2205 New 1With the beginning of 2017, Canada is about to enter into a year-long marking of the fact that the country began 150 years ago in 1867. Some will be celebrating, and others will have more ambivalent feelings about it all, aware of how much indigenous cultures have suffered and lost under a political system that attempted to destroy them. On the musical end of things, much is being planned as a celebration, and no doubt this theme will return in various ways in this column throughout the year.

One significant player in the creation of musical events to mark this moment in Canada’s history is the Toronto Symphony. Their major initiative, Canada Mosaic, will involve performance, education and collaboration initiatives across the country. One of their projects is the commissioning of two-minute orchestral works from Canadian composers called Sesquies, to be performed throughout the year by the TSO and 38 partner orchestras across the country. During February, the TSO will be premiering a series of these at several of their regular concerts, beginning on February 1 with Yatra, composed by Dinuk Wijeratne. Other Sesquies during the month include works by Vivian Fung (February 4); Jocelyn Morlock (February 8); Louis Babin (February 10); John Rea (February 15); and Andrew Staniland (March 4).

2205 New 2New Creations: One of the major ways the TSO has annually contributed to increase awareness of Canada’s composers has been through the New Creations Festival, and of course this year is no exception. The festival runs from March 4 to 11, with three concerts curated by Toronto-based composer and performer Owen Pallett. It features eight newly-commissioned works, including five from Canadian composers. In order to fit all the three festival concerts into The WholeNote issues, I will feature the March 4 program in this month’s column and follow up with the other two concerts in the March issue. The March 4 program is chock full of TSO-commissioned works: one from German composer and clarinetist Jörg Widmann, another from Canadian Jordan Pal, currently an affiliate composer with the TSO, and finally a collaboration between Tanya Tagaq, Christine Duncan and Jean Martin, with orchestrations by Christopher Mayo.

Some readers may recall a feature story about the 21C Festival that I wrote for last May’s issue of The Wholenote in which I discussed the collaboration between Tanya Tagaq and the Kronos Quartet. Tagaq, originally from Cambridge Bay in Nunavut, is a stunning improvising vocal performer in a style almost impossible to capture in words. Her sounds are influenced by both the deep guttural tones of traditional Inuit throat singing as well as the wild vocal exclamations of avant-rock. When combined with the explosive sounds of her band members, Jean Martin on percussion and Jesse Zubot on violin, both of whom use extensive electronic processing as well, it’s a sonic experience that often shakes audience members to their core. To find out more about how a performer of this nature will collaborate with the TSO, I contacted Christine Duncan, one of the collaborators in the current TSO commission.

Their commission will be a 20-minute-long work titled Qiksaaktuq, the Inuktitut word for grief, and is intended as a musical reflection upon missing and murdered indigenous women. The piece is in five movements inspired by the Kübler-Ross model of the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Duncan talked about how the ideas for the piece came together during a series of exchanges about how to create a work combining improvisation and notation. The final verdict was that the piece would be collaboratively composed by Tagaq, Martin and Duncan with the final score orchestrated by composer Christopher Mayo. During the compositional process between the three of them, the primary focus was to create something that would feel familiar for Tagaq to improvise with. Because of Martin’s extensive experience of performing as a regular member of her band, his input was invaluable in creating a structure with the same peaks and valleys she’s used to. The piece came together using a computer software program that uses the traditional symphonic sounds, thus enabling the creators to hear the work unfolding as they worked. These tracks were then given to Mayo to create the final notated parts. The more subtle sounds not available on the computer program were discussed with Mayo and written into the score. Having an orchestrator involved was important Duncan said, as it ensured that everything would be clear to the orchestral players in a format they were used to.

Duncan’s role during the performance will be to use what she calls the “conduction hand cues” she has honed over the last several years working with the Element Choir. Using these cues, she will lead the brass section in an improvisation that will complement the notated score and Tagaq’s live improvisations. The hand cues are visual gestures that suggest the type of sound being asked for and it’s up to each performer to interpret how they will respond. During the composing of the work, the nature and timing of the specific hand cues were carefully chosen and added into the notated score. Duncan emphasized that the “overall effect of the entire piece will be like a large ensemble structured improvisation, sounding like what one of Tanya’s performances would sound like. In order to make it that loose and open it has to be completely and specifically notated to come off that way.” The piece will premiere on March 4 in Toronto and will be performed by at least three other orchestras across the country as part of the Canada Mosaic project.

I was also curious about the story behind Duncan’s creative relationship with Tagaq. It began, she said, in early 2014 when she was invited to sing at one of Tagaq’s performances in France. “Tanya is quite generous and inclusive. She loves to have people and friends around her – to get them up on stage and perform with them. For her it’s a way of having the act of performing be like an extension of family or community – that’s very important to her.” With that positive experience setting the stage, it was later on in 2014 when Tagaq’s band was preparing to perform at the Polaris Prize award show and looking for a way to do something more large scale. Martin suggested inviting Duncan’s improvising Element Choir to join in. Everyone agreed. As a testament to how much Tagaq trusted Duncan’s creative instincts, “The first time Tanya ever met the choir was onstage at the Polaris awards. It was a pretty transformative experience for everyone involved. Right away, Tanya said she wanted the Element Choir on every single gig we can have them on.”

Currently Duncan is preparing to join the band on their upcoming tour promoting Tagaq’s recent album Retribution. She will be training choirs in the conduction method in various cities and, if that isn’t possible at some locations, she will be joining in as a singer on stage with Tagaq. Reflecting back on the work that Tagaq created with the Kronos Quartet at the 21C Festival last May and how utterly original the venerable string quartet sounded in that piece, I am sure audiences will be equally entranced by this new collaborative creation with the orchestra.

Esprit: Continuing on in the spirit of new Canadian symphonic works being performed this month, Esprit’s concert on February 12 will feature three world premieres by Canadian composers, one of which has been co-commissioned by the TSO as part of their Canada Mosaic project. Survivance is the name of this piece, composed by Montrealer John Rea, who has previously received three commissions from Esprit. The program has works by two other Montreal-based composers – José Evangelista’s 2016 work Accelerando, and a world premiere by Analia Llugdar, a former student of Evangelista’s. The third world premiere, Surfacing, is a work by Adam Scime. Alongside these newly created compositions will be the performance of a 1985 piece by American Conlon Nancarrow, known for his complex works for player piano.

Wendake/Huronia: The Canadian-identity theme continues in two early February performances (February 3 and 4) by Toronto Consort of John Beckwith’s work Wendake/Huronia. The piece was originally premiered in 2015, toured amongst several Georgian Bay communities during that summer, and is orchestrated for chamber choir, First Nations drummers and singers, alto and narrator. Created in six movements with the ultimate goal being a statement of reconciliation between First Nations and European-based cultures, the majority of the work goes into an exposé of the reality of the Wendat experience – both pre- and post- contact with the French explorer Champlain. It is fitting that this work is being remounted just a month prior to John Beckwith’s 90th birthday.

Early March EventsMarch is overflowing with new music adventures so I’d like to give a heads-up now to some of what will be happening so you can mark your calendars. March 4 is shaping up to be an epic night, in addition to the New Creations concert.

First of all, Spectrum Music will be presenting “Tales of the Unconscious,” produced in partnership with Musicata: Hamilton’s Voices under the direction of Roger Bergs. Mixing jazz trio and classical choir, the concert will feature three leading jazz musicians – Mike Murley (saxophone), Andrew Downing (bass) and Chris Pruden (piano) – and give the Spectrum composers an opportunity to dig into the murky realms of dreams. Shannon Graham’s piece Bedtime Stories is based on her own dream journals while Ben McCarroll-Butler’s The Night Is Gone, the Light Is Near is based a dream had by a refugee from Syria’s civil war.

Over at the Music Gallery, Thin Edge New Music Collective teams up with the Gallery to present “Raging Against the Machine: Coming Together.” The concert  on March 4 marks the second time the Thin Edge ensemble will team up with Ensemble Paramirabo from Montreal and this year their concert will include Frederic Rzewski’s Coming Together, Yannis Kyriakides’ Karaoke Études and new works by Canadians Colin Labadie, James O’Callaghan and Anna Pidgorna. The goal of these collaborations is to create connections amongst creators and organizations across distinct geographical, cultural and linguistic identities.

And finally, from March 2 to 5, Soundstreams will be presenting a concert entitled “R. Murray Schafer’s Odditorium.” It will feature a number of works from Schafer’s Patria cycle, which combines elements from opera, theatre and dance to create a hybrid genre the composer calls “theatre of confluence.” It promises to be full of dramatic surprises and energy, with theatre and film director Chris Abraham from Crow’s Theatre overseeing the entire production.

QUICK PICKS

Feb 4: Toronto Symphony Orchestra. “The Year of the Rooster: A Chinese New Year Celebration.” Works by composers Huan Zhi Li, Chen Qigang, Vincent Ho, Shande Ding: Long March Symphony (Fifth Movement).

Feb 4: Music Gallery. “Emergents II: I=I + Caution Tape Collective.”

Feb 5: Syrinx Concerts Toronto. Includes works by Walter Buczynski.

Feb 7: Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts, Kingston. Evergreen Club Contemporary Gamelan performing Canadian and international commissions.

Feb 11: Music Gallery. Performances by Alex Moskos, Doom Tickler and ZONES.

Feb 12: Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber Music Society. Improvisations with the Penderecki Quartet and the Dave Young Trio.

Feb 16: David Lidov. “Paper and Keys” includes a performance of Lidov’s VoiceMail. Array Space.

Mar 3: Alliance Française de Toronto. “The Work and Ideas of Pierre Schaeffer” with Darren Copeland.

Wendalyn Bartley is a Toronto-based composer and electro-vocal sound artist. sounddreaming@gmail.com.

2205 Choral 1South Africa has very strong choral traditions, among them the call-and-answer style known as isicathamiya; a strong male tenor-lead melody contrasted against repeating chord progressions shapes this music. You’ll know the famous The Lion Sleeps Tonight of Solomon Linda; that is indigenous South African choral music from the 1920s. Now Ladysmith Black Mambazo, one of best-known practitioners of the form, and one of the oldest and most successful choral groups in South Africa, is coming to Toronto.

The name isicathamiya derives from a Zulu verb, cathama, meaning to tread softly. Isicathamiya has been a staple of culture in South Africa for almost a hundred years. Culturally Zulu, this a cappella musical style has its roots in a much more robust foot-pounding centuries-old traditional Zulu culture of singing and dance. Structural reshaping of the economy under colonial rule in the early 20th century made traditional lifestyles of many indigenous people impossible. Men had to leave for work in white-owned industries, unable to own land, farm, raise cattle, receive education, or own property in many cases. In a colonial and apartheid-era urban context the strong movements of traditional Zulu mbube (“lion”) vocals and dance were both feared and frowned upon by European populations who believed that the men were fighting. So the dances were adjusted to fit this reality; tiptoes and slower, deliberate movement became the new vocabulary. Isicathamiya was born and has become over time an important social and cultural force for urban populations forced to work far away from homes and far from family. Communities would convene on Saturday evening, as they had Sunday off in respect of the Christian Sabbath. Now-legendary Saturday gatherings in Durban and Johannesburg are often all-night competitions due to the number of groups involved. Hundreds of people attend. The only times these competitions do not take place are during Christmas and Easter.

While isicathamiya has morphed and changed over the decades through colonialism and apartheid, dancing remains as a core part of the tradition, with choreography to match the vocals. It is a philosophical and physical approach to music connecting myriad influences of music, dance, indigenous culture, external influences and, importantly, Christianity.

You know some of the sounds of isicathamiya if you’ve listened to the Lion King soundtrack. Lebo M., a South African composer and artist, is the powerful voice that opens the soundtrack with Circle of Life. If you’ve seen the musical adaptation, Grasslands Chant and One by One are Western examples of this music tradition alive. (Read more about this collaboration in Chip Stern’s June 2003 Playbill article on Mark Mancina and Lebo M.’s “African Sound for Lion King.”) Ladysmith Black Mambazo was also featured on the Lion King II soundtrack.

Joseph Shabalala founded Ladysmith Black Mambazo in the 1960s and continues to lead the group. The choir is prolific, having recorded over 50 albums. They have received 18 Grammy nominations and four Grammy awards for their work. The documentary of the group On Tip Toe: Gentle Steps to Freedom was nominated for an Academy Award. They’ve worked with some of the biggest names in entertainment including Stevie Wonder, Dolly Parton, Paul Simon, Lebo M. and Michael Jackson.

There are four opportunities along the Canadian side of Lake Ontario to catch Ladysmith Black Mambazo in action as they tour North America: February 14, Koerner Hall; February 15, the Grand Theatre, Kingston; February 16;the London Music Hall, London; and February 17, FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre, St Catharines.

 

Some great shows in store. As mentioned before the year turned, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra is joined by the Amadeus Choir and the Elmer Iseler Singers in Fauré’s Requiem. February 1 and 2. Another early presentation by Soundstreams sounds especially promising: the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir performing Rachmaninoff’s Vespers, works by Arvo Pärt and more, February 2, St. Paul’s Basilica.

2017 is an especially auspicious year for the Tafelmusik Chamber Choir as it celebrates its 35th anniversary. With Ivars Taurins at the helm, A Bach Tapestry, February 9 to 12, features a collection of songs from the extensive Bach library. Joined by instrumentalists, the choir will present several Bach works never before performed by Tafelmusik including the Kyrie and Gloria from the Lutheran Mass in G Major, commonly known as the German Organ Mass. The meat of the concert will be various cantatas selected by Taurins from the over 200 cantatas attributed to Bach.

To round off the end of the Tafelmusik season, the orchestra and choir will present Mozart’s Mass in C Minor. This eternally cherished piece is sure to please. May 4 to 7 at Koerner Hall.

The Peterborough Singers present “Canadian Women of Song” February 25 at Calvary Church, Peterborough. The choir’s director Syd Birrell has arranged popular tunes for the choir with Steve McCracken orchestrating the music for the accompanying band. Featured are works such as Susan Aglukark’s O Siem, k.d. lang’s Constant Craving, Jully Black’s Seven Day Fool, Jann Arden’s Good Mother, Carly Rae Jepsen’s Call Me Maybe and Buffy Sainte-Marie’s Up Where We Belong. This performance is conducted by Pam Birrell, who will be joined by MC Linda Kash. Saturday February 25, 2017, 2pm. Calvary Church, Peterborough.

The Musikay Choir and Orchestra under maestro Stéphane Potvin present “Love is…” in Waterdown on February 11 and Oakville February 12. Coming just before Valentine’s Day, the ensemble will present a host of small works all influenced by stories of love. The light and beautiful selections include Handel’s gorgeous Lascia ch’io pianga (Let Me Weep), Monteverdi’s Lamento d’arianna lasciatemi morire (The Lament of Arianna, Let Me Die), and Orlando di Lasso’s Mon Coeur se recommande à vous (I Give to You All of My Heart).

The 150th anniversary of Confederation is being celebrated across the country throughout 2017. The Orpheus Choir presents the first large choral concert in the region to mark the occasion with “Beginnings: With Glowing Hearts.” Ruth Watson Henderson’s The Magic of God’s World and Derek Holman’s Laudis Creationis are featured alongside two commissions by Mark Sirrett and Laura Hawley. The Toronto Children’s Chorus will also make a guest appearence, February 26 at Grace Church on-the-Hill.

Conductor Noel Edison leads the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir (in which I sing) and the Yorkminster Park Baptist Church Singers in “Sing Joyfully!” on March 4. Healey Willan’s not-often-performed An Apostrophe to the Heavenly Hosts makes an appearance. This grand work, written for TMC in 1921, is perfectly suited to the choir. John Cameron’s arrangement of Elgar’s Nimrod, Lux Aeterna is always a delight. The program will also feature common hymns for sing-along.

Chorus Niagara presents their first concert of 2017, “The Farthest Shore: A Celtic Celebration.” Artistic director Bob Cooper leads Chorus Niagara, the Chorus Niagara Children’s Choir, Chorus Niagara’s Side-By-Side High School Chorale, soloists Maeve Palmer, Ryan Moilliet, Michael Driscoll and musicians of Celtic Connection alongside the Chorus Niagara Brass Quintet. Irish dancers will also join the musicians. The main feature is Welsh composer Paul Mealor’s The Farthest Shore on March 4 at FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre, St. Catharines.

And finally, Tanya Tagaq, Christine Duncan, Jean Martin, Jordan Pal and Andrew Staniland are all featured in the first concert of the New Creations Festival of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra curated by Owen Pallett. This concert, March 4, will have strong improvisational and vocal elements and a guaranteed dynamic evening of music making.

Film Fun and Games: The Toronto Children’s Chorus presents “Celebrate at the Movies.” Alongside Andy Morris on percussion and Stan Klebanoff on trumpet, the choir invites the audience to dress up and sing along with hits from beloved children’s movies, February 25, 5pm at Randolph Theatre.

Speaking of film (and with apologies for straying far from my choral beat), there are lots of musical options for film, TV and game buffs in the coming months.

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra presents “Disney-Pixar Ratatouille in Concert” February 18 at 11:30am and 4pm. This warm and hilarious movie is screened with the orchestra playing live under the baton of Sarah Hicks. (“Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark with Live Orchestra” on March 29 has been sold out for months).

The TSO’s Canada Mosaic Project is a pan-Canadian initiative designed to be part of the Canada 150 celebrations. Among many other concerts, “Lights, Camera…Orchestra!” is a special film-themed concert conducted by Earl Lee, the resident conductor of the TSO. It features a world premiere, and TSO co-commission with TIFF Kids, of Kjell Boersma’s film DAM! The Story of Kit the Beaver set to music by Erica Procunier played live by the orchestra. With additional fun provided with highlights from Star Wars, Jaws and Mission Impossible, this concert at 2pm and 4pm on February 25 is sure to be fun. Family friendly!

The Sony Centre also has some unique offerings in the coming months that will be great musical experiences. Presenting innovative and grand musical experiences, the Sony Centre gives us unique opportunities to experience global phenomena here in Toronto. “Pokémon: Symphonic Evolutions” hits Toronto with full symphonic arrangements of every Pokémon game written in the last 20 years, May 6 at 7:30pm. This is a guaranteed sellout so buy early!

And we know that the Sony Centre is beginning a multi-year presentation of the Harry Potter films live in concert. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone runs June 27 and 28 at 7:30pm. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets runs October 12 and 13, 7:30pm. Expect to see all eight movies in the coming years. Tickets will sell out. Don’t get stuck on the platform; board the Hogwarts Express!

Just an FYI on the “Game of Thrones Live” concert March 4 at the Air Canada Centre I’ve already mentioned a few times. Top tier tickets began at $641.50 making this one of the most expensive musical experiences ever offered in the city. The entire concert is sold out.

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

Update Feb 1, 11am EST: The Toronto Mendelssohn Choir will not be performing Healey Willan's An Apostrophe to the Heavenly Hosts at their March "Sing Joyfully" concert, and will instead perform this work at their Good Friday concert, titled "Sacred Music for a Sacred Space." For details, visit www.tmchoir.org.

The year 2017 is upon us, and with it comes all of the hype that reminds us that this is Canada’s Sesquicentennial Year. Many say that it is Canada’s 150th birthday, while others remind us that there were only four provinces as signatories to the Constitution Act which announced Canadian Confederation in Charlottetown in 1867. The other six provinces plus the territories joined over the ensuing years. In any case, whether you are a supporter of the idea or not, most communities are planning on ceremonies. Many of these are to include parades with bands, not as easy as for the Centennial, fifty years ago. While there are many community bands across the country, few of them are marching bands. Similarly, most of the town bandstands or “kiosques de musique,” which were popular in the 19th century, have disappeared.

Speaking of the Centennial, while contemplating what I might usefully say here for community bands planning their works for this year, I thought of my own experiences 50 years ago during 1967, Canada’s Centennial Year. Truth be told, I was too busy that summer to learn or think much of what other musical groups might be doing. I just happened to be the officer in charge of a naval entertainment troupe consisting of a full band, a choir, a group of sailors in traditional garb dancing The Sailor’s Hornpipe and sundry other displays. During the months of July and August our troupe performed on 31 different occasions in Ontario, Quebec and upstate New York. I don’t anticipate anything on that scale for this year, but it seems that many groups are planning on some form of special recognition in their musical offerings.

2205 BandstandMaking My List: What form might that recognition take? I have heard of a few very tentative community plans for parades for July 1. As for concert programs, there seem to be at least four main themes emerging so far. One is to focus on works by contemporary Canadian composers, while another is to program works of any era by Canadian composers. A third concept is for works by any composers which, in some way or other, relate to Canada. The fourth idea is to feature the kind of music which might have been played by Canadian town bands of the 19th century, irrespective of the origins of the music. Personally, I don’t have a strong preference, but when thinking of what I might program, I came up with a few ideas.

Topping my list would be at least three works, by Canadians, written as part of the Centennial Project 50 years ago. These would be:

Newfoundland Rhapsody by Howard Cable. This is one composer who certainly needs no introduction here. It would be foolish to list all of Cable’s compositions which might qualify.

Suite on Canadian Folksongs by Morley Calvert, which includes She’s Like the Swallow. Among other musical accomplishments, Calvert founded McGill University’s Concert Band which he conducted for ten years. Calvert’s Thameside March could also be a candidate if one were able locate the music.

Century of Progress by Ron McAnespie. This latter work won the prize as the best march in the Centennial Project. After six years as a musician in the Canadian Navy, McAnespie obtained a Bachelor of Music degree from the Berklee College of Music. Although lesser known than the others, he was very active in the Toronto musical scene for many years.

Other “musts” on my list of Canadian composers would be Calixa Lavallée, Charles O’Neill and André Jutras. Lavallée, composer of O Canada, is an obvious choice. There is a fine concert-band arrangement of his La rose nuptial (Bridal Rose) which is readily available. Jutras’ They Came Sailing is one which frequently appears in concerts by bands in this part of the world. O’Neill was the first director of Quebec’s Band of the Royal 22nd Regiment and held many other significant musical positions over the years. His Tout à Vous is a fine concert number, but he also wrote some worthy marches.

Other marches worth considering would be Vimy Ridge by Thomas Bidgood and Men of Dieppe by Stephen Michell. While Bidgood, the composer, was not a Canadian, this number celebrates a most notable Canadian victory 100 years ago. Michell, a former trombone player with the Royal Regiment of Canada, was taken prisoner at Puys during the Dieppe Raid. To add a bit of lighter air to a program, one might include Scott Joplin’s Maple Leaf Rag. There is no evidence of the origins of the title, but since the maple leaf is a significant Canadian symbol, this precursor of ragtime music could be used to light up any program.

Kudos to the Scarborough Phil: While one would not normally think of the Scarborough Philharmonic Orchestra as being part of the Bandstand community, their latest venture certainly merits accolades. On February 4, in celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday the SPO will launch A Canadian Panorama, its first commercial CD. The launch concert will feature music from the CD, a group of Canadian compositions that the SPO commissioned two years ago for a wind ensemble of 13 players. This group features two flutes (including a piccolo), two oboes (including an English horn), two clarinets (including a bass clarinet), two bassoons, two horns, one trumpet, one percussion player and a string bass. All told, seven of the pieces in this concert come from Canadian composers. While there will be some Mozart and Beethoven on the program, the emphasis will be on the Canadian works. These will include: Howard Cable’s McIntyre Ranch Country, based on Canadian cowboy folk songs from central Canada; Alex Eddington’s Saturday Night at Fort Chambly, based on French Canadian folksongs; Chris Meyer’s Fundy, a tone poem, inspired by the Bay of Fundy; and East Coast Celtic music and Jim McGrath’s Serenade for Solo Clarinet and Wind Ensemble. This CD launch concert will be at the Salvation Army Scarborough Citadel, 2021 Lawrence Ave. E.

Plumbing Factory: While their next concert isn’t until April 19, Henry Meredith’s Plumbing Factory Brass Band, (PFBB), as usual, has a fascinating program in the works. In honour of Canada’s Sesquicentennial the program will consist entirely of 19th-century brass band music. While the program will include some traditional works such as Rossini’s Overture to La gazza ladra and Franz von Suppé’s Overture to the Beautiful Galatea, there will be a lot of light-hearted numbers rarely heard nowadays. These will include such gems as The Burlington PolkaThe Helicon Schottische, the Stolen Kisses Galop and the Ontario Quick March. The program will also include Calixa Lavallée’s Tempo di Marcia from his comic opera The Indian Question.

In past columns I have mentioned Henry Meredith’s vast collection of brass instruments and his hope of establishing a museum where this collection could be properly displayed. Some months ago I decided to make a contribution to this collection. As a start, during the last concert of the PFBB, I donated two trombones and a French horn. Of the two trombones, one was the very first instrument which I owned. This Selmer Manhattan was a model that Henry had never heard of before. The other trombone was a silver model Whaley Royce, Toronto circa 1900. See photo.

Community Band FestivalOnce again, it’s time for the York University Community Band Festival, but there will be significant changes from the format of previous years. There will be no workshops or keynote speaker as in the past. The conductors of each of the participating bands will rehearse one piece of music with the Massed Band. The concert will include performances by each band and then the Massed Band pieces will conclude the festival. It should be a challenging but enjoyable day of performing for all participants. That’s on Sunday, February 26, with the Massed Band rehearsal from 10am to 12pm and the concert from 1:30pm to 3:30pm.

New HorizonsAs sure as spring will follow winter, with the new year come more members to the New Horizons bands. As a precursor to the new season, the Toronto NH bands held their first Holiday Potluck Dinner Party on Friday, January 13. As guests, we enjoyed a great evening of food, music and lots of humour. Membership in the Toronto New Horizons bands is now up to 260, with eight bands rehearsing over the course of a week. There isn’t space here to go into detail of their activities, but a visit to their website will provide lots of information. Go to newhorizonsbandtoronto.ca. They do have a band festival coming up on Saturday, January 28 at St. Simon-The-Apostle Anglican Church, Sherbourne and Bloor. The festival starts at about 1:30pm, with the Guelph new horizons band attending as a guest performance group.

In the Toronto area there is a new NH band forming in Richmond Hill at Cosmo Music. For information contact Doug Robertson, Director, New Horizons Band of York Region at 
nhbyrdicrector@gmail.com. We have just learned that the North York New Horizons Band is being re-established at Long & McQuade on Steeles Ave. just east of Keele St. Classes will begin on Monday, February 5, starting at 6:30 For more information, people can call Dan Kapp at 647–201–8780, or they can contact the Long & McQuade North York store and ask for someone in the band department.

Other band activitiesNews from the York Brass Band is encouraging. They are now sufficiently well established that they have a new logo and are planning on producing banners for their music stands. Anyone interested in playing in an all-brass band should drop in at a rehearsal. They rehearse on Wednesdays at 7:30pm at Chartwell Park Place Retirement Residence, 15055 Yonge St., Aurora.

QUICK PICKS

Feb 2: On the first Thursday of each month the Encore Symphonic Concert Band presents their monthly concert at Wilmar Heights Centre, 963 Pharmacy Ave., Scarborough.

Feb 2: At 7:30pm, to celebrate ten years of making music, the Milton Concert Band are inviting people to “Sit In & Play or Sit Down & Listen.” Woodwind, brass and percussion players are invited to sit in with the band and play along. Spectators are also welcome. That’s at Milton Baptist Church, 900 Nipissing Rd., Milton.

Feb 14: At 7:30pm, Silverthorn Symphonic Winds will present one of their 59-Minute Soirees. “A Valentines Soiree” will be at Wilmar Heights Centre, 963 Pharmacy Ave., Scarborough.

Feb18: At 8pm, the Milton Concert Band presents “Music Through the Decades” in MinMaxx Hall at at the Milton Centre for the Arts located at 1010 Main Street E., Milton.

Feb 25: At 7:30pm, Silverthorn Symphonic Winds will present “Musician’s Choice” with selections from Dukas’ The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Belgian composer Bert Appermont’s Saga Candida: 7 Impressions of a Witch Hunt; Wagner’s Overture to Rienzi, selections from Holst’s The Planets and other works. At Wilmar Heights Centre, 963 Pharmacy Ave., Scarborough.

Feb 26: At 3pm, the Stratford Concert Band will present “Remembering a Friend” with Edward Payne as guest commentator. Avondale United Church, 194 Avondale Ave., Stratford.

Mar 1: at 7pm, the Stratford Concert Band will present Bandarama 2017. Bands from area high schools will perform as guests. Northwestern Secondary School, 428 Forman Ave., Stratford.

Mar 5: At 3pm, Wellington Winds will present “In the European Tradition.” Works include Guilmant’s Morceau Symphonique for Trombone, First Movement of Mahler’s Symphony No. 3 as well as works by Mendelssohn, Tull and Arnold. Rachel Thomas, trombone; Daniel Warren, conductor. Knox Presbyterian Church 50 Erb St. W., Waterloo.

Mar 5: At 7:30pm, the Wychwood Clarinet Choir; Michele Jacot, director will present their Spring Concert at a new location for this event, Knox United Church, Agincourt 2569 Midland Ave., Scarborough.

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

2205 Jazz Stories 1As challenges abound in the 21st century music business model, many struggle to fix flat tires, while others proudly re-invent wheels. Last month (January 2017) I found myself at the Jazz Connect conference in New York City, a meeting of many a musical mind. Artists, presenters, journalists, record labels, media outlets and other key industry professionals attended the conference panels, workshops and lectures. I came away not so much with answers as with a sense of how many of the questions being asked also apply to the health of our own musical city.

Right off the top, the decline of the artist’s rights in the digital age was the subject of Maria Schneider’s haunting keynote address, and a constant conference refrain: to quote a blues tune of note: “Things ain’t what they used to be.”

Patreon: At Jazz Connect’s “Direct to Fan for Income Maximization” session, Carlos Cabrera of Patreon inspired the crowd, many of whom had not heard of this platform before. The idea of Patreon is to provide a way for creators to invite fans to become patrons who contribute either on a monthly basis or by creation. In this way a model of engagement can be built on the fact that in the Internet age, audiences can be reached  across the globe, as opposed to the old sequential model of local, national and then international success. You can find all sorts of creators on the Patreon platform, from musicians to visual artists to poets, and even publications like The WholeNote.

Following the session I sent Cabrera some questions by email:

Q. What inspired Patreon’s creation?  

A. Jack Conte (Patreon founder) had spent years making music and posting his videos on YouTube, and he was searching for a way to do that sustainably. After years of feeling dissatisfied with the income he earned from ad revenue, one project really brought things to a tipping point: he had spent hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars producing a music video called Pedals and, even though it delighted tens of thousands of fans, he only received around a hundred bucks in revenue. Hundreds of hours of work, thousands of dollars invested, tens of thousands of fans delighted, but a ridiculously low economic return. That’s when it finally clicked in Jack’s mind that the system was broken, and he developed Patreon to fix it.

Q. What are the statistics on Patreon currently in terms of where patrons are coming from? Which are the Top 5 countries?

A. Patreon has patrons in nearly every country in the world. The US represents our largest market, and we’re also popular in Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, Australia, Japan and essentially everywhere that people appreciate art and creativity.

Q. As of this writing, to what degree are there jazz and classical musicians on Patreon?

A.We are really excited to see more than 1,000 jazz and classical musicians on Patreon - they’re close to our hearts because so many of us play jazz and classical music in the office on a daily basis. Jacob Collier is a noteworthy example of a successful jazz musician who earns over $9,000 per song on Patreon. Cyrille Aimée is one of my personal favourites; she earns over $1,300 per song on Patreon.

Connecting the dots: It’s funny how one thing can lead to another. Take Cabrera’s mention of Cyrille Aimée. I’ve been a fan of hers for years, and so inspiring is this lady’s scat singing that I happily just joined her on Patreon. Interestingly enough, I had also just picked up a CD by Aimée, “Live at Smalls”– for US$10 – at Jazz Connect by Aimée. The Brooklyn-based French singer recorded “Live at Smalls” in 2010, currently the best-selling record on the Smalls Live label, with a hot band that features pianist and Small’s owner and manager Spike Wilner on it. Which fact neatly takes us to the next part of this story.

2205 Jazz Stories 2Thinking Smalls: Spike Wilner. For almost a decade, Wilner has famously been live-streaming cutting-edge jazz of today from his intimate basement club, Smalls Jazz Club, to screens across the globe. Memorable music has been archived including sessions by Mark Soskin, Jimmy Greene, Joel Frahm, Johnny O’Neal, Ian Hendrickson-Smiths, Lage Lunds, Ari Hoenig, Tim Ries of Rolling Stones fame – who teaches jazz studies at the University of Toronto – and Spike Wilner himself.

“I’ve been a professional musician my whole life and started performing at Smalls right in the very beginning in the first couple of months of the club’s existence, back in 1994 when my partner and friend Mitch Borden created it,” he tells me in a phone interview. (He’s on his cell phone, taking a cab uptown from his Greenwich Village club.) “That club, the original Smalls, was shut down around 2002, it went bankrupt after 9/11 due to a lot of economic problems that took the city – there was a huge shift then and the model for Smalls was no longer a viable one and he went under.”

In 2007, after an interim period when the space was temporarily re-fashioned into a Brazilian club by a third party, Wilner was approached by Borden to become partner and manager. He celebrates ten years this month, a true labour of love. “The live streaming started back in the old Small’s – we had a recording device on stage and got into the habit early on of recording each show. When I took over I had a strong sense that we needed to archive the work. So I installed a more sophisticated recording system and we started recording every show, kept a log of who was on each gig. That started to grow very quickly, as weeks and months rolled by. So it became necessary to organize this library that was growing. I was thinking along the lines of back in the old days, in the 1930s, they used to put a radio wire in a club, and do live radio broadcasts in the clubs – that’s how Count Basie was discovered by John Hammond, who was driving his car in Chicago and turned on his AM radio and caught Basie’s band somewhere in Kansas City. The idea is that even if you have a small club you can shoot out the music electronically somewhere and it made sense to try the Internet. It got some traction right away, and this led to what has now become ‘Smalls Live’ which is a digital media company that has two components: live streaming, and our audio video archive that we have been working on since 2007. We wanted to make it all public and try to see if there was a way to make it all fair and beneficial for everybody. So we started to explore the ideas of what would be a fair model for sharing with artists and sharing with the public.”

 

Wilner organized a couple of town hall-style meetings at Small’s where they invited musicians to come and speak and ask questions. “And we also did a couple of meetings with Union guys at the local 802 and musical reps – the idea was to ask what would be the fairest system in terms of payout, and we eventually came to the system we now have, which we call the Smalls Live Revenue Share project. Live streams are free, but if you want to access the archive you become a subscribing member – we call them “supporting members” and it’s $10 a month. That allows you unlimited access to our library, which right now is about 12,000 recordings in there, and almost 2,000 musicians. We made partner with a tech guy and we designed a system whereby subscribers go to the archive and listen to shows or watch video.”

The system records the number of seconds that subscribers are watching. Every artist at the end of a certain period is tagged with a total number of seconds that he or she was watched, either as a leader or a sideman on a gig. “So if someone watched the show and you’re associated with it, you’re going to get time credit, and so the money you get comes from how much you have been listened to. The other component that we offer is the fact that the recording itself is owned 100% by the artist. So if you come to Small’s and you play, that is your property, you have the right to not make it public, sell it any way you like, you keep 100% of the publishing and you keep the royalties from any original music. So we really endeavoured to make the fairest royalty paying system for musicians. That got launched in October 2015, and we are trying to build subscribers now. We are closing in on about 800 people that are paying $10 a month at this time which doesn’t sound like a huge amount but it is enough to run this system. The artists have had two payouts where we gave away about $8,000 to artists.”

The amounts sound small, but the top 15-20 musicians in our system are getting substantially better payouts than what they would see from Spotify or any of these other services where they would be getting fractions of a penny. “They’d be getting a few hundred bucks, which can be a game-changer in an artist’s life. And of course as our subscriber base grows, so will their payouts. It’s been an interesting project – very successful, a lot of work. I don’t think our website is utilized the way it should be yet – I don’t think people are aware yet of what a resource it is. The number of recordings we have there is outstanding, including artists who are no longer with us. My goal is to hit 5000 subscribers worldwide.”

How does it feel to be seen as a visionary, an innovator, an inspiration to jazz clubs around the world?

“My hat is off to anyone that wants to run a jazz club anywhere – I have sympathy and love for anyone willing to take this path, it is a very thankless and generally speaking profitless job, but a very important one. Anytime I meet someone who is presenting this music, I support it heartily. The trick with a small business is that the guy who owns it has to work, you can’t really afford somebody to do your job. I’m glad to have all this responsibility. I relish it – I love my club and I love working there and performing there, I love the community of artists that hang out there. I think it’s a miracle that it exists and I want to keep going as long as we possibly can. All I can say is you have to work your ass off and not really expect much in terms of dough. People need jazz – they want it and need it – it’s a real service to humanity.”

Following the success of Smalls, Wilner expanded the business to open Mezzrow, a magical haunt adorned by a Steinway, just a few doors down. One admission buys entry to both clubs on the same night.

As our industry struggles to thrive and grow in an ever-changing world, we must keep an open mind; in clinging to the old, we must embrace the new. So subscribe to Smalls Live, support an artist on Patreon, and most importantly, go out to enjoy live music. Now’s the time!

Ori Dagan is a Toronto-based jazz musician, writer and educator who can be reached at oridagan.com

more sophisticated recording system and we started recording every show, kept a log of who was on each gig. That started to grow very quickly, as weeks and months rolled by. So it became necessary to organize this library that was growing. I was thinking along the lines of back in the old days, in the 1930s, they used to put a radio wire in a club, and do live radio broadcasts in the clubs – that’s how Count Basie was discovered by John Hammond, who was driving his car in Chicago and turned on his AM radio and caught Basie’s band somewhere in Kansas City. The idea is that even if you have a small club you can shoot out the music electronically somewhere and it made sense to try the Internet. It got some traction right away, and this led to what has now become ‘Smalls Live’ which is a digital media company that has two components: live streaming, and our audio video archive that we have been working on since 2007. We wanted to make it all public and try to see if there was a way to make it all fair and beneficial for everybody. So we started to explore the ideas of what would be a fair model for sharing with artists and sharing with the public.” Wilner organized a couple of town hall-style meetings at Small’s where they invited musicians to come and speak and ask questions. “And we also did a couple of meetings with Union guys at the local 802 and musical reps – the idea was to ask what would be the fairest system in terms of payout, and we eventually came to the system we now have, which we call the Smalls Live Revenue Share project. Live streams are free, but if you want to access the archive you become a subscribing member – we call them “supporting members” and it’s $10 a month. That allows you unlimited access to our library, which right now is about 12,000 recordings in there, and almost 2,000 musicians. We made partner with a tech guy and we designed a system whereby subscribers go to the archive and listen to shows or watch video.” The system records the number of seconds that subscribers are watching. Every artist at the end of a certain period is tagged with a total number of seconds that he or she was watched, either as a leader or a sideman on a gig. “So if someone watched the show and you’re associated with it, you’re going to get time credit, and so the money you get comes from how much you have been listened to. The other component that we offer is the fact that the recording itself is owned 100% by the artist. So if you come to Small’s and you play, that is your property, you have the right to not make it public, sell it any way you like, you keep 100% of the publishing and you keep the royalties from any original music. So we really endeavoured to make the fairest royalty paying system for musicians. That got launched in October 2015, and we are trying to build subscribers now. We are closing in on about 800 people that are paying $10 a month at this time which doesn’t sound like a huge amount but it is enough to run this system. The artists have had two payouts where we gave away about $8,000 to artists.”  The amounts sound small, but the top 15-20 musicians in our system are getting substantially better payouts than what they would see from Spotify or any of these other services where they would be getting fractions of a penny. “They’d be getting a few hundred bucks, which can be a game-changer in an artist’s life. And of course as our subscriber base grows, so will their payouts. It’s been an interesting project – very successful, a lot of work. I don’t think our website is utilized the way it should be yet – I don’t think people are aware yet of what a resource it is. The number of recordings we have there is outstanding, including artists who are no longer with us. My goal is to hit 5000 subscribers worldwide.” How does it feel to be seen as a visionary, an innovator, an inspiration to jazz clubs around the world? “My hat is off to anyone that wants to run a jazz club anywhere – I have sympathy and love for anyone willing to take this path, it is a very thankless and generally speaking profitless job, but a very important one. Anytime I meet someone who is presenting this music, I support it heartily. The trick with a small business is that the guy who owns it has to work, you can’t really afford somebody to do your job. I’m glad to have all this responsibility. I relish it – I love my club and I love working there and performing there, I love the community of artists that hang out there. I think it’s a miracle that it exists and I want to keep going as long as we possibly can. All I can say is you have to work your ass off and not really expect much in terms of dough. People need jazz – they want it and need it – it’s a real service to humanity.” Following the success of Smalls, Wilner expanded the business to open Mezzrow, a magical haunt adorned by a Steinway, just a few doors down. One admission buys entry to both clubs on the same night.  As our industry struggles to thrive and grow in an ever-changing world, we must keep an open mind; in clinging to the old, we must embrace the new. So subscribe to Smalls Live, support an artist on Patreon, and most importantly, go out to enjoy live music. Now’s the time!  Ori Dagan is a Toronto-based jazz musician, writer and educator who can be reached at oridagan.com

2205 Mainly MostlyOne of my very favourite Canadian jazz albums is one called Valentina, featuring a quartet led by Italian-Canadian pianist, composer and successful entrepreneur Mario Romano. Romano’s bandmates, including Pat LaBarbera on the sax, Roberto Occhipinti on the bass and Mark Kelso on the drums, support him on his imaginative journey through yet unexplored possibilities of old standards like Green Dolphin Street, A Night in Tunisia and Nardis. Romano revamps these tunes with stretched-out interpretations of the melodies, low-end ostinatos and fun new rhythmic underpinnings that frame the heads in interesting ways (without compromising their integrity).

Valentina (released in 2010) is sometimes cerebral and complex, and sometimes primitive and aggressive, but it is, through and through, riveting and beautiful.

Romano’s playing on the album is astoundingly unrestrained. I can’t speak for anyone’s ears but my own, and this is just speculation, but it sounds to me like after the three-plus decades he spent away from the music scene, he returned with a lot of pent-up creative and physical energy. The result was Valentina; I cannot recommend this album enough.

With the exception of Romano, who has been conspicuously absent from the live scene for a number of years, every member of the quartet that played on Valentina can be found leading their own fine ensembles, and acting as sidemen about town; and each can be heard this month at least once. Kelso will be behind the kit with Rich Brown’s Abeng at The Rex on the February 23 and 24; on February 10 and 11 LaBarbera will be on the same stage with an ensemble featuring Kirk MacDonald as well as drummer Adam Nussbaum (about whom I am especially excited); and Occhipinti will be playing with his own quintet (Luis Deniz, Tim Ries, Dafnis Prieto and Manuel Valera) at Jazz Bistro on February 17 and 18. Coming full circle, in Occhipinti’s case the concert is to celebrate the release of a new CD, Stabilimento, featuring the quintet.

Night School Twilight: Since she was a kid, Chelsea McBride has been writing original music. From when it started with, as she puts it, “messing around with little pop songs,” to the present in which she leads and co-leads at least five ensembles in varying styles and genres, McBride has had a drive to create; not to recreate what’s been done, but to create music that is new, interesting and authentically her own. “My whole thing is original music,” McBride says, “I love doing covers, but it’s not me as an artist and composer.”

This is an endeavour which, for any creative person, is never-ending. It’s one that requires not only curiosity and imagination, but dedication and hard work. A whole lot of hard work.

And that labour bears fruit; Socialist Night School, McBride’s large ensemble project which, for five years, has served primarily as a vehicle for her own composition and arranging, released The Twilight Fall, their first full-length album (their second recorded effort after a short, self-titled EP was released in the spring of 2014) this January, on McBride’s 25th birthday.

The music on The Twilight Fall seems to tell a story. Even though there are some tracks with words (sung by the illustrious Alex Samaras, about whom I have written before), it’s hard to decipher what, exactly, that story is. But it’s there. One song speaks to the next. Universal themes are suggested by the lyrics. Tunes range from the angular and assertive (Intransitory) to the poignant and mellifluous (In Dreams).

Like Valentina, I can’t recommend The Twilight Fall enough. It’s the kind of album that you can’t use as background music. It insists upon the foreground. It’s a time commitment of about an hour, but it will pay off.

You can see Socialist Night School live at The Rex on February 20 at 9pm. I have no way of knowing what the cover charge will be, but just like the time commitment you put into listening to the album and doing nothing else, it will be worth it.

Bob Ben is The WholeNote’s jazz listings editor. He can be reached at jazz@thewholenote.com.

Charles Richard-Hamelin

2204 Classical 1It is said that making your mark in a prestigious international competition changes your life and for Charles Richard-Hamelin that is exactly what happened when he was 25. “There is something magical about this legendary hall [Warsaw Philharmonic Hall] that somehow made it possible for me to be myself on stage, and be able to say what I wanted to say, at least most of the time,” he wrote on the Scene and Heard International website.

Richard-Hamelin won the silver medal at the International Chopin Piano Competition in 2015 as well as the Krystian Zimerman Prize for best performance of a sonata and his career took off. “This silver medal was of course incredibly unexpected and has single-handedly changed my whole life,” he said. “I’ve never performed professionally outside of Canada before the Chopin and now I have confirmed engagements in Canada, the USA, Poland, France, Spain, Mexico, Japan and South Korea.”

By May 2016 when he spoke to Yves Leclerc (Journal de Québec) he had already given 40 concerts that calendar year with 40 more to come. One of those concerts is his upcoming Sinfonia Toronto performance, December 9, of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No.23 in A Major K488 conducted by Nurhan Arman. The pattern continues in 2017 when he joins Christian Reif and the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony January 13 and 14 for Mozart’s Piano Concerto No.20 in D Minor K466. The following evening he gives a recital for the Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber Music Society that mirrors most of the repertoire Analekta captured on the CD of his May 2016 Quebec City concert – two Beethoven Rondos, Enescu’s Suite No.2 and Chopin’s “Heroic” Polonaise No.6. There his playing sparkled, his confidence was clearly evident, his musicianship mature and engaging.

“I love this new life, even if it is a bit tiring,” he said to Leclerc. “I am not in a position, however, where I can afford to refuse offers that arrive on my table. This is what will enable me to secure a future abroad. I have contracts for the next two years and we will see if it will continue and open doors.”

A mere five months before his Chopin Competition success, he was awarded the prestigious Career Development Award by the Women’s Musical Club of Toronto. That venerable institution will reap the benefits of their prescience when Richard-Hamelin returns May 4, 2017, for his first Toronto solo recital since winning the Chopin Competition prizes.

Isabelle Faust and the Mozart @ 261 Festival.

2204 Classical 2When German violinist Isabelle Faust was 11, she played in a string quartet. “That was in Stuttgart, where I grew up,” she told Jeff Kaliss (San Francisco Classical Voice, May 28, 2012). “That was my father’s brilliant idea. It was even more unusual than now that young kids would get together and try to do chamber music. My brother Boris also played in this, the viola part. And the parents had a very important role to play, driving everybody from one rehearsal to the other. We played for five years, every weekend rehearsals and lessons and competitions, national and international, and we started, slowly, to play little concerts. At age 15, we stopped with that. I wanted to make an impression with my solo playing, [to learn] where I actually stood internationally. So I went to participate in this Leopold Mozart Competition in Augsburg, and I was so lucky, I won it right away. So that opened a new chapter in my musical life.”

Winning led to her playing Dvořák under Yehudi Menuhin, an experience she found to be special since “if you play the standard repertoire, you can see that the conductor knows every little corner, and whether technical difficulties require a bit of attentive conducting.”

Known for her pristine sound and incisive approach, Faust will be the soloist in Mozart’s Violin Concertos Nos. 1 and 3 in Koerner Hall January 18 and 20, part of the TSO’s Mozart @ 261 Festival. All five of the composer’s concertos for violin were completed during the year he turned 19 (1775) but none is so universally loved as the elegant, playful and joyous Third which is particularly tuneful and buoyant.

When Faust spoke with Aart van der Wal for the Dutch website Opus Klassiek in April 2011, she talked about keeping an open mind (and open ears) about different performances of familiar repertoire: “Music must be enjoyed without prejudice. I notice so often that people have made up their minds already before really listening to a piece. They know it all, they have heard it so many times, and they know exactly which recordings are fabulous and which are not. It happens often that one is so deeply engaged with one specific recording or interpretation that each and everything else is compared to and diminished by it. I was at a concert where a Beethoven symphony was performed. One of the critics recognized me and, already before the performance, started to explain to me which specific very old recording he thought was the one and only version of this symphony…I advised him not to go to any concert anymore because he would never be happy with any living conductor, or any live performance for that matter…”

Mozart @ 261 begins January 11 and 12 under Peter Oundjian, with wunderkind Leonid Nediak (b.2003) playing Mozart’s final piano concerto on a program that also includes Mozart’s moving Symphony No.40 K550. The festival continues January 13 and 14 when Emanuel Ax brings his pianistic geniality to the spirited Concerto No.16 K451 and the effervescent Concerto No.22 K482. Mozart’s vigorous Symphony No.33 K319 opens the program with the TSO led by Michael Francis. Bernard Labadie leads the orchestra in the grand Symphony No.38 K504 “Prague” which concludes the January 18 and 20 concerts.

2204 Classical 3The Heath Quartet. The Heath Quartet – making their Canadian debut in concerts in Kitchener-Waterloo and Toronto in January – is a young British ensemble whose star has recently risen considerably since their recording of Tippett’s string quartets won Gramophone magazine’s 2016 Chamber Music Award. It was their debut recording. A slew of adjectives like “vibrant, adventurous, irresistible energy” has followed in their wake over the last few years. First violinist Oliver Heath, violist Gary Pomeroy and cellist Chris Murray originally met at Manchester’s Royal Northern College of Music. Five years after getting together, they moved to London in 2009 where they met Cerys Jones, freshly returned from graduate studies at Juilliard. She became their second violinist, and their career path ascended. Now, November 2016, she has announced that she is stepping down from the quartet to devote more time to her family.

“We had eight wonderful years with Cerys,” Ollie Heath told me via email. “But that chapter has now closed and we are looking forward to the next stage in the future of the quartet.” I asked what qualities he was looking for in a new violinist. “To be a great second violinist you need many different qualities,” he said. “To be a first-rate violinist and musician, of course, and to have the ability to be the glue of the ensemble, but most importantly you need a strong fire in your belly! Our first teacher said a good second violinist is always on the brink of revolution.”

I asked how he would characterize the ensemble’s approach to quartet playing. “We try to be as truthful to the composer’s intentions as possible,” he said. “To discover the way of speaking each composer’s language in a way that communicates most dynamically the emotional core of the work. Also we are very communicative with one another when we perform – there is a lot of energy that flows between the members of the quartet. We are also open to things being different from performance to performance – we never try to create a definitive way to interpret a work.”

The programs in Toronto for Mooredale Concerts January 22 and for the Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber Music Society January 20 are somewhat similar, with Bartók’s First and Dvořák’s 13th in each, but opening with Bach Organ Preludes in Toronto and Beethoven’s Op.18 No.3 in Waterloo.

I asked how he constructs a program. “Nearly always we begin a concert with a piece from earlier in the repertoire,” Heath said. “The simpler, cleaner textures and conversational aspects of these pieces is a good way of bringing everyone ‘into the room,’ and introducing the possibilities of what a string quartet can do. The second work is often more complex – more demanding on both listener and player. We then fill the second half with a more generously sized work – from one of the Romantic, nationalist composers or one of the big Beethoven quartets.”

Ergo Bartók’s masterful String Quartet No.1 Op.7 which is formally modelled on Beethoven’s unsurpassable String Quartet No.14 Op.131 (the movements of each are played without a break, for example). And Dvořák’s String Quartet No.13 Op.106, with its joyous opening, poetic slow movement, idiomatic third, and ebullient conclusion, one of the composer’s most expressive chamber works, emblematic of his return home in 1895 after his American sojourn.

Till Fellner. Viennese-born Till Fellner has spoken elsewhere of his pleasure working with Kent Nagano and the Montreal Symphony on their ECM recording of Beethoven’s Fourth and Fifth Piano Concertos, mentioning the orchestra’s ability to play softly and transparently. In our conversation for The WholeNote’s March 2015 issue, I asked about his own transparent approach with its focus on the music’s singing lines. He confirmed that transparency (clarity) and a singing way of playing the piano are essential goals of his. He told me that when he played for his teacher Alfred Brendel in 1990, it was the first movement of Beethoven’s Appassionata Sonata that started the teaching process. Brendel told him that the beginning of a Beethoven sonata was crucial, that everything is there. Brendel also said that your playing should be so clear that a musical person would be able to write down the score just by listening.

Fellner’s subtle approach and the apparent ease with which he and the OSM carry it off augurs well for their appearance performing Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No.4 Op.58 at Roy Thomson Hall December 8. In a brief interview (available on YouTube) with Jim Cunningham of Classical 89.3 in Pittsburgh, Fellner talked about the character of that same concerto which he was about to perform with the Pittsburgh Symphony in late November 2013:

“It’s a very poetic piece, a lyrical piece – even pastoral – so it’s very different from the other Beethoven concertos. The second movement is an Andante con moto so it shouldn’t be played too slowly. It’s a traumatic scene between the orchestra and the piano, a very tragic movement. The music kind of dies away at the end of this movement. There are lyrical elements in the third movement but there is also this joy and enthusiasm. It’s like seeing a person you haven’t seen for a very long time.”

December 13, Fellner turns his musical artistry to Brahms (Four Ballades Op.10) and Schumann (Humoreske in B-flat Major Op.20 and Fantasie in C Major Op.17) in a recital presented by the Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber Music Society.

2204 Classical 4Music Toronto. The invigorating sounds of the St. Lawrence Quartet will again fill the Jane Mallett Theatre, January 26. The exuberant Geoff Nuttall leads the quartet in their continuing examination of the treasure trove that is the music of Haydn, this time with his Quartets Op.20 Nos.1 and 5. The two Haydn quartets bookend works by Rachmaninoff and Jonathan Berger. On his website, Berger describes Swallow, commissioned by the St. Lawrence String Quartet in celebration of their 25th year: “My daughter taught me that swallows communicate in a rich sonic repertoire that humans categorize as chirps, whines, and gurgles. These sounds – lowered in pitch and stretched in time – inspire the musical materials of my sixth quartet. In addition to chirps, whines, and gurgles, the work pays homage to blues musician Mance Lipscomb, as well as Haydn, (in the scherzo of the third movement), and Schubert (in the elegiac fourth movement).”

Young American pianist Sean Chen, who finished an impressive third in the most recent Cliburn Competition makes his Toronto debut January 10 with an ambitious program primarily devoted to his piano transcriptions of larger works. He sets the stage with one of Ligeti’s Musica Ricercata and L’escalier du diable (Étude No.XIII) before beginning a series of his own transcriptions: Mozart’s Offertorium from his Requiem and Madamina (Catalogue Aria) from Don Giovanni and Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No.2 mvt.3. Beethoven-Liszt’s Symphony No.2 mvts.3 and 4 completes what promises to be a wild ride.

Dec 4: The highly skilled artistry of Toronto’s own Stewart Goodyear is on display at Koerner Hall in a typically ambitious program that includes Bach’s Fifth Partita, Beethoven’s final piano sonata, two Chopin favourites, selections from his own concert-length piano arrangement of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker (’Tis the season) and the world premiere of Acabris! Acabras! Acabram! commissioned in honour of Canada’s 150th birthday. Jan 28: Goodyear returns home to perform Tchaikovsky’s evergreen Piano Concerto No.1 with Peter Oundjian and the TSO after their mini-tour to Montreal and Ottawa.

Dec 11: Simone Dinnerstein links Schubert’s Impromptus and Philip Glass’ Metamorphosis at the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts in Kingston. If you’re wondering what these two composers share besides a common birthday (January 31), pianist Hans Pålsson shed light on their musical kinship on the Swedish TV series I döda mästares sällskap (In the company of dead masters). One example: they both have an economical way of composing; they use simple harmonics, few tones and a limited amount of musical material.

Dec 11: Syrinx Concerts showcases clarinetist Shalom Bard in trios by Brahms and Beethoven. Feb 5: Syrinx presents two pianists: Walter Buczyinski performing his own Sonatas Nos.13 and 14; and Richard Herriot playing works by Chopin, Albéniz, Ravel and Turina. The octogenarian Buczyinski, a Canadian icon, is an accomplished pianist whose devotion to the classical repertoire has informed his compositions.

Dec 13: The Cameron House, once home to Handsome Ned and countless other musicians, atypically plays host to “A Winter’s Night” with works by Bach, Schumann and Mozart performed by the Duo Mechant (Joseph Nadurata, viola; Linda Shumas, piano) and James Petry, clarinet.

Dec 13: Ukrainian-Canadian Dmitri Levkovich’s Heliconian Hall recital includes such staples of the piano repertoire as Chopin’s Sonata No.2 and12 Études.

Dec 19: The amazing talents of Nadina Mackie Jackson are on display in her traditional “Vivaldi Christmas Concert,” six festive and rarely heard bassoon concerti performed by Toronto’s top professional bassoonists, including Michael Sweeney, Catherine Chen and Jackson, with chamber strings and harpsichord. Jan 22: Jackson’s Bassoon out Loud series continues with a recital by Chen, the TSO’s new associate principal, accompanied by pianist Rachael Kerr, performing works by Jeanjean, Elgar and Boudreau, as well as a two-bassoon concerti with Jackson herself.

Jan 13: If you’re in London, don’t miss the vibrant, musically mature playing of the Dover Quartet in works by Mozart, Britten and Shostakovich (in which they are joined by pianist Arthur Rowe).

Jan 14: Pocket Concerts’ latest presentation of quality chamber music in an intimate setting features violinist Csaba Koczó and pianist Emily Rho performing two musical pillars, Beethoven’s Sonata No. 9 Op. 47 “Kreutzer” and Brahms’ Sonata No. 3 in D Minor Op. 108.

Jan 15: The Royal Conservatory presents Canadian violinist Dennis Kim, who was recently appointed concertmaster with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, and Diana Doherty, currently principal oboe with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, in works by Bach and Mozart, among others, in Mazzoleni Hall. Jan 21: Stefan Jackiw (violin), Jay Campbell (cello) and Conrad Tao (piano) – the JCT Trio – perform an early and a late trio by Mozart as well as music by Ives and Dvořák in this unusual program in Koerner Hall. Feb 4: Gidon Kremer and his Kremerata Baltica return to Koerner Hall, thanks to the RCM, in a program with an Eastern European tilt: works by Pärt, Weinberg, Tchaikovsky, Mussorgsky and Silvestrov.

Jan 18: The COC free noontime Piano Virtuoso Series continues with the talented, young (20-year-old) Chinese pianist, Jingquan Xie, performing Bach’s magnificent Partita No.6 and Chopin’s Sonata No.2 with its famous funeral march.

Jan 27: Armenian-born Kariné Poghosyan returns to Sinfonia Toronto to play Schumann’s impulsive and passionate Piano Concerto in A Minor.

Jan 28: 5 at the First Chamber Music Series presents pianist Angela Park, violinist Yehonatan Berick and cellist Rachel Mercer – the AYR Piano Trio – in a Saturday afternoon Hamilton recital. The program by the three high-powered musicians includes works by Ysaÿe, Haydn and Sigesmund but the icing on the cake is Schubert’s luminous Trio Op.100 in E-flat Major. Jan 29: the “Star Canadian Trio” travels to the Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber Music Society’s Music Room for a reprise.

Feb 7: Nineteen-year-old violinist Kerson Leong – First Prize-winner in the Junior Category of the 2010 Menuhin Competition – and collaborative pianist Philip Chiu perform works by Ravel, Poulenc, Fauré, Debussy and Dompierre in this free noontime concert at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre. Leong can also be heard Jan 11 and 12 with the TSO, launching Mozart @ 261 with the Rondo for Violin K373.

Paul Ennis is the managing editor of The WholeNote.

2204 Jazz Stories 1As in jazz, in writing this column it’s sometimes delightful how one small thing can lead into another. Mid-November, publisher David Perlman and I found ourselves in attendance at the Ken Page Memorial Trust gala at the Old Mill (see last month’s column), where each guest received a jazz recording tucked under the napkin on their table. Mine was courtesy of Humber College from their “New Standards” series. All recordings on the Humber Records label feature performances by Humber students and faculty; making the recordings is not only a priceless experience for all involved, but also a neat way to archive the talent that goes through the program.

Speaking of talent, and how one thing leads to another, one of the musicians featured on track two of said New Standards collection was someone I was planning to write about in this month’s column. Ladies and gentlemen, there are three chances this month for you to see and hear rising star clarinetist-saxophonist Jacob Gorzhaltsan, who recently graduated from Humber College’s prestigious jazz program.

As it happens, I got a chance to ask him a few questions, this month, including of course, why in the world he would choose the clarinet as his main instrument.

JG: My mother had a lifelong dream that her son would be a clarinet player, and at age eight (after about a year and a half of playing recorder) I finally received my first clarinet to try out. Although the clarinet was almost twice my size and I had to play it while sitting down, with the bell propped up on my feet, I felt immediately compelled to continue pursuing music and, in particular, the clarinet.

While in my early studies, I was influenced first by many traditional clarinetists/classics, such as Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, Pee Wee Russell, Woody Herman, and, of course, Buddy DeFranco. About two years after I began playing clarinet (at age ten), I would attend a life-changing workshop in Toronto with the one and only Buddy DeFranco, with whom I would jam on Moonglow - which I remember was one of the few tunes I really knew at the time. In this one masterclass, Buddy DeFranco gave me so much of the encouragement and support I needed in order to continue seriously pursuing a career in performance with a focus on clarinet/woodwinds. Studying privately with Vladimir Belov and Peter Stoll, I eventually began to pick up the other woodwinds (alto first, followed by tenor saxophone) and now am equally at home switching between the various doubles. In the midst of my studies, I would be influenced greatly by Eddie Daniels and Canadian clarinetist, James Danderfer. Both these clarinetists are highly inspirational, as they push the sonic boundaries of contemporary jazz clarinet while also being exceptional saxophonists/composers and arrangers. They would have a huge influence in shaping my perception of what it means to be a jazz clarinetist in the 21st century.

OD: You’ve included two vocal pieces in your album, performed by Denzal Sinclaire. Tell me a bit about this experience and working with singers in general and what that means to you.

JG: The album features two vocal pieces sung by Denzal Sinclaire. He is an incredible musician and, in my opinion, is easily one of the greatest male jazz vocalists in Canada, not to mention an incredibly warm and kind-hearted, supportive human being. I had the pleasure of performing with him around a year ago at a few Soulpepper Cabaret concerts and instantly thought his voice would be the perfect fit for a couple of my original songs. It was a real thrill to have him join us in the studio, and I am so thankful for the opportunity and experience. I have always had an interest in lyrics and songs, and it is an absolute delight to be in Toronto where there is such a vast wealth of singers and songwriters. I have been honoured to have shared the stage with so many great Toronto singers, such as Jackie Richardson, Divine Brown, Sophie Milman, Julie Michels, Don Francks, Laura Hubert, Denzal Sinclaire, Denielle Bassels, Andrew Penner, Big Rude Jake and many more. It is such a delight to be surrounded by so many strong and compelling voices, and they have all helped in their own way to shape my playing, expression, and exploration into song/lyric writing.

OD: Tell me a bit about your experience studying at Humber College. What were your favourite aspects of this post-secondary program, and what are the most important lessons you learned there?

JG: While at Humber, I received music lessons and attended classes/ensembles under the tutelage of some of the top musicians in the city and country, such as Pat LaBarbera, Neil Swainson, Geoff Young, Mark Promane, Kirk MacDonald, Drew Jurecka and so many more. The environment of the school welcomes musical exploration and creativity while honing the theoretical, rudimentary and technical skills of jazz and contemporary idioms of music. It was an honour to be surrounded by so many knowledgeable teachers, as well as a prosperity of talented up-and-coming musicians, so many of whom will become the voice of the next generation of professional musicians in Toronto’s music industry. The strong sense of community within Humber provides an incredible support for creative development/collaboration and experimentation. This environment (and the amazing musicians within it) was truly a great setting for me to explore my personal musical ambitions and further pursue my interest in composition and original music.

Jacob Gorzhaltsan’s Fly Softly CD release is December 1, at Jazz Bistro at 9pm; he’s also at the Emmett Ray on December 19 at 7pm and at the Burdock Music Hall on December 30 at 8:30pm.

2204 Jazz Stories 2Disterheft: Composer, vocalist and JUNO-winning jazz bassist, Brandi Disterheft has released four records since graduating from Humber College. She also speaks about her time there fondly:

“Humber College taught me the importance of memorizing a plethora of jazz standards; I also learned how to rhythm read at brisk tempos. Lenny Boyd taught me Miles Davis solos. Don Thompson allowed me to believe that it is possible to change and revolutionize jazz, as he is one of the great innovators of the double bass. If he could be potently lyrical and play those peaking, clear lines that made your stomach sink, then I also could somehow contribute to the art form via exploration and hard work.”

Disterheft is currently on tour celebrating her latest Justin Time release, Blue Canvas, featuring 80-years-young piano legend Harold Mabern with dazzling drummer Joe Farnsworth. Always one to choose her collaborators carefully, Disterheft reflects upon the experience of working with these two particular musicians:

“Harold’s piano playing reflects that potent, romantic nostalgia one can only achieve from a lineage of years of living and hearing the music. His focus while entering that “dream world” when performing reminds me of when I had the opportunity to play with Hank Jones. It seems nothing can get in the way of their music, and it’s their special place. Harold is also a gracious human being who innately supports people. Joe and I have been a rhythm section team as sidemen for numerous records under the bandleader and alto hard-bop player Vincent Herring (Smoke Sessions Records) with other world-class players such as Cyrus Chestnut and Jeremy Pelt. Playing with time with Joe is to effortlessly soar across the sky while holding onto an oversized helium balloon gliding over a raging river. His finesse and power is something I experienced when I was in my early 20s when Laila Biali and I opened for Pharoah Sanders at the Toronto Jazz Festival. Joe was playing drums, and you never forget hearing him live for the first time.”

The very same can be said of Disterheft’s own approach to music. In her hands the acoustic bass drips gloriously with a well-oiled liquid groove, and what makes her exciting to watch is that she always goes for it, with each solo resulting in surprising smiles, nods or hollers, depending on the audience.

In his review of Blue Canvas in the September WholeNote, Raul da Gama wrote that “listening to her is like putting your finger into a naked power-socket,” later adding that she “handles her bass violin with as much visceral audacity as the great Charles Mingus once did…A particular highlight of the recording is Disterheft’s vocals which play off her bass, but in an altogether different palette of thrilling, luminous colours.”

If you get this memo in time, catch Brandi Disterheft on December 3 at Jazz Bistro where she will be celebrating Blue Canvas with Mabern and Farnsworth on the bandstand – do not miss this gifted composer whose interpretations of standards are always fresh. Cheers to Brandi, Jacob, everyone at Humber College and most of all to you, live music lovers, who keep us all going!

Ori Dagan is a Toronto-based jazz musician, writer and educator who can be reached at oridagan.com.

Recent world events, and particularly what’s happening to our southern neighbours in the US, have had a great impact on most of us. I’ve been reflecting on the question that always seems to resurface throughout the ages during times of chaos and disturbance: how can music (and other creative arts) affect and support social change, transformation and even revolution? I agree with the notion that pursuing the creative act itself is one form of resistance. Yet I wonder what these times are asking of us regarding the creative process itself.

On November 23, I attended the Rainbow Nation concert presented by Soundstreams. It was a tribute to the legacy of Nelson Mandela and included a beautiful array of artistic styles and performers from South Africa, Canada and the US. During one of the short theatre skits that functioned as interludes between musical numbers, a conversation between a father and daughter brought home a profound truth. The father was distraught that his daughter was involved in student protests, particularly since his generation had struggled so much for the right to education. Her ringing reply was “Just listen.” The importance of listening is a message I’ve seen written over and over again in the numerous articles that have flooded my social media pages since the US election.

Warbler’s Roost

In my September column, I wrote about New Adventures in Sound Art (NAISA)’s programming of three sound installations as part of the in/future Festival at Ontario Place, noting how the practice of creating site-responsive works requires attention to the multi-layered elements of any given environment.

A few weeks ago, I travelled to a place called Warbler’s Roost to participate in a listening and soundscape weekend. A small group of sound artists gathered at this artist retreat and performance space, located about one hour north of Huntsville, to engage in the process of listening, recording and creating. Organized by the Toronto Soundhackers Meetup group in tandem with Darren Copeland, artistic director of NAISA, we began early on Saturday morning with a soundwalk – a collective act of walking in silence and listening to the environment. We then spent time both individually and in small groups making recordings of both the soundscape and of our sonic interactions with the environment. Back in the Warbler’s Roost studio, we listened to the recordings and then, again collectively, created a short composition from them that was performed later that evening as part of a NAISA concert. Within one day, we went from the simple act of being present with the sounds around us to a form of witnessing through recording and interacting to the act of creation and sharing. In a sense, this is the heartbeat that drives the musical creative act: cultivating presence and witnessing through creativity. These simple actions point to a way forward in generating listening behaviours that can inform and model how to live in a complex and diverse world.

I often find myself writing in this column about the culture and practice of listening. For example, in the October column, I spoke about the listening legacies of both R. Murray Schafer and Pauline Oliveros, along with the next-generation approach of Oliveros’ collaborator Doug Van Nort.

Dealing with these larger questions of social impact is an ongoing process of paying attention to what is emerging from the grist of what is being offered by those committed practitioners involved in the day to day music-making world. So with these thoughts as a background, let’s turn now to what is happening locally in the upcoming months of December and January.

Stephen Clarke

2204 In with the New 1

Early in the new year, at Gallery 345 on January 8, Arraymusic Ensemble member Stephen Clarke will present a concert of solo piano works by four composers, each of whom has a very distinctive voice: Giacinto Scelsi (Italy) Udo Kasemets (Canada), Horatiu Rădulescu (Romania/France) and Gerald Barry (Ireland). I talked with Clarke about the repertoire and his interest in the music of these composers, two of whom he has had personal friendships with.

It is the more mystical approach that both Schelsi and Rădulescu share that intrigues Clarke, as both these composers incorporate different influences from Eastern philosophies and religions. In fact it was Rădulescu’s interest in Hindu and Byzantine music and the way it works with natural resonances that sent him in the direction of pursuing what is known as spectral composition, a style that focuses on working with the overtone or harmonic series. Clarke will be performing Rădulescu’s 1968 piano sonata, Cradle to Abysses, a tightly structured atonal work with a mystical atmosphere, which was written just before the composer made his shift to spectral-based music. It is often thought that spectral composition began in the mid 1970s with French composers such as Grisey and Murail. However, Rădulescu’s forays into working with overtones, which can take one into a deeper relationship with the natural acoustic world, predate the French school.

To highlight the contrast between spectral and non-spectral approaches, Clarke chose to include Udo Kasemets’ Feigenbaum Cascades (1995) in the program. Hence the title of the concert:Cascades and Abysses.” The Kasemets piece, a spectral work written originally for Clarke, works with the harmonic series in a “beautifully pure mathematical way that speaks for itself.” In sharp contrast to this simplicity, Clarke will perform two works by Gerald Barry, a composer known for his more hyperactive and ironic approach as demonstrated in his ability to use banal material and infuse it with a highly charged energy. In Humiliated and Insulted, Barry’s piece written for Clarke in 2013, the audience will hear a work that sounds like a congregation singing a hymn, yet something has gone terribly wrong. Everyone is singing together, but not from the same spot in the score and, to make it more pronounced, no one even seems to notice.

Other opportunities to hear Clarke perform include a concert in early March where he will present a complete program of Rădulescu’s music on the Bosendorfer piano at St. Andrew’s Church. This piano comes equipped with extended lower notes, which are called for by the composer in these works. This concert will give fans of spectral composition ample opportunity to hear Rădulescu’s masterful approach. Clarke will also be performing on February 5 in a concert of works by Italy’s Salvatore Sciarrino, this year’s visiting composer at the University of Toronto’s New Music Festival. This final concert of the festival is a collaboration with New Music Concerts during which four of Sciarrino’s works spanning 1981 to 2015 will be heard.

U of T New Music Festival

2204 In with the New 2Sciarrino, one of Europe’s leading composers, writes music that seeks to portray the fragility of life, often creating pieces that are on the edge of audibility and pushing the instruments to their extreme limits. In his biography, he describes his style as “leading to a different way of listening, a global emotional realization, of reality as well as of one’s self.” Sciarrino’s music can also be heard during the festival at a concert featuring music for piano on January 30, which will also include works by Nono, Fedele and Berio.

The festival highlight will be the performance on February 1 of Sciarrino’s opera The Killing Flower (Luci mie traditrici) produced by Wallace Halladay and Toronto New Music Projects. The libretto is based upon the play Il tradimento per l’onore, which was first performed in Rome in 1664. A story of intrigue, love, betrayal and murder, the opera has become Sciarrino’s most often performed work out of his 14 music-theatre pieces composed to date. He recognizes the influence cinema plays in the creation of works for the stage and approaches his own creative process with this in mind. He openly declares that what he really wants through his composing is “to change the world.” Additional festival events include the performance of the Karen Kieser Prize-winning work by Sophie Dupuis, Perceptions de La Fontaine, a noontime lecture by Sciarrino on February 2, and a concert of music by contemporary Italian composers on February 4.

Electroacoustic Technologies

2204 In with the New 3Turning now to innovative performers using electroacoustic technologies, two women making waves in this field will be visiting Toronto over the next two months. First, American composer and sound artist Andrea Parkins, along with her ensemble, will be performing at the Music Gallery on December 20, using interactive electronics to create relationships and contrasts between the real and the ephemeral. She will collaborate in this performance with local artists Lina Allemano, Germaine Liu and Jason Doell. On January 7, theremin virtuoso Carolina Eyck from Germany will perform the world premiere of her latest composition as part of a New Music Concerts program. She will also be in town to celebrate the release of hew new CD, Fantasias for Theremin and String Quartet. Other composers whose works will be presented at the NMC event include Canadians D. Andrew Stewart and Omar Daniel, Bohuslav Martinů from Czechoslovakia and Maurice Ravel.

Two events that Soundstreams will be offering will be the return of the popular “Electric Messiah,” December 5 to 7, featuring wild and wacky renditions of Handel’s classic with singers Christine Duncan, Carla Huhtanen, Gabriel Dharmoo and Jeremy Dutcher, with electronic backup from Cheldon “Slowpitch” Paterson on turntables, Jeff McLeod on organ and John Gzowski on guitar. Moving ahead to February, Soundstreams is celebrating 100 years of Estonia’s independence by bringing the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir to town on February 2, performing world premieres by Canadian composers Omar Daniel and Toronto-born Riho Esko Maimets (who is of Estonian heritage), along with compositions by Arvo Pärt.

QUICK PICKS

2204 In with the New 4Canadian Music Centre

Dec 12: Centrediscs CD Launch: Canadian Flute Masterpieces.

Dec 15: “Class Axe” – a concert of new works for classical guitar by M. Côté, J. Denenberg, M. Horrigan, A. Jang, T. Kardonne and S. Marwood.

Canadian Opera Company

Jan 5: “Vocal Series” – First Nations mezzo-soprano Marion Newman presents a concert on the theme of reconciliation, featuring works by Canadian composers.

Feb 1: “Dance Series” – Peggy Baker Dance Projects; music by Debashis Sinha.

Other

Dec 12: Toronto Masque Theatre – No Tongue Will Tally by Harry Somers and Claude Bissell.

Jan 10: Music Toronto – Sean Chen plays two works by Ligeti, as well as his own piano transcriptions.

Jan 21: Music Gallery – “The New Flesh.”

Wendalyn Bartley is a Toronto-based composer and electro-vocal sound artist. sounddreaming@gmail.com.

2204 World View 1There’s a new music presenter on the block which also chooses to keep details of its concerts on the down-low. It’s the Toronto iteration of the Sofar Sounds international franchise, begun in 2009 in London, UK, a sort of a Meetup for music concerts. It initially came to my attention because the series has significant world music content, and it’s the primary reason I’m visiting it in this column.

Meet Jonathan Campbell of Sofar Sounds Toronto (SST). He began to organize covert alternate space concerts in the city’s core last year. “SST has regular concerts twice a month. Our secret, intimate shows in alternative locales showcasing the talent and diversity of the city aspire to bring the magic back to live music. We advertise online a [concert] date and the neighbourhood in which it will take place. Yes, we keep the artists secret but [I feel] they will definitely be up the alley of many WholeNote readers.” SST intends to stay: “We’re booked well into 2017.”

I asked about SST’s mission. Campbell explained, “It’s the local branch of the global Sofar Sounds movement, now in nearly 300 cities worldwide. We produce our concerts in alternative locales – offices, studios, galleries, living rooms, backyards and more – celebrating the wealth, diversity, breadth and depth of the artists working and living in or passing through our city.”

By choosing hyperlocal venues with individual curators - they sign up on the SST website for the experience of “hosting a gig”– rather than more typical mainstream halls or commercial pubs, Campbell identifies an important feature of his endeavour: the honouring of cozy “spaces, neighbourhoods and places.” Rather than being a secondary element, a lifestyle soundtrack, he argues that in such intimate, personalized settings, music can be savoured for its own sake. He explicitly referred in our interview to placemaking, a multi-faceted approach used by urban planners and human geographers to the planning, design and management of public spaces with the intention of creating spaces that promote people’s health, happiness and wellbeing.

Placemaking is a philosophy and a process with political resonance due to its close relationship to the notion of place identity. Place identity is not purely a theoretical issue, however. It informs a worldwide movement to protect places of significant local heritage in the face of the powerful forces of cultural globalization. Interestingly, it has direct parallels themes in musical themes I occasionally explored in this column: local and regional vs. transnational identities as reflected in music performance, production, mediation, and in audience and critical reception. SST is exploring aspects of this in Toronto. It’s about the room and how the audience feels in it, as much as about the music being performed.

I asked Campbell about SST’s core audience and its incorporation of various global musics. He referred to programming goals including a commitment to ethnically diverse music and raising SST’s profile among world music audiences.

“I think these two issues are deeply related. Geographically, we’ve been downtown directed, but that reflects the nature of our core demographic. The typical person that has signed up [to attend our concerts] is a hip young urbanite in their 20s or 30s, a person whose experience of live music [has been mainly relegated] to the bars, clubs and other venues of the indie, rock, punk and folk scenes. On one hand we love the idea of having performers of every colour, shape, size, musical style, form, discipline. But, because the bulk of our audience feels at home in the indie, rock, punk and folk genres, it’s been a harder sell to book artists outside of those scenes. On the up side, I think that the more people hear about or experience what our rooms feel like, the more that’s going to change, leading to greater variety in the music genres on offer.”

Campbell’s programming, in line with most Sofar Sounds events around the world, as reflected in their numerous YouTube videos (more on that later), primarily appears to reflect mainstream vernacular music. Great Lake Swimmers, Royal Wood and The O’Pears have presented polished sets. On the other hand, SST has also sought to stretch preconceived hipster notions of the live music experience by expanding what’s on offer. For example, Pocket Concerts presented an authoritatively played program of J.S. Bach string trios. Last December, indigenous cellist/composer Cris Derksen, a 2016 Instrumental Album JUNO nominee, singlehandedly built from layers of powwow-ready sounds with her cello, Western classical music chops and new school electronics.

To ramp up audience anticipation, SST has fun holding back the names of the musical acts it presents, yet it does something few other presenters do: it sends follow-up messages to individual ticket holders. Titled “Thanks for Coming! You were watching...” the email messages offer a thumbnail of each artist on the roster. Campbell notes that “we also track alumni artists’ future gigs and link to them on our Facebook page for the benefit of our followers.”

I’m not at liberty to disclose the identity of future performers – remember the lure of the “secret” concert, the cultivated air of mystery and the element of exploration in SST’s mandate? I can, however, speak about a few of the world music performers who have animated its low-keyed venues. On a hot July 2015 evening in the backyard of a private Toronto home, the Rajasthani Barmer Boys raised their voices in praise to perform songs steeped in the Manganiyar Sufi music tradition. Earlier this year Burkina Faso griot Amadou Kienou animated the dreary March weather in a downtown walkup with songs accompanied by kora and jembe. Sections of all these sets can be viewed on the SST YouTube channel.

A few weeks ago the Dilan Ensemble directed by kamancheh specialist Shahriyar Jamshidi played a program of Kurdish music. On another show, the ten-piece Toronto band Zuze, mashing up Iranian folk melodies with Afrobeat rhythms, shared the snug Small World Music Centre space (eschewing its modest stage for floor space under the spacious windows) with IVA, aka Kathleen Ivaluarjuk Merritt. The Inuk singer-songwriter was accompanied by the Southern Ontario indie-folk band Ptarmigan in a set combining Inuktitut song and poetry.

In another concert, the accomplished Toronto-based Arabic and Jewish musician-singers Maryem Tollar and Aviva Chernick joined Iranian percussionist Naghmeh Farahmand in a new music project dubbed Walking East Trio. In addition, sharing the bill with two other acts, singer-songwriter Dieufaite Charles sang, accompanying himself on guitar, music reflecting a mix of Haitian roots and African rhythms. That concert, held in a private home in the Trinity Bellwoods neighbourhood (yes, marked “secret!” in the invitation), was also part of Toronto’s Third Annual Festival of House Culture, yet more evidence of several layers of placemaking in action.

2204 World View 2Campbell confirms that “of the three or four acts at every show, at least one will be a surprise to many in our audience – and that’s our intention. I can’t emphasize enough how awesome it’s been to watch audiences react to something clearly completely out of their wheelhouse. Whether it’s Bach played by a chamber trio, a griot singing traditional Burkina Faso songs accompanied by a kora, a rapper backed by live musicians, experimental electronic post-rock, or a solo singer-songwriter, audiences recognize that these are amazing musicians. Before SST, they might see a listing in a magazine or walked by a venue with a sign, but would never imagine going to their concerts. But the in-person experience is a powerful one. It says ‘this is for anyone who wants to hear it.’ It’s been so rewarding for us to be able to introduce artists who don’t generally have access to audiences outside of their own ethnicities. We [imagine that we] live in a city that houses every ethnicity, culture, or tradition on earth, yet we [nevertheless] tend to live in our own local worlds. What’s been amazing to behold is that by creating an air of mystery around audiences not knowing who they’re going to see, we’re able to demonstrate how silly it is that we’re not [culturally] more intermingled. Because great music is great music. Period.”

That’s why, he says, a well-known artist like Lena (aka Anastasia Tchernikova) of Musica Reflecta can entrance a room full of people with a program of solo minimalist piano pieces by Philip Glass and Arvo Pärt as much as a well-known folk group like Great Lake Swimmers, who followed that performance. “There is so much going on in this city, and, to use the old adage, there’s so much that people don’t even know they don’t know about. We want to help change that.”

While Campbell makes a strong case for an era of post-genre concert experiences, what’s in it for the individual musician or group? SST promises an attentive audience, an unusual, unexpected, fun, intimate venue with social media follow-ups on Facebook and Instagram. Each act gets a very modest honorarium. More valuable perhaps, SST provides a high-quality edited video of an item in their performance, uploaded directly to the international Sofar Sounds YouTube channel.

For newly formed groups, it’s an opportunity to connect with an enthusiastic young adult audience in an attentive listening “quiet room” environment. For bands used to gigging in noisy bars where the focus is not necessarily on the music they’re making, the latter is a precious quality. For more established musicians, SST facilitates a connection with a young adult audience demographic, to listeners who may not be familiar with their careers, repertoire or even the genre of music they play.

While mum’s the word on the identity of the global musicians appearing in SST’s December and January concerts, I can divulge two of the locations it has already announced. One is the hip Boxcar Social at Harbourfront Centre overlooking Lake Ontario and the other is “a secret location” in Evergreen Brick Works nestled in the neo-bucolic post-industrial setting of the Don River Valley.

After speaking with SST producer Campbell, I am confident that SST’s programming will continue towards its goal of genre diversity. Gongs, ukuleles and dulcimers will undoubtedly share future SST rooms with guitars, drum kits and keyboards.

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

2204 On Opera 1The past two years have seen Toronto opera companies unveil exciting new works or new interpretations of older works in December and January. This season, both large and smaller companies are saving these kinds of productions for spring 2017. In April 2017, the Canadian Opera Company presents a new production of Harry Somers’ Louis Riel (1967). In the same month, Opera Atelier revives Marc-Antoine Charpentier’s Médée (1693), which it will then take to Versailles. Tapestry Opera will present its grandest new opera since Iron Road (2001) in the form of Aaron Gervais’s Oksana G. in May. And Toronto Masque Theatre will present the world premiere of The Man Who Married Himself by composer Juliet Palmer. The reason for all this activity in 2017 is that companies are pulling out all the stops in celebration of Canada’s sesquicentennial that year.

For this December and January, however, most companies are sticking to the tried and true, and, given the general sense of unease in the world, perhaps that is not a bad thing. For professional, fully staged productions, Toronto Operetta Theatre is first off the mark with Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance (1879), the work by the duo most often staged by professional opera companies and the only one to be staged regularly in non-English-speaking countries. Since 2014, there have been productions of Pirates in Münster, Luxembourg, Caen and Saarbrücken.

TOT’s Pirates

This year’s Pirates will give audiences a chance to hear two performers who are better known for their work with Opera Atelier, sing in a genre far removed from Baroque opera. Tenor Colin Ainsworth, who will sing Jason for Opera Atelier in next year’s Médée, sings the role of Frederic, the young lad mistakenly apprenticed to a pirate. Bass-baritone Curtis Sullivan, who has sung La Haine in Armide and Samiel in Der Freischütz, will take on the role of Major-General Stanley. TOT favourite Elizabeth Beeler will sing Ruth, the “piratical maid of all work,” and Vania Chan will sing the Donizetti-like role of Mabel. Austin Larusson and Anthony Rodrigues will share the role of Sergeant of Police, and Nicholas Borg and Janaka Welihinda will share the role of the Pirate King. Derek Bate, resident conductor for the COC, will conduct and TOT artistic director Guillermo Silva-Marin will direct. The operetta runs December 27, 30, 31, 2016, and January 6, 7 and 8, 2017.

Mozart’s Flute

2204 On Opera 2The winter season at the Canadian Opera Company begins January 19 with Mozart’s The Magic Flute. This will be the first revival of the COC’s own production, designed by Myung Hee Cho and directed by Diane Paulus, that had its premiere in January 2011. For the revival, Ashlie Corcoran will recreate Paulus’ direction.

Tenors Andrew Haji and Owen McCausland will alternate in the role of Tamino. Sopranos Elena Tsallagova and Kirsten MacKinnon will share the role of Tamino’s beloved Pamina. Baritones Joshua Hopkins and Phillip Addis will alternate as Tamino’s bird-selling sidekick Papageno. And bass-baritones Goran Juric and Matt Boehler will share the role of the magician Sarastro, accused of having kidnapped Pamina. Coloratura soprano Ambur Braid, recently seen as Dalinda in Handel’s Ariodante at the COC, will sing the demanding role of Pamina’s mother, the Queen of the Night, at all 12 performances. Tenor Michael Colvin is Pamina’s guard Monostatos. The conductor will be Bernard Labadie, best known as the founding conductor of the Montreal-based period instrument ensemble Les Violons du Roy. The opera runs from January 19 to February 24.

Street Scene by Request

If one is looking for more unusual fare, Kurt Weill’s American opera Street Scene (1947) is coming back to town for the first time since Voicebox/Opera In Concert mounted it Feb 1, 2015, at the Jane Mallett Theatre. This time, Opera by Request is taking the ambitious project on. With lyrics by the poet Langston Hughes and a book by the playwright Elmer Rice, based on his own play, the action takes place outside a multi-ethnic tenement on the East Side of Manhattan over two hot days in 1946. The opera has two plots involving the Maurrant family. One plot line follows young Rose Maurrant and her romance with a neighbour Sam Kaplan, though she is being harassed both by her boss and by another neighbour. The other follows Rose’s parents, Anna and Frank, and Anna’s affair with the milkman Steve Sankey. Subsidiary stories deal with a woman about to have a baby and the eviction of a couple who can’t pay the rent.

One impediment to the opera being produced is that it has 19 named singing roles, ten named speaking roles and other roles for children and dancers. The cast is headed by soprano Shannon Mills as Rose, soprano Kellie Masalas as Anna, baritone Austin Larusson as Frank and Avery Krisman as Sam.

Music director and pianist for the opera, William Shookhoff, provided me with some background to the production. “Street Scene came about as a project envisioned by Shannon Mills, who works with a number of the COC children, and Brandon White, whose specialty is collaborative theatre and design. It was their feeling that this piece was as relevant now as ever (perhaps more so since November 8) and that, to do it justice, it needed to be presented in a more descriptive format than the usual concert arrangement. The church will be transformed by use of backdrops, suggesting tenement apartment windows, and various minimal set pieces. Dress will indicate hot summer and there will be no music stands, with far more interaction than concert format allows.” Street Scene runs December 2 and 3 at the College Street United Church.

Opera by Request has two other concert performances slated for January. On January 14, it presents Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel (1891) with Kate Carver as the pianist; and on January 27, Mozart’s Don Giovanni (1787) with William Shookhoff as the pianist.

St. Anne’s G&S Treat

For Gilbert and Sullivan fans there is a real treat coming up in January. The amateur company St. Anne’s Music and Drama Society (MADS) will present a fully staged production, with an 18-piece orchestra, of The Grand Duke (1896), the final comic opera written together by the famous duo. In its day, it was the partnership’s only financial failure, unlike the equally rare Utopia, Limited (1893) that preceded it. Like G&S’s first collaboration Thespis (1871), it concerns a theatrical troupe that takes on political power. The Central European setting allows Sullivan the chance to imitate Viennese music extensively for the first time. The D’Oyly Carte Opera Company did revive Utopia, Limited once for the company’s centenary in 1974, but it never revived The Grand Duke, even though it recorded both. This neglect only helped reinforce the view elsewhere that these two were undeserving of revival.

Productions by other companies such as MADS, however, have found that with cuts mostly to Gilbert’s unusually extensive dialogue, The Grand Duke is eminently enjoyable. MADS, first launched in 1963 by pianist Clifford Poole, wife Margaret Parsons, and Roy Schatz, has placed The Grand Duke in its regular cycle of G&S operas, meaning it is performed every 11 or 12 years. It was previously staged in 1996 and 2007.

Roy Schatz’s daughter Laura, the stage director, informed me of the challenges and rewards of the piece: “I very much like The Grand Duke and think it deserves to be performed more often. One of the challenges for any group who wishes to perform it is the number of leads necessary – 14 to be precise. It should not have come up in our rotation for another couple of years, but our group recently had an influx of very talented singers and I wanted to be able to feature them as well as our regular wonderful leads. We have a cast of over 50 and they are enjoying the challenge of learning one of the G&S operas that is seldom performed.” The Grand Duke will be staged at the Parish Hall of St. Anne’s Anglican Church from January 27 to February 5 for four evening and four matinee performances.

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

2204 Art of Song 1Many years ago, in the mid-90s, I sang in the Toronto Classical Singers. When an orchestra was needed, the choir as often as not engaged a newly formed group, the Talisker Players Chamber Music Orchestra, to accompany us. Talisker was set up under the leadership of the violist Mary McGeer and violinist Valerie Sylvester to provide amateur choirs with needed instrumental accompaniment. Within ten years, the Players were accompanying between 20 and 30 choirs a year and they maintain an active schedule to this day, with McGeer still active in the ensemble. Important as the orchestra is on the choral scene, within five years of its founding, the Talisker Players Chamber Ensemble had also come into being, and it is for the latter that the group is now best known, particularly for their ongoing series of chamber concerts (four or five a year) at Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre, which almost always offer carefully curated thematic explorations of the relationship between poetry/spoken word and a widely eclectic and challenging range of music.

2204 Art of Song 1.5Their concert on January 29 is their second for this season and is a bit of a departure from the norm, in that the words and music are not separate. Titled “’S Wonderful,” it presents the music of George and Ira Gershwin, who gave us some of the most memorable songs of the 20th century. The soloists are Erin Bardua, soprano, and Aaron Durand, baritone.

The Talisker Players’ two remaining concerts this season are “Land of the Silver Birch” and “A Mixture of Madness.” Both are more reflective of the Players’ trademark style.

“Land of the Silver Birch” on March 28 and 29 is an exploration of folk song reflective of British and French settlement in Canada over time, with music ranging from Ludwig von Beethoven’s Scottish Folk Songs to Four Canadian Folk Songs for flute, viola, cello and piano, a new work by Alexander Rapoport. Whitney O’Hearn, soprano, and John Allison, baritone, will be the soloists, and John Fraser is the reader.

“A Mixture of Madness” on May 16 and 17 is trademark Talisker. Featuring rising soprano Ilana Zarankin, and Bruce Kelly, baritone, as soloists, and with Andrew Moodie as actor/reader, it promises to be an erudite and yet entertaining romp from Aristotle to Peter Maxwell Davies’ Eight Songs for a Mad King, by way of Purcell, Vaughan Williams and (a new commission) Alice Ping Yee Ho’s The Madness of Queen Charlotte (for flute, violin cello and piano).

Looking back (and looking forward): The Canadian Opera Company has announced the winners in its annual vocal competition. Top prize went to the mezzo Simone McIntosh, while Samuel Chan and Gregory Schellenberg (both baritones) received the second and third prizes respectively. The audience prize went to the soprano Myriam Leblanc (and that marks the first occasion, as far as I can recall, that the first prize awarded by the jury and the audience prize did not coincide). Winning a prize does not automatically guarantee entrance to the COC Ensemble Studio but most prizewinners are offered a place there and I look forward to hearing them in opera or in concert.

2204 Art of Song 2Anyone who has ever sung in a Canadian church choir will be familiar with Healey Willan’s anthems, but the November 18 concert presented by the Canadian Art Song Project presented us with a much less familiar part of his compositions. Willan composed over 100 art songs, most of them now out of print. They were beautifully sung by Martha Guth, soprano, Allyson McHardy, mezzo, and Peter Barrett, baritone. A particular pleasure was to hear Guth sing O Littlest Hands, a song composed in 1920 for Willan’s baby daughter Mary. Mary, now Mary Mason and in her mid-90s, was in the audience and the concert provided the first occasion for her to hear the song. The Canadian Art Song Project intends to make a new volume of Willan’s art songs available. Will there eventually also be a CD? I certainly hope so. I recommend the Project’s next concert: on May 17 you will be able to hear Dawn Always Begins in the Bones, a newly commissioned work by Ana Sokolović.

Canadian Opera Company Free Vocal Concerts:

Dec 1: Chelsea Rus, soprano, the winner of the Schulich School of Music’s Wirth Vocal Prize, performs.

Jan 5: Marion Newman, mezzo, sings in Echo/Sap’a by Dustin Peters among other works.

Jan 24: Goran Jurić, bass, sings works by Tchaikovsky and Sviridov.

Jan 26: Jacqueline Woodley, soprano, sings Baroque music with members of the COC Orchestra Academy.

Jan 31: Philip Addis, baritone, and Emily Hamper, piano, perform works by Ross, Ravel and others.

Feb 2: The soprano Elizabeth Polese sings Debussy and Stravinsky.

U of T Faculty of Music Free Concerts:

Jan 19: Colin Ainsworth, tenor, and William Aide, piano, perform works by Duparc, Schumann and Liszt.

Jan 25: Singers from the faculty of music will perform as part of the Singer and the Songs Series.

 

QUICK PICKS

Dec 1: Music Toronto presents a recital by Suzie LeBlanc, soprano, and Robert Kortgaard, piano, with recently commissioned settings of poems by Elizabeth Bishop. The program, at the St. Lawrence Centre, will also include works by Schumann and Villa Lobos.

Dec 2: Toronto Early Music Centre presents Emily Klassen, soprano, and Meagan Zantingh, mezzo, in “Stella di Natale: A Journey from Advent to Christmas,” in a concert featuring a cantata by Scarlatti and other works, at St. David’s Anglican Church.

Dec 3: Kelsey Taylor, soprano, and Eugenia Dermentzis, mezzo, will be the soloists in an Oakham House Choir Society concert. The main works to be performed are Vivaldi’s Gloria and Mendelssohn’s Christmas cantata From Heaven on High, at Calvin Presbyterian Church.

Dec 10: Soulpepper presents “What the World Needs Now (Songs of Love and Hate),” a musical journey through the Mad Men era. The singers are Wendy Lands and Jim Gillard, at theYoung Centre for the Performing Arts.

Dec 11: OriginL Concert Series presents Brenda Enns and Susan Suchard, sopranos, and Hubert Razack, countertenor, in “Celebrate Life!” at Lawrence Park Community Church.

Dec 11: The Aga Khan Museum presents Maryem Tollar in “Arabica Coffee House Concert” featuring traditional songs from Syria’s Arabic classical and popular repertoire.

Dec 12: Andrea Ludwig, alto, and Bud Roach, tenor, will sing in “O Tannenbaum: The Tree of Life,” presented by the Toronto Masque Theatre at The Atrium at 21 Shaftsbury Avenue.

Dec 13 to Dec. 23: Coal Mine Theatre presents Louise Pitre singing in A Coal Mine Christmas which includes Dylan Thomas’ story A Child’s Christmas in Wales read by Kenneth Welsh.

Dec 31: Attila Glatz Concert Productions and Roy Thomson Hall present “Bravissimo! Opera’s Greatest Hits.” The soloists are Donata D’Annunzio Lombardi, soprano, Diletta Rizzo Marin, mezzo, Leonardo Caimi, tenor, and Lucio Gallo, baritone (Roy Thomson Hall).

Dec 31: Free Times Cafe presents Sue and Dwight, Michelle Rumball and Tony Laviola in a concert celebrating the folk songs of Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, Peter, Paul and Mary, and Woody Guthrie.

Jan 19 to 22: The baritone Peter Harvey will perform with Tafelmusik, at Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre, in a concert of German Baroque music that will include the lament Wie bist du denn, o Gott? by Johann Christoph Bach and the cantata Ich habe genug by J. S. Bach. Jan 21: Harvey will give a free masterclass beginning at 1pm in the same location.

Jan 20: John Greer will give a free vocal masterclass at York University’s Tribute Communities Recital Hall.

Jan 20: Lorna McDonald, soprano, will sing songs from New France at the Alliance Française, as well as selections from the opera The Bells of Baddeck (libretto by Macdonald, music by Dean Burry). Jan 29: Alliance Française presents Judith Cohen leading a concert of medieval songs of courtly love, with Michael Franklin, Andrea Gerhardt and others.

Feb 1 and 2: Karina Gauvin, soprano, and Russell Braun, baritone, are the soloists with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra in Fauré’s Requiem by and Detlev Glnert’s orchestration of Brahms’ Four Serious Songs by Brahms.

Hans de Groot is a concertgoer and active listener who also sings and plays the recorder. He can be contacted at artofsong@the wholenote.com.

Back to top