The Queen West spot with the hottest name, The Tequila Bookworm, will no longer be presenting live music, while a Cabbagetown hidden gem, Plum 226, has gone under, never to be unearthed. Are there any philanthropists out there who might consider opening up a jazz club in Toronto? All you’ll need is a good location, excellent music, great food, friendly service, business savvy, wisdom, luck, patience, verve and nerve. Inspired? Yes, you’ll have to be!


Ori1The Reservoir Lounge adds Thursdays to the Après-Work Series, so now Tuesdays through Thursdays enjoy jazz from 7-9pm. Last month’s cover girl Alex Pangman’s “First Tuesday” house gig has changed to every “First Thursday” of the month. Other highlights in the series this month include talented blues singer Chloe Watkinson on the 14th and splendid saxophonist Shawn Nykwist on the 21st.


Toronto happily welcomes back jazz legend Sheila Jordan! ( Known in the jazz world for originating the “bass & voice” duet, Jordan is one of the world’s first and finest jazz educators as well as one of the hippest 81-year-olds on the planet. In early 2009 I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing this legendary vocalist for The WholeNote and she had this to say when asked about being in the prime of her career at 80:

“I’m not as successful as most people think I am…not in America anyway. But I don’t care! I never wanted to be, you know, ‘a star’. That’s not my purpose, that’s not my calling. My calling is to be a messenger of this music, and I’m very happy being that. I’m very thrilled with the awards I’ve won and the recognition that I’ve gotten.”

from 10AM - 5 PM. Participants $120 full day / $60 half day, Auditors $50 / $30. Location to be announced. Contact:

Ori2OOH, WHAT AN ELLING! Speaking of not-to-be-missed jazz vocalists, the incomparable Kurt Elling ( rides a colossal wave of professional triumphs: the 2010 Grammy Award Winner and 9-time Grammy Nominee was voted DownBeat Magazine’s ‘Male Vocalist of the Year’ for 10 consecutive years and was recently described in the New York Times as “the standout male jazz vocalist of our time.” From Elling’s deeply spiritual approach to ballad singing to a gracefully virtuosic scat style to his awe-inspiring ventures into vocalese, it is virtually impossible not to acknowledge his masterful musicianship. Mr. Elling opens the Thursday Night Jazz Club Series at The Old Mill on the evening of Thursday, September 16th. This show will definitely sell out so you want to reserve your tickets lickety-split.

RHYMES WITH PEGGY Split between the jazz and classical world, Ottawa-based double bass virtuoso John Geggie will be making a rare appearance in Toronto on Friday, September 17th at Chalkers Pub. Geggie ( is an extremely versatile musician, composer and collaborator who performs in the National Arts Centre Orchestra, and teaches double bass at Queen's University, Carleton University, the University of Ottawa and the Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam. Geggie is known to invite jazz artists from across Canada and the world to play with him in one-time-only groups, in which they perform material written by each of the artists, as well as jazz standards. Joining John Geggie at Chalkers Pub will pianist Nancy Walker, drummer Ethan Ardelli and special guest tenor saxophonist, Jerome Sabbagh from Paris, France!

GUITAR ACE Local guitarist Harley Card ( recently represented our country as a semi-finalist at the Montreux Jazz Festival Guitar Competition. Here in Toronto Mr. Card is an active member of several ensembles including Monk’s Music, Hobson’s Choice, God’s Gift to Yoda as well as his own group which features compositions that draw from modern jazz, improvised music, folk and rock. The Harley Card Trio plays at The Emmet Ray on College Saturday September 11th from 7-10pm. 


Fellow member of the group Hobson’s Choice, vocalist Felicity Williams leads The Al Purdy Project, for which she has composed and arranged music set to the great Canadian poet’s words. The end result is as hauntingly beautiful as it is conceptually ambitious. The cherry on the cake is that Williams’ voice is sonically stunning, reminiscent of a young Joni Mitchell. The Al Purdy Project is comprised of: Felicity Williams, leader/voice, Robin Dann, voice, Rebecca Henessy, trumpet, Michael Davidson, vibes & marimba, Harley Card, guitar, and Dan Fortin, bass. Sample the scrumptious sounds here: and then experience The Al Purdy Project live at The Tranzac on September 21st at 7:30pm.


In 2007, the Juno Award winning Canadian fusion group Manteca ( reassembled at the Toronto Jazz Festival nearly a decade after disbanding. Appearing in Toronto for two nights only this season, September 22nd and 23rd at The Glenn Gould Studio will be rare two-night appearance by the 9-piece original jazz group that has been 31 years in the making, known for breathtaking compositions and explosive playing. In its current reincarnation, the band consists of: Henry Heillig, leader/bass, Matt Zimbel, leader/percussion, Charlie Cooley, drums, John Johnson, saxophones, Kelly Jefferson, saxophones, Art Avalos, timbales, Mark Ferguson, trombone, Steve Mcdade, trumpet and Doug Wilde, keyboards.

Ori Dagan ( is a Toronto-based jazz vocalist, voice actor and entertainment journalist. He can best be contacted at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

As I write this, on return from a Sunday evening concert at the Orillia Aquatheatre, I'm reminded of the impending end of the summer concert season. Our concert began at 6:30pm rather than the usual seven o'clock, because the days are getting shorter. September is only two weeks away, and the fall season is on the horizon. For most community ensembles this marks a beginning of sorts. Whether they have been playing all summer, with rehearsals and concerts, or have taken a complete break, most will be in transition in some way or other. Almost without exception, there will be some reflection on the past year and discussion of what changes might be in order.

P30Almost every year in Southern Ontario, September heralds the establishment of one or more new community instrumental groups with varying aspirations. So, for our inauguration of a new season of The Wholenote, it seemed to be a fitting time to visit a few new startups and some relative newcomers that have now completed one or two seasons. For our very limited and informal study of recently formed groups, I've selected the Milton Concert Band, the Scarborough Society of Musicians, the Kindred Spirits Orchestra and the Newmarket Stepping Stone Band.

The oldest of this group, the Milton Concert Band began taking shape early in 2007, when recently arrived residents and long-time friends Angela Rozario and Cheryl Ciccarelli, having recognized the growing artistic community in Milton, decided to see if there were any other area amateur musicians interested in performing together. Their hopes were immediately met, and the pair were soon scrambling to accommodate over 30 musicians and having to put others on a waiting list. Working with the town of Milton, the group was able to move to its new permanent home at Memorial Arena in September 2007. By now, the band will have concluded their regular series of summer concerts and performances at town festivals, and will be preparing for their fall on Saturday mornings, at Dr. Norman Bethune C. I. In Scarborough.

About one year later, in February 2008, the Scarborough Society of Musicians had its beginnings. It began with the discussion among a group of graduating high school students who had developed and shared a passion for musical performance and didn’t want to abandon that love after graduation. The band is a non-profit organization aimed at providing post-secondary school students who are not pursuing professional studies in music an environment to continue developing and exploring their talents. Since its inception, the band has been rehearsing on Saturday mornings, in the music room at Dr. Norman Bethune C. I. In Scarborough. I’m informed that they’ll be organizing their future activities in January, but they have already performed a concert, in July 2010. Try visiting their website:

The next in our recent arrivals on the community music scene is the Kindred Spirits Orchestra. Founder and musical director Maestro Kristian Alexander felt that the time was ripe for an audition-based community orchestra in Markham. The orchestra’s official incorporation was on March 16, 2009. Their inaugural concert took place on November 3, 2009, at the CBC's Glenn Gould Studio in downtown Toronto. The programme included Wagner's Siegfried Idyll and Mozart's Gran Partita.

The orchestra is still relatively small (38 musicians), which has enabled it to concentrate on developing a refined ensemble sound. For the future they hope to increase the size of their string section and, in their words, “to grow and attract more musicians, more friends, more kindred spirits."

With a relatively small string section, to date they have focused almost exclusively on baroque and classical compositions. They are very eager to broaden their repertoire and approach romantic and more contemporary works. The first such foray into works requiring significantly larger resources took place in June of this year. At that time, I had the opportunity to join the brass section in a performance of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.

For the immediate future, their growth will certainly be limited until they can move to a larger rehearsal hall. Perhaps the new Markham recreational complex will supply the answer. In the meantime, they are forging ahead with an ambitious season that will include a four concert subscription series at the Glenn Gould Studio. Concerts will include guest violinist Jacques Israelievitch performing the Beethoven Violin Concerto, and performances of Beethoven’s Sixth, Seventh and Eighth symphonies.

In addition to performances, the Kindred Spirits Orchestra has an education and community outreach programme with professional development opportunities for local music teachers and young conductors. And to promote Canadian composers and music, they have Gary Kulesha and Larysa Kuzmenko on board as resident composers for the coming season.

About one year ago, a new band for beginners and intermediate level players was established in Newmarket. Informally called the Stepping Stone Band, their message was simple: “If you took band music in high school, and years later find you have time and interest in making music, this is perfect way to get back into it. Why play at home alone? The best way to learn to read music is to play in a group or ensemble.” The group stopped rehearsing for the summer, but that wasn’t the end of playing. Several members, who had upgraded their skills during this first season, are now rehearsing regularly with the Newmarket Citizens’ Band and have been performing in concerts over the summer. As for the remaining members, they will form the core for the coming season. As of this writing, this beginner band has 12 members who want to proceed with rehearsals in September. They are hoping for at least eight additional members to proceed with the programme. If you have considered the idea of taking up an instrument again or know of someone who has, pass this message on.

The band will meet Monday nights from 7pm to 9pm at a location in Aurora, near the Aurora Public Library. Members must bring their your own instruments and music stands. Music is provided. The program will be coordinated by Joe Mariconda. For more information, please email Joe at or call him at 905-836-4039.

On the new initiative front, we have four very disparate endeavours, two of which specifically target seniors. The first of these, is yet another project of Joe Mariconda. The concept is to establish a concert band programme for the seniors of York Region, based in Newmarket. The Seniors’ Centre in Newmarket has a membership of 2,000 from which to draw. If the programme sparks the interest of sufficient members, there could well be more than one band to cater to various skill levels. The band (or bands) would rehearse on weekdays for two hours once a week. Instructing and conducting duties would be shared by a team of volunteer retired music teachers. With such a team approach, there would be less of a burden on any one individual conductor, and the participants would have the benefit of coaching by conductors with skills on a range of different instruments. Contact Joe Mariconda at 905-836-4039 or by email


Another new band programme for seniors will appeal to those who live close to the heart of Toronto. Long & McQuade Musical Instruments have announced their Play-in-a-Band Programme, to begin in September. Designed for adults from 50 to 90 (and older), it's for those who always wanted to play an instrument and former players who want to play again. Whether you're learning to play “from scratch” or dusting off that old horn from the back of the closet, you'll will be welcome. The programme will be directed by Dan Kapp, an instrumentalist and conductor with over 30 years' experience. An information meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, September 15 at 9:30am, with the first rehearsal one week later. For information go to or phone 416-588-7886.

This announcement sparked my curiosity and prompted a bit of digging, since there was a Canadian Federal Government sponsored “New Horizons” program in Canada over 25 years ago. The New Horizons program, established in 1991, was the brain child of Dr. Roy Ernst at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. While the first New Horizons program in 1991 was for bands, the intent was to also start other kinds of New Horizons programs. New Horizons orchestras started a few years later. Initially, a minimum age of 50 was arbitrarily set as a guideline. Over the years that has changed. Now, for most groups, “If you consider yourself to be an adult, you’re eligible.” In my digging, I discovered that there were already no fewer than ten such groups in Ontario as members of the New Horizons International Music Association. I even learned that two of these were conducted by personal friends of mine.

Just North of Toronto a group of dedicated amateur musicians have decided that it's time to formally organize a concert band for the town of Richmond Hill. The Richmond Hill Concert Band is intended for adults with high school instrumental musical ability who may not have played for several years but are looking to regain the enjoyment of playing in a band. The origins of this group are quite creative. The Thornhill Community Band, which has been operating successfully for some years, realized that 30 percent of its members were residents of nearby Richmond Hill. It was also becoming apparent that the Thornhill band's numbers had grown to the point where they could no longer accept new members for some instruments.

The solution was to assist in the forming of a new band. This had a number of benefits. By rehearsing on a complementary night to its own rehearsals, the Thornhill Band could help mentor a new Richmond Hill band without detracting from its own organization and membership. A core group from the Thornhill band, willing to rehearse two nights a week, will ensure a balanced instrumentation at the beginning. Initially they will share the music library, and long-time experienced conductor Denny Ringler will be at the helm of both ensembles. Since a group must have charitable status to apply for an Ontario Trillium grant, and since the Thornhill Community Band is a registered charitable organization, it was eligible to apply for a grant for its progeny. They are awaiting the outcome.

To assist in its establishment, the band was awarded a grant of $2,500 for startup funding by the Richmond Hill Mayor’s Endowment Fund.  The band will rehearse Thursday evenings from 7:30 to 10pm starting September 16, 2010, in the music room at Roselawn Public School, 422 Carrville Rd, Richmond Hill. For information, please call 905-737-7265, 416-223-7152, or send an email to

The fourth of our new startup groups is Resa’s Pieces Strings. In previous issues we have referred to the very successful beginners' band know as Resa’s Pieces Concert Band. Established some years ago by Resa Kochberg, this band was created with the philosophy that “everyone grows musically together, with each "piece" completing the whole. Now, Resa has decided that former and/or new string players deserve the same opportunity to develop their skills. As a result, Resa's Pieces Strings or the RPS will be launched in September 2010. This new beginners' string ensemble will be under the directorship of Ric Giorgi.

The RPS will follow the same philosophy that Resa Kochberg established when she founded Resa's Pieces Concert Band some years ago. It is "to provide an opportunity for people to return to playing instruments that they had not touched for years.” If I thought that I could handle a string instrument, I would be there in a flash with a viola in hand. For information visit their website,, or email

With all of those opportunities available, if you have thought about getting back to music, there is no better time than now. Listen to the advice from Resa. “Recall those sounds, reawaken that talent, rediscover playing music!”

On a sombre note, it is with deep regret that we report the passing of a stalwart of the military reserve band scene in Toronto. Captain Frank Merlo, CD, OSJ, Director of Music for the Governor General’s Horse Guards Regimental Band, passed away in Toronto on July 6, 2010. Frank’s association with the regiment and the band began in 1979, and for over three decades he literally dedicated his life to both. I first met Frank when he, as a young French horn player, first became involved in the local band scene. In part his obituary stated: “As the current Senior Director of Music in 32 Brigade, his knowledge and advice was highly sought after, and the support he gave to each Commanding Officer ensured that the Regimental Band could always be counted on to provide the right ceremonial touch to any occasion. In his role as a vocal music teacher with Toronto District Catholic School Board, he influenced the musical lives of countless students. He will be missed.

Definition Department

This month’s lesser known musical term is FERMANTRA: "A note held over and over and over . . ." We invite submissions from readers.

Coming Events: Please see the listings section for full details.

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

Here we are heading into a new season. Summer is a sweaty memory. Before we know it, we’ll be complaining about the cold weather. But it also heralds an upsurge in club and concert activity. There are even a couple of festivals to round out that season.

The Guelph Jazz Festival runs from September 8 to 12 and kicks off with a performance featuring accordionist Pauline Oliveros performing live in Guelph with Anne Bourne (cello), Guelph’s own Ben Grossman (hurdy gurdy) and Jesse Stewart (drums) connected to two other sites where they will be joined by Ricardo Arias on balloon (in Bogotá, Colombia) and Jonas Braasch on soprano sax, Doug Van Nort on laptop and Curtis Bahn on electronics (in Troy, NY).

Some of the other featured artists include the quartet of Bob Ostertag, Sylvie Courvoisier, Taylor Ho Bynum, Jim Black on the 9th, Henry Grimes, Jane Bunnett, Andrew Cyrille, Marilyn Crispell, a double bill of The Trio (Muhal Richard Abrams, Roscoe Mitchell, George Lewis), Sangam (Charles Lloyd, Zakir Hussain and Eric Harlan), and on the closing day – and I do mean day because it is scheduled for 10:30am – guitarist Marc Ribot, bassist Henry Grimes and drummer Chad Taylor. The festival is a veritable feast for anyone who enjoys contemporary music. Full details can be found in our listings or by going to

P29Then there’s the All-Canadian Jazz Festival in Port Hope, September 24-26, which will be a real celebration of Canadian jazz. The Shuffle Demons, Alex Pangman and Her Alleycats, Laila Biali Trio with Guido Basso and Phil Dwyer and the Brian Barlow Big Band with Heather Bambrick to name just a few. Again, full details can be found at

On October 3 at the Toronto Centre for the Arts, 5040 Yonge, the Jazz Performance and Education Centre will present a tribute to Warren K. Winkler, Chief Justice of Ontario. The JPEC Jazz Orchestra (Denny Christianson, music director), and vocalist Ranee Lee are the featured performers for this gala event.

Not Run of The Mill

The fall programming at the Old Mill certainly isn’t “run of the mill.” On Thursday, September 16, 7:30pm in the dining room, 2010 Grammy Award-winning vocal virtuoso Kurt Elling will take the stand followed by the Oliver Jones Trio on September 30, while over at the Home Smith Bar Thursday nights will feature John Sherwood, except on the 16th when Richard Whiteman will take over.

Friday nights will showcase June Garber, Luis Mario Ochoa and Julie Michaels. On Saturday nights the Home Smith will present the Bob Scott Duo followed by the trios of Gord Sheard and Paul Read.

Gallery 345 at 345 Sorauren Ave. is also coming up with some interesting programmimg this month with “The Art of the Piano,” featuring Dave Restivo and Robi Botos on the 12th, Henry Grimes, Jane Bunnett and Andrew Cyrille on the 13th, and Indo-Latin jazz from Irshad Kahn World Trio on the 19th.

Meanwhile, the Rex rolls on and Quotes will be back mid-month. So the season is well and truly under way, and you should check the listings section for more complete details of the month’s offerings.

I also did some looking back at significant and memorable events this year, and two spring to mind immediately.

The Ken Page Memorial Trust Gala in May featured a cross-section of Canadian and American artists in an informal setting, again at the Old Mill, where players were mixed and matched throughout the evening. The visitors included the Vache brothers, Allan and Warren, George Masso and the multi-talented Scott Robinson, all long-time favourites with Toronto audiences. And the local musicians included almost a who’s who on the Toronto scene with John MacLeod, Kevin Turcotte, Laurie Bower, Al Kay, Don Thompson, John Sherwood, Reg Schwager, Neil Swainson, Terry Clarke, Lucian Gray and some guy playing a bent soprano sax.

Then there was the tribute performance by members of the Rob McConnell Tentet at the Old Mill. Led by trombonist Terry Promane the band gave an exuberant evening of Rob’s arrangements – that is, until the closing number, “For All We Know,” composed by J. Fred Coots in 1934, with lyrics by Sam M. Lewis. It goes as follows:

For all we know we may never meet again

Before you go make this moment sweet again

We won’t say goodnight until the last minute

I’ll hold out my hand and my heart will be in it

For all we know this may only be a dream

We come and we go like the ripples of a stream

So love me, love me tonight tomorrow was made for some

Tomorrow may never come for all we know

Ah, they don’t write lyrics like that any more.

But on that night it was an instrumental performance – and if ever there was a demonstration of the emotional power of music it was John Johnston’s moving alto sax interpretation of Rob McConnell’s arrangement. If there was a dry eye in the room it must have belonged to someone who is emotionally deaf.

To all of you out there: fall in and get out to hear some jazz!


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

It’s been a busy summer for devotees of Broadway-style musicals in the Toronto area, with professional productions of Miss Saigon and South Pacific adding to the just-closed hit Jersey Boys, and with Wicked just around the corner. If your wallet feels significantly lighter, however, then relief is at hand as a new season of community musical theatre in the GTA kicks off this month. Ticket prices are significantly lower, usually in the $20 to $25 range, but the performing standard is often very high.

P28There’s the usual mixture of perennial favourites and contemporary shows, and the usual mixture of presentation styles, all of which reflect the variety in the community theatre world: the different personnel of the various groups and their musical tastes; the perceived audience market; the quite different performing spaces; and the varying musical resources they choose to use. “Something for everybody,” as the cliché goes. Even so, you can’t help wondering if there should be a bit more imagination – or possibly a bit more communication – in the programming: there are three instances of the same show being staged by two different companies, and in the case of Oliver!, the two productions will be running at exactly the same time.

Most groups choose to do only one or two shows a year, which makes for a very full schedule in November and in the spring. Surprisingly, I know of only one production in each of September, October and December. Two of those belong to the Civic Light Opera Company, the only group to present four shows a year, and whose schedule – rather like the hockey season – stretches from early September to the beginning of June (

It does mean, however, that they mostly avoid date conflicts with the other groups. Their first show is Paint Your Wagon, another of those shows with a gorgeous Fritz Loewe score and a problematic book by Alan Jay Lerner, which artistic director Joe Cascone will doubtless address. It runs September 8 to 25 at Fairview Library Theatre.

October sees the first of five single productions by five different groups at the Meadowvale Theatre in Mississauga, combined under the heading the Encore Series, and with attractively-priced subscriptions to all five shows ( Music Theatre Mississauga stages Shout! The Mod Musical, a look at the British female singers and fashions of the 1960s. It runs October 22 to 30.

A busy November starts with Scarborough Music Theatre’s Annie, the first of two productions of the show this season, and Curtain Call Players’ Bob Fosse review Steam Heat. Annie, always popular with audiences (but, trust me, not with the musicians!) runs November 4 to 20 (; and Steam Heat goes from November 4 to 13 (

Rent has proved to be particularly popular with community groups since the performing rights became available, and it’s clearly a great way to pull young performers into the theatre. Brampton Musical Theatre’s production of the show runs at the Rose Theatre for just four days, November 11 to 14 (

The middle of November sees the two concurrent productions of Oliver!: one a short run by Steppin’ Out Theatrical Productions in Richmond Hill from November 18 to 21 (; and the other a three-week run by Etobicoke Musical Productions from November 19 to December 4 (

Clarkson Music Theatre presents the second show in the Encore Series at Meadowvale Theatre, and the first of the season’s Gilbert & Sullivan productions, when they stage The Gondoliers from November 19 to 27. Civic Light Opera is the only group to try to take advantage of the holiday season in December, with the third – and revised – production of their original musical, The Wizard of Oz. Do not expect the movie! Show dates are December 1 to 19.

The new year gets off to a fairly quiet start, with only Theatre Unlimited’s Cabaret in the Encore Series from January 21 to 29 – before St. Anne’s Music and Drama Society hits the boards at the end of the month with their double G&S bill of H.M.S. Pinafore and The Zoo. Show dates are January 28-30 and February 3 to 6 (

Three contemporary shows can be seen in February: Scarborough Music Theatre’s second production of the season is The Full Monty, from February 3 to 19, (should be interesting!) and Meadowvale Music Theatre stages Urinetown as the fourth show in the Encore Series, February 18 to 26. Urinetown is another show that is proving to be extremely popular with community groups: you will also be able to catch it later in the spring when EMP mount their production at Burnhamthorpe Collegiate. Civic Light Opera’s production of The Big Bang, a two-man show about a backers’ audition for an improbably ambitious new musical, runs February 9 to 26, and the month also sees the latest in North Toronto Players’ string of imaginatively updated G&S operettas: this time it’s The Mikado at the Vaughan Playhouse (

The Encore Series wraps up with City Centre’s Peter Pan from March 25 to April 2. Otherwise, March looks like the month for Stephen Sondheim fans, with productions of Sweeney Todd by Curtain Call Players from March 24 to April 2, and A Little Night Music by Steppin’ Out from March 24 to 26. Interestingly, there is a line of thought in musical theatre that Sondheim shows are not necessarily a great choice for community groups: for a start, they’re quite complex and difficult. But feelings about Sondheim seem to be polarized – you either like him or you don’t. If you do, you’ve probably already seen all his shows several times; if you don’t, then you probably won’t be going.

April sees the second Annie production, this time by Brampton Musical Theatre from April 6 to 8, and Scarborough Music Theatre ends its schedule with Fiddler on the Roof from April 28 to May 14. Civic Light Opera rounds out the season with Cole Porter’s Anything Goes from May 18 to June 4.

Quality musical theatre at quality prices – go see for yourself!


Terry Robbins is a musician and musical theatre enthusiast. He can be contacted at:


World Music
Goes Uptown

With the arrival of September, the “official plan” for this column was to take a broad view of Toronto’s world music scene, and to look at a major development in the 2010-11 season. But before we get to that, there are two major festivals happening this month that deserve to be addressed in detail.

First out of the gate is Ashkenaz, Toronto’s biennial celebration of Jewish culture, which has just started and runs until September 6. Strictly speaking, the Ashkenazim are the Yiddish-speaking people of Eastern Europe – but the festival is much broader than that, and encompasses Jewish arts throughout the world.

Most Ashkenaz events take place at Harbourfront Centre – although there are also concerts at the Lula Lounge (1585 Dundas St. W.) and Caplansky’s Delicatessen (356 College St.). Not surprisingly, klezmer music is well represented: for instance, on September 5 there’s a Community Klezmer Showcase (1:00 on the Redpath Stage) and a cleverly named group from Italy called Klezmerata Fiorentina (2:30 in the Brigantine Room). The following day you can hear local klez clarinetist Martin Van De Ven and accordionist Sasha Luminsky (5:00 on the Lakeside Terrace). And there’s lots more.

But, as I said, Ashkenaz isn’t just about East European culture. On September 4 at 7:00 Flory Jagoda appears at the Enwave Theatre for a rare performance of Ladino songs. Later that evening, at 11:00 in the Brigantine Room, there’s a Sephardic and Mizrachi Cabaret. For those who like musical styles blended together, there’s David Buchbinder’s “Odessa/Havana” (September 5 at 7:00 in the Brigantine room), which brings together Yiddish and Afro-Cuban influences. And for those who like musical categories bent completely out of shape, check out Balkan Beatbox (September 5 at 9:30pm on the Sirius Stage), billed as “Balkan, funk, hip-hop, Middle-Eastern, reggae, and Sephardic music.” The selections above just scratch the surface. For more information go to

Beginning later in the month, on September 23, and running to October 3, Small World Music presents its own Music Festival: 10 days of performances in venues throughout Toronto. It’s a musical tour of the world, featuring everything from folksongs from the Republic of Georgia (Darbazi, on September 24 at the Royal Conservatory) to contemporary Ugandan music (Kinobe, on September 29 at the Lula Lounge). There’s a free concert at Word on the Street (September 26 at Queen’s Park), and a “Global Soul” grand finale, featuring musicians from around the world (October 3 at the Isabel Bader Theatre). Again, these concerts just scratch the surface. Complete festival listings may be found at

Now let’s take a look at the big picture. It’s just possible that Toronto’s 2010-11 season will be remembered as the moment at which world music went mainstream. Traditionally, world-music concerts have catered to niche markets and cognoscenti, and have taken place in smaller, low-rent venues. That’s been slowly changing – and it’s about to change a lot more.

Roy Thomson Hall has been a leader in this regard – and this year’s programming at Toronto’s flagship auditorium is no exception. This year there are three big world-music concerts coming to bring some colour to the Grey Lady at King and Simcoe. On October 3 Homay and the Mastan Ensemble bring Iran’s classical music to Toronto; on February 13 there’s an Argentinian music and dance show called “Tango Buenos Aires”; and on February 25 frequent visitors Ladysmith Black Mambazo perform vocal music from South Africa.

When the Sony (formerly Hummingbird, formerly O’Keefe) Centre re-opens this fall, world music will be well represented. “Merchants of Bollywood” opens on November 4, and “Kodo Drummers of Japan” will pound out a performance on March 11.

P27Added to these offerings is a major new boost for world music coming from the Royal Conservatory of Music. The RCM’s concert series in Koerner Hall (and sometimes also the smaller Mazzoleni Hall) is now in its second season, and is just bursting with musicians from around the globe. The Conservatory’s world music programming begins on October 16 with Mallorcan singer/songwriter Buika; one week later, South Africa’s Hugh Masekela brings his trumpet to Koerner. And the bleakness of a Toronto November will be brightened, on the 27th of the month, by “New Orleans Nights” with Allen Toussaint, Nicholas Payton and the Joe Krown Trio.

In the new year, the Conservatory will present Kiran Ahluwalia and Rhythm of Rajasthan (January 22), “Acoustic Africa,” featuring Habib Koité, Oliver Mtukudzi and Afel Bocoum (March 6); and the “rainbow nation” sounds of the Johnny Clegg Band from South Africa (April 13). And further reinforcing the impression that the Conservatory is now the place for world music is Soundstreams Canada, which brings a Brazilian duo – vocalist Monica Salmaso and guitarist Fábio Zanon – to Koerner Hall on April 28.

Do all of the forementioned concerts pass muster as world music? Does Dixieland jazz “count”? If world music is about breaking down boundaries and embracing musical roots, then the boundaries of the genre (if it may be called a genre) are bound to be fuzzy and flexible. Something would be wrong if they weren’t.


Colin Eatock is a Toronto-based composer, writer and managing editor of The WholeNote. Our regular columnist, Karen Ages, returns to World View next month.


As September looms menacingly on the horizon, all nature aligns to reinforce the sobering message that summer 2010 is gone forever. More than a few trees have sprouted red and yellow leaves, the punishing heat of the Toronto summer appears to be giving way to the air of fall, and – what is that strange humming sound in the air, especially on Thursday evenings?

Choirs or all sizes and configurations are beginning their vocal warmups. Major and minor chords buzz and resonate like eager cicadas at dusk. That strange, plaintive wail like the howl of a mournful coyote in the night? A choir director pleading in vain with singers to bring their pencils, put their music in order and pay their choir dues on time.

Choral singers, of course, are generally dormant in the summer. There is an odd and unsubstantiated rumour that they actually work for a living and go on the occasional vacation, but this is surely nothing more than idle conjecture.

If they are active at all, it is only as regards to the coming season of concerts, and each choir section has its own set of preparatory habits and customs. Sopranos check to make sure that their new season’s wardrobe is appropriate to both the year’s repertoire and to their central importance to the choir. Altos beam with pride on the new pair of sensible shoes they have invested in, knowing that the moment the conductor asks them to stand they will be able to do so in complete comfort – unlike those glory-hogs, the sopranos. The tenors busily practice their “scales” – in fact a series of spectacular high notes that bear the same relation to scales as chocolate icing to rye bread, smiling with satisfaction as the neighbours bang on the wall at a particularly resonant high C. The basses, getting ready for another comfortable season of snoozing in the back row, select their mystery novels, magazines and ergonomic pillows with care.

As these worthy folk assemble to grace us with another season’s concerts, let’s survey the vocal fun that awaits us in the year ahead. The Toronto Chamber Choir has a well-rounded season that includes a concert of English music from the renaissance era to modern times (October 24), a concert of the music of the great renaissance composer Josquin de Prez (April 2), and that finally delves into Bach’s fascination with numerology (May 15).

Tafelmusik Orchestra and Chamber Choir will be performing Handel’s Dixit Dominus (November 11-14), Bach’s B Minor Mass (February 9-13) and, interestingly, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony – this group’s first foray into what has been traditionally the territory of larger choirs and modern instrument orchestras (April 7-10). John Tuttle’s Exultate Chamber singers have an ambitious season that includes Duruflé’s Requiem, one of Bach’s Lutheran masses, and Rachmaninoff’s All Night Vigil, often known as the Vespers (

An admirable four out of five concerts by the Elmer Iseler Singers feature music by Canadian composers, notably an a-cappella programme of mass settings by Healey Willan, Ruth Watson Henderson and Eleanor Daley, as well as Palestrina (October 24). EIS conductor Lydia Adams pursues this Canadian theme with the Amadeus Choir as well, as they perform Our Home and Native Land: Songs and Stories of Canada (May 14).

Soundstreams Canada celebrates ten years of hosting epic gatherings of choirs, combining 180 voices to perform various works by Arvo Pärt, and a newly commissioned piece by the venerable R. Murray Schafer (November 7). Kitcher’s Da Capo Chamber Choir is undertaking a number of concerts featuring new music, as well (

The Toronto Mendelssohn Choir takes part in the TSO’s performance of Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 (September 25), and follows this with Bach’s St John Passion (March 3) and Mozart’s Great Mass in C Minor (May 11). Toronto’s Nathaniel Dett Chorale performs “Voices of the Diaspora – Haitian Voices” (February 23 and 26).

Barrie’s Lyrica Chamber Choir looks at some rarer repertoire in the excellent choral works of Montreal Composer Donald Patriquin (December 11), 19th-century German composer Josef Rheinberger (March 26), and an American themed mixed programme (May 28).

P22As a concert reviewer, the phrase “choral pot-pourri” tends to make my heart sink. But as a singer and concert-goer I know that these can be some of the most interesting concerts in any given season. It’s in concerts of smaller works that the interesting nooks and crannies of choral repertoire are fully explored. Smaller scale works – often written originally for liturgical contexts and not necessarily intended for concert performance – comprise a central part of the choral repertoire, and a concert of smaller works by one composer, or varied works with a similar theme, can be among the most interesting concerts of a season.

Several concerts in this vein are being given this season by Toronto’s Bell ‘Arte Singers (, and the Burlington Civic Chorale ( The Cantabile Choirs of Kingston have gone an audacious step further than a single themed concert, and have programmed an entire season of concerts on the theme of “Voyages.” This set of programmes looks particularly intriguing (

The multitudinous Messiah concerts that await us in December need no advertising at this time. One interesting point worth mentioning: recent scholarship has ascertained that the beloved “Hallelujah” chorus was in fact written by lesser-known Handel contemporary Nicola Porpora. Accordingly, no performance of Messiah this year will include that section of the work. (Just kidding!)

The Common Thread Community chorus of Toronto showcases Latin-American music (September 8), Robert Cooper’s Chorus Niagara provides a live choral soundtrack to the classic Lon Chaney film “Hunchback of Notre Dame” (November 5-6), and the Guelph Chamber Choir performs Bach’s Christmas Oratorio (November 27) and Brahms’ German Requiem (April 2). The Oriana Women’s Choir performs Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater (March 5) and a special concert in tribute to William Brown’s 15th year as conductor (May 7).

Make sure to check out the various excellent childrens’ choirs in the region, among them the Mississauga Children’s Choir (, the Bach Children’s Chorus (, the Toronto Beaches Children’s Chorus ( and the Viva Youth Singers of Toronto ( The distinguished Toronto Children’s Chorus offers us a rare chance to hear Brahms’ Four Songs for Two Horns and Harp and Verdi’s Laudi Alla Vergine Maria (May 7).

All in all, the season appears to be a good mixture of the familiar and the rare, the majestic and the intimate. It’s excellent to see the amount of new music being performed: choirs are contributing new sounds to the tradition as well as building on what has gone before.

Benjamin Stein is a tenor and theorbist. He can be contacted at:

The 2010/11 opera season is upon us with the promise of over 26 different opera productions announced so far in Toronto and environs over the next ten months. Rather than give an overview of all these productions, I’ll focus on the five I presently look forward to most.

The 2010/11 season marks the first season planned entirely by Canadian Opera Company general manager Alexander Neef. He seems to have looked over the company’s production record to find those operas that the company has never or at least not recently produced. The first of these to arrive is Benjamin Britten’s final opera Death in Venice (1973), last staged by the COC in 1984. The opera is based on Thomas Mann’s 1912 novella about an elderly writer’s strange attraction to Tadzio, a Polish boy staying with his family in Venice before a cholera epidemic strikes the city. The COC will present the acclaimed 2007 Aldeburgh Festival production directed by Yoshi Oida, starring Alan Oke, who won kudos there as Aschenbach, and conducted by Steuart Bedford, who conducted the original production in 1973. Britten’s spare, delicate score should fare much better in the Four Seasons Centre than it could in the O’Keefe in 1984. The opera runs from October 16 to November 6.

P20The second noteworthy opera from the COC is the Toronto premiere of John Adams’ Nixon in China (1987), an opera now performed around the world that had its Canadian premiere as part of the 2010 Vancouver Cultural Olympiad. The choice is significant for a number of reasons. First, the COC hasn’t presented an American opera since Kismet in 1987 and before that Candide in 1984. While it’s true that Canada is inundated with American popular culture, it is foolish to exclude those American works that have become accepted touchstones of 20th-century opera. There are other operas by Adams, not to mention by Carlisle Floyd, Philip Glass or Jake Heggie, that have become well-known elsewhere but have never been staged here.

The COC production of Nixon in China comes from Opera Theatre of Saint Louis where it was staged in 2004 by James Robinson. He will also direct the Toronto production, which will feature Robert Orth as Richard Nixon, Adrian Thompson as Mao Tse-Tung and Tracy Dahl as Madame Mao. The production runs February 5 to 26, 2011. For more information see

Toronto is fortunate among North American cities to have a resident professional operetta company, Toronto Operetta Theatre. And we’re doubly fortunate that under the leadership of Guillermo Silva-Marin, the TOT has not been content to stage only Gilbert and Sullivan or Viennese operetta, but to introduce Toronto audiences to Old and New World zarzuela, the Spanish form of operetta that is part of the heritage of an increasing North American demographic. This year TOT presents its first production of Luisa Fernanda (1932) by Federico Moreno Torroba (1891-1982). The work is often considered the last of the great romantic zarzuelas before the form, as it became increasingly political, became extinct during the Spanish Civil War.

In Luisa Fernanda the action takes place in 1868 when the reign of Queen Isabel II is under threat by a revolutionary republican movement that eventually achieves success. For those curious to know more there is a 2006 DVD starring Placido Domingo as the protagonist, conducted by Jesús López-Corbos. The TOT production will be conducted by José Hernández and will star Mexican tenor Edgar Ernesto Ramirez and Canadian soprano Michèle Bogdanowicz. Luisa Fernanda plays March 9-13, 2011.

This season, Opera Atelier completes its long-held goal of staging what it calls its “Mozart Six.” The sixth in this series is Mozart’s second last opera, La Clemenza di Tito (1791), that Toronto has not seen fully staged since a COC production in 1991. What makes this production especially exciting is that it reunites five of the singers that made OA’s Idomeneo such a wild success in 2008. Returning for Tito are Kresimir Spicer in the title role, Measha Brüggergosman as Vitellia, Michael Maniaci as Sesto, Mireille Asselin as Servilia and Curtis Sullivan as Publio. David Fallis will conduct and Marshall Pynkoski will direct. See for more.

Coming up sometime in 2011 (the date is still to be announced) will be the latest opera by Ana Sokolovic for Queen of Puddings Music Theatre. The work is called Svadba (The Wedding) and will be based on existing Slavic and Balkan folk tales. Sokolovic is the composer of QoP’s Sirens/Sirènes and the acclaimed chamber opera The Midnight Court from 2005 that travelled to London’s Covent Garden in 2006. Svadba, scored for six female singers, is set on the night before a fiancée leaves for her wedding while her friends keep her company with enactments of pagan rituals and peasant stories. See for further information.


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

Selecting highlights of the new-music season is a difficult task. There are so many great composers to discover, such great programming on offer, so many performers and ensembles to hear, and yet so little space to do them all justice. In September alone there are three major events across the space of a week that could easily take up all the words of this column. But in an effort to be helpful, I will dive in to my pile of press releases to help set a course for your concert-going.

So, let’s have a look at that action-packed opening week. It actually starts on Friday September 17 with “Red Brick,” a celebration of the artistic legacy of composer Michael J. Baker. Chartier Danse and Arraymusic, in association with Harbourfront Centre, are collaborating to revive some of Baker’s most outstanding works for both dance and the concert stage, ten years after his tragic passing. To do so, “Red Brick” brings together a roster of Baker’s close collaborators, including luminary dance artists Peggy Baker, Serge Bennathan, James Kudelka, Heidi Strauss and Jeremy Mimnagh. Toronto’s Arraymusic, led by artistic director/percussionist Rick Sacks, is joined by soprano Carla Huhtanen to provide the live music. Those unfamiliar with Baker’s legacy should definitely add this date to their calendar.

P18Quick on the heels of “Red Brick,” is New Music Concert’s season-opener, “Let’s Hear from Beckwith.” You’ve guessed it – this is a tribute to one of our country’s pioneering music creators, most diligent music historians and fiercest arts advocate. Now 83 years old, John Beckwith maintains an active writing and composing career. The concert on September 19 at Walter Hall will feature premieres of a number of his more recent, smaller chamber works for wind instruments. It will also prominently feature one of his many NMC commissions, namely his Eureka for woodwind quintet, two trumpets, trombone and tuba. The piece is classic Beckwith, complete with choreography. You can get a sonic peek at Eureka through the Canadian Music Centre’s online CentreStreams audio player.

The following Saturday, Contact Contemporary Music joins the national Culture Days movement with a return to Yonge-Dundas Square and their Toronto New Music Marathon. Starting at 2pm and holding strong until 10pm, Contact is going to turn Toronto’s top visitor destination into a hub of contemporary sound creation. A stream of remarkable performers – pianists Christina Petrowska Quilico and Alison Wiebe, saxophonist Wallace Halladay and guitartist Rob MacDonald – bring us music from a range of top-tier creators like Ann Southam, Steve Reich and Jordan Nobles. New Adventures in Sound Art will re-create their real-time Three Sided Square sound project, while sound sculptor Barry Prophet will showcase his interactive Rotary Mbira. Get there early to get a seat.

P19Passing over “Nuit Blanche” (which you really shouldn’t do, especially because Anthony Keindl is curating “Sound and Vision” in the Queen West neighbourhood, and the CMC is hosting projects by John Oswald and Chiyoko Szlavnics), we land on the Music Gallery’s “X Avant Festival,” which is packing in eleven events over nine days under the banner “What is Real?” Guest curator Gregory Oh has done an astounding job of assembling a remarkable range of talent in a series that questions theories of authenticity and the sanctity of new music. Quick highlights include “Will The Real Pierrot Please Stand Up?” featuring Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire performed by Deep Dark United, RCM New Music Ensemble and Renaissance Madrigal Group on October 22; The 50 Minute Ring Cycle performed by Myra Davies on October 23; and a Plunderphonics 25th Anniversary Lecture by John Oswald on October 24. Be sure to check in with the Music Gallery website for full details (

In the new year, the University of Toronto New Music Festival starts up on January 23, playing host to Distinguished Visiting Composer Chen Yi and American new music pianist/composer Keith Kirchoff in a series of concerts, workshops and forums. Chen blends Chinese and Western traditions to form abstract canvases of sound that transcend cultural and musical boundaries, and her work will appear on no less than four festival concerts. The young Kirchoff (not yet 30) has already premiered some 100 new works, which he champions in concerts of unusual, neglected and new repertoire. During his stay in Toronto he’ll premiere winning works from the Kirchoff/U of T International Composition Competition.

We’ll intersect with Soundstreams’ season at the midpoint on February 24 when they invite Les Percussions de Strasbourg to Koerner Hall as part of the ensemble’s 50th anniversary tour. Co-founded in 1962, this sextet is the oldest Western percussion group. Their exceptional longevity, artistry and commitment to new music have inspired the creation of hundreds of works, including 250 world premieres. The anniversary programme includes Xenakis’ iconic Persephassa (written for the ensemble in 1969 to premiere at the historic Persepolis in Iran), a world premiere from innovative Canadian composer Andrew Staniland, who has a strong command of percussion writing, and John Cage’s seminal Credo in US.

The TSO returns with the seventh edition of its New Creations Festival March 2-10, focusing on cross-border exchanges with music by American composers John Adams and Jennifer Higdon, performed by top tier guest artists. I’m particularly looking forward to the festival finale concert with guest artists, eighth blackbird. This dynamic new music ensemble will join the orchestra in a freshly commissioned chamber concerto from Higdon, which will sit alongside the world premiere of our own R. Murray Schafer’s latest symphonic work.

On March 20, Continuum will reprise “Step, turn, kick,” a programme prepared for Montreal Nouvelles Musique that highlights the idea of “dancing in the mind.” Composers Cassandra Miller, Nicolas Gilbert, Linda C. Smith and Lori Freedman each contribute a movement to a larger work based on the form of a French baroque dance suite. Also featured is the premiere of Marc Sabat’s John Jenkins, a work inspired by the prolific 17th-century dance composer, and written for Continuum.

Music Toronto has coaxed violinist Julie Anne Derome away from her regular Trio Fibonacci project for a solo recital on March 24 at the Jane Mallett Theatre. A well known new music specialist, Derome has assembled a nicely mixed contemporary programme, ranging from strong selections by compatriot Quebec composers Jean Lesage and Yannick Plamondon to demanding works with live electronics and video by Pierre Boulez and Laurie Radford. Chan Ka Nin’s favourite Soulmate completes the mix. At $15, this recital is a sure bet.

Finally, we catch up with the Esprit Orchestra for their final concert of the season on May 15 at Koerner Hall. While all four concerts in their season present an intriguing offer, the new commission from Chris Paul Harman is a particular draw. The concert theme looks at the many forms of human inspiration, from cosmic and mythological to historical and purely musical, through works by Sofia Gubaidulina, Alex Paul and Denis Gougeon.

But this is by no means all there is to hear! As always, there is much more new music all season long, so be sure to get in with the new via the WholeNote concert listings here and online at

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

Greetings of the new season to all early music lovers – you’re in for a great time ahead! I know, because in surveying the coming months I already find a vast and fascinating variety of music to talk about. There’s far too much to mention in this column – but here are a few of the many things that have caught my eye.

The earliest composer I see represented is Hildegard von Bingen, the German abbess, musician, author, naturalist, scientist, philosopher, physician, poet and visionary. Her feast day (the anniversary of her death in 1179) will be celebrated on September 17 in the Church of the Holy Trinity with a concert and labyrinth walk, entitled “Meditation in Motion.” This is an opportunity to experience the mystical properties of her music while either sitting and meditating, or walking the spiraling 36-foot labyrinth placed in the church for the occasion, or simply listening to the music.

At the other end of the spectrum, the most recent compositions represented on the early-music scene probably have yet to be written: Aradia’s February 5 project, entitled “Baroque Idol!”, is to elicit ten new compositions from ten young composers, thereby fostering new music for baroque ensemble using the tonal possibilities of old instruments.

There’s a wide range in other areas too. For example, you can hear early music on modern instruments, such as cellist Winona Zelenka’s stylistically aware performances of Bach’s solo suites for cello (September 2 at the Toronto Music Garden; February 24 at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts; April 16 at the Almonte Town Hall). Or you can experience romantic music on period instruments, such as pianist Janina Fialkowska’s performance of Chopin’s First Piano Concerto on an 1848 Pleyel piano – a Tafelmusik presentation from October 7 to 10. Contemporary music on period instruments can be heard on September 19, as the Windermere String Quartet plays Alexander Rapoport’s Quartet written in 2006 (as well as Schubert, Haydn and Beethoven).

P15The theme “Old World/New World” crops up, in two interesting programmes. Scaramella’s November 20 concert (with this same title) will pair European art-music with music of the colonies (specifically Brazil and French maritime Canada). On May 8, master gambist Jordi Savall and his ensemble Hespèrion XXI will evoke Old Spain, the Mexican Baroque, and the living Huasteca and Jarocho traditions in their programme “The Route of the New World: Spain – Mexico.”

As has often occurred in the past, there are some striking correspondences to be noticed in this season’s programming. For instance, who would expect to find all three pinnacles of Bach’s choral works performed in the area, within a three-month period? That’s the case this season: the B Minor Mass is presented by Tafelmusik from February 9 to 13; the St. John Passion is offered by the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir (actually the 70-voice Mendelssohn Singers) on March 3; and the St. Matthew Passion is programmed by the Masterworks of Oakville Chorus and Orchestra on April 15, 16 and 17.

If you missed Tafelmusik’s 2009 spectacular commemoration of the 400th anniversary of Galileo’s development of the telescope – or if, like me, you absolutely have to see it again – you’re in luck: a reprise of “The Galileo Project: Music of the Spheres” takes place March 2 to 6. A production like no other, it uses music, words, images and very imaginative staging and lighting to explore the artistic, cultural and scientific world in which 17th- and 18th-century astronomers lived and worked. It also features the orchestra performing almost completely from memory as they probe the wonders of the heavens.

Perhaps it’s the present climate of environmental consciousness? Our fellow furry and feathered creatures are represented in at least three programmes: September 18, Beaches Baroque (Geneviève Gilardeau, baroque violin, and Lucas Harris, theorbo) present “Beasts of the Baroque,” featuring baroque sonatas that imitate the calls of animals. Hot on its tracks, Classics at the Registry in Kitchener follows on September 19 with “Baroque for the Birds”: music inspired by birds, performed by Alison Melville, baroque flute and recorders and Borys Medicky, harpsichord. And February 5, Scaramella’s “Birds Bewigged” features musical improvisations based on readings of haiku, and poetic readings on an avian theme.

P16And I must draw your attention to some of the visiting artists coming this season: In addition to the above-mentioned ensemble from Spain (Hespèrion XXI), here are others to be noted: On October 26, the Venice Baroque Orchestra appears at Roy Thomson Hall to play both Vivaldi and Philip Glass. This group, founded in 1997, is recognized as one of Europe’s premier ensembles devoted to period instrument performance. On March 12, the a-cappella vocal ensemble the King’s Singers graces Koerner Hall stage to sing Palestrina and others. On March 23, Soundstreams presents Norwegian vocalists Trio Mediæval together with the Toronto Consort to perform a world premiere based on ancient music: James Rolfe’s “Breathe”, which draws inspiration from the music of 12th- century composer Hildegard von Bingen. The programme also includes medieval classics, music inspired by Norwegian folk traditions, and recent masterworks.

As well as all the above, you’ll find many other fascinating programmes coming up, which I hope to do more justice to in future columns – for example the Monteverdi Vespers sung by the Grand River Chorus on October 30; a concert of Josquin Motets and Chansons presented by the Toronto Chamber Choir on April 2; the Toronto Consort’s “Canti di a Terra” on April 1 and 2 with guests: Montreal’s Constantinople (who draw their inspiration from the music of the Mediterranean, the classical Persian tradition, the Middle Ages and the Renaissance) and Corsica’s vocal quartet Barbara Furtuna (who specialize in the centuries old traditions of Corsican singing).

Finally, you might want to expand your travel plans this month to include ancient Egypt, Scandinavia and the Baltics in Viking times, and Elizabethan England, with the following events taking place: Aradia’s semi-staged production of Handel’s Giulio Cesare in Egitto plays on September 11, fresh from Sulmona, Italy, where it has had four triumphant performances. On September 27 at Barrie’s Colours of Music Festival, Ensemble Polaris presents “Nordic Music to Love,” a modern tribute to the Vikings with original, traditional and new music on a wide variety of instruments. On October 2 and 3, Cantemus Singers celebrates “Good Queen Bess” with glorious music from the court of Queen Elizabeth I.


Simone Desilets is a long-time contributor to The WholeNote in several capacities, who plays the viola da gamba. She can be contacted at:

In the May issue I quoted Simon Wynberg, artistic director of the Royal Conservatory’s ARC Ensemble: “The more intriguing question is whether we are gradually moving away from the concept of a ‘core repertory,’” he said. What he saw emerging was “a new, broader and younger audience who do not have an inbuilt allegiance to the pillars of repertory, but are curious to explore the vast range of music that is now so readily and instantly available.” As I study the websites of the many Toronto and area music presenters I notice evidence of many different kinds of interesting and imaginative programming.

Toronto Symphony Orchestra

While the “core repertoire” is still – as one would expect and probably as it should be – the principal focus of artistic director, Peter Oundjian’s programming, there are interesting forays into unusual programming. On November 10, for example, using Tchaikovsky’s short and appealing Marche Slave and Prokofiev’s Lieutenant Kijé Suite as points of departure from the core repertoire, he makes Janácek’s infrequently performed Glagolitic Mass and a contemporary work, Krystof Maratka’s Astrophonia for Viola and Orchestra the centre of the programme.

P12One of Oundjian’s most successful innovations with the TSO has been the New Creations Festival, which opens this season on March 2 with the iconoclastic Evelyn Glennie as the soloist, in what the TSO’s website describes as a “spectacular new percussion concerto” by Canadian composer Vincent Ho. The programme will also include John Adams’ popular Short Ride in a Fast Machine and his “vast, exhilarating Harmonielehre.”


Sinfonia Toronto

Almost as forgotten as the composers whose music the Royal Conservatory’s ARC Ensemble has been performing and recording, the Czech composer Vita Kapralova has been brought to the attention of the world by the Toronto-based Kapralova Society. On March 11, Sinfonia Toronto with pianist Sara Buechner will perform the Canadian premiere of her Partita for Piano and Strings. The rest of the programme is also unusual: Turina’s Rapsodia Sinfonica, Brahms’ Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Handel, and Marjan Mozetich’s lovely Fantasia in its orchestral version. Interestingly, works by Mozetich will be performed on two other Sinfonia Toronto programmes this season.


Mooredale Concerts

Turina’s Rapsodia Sinfonica will be played earlier in the year by I Musici de Montréal, with Canadian piano soloist Katherine Chi, at the opening concert of Mooredale Concerts’ season on October 3. She will also perform the solo tour-de-force Symphonic Metamorphosis on Themes from Johann Strauss’ “Die Fledermaus” by Leopold Godowsky. The core repertoire part of the programme will be the beautiful string serenades by Elgar and Tchaikovsky.


Royal Conservatory

Another fine pianist to look out for this season is Pierre-Laurent Aimard, who will perform in Koerner Hall on May 1. The New York Times described him as “astounding” and “an elegant and exciting performer.” Perhaps the repertoire of the concert says it all: Wagner’s Albumblatt in E-flat Major, Berg’s Piano Sonata in B Minor, Scriabin’s “Black Mass” Sonata No. 9 in F Major, and Liszt’s Piano Sonata in B Minor.

Music Toronto

This summer the Pacifica Quartet played with the legendary pianist Menahem Pressler, for Toronto Summer Music. They’ll be back on December 9 to play three string quartets in a Music Toronto concert. While the quartets by Schumann and Shostakovich are probably “core repertoire,” the quartet Voices, by the American composer Jennifer Higdon, was written in 1993, so it’s likely to be new to most people.

On February 17 Music Toronto will present Trio Voce, three expatriate Canadians who now live and work in the Chicago area. The cellist in the trio is Marina Hoover, the founding cellist of the St. Lawrence String Quartet (which, incidentally, will open the Music Toronto 2010-11 season on October 14). Again the programme will combine core repertoire (piano trios by Beethoven and Shostakovich) with contemporary: the Toronto premiere of Jonathan Berger’s Memory Slips. Berger will be part of the performance as a commentator, combining a review of current research on music, memory and aging with personal and historical anecdotes and examples.


Amici Ensemble

If there were an annual prize for creative programming, I’d give it this season to Amici. Each of their four concerts has a theme to which each piece on the programme is related. Just to give an example, the theme of their fourth concert on April 3 is “In the Shadow.” (Is the shadow Beethoven’s or is it Mozart’s?) The programme will begin with Beethoven’s Twelve Variations for cello and piano on the popular “Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen” from Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute – certainly not Beethoven’s best known work, but probably core repertoire for cellists.

The rest of the programme consists of compositions by Spohr, Webern and the recently rediscovered late romantic Austrian composer, Carl Frühling (1868-1937). While the Amici Ensemble is a clarinet, cello, piano trio, they frequently invite guest artists to join them, which, of course, introduces a lot of variety to their programmes as well as extending their repertoire almost indefinitely. The guest artist at the April 3 concert will be the young mezzo-soprano Wallis Giunta, who will perform Spohr’s Six German Songs Op. 103, for voice, clarinet and piano.

Talisker Players

It’s easy to forget that there’s more to the United States than red-neck yahoos and Neanderthal foreign policy. It is a highly polarized society, which has produced scores of artists in all disciplines. Kudos to the Talisker Players for celebrating the cultural depth of our southern neighbour with a concert called “The Revolutionary Rhythms and Imagery of American Poets,” on October 27 and 28. The programme consists of settings by seven contemporary composers, including Toronto’s Alexander Rapoport, of poetry by American poets.

Roy Thomson Hall

Last but not least, Roy Thomson Hall has a terrific season planned, which will open on October 26 with yet another chamber orchestra, the Venice Baroque Orchestra, in a programme entitled “The Seasons Project.” It’s an artful blend of old and new, combining Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons and Philip Glass’s Concerto No. 2 for Violin and Orchestra: “The American Four Seasons,” with soloist Robert McDuffie, who premiered the work just last December with the TSO. If you missed it then, you now have a second chance!

This gives some idea of the programming breadth and depth of the coming season. At best, it’s an incomplete overview of what is coming. The profiles in the Blue Pages of the October WholeNote will, of course, fill out the picture somewhat – as I will also be trying to do in my columns.

Allan Pulker is a flautist and a founder of The WholeNote who currently serves as Chairman of The WholeNote’s board of directors. He can be contacted at


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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