2204 Choral Scene 1Festive! Festive! Festive!

Holiday music is inseparable from the joy of the season. Every choir has a performance in the next few weeks and while you check out your favourites and traditional hits, try something new and different. There are a host of options in my column this month. Financially, these concerts can help solidify revenue for arts organizations. Just like Indigo sells more in the holiday season than the rest of the year combined, choirs rely on the revenue from holiday concerts to be in the black. The National Ballet of Canada does this with an entire month of productions of The Nutcracker. Arts organizations are desperately in need of solid sales so that new and innovative programming continues to fill the rest of our months. So here we go. Onward into a season of staples!

Oh Lord, Messiah:

Ask a chorister about Handel’s Messiah and you will get a lot of opinions, mostly favourable. Some scathing. Some complicated. This time of year, almost every choir will perform Messiah in its entirety or at least the iconic Hallelujah movement.

Along the way, something is often forgotten – Messiah is not easy. It’s long and technical. It is nuanced and requires diligence and a strong artistic interpretation. It requires musical instinct for appropriate accents and separation, stresses and vowel placement on fugal runs. Sure, an average singer can jump in and go for it and muddy their way through the music but the result is just that – mud. I’ve heard so many versions of choirs belting out Hallelujah at the top of their lungs without regard for blend or nuance. I admit that this is a thrill and a delight to sing, but let’s not get carried away.

Any chorister who tells you they can do the runs of For unto Us a Child Is Born flawlessly every single time is probably not a very good listener. His Yoke Is Easy is another challenging number. Try saying the vowel “ee”. Now try saying it 12 times in four seconds. Then add various rhythms and try to get 20 people in a section to sing it all the same way. Another continuous sore spot is the tuning in the exposed Graves of Since by Man Came Death. Exposed chorales like this are tuning death for unprepared and undisciplined choirs. It is challenging! But also, incredibly fun.

Handel’s writing is also quite forgiving of mistakes. Since by Man Came Death, if heading towards tuning death, is suddenly whipped back into shape with a very loud Allegro from the orchestra. There are very few parts in which the various voicings of the choir are not supported by instrumentation.

I have sung over 20 performances of Messiah over the last few years, a rare chance to get to know a piece of music so intensely that I’ve developed my own personal approach to performing it. For me, the songs mark out a roadmap for the evening. After the doors close, latecomers are permitted to enter again usually after And the Glory of the Lord, which is about eight minutes into the whole performance. So I don’t usually relax until the bass soloist begins For Behold, Darkness Shall Cover the Earth. It isn’t the first time we hear the bass, but when he begins so quietly and begins a build over the 16ths, the effect is exquisite. The second half is my favourite. Getting to the Hallelujah isn’t even the highlight for me. My favourite aria The Trumpets Shall Sound usually hails the end of the final chorus. (Sometimes, Worthy Is the Lamb follows; however, it depends on the edits of the conductor.)

For me, there is no greater movement than Worthy Is the Lamb followed by the epic Amen. The grand D-major chord is a powerful opener to the end of the masterwork. On the very last page, the sopranos hit a high A followed by the tenors a few bars later. This is always the flashing exit gate to the song. For choirs, this is a moment of collective inhalation and exhalation that brings the grand work to an authoritative close. Pure joy when done right!

Oh Lord, Recorded Messiahs:

Toronto has played home to two iconic recordings of Messiah and may well add a third to the mix. Tafelmusik under Ivars Taurins released a recording of the work on period instruments in 2012. For many, this is a gold standard for Messiah interpretations. In 1987 (the year I was born), Sir Andrew Davis recorded a modern interpretation of the work including the forces of the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. This recording has long been a staple of Messiah listeners across the world. Little did I know that I would then be part of the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir for a new recording to be released for the 2016 holidays. (See David Olds’ review in this month’s Editor’s Corner.) This new version (in which Worthy Is the lamb, by the way, is the final chorus) is the grandest interpretation of the work ever. These are all very different interpretations of the work and show the diversity of sound with the same music. (Tafelmusik doesn’t have a lost sheep braying though).

Oh Lord, Big Messiahs:

This year is unusual for the two biggest Messiahs. Normally Tafelmusik and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra productions overlap. This year, they barely do, with Tafelmusik all but done before the TSO starts. Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and the Tafelmusik Chamber Choir perform a period interpretation on period instruments under the baton of perennial favourite Ivars Taurins at Koerner Hall December 14 to 17. The ever-popular “Sing-Along Messiah” celebrates its 30th anniversary December 18 at Massey Hall.

The biggest game in town is always the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir at Roy Thomson Hall, December 18 to 21 and 23. Notably, the conductor changes every year. This year it’s Nicholas McGegan, conductor of the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and Chorale who leads.

Oh Lord, More Messiahs:

Elmer Iseler Singers and the Amadeus Choir: December 2, 8pm at Metropolitan United Church.

Soundstreams presents “Electric Messiah,” a stripped-down four-voice, guitar and electronics concept. Vocal improv goddess Christine Duncan is one of the featured soloists: December 5 to 7, 8pm at the Drake Underground.

London Pro Musica and the #WePlayOn (former musicians of Orchestra London) re-create the Dublin Messiah: December 7, 7:30pm at First St. Andrew’s United Church, London.

Chorus Niagara is joined by the Talisker Players: December 10, 7:30pm at FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre, St. Catharines.

Oh yeah, there’s other music this season!

The Upper Canada Choristers and Cantemos present a different take on holiday music with “Noche de Paz: an Old World and New World Christmas.” The feature is Argentianian composer Ariel Ramirez’s Navidad Nuetra representing a distinctly Latin American sound and rhythm. Cantemos, an 11-voice Latin ensemble made up of members of the Choristers, will perform a few smaller carols from Colombia and Peru: December 2, 8pm at Grace Church on-the-Hill.

The Tallis Choir of Toronto presents “Monteverdi: Vespers of Christmas Eve.” Artistic director Peter Mahon promises a period interpretation and performance that will evoke a Renaissance Christmas Eve in St. Mark’s, Venice: December 3, 7:30pm at St. Patrick’s Church, Toronto.

Singing OUT! presents “Not Another Fa La La.” There’s always choreography! Saturday December 3, 7:30pm at Jane Mallett Theatre, St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts.

The Oakville Children’s Choir presents three different sets of concerts. The first is “Stories, Songs, and Snow” featuring Lineage by Andrea Ramsey and Ngoma by Moira Stanley. Both composers workshopped with the choir on their visit to the Pacific International Choral Festival earlier this year: December 3, 7pm at St. John’s United Church, Oakville. The second, “Community Carol Concerts,” also at St. John’s United Church, takes place December 10 at 1:30pm and 4pm. The choir then joins the Oakville Symphony Orchestra to perform carols and the fun Suite from John Williams Christmas in the 14th annual “Family Christmas Concert”: December 11, 1:30pm and 4pm at the Oakville Centre for the Performing Arts.

The Toronto Mendelssohn Choir presents “Festival of Carols” with the Salvation Army Canadian Staff Band. (I’ll be in the tenors!): December 7, 7:30pm at Yorkminster Park Baptist Church.

Exultate Chamber Singers present “A Time for Celebration: A Canadian Christmas.” University of Toronto professor Hilary Apfelstadt’s Exultate Chamber Singers are always a delight. Featuring Ring Wild Bells by Stephanie Martin, O Magnum Mysterium by Timothy Corlis and a premiere of a new arrangement of Silent Night by Exultate singer/composer J. Scott Brubacher: December 9, 8pm at St. Thomas’s Anglican Church.

Univox presents “Serenity, Hope, Light” celebrating all the various holidays of the season. The feature is Bach’s Lobet den Herrn alle Heiden (Praise the Lord, all ye nations): December 9, 8pm at Christ Church Deer Park.

Pax Christi Chorale presents Ode on the Nativity by C.H.H. Parry with the Aslan Boys Choir and other guests: December 10, 7:30pm and December 11, 3pm at Grace Church on-the-Hill, as well as their eighth annual Children’s Messiah, at 4pm December 17 at Church of St. Mary Magdalene.

Echo Women’s Choir celebrates its 25th anniversary with “Ain’t Life Sweet.” Special guest Annabelle Chvostek joins the choir with a special arrangement of her song Black Hole. The choir will feature songs and arrangements by Vermont artist Brendan Taafe and Penny Lang among others: December 11, 7:30pm at Church of the Holy Trinity.

The super accessible and diverse City Choir presents “This Shining Night, a Bright-Hearted Concert.”: December 13, 7:30pm at St. Peter’s Church.

Incontra Vocal Ensemble (which I also sing in) performs “O Nata Lux:” December 14, 7:30pm at Regis College, University of Toronto.

That Choir: “Carols.” Most fun a choir can have, legally. ’Nuff said: December 18, 8pm at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Toronto.

The huge conglomeration of the Toronto Children’s Chorus ensembles (nine of them!) come together for their annual Roy Thomson Hall concert – “A Child’s Christmas.” Special guest, Stratford Festival veteran Geraint Wyn Davies will narrate the evening. A variety of instrumentalists including TSO musicians will join in the fun: December 17, 2pm at Roy Thomson Hall, Toronto.

The JUNO award-winning Toronto Mass Choir presents “A Gospel Christmas,” featuring special guests and a truly uplifting concert experience: December 17, 7pm at Bayview Chapel, Tyndale University College.

Oh Lord, a New Year!

Our double listing for December 2016 and January 2017 would be remiss without some highlights early in 2017.

Every year the Toronto Mendelsohn Choir hosts five or six emerging conductors in a weeklong intensive. This culminates with a free concert featuring the choir and the Elora Festival Singers: January 28, 3pm at Yorkminster Park Baptist Church.

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra is joined by the Amadeus Choir and the Elmer Iseler Singers in a performance of Fauré’s Requiem: February 1 and 2, 8pm at Roy Thomson Hall.

Soundstreams presents the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir featuring Rachmaninoff’s Vespers and more. February 2, 8pm at St. Paul’s Basilica.

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

2204 Early Music 1It’s a bit of a shame that, with all the marketing behind Christmas, no one ever remembers – let alone observes – Advent anymore. The pre-Christmas season has a rich repertoire of music behind it that often gets ignored in favour of Messiahs, Nutcrackers and Christmas carols, but a few Toronto-based artists are mining this hard-to-market season for interesting music that will keep audiences entertained throughout the month of December.

Musicians in Ordinary have been mentioned in this column before as a group that’s known for doing interesting programs of a seasonal nature throughout the year, and I’m pleased to say they’ll be doing just that this month. On December 9 at 7:30pm, the group will bring a concert of Monteverdi, Gibbons and Byrd to St. Basil’s Church. They’ll also be joined by the Pneuma Ensemble, a new group specializing in medieval music, for some Advent tunes from 13th-century Portugal. Besides being seasonally appropriate (especially if, like many people out there, you’re already sick of hearing Christmas music by the time December rolls around), it’s a concert that won’t be done by any other groups in town any time soon. There’s scarcely any chance to hear any pre-Renaissance music in Toronto, and medieval music is hardly heard anywhere, so I’ll be very interested to hear what the Pneuma Ensemble can bring to the music scene. If you’re looking for a chamber concert in early December, the Musicians in Ordinary and Pneuma sounds like an excellent choice.

The Oratory: If you’re not particularly into medieval or chamber music, there’s another Advent-themed concert worth checking out before Christmas. The Oratory at Holy Family has a regular series of concerts of vocal and chamber music, but this December, the venue has decided to feature a soloist who is one of the music scene’s best-kept secrets. Toronto-based organist Phillip Fournier brings a distinctly Lutheran flavour to Holy Family Church on December 7 at 8pm with a solo concert that includes Buxtehude, Bach and Scheidt. Fournier is a great organist and improviser who plays Bach particularly well, and hearing him play solo is positively delightful.

For some actual Christmas music over the Christmas season, consider a few groups that are willing to explore somewhat less-played music for the holidays:

The Toronto Consort will be putting on an interesting program devoted entirely to Christmas music from the Middle Ages that will feature the work of two notable women from the period. The posthumous legacy of the German abbess, writer, composer and mystic Hildegard of Bingen has already been revived with a slew of CD recordings from the mid-90s onward. Judging from the fact that most of the albums had titles like Canticles of Ecstasy, Heavenly Revelations, and Vision, the artists and record labels were trading on the mystic aspect of Hildegard’s life as much as the music she wrote. One wonders what the undoubtedly erudite and pious 12th-century nun would make of the new age marketing of her records, but no matter. The music remains extraordinary. Less well-known than Hildegard is a later mystic and nun, Anna of Cologne, who, as a 16th-century compiler of hymns and songs from a non-cloistered community, collected songs in both Latin and Middle German by other composers, who, with some very rare exceptions, remain completely unknown to us. The result is a uniquely spiritual take on the Christmas holidays, and where other musical groups emphasize the festive side of the holidays, Hildegard’s and Anna’s music shows us a more somber side of the darkest days of the year. Check out the Consort at Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre, December 9 through 11.

Cantemus: Still, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to celebrate, and if you’d rather listen to a choral ensemble for a dose of holiday cheer, consider going to a concert by the Cantemus Singers in December. Their concert, “In Dulci Jubilo,” will be a lively and joyful celebration of the music of Praetorius, Hassler, Schütz and Bach. Cantemus is an a cappella group devoted to Renaissance madrigals and chansons, and they will do a fine job with repertoire that’s upbeat and festive. Catch them in two performances, at the Church of the Holy Trinity on December 3 at 7:30pm, and at St. Aidan’s Anglican Church on December 4 at 3pm.

Haydn Operatic Gem in Concert: Among the Classical composers, it’s generally agreed that Mozart is the father of modern opera and Haydn the founder of the instrumental music we enjoy today. But besides composing on an exhausting schedule that included symphonies, chamber music and solo performances specifically tailored to the tastes of one Prince Nikolaus Esterházy, one of the most powerful aristocrats in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Haydn was also responsible for managing an opera troupe for the amusement of his employer. In addition to two concerts a week of instrumental music, Haydn was contractually obliged to put on a different opera every week at the Esterházy palace. And although there was no way Haydn could have composed 52 operas a year, he did manage to write about 15 (that we know of) while employed by the prince, although unfortunately, none of them are performed more than occasionally. But on February 5 at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts at 2:30pm, Opera in Concert and the Aradia Ensemble will be presenting one of these forgotten gems by the founding father of the Classical canon.

L’Isola disabitata was an opera written by Haydn in 1779 based on a libretto by Metastasio and is an excellent example of the mature style of a prolific composer whose works were just starting to circulate around Europe. Although we don’t associate Haydn with opera today, he was more than capable of writing great vocal music, and Aradia and Opera in Concert will give this work the level of excitement and interpretive insight it needs. Get to this concert if you possibly can.

Beauséjour in Belleville: Outside the city, Belleville audiences can look forward to hearing a gifted solo musician in the new year. The talented Quebecois harpsichordist Luc Beauséjour has an encyclopedic catalogue of albums behind him and will be coming to play in St. Thomas’s Church in Belleville for a pay-what-you-can concert. No word yet on the program, but Beauséjour is a veteran of solo Baroque keyboard music and a technically flawless musician. If you’re in the Belleville area, you should definitely try to make it to his show on January 15 at 4:30pm.

Taylor’s TEM: Closer to the city, countertenor Daniel Taylor has made a name for himself as a soloist and opera singer, but lately his choir and chamber music performances have been gaining both notice and acclaim. Led by Taylor, the Choir of the Theatre of Early Music is made up mainly of younger Montreal-based singers. January 21 at 8pm, St. Jude’s Celebration of the Arts presents the group in a concert of contemporary and Renaissance a cappella vocal works by some great English choral composers, including Thomas Tallis, William Byrd and John Tavener. Taylor is a gifted singer with a glorious voice who has a fine ear for young talent, and the TEM choir is an exceptional group of voices.

David Podgorski is a Toronto-based harpsichordist, music teacher and a founding member of Rezonance. He can be contacted at earlymusic@thewholenote.com.

With Canada’s sesquicentennial year only one month away, municipalities and organizations all over the country are searching their archives for records of significant events over the past 150 years which could stimulate community interest in this year of reflection and celebration. Unfortunately, in the band world, there are few bands whose history goes back even half that 150-year time span. One band which does have some good material in their archives is the Newmarket Citizens’ Band. In a recent exploration of the band’s archives, they found a photograph of the band taken in the year 1883. With the sesquicentennial year approaching, what better time to show off this picture, to show the citizens of the community that their band has been there to provide music for town events for all but five years of Confederation.

2204 Bandstand 1At an evening meeting of council, several members of the band, wearing their red blazers, arrived for the presentation. In the announcement of their deputation to council, the band pointed out that “Since 1872, the Newmarket Citizens’ Band has been an integral part of the cultural and social landscape of the town of Newmarket.” To commemorate the opening of the newly restored Old Town Hall they presented a large framed photograph of the town band taken in August 1883 just a few weeks after the original opening of the Old Town Hall on July 1, 1883.

The photo of the band was taken during the Firemen’s Excursion to Niagara Falls on the Civic Holiday, August 8, 1883. An article about the event, including this photo, was published in the Newmarket Era of the day. Approximately 250 residents travelled by train and then steamship to Niagara Falls and the band went along to provide entertainment. It is a prime example of the band’s long involvement in the social and cultural life of the town. The write-up of the trip mentioned that the band, reinforced by two gentlemen from Sharon and Bolton, “enlivened the trip by music on the fore deck; good music is never so pleasing as on the water.”

A formal public unveiling of the photo was scheduled to take place at the band’s “Simple Gifts” Concert at the Old Town Hall on Botsford Street, Friday, December 2, 2016. (On a personal note, some 35 years ago, I played there for a few years in monthly concerts of The Newmarket Jazz Appreciation Society, and our small Dixieland group was known as “The Botsford Street Ramblers.”)

Since it is rare to find this much information about a band’s activities almost 150 years ago, it is worth including here some of the historical information about the band recently presented to the Newmarket mayor and council. “The band formed in 1872 with roots going back to as early as 1843. Walter W. Roe, son of the town’s postmaster and fur trader, William Roe, circulated a petition among the local business community to raise funds. The 12 band members contributed $5 each and along with 69 other contributors raised the sum $319 to purchase instruments.”

To quote the petition: “Whereas we, the undersigned, think it a disgrace to the inhabitants of Newmarket that they should have, on all festive occasions, to send to the small villages of Aurora and Sharon for a band, we have determined, with the consent and assistance of our fellow-townsmen, to form one of our own.”

The timing of the recent presentation could not have been better from a number of perspectives. For one, the band delegation met with the mayor and council within a few days of the reopening of the beautifully restored Old Town Hall, which is now destined to be a prime performance venue. For another, it has only been a few weeks since the band was informed that they would now have an excellent permanent rehearsal home complete with storage in a large town recreation centre. Wandering from place to place for rehearsals has been the norm since their former rehearsal space was destroyed by arsonists many years ago. Last but not least, it just also happened a few days after the band paraded, as it has for years, in the town’s annual Santa Claus parade.

"... Under the big elm in 1883." (Artist: Lynda Baird) Photo Credit: Jack MacQuarrieJust outside of the council chambers, in the lobby of the town hall, there is a large imposing mural depicting “The Newmarket Citizens’ Band gathered under the big elm in 1883.”

New Horizons. By now it should not be a surprise, but I just received a note about yet another New Horizons group that we had not previously heard from. Lynda Shewchuk, music director of Lakeshore New Horizons Bands in Bowmanville, tells us that the band is now in its sixth year. She says that the thriving group is “not very large” with only 60 members! They have a senior band, intermediate band and a beginners class. They also have a small jazz band. She states that “our members are very active and enthusiastic, with many playing in two or even three bands. Quite a few of our members play two different instruments, one in each concert band.”

Recent Events: In early November the Milton Concert Band lost one of its long time members, Rev. Christopher Snow. On November 6 “A Memorial Concert for Chris Snow” was presented to proclaim “A life celebrated through music.”

On November 20 the Wychwood Clarinet Choir concert continued to amaze with their unique arrangements of works for orchestra and concert band. This time it was the Holst Second Suite in F for concert band. In the early 1920s the leaders of Britain’s Royal Military School of Music at Kneller Hall lamented the lack of larger serious works for concert band. Until then, if bands wanted to play longer multi-movement works they had to rely on transcriptions of orchestral works. They commissioned Gustav Holst to write two suites for concert band. Since then these suites have been part of the concert band repertoire. This transcription maintained all of the highlights and nuances contained in the original. Local composer Fen Watkin also contributed a fine version of Villanesca, Spanish Dance No.4 by Granados. In a conversation after the concert, Watkin mentioned that, for sesquicentennial year 2017, he might like to write some arrangements of Canadian works. I did not mention it then, but I would like to suggest Calixa Lavallée’s La rose nuptiale.

Initiatives. Every once in a while, we hear of initiatives taken by bands to either help with their finances or otherwise enhance their relationship with their communities. In November, the Aurora Band held its annual holiday market where shoppers could find one-of-a-kind gifts from 38 unique local vendors. For their Canada 150 festivities, the band has commissioned a composition from professor Bill Thomas of York University. The band will give the premiere performance of this number at its concert on Canada Day, 2017.

On the fundraising front, the Strings Attached Orchestra has become a registered charity to provide some financial incentive for donors so that they may continue to bring music into the community.

Coming Events

Dec 5: Resa’s Pieces will present “A Tribute to the Beatles and Beach Boys,” 7:30pm at York Mills Collegiate.

Dec 6: Silverthorn Symphonic Winds present the next concert in their series, 59 Minute Soiree. These mini-concerts feature a variety of lighter music, perfect for unwinding after a day at work. At 7:30, Wilmar Heights Event Centre – Concert Hall.

Dec 9: The Aurora Community Band will present holiday entertainment like no other – its “Heroes and Monsters: A Holiday Concert” –  at 7:30, Trinity Anglican Church, 79 Victoria St., Aurora.

Dec 10: For their annual holiday concert, “The Bells of Christmas,” the Milton Concert Band will not only include the traditional musical favourites but will feature, as guests, Eden Bells A-Peel, a long-established handbell choir from Eden United Church in Mississauga. In Victorian times, it was very fashionable to go carol singing with small handbells to play the tune of the carol. Sometimes there would be no singing, just the music of the handbells. Handbell ringing is still popular today and if you have never heard a handbell choir, then this is a concert well worth a visit: 8pm Milton Centre for the Arts, 1010 Main St. East, Milton.

Dec 11: The Clarington Concert Band presents their “Most Wonderful Time Of The Year” featuring singers Father Paul, Kelly Robertson and Lisa Heitzner, 2pm at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, 127 Liberty St. South, Bowmanville.

Dec 11: The Strings Attached Orchestra presents their third annual “Friends and Family Holiday Concert,” 2pm at Congregation Ban’s Torah, 465 Patrician Ave., Toronto.

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

2204 Mainly MostlyI am not built for the cold. Not only am I unable to handle sub-zero temperatures – I’m also incapable of acclimating to all temperature shifts. Every winter I have this problem, and every winter I don’t know how to solve it: I walk around outside wearing layer upon layer of clothing. I’m talking multiples of everything: I’ve got sweatpants on under my jeans, regular socks on under my thermal socks, and under my sweater is at least one other sweater. And I’m still cold, so I go inside. All of a sudden, I’m frantically stripping off at least three layers of clothing, but by now I’m boiling hot and sweating bullets. It’s my least favourite thing about winter.

My favourite thing about winter, on the other hand, is the irreverent stuff non-Christians do to poke fun at themselves for being the outsiders during the holiday season. One such example is Sam Broverman’s annual engagement, “A Jewish Boy’s Christmas,” happening at Jazz Bistro, in which he pokes gentle fun at the culture and the experience of being Jewish in a Christian-dominated North America. I’ve always known Broverman for his ability to write amusing alternate lyrics to tunes, which seem to work perfectly with the pacing of the tune. The comedic effect is always impeccable. In “A Jewish Boy’s Christmas,” Broverman sings such charming lines as, to the tune of Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, “Both my thumbs are numb from spinning dreidels / Kiss my gelt goodbye / I’ll be eating frozen latkes till July.” Broverman’s voice is unassuming and conversational. But the palpable relaxation in his sound speaks to his immense skill; singing is hard, and making it look easy is harder still.

You can hear Broverman and his guests (among them, members of the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, with whom he has served as a chorister, and Whitney Ross-Barris, about whom I have written) at Jazz Bistro on the evening of December 11.

Monk Is Here To Stay

With a vast repertoire from which to draw, a revolving-door-style lineup and a fervent desire to explore, there’s very little risk of Toronto mainstay Monk’s Music going stale. As the name suggests, Monk’s Music is a project dedicated to exploring the music of Thelonious Monk. One of the project’s two co-founders, Dan Gauche, moved to the West Coast. The remaining co-founder, Michael Davidson, is a vibraphonist of remarkable dexterity and wit, whose fascination with Monk’s body of work has led to this weekly ongoing tribute to the jazz piano colossus. Davidson uses elements and trademark gestures of the Monkian style – playing with four mallets, in the tradition of Gary Burton, must help, I imagine, with the idiomatically pianistic phrases and textures he plays with – and he also channels the playful, curious spirit, the sense of humour and whimsy, for which Monk was known.

Monk’s Music, a project that has been happening for about seven years now, plays every Sunday evening, alternating between the Tranzac at 5pm on the first and third Sunday of each month, and the Emmet Ray at 6pm on the second and fourth Sunday of each month. There are no cover charges, and no excuses!

It’s getting really cold out there, friends. Bundle up, but don’t bundle up too much.

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

LailaBiali-Photo1-1-1024x681.jpgPianist, singer, composer and arranger Laila Biali was born in Vancouver and has been celebrated worldwide, from the North Sea Jazz Festival to Tokyo’s Cotton Club and Carnegie Hall. She’s toured with Grammy award-winners Chris Botti, Paula Cole and Suzanne Vega, and has toured and recorded with Sting. 

These days, seeing and hearing her is a profound experience, especially when she works in trio setting with such musicians as bassist George Koller, drummer Larnell Lewis, or her husband, drummer Ben Wittman. This is masterful, world-class music—accessible, soulful, intelligent and deeply moving.

Currently on the Laila Biali website there are dates posted in Australia, Switzerland, Poland, Germany—and Canada. After living in Brooklyn for a few years, Biali has recently moved back to Toronto, and is making her Koerner Hall debut on December 1. In addition to the musicians named above, she will be joined by trumpet ace William Sperandei, sharing the bill with Italian vocalist Pilar.

I wrote to Biali to ask her about her process, and about the music that inspires her to keep doing what she does.

Who are your three greatest musical inspirations and why?

Greatest three musical inspirations (though there are many and it’s hard to pick my top three!):

- Keith Jarrett. As a classically-trained pianist who moved into jazz later in life, I was inspired by Keith's ability to bridge the two worlds in a way that was familiar and compelling. When in college, I was so struck by the profundity and depth of his solo piano recordings, they would bring me to tears. His music touches a very deep place that transcends words.


- Björk. I'm not sure I've encountered a single artist as unblocked and free in their creative expression as Björk appears to be. She moves boldly and fluently through genres, various artistic media, science and technology, all the while creating art that is, in my opinion, a sumptuous feast for the senses.

- Joni Mitchell. No one tells a story like Joni does. Poetry and power, wisdom and whimsy, beauty and brashness all co-exist happily on her albums. She's a veritable force, a bright star within our great lineage of Canadian singer-songwriters.

You seem to be pushing yourself consistently to play, sing, write and arrange better and better...where does your musical motivation come from?
As a human being and as a musician, my primary desire and goal is to connect with others. Playing, singing, writing and arranging thus become instruments of communication and a means of connection within the world. I'm also driven by a thirst for the divine, and music provides a way of reaching beyond ourselves, to something greater.

When it comes to cover tunes, how do you select these?
I used to pick cover songs myself. [That] began when the CBC commissioned me to put together the project From Sea to Sky, which featured material from the Great Canadian Songbook (Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, etc.). But now, I crowdsource covers through an initiative we call the “request-o-matic”. In short, I invite listeners to submit songs they'd like me to arrange personally and unveil at upcoming shows. A couple such songs have become fixtures of our live performances and are actually featured on the new album. You'll hear two or three of these at Koerner Hall on December 1!

For tickets to Biali’s December 1 show at Koerner Hall, head to http://performance.rcmusic.ca/tickets/seats/12403.

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

2203 Classical 1When Sir Simon Rattle – who brings the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra (BPO) to Roy Thomson Hall for two concerts in November – was two years old, he showed his rhythmic talent by beating in time while his father played Gershwin songs on the piano. Born in Liverpool in 1955, he quoted his more famous fellow Liverpudlians when he announced in 2013 that he would cease his post as chief conductor and artistic director of the BPO in 2018. “It is impossible not to think of the Beatles’ question, ‘Will you still need me…when I’m 64?’ and I am sure that then it will be time for somebody else to take on the magnificent challenge that is the Berliner Philharmoniker.” Two years later, he was appointed music director of the London Symphony Orchestra.

Read more: Sir Simon Rattle Master Carver

2203 Jazz Stories 1On November 8, my vote goes to Dave Young, for two reasons. First, that Tuesday evening will be the night that the legendary Canadian bassist/composer celebrates the release of his new recording This Way Up. Second, the release takes place at Jazz Bistro, which has another reason to celebrate: namely the fact that Sybil Walker, who for 15 years ran the Top o’ the Senator jazz club (1990-2005) and has been the general manager of Jazz Bistro since its doors opened in 2013, has been announced as this year’s recipient of the Ken Page Memorial Trust Lifetime Achievement Award

Anne Page, founder of the KPMT elaborates: “Sybil’s versatile career in the restaurant and hospitality business has spanned several decades during which she has become a devoted and respected member of Toronto’s jazz community. Sharing her creative expertise and extensive knowledge of the music, she has donned the roles of program director, general manager and presenter of both Canadian and international artists at the city’s top jazz clubs, festivals and restaurants. As one of our unsung heroes, Sybil is a most worthy recipient of this award.”

Among the hundreds of artists Walker presented in the heyday of the Top o’ the Senator were Bill Evans, Joe Pass, Dexter Gordon, Shirley Horn, Blossom Dearie, Betty Carter, Jimmy Smith, Lou Donaldson, Ray Brown, Terence Blanchard, Christian McBride, Russell Malone and a budding Diana Krall, whose career she greatly aided. Yet to those in the Toronto jazz community, Walker is known not just as the booker of international talent, but as a loyal supporter of the jazz scene. For decades she has been an advocate for live music, ensuring that musicians get paid fairly and that audiences listen. To illustrate just how much she means to Toronto musicians, I asked two of her favourites for some words.

“Huge congratulations to Sybil Walker on this award,” said multi-instrumentalist Don Thompson. “She has been a major force in Toronto’s jazz scene for many years. A lot of great music happened because of her hard work and dedication, and the rest of us owe her a huge thank you.” Bassist Neil Swainson had the following to add: “So many musicians rely – whether they know or acknowledge it or not – on a very few equally dedicated individuals, for an outlet for their talents. Without these few, there would be no flourishing jazz scene in this city. Sybil Walker has for the last 20 years, given as much to this music as we have.”

Sybil Walker’s award will be presented at The Old Mill Dining Room at the Ken Page Memorial Trust Fundraising Gala on November 17. The gala will feature an all-star team of musicians – jazzmen, if you will, since no women were selected – billed as the finest masters on the international jazz party circuit. They are Terry Clarke, drums; Alastair Kay, trombone; Jon-Erik Kellso, cornet; John MacLeod, trumpet; John MacMurchy, clarinet and saxophones; Mike Murley, tenor saxophone; Ken Peplowski, clarinet; Russ Phillips, trombone; Reg Schwager, guitar; Neil Swainson, bass; Rossano Sportiello, piano; Don Thompson, vibes/piano; and Warren Vaché, cornet.

2203 Jazz Stories 2Now back to Dave Young (who I had the privilege of interviewing, on the fly, a couple of weeks back at The Rex). To see him live is to witness a soulful player, as well as an incredibly efficient technician. Those fingers. Gigantic yet graceful, with a swinging way of walking quartet notes that will knock you out.

As bandleader, Young’s arrangements are clear and accessible, and as a trustworthy captain he navigates the ship effortlessly. Also on board that night were some of this country’s very best: Kevin Turcotte on trumpet, Perry White on saxes, Terry Clarke on drums and Gary Williamson on piano. As Young says, “You’re only as good as the musicians you play with.”

Young was born in Winnipeg in 1940 and showed musical promise early on. Before long a young, ambitious Young started out playing the violin, switching to the guitar for five years in his teens. “There were a lot of very good guitar players in Winnipeg, including, of course, Lenny Breau. Then, I didn’t exactly give up the guitar but I took up the bass. Actually I was playing guitar in a dance band when the leader said, if you want to keep this gig, I’m firing the bassist, so come back with a bass. The bandleader was an old buddy of mine named Vic Davies, in the late 50s, probably 1956 or 1957. So I went out and bought a bass and came in the next week with a bass! (laughs).”

Young famously toured with Oscar Peterson for a few good decades, and also enjoyed symphonic work as principal double bassist for the Edmonton and Winnipeg Symphony Orchestras and the Hamilton Philharmonic.

As a master of both classical and jazz music, he observes that they are entirely different artistic experiences:

“Playing either one of those disciplines is pretty demanding, so when you’re playing one you kind of have to divorce yourself from the other. Especially when you’re playing in the classical setting. The phrasing and the sound is quite different, and obviously there’s no amplification. You get there and you have to read!”

Young decided to leave the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra for the irresistible offer of touring with Oscar Peterson.

“I met Oscar in Banff in 1974, it was the very first Banff summer school program for jazz. This was organized by Phil Nimmons and he invited us both; that’s how we met. When I got the offer to work with him I said, ‘Who’s in the band?’ The lady said, ‘There’s you and Oscar. It’s a duo for six months.’ My first engagement was four weeks in Japan, 1975, and it was my first time there. I remember that it was relentless. We seldom had a day off. We were always on trains going here and there.”

Summarizing his new recording: “The music is in the hard bop, East Coast jazz tradition, with a few standards. As for the originals, I’m inspired by the writing of Cedar Walton, one of my favourite pianists, as well as by the great Joe Henderson. Also by a guy named Marcus Belgrave, who just left us recently. He was a trumpet player from Detroit. And Freddie Hubbard has always figured big in terms of composition. I play a lot of tunes by these guys and they inspire my own writing.”

At 76, Young remains one of the shining diamonds of the local scene. A decade ago he was inducted as an Officer into the Order of Canada, tonight he is playing The Rex Hotel on a Wednesday evening, probably for 100 bucks and change. There are fewer gigs than there used to be, and more competition. So, what has kept him motivated to continue creating all these years?

“You keep motivated by hoping that you’ll play better tomorrow or next week. That’s the whole carrot that’s dangling in front of you. I can play better, improvise better, get a better sound, that’s what keeps me going.”

Here’s to timeless music; to endless commitment and invaluable dedication; to jazz heroes and heroines alike.

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

It should come as no surprise, since we are well into the current concert season, that the month of November is overflowing with a wide-ranging assortment of new music activity. My focus for this month is to give the reader an overview of all that is on tap for those curious about the latest sounds emerging from live and practising composers and performers of new music. I’ll begin this overview with two of the newer presenters on the scene: Spectrum Music and the Thin Edge New Music Collective.

Spectrum Music’s concerts are distinctive in the way in which they incorporate fascinating and unusual research and scholarship encompassing a wild variety of topics. Often they include panel discussions featuring noted scholars and authors related to the topic at hand. Their November 12 concert, Tales from the Deep Blue, will focus on research that has been undertaken to better understand better the mysteries of the ocean. Apparently, scientists have finer maps of Mars than of the ocean that covers 70 percent of this planet. The music that has been created by the Spectrum composers and performed by the eclectic Shaw Street Collective encompasses such topics as some of the ocean’s most extraordinary species, unusual geographic features and lost historical artifacts. The concert will also feature a new work by koto-playing indie singer-songwriter Jessica Stuart.

Thin Edge New Music Collective’s concert Balancing on the Edge is an out-of-the-box adventure pairing new music with leading edge circus performers. This daring combination is a metaphor for the ways in which globally we are perched on the edge of survival and evolution. Musically, the program will feature compositions by Cage, Xenakis, David Lang, Nicole Lizée and world premieres by Scott Rubin and Nick Storring. The event will feature special guest DJ P-Love and ten circus performers, with three opportunities to see and hear the spectacle on November 18 and 19. Added to the mix will be lightning design, live projections and video.

Firsts of the season:

2203 New Music 1

Nicole Lizée’s music receives another performance this month as part of Continuum Music’s first concert of the season on November 13. RavAGE, is a celebration of music by composers who drive current technology to the edge, often resorting to inventing new software or hardware to assist them in their creative expression. Lizée’s piece, Colliding Galaxies: Colour and Tones, will be remounted from Continuum’s 2015 Collide project as part of this concert. Other works include a piece by composer Pierre Jodlowksi and artist Pascal Baltazar of France who combine video and instrumental music while Poland’s Jagoda Szmytka creates a retro-futuristic video game interface in performance with the Continuum ensemble. Other works by Christopher Mayo and James O’Callaghan fill out the program.

Arraymusic’s concert on December 3 marks the first Array Ensemble concert curated by new artistic director, Martin Arnold, and brings together the music of various composers that Arraymusic will be collaborating with over the next few years. And yes, once again, Lizée’s name appears on the program, which also includes solo, duet and ensemble works by Canadian composers Cassandra Miller, André Cormier and John Abram, along with UK composers Joanna Baillie and Laurence Crane.

2203 New Music 2The first Emergents concert of the season at the Music Gallery, will happen on November 17. Curator Chelsea Shanoff has paired Wapiti, a Montreal-based piano and violin duo, with the trio Völur. Wapiti will perform works by Bolivian, Argentinian, American and German composers, including a work by Morton Feldman, and a world premiere by German composer Nicolaus Huber written specifically for them. Völur combines the sounds of bass, voice, violin and drums to create hypnotic tapestries of melodies, noise and silence. It promises to be an otherworldly evening of song, sound and chant.

And, finally among these “firsts,” the Evergreen Club Contemporary Gamelan will perform their first concert of the season on December 3 and their first concert ever at the Aga Khan Museum. On the program are three works composed by contemporary Indonesian composers – Nano Suratno, Burhan Sukarma, and Ade Suparman as well as Ibu Trish by Lou Harrison and Rainforest by Canadian composer Paul Intson. Several of the works are arrangements by members of the Evergreen Club for the unique instrumentation of their gamelan.

New Music Concerts is bringing in the wind quintet Slowind from Slovenia for their concert on December 2. This ensemble was established 22 years ago and has become the most active new music ensemble in Slovenia. They are adamant performers of contemporary music, encouraging a younger generation of Slovenian composers through commissioning and performance. In their NMC program, they will performs works by composers from Denmark, Italy, Slovenia, Japan and Folia, a work by Toronto’s own Robert Aitken, written in 1981. The concert will also include NMC’s annual tribute to Elliott Carter.

Rarely heard: Two different events featuring outstanding vocal performers offer an opportunity to experience new music that is rarely heard. Music Toronto’s concert on December 1 will feature acclaimed Acadian soprano Suzie LeBlanc in an evening of music focused on the poetry of Pultizer Prize winner Elizabeth Bishop, who lived from 1911 to 1979. Many of the pieces on the program also appear on the CD I Am in Need of Music released in 2013, and includes compositions by Canadians Alasdair MacLean, John Plant and Emily Doolittle. World premieres by British composer Ivan Moody and Canadian Peter Togni will round out the program.

And the free noon-hour Canadian Opera Company’s Vocal Series will present the composition Ayre, a song cycle by the Argentinean-born composer Osvaldo Golijov and performed by Miriam Khalil on November 10. This music promises to mesmerize, as the composer has woven together influences from Arabic, Hebrew, Sardinian, and Sephardic traditions.

Esprit: The Esprit Orchestra concert on November 20 has a curious title – “m’M.” This is also the title of the composition by Philippe Leroux (Canada/France) that will be performed in the program. It’s a concerto grosso, with the “m” representing the little orchestra and “M” the big orchestra. Canadian Zosha Di Castri’s piece Alba conjures the atmosphere of a winter dawn on the Prairies in northern Alberta. This sense of the mysteries of nature is also what we will hear in George Crumb’s work A Haunted Landscape, written in 1984. The featured performer of the evening, cellist Joseph Johnson will also take on the French composer Marc-André Dalbavie’s Concerto for Cello and Orchestra. Another opportunity to hear the music of Philippe Leroux will be at the COC’s Chamber Music Series free noon-hour program on November 22 featuring the McGill University’s Contemporary Music Ensemble. Leroux’s work Extended Apocalypsis will be heard along with two other pieces – Division by Franck Bedrossian, who studied with Leroux at IRCAM and Project miroirs by Sean Ferguson, dean of McGill’s Schulich School of Music. Leroux currently teaches composition at McGill.

Micro-Ritmia: On November 20, the Music Gallery presents the Mexican composer Ernesto Martinez and his group Micro-Ritmia at the Tranzac Club. Martinez's music is a blend of various influences, including the player-piano works of Conlon Nancarrow, whom he met in his younger years, Balinese Gamelan techniques and Mexican folk traditions. The ensemble performs on piano, marimba and altered guitars using complex hocketing techniques in this, their Canadian debut. Also on the program is Taktus, a Toronto-based group who reenvision minimalist and electroacoustic music for the marimba.

WU: If you are longing for a musical experience of sustained quiet and slow-moving gestures, then listening to the hour-long work WU by Victoria-based composer Rudolf Komorous is the perfect answer. Performed by the virtuosic pianist Eve Egoyan in the intimate setting of her own studio, this masterwork promises the type of experience one could have while waiting for a cherry tree blossom to fall…or not. The concept of Wu is from the Zen Buddhist tradition and means the “not expected.” Even though the piece has a meditative quality, it has an intensity to it that keeps the ear focused and attentive to each slight change. The performances will take place on November 6, 13, 20 and 27 and audience members are requested to book their seat via email due to limited seating.

Improv: And finally, on the improvisation scene, three events stand out: the 416 Toronto Creative Improvisers Festival from November 2 to 5 at the Tranzac Club featuring numerous outstanding improvising musicians from the 416 area and beyond, including a performance by the Kyle Brenders Big Band on November 5. Spontaneous Group Composition will be happening at the Array Space on November 23 featuring Jonathan Adjemian, Nick Buligan, Karen Ng and Martin Arnold. And on December 2 at Gallery 345, don’t miss the sonic adventures of the Queen Mab Trio – Lori Freedman, Marilyn Lerner and Ig Henneman, who blend various influences including jazz, musique actuelle, rock, and 20th-century classical music.

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

2203 Choral Scene 1Movies and music are a match made in heaven. Several fantastic opportunities are coming up in the next few months to enjoy and experience live music set to films. One of my favourite Oscar moments is seeing the nominees for Best Song, Best Score and Best Soundtrack. Music in films can be incredibly impactful. Yet, even a choral singer like me can overlook or miss some of the important sounds and textures being created by compositions, while listening to the music when not able to see it being performed.

2203 Choral Scene 1aThe Lord of the Rings is one such example and we have a fantastic and unique opportunity to see a Canadian musical team in action for the screening of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring which will be brought to life by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and the massed power of the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir (including me in the tenors!). Ludwig Wicki, who helms the musicians, specializes in the performance of film music and premiered all the LOTR films with live performance of the full soundtrack. All of the TSO live film performances this year are in partnership with the Toronto International Film Festival.

The original film soundtrack – by prolific composer Howard Shore, who wrote the music to all of Peter Jackson’s LOTR and The Hobbit films – is quite frankly one of the most exquisite pieces of film music available. For many in my generation the iconic trumpet theme in The Ring Goes South (as the Fellowship marches across the mountains after leaving Rivendell) is instantly recognizable. But it is the choral richness of Shore’s writing that provides the texture and energy that drives this remarkable score. The accented harshness of the Elvish can be found energizing the chase of the Nazgul. There are soft chorales throughout the music that help accentuate important moments (when Gandalf lights the main hall of the Dwarven city Dwarrowdelf, for example).

And then there is the ending to the Bridge of Khazad-Dum after Gandalf is lost. The entire previous scene is sounded with accented rhythms from the male voices. These give way as the Fellowship escapes into the sunlight. Soft cellos accompany a rich chorale with a delicate treble voice on a slow, piercing descending line. It is remarkably poignant writing. Rehearsing this section the other day reminded me just how powerful music can be in evoking feelings and emotion.

The magic of these performances lies in hearing music with your own ears. Soundtracks are meticulously mixed, balanced and produced to create a specific sound. Often, choral music and the textures of live voices cannot translate very well into recordings. Live, your ears will notice choral lines in places you never would have known: little hidden gems of gentleness or punctuations of energy. It’s a pleasure to learn this music and at the same time engage a brand new understanding and appreciation of it.

There are three opportunities to see The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring in action: December 1, 2 and 3 at 7:30pm, Roy Thomson Hall.

Other film and TV music performances in the coming months include:

Itzhak Perlman’s “Cinema Serenade” with the TSO conducted by Peter Oundjian features iconic violin highlights from film scores by Ennio Morricone, John Williams and others, plus Beethoven’s Symphony 7, November 22 at 7:30pm, Roy Thomson Hall.

The Sony Centre and Film Concerts Live present E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial live in concert. Hear John Williams’ iconic score performed by the Motion Picture Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Kingston Symphony Orchestra music director Evan Mitchell, December 29 and 30 at 7:30pm, Sony Centre.

The TSO presents Disney-Pixar’s Ratatouille in concert featuring Michael Giacchino’s Oscar-winning score under the baton of Sarah Hicks, principal conductor of Live at Orchestra Hall at the Minnesota Orchestra, February 18, 2017 at 11:30am and 4pm, Roy Thomson Hall.

The Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony Orchestra presents “Music from the Movies,” featuring music from Titanic to The Avengers, under Daniel Bartholomew-Poyser, assistant conductor of the KWS, February 24, 2017 at 8pm and February 25, 2017 at 2:30pm and 8pm, Centre in the Square, Kitchener.

The TSO presents Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, score by John Williams. This live performance screening of the very first Indiana Jones movie is led by pops conductor Steven Reineke, March 29, 2017 at 7:30pm, Roy Thomson Hall.

Livenation presents Game of Thrones live featuring a huge multimedia, 360-degree stage, screens, special effects, orchestra and choir under direction of composer Ramin Djawadi, March 4, 2017 at 8pm, Air Canada Centre.

The Diary of Anne Frank

2203 Choral Scene 2The Grand Philharmonic Choir presents the Canadian premiere of James Whitbourn’s choral work, Annelies: A Cantata on the Words of Anne Frank, November 19, 7:30pm at Maureen Forrester Hall, Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo. Based on a translation of the Diary of Anne Frank, this choral work is set for soprano, choir and instruments under music director Mark Vuorinen and featuring the Grand Philharmonic Chamber Singers.

To mark the occasion, the Grand Philharmonic Choir has partnered an exhibition with the Kitchener Public Library. There will be displays on Anne Frank’s life from the Anne Frank Centre for Mutual Respect, New York City. A special performance of Annelies by the Grand Philharmonic Chamber Singers under Vuorinen will be held in the Central Library Reading Lounge on November 13..Beth Slepian, education director for the Anne Frank Centre, will be a guest speaker for this interactive, family-friendly presentation. The library exhibition runs to November 15.

Whitbourn’s musical setting follows selected entries from Anne Frank’s actual words. Translated from the original Dutch, Whitbourn has assembled them chronologically to frame the story. Her writing is remarkable in its intimacy and simplicity. Whitbourn uses repetition of her own words to shape the music. At times, this intimacy is highlighted with solo soprano, at times with chorale. At times minimalist and dissonant, he uses plainchant, military, music hall, solo violin, solo clarinet and more. Whitbourn has also used a lot of repetition. When I queried Vuorinen’s thoughts on this compositional tool he said it requires the interpretation to be “deliberate and thoughtful” with each iteration. He also understands that “the repetition is there for emphasis, to hammer home the message. Which is a whole different approach to express these in a deliberate way to bring home the point.” It is remarkable to hear the repeated invocations of the choir repeating “We are Jews in chains.”

The fifth movement, Life in Hiding, finishes with repetition of the text: “One day this terrible war will be over, and we’ll be people again, and not just Jews.” Her words are a deeply powerful tapestry to set music to. Whitbourn’s interpretation is evocative and challenges the listener to bear witness to this history. Vuorinen notes: “The text is important. Trying to get the voice of this girl. To hear this voice. It’s quite incredible to read these words, of a girl who is incredibly optimistic. There is optimism in this music. But there is juxtaposition of musical styles and it is crushing and very emotional. It is something the singers have to learn to deal with.” Vuorinen revisited Anne Frank’s diary over the summer in preparation for rehearsals and encouraged his singers to do the same.

All the text is from her writings except for the Kyrie in the eighth movement, Sinfonia, and excerpts from the Book of Psalms and Lamentations in the 13th, penultimate movement of the work. We all know that Anne Frank and her companions were betrayed, captured and later died in a concentration camp. Her diary remains a poignant reminder of the impacts of racism, intolerance, hatred, and state-sponsored violence. Again, Anne’s words are best: “As long as you can look fearlessly at the sky, you’ll know you’re pure within” (February 23, 1944). This must be a remarkable experience for the Grand Philharmonic Chamber Singers and it will be for their audience as well.

Other great opportunities

Nov 13: The Amadeus Choir presents “Aurora Borealis: Magic and Mystery,“ featuring works by Timothy Corlis, Ola Gjeilo, Eric Whitacre, Eleanor Daley, Morten Lauridsen and Ēriks Ešenvalds at Eglinton St. George’s United Church.

Nov 19: The Orpheus Choir of Toronto presents “Stories: Myths and Mysteries,” the first concert in their “Identities” theme for 2016/2017. This one includes a premiere of The Farthest Shore by Paul Mealor, with guests Young Voices Toronto at Grace Church on-the-Hill.

And: Get out there and check out the huge variety of Christmas and holiday music. December is coming fast and you want to make sure you have tickets! Check out thewholenote.com for all the latest offerings!

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

2203 World ViewI’ve been writing this column for almost seven years. Loyal readers will observe that I’ve approached my World View beat from many different – sometimes even conflicting – points of view. Last month I disclosed aspects of my private life, inviting you to fly with me and my bride to our Hungarian honeymoon, a journey which reconnected me to my culture of origin.

That story, shared from my personal album, segued neatly to a case study of the Toronto musician Richard Moore. He actively pursues a very rare double professional life: as a career percussionist he is also a Hungarian cimbalom and hammered dulcimer player. (Quite coincidentally – or is it? – I’m dipping even deeper into these transatlantic, transcultural waters in my examination of 60 years of musical Hungarians in Canada in a feature elsewhere in this issue.)

In order to mix things up a little, for this column I’ve decided to undertake a brief survey of what programmers across our great “multi-culti” (in the words of Deiter, my ethnomusicologist German friend) metropolis have planned for our musical entertainment and edification.

North in the South: Inuit throat singing todayStarting things off on Saturday November 5, The Music Gallery along with Native Women in the Arts present the “Inuit Showcase,” part of the Kwe Performance Series at the Music Gallery. Three Inuit women share the program, a concert and associated workshop. The focus is pulled tight on Inuit throat singing as practised in various regions of the Arctic by these Inuit performers who seek to both preserve and innovate within their received throat-singing traditions. Throat singing was originally a competitive female-centred game for two which imitated the Arctic land-, sea- and animal-scape. In the last decade, however, this folk performance art form has been taken into new and innovative musical regions and showcased on international stages alongside internationally known musicians such as Björk, by the abundantly gifted Inuk vocalist Tanya Tagaq.

Kathleen Ivaluarjuk Merritt, also known as IVA (ee-vah), is a poet, writer and throat singer from Rankin Inlet, Nunavut. She has collaborated in performance not only with established Inuit singers such as Susan Aglukark and the aforementioned Tagaq, but also with the singer-songwriter Owen Pallett, the American electronic, experimental hip hop musician DJ Spooky and the National Arts Centre Orchestra. Taqralik Partridge, originally from Kuujjuaq, Nunavik, in Northern Quebec is best known as a poet and spoken-word performer. While her English poems illuminate the life of Northern people seldom experienced by Southerners, Partridge is also a throat singer and voice actor, appearing on Canadian and European stages.

Nukariik, on the other hand, consists of two sisters, Karin and Kathy Kettler. An important aspect of their performance is the preservation and sharing of their inherited culture. While the sisters have lived most of their lives in Southern Canada, they have maintained strong connections to their culture as it is practised in Kangiqsualujjuaq, an Inuit village located on the east coast of Ungava Bay in Nunavik, Quebec.

Nagata Shachu and Ten Ten: Toronto taiko and minyoAlso on November 5, Toronto’s preeminent taiko group Nagata Shachu presents “Music from Japan and Beyond” at Kobayashi Hall, Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre. Artistic director Kiyoshi Nagata notes that “Nagata Shachu is excited to be collaborating with virtuoso multi-instrumentalist Shogo Yoshii, who represents a new generation of Japanese musicians pushing the boundaries of traditional music.” Yoshii, who is coming from Japan for the concert, is an acclaimed taiko (Japanese drums), shinobue (Japanese bamboo transverse flute) and kokyu (Japanese violin) player.

November 8 at 12:30, York University’s Department of Music presents the younger Toronto taiko group Ten Ten in a free concert in its Music at Midday series at the Martin Family Lounge, Accolade East Building, York University. Directed by taiko and shamisen player Aki Takahashi – also a member of Nagata Shachu since 2003 – Ten Ten has performed in theatres, concert halls and festivals featuring her own compositions. Takahashi is a specialist in minyo (Japanese folk song) and has published an astounding 200-plus videos of her repertoire on YouTube, hosted on the Bachido channel.

Small World Music presents African and Andalusían hybrids: November 11, Small World Music, in association with Za & Zoey, presents Oliver Mtukudzi and the Black Spirits at The Opera House. Considered a national cultural treasure by many in his Zimbabwean homeland, Mtukudzi, an eloquent vocalist, nimble fingerpicking guitarist and prolific composer (having released some 50 albums), is his county’s most successful musician. He began performing in 1977 and has earned a large fan base across the world. A member of Zimbabwe’s Kore Kore tribe, he sings in the nation’s dominant Shona language as well as in Ndebele and English. He also wears the non-musical hats of businessman, philanthropist, human rights activist AIDS/HIV and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador for the Southern Africa Region focusing on young people’s development and HIV/AIDS prevention. He’s the sort of musician I want to be when I grow up.

November 12, La Banda Morisca appears on the Small World Music Centre stage, presented by Small World Music. The septet from Jerez de la Frontera in Andalucía aims to fuse original and re-creative views of traditional regional music. They present attractive vocal-driven mashups of southern Mediterranean genres like Muwashshah secular music, the festival and dance-centric North African Chaabi, flamenco from Jerez, Andalusían rock, as well as several other regional music genres.

ECCG explores the “classical” through musical border crossings and cultural hybriditiesDecember 3, the Aga Khan Museum presents the Evergreen Club Contemporary Gamelan in its Classical Music Series. (As usual I want to flag the fact that I’m 33-year founding member of ECCG – yes it’s been that long, and yes I’m still having fun with it!) This concert series has a fascinating curatorial premise which dovetails with ECCG’s long-term artistic goals. It’s articulated on the AKM’s website in the following manner: “Often used to solely describe Western traditions, the term ‘classical music’ is re-examined within the context of cultural diversity in this special series of performances. Our Classical Music Series presents the sights and sounds of North Indian, Indonesian, Italian and Syrian musical traditions. Redefine your understanding of classical music through performances that explore melodic scales, historical recordings and new interpretations of Western repertoire.”

ECCG, a group of eight Toronto-based musicians, has made a career out of commissioning new, often modernist, scores with the end game of performing and recording them on its Sundanese gamelan degung. At the same time the group has always also performed (often in its own arrangements) the core repertoire of the West Javanese (Sundanese) degung, a kind of gamelan music with past aristocratic roots which some may think of as “classical.” On the other hand ECCG also performs its own instrumental arrangements of popular Sundanese songs, on occasion inviting Canadian singers to interpret them with English lyrics. It’s a complex world of music out there and ECCG aims to present that complication from a Canadian perspective. In its concert it explores various border crossings and cultural hybridities in works by American (Lou Harrison), Canadian (Paul Intson) as well as Sundanese, Indonesian (Nano Suratno, Burhan Sukarma, Ade Suparman) composers.

Quick pick: Also on December 3, the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Music presents its annual free, fall World Music Ensembles concert at Walter Hall, Edward Johnson Building. The Iranian Music Ensemble is directed by the Toronto tombak virtuoso, composer and researcher Pedram Khavarzamini, this year’s world music artist-in-residence. The guitarist, composer and educator Brian Katz leads the Klezmer Ensemble, while the Japanese Drumming Ensemble is directed by seasoned taiko drummer, group leader and teacher Gary Kiyoshi Nagata.

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

2203 Early Music 1Some people can do just about anything they put their minds to, and Russian violinist Viktoria Mullova is certainly one of these. After starting a career playing modern violin in the outskirts of Moscow during the Soviet era and serving up a steady diet of Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky and Prokofiev, Mullova decided to add historically informed perfomance practice to an already impressive skill set and completed the transition with an album of Beethoven and Mendelssohn violin concertos with the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique in 2003. Thirteen years later, Mullova has gone on to perform with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and with Venice Baroque, and is now a regular collaborator with Accademia Bizantina, a newer group on the European Baroque scene led by Italian harpsichordist Ottavio Dantone. The results have been impressive – Mullova has been plowing through the Bach chamber works, including the six Bach sonatas for violin and continuo, the violin concertos, and the solo sonatas and partitas – and her Vivaldi and Mozart concertos aren’t too bad either.

Ontario audiences will have ample chance this month to hear both Mullova and Dantone in both Kingston and Toronto, as the pair, along with Bizantina, will be touring an ambitious program of Bach concerti to both cities. Catch an international violin virtuoso along with a superb backing band in Kingston at the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts on November 12 at 7:30pm, and in Toronto at Koerner Hall on November 13 at 3pm.

Esfahani, harpsichord virtuoso: Solo harpsichord recitals are all too rare in Canada, but with internationally reknowned Iranian-American harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani coming to the Isabel Bader Centre for a concert on November 20 at 2:30, Kingstonians will have a rare opportunity to hear an up-and-coming virtuoso. Esfahani is just 32 years of age, but is already proving that he can do just about anything on the keyboard, with a repertoire ranging from Byrd to Ligeti (via CPE Bach and Rameau). And he plays all these composers rather well – each of his three albums netted Esfahani a slew of awards as well as accolades from critics. His Kingston audience will have a chance to decide the level of Esfahani’s virtuosity and versatility for themselves when he shows off a program of works by Bach, Rameau and Sweelinck. Montrealers reading this may also take some small comfort in the knowledge that if they want to hear this rising star, they need not drive all the way to Kingston – Esfahani will also be playing in Montreal on November 24 and 25 with Les Violons du Roy as part of Bach Sans Frontières, with another virtuoso concert – he’ll give his Montreal audiences both the Górecki harpsichord concerto and a Bach concerto with a cadenza by Brahms.

An Italian noblewoman being shipped off to become queen of France doesn’t seem like a particularly unusual event for Renaissance Europe – unless of course that particular Italian noblewoman happens to be descended from the most notorious, corrupt and despised family of political millionaires in history. The Toronto Consort explores this in their concert program “The Italian Queen of France,” by telling the story of Caterina de’ Medici, who found herself married off to Henry II in 1549 as a means of consolidating her already powerful family’s influence throughout Europe.

Calling Caterina the Italian Queen of France is an entirely appropriate title too, as the French never forgot – or let the queen herself forget – that she was an outsider in their country. Whether this could be attributed to anti-Italian sentiment or to the extremely negative reputation of the Medici family is perhaps one of the great debates of Renaissance history, but the French must surely have known that Caterina’s cousin was the de facto tyrant of Florence who bought politicians and judges to do his bidding. There was also another cousin of Caterina’s, Giulio (aka Pope Clement VII), who was skewered in one of the most bitter political feuds of the century – he was the pope who had to tell Henry VIII of England that he couldn’t annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, as her brother was occupying Rome with an army at the time. Like the rest of her family, Caterina wasn’t particularly popular. She suffered from rumours that she was a witch with links to the occult, and the fact that she was both interested in astrology and a personal patron of Nostradamus didn’t help this at all.

Still, if there was one thing the Medicis knew how to do well, it was to bolster a bad reputation through artistic patronage and, as the theme of the concert implies, one way the queen tried to counteract a negative reputation was through lavish – and eventually ruinous – spending on the arts, including music. French Renaissance composer Claude Le Jeune was a particular favourite under the Italian queen and features prominently in this program; the Consort will also feature music from his contemporaries Adrian Le Roy and Guillaume Costelay. Catch their show November 11 and 12 at Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre at 8pm.

Toronto Masque Theatre: Another group that’s good for at least one early-music show a year for Toronto audiences is the Toronto Masque Theatre, as they’ll demonstrate this month with performances of Handel’s Apollo e Dafne, at the historic Enoch Turner Schoolhouse on November 17 to 19. Handel was just 24 years old when he began working on this secular cantata for a Venetian concert-going public, but Venetians never got a chance to hear it. Instead, the budding opera seria master shelved it for a year and finally premiered it to a German-speaking audience in Hanover. Somewhat oddly for a Handel work, the overture has been lost, and modern perfomances typically substitute a Handel opera overture instead. No idea if Toronto Masque Theatre will do this, or indeed perform any overture at all, but the concert is a great chance to hear some rare and early (indeed, pre-opera) Handel.

2203 Early Music 2Tafelmusik: And finally, while all of these concerts are worthy of our attention, let us all take a moment to appreciate the most industrious group of period musicians in Canada. I’m speaking of course of Tafelmusik, who will be presenting at least five different concert programs before the next issue of The WholeNote hits the shelves: “Let Us All Sing,” November 2 to 6, celebrates the Tafelmusik Chamber Choir at 35, under the baton of Ivars Taurins. Members of the ensemble make visits to Western University’s Don Wright Faculty of Music November 18 and 24. “Close Encounters…,” an intimate new (and almost completely sold-out) series features “Close Encounters…of the Italian Kind,” November 25 and December 3. Finally, “A Grand Tour of Italy,” with the full Tafelmusik orchestra, December 1 to 4 and again December 6, will be conducted by Rodolfo Richter, violinist of the acclaimed early music group, Palladian Ensemble. Richter, who opened Tafelmusik’s 2015/2016 season, is becoming something of a regular; he will be back in March 2017 for “The Baroque Diva” with Karina Gauvin.

I’m not sure what has motivated what must be close to a record-breaking run of artistic output for an already prolific group, but Toronto and area audiences will have a slew of concerts to choose from in the next few weeks. Among them, one particular show this month stands out for me: “Haus Musik: Underground Elysium” is an attempt to de-formalize classical music and help it appeal to a younger audience. At 8pm on November 24, Tafelmusik will be taking over The Great Hall on Queen W. at Dovercourt, in a program that includes Marini, Purcell and Pachelbel. It’s the second season for Haus Musik, brainchild of new managing director William Norris, and is a step forward for the ensemble, offering a new way to enjoy old music. It’s  well worth coming out to see. Concert halls don’t seem to appeal to a generation that, with iPods and music streaming approaching their third decade, is determined to consume culture on its own terms. If enough young people go out to this show and end up liking it, Tafelmusik will have secured a future audience for classical music – and will be the number one group in the minds of new listeners.

QUICK PICKS

Nov 19: Scaramella presents “Mysteries: Joyful and Sorrowful,” works composed for the imperial chapels and courts of the Habsburg Empire by Schmelzer, Biber, Froberger and their 17th-century contemporaries performed by Ingrid Matthews, baroque violin; Joëlle Morton, bass viol; Matthew Girolami, G violone; Sara-Anne Churchill, harpsichord/organ at Victoria College Chapel.

Nov 30: Alison Melville, traverso/ recorders/ kantele and Julia Seager-Scott, clarsach/triple harp present “Border Crossings,” including works by James Oswald, Turlough O’Carolan, Corelli and Vivaldi, at Heliconian Hall.

David Podgorski is a Toronto-based harpsichordist, music teacher and a founding member of Rezonance. He can be contacted at earlymusic@thewholenote.com.

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