical Singers tackle this incredible work on December 9, bringing a touch of variety to an oratorio scene saturated with performances of Handel’s Messiah!

About 100 years before Bach was born, Michael Praetorius was pioneering new musical forms in the Lutheran tradition, developing and incorporating Protestant hymnody into freely composed pieces, such as the chorale fantasias for organ. Praetorius was prolific, his voluminous output showing the influence of Italian composers and his younger contemporary Heinrich Schütz. His works include the nine volume Musae Sioniae (composed between 1605 and 1610), a collection comprised of more than 1200 chorale and song arrangements, and Terpsichore, a compendium of more than 300 instrumental dances, which is both his most widely known work and his sole surviving secular work. Now known almost exclusively for his harmonization of Es ist ein Ros entsprungen, made famous in the Carols for Choirs collection, a broader overview of Praetorius’s music will be on display December 14 to 16 with The Toronto Consort’s Praetorious Christmas Vespers, a reproduction of a Christmas Vespers as it might have sounded in the early 17th century. It is worth remembering that there were many generations of composers who paved the path for the great composers of the late baroque, and the chance to hear the unique sounds of these earlier soundsmiths is certainly valuable and rewarding.

Ensemble Masques350 Years of François Couperin

François Couperin (1668 - 1733), known by his contemporaries as Couperin le Grand (Couperin the Great), was born into one of the most renowned musical families in Europe, the French equivalent of the German Bachs. Couperin was a prolific and influential composer, receiving a 20-year royal publishing privilege in 1713 and subsequently issuing numerous volumes of keyboard and chamber music including his most famous book, L’Art de toucher le clavecin. Unlike other Baroque composers whose works were lost and later revived, Couperin’s have remained in the repertory; Johannes Brahms performed Couperin’s music in public and contributed to the first complete edition of Couperin’s Pièces de clavecin by Friedrich Chrysander in the 1880s; Richard Strauss orchestrated a number of Couperin’s harpsichord pieces; and Maurice Ravel memorialized his fellow French composer in his Le Tombeau de Couperin.

On December 15, Ensemble Masques visits the University Club of Toronto Library to celebrate the 350th anniversary of Couperin’s birth with a commemorative concert featuring the music of Couperin, Lully and Corelli. While the inclusion of an Italian in this French-themed concert might seem strange, Corelli was tremendously influential to Couperin. Couperin himself acknowledged this debt to Corelli, introducing Corelli’s trio sonata form to France through his grand trio sonata Le Parnasse, ou L’Apothéose de Corelli (Parnassus, or the Apotheosis of Corelli), in which he blended the Italian and French styles of music in a set of pieces which he called Les Goûts réunis (styles reunited).

With selections from Couperin’s Concerts Royaux, Pièces de Clavecin, and Nouveaux Concerts et Pièces de Violes, this concert will provide an overview of the great composer’s works, expertly interpreted by harpsichordist Olivier Fortin, violinist Kathleen Kajioka and gambist Mélisande Corriveau.

England’s Golden Age

Despite the challenging and potentially lethal political situations that occurred during the reigns of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, the composers of Tudor England created some of the most sublime choral music ever written. Whether Catholic or Protestant, in English or in Latin, the music of William Byrd, Thomas Tallis, Orlando Gibbons and their contemporaries underwent a well-deserved revival in the 20th century and continues to be popular in churches and concert halls across the globe.

Pax Christi Chorale, an ensemble known for their performances of large-scale dramatic oratorios, lend their voices to some smaller-scale, a cappella masterpieces from the English Renaissance on December 16. With Byrd’s Mass for Five Voices and anthems by Tallis, Weekes and Gibbons, this exploration of Tudor polyphony will undoubtedly be beautiful and, depending on the size and finesse of the ensemble, likely more aligned with the massed-choir sound of King’s College, Cambridge than the streamlined timbres of the Tallis Scholars.

A Little Italy

Tafelmusik’s exploration of multimedia concert experiences has led to some magnificent performances, including Safe Haven and J.S. Bach: The Circle of Creation. The latest in this series of innovative programming is The Harlequin Salon – created, scripted and illustrated by oboist Marco Cera – which explores music of the Italian Baroque through the character of Pier Leone Ghezzi: caricaturist, painter, and host of some of 18th-century Rome’s most popular salon parties. What makes the character of Ghezzi particularly fascinating is that he was a real person (he lived from 1674 to 1755, primarily in Rome), an Italian painter who was probably the world’s first professional caricaturist. Ghezzi was an enthusiastic music lover, holding exclusive musical salons at his palazzo for the Roman intellectual and artistic elite. (His most well-known portrait is the famous caricature of Antonio Vivaldi, with long, curly hair and a protruding, crooked nose.)

Vivaldi caricature by Pier Leone GhezziCera, who plays the role of Ghezzi in The Harlequin Salon, is an artist as well; he studied figurative art at Liceo Artistico Citta’ di Valdagno in Italy before joining Tafelmusik in 2000. The Harlequin Salon’s recreation of one of Ghezzi’s famous salon evenings will undoubtedly be entertaining, giving audiences a chance to travel back in time and imagine what happens (and what music results) when these famous characters from the past cross paths. Famous guests at this salon include composer Antonio Vivaldi, 24-year-old opera diva Faustina Bordoni, and cello virtuoso Giovanni Bononcini. These guests and their music will be performed by Tafelmusik’s music director Elisa Citterio, guest soprano Roberta Invernizzi and Tafelmusik cellist Christina Mahler, making this new concert a don’t-miss event, January 16 to 20.

Two Melting Pots

Now in their third full season, Cor Unum Ensemble is one of Toronto’s newest early music ensembles, an orchestra and chorus comprised of emerging professionals interested in vocal and instrumental collaboration within the early music repertoire. On December 8 and 9, Cor Unum presents “Merry & Bright,” a collection of seasonal music from across Europe, followed by “Sub Rosa” on January 26 and 27. Sub Rosa, a collaboration between Cor Unum and the Sub Rosa Ensemble, explores 16th- and 17th-century repertoire written for and by cloistered nuns who, although often highly trained, are rarely considered in the context of music history. These nuns used singing and composition to communicate their identity and their devotion beyond the convent walls, developing their social and financial independence, and their music will be used to explore the important role played by women in the early Baroque musical scene.

“Centuries of Souls,” presented by Confluence on January 26, promises to be one of January’s most interesting concerts. Featuring Opus8 singing Ockeghem’s famous Requiem mass, Matthew Larkin playing Messiaen organ works, and Schola Magdalena singing Hildegard, this performance stretches across five centuries of musical history. Messiaen and Hildegard are, although separated by a great temporal distance, closely connected through their mysticism. Hildegard experienced visions and expressed them through tune and text, while Messiaen expressed the mysteries of his devoutly held Catholic beliefs through strikingly original works for the organ. With this eclectic mixture of medieval and modern, Centuries of Souls will undoubtedly be an extraordinary experience for all in attendance.

Amidst all the the seasonal hustle and bustle, I encourage you to explore the vibrant musical offerings that are on display this December and January. Whether you prefer Handel’s Messiah, Tafelmusik’s The Harlequin Salon, a traditional Festival of Lessons and Carols, or any of the other listings in this double issue of The WholeNote, the richness and depth of Toronto’s classical music scene ensures that everyone has something to look forward to this holiday season. Happy Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Festivus and New Year – see you in 2019. Until then, keep in touch at earlymusic@thewholenote.com.

EARLY MUSIC QUICK PICKS

The Messiah Edition

DEC 8, 7:30PM: Grand Philharmonic Choir. “Handel Messiah.” Centre in the Square, 101 Queen St. N., Kitchener. A large-scale, symphonic Messiah with choir and symphony orchestra for maximum impact!

DEC 15, 7:30PM: Chorus Niagara. Handel Messiah. FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre, 250 St. Paul St., St. Catharines. For those further down the QEW, this Messiah features an excellent choir and the superb Talisker Players.

DEC 18 to 21, 7:30PM: Tafelmusik. Handel Messiah. Koerner Hall, Telus Centre, 273 Bloor St. W. The quintessential Messiah experience for early music aficionados – sit and enjoy the show or participate in the Sing-Along Messiah at 2pm in Roy Thomson Hall on December 22!

Matthew Whitfield is a Toronto-based harpsichordist and organist.

At times in this column I have gone deep into a particular world music theme, presenter, musician, ensemble, audience or school. For example, last month in this column I explored in some detail, the 150-year lineage of Chinese music performance in Canada, then pulled a tighter focus on the world of Chinese Orchestras active in the GTA today. Concerts by two of those ensembles bookend the two-month-plus period I’m covering here.

At other times I’ve painted our region’s worldly music pulse with a broad brush. For this December-January-early February column I’ve chosen the latter approach, surveying the seasonal tapestry of our region’s astonishingly diverse music scenes. So, consider this column the tip of the GTA winter season’s live music iceberg.

Toronto Chinese Orchestra “Scenic Sojourn: A Night of Chinese Music”

December 1: The Toronto Chinese Orchestra is the oldest such continually operating regional orchestra. It’s presenting a concert on December 1 at North York’s Yorkminster Citadel titled “Scenic Sojourn: A Night of Chinese Music” with Matthew Poon conducting. Angela Xu is the yangqin (Chinese hammered dulcimer) soloist, while Charlotte Liu is featured on the dizi (Chinese transverse flute).

On the program is music by both Chinese and Canadian composers chosen to underscore the concert’s geographic and seasonal themes. They paint portraits of village life in Jiangsu, scenic views of mountain ranges in Taiwan and Kyrgyzstan, as well as evoking the prototypical Canadian winter chill.

Works include Whiteout by Matthew van Driel and Reincarnation Suite by Marko Koumoulas, both early-career Toronto composers. IMHO the performance of these works signals a healthy active engagement with the broader non-Chinese Canadian music community. Composers Hua Wu (Taiwan Folk Song Rhapsody), Xianyu Jiang, arr. Chunmin Zhang (Touring Gusu), and He Huang (Tian Shan Poetry) present Chinese approaches to orchestral writing. Rounding out the evening, a performance by the TCO’s Toronto Youth Chinese Orchestra ensures essential interpretive orchestral skills are passed on to the younger generation.

Payadora: “Tango and Argentine Folk Music”

Payadora Tango EnsembleDecember 2: The warm and intimate Gallery 345 hosts the tango-centric Toronto quartet Payadora in concert. “Tango and Argentine Folk Music” is the aptly concise title of its committed tribute to the tango repertoire and ethos. Payadora regulars, violinist Rebekah Wolkstein, Drew Jurecka, bandoneon, pianist Robert Horvath and bassist Joseph Phillips are joined by guest vocalist Elbio Fernandez in a program drawn partly from the roots of the Buenos Aires’ early 20th-century tango heyday.

The group typically plays scores which favour instrumental tangos designed for listening in a concert setting rather than those intended for couple dancing. The evening continues with Astor Piazzolla’s well-known, trend-setting nuevo tango compositions of the second half of the 20th century.

In my May 1, 2017 review of a Payadora concert in The WholeNote, I wrote that in addition to tango they “also performed two Argentinian vernacular dance music genres. The zamba is set in a slow 3/4 meter – or is it in 6/8? – while yet another couples’ dance, the chacarera, also plays on similar hemiola syncopation.”

Audiences at the December 2 concert can certainly expect similar rhythmically compelling folkloric renditions. Founded in 2013, with its playful and virtuoso approach to the musically accessible tango repertoire, we can see why Payadora has, in a few years, garnered a healthy regional fan base.

Christmas musical themes

Every year at this time I look at music traditions of those who celebrate Christmas in its many guises. For those who don’t, it may be time for Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Solstice or just simply “The Holidays.” This year is no exception.

I’ve assembled a few picks from the many seasonal musical offerings that highlight diversities in our region.

December 5: The Toronto Choral Society, Geoffrey Butler conductor, presents “Navidad Nuestra (Our Christmas)” at Koerner Hall. The concert features two of the best-known works of popular Argentine composer Ariel Ramírez (b. 1921). The 150-voice TCS choir is joined by the Latin ensemble (and past collaborator) Cassava, led by Rodrigo Chavez, with tenor soloist Ernesto Cárdenas.

Ramírez’s Navidad Nuestra for choir and Andean instruments is a “folk drama of the Nativity” based on Hispanic-American traditions. His earlier Misa Criolla (1964), a Creole Catholic mass in a South American hybrid mixture of Iberian and Indigenous musical genres, swiftly became a big hit among international choirs and on LP. A pioneering mass written in a regional Indigenous dialect, Misa Criolla’s bright, optimistic sound exuded an unpretentious spirituality, in tune with the changing times in which it was produced.

Founded in 1845, the TCS is the city’s oldest and largest community choir and it is impressive to see them tackle these Ramírez scores again. Feliz navidad!

December 8: Celtic-themed music appears alive and well, particularly during the holiday season. Here’s just one concert example at the eastern end of our own “fertile crescent.”, the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts presents “The Kingston Connection: A Celtic Christmas with Kelli Trottier” at its beautiful Kingston Ontario hall.

A member of the North America Fiddlers’ Hall of Fame, Kingston fiddler, step dancer and vocalist Trottier’s musical vocabulary is steeped in her deep Scottish and French roots, reflected in her ten albums. Trottier and her backup musicians present an album of Canadian and Celtic Christmas songs and fiddle music.

Chris McKhool brings his Holidays of the Global Village with Chris McKhool and Friends to the Kingston Road United Church, December 9. Then he puts on his Sultans of String hat for a whirlwind six-city Beyond the GTA tour from December 12 to 18 with a stop in Markham on December 13 in between. Photo Jake JacobsonDecember 9 at 2pm: “Holidays of the Global Village with Chris McKhool and Friends” plays at the Kingston Road United Church. Kid-friendly Canadian violinist, guitarist and singer-songwriter McKhool is bringing two armloads of world music friends to help him fete the “multicultural mosaic of our country.” Inclusive songs about “Bodhi Day (Buddhist), Carnival (Quebec), Chanukah, Chinese New Year, Christmas, Diwali, Halloween, Kwanzaa (Pan-African), Native Traditions, Ramadan and Winter Solstice” will ring out in the church. Assisting McKhool with his ecumenical vision are Toronto-based musicians Aviva Chernick, Shannon Thunderbird, Maryem and Ernie Tollar, Kevin Laliberté and Drew Birston.

December 20: in keeping with the Celtic theme – and at the southern end of our fertile crescent – The Gallery Players of Niagara present “Glissandi & Guy Bannerman: A Celtic Solstice” at Silver Spire United Church, St. Catharines. Guy Bannerman provides the Celtic-themed narration with the Glissandi trio playing the soulful music of Ireland, Wales and the Scottish Highlands. The program is repeated December 21 even further south at Grace United Church, Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Congratulations! We’ve made it to the New Year

KamancelloJanuary 8, 12pm: Kamancello plays on the Canadian Opera Company’s World Music Series at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre. Kamancello is an innovative bowed string duo with Shahriyar Jamshidi on kamanche (Persian spike-fiddle) and Raphael Weinroth-Browne on cello. Theirs is an East-meets-West artistic partnership that “blurs musical genre conventions and cultural boundaries with their highly evocative improvised performances,” ranging in tone from soulful to incendiary.

January 20, 4pm: Folk Under the Clock presents Harry Manx at the Market Hall Performing Arts Centre, Peterborough. Manx is a veteran of the Canadian music fusion scene who has released 11 albums and garnered multiple industry awards by successfully merging Hindustani classical music with acoustic blues. It’s all propelled by the hybrid sitar-guitar he plays: the mohan veena. His ability to gracefully wed the blues with the classical Indian ragas is unparalleled. It’s an unusual musical mix that has led him to be labelled the “Mysticssippi Blues Man.” Manx and Steve Marriner (vocals, harmonica, guitar) will play tracks from their new album Hell Bound for Heaven.

January 24, 12pm: The Canadian Opera Company presents “Volando: Tango Takes Flight” as part of its World Music Series. The Payadora Tango Ensemble takes over the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre space in a noon-hour master class on contemporary tango listening music, performing from their latest album Volando, inspired by a “beautiful sunset in the clouds as seen from a flight home by violinist Rebekah Wolkstein.”

February 2: Lemon Bucket Orkestra and Aline Morales perform at the Royal Conservatory of Music’s Koerner Hall. I’ve written appreciatively about both the Orkestra and Morales numerous times in this column. The quotes, “Adventurous, multicultural and amazing!” (The Wall Street Journal), and “Toronto’s guerilla-punk-Balkan-folk-brass band that started on the streets of Toronto” (their website) about sum up the Orkestra. And we know Morales as the Toronto-based Brazilian singer, percussionist, bandleader and member of KUNÉ: Canada’s Global Orchestra. It’s bound to be a good time.

Also on February 2: Alliance Française Toronto and Batuki Music Society present Les Frères Cissoko Bannaya Family from Senegal, part of their Musique du monde series at 9pm. Les Frères Cissoko’s illustrious Malinke (aka Mandika) musical lineage stretches back several centuries in West Africa, along with their primary instrument, the kora. The kora (21-string long-necked harp lute) was traditionally played by a griot (a.k.a. jali, or jeli) who combines the bardic roles of a historian, storyteller, praise singer, poet and musician. As a main repository of regional oral tradition the griot therefore has often been an influential advisor to the West African ruling classes.

Malinke oral tradition recounts that Jali Mady Fouling Cissoko, one of the three Cissoko brothers’ ancestors, a griot in the Kaabu Empire (1537–1867), was responsible for the development of the kora, launching a family tradition still in force today.

Senior brother Noumoucounda has taken his family’s practice considerably further afield however, embracing international vernacular music genres. Formerly with Positive Black Soul, among the first hip-hop groups based in Dakar, Senegal (founded in 1989), he has played with Youssou N’Dour, Ki-Mani Marley (son of Bob Marley) and others, earning him the colourful sobriquets “the hip-hop griot,” and “the Jimi Hendrix of the kora.”

Finally, welcome the Year of the Pig (Boar)!

February 5, 12pm: The Canadian Opera Company celebrates the Chinese New Year featuring the Toronto Chinese Orchestra Chamber Players (TCO-CP) at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre.

Led by erhu virtuosa Patty Chan, TCO-CP forms the professional core of the Toronto Chinese Orchestra. Marking the Chinese New Year they perform a mix of Chinese music plus contemporary works by Canadian and international composers.

TCO-CP members are established Toronto musicians and music teachers. Their repertoire embraces not only demanding Chinese works, but also contemporary scores by Canadian and international composers. This demonstration of transcultural musical solidarity is a marvellous way to bring in the year of the – carefree, honest, trusting, sincere, brave and wealthy – boar (aka pig). clip_image001.png

Andrew Timar is a Toronto musician and music writer. He can be contacted at worldmusic@thewholenote.com

The combined bands of the naval reserve divisions of HMCS York (Toronto) and HMCS Star (Hamilton) in the Cathedral Church of St. James, Toronto. Photo Jack MacQuarrieThroughout the year 2017 the programming focus for community musical groups was Canada’s sesquicentennial year, with concert repertoire focused on almost any music which might have some connection to the development of Canada during the previous 150 years. By the end of that year, most bands had pretty well exhausted their library assets for music sesquicentennial connections. Then came 2018 with no similar focus in the first part of the year, except the perennial question about repertoire for concert bands: “Who are we trying to please, the audiences, band members, the conductor etc.?”

There were the usual budding composers waiting to be heard and, always, old-time favourites which might attract the largest audiences to help swell the band’s precarious coffers.

The 11th day

Towards the end of 2018, though, many groups turned their attention to another significant anniversary in the year: November 11 of this year, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Armistice to end the First World War.

Having spent some time in the Navy, it was only natural for me to gravitate towards a November 10 Navy band concert commemorating that occasion: the combined bands of the naval reserve divisions of HMCS York from Toronto and HMCS Star from Hamilton performing “A Festival of Remembrance” in the Cathedral Church of St. James in Toronto.

The program for this concert was one of the most appropriate that I have ever experienced. Every number was either music that might have been performed during that wartime period or was written to commemorate a significant event of the war. Since the WWI battle most commemorated by Canadians is the Battle of Vimy Ridge, it was fitting that the opening number was Thomas Bidgood’s march Vimy Ridge. Much of the program was divided between such works as Songs From the Great War, Boys of the Old Brigade and Abide With Me and major orchestral pieces by composers who were at their prime during the period of WWI. These included three composers who were British-born: Ralph Vaughan Williams, Edward Elgar and Gustav Holst.

There were also some other top-quality marches, which rarely get their due these days. Although community bands, in general, had their origins in town bands – which traditionally played in parades – many community bands nowadays have never played in a parade. In fact, with some bands, marches are considered somewhat beneath their dignity, and are never included in programs. Fortunately, in this concert, such was not the case. The marches included here, other than Vimy Ridge, were all composed by Kenneth Alford (1881-1945), often referred to as “Britain’s March King.” Each was chosen because it was written to commemorate a particular event in WWI. The Middy and On the Quarterdeck were both written to commemorate the Battle of Jutland in 1916. The Vanished Army was dedicated to the first 100,000 British soldiers lost in WWI, and Voice of the Guns was to honour the regiments of the Royal Artillery in the British army.

Alford and Dunn

The name Kenneth Alford was actually a pseudonym for Major Fredrick Joseph Ricketts, bandmaster of a Royal Marine Band. This was common practice because, in those days, members of the British Armed Forces were not permitted to earn any income other that their regular military pay. Some years after Ricketts left the Royal Marines his position was filled by Major F. Vivian Dunn, bandmaster of the Royal Marines Portsmouth Division.

When the Canadian National Exhibition first opened after WWII, the featured band on the main bandshell was that Royal Marine Band from Portsmouth with Major Dunn conducting. As a student with a very rewarding summer job, I was in charge of operating the sound system on the Main Bandshell. When I first introduced myself to Major Dunn, his first question was “Can you read music?” When I answered in the affirmative, before each of the two daily concerts Dunn would spend a few minutes with me, going over the scores to ensure that there would be proper microphone pickup. Shortly after, Dunn became Lt. Col. Sir Vivian Dunn KCVO OBE FRSA, principal director of music Royal Marines. After he left the Royal Marines, Dunn became conductor of a number of top orchestras in Britain.

A few days after that November 10 Navy Festival of Remembrance concert, I still had an ear-worm: I couldn’t get the melodies of Vimy Ridge out of my head. The cure was to play a recording of it. Having written a review for The WholeNote a couple of years ago of a CD containing Vimy Ridge, the remedy was at hand so I played it, only to find that the very next number on that CD just happened to have been written by none other than Major F. Vivian Dunn: The Captain General, written in 1949 shortly after his stint at the CNE.

(The honorific “Captain General,” by the way, is the title bestowed on the ceremonial head of the British Royal Marines. This particular march was written to mark the occasion in 1949 when then Captain General, none other than His Majesty King George VI dined with Royal Marine officers at the Savoy Hotel in London. Since then the appointment has been held by HRH The Duke of Edinburgh and, since May 14, 2018, Prince Harry.

Bugler’s Holidays

The evening before writing this column I attended a concert in London by the Plumbing Factory Brass Band under Henry Meredith, very curious to hear the three tubas performing Leroy Anderson’s famous Bugler’s Holiday. My reactions were mixed. As for technique, the performance by the three tubists of the band was excellent. As for personal enjoyment, I would still prefer to hear the staccato components of this music with the crisp attack of a trumpet rather than the broad tonal base of a tuba. It was also, as usual, a great example of the theatrical imagination that “Doctor Hank” Meredith brings to his programming.

One selection on the program tied in well with my comments earlier about marches: Le pére la victoire (Father of Victory), written by French composer Louis-Gaston Ganne (1862-1923) during the Napoleonic Wars. Ganne was a leading composer and conductor at that time. His Marche Lorraine written in 1892 for national gymnastic games became a battle song for the Free French during WWII.

Still on the topic of bugles, though, the recent Armistice ceremonies have triggered one of my occasional grumbles, namely the butchering of bugle calls. In the week prior to, and on Armistice Day itself, I heard many “bugle calls,” but none played on a bugle. They were all played on trumpets. A trumpet has the same pitch as a bugle, but certainly does not sound like a bugle. A proper bugle has a unique mellow tone which cannot be simulated by a trumpet. This may sound a bit strange to some people, but to me it does not work. To me, using a trumpet to substitute for a bugle is akin to using a motorcycle to substitute for a horse in a dressage ceremony. Proper bugles are not that expensive. Why can’t each military unit (and similar organization) obtain just one bugle to be used on such occasions?

Shifting into Christmas mode

Now that Armistice ceremonies are over for another 11 months, most bands are shifting into Christmas mode, a shift that brings them into close alignment (and in many cases joint concerts) with some of our top community choirs. There is a natural continuum between bands and choirs: from the pure pleasure of the process to the thrill of performing to high levels of professionalism.

There will be several such joint concerts in the coming weeks. Look for them in the listings and in the Band Quick Picks below.

BANDSTAND QUICK PICKS

DEC 2, 3PM: The York University Wind Symphony directed by Bill Thomas present a concert of various classical works at Tribute Communities Recital Hall, York University.

DEC 3, 7:30PM: Resa’s Pieces, all three ensembles in “Holiday Concert” at York Mills Collegiate.

DEC 7, 8PM: Etobicoke Community Concert Band “Classic Christmas” with Jean Augustine, reader; Andrew Scott, guest MC. Etobicoke Collegiate Auditorium.

DEC 8, 7:30PM: University of Toronto Wind Symphony in concert. Fucik’s Florentiner March; Weinzweig’s Deep Blues from Out of the Blues, Glazunov’s Concerto for Alto Saxophone in E-flat Op.109, Tull’s Sketches on a Tudor Psalm, Ticheli’s Postcard, and other works. MacMillan Theatre.

DEC 8, 4PM: Weston Silver Band’s annual “Yule Sing!” Sing along with Timothy Eaton Memorial Church’s Choir School and Sanctuary Choir. Timothy Eaton Memorial Church.

DEC 8, 7:30PM: The Barrie Concert Band A Christmas Fantasy”. Do They Know It’s Christmas?, Huron Carol and film music from How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Polar Express, and Nightmare Before Christmas; Collier Street United Church (Barrie).

DEC 11, 7:30PM: Silverthorn Symphonic Winds “Christmas Soiree”. A one-hour program of favourite Christmas delights. Free refreshments and conversation with the musicians after the concert. Wilmar Heights Event Centre Concert Hall.

DEC 11, 7:30PM: Hannaford Street Silver Band’s “Christmas Cheer” with host and tenor soloist Ben Heppner and the Elmer Iseler Singers. Metropolitan United Church.

DEC 15, 7PM: The Salvation Army North York Temple Band, joined by the Amadeus Choir, present their “Christmas Spectacular”. Works by Willcocks, Rutter, Venables, Graham, Balantine. Tyndale Chapel.

DEC 16, at 2PM: The Borealis Big Band will stage “A Big Band Family Christmas Concert”. Seasonal favorites along with jazz charts by Brubeck, Lopez, Toombs, Stevie Wonder and others. Gord Shephard, conductor. Newmarket Old Town Hall (Newmarket).

DEC 16, 2PM: The Festival Wind Orchestra. “A Fireside Christmas”. Big Band Showcase, Mary Poppins Medley, Argentum, Gypsy Dance from Carmen. Also seasonal favourites and a Christmas carol sing-a-long. Isabel Bader Theatre.

DEC 22, 4:30PM: Christ Church Deer Park & North York Temple Salvation Army Band present “Joy to the World: A Community Carol-Sing”. Christ Church Deer Park.

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

The holiday season in Toronto – which begins, at least in some major retail stores, as early as November 1 – carries with it different meanings for different people. For some, of course, it is still primarily a religious occasion; for others, it is a chance to spend at least one morning drinking excessive amounts of rum and eggnog before having a recuperative nap on a disappointed family member’s couch. What tends to remain constant in our shared experience of December and early January is a celebration of community and a desire to enjoy, at least briefly, a sensation of abundance and plenty.

For live music fans in Southern Ontario, this will not be difficult to achieve: December is one of the most exciting months of the year to hit the town and take in a show. This is true whether you enjoy the great canon of Christmas songs (they’re fun, and they’re basically just standards) or not (they’re “fun,” and they’re basically just standards); the true gift that December brings us is the sheer volume of excellent and unusual programming, much of which is not explicitly holiday-themed. So, while there will be plenty of opportunities to hear songs about inclement weather, precocious reindeer, and bearded paternalistic wizards who watch you while you sleep, there will also be an ample supply of non-holiday music to check out in a wide variety of venues.

The Bistro: To begin: there are, of course, some really top-notch holiday shows taking place in December. On Saturday December 22, the pianists Robi Botos and Hilario Durán perform holiday classics, standards and more at Jazz Bistro, in what has become an annual tradition. It is rare enough to hear two pianists perform together, and rarer still to hear two pianists of Botos and Duran’s calibre in a club setting. Other holiday offerings from Jazz Bistro include Sam Broverman’s A Jewish Boy’s Christmas album release show, on Sunday December 16, and the Robert Scott Trio playing music from A Charlie Brown Christmas, on Tuesday December 18. Outside of the GTA, The Woodhouse performs at The Jazz Room in Waterloo with the help of singer Barbra Lica, who has joined the band in previous years for their annual run of holiday shows.

Bernice: Another notable holiday event: Bernice, the dreamy, synthy indie project led by singer Robin Dann, will play at Lula Lounge on December 16 as part of Venus Fest’s Winter Market, which celebrates women and non-binary artists and entrepreneurs. The market runs throughout the day, with performances from Bernice and the group Kith & Kin to be followed by winter bingo, hosted by the singer Alex Samaras.

Kirk MacDonaldThe Rex: The Rex’s December lineup is perhaps its most exciting since June, when it hosted the co-curated TD Toronto Jazz Festival concert series, due in no small part to the fact that some of the same artists are back, including the pianist Geoffrey Keezer and the duo, Paris Monster. Keezer – an alumnus of bands led by Benny Golson, Ray Brown and Art Blakey, in the final iteration of the fabled Jazz Messengers group – is both virtuosic and communicative, and has tremendous access to the jazz piano tradition. His performance, which takes place on Sunday December 16, will feature the singer Gillian Margot, who sung on Keezer’s recent trio album On My Way To You, and the drummer Jon Wikan, a longtime Keezer collaborator.

When Paris Monster played at The Rex in June, their performance became one of the most talked-about breakout shows of the whole jazz festival, in part because of how surprising it was that such a full band sound could be produced by just two people. The duo consists of Josh Dion, who simultaneously plays drums, keyboards, and sings, and the bassist Geoff Kraly, whose effects-heavy playing fills out the middle in a way that has more in common with shoegaze-inspired electric guitar playing than it does with traditional electric bass playing. (Dion often plays bass lines on his keyboard.) Beyond their unique performance practice, however, it’s the music itself – a combination of rock, synthpop, and jazz fusion – that is at the heart of Paris Monster’s compelling project. Paris Monster plays two consecutive nights at The Rex, on December 8 and 9.

The Rex will also be hosting a different two-night residency, on December 19 and 20, as Kirk MacDonald, one of Canada’s pre-eminent saxophonists, celebrates the release of his album Generations, his 15th as a bandleader. Generations features MacDonald’s contemporaries Neil Swainson and André White, as well as the American pianist Harold Mabern, who, at 82-years-old, is one of jazz’s prominent elder statesmen, and the clarinetist Virginia MacDonald, who, at 23, represents the next generation of jazz both figuratively and literally. (Kirk MacDonald is her father.)

Virginia MacDonald, who is becoming an important presence on the Toronto jazz scene in her own right, will also be playing at The Rex on December 18, one evening before joining her father for his two-night stint. She is joined by the bassist Dan Fortin and, keeping the family theme intact, by the siblings Lucas Dann and Nico Dann, a pianist and drummer (respectively) who share a sister in Robin Dann, the aforementioned singer in the group Bernice.

Burdock: While December is typically one of the best months of the year in which to see live music, January is one of the worst, for a variety of reasons. There is usually an expectation that people don’t go out as much, both for reasons financial (it’s time to start paying down that credit card) and caloric (those resolutions won’t keep themselves). The success of Burdock’s annual Piano Fest, however, has given both artists and audiences a reason to get back into the swing of things following the holidays. Taking place from January 21 to 28, this eight-day festival sees the temporary installation of a baby grand piano in Burdock’s Music Hall and, traditionally, double bills featuring complementary acts. Past performers include Joanna Majoko, Chelsey Bennett, Michelle Willis, Jeremy Dutcher and Tim Baker, amongst many others. While the full schedule has not yet been released, check out Burdock’s website for full listings when they become available.

MAINLY CLUBS, MOSTLY JAZZ QUICK PICKS

DEC 18, 9:30PM: Virginia MacDonald, The Rex. The night before she joins her father Kirk MacDonald on the same stage for his album release show, clarinetist Virginia MacDonald leads her own accomplished quartet at The Rex.

DEC 16, 8PM: Venus Fest presents Bernice with Kith & Kin, Lula Lounge. As part of Venus Fest’s Winter Market, watch Kith & Kin perform before a very special holiday set by Bernice; followed by bingo.

DEC 22, 9PM: Robi Botos and Hilario Durán, Jazz Bistro. Leading pianists Robi Botos and Hilario Duran present a holiday-themed show in a rare configuration.

JAN 21 TO 28: Various performers, Burdock Piano Fest. Burdock Music Hall. Burdock presents its fourth-annual Piano Fest, featuring a variety of performers in complementary double bills that make good use of a beautiful (and well-tuned) baby grand piano.

Colin Story is a jazz guitarist, writer and teacher based in Toronto. He can be reached at www.colinstory.com, on Instagram and on Twitter.

Now in its 13th year and divided into six smaller series – vocal, chamber music, piano virtuoso, jazz, world music and dance – there are very few series in town that cover so many WholeNote areas of interest as the Canadian Opera Company’s remarkable Free Concert Series in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre. This month, for example, in addition to five concerts that jumped out at me, both Lydia Perović in her Art of Song column and Jazz Notes columnist Steve Wallace found noteworthy concerts in their respective beats. It struck me as an opportune moment to ask the series’ program manager Dorian Cox how the curatorial process works.

He told me that he programs each series in a slightly different way. The vocal series, for example, “is largely comprised of artists who are already involved with the COC (on the mainstage or part of our Ensemble Studio), whereas the world music and jazz series are largely comprised of artists who have approached me or whom I have sought out.” Overall, about a third of the performances are COC artists, a third are presented in collaboration with other institutions and the last third are independent artists.

Cox is always on the lookout for artists who he thinks might want to participate and whom he thinks his audience will appreciate. “It’s a 24/7 job in that way,” he says. “The wheels are always turning and I try to see as many concerts as possible, which can truthfully get a bit overwhelming when I already have 72 that I’m presenting this season.” He feels fortunate to be approached by many performers and connected to others through mutual contacts. And based on what his network is interested in, he finds social media to be a helpful tool.

“Remembering Kristallnacht” on November 8 was the first concert that caught my own eye this month. Cox told me that a meeting last January with the German Ambassador to Canada, Sabine Sparwasser (“a huge supporter of the COC”), led directly to it. “She was keen to present a concert and it was her idea to do something that would commemorate the 80th year since Kristallnacht – the wave of violent anti-Jewish pogroms which took place across Germany on November 9 and 10, 1938. Berlin-born pianist Constanze Beckmann (a recent RCM graduate from the studio of John Perry), joins her regular chamber music partner (Glenn Gould School faculty member, Lithuanian-born violinist Atis Bankas), to perform music by Edwin Geist, Joseph Koppel Sandler, Szymon Laks and other persecuted Jewish composers. With the support of the Consulate General of Germany in Toronto, the concert is also part of the Neuberger 2018 Holocaust Education Week.

Cox has a strong connection to “From the Diary of Virginia Woolf” (November 13) which is a major focus of this month’s Art of Song column. It’s the first project of Muse 9 Productions, the brainchild of stage director Anna Theodosakis and pianist Hyejin Kwon, both of whom he knows well. Kwon is a graduate of the COC Ensemble Studio and Theodosakis has been the director or assistant director of many projects at the COC. “This particular project was very engaging when I saw its premiere [in April].”

Sae Yoon ChonNovember 14’s “Piano Teatro” program features Glenn Gould School fourth-year B.Mus. student Sae Yoon Chon performing Bach’s Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue in D Minor and Brahms’ Piano Sonata No.3 in F Minor. Chon recently won First Prize at the Dublin International Piano Competition and Cox calls him “a pianist who is on the rise in the international music scene.” (I was fortunate to hear Chon’s impressive playing of the Bach for Leon Fleisher in a masterclass on October 12, where Fleisher told Chon he was “filled with admiration for the way you play the piano, for the amount of finger control you have.”)

“Like the Glenn Gould School, the Schulich School of Music at McGill University is another powerhouse music school and another one of our educational institution partners,” Cox says. “November 20, their critically acclaimed cello professor, Matt Haimovitz will be travelling to Toronto with Uccello, an all-cello ensemble, to showcase the best of the best from their program.”

The Golden Violin Competition has been held every year at McGill since 2006. The 2017 winner of its $25,000 prize, Maïthéna Girault, performs on November 21 at noon. Her program had not been finalized by the time our November issue went to press; but programs for each week are posted on the COC website on the Friday before.

You can read why “Songs in the Key of Cree” (November 28) caught Steve Wallace’s attention in his Jazz Notes Quick Picks this month. As for Dorian Cox, it “is an example where I was connected to one artist through another. Ian Cusson a Canadian composer and pianist of Métis and French-Canadian descent, had worked with Tomson Highway, Patricia Cano and Marcus Ali on this project as a rehearsal pianist. Ian will be performing in a concert of his own compositions on March 5 and during those conversations I asked about his work with Tomson Highway. Ian connected me to Patricia and I was thrilled that everything fell into place from there!”

David Dias da SilvaClarinetist David Dias da Silva and pianist Olivier Hébert-Bouchard have been touring “Portraits and Fantasias” across Ontario and Quebec with the support of Jeunesses Musicales du Canada (JMC). “JMC is yet another one of our amazing partner organizations,” Cox said. “They help young professional musicians to develop their careers and are experts in coaching the artists to create cohesive and unique programs.” The November 29 concert has yet to be finalized but will include a portion of their touring program: Luigi Bassi’s Fantasia da concerto su motivi del Rigoletto; Debussy’s Première rhapsodie for B-flat clarinet and piano; Schumann’s Fantasiestücke, op.73: I. Zart und mit Ausdruck.

The Free Concert Series is justifiably popular. Seating and standing room are limited. Plan on arriving at least 30 minutes in advance.

Mandle Cheung conducts his orchestra.One of a Kind: Mandle Phil

“The very first piece of classical music I heard was Saint-Saëns’ Third Violin Concerto,” Mandle Cheung writes on his website. “I was 13, listening to a pocket-sized radio with earphones. I was born and raised in Hong Kong, and though my family wasn’t particularly musical, from that point, I was hooked on music ever since. “ After he moved to Canada in 1968, he stuck to a sensible major, computer science – but he managed to pick up some music courses along the way, eventually taking up conducting with Arthur Polson and leading the orchestra in Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto for their graduation concert. Later, he was invited to perform Arthur Benjamin’s Harmonica Concerto with the CBC Winnipeg Orchestra, Eric Wilde conducting.

That was his last musical activity for a few decades. He moved to Toronto in 1975, working for large corporations in software and networking. In 1987 he struck out on his own, which brought him business success. Then one day in 2015, “I woke up thinking that if I still dream of conducting, I better get researching.”

At 70, Mandle Cheung decided to pursue that longtime dream. And with his brand-new orchestra, comprised of almost 70 professional musicians based in the GTA, “All Awakens with Joy.” is finally happening. Mandle Cheung and the Mandle Philharmonic perform Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Op.67 and Mahler’s Symphony No.4 in G Major. (Jennifer Taverner is the soprano soloist in the fourth movement of the Mahler.) November 9 at 8pm at the Glenn Gould Studio will see the dream fulfilled, fuelled by passion and hard-won through tireless rehearsal and meticulous study. Admission is by donation. Proceeds will go directly into a career development grant fund – grants will be awarded to promising early career musicians, to aid in professional development.

Gallery 345

There’s a cornucopia of concertizing at Gallery 345 this month. Here is a sample of the bounty. On November 1, fans of Gregory Millar’s chamber music get an opportunity to hear him as a soloist in the Gallery’s ongoing Art of the Piano series. His recital ranges from CPE Bach to Barbara Pentland, from Beethoven and Chopin to Brahms and Prokofiev. The Mexican-born Alejandro Vela continues the series on November 10 with a program of Gershwin, Granados and Chopin, anchored by Rhapsody in Blue and the Funeral March Sonata.

Cellist Noémie Raymond-Friset was recently named one of the 30 hot Canadian musicians under 30 by CBC Music. For her contribution to the Art of the Cello series on November 11, she will perform music by Schumann, Stravinsky, Poulenc and WholeNote contributor David Jaeger (Constable’s Clouds). Peter Klimo is the collaborative pianist. Pianist Jean-Luc Therrien teams up with violinist Jean-Samuel Bez for a program of music by Schubert, Fauré, Lili Boulanger, Enescu and Kreisler on November 22. And TSO assistant principal cello Winona Zelenka continues the Art of the Cello series – with the Gryphon’s Trio’s pianist, Jamie Parker – on December 1, with a fascinating program of Bach, Ligeti, Pärt, Crumb and Bjarnason.

Music Toronto

The long-running chamber-music series continues its 47th season with three auspicious concerts.

On November 15, Ensemble Made in Canada bring their ambitious Mosaïque project to the Jane Mallett stage. This recently commissioned suite of piano quartets by 14 Canadian composers, each inspired by a particular region of Canada, is currently on a nationwide tour of all ten provinces and three territories. After intermission, look for the Ensemble to bring out the subtleties of Schumann’s Piano Quartet in E-flat Major, Op.47.

Next, the whole world is the subject of pianist Louise Bessette’s November 27 recital. From John Adams’ China Gates to Percy Grainger’s In Dahomey, Bessette’s musical grand tour consists of 15 diverse selections.

Music Toronto stalwarts, the Gryphon Trio, celebrate their 25th anniversary season on December 6, with a variety of works – Mozart, Silvestrov, Pärt and others – before moving into Paul Frehner’s Bytown Waters (commissioned to celebrate the Trio’s milestone), and Brahms’ fully packed Piano Trio in C Major, Op.87

CLASSICAL & BEYOND QUICK PICKS

NOV 2 AND 3, 8PM: Pianist Charles-Richard Hamelin (recently named piano mentor at TSM 2019), is the soloist in Brahms’ dramatic Piano Concerto No.1 with the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony led by Andrei Feher.

NOV 4, 6:30PM: Sheila Jaffé, violist in the COC Orchestra, puts on her violinist hat as she joins violinist Jeffrey Dyrda (who recently concluded three seasons as second violin of the Rolston String Quartet), Emmanuelle Beaulieu Bergeron (TSO associate principal cello) and Pocket Concerts co-director, violist Rory McLeod, in Mendelssohn’s String Quartet No.2, Op.13 and Garth Knox’s Satellites, one of the Kronos’ Quartet’s 50 for the Future commissions.

NOV 12, 8PM: The Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber Music Society presents two former members of the fondly remembered Cypress String Quartet, Cecily Ward, violin, and Ethan Filner, viola, and Aaron Schwebel (concertmaster of the National Ballet of Canada Orchestra and associate concertmaster of the COC Orchestra), performing works for two violins and viola by Dvořák, Prokofiev, Kodály and more.

NOV 15, 7:30PM: York University Faculty of Music presents Duo Forte – Christina Petrowska Quilico and Shoshana Tellner – in a program of danceable four-handed piano repertoire that includes Barber’s Souvenirs, Gershwin’s Cuban Overture, Arthur Benjamin’s Jamaican Rhumba, Kapustin’s jazzy Slow Waltz, Ravel’s brilliant La Valse and Piazzolla’s urgent Libertango.

NOV 16, 7:30PM: U of T Faculty of Music presents the New Orford String Quartet and guests performing two cornerstones of the chamber music repertoire: Brahms’ masterful Piano Quintet in F Minor, Op.34 and Mendelssohn’s dazzling Octet Op.20.

John Storgårds conducts the TSO in November. Photo by Marco BorggreveNOV 21, 8PM; NOV 23, 7:30PM; NOV 24, 8PM: Pianist Kirill Gerstein brings his improvisatory sensibility to Beethoven’s free-flowing Piano Concerto No.4 in G Major, Op.58 while John Storgårds conducts the TSO; the not-to-be-missed program also includes Ravel’s kinetic Boléro.

NOV 25, 2:30PM: Violinist Aisslinn Nosky returns to conduct the Niagara Symphony Orchestra in Beethoven’s essential Symphony No.3 “Eroica,” as well as taking the solo part in Haydn’s Violin Concerto in G Major.

NOV 30 AND DEC 1, 8PM: Stewart Goodyear, piano, Bénédicte Lauzière, violin, and John Helmers, cello, join conductor David Danzmayr and the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony in Beethoven’s Triple Concerto in C Major, Op.56, a rare opportunity to hear this underrated work for an unusual combination of soloists.

DEC 2, 3:15PM: Mooredale Concerts presents the aptly named Artistic Directors Trio in works by Schumann, Handel and more. Pianist Wonny Song is the artistic and executive director of Orford Music (Quebec) and Mooredale Concerts. Violinist Tien-Hsin Cindy Wu is artistic partner of the Da Camera Society (Los Angeles) and assistant director of the New Asia Chamber Music Society (New York City). Violist Wei-Yang Lin is artistic director of the New Asia Chamber Music Society. Intriguing.

Paul Ennis is the managing editor of The WholeNote.

One hundred years ago, World War I raged on the battlefields of Europe, across the Middle East, in Southeast Asia and in proxy battles the world over. This year, the generation coming of age has lived entirely in the new millennium. Their experience of war is drastically different from the textbooks and grainy history videos in Grade 9 and 10 classes. Their experience of war is that of insurgency in Afghanistan, invasion of Iraq, annexation of Crimea, the global war on terrorism, and irregular migration. The terms they hear are drones, airstrikes, cyberterrorism, IEDs and asymmetrical warfare. Long past are the stories of trenches, machine guns, Spitfires, barbed wire, tanks and mustard gas.

As new generations of musicians explore works of commemoration, the older histories and stories don’t fade, they evolve. This month, the Choral Scene explores how children’s choirs are marking Remembrance Day.

Elise BradleyThe 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month…

In 2014, Paul Cummins and Tom Piper’s Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red was a public arts installation entailing the placement of 888,246 poppies in the moat of the Tower of London; one handmade ceramic poppy for each of the British fallen in WWI. Elise Bradley, artistic director of the Toronto Children’s Chorus (TCC), remembers this particular exhibit well. Four years on, we are approaching the centenary of the Armistice – 11am, November 11, 1918. “As a teacher and as a musician, I felt it was important to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Armistice that led to the end of World War I,” Bradley shares. “In 2014, I had witnessed many stirring events which honoured the start of the War…but to me, it seemed even more important to mark the end of the War.”

Bradley was born in New Zealand. On November 11 at 7:30, she will be joined by a host of Canadian guests, including Lydia Adams and the Elmer Iseler Singers, along with Australian-born accompanist Lara Dodds-Eden, and Bob Chilcott from England. Bradley highlights the four Commonwealth nations represented: Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the UK – all allies during WWI. “It is vitally important that we know about our history – but sharing it through music adds a very personal and emotional dimension to our understanding.” The concert will present works from all four countries.

From her New Zealand home, Bradley brings a particular history based on her long experience with Maori peoples and culture. “A Maori battalion fought on the fields of Gallipoli,” she says. “Part of the concert will be performing a full kapa haka piece of welcome and dedication to those who have passed.” Bradley holds a unique honour, being bestowed by the Wehi whānau (Wehi family), to act as guardian of the musical legacy and tradition of Ngapo and Pimia Wehi. Only two people outside of the family have this honour, which Bradley holds dearly, having worked with the family for over 25 years. “Where I go, the music can go, but I cannot leave it behind,” she shares. “Part of the guardianship is to honour and respect the music including the performance aspect of the art and dance.”

From the UK, Bob Chilcott is prominently featured, conducting smaller works and his larger sacred works: Peace Mass and Canticles of Light. Canadian Andrew Balfour, of Cree descent, wrote the work Ambe, based on an Ojibway song gifted by Cory Campbell. Local Toronto Ismaili composer Hussein Janmohamed’s Rest for a Soul is also on the set list. The concert features the world premiere of three WWI popular songs in arrangements commissioned by the TCC from Stuart Calvert: It’s a Long Way to Tipperary, Keep the Home Fires Burning, and Keep Right on till the End of the Road. The Elmer Iseler Singers will also perform, including Healey Willan’s How they so softly rest. An unverified, but persistent folktale amongst the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir is that Willan wrote the song to commemorate members of the choir who died in WWI.

Bob ChilcottChilcott has a different historical context than those of us on this side of the ocean as well as being of a different generation. He shared some thoughts on the upcoming concert as well. “For most in my country, the two world wars are a fading memory,” he says, “but to visit the Normandy beaches, which many young people still do, or to look for the graves of family members in the First World War cemeteries in Belgium is still an aspect of our history that is truly alive for many and very important to them.” (Many Canadians still make similar pilgrimages to cemeteries around the battlefields Canadian soldiers fought on, but they are a great deal further from Canadian shores than the UK.)

“Music has a role to play in [commemoration] and it reminds us that there are many technical and emotional responses within music that express some very deep and essential elements of our humanity,” Chilcott continues. “Harmony, resolution, blend, balance and unity.” These are all words used by conductors to describe the musicality they are looking for. It is fitting that these are virtues extolled by artists to the wider world. Chilcott finishes with a strong sentiment: “Remembrance is so important in that it teaches us to honour those who believed that fundamentally, good is better than bad.”

The Toronto Children’s Chorus presents “We Remember” a concert commemorating the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day. Featured guests include the Toronto Youth Choir, Elmer Iseler Singers, and guest conductors Lydia Adams and Bob Chilcott. November 11, 7:30pm. George Weston Recital Hall, Toronto Centre for the Arts.

Charissa BaganWhen the old and the new meet

“I want my choristers to know that history matters,” shares Charissa Bagan, artistic director of the Bach Children’s Chorus. “And that we have great power as singing storytellers and artists because we can connect the past, present and future… Choir offers a wonderful way for children to interact with serious topics.” For Remembrance Day, the Bach Children’s Choir and the Bach Youth Chamber Choir present “Resonant Reflection” on November 10.

Choral performance is always meant to be educational. One should learn from every rehearsal, every concert, and leave changed in some way, even if very small. Children’s choirs have a unique place in the musical process, being equally education- and performance-based. Bagan understands the role she has to play in a complex concert like this: “When it comes to working with the choir on a particular song and the text highlights a significant and catastrophic event from the past such as the Holocaust, there is absolutely a responsibility for the conductor to make space in the preparation of the music for the choir to engage with the story,” she shares. “[We have] to consider all that is being expressed and the implications it has for the future.” The management skills necessary to balance this educational and narrative process can easily become unbalanced in the pursuit of performance-readiness. “It is so easy for rehearsal minutes to be consumed with simply learning and polishing the notes,” she says. “And yet choral performances can really only come alive when the singers know the story that they are collectively expressing and the reason for singing it in the first place.

“While War and Remembrance are overarching themes, the concert is designed as just that – a concert and not a ceremony,” says Bagan. There are works by many female Canadian composers on the program including Lydia Adams’ gentle and simple arrangement of In Flanders Fields, Eleanor Daley’s flowing rendition of An Irish Blessing, and Sarah Quartel’s focused, bright Lux aeterna, a sonic setting of Vancouver Island sky from her four-part Sanctum. Bagan has also found an arrangement of After the War with words and music by Canadian actor Paul Gross and David Keele. The song was made popular by local Toronto artist Sarah Slean in the 2008 WWI film, Passchendaele.

Like Chilcott, Bagan has some insights, as well, on the new generation: “It seems to me that young people are more likely to [be] educated by their families, friends and teachers, facing new, complex issues, which were oversimplified for us in the past.” Bagan sees their intelligence and compassion firsthand: “Their thoughts go to the people their own age who are affected by the devastation of war as well as human suffering in all forms, from residential schools to modern-day slavery to famine and injustice at local, national, and international levels. …They’re more aware of the importance of considering multiple perspectives, less likely to assume a Commonwealth allegiance, and are genuinely grappling with how to be peacemakers in their communities.” Music is a good place to start.

Bagan raises another aspect of conflict that is often lost in commemorations – refugees. “I know that some of our choristers’ families have personally sponsored refugees which brings such a different perspective on war and peace than my experiences as a child, listening to my grandfather tell stories about the war.” This contemporary reality is striking. The major conflicts may not be physically in our neighbourhoods, but in a diverse city like Toronto, you’re never far removed from someone who has personal experience of some conflict around the world.

“Resonant Reflection presents a wide range of styles of music with some weighty history, sincere conviction, as well as hope and happiness,” says Bagan. “It is a way of engaging with the past and gradually understanding it a little more with each passing year through reflection, poetry, songs and communal moments that stay with us.”

These children though, are contributing more than just their voices in the service of healing. Some of the proceeds from the concert will benefit the East End Refugee Committee Fund.

The Bach Children’s Chorus and Bach Chamber Youth Choir present “Resonant Reflection,” a benefit concert for the East End Refugee Committee Fund featuring songs of remembrance and winter seasonal music. November 10 at 7:30pm. St. John’s Norway Church, Toronto. 

CHORAL SCENE QUICK PICKS

NOV 3, 7:30PM:. The Guelph Chamber Choir presents “Haven: Music of Protection and Peace.” As the search for Gerald Neufeld’s replacement as artistic director continues, one of the contenders, Patrick Murray, takes the helm of the choir for this concert as part of the Passing the Baton: The Search for Our Next Conductor series. St George’s Anglican Church, Guelph.

NOV 8 AND NOV 10, 8PM: The Toronto Symphony Orchestra presents Benjamin Britten’s masterwork War Requiem. With soloists Tatiana Pavlovskaya, Toby Spence and Russell Braun, and the massed power of the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir and the Toronto Children’s Chorus. Bramwell Tovey takes the baton. Roy Thomson Hall.

NOV 17, 7:30PM AND NOV 18, 3PM: The Grand Philharmonic Chamber Singers present the Canadian premiere of Craig Hella Johnson’s masterpiece, Considering Matthew Shepard. 20 years have passed since Matt Shepard was beaten and left tied to a fence to die in rural Wyoming. His remains were recently interred at the National Cathedral in Washington DC in respect. Humanities Theatre, University of Waterloo, Waterloo.

Remember to look ahead into December for holiday music concert listings at thewholenote.com. Many performances will start to sell out by the time you get the December issue in your hands!

Follow Brian on Twitter @bfchang Send info/media/tips to choralscene@thewholenote.com.

The return of November signals a change in the world around us, as the ghosts, ghouls and gremlins of October are supplanted by Christmas cards, commercials and carols. A similar shift also takes place in the musical scene each year, with presenters and performers moving their focus from the varied programs of September and October to increasingly festive and seasonal offerings. For the early music people around us, this often means an exploration of the concerti, oratorios and choruses composed by some of the greatest musicians of the Renaissance and Baroque, as they were inspired by the Christmas story. This November is no exception, the seismic shifts of the season allowing us to hear everything from less-familiar Italian operatic excerpts to our first Messiahs of the year.

Brian SolomonOn Turtle’s Back: On November 4, in St. Catharines, Gallery Players of Niagara present “Songs of Life – Bach on Turtle’s Back,” featuring a sonata, a partita and a selection of arias, all composed by J.S. Bach. This multimedia presentation is conceived by Ojibwe/Irish artist Brian Solomon and combines music, storytelling and dance in an exploration of birth, death and rebirth as connective themes of human expression. Bach himself was greatly concerned with the subjects of life, death and life after death, and these themes recur frequently throughout Bach’s works. Lutheran theology led Bach to a view of death as a relief from the struggles of life, firm in Luther’s teaching that all who trust in Christ alone and his promises can be certain of their salvation. Whether in his chorale settings, masses, passions or cantatas, Bach’s approach to death is frequently positive, peaceful, and even joyful, the reuniting of a soul with its ultimate destination.

What is most interesting about Bach on Turtle’s Back is that Bach’s most potently exegetical musical settings are conspicuously avoided – there are no chorales, for example, or any other direct connections to Lutheran theology. By exploring the themes of life and death within a uniquely mixed North American context, coupled with one of history’s greatest musical minds, Bach on Turtle’s Back combines the universality of Bach’s music with the equally universal concepts of death and the afterlife in what looks to be a fascinating synthesis of music, movement, and mysticism.

Agostino SteffaniSacred and Secular at Tafelmusik: Back in Toronto, Tafelmusik plays two separate concerts in November, moving from vocal drama to instrumental concerti with a Christmas theme. Their first presentation (November 8 to 11) features mezzo-soprano Krisztina Szabó and conductor Ivars Taurins in a survey of Agostino Steffani’s secular and sacred vocal music. Beginning with two sacred choral works, the early Beatus vir a 8 and the late Stabat Mater, and proceeding through a pastiche of arias, duets, choruses and instrumental movements from Steffani’s operas, this concert will display Steffani’s dual role as sacred and secular dramatist.

Steffani lived an extraordinary life. In addition to being a renowned composer and a mentor to Handel, he was also a diplomat, politician, spy and priest. Steffani’s ecclesiastical status did not prevent him from turning his attention to the stage, for which, at different periods of his life, he composed a large number of works which undoubtedly exercised a potent influence upon the dramatic music of the period. Premiering his early operas in Munich, Steffani developed his skill and social connections before achieving great renown in Hanover through eight operas composed and performed at the new opera house, opened in 1689. As a rapidly rising cleric given increasingly great honours in the Catholic Church, Steffani was ultimately consecrated as a bishop; because of his high standing, Steffani published three late operas under the name Gregorio Piva, who was his secretary and assistant, to avoid breaching the etiquette required by his high rank.

Approached from a chronological perspective, the Tafelmusik Chamber Choir bookends Steffani’s career in the works chosen for this concert. He wrote the Beatus vir in 1676 at the age of 22, one year after he was appointed court organist in Munich; 51 years later, after being appointed honorary president for life by London’s Academy of Ancient Music, he composed the Stabat Mater, a magnificent work for six voices and orchestra. Between these two sacred compositions will be a plethora of operatic material from no fewer than nine separate dramatic works, each of them a Tafelmusik premiere. With such skilled performers and Ivars Taurins at the helm, this concert will provide a wealth of delightful and well-done material, much of it new to many in the audience.

DaveBlackadder1credBoydGilmourSound the trumpet! When asked how he composed his songs, Gustav Mahler replied: “How do you make a trumpet? Hammer brass around a hole.” There may be more to making a trumpet than Mahler suggests, and there is certainly great skill required in mastering the instrument, especially when that instrument has no valves! November 21 to 24, Tafelmusik celebrates the holiday season with instrumental treasures from France, Italy, Spain, Germany and England, festive music by Telemann, Corrette, Fasch, and Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No.2. This concert also features the Tafelmusik debut of guest trumpeter David Blackadder, principal trumpet for the Academy of Ancient Music in the United Kingdom. (He also performed at the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.)

Blackadder plays a Baroque trumpet, a valveless trumpet based on early instruments (his is modelled on a Nuremberg trumpet from 1700), capable of great ranges of expression. According to Blackadder: “The trumpet is often thought of as being perhaps the most majestic, powerful instrument of all. However, there is a much more subtle, lesser-known side to the trumpet which uses the more florid, angelic quality of its upper register to symbolize the glory of God and the heavens. This technique of playing developed throughout the 17th and 18th centuries and became highly prized by composers and their patrons alike. Court trumpeters were handsomely rewarded for their prodigious skill and were required to play at the most important ceremonies and state occasions.” Blackadder will also hold a guest artist masterclass on November 24 at Jeanne Lamon Hall, providing another opportunity to experience this renowned musician as he guides the next generation of skilled performers.

From Villancicos to de Victoria: Christmas has arrived by the end of November, as the first Messiahs appear on the horizon and dog-eared festive favourites are revived once again. Popular Christmas songs come in many familiar national varieties: English carols, French Noëls, and German Weihnachtslieder. Perhaps the least known are the Spanish Christmas villancicos, popular songs from the countryside that were developed by court composers of 16th- and 17th-century Spain into wonderfully rhythmic, danceable carols. Michael Erdman’s Cantemus Singers explores this lesser-known variety of carol, November 24 and 25, in their concert “Es Nascido – He is Born,” with works such as Mateo Flecha’s La Bomba and Joan Brudieu’s Goigs de Nostra Dona paired with Tomás Luis de Victoria’s strikingly beautiful motet O Magnum Mysterium and its accompanying parody mass, MissaO Magnum Mysterium.“

Rather than being necessarily humorous, parody in music, in its Renaissance sense, meant any readaptation of existing material in new and creative ways. Composers could use their own material, as Victoria does, but they could also take popular chansons (and hide a naughty folk tune within the polyphonic texture), cantus firmus style, or use another composer’s sacred work as a starting point for their own ingenuity and craftsmanship. Palestrina wrote over 50 parody masses, and Josquin des Prez composed a number of fine essays in the form.

A popular model throughout the 16th century, the Council of Trent ultimately banned the use of secular material as part of their decree to “banish from church all music which contains, whether in the singing or the organ playing, things that are lascivious or impure.” Far from lascivious, Victoria’s motet and mass are profound meditations on one of the most crucial events in the Christian year and Cantemus’ engaging and original programming makes this a concert worth hearing. Come for the villancicos, stay for the Victoria!

Regardless of whether the music is secular, sacred, or a combination of the two, there are great concerts happening throughout November. From the dramatic excellence of Steffani’s operas to the sacred sounds of the Spanish Renaissance, there is something for everyone within the pages of this magazine. As stores begin to assemble this year’s window displays and the first strains of tin-can carols assault our ears, another round of seasonal favourites will be upon us before we know it. To keep up to date on all the Messiahs, oratorios, concertos, and other Baroque things happening in the city, check out next month’s column. Until then, drop me a line at earlymusic@thewholenote.com. 

EARLY MUSIC QUICK PICKS

NOV 4, 2PM: Rezonance Baroque Ensemble. “Folk of the Baroque.” St. Barnabas Anglican Church, 361 Danforth Ave. The title says it all: let your wig down and hear some music for dancing, dining and play.

NOV 19, 8PM: Against the Grain Theatre. BOUND v.2. The Great Hall, Longboat Hall, 1087 Queen Street West. Something old, Something new. Hear music by G.F. Handel and Kevin Lau as AGT addresses the big issues that face our society today, inspired by stories of refugees.

NOV 25, 3PM: Toronto Chamber Choir. “Kaffeemusik: The Bremen Town Musicians.” Church of the Redeemer, 162 Bloor St. W. A concert of story and song, with humorous fairy tales about solidarity among musicians paired with madrigals by Lassus, Dowland and more.

NOV 30, 7:30PM: ChoralWorks Chamber Choir. Messiah. New Life Church, 28 Tracey Lane, Collingwood. Take a trip to cottage country and get in the festive spirit with one of the first Messiahs of the season.

Matthew Whitfield is a Toronto-based harpsichordist and organist.

Victoria Marshall with Renee Killough and Keshia Palm. Photo by William Ford.When the budding stage director Anna Theodosakis received the Vancouver Opera Guild’s career development grant, instead of spending it on summer schools or workshops, she decided to use it as the seed money for the creation of a new art song collective. She and her co-founder, pianist Hyejin Kwon, decided to call it Muse 9 Productions: because they would be multidisciplinary and welcoming of all the Muses, and because they wanted to create more opportunities for female creators and performers.

Their first project gives a taste of what’s to come: a dancer, an actor and a singer each performs an aspect of Virginia Woolf’s personality in a staging of Dominick Argento’s 1974 song cycle From the Diary of Virginia Woolf which was originally written for the British mezzo Janet Baker. Two piano pieces by a Woolf contemporary, American composer Amy Beach, round up the musical material. The show premiered in April this year at the Ernest Balmer Studio, and will be remounted and rethought for the natural lights of the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre at the Four Seasons Centre on November 13.

For the next year, Theodosakis promises an equally multidisciplinary project, but can’t say much until February, when they are due to hear back from the granting juries looking at their proposal. “It’s important for us to pay the artists, and next year we’re hoping to be able to pay the Equity minimum,” she says. Sometime in November, the company will post the official Call for Submission but, says Theodosakis, they are being continuously pitched by other artists on a weekly basis. “Hyejin and I are much inspired by our colleagues from other disciplines, and we really want to open the doors up for a wide range of projects.” Projects should be art-song based; everything else is up for grabs.

Virginia Woolf’s writing desk and chair from the premiere will return for the RBA performance, as will the same cast of three: English mezzo Victoria Marshall, dancer Renee Killough and actress Keshia Palm. To the diaries in Argento’s songs, spoken word excerpts were added from Woolf’s novels and letters. “All of them sing a little bit, act a little bit and dance a little bit,” says Theodosakis. “The actress is Woolf’s public persona, the novelist that we all know. The singer is her more private, family persona – which we can find in letters. And the dancer stands for her innermost turmoil and depression, but also romance, and her love for Vita [Sackville-West].”

Of the cast trio, it was the dancer, Renee Killough, who was the biggest Woolf fan from the get-go and the originator of the project. Before they joined forces, Theodosakis was familiar with Woolf but hadn’t read her very much. “And now I’ve read everything and all of her letters. I couldn’t leave anything unread.” All three women came out of the project with a renewed love of Woolf. Her diary entries set to music by Argento will each have their own musical theme. “There is a through-line, and it’s very evocative material throughout. In a song about war you’re pretty much hearing shrapnel and bombs.”

When we talked, Theodosakis was directing the Glenn Gould School’s fall operas: Paul Hindemith’s Back and Forth and Bohuslav Martinů’s Tears of the Knife, which the School’s ensemble presents on November 2 and 3 at Mazzoleni Hall. Before the end of this year she’ll also be directing the COC’s opera for young audiences WOW Factor: A Cinderella Story, Joel Ivany and Stéphane Mayer’s adaptation of Rossini’s La Cenerentola for kids. It’s set in a middle-school talent competition.

Ivany is among her favourite stage directors, together with Paul Curran, Tim Albery (whom she’s assisted in COC’s Arabella) and her U of T mentor, Michael Albano. And internationally? “Definitely Claus Guth. I was a young singer at Mozarteum in Salzburg when I went to the Salzburg Festival to see The Marriage of Figaro that he directed. I’ve never been a huge fan of The Marriage – I know this is minority view! – but in Guth’s production it’s treated like a tragedy, and at the end more weight is given to what was actually happening to these poor people. The Marriage is not a happy opera.”

Julie LudwigHAMILTON

Hamilton’s first art song concert series announced itself on the Internet last month with a simple but elegant website: The Linden Project. Its founders are soprano Julie Ludwig (whom you may remember as a sparkling Adele in Opera 5’s Die Fledermaus) and baritone Jeremy Ludwig (whom you might have noticed in Tongue in Cheek Productions’ 24-baritone/bass Winterreise and Opera 5’s The Boatswain’s Mate). To set it all off on November 3 at St. Cuthbert’s Presbyterian is a concert billed, appropriately enough, as The Song Sampler. “Wondering what we’re all about? Get a flavour of what we mean by art song. We’re dedicated to the core of this repertoire, but also not afraid to do something different,” reads the refreshingly straightforward promo copy for the concert. The program is another praiseworthy move, available well in advance and downloadable. It shows a selection spanning Italian and English Baroque, fin de siècle French and Austrians, 20th-century Brits and post-1970s sophisticated pop classics.

“We love art song, and we’d like to introduce Hamiltonians to some of the music that we find so meaningful,” writes back Julie Ludwig when I email the couple to learn more about their plans for the series. “To our knowledge, The Linden Project is the first of its kind in Hamilton. There are other concert series, of course, but none that are dedicated exclusively to song repertoire. Hamilton is an eclectic city: several choirs, lots of musical theatre, the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra, and a very active rock and folk scene. We want to bring together both kinds of audiences: those who already enjoy classical music, and those who might not be familiar with it but are open to trying something new.”

Jeremy LudwigThe idea for a song concert series came to the Ludwigs soon after they moved to Hamilton in 2014. Each had given song recitals there and “It was the response to those recitals that encouraged us to start The Linden Project. We both love art song – how much room there is for expression and how closely the music is linked to the poetry – and we saw how the audiences at our recitals appreciated the music, much of which had been unfamiliar.”

They’re starting off with just two recitals in the pilot season, both of which will be sung by them. “We definitely intend to involve other singers in the future,” writes Julie in reply to my question about their programming plans. “Each program will be centred around a theme and will include a mix of standard and more obscure rep. As much as possible, we intend to include music by living Canadian composers. Without giving too much away, we have a few ideas kicking around for future recitals, such as commissioning new works, commissioning illustrations for our projections, incorporating theatrical elements.” The venues will change with each new concert. “We intend to select venues that are appropriate for the repertoire on each program. Churches and small concert halls are very practical, of course, but we also want to bring our concerts to other Hamilton locations.”

The inaugural do, The Song Sampler at St. Cuthbert’s Presbyterian, “is a kind of a survey of the genre, with a couple selections that lie on the periphery of what some might consider art song,” she writes. “We’ll include projections of condensed translations paired with one or two images to help convey the gist of what each song is about, so the audience is better able to watch the performance instead of having to read everything in the program. We also intend to speak a little about the songs in order to help the audience enter more deeply into them, but our goal is to be approachable, not lecture.” 

ART OF SONG QUICK PICKS

NOV 4, 2PM: 13A Robina Ave, Toronto. “Art Song in House Masterclass.” Bass-baritone Daniel Lichti, associate professor emeritus, Faculty of Music at Wilfrid Laurier University, opens up his voice coaching practice – and his living room – to the public in this part-salon, part-masterclass. This one is for the song nerds. Soprano Sinead White and baritone Adam Kuiack with pianist Narmina Efendiyeva, and Lichti in the coach chair. $20, proceeds go to singers and the pianist.

NOV 11, 2PM: Mazzoleni Concert Hall at the Royal Conservatory of Music, Toronto. “L’invitation au voyage.” A song recital with soprano Joyce El-Khoury and mezzo-soprano Beste Kalender. Some well-trodden repertoire (Duparc, Debussy) and some seldom-heard. The program promises “Levantine songs.” Turkish composers, Middle-Eastern composers? Or Middle-Eastern motifs in the works of Western composers? Tickets start at $30.

NOV 13, 8PM: Gallery 345, Toronto. “For or from” – Kelly Zimba, flute (TSO’s principal flute), Stacie Dunlop, soprano. All new music: Kate Soper (Only the Words Themselves Mean What They Say), Leslie Uyeda (Stations of Angels), Braxton Blake (Three Songs on poems by Marianne Moore), James O’Callaghan (For or from), and two world premieres, by David Jaeger and HaRebraIN ensemble, a.k.a. Anh Phung and Alan Mackie. $20/General, $10/Arts Worker/Student

NOV 17, 7:30PM: St. Thomas’s Church, 383 Huron St., Toronto. “The legacies of François Couperin and Claude Debussy.” Larry Beckwith, violinist, tenor and artistic director emeritus of Toronto Masque Theatre, and radio presenter Tom Allen host an interactive celebration of the two French composers. No more details about the program, but the teaser is intriguing. Part of the diverse year-round series Confluence, programmed by Beckwith.

NOV 24, 8PM: Koerner Hall, Toronto. “From Bel Canto to Verismo.” Show One Productions presents Sondra Radvanovsky in recital, with Anthony Manoli, piano. An all-Italian language program: songs from Caccini, Gluck, Rossini, Puccini and arias by Verdi (“Romanza” from Il Corsaro, and the sleepwalking scene from Macbeth), Puccini’s Manon Lescaut and Donizetti’s Roberto Devereux.

Lydia Perović is an arts journalist in Toronto. Send her your art-of-song news to artofsong@thewholenote.com.

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