Christina Petrowska Quilico (left) and Ann Southam at the launch of the Rivers CD. Photo by André LeducFor the opening column of the new season, I thought I’d take a look at two new CDs being released by the prolific and virtuosic Canadian pianist Christina Petrowska Quilico. The first CD, Soundspinning, offers a series of older works composed by her friend and colleague, the late Ann Southam. It will be released on the Canadian Music Centre’s (CMC) Centrediscs label, with the official launch happening on September 25 at the CMC in Toronto. The second CD, Global Sirens, on the Fleur de Son/Naxos label, features the music of 15 different internationally-based composers and includes a total of 19 compositions, including two works by Canadians.

Southam: Petrowska Quilico is well known for her interpretations of Southam’s music, having already released seven CDs of Southam’s compositions including Glass Houses, Pond Life and Rivers, each one released as box sets. However, this recent CD is unique, as it consists of a number of rarely heard Southam works from 1963 to 1999. As Petrowska Quilico told me in our recent interview, Southam used to joke: “I love it when you root around in my old pieces and come up with something new.” When it came to choosing repertoire and creating an order for this new CD, Petrowska Quilico crafted it with careful attention to the flow of changes in mood and tempo between the works, quipping that in a sense she was creating a sonata in a very unorthodox way – a sonata whose contrasting movements were being fashioned from the different Southam compositions.

The album opens with Stitches in Time, composed in 1979 and revised in 1999. This work is comprised of two small collections of pieces: three pieces in Sonocycles and eight in Soundspinning. They are all short and fast pieces that reflect Southam’s love of nature, and are precursors to the larger Rivers and Glass Houses works. Petrowska Quilico spoke about how they were harder to play than they look, and have no indications regarding phrasing, dynamics or pedalling. Because of the 30-year working relationship she had enjoyed with Southam, this didn’t create a stumbling block for her. She approached them in a similar way to Rivers, accentuating hidden melodies and altering the tempos to create a more shimmering effect, making each one shine with its own unique characteristics. During their work together in preparing the Rivers CD, Southam had told her she trusted Petrowska Quilico’s musical judgment completely. And even though they are fast virtuosic pieces, they still require control, which Petrowska Quilico admits may seem like a bit of a contradiction.

She follows this intense, fast-flowing opening cycle of pieces with Slow Music (1979), a more meditative work composed using Southam’s signature 12-tone row, one that she used repeatedly for many of her pieces. One distinguishing feature of Southam’s approach to working with the serial technique was the freedom and openness she allowed herself, in comparison to the more strict approach used by composers such as Webern or Boulez. Altitude Lake is next, described by Petrowska Quilico as “massive” due to the presence of so many large chords that suggest images of immense landscapes and intense weather activity. It was written in 1963 at the same time as Southam began working in the electronic music studio at the University of Toronto. (As an aside: Southam also began teaching electroacoustic composition in 1966 at the Royal Conservatory of Music in a small studio in the sub-basement that she and composer John Mills-Cockell started up, offering drop-in classes for $10 each.) The score that Petrowska Quilico had of this early piece was handwritten and was so hard to read that she had to use a magnifying glass. Once she figured out the notes, she discovered how much she loved the piece, describing it as “a real treasure. It was written so early in such a different style, that you’d never realize it was her.”

The next few works are a series of Southam’s jazz-inflected pieces – Three in Blue (1965), Five Shades of Blue (1970) and Cool Blue; Red Hot (1980), all of which Petrowska Quilico selected due to her own love of playing jazz. The concluding work on the CD is Remembering Schubert from 1993 – a piece that also appears on the CBC album Glass Houses: The Music of Ann Southam, performed by pianist Eve Egoyan, who also enjoyed a special bond with the composer.

Petrowska Quilico spoke about how joyful and fluid Southam’s music is, and how the composer loved watching the light refracting on the water. She described playing Southam’s works as being similar to performing pieces by Chopin and Liszt, all of which require fast fingers. “If you don’t have good technique and are not in control, it will sound heavy, choppy and muddy. At the same time, you can’t think about the technique or all the notes you’re playing, otherwise you won’t be able to get through it. You have to think about the long line.”

Christina Petrowska Quilico. Photo by Bo HuangGlobal Sirens: Petrowska Quilico has spent a good deal of her career promoting the music of women composers, and this love and commitment is reflected in her second CD coming out this fall – Global Sirens. Her desire with this CD is “to show the great wealth of women’s compositions. Not to denigrate men’s compositions, but we hear more of them than we do the women,” she said. Arising out of the research she’s undertaken for her York University Gender and Performance course, she has uncovered many lost compositions and composers, a selection of which are on the CD. Primarily these are works that span the 20th century, and include composers from numerous backgrounds. One such example is the opening piece Langsamer Waltz composed by Else Fromm-Michaels, whose compositions were banned during the Nazi period because her husband was Jewish. Other composers represented include Else Schmitz-Gohr and Barbara Heller, also from Germany, Ada Gentile (Italy), Priaulx Rainier (South Africa), Peggy Glanville-Hicks (Australia) and French composers Lili Boulanger and Germaine Tailleferre, who was one of Les Six along with Milhaud, Poulenc and others. The two Canadians represented are Larysa Kuzmenko and Sophie-Carmen Eckhardt-Gramatté. Petrowska Quilico has included four pieces by American composer Meredith Monk, whose music she loves, as well as Wireless Rag (1909) by Adaline Shepherd, a woman who was forced by her husband to give up composing, until she was able to resume her creative life after his death (an event which made her quite happy, Petrowska Quilico remarked). Shepherd had great success with her rag Pickles and Peppers, which sold over 200,000 copies in 1906 and was used as a theme song by William Jennings Bryan during his presidential campaign in 1908.

This little slice of Shepherd’s experience offers us just a glimpse at the hostile environment many women composers faced in the past. But what about now? I asked what she thought about the current climate for women music creators in Canada and Toronto. She began by recounting the story of performing Violet Archer’s Piano Concerto No.1 in 1982. At that time, an entry in an American encyclopedia had listed it as one of the major concertos written in Canada – it had been composed in 1956 – and despite this acknowledgement, the piece had only received one performance in 1958 under the baton of Victor Feldbrill with the CBC Symphony. This was something that was quite upsetting to Archer, and so Petrowska Quilico set out to perform it again and eventually released it as a recording. It’s now available on the Centrediscs album 3 Concerti, which also includes works by Alexina Louie and Larysa Kuzmenko. On the subject of gender parity in programming, Petrowska Quilico feels that music composed by women should definitely be played more often, and concerts should include a good balance of pieces by both genders, as well as older works along with newer ones. “Let’s make sure we don’t forget the women and Canadian composers of the past, and sprinkle them through the programs.” The problem, she stated, is that the emphasis is on premieres, and it is often a fight to get women’s music played more than once.

In looking at the overall scope of Petrowska Quilico’s prolific career, the question that comes to mind is how she manages to do it all. Her discography alone is extensive – 50 CDs with four JUNO nominations. Many of these recordings are from live performances – and even when in the recording studio, her preference is to record with only one or two takes. Regarding her technique, earlier in her career she undertook a process of slowly relearning everything, which was particularly important after suffering a broken wrist. She described how she approaches her touch on the keyboard as being like Zen meditation. “The fluidity comes from the fingertip – that’s where you have to focus your energy. All extra movements such as in the elbows take away from the energy you need to play a line. The body needs to be aligned, and you need to be both flexible and strong at the same time.” Another important aspect that she learned early on was the importance of maintaining the electrical current within the music itself, a current that begins with the first note and continues up until the last one. Keeping the energy moving requires focus on the melodic line. “No matter how many chords and notes, what is important is the melodic line.”

All the training, practice and inner focus come together for the performance – and these two new CDs will be a welcome addition to her ongoing contribution to Canadian musical life.

IN WITH THE NEW QUICK PICKS

Brodie West Quintet. Photo by Martin ReisSEP 8, 7:30PM: CMC Centrediscs, Bekah Simms’ impurity chains CD launch, Canadian Music Centre. In the spirit of celebrating new CDs by women creators, this launch marks the first recording of Simms’ music that abounds with the sounds of 21st-century chaos. Combining both acoustic and electroacoustic soundworlds, Simms weaves references to diverse traditions, from folk to concert.

SEP 12, 8PM: Guelph Jazz Festival. SUNG RA, Guelph Little Theatre. Rory Magill’s take on the legendary Sun Ra with his own Rakestar Arkestra combined with Christine Duncan and the Element Choir.

SEP 16, 8PM: Guelph Jazz Festival. Allison Cameron and Ben Grossman, Silence. These two eclectic composers join forces to perform improvisations on a wide array of instruments and objects, percussion, and electronics.

SEP 21, 6PM & 8PM: Music Gallery and Musicworks, The Brodie West Quintet “Clips” album release + Wow And Flutter. Join hosts Fahmid Nibesh and Joe Strutt for an interactive look-back at the 40-year legacy of Musicworks magazine & CD, to be followed by the music of the Brodie West Quintet for their Clips album release and the improvisations of the Wow & Flutter trio

SEP 27, 12PM: Canadian Opera Company, Awasaakwaa (Beyond, on the Other side of the Woods), Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre. A solo recital by acclaimed Odawa First Nation composer and performer Barbara Croall, presenting her own compositions for voice and pipigwan (Anishinaabe cedar flute). Croall is currently preparing for a major performance piece about Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, a Mohawk woman who was made a saint. More details about that coming later this fall.

OCT 6, 8PM: New Music Concerts, Linda Bouchard’s Murderous Little World, Betty Oliphant Theatre. NMC begins its new season with this music and theatre performance work, directed by Keith Turnbull with texts by Anne Carson. Combining an electronic score with live performers who double as actors, this event promises an emotional experience full of artistic electricity and intellectual prowess.

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

Judging from the playbills that opera companies have announced so far, the 2018/19 season looks to be an exciting one. Nearly every company, large or small, has a rarity or world premiere on offer to spice up the year.

Rufus Wainwright, composer of Hadrian. Photo by Matthew WelchHadrian: The most anticipated of these is the world premiere of Hadrian by Rufus Wainwright to a libretto by Daniel MacIvor. This is the first new opera that the Canadian Opera Company (COC) has commissioned for the main stage since The Golden Ass in 1999 by Randolph Peters to a libretto by Robertson Davies. Strangely enough, Hadrian also has a Roman theme, in that it focuses on how the grief of the Emperor Hadrian (reigned 117-138AD) for his lover Antinous begins to distract him from affairs of state. For the premiere, the COC has assembled a starry cast that includes Thomas Hampson as Hadrian, Isaiah Bell as Antinous, Karita Mattila as Plotina, the widow of Hadrian’s predecessor, and Ben Heppner as Dinarchus. Johannes Debus conducts and Peter Hinton directs. The opera runs from October 13 to 27.

Daniel MacIvor, librettist of Hadrian. Photo by Guntar KravisThe COC fall season begins with the Canadian debut of Robert Carsen’s production of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin. Gordon Bintner sings the title role and Joyce El-Khoury the role of Tatyana, the young woman infatuated with Onegin. Johannes Debus conducts the opera, which runs from September 30 to November 3.

The COC’s remaining operas are standard repertory but with some spicy casting – Richard Strauss’ Elektra running January 26 to February 22, Mozart’s Così fan tutte running February 5 to 23, Puccini’s La Bohème running April 17 to May 22 and Verdi’s Otello running April 27 to May 21. Elektra will be of special interest since it stars two former COC Brünnhildes – Christine Goerke as the vengeful Elektra and Susan Bullock as her hated mother Klytämnestra. Otello should also be exciting with Russell Thomas in the title role and with Gerald Finley as Iago.

Measha Brueggergosman in Opera Atelier’s 2008 production of Idomeneo. Photo by Bruce ZingerOpera Atelier begins its season with two one-act operas it has never paired before. The first is Actéon (1683) by Marc-Antoine Charpentier and the second is Pygmalion (1748) by Jean-Philippe Rameau. Colin Ainsworth sings both title roles, Mireille Asselin sings Diana in the first and Amour in the second and Allyson McHardy sings Juno in the first and Céphise in the second. The double bill runs from October 25 to November 3 in Toronto and will later tour to Chicago and Versailles.

OA’s spring opera is Mozart’s Idomeneo (1781), but the draw for many people will be the return of soprano Measha Brueggergosman to the Toronto stage after a ten-year absence to sing the role of Elettra as she did when OA premiered this production in 2008. The rest of the cast is just as noteworthy. Colin Ainsworth sings Idomeneo, Wallis Giunta is Idamante, Meghan Lindsay is Ilia and Douglas Williams is Neptune. As usual Marshall Pynkoski directs and David Fallis conducts the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra. The opera runs from April 4 to 13, 2019.

Tapestry Opera has much in store. From September 13 to 16 it presents Tapestry Briefs, in which four singers present short operas by four composers and four librettists. On March 29 and 30 it presents Songbook IX, a collection of highlights from Tapestry’s 39 years of opera creation.

Tapestry also will present two new full-length operas. The first is Hook Up by Chris Thornborrow to a libretto by Julie Tepperman, running from January 29 to February 9. The opera looks at the difficulties encountered by three friends when they discover sexual freedom at university, along with questions of shame and consent. The opera features three singers best known for work in musicals rather than opera – Alicia Ault, Nathan Caroll and Jeff Lillico. The second is Shanawdithit by Dean Burry to a libretto by Yvette Nolan. The opera tells of Shanawdithit (1801-1829), who was the last recorded surviving member of the Beothuk Nation in Newfoundland. In the last months of her life she created a series of drawings that expressed the loneliness of survival and her lost history. Kwagiulth and Stó:lo First Nations, English, Irish and Scottish mezzo-soprano Marion Newman sings the title role, with the rest of the cast and the performance dates in May 2019 to be determined.

Ivor NovelloToronto Operetta Theatre presents two of operetta’s greatest hits with Johann Strauss, Jr.’s Die Fledermaus running from December 28, 2018, to January 2, 2019, and Franz Lehár’s The Merry Widow running from April 23 to 28, 2019. In between these blockbusters, however, on March 3, TOT presents a major rarity in the form of Ivor Novello’s operetta Perchance to Dream (1945), the only work for which he wrote both the music and the libretto. The operetta tells the usual story of the inhabitants of the same house, Huntersmoon, in three different historical periods – the Regency, the Victorian age and in 1945. Though a huge success in Novello’s day, it has seldom been revived, though many will know its most famous song, We’ll Gather Lilacs.

Vera Causa: While we have focused so far on opera in Toronto, it’s worth noting that recently small opera companies have been sprouting up across Ontario. One of these is Vera Causa Opera, based in Cambridge and serving what has become known as the Golden Triangle, Ontario’s answer to California’s Silicon Valley. For VCO the 2018/19 season is its most ambitious since it was founded by artistic director Dylan Langan in 2015. It begins with the 1884 rarity Le Villi (The Fairies), Puccini’s very first opera, which happens to be based on the same story that provided the scenario for Adolphe Adam’s ballet Giselle (1841). The opera will have three performances in Waterloo from November 16 to 18.

VCO’s second production is the world premiere of Langan’s own opera Dracula, to be performed in Cambridge on February 15, Waterloo on February 16 and Guelph on February 17. The company’s third production is Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’amore, to be performed in the same three cities in the same order from April 5 to 7. VCO’s season concludes with its Canadian Opera Fest, which will include two brand new operas performed in the same three cities from June 14 to 16.

Busy September: In addition to the 2018/19 seasons above, September itself is very busy for local opera. Opera by Request, the concert opera company where the singers choose the repertory, is presenting an encore of its successful performance of Donizetti’s Anna Bolena on September 7, with Antonina Ermolenko as Anna and John Holland as Enrico VIII. On September 28, OBR presents Wagner’s Der fliegende Holländer, with Peter Bass as the Dutchman and Brigitte Bogar as Senta. On September 14 it presents Mozart’s Don Giovanni, with Norman E. Brown as the reprobate and John Holland as Leporello. Then OBR takes the opera on tour – first to Ottawa on September 16, then to London on September 22 and finally to Windsor on September 30. This is a great way to serve cities that once had or never had professional opera available.

Opera has returned sporadically to the Hamilton area because of the Brott Music Festival. But a new company, SOLO, or the Southern Ontario Lyric Opera, is presenting its second fully-staged opera in the area, with Verdi’s Rigoletto on September 16 in Burlington. Jeffrey Carl sings Rigoletto, Allison Cecilia Arends is his daughter Gilda and Romulo Delgado is the lecherous Duke of Mantua. SOLO founder and artistic director Sabatino Vacca conducts.

Paper Canoe and Cahoots: Also in September, running from September 9 to 30, is a play from Paper Canoe and Cahoots Theatre that ought be of interest to those curious about early North American opera. The play is I Call myself Princess by Jani Lauzon, about a modern-day Métis student who encounters the opera Shanewis: The Robin Woman, which was written for Creek/Cherokee mezzo-soprano Tsianina Redfeather (1882-1985). The opera premiered at the Metropolitan Opera in New York in 1918 and was later performed in Denver and Los Angeles. Lauzon’s play features music from Shanewis composed by Redfeather’s creative partner Charles Wakefield Cadman (1881-1946), an American composer in the early 1900s who was part of a musical movement which sought to use Indigenous music to create a distinct North American musical identity.

The question the play raises is similar to some of the issues encountered in the recent COC production of Harry Somers’ 1967 opera Louis Riel –namely, “How can we engage with tensions between representation, inspiration and cultural appropriation?” Mezzo-soprano Marion Newman sings the role of Tsianina, Richard Greenblatt plays Cadman, Marjorie Chan directs and Jerod Impichchaachaaha’ Tate conducts. 

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

Lucas Harris. Photo by Scarlet O'Neill.All it takes is one person with initiative and a few friends to start a choir.” The speaker is Lucas Harris, current artistic director of the Toronto Chamber Choir (TCC). The person he is talking about is Annegret Wright whose initiative it was, five decades ago, to get the TCC started. Not many arts organizations can sustain themselves for decades, and 50 years is a remarkable feat, requiring not just loyalty to an organization’s founder but also the ability to change. Harris is now at the helm, taking the TCC into its golden jubilee, but “[past conductors],Elizabeth Anderson, Mark Vuorinen and David Fallis are all heroes of mine,” says Harris, “and I’m honoured to feature them in this concert.” Together on September 29, the combined forces of these impressive artistic leaders should make the start of the TCC’s 50th anniversary season a celebration to remember.

Harris reaches me by email, providing a glimpse into how the choir retains its awareness of its history. The choir’s archivist, Sharon Adamson, has kept meticulous records, he explains. These include “the choir’s complete membership history, every concert performed, every venue rented, every work sung, every soloist/section lead/instrumentalist hired over the choir’s entire history.” He gives me statistics that can be drawn from the archival work: 177 concert programs, 1500 works performed, 418 members across the decades, 357 instrumentalists hired, and five artistic directors. Impressive.

The work for this concert began last season, and the programming reflects Harris’s awareness of its past. He has programmed “hits by the choir’s all-time favorite composers, including Monteverdi, Purcell, Bach, Britten and more,” he says. There’s even a chorus from Schütz’s Musikalische Exequien (Funeral Music) that was in the very first TCC concert. Other homages include Fallis leading Healey Willan’s three Marian motets. Elizabeth Anderson, a frequent guest conductor of the choir, began rehearsing the concert in March. Harris describes her as “a seasoned church musician with amazing ears (and perfect pitch) and is brilliant at firing up the group to learn music quickly.” As they head back to rehearsals, they’ve already got a head start.

“Because it’s a best of/greatest hits… it’s a lot of repertoire we already know. We started last season when we had some down time,” shares David Barber, a longtime singer in the choir. Barber has also created a new work for the choir, Gaudeamus, adding something new to the mix. It is meant to feel old, though, and fits right into the mix of the flavours that make up the typical repertoire of the choir. “It starts with the Introit of the Gregorian chant and actually goes through the history of the music that this choir sings, all in about five minutes,” continues Barber. He describes the song as including flavours and techniques akin to Machaut, Tudor, Byrd, Tallis, Purcell and much more. This combination of the old and the new fits well for the choir. It’s a unique value proposition that TCC offers that other choirs don’t. Barber describes the versatility: “We’re one of the few choirs that specializes in early music, with a bridge to the contemporary when we can find a connection. Certainly, it’s been a speciality of this choir.”

Harris has further thoughts on the longevity of the choir and what it has to offer. “I think that the most important factor keeping our music-making fresh is the enormous amount of repertoire there is to explore … even just within Baroque and Renaissance music,” says Harris. Much can be said about the bridging of the old and the new in creative ways.

Under Harris’s leadership, the ensemble is embracing some innovative programming. With a modernization of the “Kaffeemusik” format, the choir’s Sunday afternoon performances have taken on a new life with multimedia, narrators and actors. The goal is “to explore something broader than just the music … to add historical and/or social context to the music,” shares Harris. He’s excited about previous forays into Eastern European and Scandinavian music, and a special focus on female composers prior to Clara Schumann.

“We’re also partnering with more diverse artists in order to explore beyond our usual repertoire,” he continues. The list of upcoming guests is impressive and exciting. The Nathaniel Dett Chorale, soprano/conductor Teri Dunn, tenor Charles Daniels, musicologists, and even First Nations language specialists are part of the plans. Harris continues to look both to the old and the new in programming. “There is still so much more music out there to explore … I’m keenly aware of this every time I visit a good music library and just pull volumes of music off the shelves. Even after two decades of specializing in early music, I humbly realize that I have only experienced the tip of an iceberg,” he says.

The rest of the season will include many more collaborations and explorations of new and challenging programs. For now though, it’s a chance for the ensemble to take 50 years of history and have a great time. “The goal is to bring the TCC family together and celebrate its history,” says Harris. “It is really about celebrating the TCC’s extended family by bringing together as many former members, directors, soloists/section leads and other friends.” It’s a big family too, with over 400 members from seasons past and 17 years of an apprentice program with the Rosedale School for the Arts. Alumni of the choir have been invited to join in the program, and will beef up some of the performances in the second half of the concert. “Even more than the music itself, I’m looking forward to this as a community event,” says Harris. “It will be a gathering of people whose love of early music caused them to be connected to this extraordinary organization at some point in their lives.”

Fifty years ago, all it took was a few friends around Annegret Wright (far left) to start a new choir.Fifty years ago, all it took was a few friends around Annegret Wright to start a new choir. 177 concert programs and 1500 works performed later, the Toronto Chamber Choir begins its 50th anniversary season in fine style and esteemed company – with the prospect of much more ahead.

The Toronto Chamber Choir presents “Music & Friendship” September 29 at 8pm at Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre, Toronto. See more about upcoming performances of the Toronto Chamber Choir at torontochamberchoir.ca.

Honorary Mention

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra opens its season with a rarely heard choral presentation of Fantasy on Shakespeare’s The Tempest from Lélio, or The Return to Life by Hector Berlioz. The Toronto Mendelssohn Choir joins the TSO under interim artistic director Sir Andrew Davis. September 20 and 22 at 8pm; September 21 at 7:30pm. Roy Thomson Hall, Toronto.

A choir for you!

At the start of every season I always encourage readers to get out there and join. Whether you sing or not, there’s a choir for you in this city. The WholeNote maintains a database of choirs across the region known as the Canary Pages – available on thewholenote.com under the “Who’s Who” tab. Here are just some of the many options:

Accessible Community – City Choir
Adult Female – Penthelia Singers
Adult Male – Forte - Toronto Gay Men’s Chorus
Barbershop – Toronto Northern Lights
Casual – Choir! Choir! Choir!
Chamber Choir – Exultate Chamber Singers
Contemporary – That Choir
Early Music – Toronto Chamber Choir
East York – VOCA Chorus of Toronto
Etobicoke – Etobicoke Centennial Choir
Everyone – Univox
Gospel – Toronto Mass Choir
Inclusive – Singing Out!
Mississauga – Mississauga Festival Choir
Opera – Toronto City Opera Chorus
Richmond Hill – Chorus York
Rock – newchoir
Scarborough – Ruckus: the UTSC Alumni and Community Choir
Social Justice – Echo Women’s Choir
Youth (Mississauga) – Resonance Youth Choir (See Mississauga Festival Choir)
Youth (Toronto) – Toronto Youth Choir

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

Just past mid-August my WholeNote editor called. Fall on the doorstep, it was time to fine-tune stories for my September column. “What do you have?” he asked. “I am wondering if it’s time for a terminology reboot” I replied. (My column has been called “World View” and the beat I cover has been described as “world music” for a decade or more, even before I took over from my pioneering predecessor columnist Karen Ages.) What got me thinking about all this is that I’d been busy all summer attending, playing in and following online stories of festivals which could be tagged with the “world music” moniker.

To begin with, in June I toured with Toronto’s Evergreen Club Contemporary Gamelan (ECCG) representing Canada at the International Gamelan Music Festival in Munich, Germany. Cheekily dubbed “Indonesia # Bronze.Bamboo.Beats,” the experience proved both exhilarating and exhausting. For ten days the Munich Municipal Museum hosted for the first time what turned out to be Europe’s largest gamelan festival. There was a two-day symposium, over 300 participants giving 40 concerts and 28 workshops at six venues, in an environment that was much more about a global community sharing a passion for music rather than a commercial enterprise. Not a single band was selling an album or T-shirt.

On public display all over downtown Munich was the face of the transnational contemporary gamelan music scene. Far from its birthplace on the islands of Java and Bali in Indonesia, European audiences witnessed live performances of gamelan music which had been adopted and adapted by people all over the globe. What was emotionally and artistically powerful to hear was how some of those diasporic musical adaptations and personalizations (including those by 35-year-global-gamelan-scene veterans ECCG - Canadians who are musically rather than ethnically connected to Indonesian culture) have been in turn absorbed and indigenized by Indonesian innovators. It was in turns unexpected and inspiring to personally experience all this in the Bavarian home of Oktoberfest. Is this one face of “world music” in practice today?

Then on the August 17 weekend I attended the Small World Music Festival (SWMF) at Harbourfront Centre. This year it celebrated the 30th anniversary of the first North American WOMAD (World of Music Art and Dance) which took place at the same venue. WOMAD, “the world’s most influential global music event … became a landmark event during its [five-year] tenure at Harbourfront,” according to Small World. “The ear-opening inspiration it provided led directly to the formation of Small World Music. Three decades on, we explore this legacy and how it resonates in multicultural 21st-century Toronto.”

Evergreen Club Gamelan performing on the Anne Tindall stage at the first Toronto WOMAD, August 14, 1988. Photo by Ramona Timar.I had not only visited WOMAD during its landmark first year here but had also helped arrange an Evergreen Club Gamelan concert on August 14, 1988 and then played in it. So at some level my interest in this year’s SWMF was personal. Keen to get beyond the autobiographical, though, I checked out two SWMF panels and a workshop, on the afternoon of August 18, 2018. The “WOMAD 30” panel, made up of people who were involved in it on various levels, looked back at that first 1988 music festival that in the words of its Facebook events page, “changed the perception of music in Toronto.” Moreover, in terms of live music, it introduced the “world music” brand, then barely one year old, imported from the UK to Canada.

The second panel “A Post-Genre World” asked some big questions: How do artists, audiences and industry work together in the post-genre world? How are livelihoods and bottom lines affected by a multi-fractured or multi-faceted music space? How does genre affect the creative process?” I found the answers offered in both panels memory-jogging, thought-provoking and compelling.

World Music: the double birth of a term

I’ve weighed in on various occasions in this column on the notion of world music, its promoters, detractors, its problems and its origins. It’s helpful to keep in mind that the term “world music” entered the musical lexicon on two separate occasions, on two continents, serving two quite different purposes and masters.

Its academic origins appeared around 1962, coined and promoted by American ethnomusicologist Robert Brown, professor at Wesleyan University. He meant it as an inclusive term to be used in university music education to describe “living music” and to be used to “foster awareness and understanding of the world’s performing arts and cultural traditions through programs of performance and teaching.” That once-academic term got a marketing refresh a quarter century later, however, at a June 1987 gathering of record label bosses, retailers and producers in the Empress of Russia, a now-defunct London pub. Why was a new marketing tag so necessary that these thirsty English professionals had to put their pints down?

In a succinct 2011 story in The Guardian, journalist Caspar Llewellyn Smith reported that “Charlie Gillett who was present that evening, recalled one example of the problem at hand: in the US, Nigeria’s King Sunny Ade would be filed under reggae, while in the UK, he ‘was just lost in the alphabet, next to ABBA.’ After several proposed terms were vetted, ‘world music’ stuck and ‘11 indie labels put in £3,500 between them to introduce newly labelled sections in record stores.’”

At its commercial birth, “world music” was all about labelling, increasing album visibility, genre identity, market share - and thus hopefully sales - in international brick and mortar record stores. (It doesn’t take a Cassandra to observe that it’s a very different world in 2018, when there are many fewer physical shops and when some musicians and presenters increasingly embrace the possibility of a post-genre musical future.)

Genre vs post-genre: late 20th century record store racks

Back in the last two decades of the 20th century, genre still proudly ruled Toronto’s imposing multi-department, multi-floor record (and then also cassette tape) shops. Following London’s lead, there was a wholesale switchover for many records to the World Music label from what previously were marked Folk or International record shelves.

I well recall schlepping numerous times up the creaky upper level wooden stairs of Sam the Record Man’s flagship Yonge St. store to its upper floors. My mission as Evergreen Club Gamelan’s artistic director and Arjuna label manager was to chart the (to be frank, modest) sales of our LP North of Java (1987). I did the same for its CD remix namesake when it was released in 1992, making sure it wasn’t buried too deeply on the shelf.

What was on that album? All the compositions were by younger-generation Canadian composers. All the musicians were Canadian, it was recorded in a Scarborough, Ontario studio, and the label was registered in Ontario by ECG. While gamelan degung instruments were featured on most cuts, some made prominent use of decidedly non-gamelan sound sources like a synthesizer, electric bass and field recordings, as in the case of my work North of Java. Nevertheless, Sam’s didn’t rack it in the substantial Classical Canadian section on the first floor. Now I understand the album was a novelty, being the first Canadian gamelan disc. But this (to my mind) quintessential Canadian album in that retail environment was displayed not with Canadian music, but in the World Music section among other albums with which it had little in common, a long, long walk up.

World music: contesting and defending the term

My North of Java album story reveals the difficulties retailers faced when attempting to apply the new world music marketing tool. In that case it was misinterpreting a product with multiple layers of cultural and music genre affiliation, racking it by default, I assume, in the World Music section.

The commercial use of world music on one hand fuelled consumer interest in sounds from outside the Western mainstream both on recordings and in live concerts, yet on the other hand it posed the risk of ghettoization, of “othering,” the world’s myriad individual music traditions. Such risks have been articulated in recent decades by numerous voices raised in consternation over the term, seeing it as a polarizing factor.

Rock star David Byrne, an early world music adopter, was also thereafter an early dissenter. In his strongly worded October 1999 New York Times article provocatively titled Why I Hate World Music, he sums up some of the problems he saw in the way it had been commercially applied and then received by consumers: “In my experience, the use of the term world music is a way of dismissing artists or their music as irrelevant to one’s own life ... It’s a way of relegating this ‘thing’ into the realm of something exotic and therefore cute, weird but safe, because exotica is beautiful but irrelevant … It groups everything and anything that isn’t ‘us’ into ‘them.’ This grouping is a convenient way of not seeing a band or artist as a creative individual … It’s a label for anything at all that is not sung in English or anything that doesn’t fit into the Anglo-Western pop universe this year.”

Many in the business took notice of Byrne’s passionate denunciation. The following March, Ian Anderson, musician, broadcaster and the editor of fRoots published a lengthy rebuttal in his magazine. In it, he explored many crannies of the topic, including the different resonances world music had in America, UK, France, and among African musicians and audiences. He summed up with, “It’s not all positive, but World Music (or Musique du Monde in neighbourly Paris) is way ahead on points. It sells large quantities of records that you couldn’t find for love or money two decades ago. It has let many musicians in quite poor countries get new respect (and houses, cars and food for their families), and it turns out massive audiences for festivals and concerts. It has greatly helped international understanding and provoked cultural exchanges. …I call it a Good Thing…”

Pierre KwendersPierre Kwenders, the early-career Congolese-Canadian singer and rapper is not impressed with arguments for the term’s usefulness. Shortlisted for the 2015 JUNO Award for World Music Album of the Year and the September 2018 Polaris Prize, Kwenders called out the marketing term on the CBC show q on August 24, 2018. His point comes close to the one I made in the case of North of Java. “What is world music? What is that ‘world’ we put in that box? It’s ridiculous [for example] that classical music from India is put in the same category as the music I make … it doesn’t make any sense. I believe I’m making pop music and it should be put in the pop music category.”

Despite all these concerns, there is still a Grammy Award for Best World Music Album today. Ladysmith Black Mambazo won it earlier this year. Moreover the terms world fusion, ethnocultural music, worldbeat and roots music have been touted as less controversial alternatives, but with modest commercial or popular traction.

As I wrote at the outset of this article, this column has been called “World View” and this beat has been described as “World Music” for over a decade. Is it time for a change? I, and my editor, welcome your comments. 

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

Jazz Takes a Holiday: As with most things, when the dog days of summer hit, jazz slows down a bit, particularly after the festival season ends in early July. There was still jazz to be heard at the usual Toronto venues in July and August, but many of the gigs I attended or played were sweaty, sparsely attended affairs, owing to so many people being away on vacation or simply trying to dodge the stickiness of the city. Even The WholeNote takes a break and it was certainly a slow summer for me and many of my colleagues in terms of work, but I didn’t mind so much because a lot of the time it was too hot to play jazz, or even think about it.

But now that September is suddenly upon us and the jazz programs resume at York University, Humber College and U of T, live jazz will be back in full swing, pun intended. The two are not unrelated; increasingly, the Toronto jazz scene is impacted and shaped by the young musicians studying and playing the music, interacting with so many of the city’s veteran jazz players – the usual suspects - teaching it. There have always been promising young players on the Toronto scene – I myself was one of them over 40 long years ago – but I can’t remember a time when there were so many as now, and their presence will be felt at the clubs in September and the coming months.

For one thing, the students form a large and enthusiastic audience at jazz gigs, and for another, Monday nights at The Rex will again feature student ensembles from U of T and Humber playing short sets. This allows for a wide array of styles ranging from the contemporary to the traditional (“traditional” now meaning “bebop,” not Dixieland.) I plan on attending these regularly and I urge Toronto jazz fans to do so as well. Not only to support the students, which is important, but because these evenings offer a kind of one-stop-shopping opportunity to hear varied and interesting music played by talented young people who represent the future of jazz. Well-known Toronto players not only direct these groups but often play in them as well. This interplay between the young and old(er) can produce satisfying musical results; jazz is grown this way.

I want to touch upon one group that has sprung out of this student-teacher cooperation which will play a couple of times in September and which I find interesting, despite the fact that I’m in it: Harrison Squared. It’s named after two young men who graduated from the U of T jazz program in April: drummer Harrison Vetro and tenor saxophonist Harrison Argatoff, with tenor saxophonist Mike Murley and me cast as the mentoring oldsters. Not that either of these young men need mentoring, as both are well on their way as advanced players; we all simply enjoy playing together. We’ll be playing at The Rex on September 1 and on September 30 at The Emmett Ray, another venue where young Toronto players can be heard frequently and to advantage. There are plans to record early in 2019, which I look forward to.

The group hatched out of a chance encounter between Harrison Vetro and me in early 2016 at U of T. His drum teacher, Nick Fraser, was on tour and asked me if I would teach Vetro a lesson, reasoning that he might benefit from some pointers from a veteran bassist. We worked on a few tempos and rhythmic feels and I liked his drumming straight away: it was quiet but intense, creative yet swinging. About halfway through the lesson he asked if it would be okay if his friend Harrison Argatoff joined us on saxophone for a few tunes. Glad of some melodic content I said sure thing, while wondering what was up with all the Harrisons all of a sudden – my ensemble that year had a very fine guitarist in it named Harrison Bartlett. Like Vetro, Argatoff is a thinking, creative player, very much in the Lennie Tristano/Warne Marsh vein. I cautioned Argatoff not to play so far behind the beat and told Vetro not to follow him when he did so, but otherwise I really enjoyed the instant musical chemistry between us. We resolved to get together and play again but scheduling made this difficult, so finally the two Harrisons took the bull by the horns, landing a gig at The Rex in September of 2016 and asking Murley and me to join them; thus was a band born. We didn’t rehearse, just agreed on a selection of standards and some out-of-the-way jazz originals. The gig had a very open, spontaneous feeling and was immensely satisfying – having played together on countless occasions, Murley and I enjoyed the stimulus of playing with fresh partners and the Harrisons upped their game playing with such muscular and experienced veterans!

In their own words, here are Vetro and Argatoff on what they’ll be up to musically in the near future:

Harrison VetroHarrison Vetro: “I’m leading my own project called Northern Ranger. I will be releasing a CD under this name on October 20 at Gallery 345 in Toronto. It has been funded by the U of T Faculty of Music Undergraduate Association. The album features Lina Allemano, Harrison Argatoff and Andrew Downing, as well as a few others. This is a student/teacher project and we had Nick Fraser come into the studio as a producer. It was a lesson in leading a band, making decisions as a band leader, using studio time efficiently.

The Northern Ranger album is inspired by the Canada 150 celebration and is a series of compositions following my cross-Canada travels in 2016 and 2017. My curiosity for Indigenous music propelled me to visit specific locations within the six Indigenous cultural areas in Canada: Arctic, Subarctic, Northwest Coast, Plateau, Plains and the Eastern Woodlands. My compositions offer a new perspective on the landscape of Canada.

Proceeds from this album will assist outreach programs for youth with limited access to music education. I have a tour booked for this album release and will be performing at The Jazz YYC (Calgary) and Yardbird Suite (Edmonton) winter jazz festivals, as well as The Bassment in Saskatoon and some other dates on the east coast this November. I have also been invited by Jazz YYC to give an improvisation workshop in a high school on one of the reserves in the Calgary area.

I also have a residency at the Tranzac on the fourth Wednesday of every month, where I will present new music.”

Harrison ArgatoffHarrison Argatoff: “Having graduated from U of T this past spring, my current plan is to continue making music in Toronto. This fall I’m excited to be releasing my first CD, Dreaming Hears the Still, a collaboration between pianist Noah Franche-Nolan and myself. The CD exclusively features our original repertoire, most of which uses precise composition as a framework for improvisation. I am also currently working on music for my solo saxophone project and the Harrison Argatoff Quartet (both of which are in their infancy). Having grown up a Doukhobor in the interior of British Columbia, teachings of pacifism, communal music making and respect for life and nature have deeply affected my personal and artistic endeavours. I’m currently focusing on developing a modern approach to music through original composition for a variety of ensembles, and also for solo performance. My music combines the study of free improvised music, traditional jazz music and contemporary classical music.”

As their words indicate, both young men are interesting and dedicated creative young musicians and I hope many of you will come out to hear them in action with Murley and me at The Emmett Ray on September 30, as well as in their own future ventures.

Toronto’s young jazz players and students will also be taking a significant part in two September music events. One, the Toronto Undergraduate Jazz Festival (TUJF), taking place September 4 to 8 at The Frog pub, Mel Lastman Square and Jazz Bistro, is devoted entirely to them. And, as in the past, young players will have a role in the upcoming Kensington Market Jazz Festival, September 14 to 16. Both of these festivals are covered in detail elsewhere in this issue.

Miss Aretha. A brief word on Aretha Franklin, whose recent death packed a momentous, end-of-an-era kick in the gut even though we knew it was coming. Her music transcended musical genres, politics, international boundaries and even race; only a handful of artists have made so many feel so good for so long. As we mourn her passing, we can only feel grateful to have had her here on earth with us for so many years. Few thought of her as a jazz artist but her early records on Columbia belie this, as did her piano playing; she was a great singer but the real magic happened when she sat down at the piano to accompany herself. R.I.P. Aretha.

JAZZ NOTES QUICK PICKS

William ParkerSEP 4, 8:30PM: The Frog, TUJF. The Anthony D’Allessandro Trio. A chance to hear one of Toronto’s best and hardest-swinging young pianists in an intimate setting playing his choice arrangements of standards and jazz classics.

SEP 13, 8PM: Guelph International Jazz Festival, River Run Centre. A double bill with the Nick Fraser Quartet featuring Andrew Downing, cello, Rob Clutton, bass, and Tony Malaby, guitar; and Amirtha Kidambi’s Elder Ones. A chance to hear one of Toronto’s most creative bands and a highly adventurous international one.

SEP 15, 10:30AM: Royal City Church, Guelph International Jazz Festival William Parker, bass. One of the giants of contemporary avant-garde jazz in a solo performance. ‘Nuff said.

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

During 2017 it seemed that most community ensembles focused their programming on music which, in some way or other, related to the fact that it was Canada’s sesquicentennial. This year, when we took our usual WholeNote summer break for July and August, focusing on anniversaries seemed to have tapered off somewhat. Then, out of the blue, we learned of two very special anniversary-themed events in the region.

Anglo Canadian Leather Company Band

The first of these events was in Huntsville to celebrate the hundredth anniversary of the arrival in town of Herbert L. Clarke to take on the leadership of the Anglo-Canadian Leather Company Band. The company, also known as the Anglo-Canadian Tannery, was, at that time, the largest tannery in the British Commonwealth. Charles Orlando Shaw, an American businessman who had built the Bigwin Island Resort, moved to Huntsville, bought the tannery and built it to prominence.

As it happens, Shaw, who had also been a keen cornet player in earlier years, discovered groups of tannery workers getting together to make music in their off time. For Shaw it sparked the idea of getting back to his playing cornet again after having abandoned the instrument for some years. Over a period of time a band gradually developed. After a while the tannery workers were given free musical instruction and time off to practise. Then at some stage, he purchased an old school building and had it converted to a band hall.

In those days many companies sponsored company bands, so it was not that surprising that Shaw, a keen amateur musician, would want a top company band. What was unusual was the lengths he was prepared to go to to improve the band. It is reported that within a few years, money was no object when it came to buying instruments or hiring instructors; as a result, 100 years ago, the Anglo-Canadian Band was considered the “best industrial band in North America.”

But Shaw wanted a big name in the music world in his band. In the early part of the 20th century it would be a rare band concert which did not include significant solos to highlight the dazzling talents of the soloist. Therefore, it was not surprising that Shaw, a cornetist himself, sought out a top cornetist for his band. Luckily one was close at hand.

In the decade from 1910 to 1920 one of the world’s most renowned cornet virtuosos was Herbert L. Clarke. Clarke’s father was choirmaster, organist and bandmaster of the band at Jarvis St. Baptist Church in Toronto. Clarke was a member of the band of the Queen’s Own Rifles, touring the world as a featured soloist with leading bands of the day. Yet, after many years as featured soloist with the band of John Philip Sousa in Washington DC, in 1918 Clarke was lured to Huntsville, Ontario by Shaw to be the leader and featured soloist with that band. The sum that Clarke was paid was anything but typical – amazing, in fact, for the year 1918 – rumoured to be somewhere between $15,000 and $18,000 per year!

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of Clarke’s arrival in Huntsville, and as a tribute to the Anglo-Canadian Leather Company Band itself, two special band concerts titled “Brilliance” took place in late July. Since I had other musical commitments elsewhere, I was not able to attend, so I am deeply indebted to my friend Barrie Hodgins, who was there. Barrie provided me with more information about the concerts than I can do justice to here, including the program and a copy of a 40-page booklet about the history of the band, compiled in 1986, Huntsville’s centennial year, and containing many programs and photographs of the band from as early as 1915, and numerous reviews of the band’s performances from the Toronto Daily Star and The Mail and Empire.

This year’s 100th-anniversary program featured concerts on July 21 and 22 in Huntsville’s Algonquin Theatre, under the direction of Neil Barlow with a core group from the Muskoka Concert Band, augmented by some 30 talented musicians from other parts of Ontario and the USA.

Herbert L. Clarke’s personally annotated Arban Method BookAs one might expect, the featured solo number was for a cornet solo. In Clarke’s day the standard method from which brass musicians honed their craft was Arban’s Tutor. (Author Jean Baptiste Arban was a virtuoso cornetist and teacher in Paris.) To this day, over 100 years, later Tutor is still the preferred method book; and perhaps the most popular all-time solo work for cornet is Arban’s variations on the traditional Italian work The Carnival of Venice. Since Clarke was noted for his performances of Carnival of Venice, I thought that this might be the solo selection, but I should have realized that, at this concert, the solo work would be a Clarke composition. It was Clarke’s From the Shores of the Mighty Pacific, performed by Robert Venables, one of the top freelance cornet and trumpet players in Canada, best known in the local band world for his work with the Canadian Staff Band of the Salvation Army and with the Hannaford Street Silver Band.

Robert VenablesThe Anglo-Canadian Leather Company band was officially formed in 1914 just before war broke out. For six years this band was the feature at the Canadian National Exhibition at a time when most feature bands were, more often than not, highly paid professionals. By 1926, Shaw realized that he would not be able to raise his great dream band to the even higher status he aspired to, and the band was broken up.

Rebel Heartland

In another form of anniversary event, over the weekend of September 22 and 23, the Newmarket Citizens Band will be joining in “Rebel Heartland,” a 2018 re-enactment of the 1837 Upper Canada Rebellion, under the auspices of a committee, comprised of the Newmarket Historical Society, Heritage Newmarket and the Elman W. Campbell Museum. Some of the events will be in the downtown core and some at Fairy Lake Park.

Established in 1872, the band has a long history in the community and was thrilled to be asked to participate in this historic re-enactment in their hometown.

On Saturday morning, the band will be part of the drama on Main Street, where the rebels recruit followers at the Farmer’s Market and William Lyon Mackenzie makes a rousing speech encouraging armed rebellion against the colonial government. On Saturday afternoon a battle re-enactment will take place at Fairy Lake Park. This will be followed by the capture, trial and subsequent “hanging” of rebel leaders, Samuel Lount and Peter Matthews, in front of the Old Town Hall.

On Sunday, social life in the colony will be on display at Fairy Lake. There will be demonstrations, church services, a boxed lunch social and entertainment. That’s where the Newmarket Citizens Band comes in again. Clothed in period dress, the band will host daily concerts showcasing music that would have been familiar to residents of the day. In addition, the concerts will also include smaller ensembles, to represent how music was commonly shared in the community in 1837. For more information go to newmarketcitizensband.ca

Seasonal Changes

Here it is almost fall, and that means seasonal changes for some bands. For the Uxbridge Community Concert Band, a summertime-only group, Saturday, August 25, was the final concert of their 2018 season. Last year the band’s founder and music director Steffan Brunett took a year away to travel and to study composition. With no one to take the helm, there was no band in 2017. Now, after a year’s hiatus, the band has a well-organized committee in place to share the administrative load. Brunett can now concentrate on his job as artistic director. As a simple but effective example: rather than place the whole load of collecting and filing the season’s music on one person, the band has an “End of Season Music Sorting Party”.

As previously reported, there are also seasonal changes in the air for New Horizons Bands. After many years at the helm, Dan Kapp, founder and director of the Toronto groups, has retired and moved to Wolfville Nova Scotia with his wife Lisa. Now settling in, he already has New Horizons plans for Wolfville, and also intends to study composition at Acadia University.

With his departure, the Toronto New Horizons groups now have an executive committee with Randy Kligerman, a member of the original Toronto NHB at the helm as president, and with a number of conductors. Head of education, and director of the senior band, is Donna Dupuy, who may be contacted at nhbteducation@gmail.com. As in past years, they will have an open evening for prospective band members. Previously billed as “The Instrument Petting Zoo,” this year the event is being called “The Instrument Exploration Workshop.” It will take place at Long and McQuade’s Bloor Street store on Thursday, September 13, at 6:30. These workshops are for those who have never played an instrument and for those who currently play an instrument, but would like to try playing a different one, bassoon to piccolo, in a fun, non-stressful environment. For more information go to newhorizonsbandtoronto.ca.

Having started a few years later than in Toronto, The New Horizons Band of York Region, with Doug Robertson at the helm as conductor, will be starting their season in a similar fashion. Their “Test Drive a Musical Instrument” event takes place on Thursday, September 6, at 7pm at the Cosmo Music store in Richmond Hill. Come out and “test-drive” 17 different instruments. Experienced players from the NHBYR as well as Cosmo Music staff will be on hand to help you get a sound out of any of the 17. Regular music classes begin the week of September 10. For more information contact nhbyrdirector@gmail.com.

Yet another band starting up, after a summer break, is Resa’s Pieces Band. Started 20 years ago by Resa Kochberg, Resa’s group’s evolution over the years has been different from that of the New Horizons groups. Rather than a number of concert bands rehearsing at different levels, Kochberg, over time, started different kinds of groups. Now, there are also the Resa’s Pieces Strings and Resa’s Pieces Singers, sometimes performing separately, and sometimes jointly. For more information on all these groups contact conductor@resaspieces.org.

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

It’s September, and, for students and faculty members of the Toronto jazz community, it’s time to head back to school. While not all who play jazz in Toronto teach or study, the scene is still very much tied to the academic calendar, and, as the pervasive humidity of summer gives way to the first crisp whispers of autumn, everyone is suddenly back in town, venues return to their regular post-festival-season programming, and a variety of new musical ventures are suddenly at hand. September heralds the coming of a new artistic year, and, in the spirit of yearly reassessment and rejuvenation, September prompts the jazz community to undertake new projects.

Despite the persistent sentiment that performance opportunities for jazz musicians are shrinking by the minute, it is reassuring that the past few years in Toronto have seen new jazz programming efforts in festivals, clubs and other venues. These larger efforts reflect the ideals found, at the best of times, in post-secondary music programs: namely, that new opportunities and resources should be developed not for the gains of the individual, but for the betterment of the community.

TUJF: One of the best examples of this community spirit comes in the form of the Toronto Undergraduate Jazz Festival, now in its fourth year (having had its inaugural run in 2015), running from September 4 to 8. Helmed by David M.J. Lee, Dave Holla and Eunsang Edwin Yu – all of whom attended post-secondary jazz programs in Toronto – the festival’s mandate is to “bring attention to the younger generation of musicians” in Toronto, with an emphasis on musicians currently enrolled in (or recently graduated from) post-secondary music programs at the University of Toronto, York University and Humber College. This mission is commendable, as it can take a considerable amount of time for young jazz acts to establish themselves and book the larger shows necessary to the process of audience development; by programming a number of these acts together, the TUJF has created both a valuable opportunity for musicians and a compelling package for audiences who, in other circumstances, might not connect with these performers for several years.

With main festival grounds at Mel Lastman Square and additional performances at Jazz Bistro, Memorial Hall, and The Frog: A Firkin Pub, all of the TUJF performances and masterclasses are open to the public and free to attend. In addition to performances from young musicians, Toronto jazz mainstays Mike Downes and Larnell Lewis are also playing with their respective bands. (Both Downes and Lewis, it should be noted, are also prominent jazz educators, and are on faculty at Humber College.) In addition to these performances, highlights from the festival include The Anthology Project, playing at 8:30pm on September 6, guitarist Luan Phung, playing with his quintet at 6pm on September 7, and Montreal pianist Marilou Buron, whose sextet will be playing at 6pm on September 8. Other notable attractions, according to the 2018 festival map: food trucks, a VIP section, and multiple bouncy castles. Check out listings in this issue of The WholeNote and tujazz.com for full schedule and additional information.

The Heavyweights Brass Band return to this year's Kensington Market Jazz Festival. Photo by Tom Rose.The Heavyweights Brass Band return to this year's Kensington Market Jazz Festival. Photo by Tom Rose.

Kensington Market Jazz: September will also feature the third annual edition of the Kensington Market Jazz Festival, another relatively new enterprise started by local musicians looking to fill a gap in pre-existing jazz programming. Led by Molly Johnson, Ori Dagan, Genevieve Marentette, and Céline Peterson, the KMJF will take place from September 14 to 16, with a large number of different artists in various formats, from solo pianists (including Nancy Walker, Robi Botos and Ewen Farncombe) and guitarists (such as Margaret Stowe, Harley Card and David Occhipinti) to full big bands (including the John MacLeod Orchestra, the Brian Dickinson Jazz Orchestra and the Toronto Jazz Orchestra), with all manner of acts in between.

One of the most interesting aspects of the KMJF is its engagement with Kensington Market businesses in the creation of new performance spaces: while many shows will be taking place at venues that present music throughout the year, including Poetry Jazz Café, Supermarket and LOLA, a large number of shows will be held at businesses that are not regular music venues. Some, like the coffee shop Pamenar and the Hotbox Lounge and Shop, are venues that do host live events, although they do not usually present jazz. Other businesses, like the discount suit shop Tom’s Place, are functioning as special venues specifically for the festival.

Beyond the shows previously mentioned, highlights include Joanna Majoko, playing at 1pm on September 15, Tania Gill and Friends, playing at 5pm (also on September 15), and Anh Phung, who will be playing at 6pm on September 16. Please check out listings in this issue and kensingtonjazz.com for full schedule – and please note that ticketed events are cash only (although the festival features both free and ticketed shows).

Apart from new programming at emergent jazz festivals, September sees the return of post-secondary ensembles to the Toronto club scene, with representation from U of T, York and Humber: U of T jazz ensembles resume their weekly slot on Mondays at 6pm at The Rex, the Humber College Faculty Jazz Jam will be taking place at 9:30pm on September 18 (also at The Rex), and the York Jazz Ensemble will be performing in the matinee slot on September 22 at Alleycatz. Beyond school-associated acts, there are several other exciting shows taking place throughout the month, including Sam Kirmayer, at Jazz Bistro, on the 16th; The Rex’s Annual Birthday Tribute to John Coltrane, with the Pat LaBarbera and Kirk MacDonald Quintet, on September 20, 21 and 22; Christine Duncan, Laura Swankey and Patrick O’Reilly at the Tranzac, on September 23; and the Nick Fraser Quartet at The Emmet Ray, on September 24.

September marks the beginning of a rich artistic cycle within the improvised music community that will play out through summer 2019. For the concert-going public – from the most casual fan to club regulars – September is a wonderful opportunity to become reacquainted with your favourite performers, check out a few new venues, and set the tone for the rest of the 2018/19 scholastic year, regardless of your own educational status. Enjoy.

MAINLY CLUBS, MOSTLY JAZZ QUICK PICKS

Pat LaBarbera (left) and Kirk MacDonaldSEP 7, 6PM: Toronto Undergraduate Jazz Festival: Luan Phung Quintet. Drawing from the work of Boulez and Schoenberg as well as the jazz tradition, guitarist Luan Phung brings his exciting quintet to Mel Lastman Square for a free show at the TUJF.

SEP 16, 6PM: Kensington Market Jazz Festival: Anh Phung. Equally at home playing orchestral music and the music of Jethro Tull, flutist and singer Anh Phung performs at LOLA as part of the KMJF.

SEP 20 to 22, 9:30PM: The Rex’s Annual Birthday Tribute to John Coltrane: Pat LaBarbera & Kirk MacDonald Quintet. An annual event at The Rex featuring master saxophonists Pat LaBarbera and Kirk MacDonald leading a world-class quintet, celebrating Coltrane’s life and music.

SEP 23, 10PM: Christine Duncan, Patrick O’Reilly, and Laura Swankey at The Tranzac. Leading improvising vocalist Christine Duncan is joined by guitarist Patrick O’Reilly and vocalist Laura Swankey for an evening of new music at The Tranzac.

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

HughsRoom bannerHugh's RoomIt’s a time of year when a distinct trend emerges insofar as traditional concert venues are concerned. A bunch of the year-round busy ones tend to go dormant. And places one might never have thought of as concert venues become the sky-lit backdrop for all kinds of music that more usually remain indoors.

A parallel syndrome manifests itself on the club scene – the mainstay, bastion venues (the “real listening rooms,” as we like to call them), concede defeat to the beach, the cottage and the patio. “You can’t fight patio syndrome. We’ll be back in the fall when you’re ready to get serious again.”

On the other side of the coin, dozens if not hundreds of other clubs, bars and restaurants, all over the map, get drawn into the ever-growing summer scene and buy into the music venue idea, for a brief and glorious explosion of musical activity. After which the potted plant gets put back on the piano, where it belongs, and the extra table or two gets put back in place where the temporary stage inconveniently was.

Festivals have a lot to do with this explosion of activity, of course: within Toronto, TD Jazz, Kensington Jazz Festival and the granddaddy of them all, the Beaches Jazz Festival, turn whole districts into summer postcard illusions of Basin Street. Music festivals all over (Westben, Montreal Baroque, TD Niagara Jazz and Music at Port Milford jump to mind) forge intricate partnerships with networks of eateries and imbiberies (to coin a phrase) that more usually primarily cater to other-than-musical appetites. It’s a win-win. Festivals get to add new audiences, and sometimes a broader range of music, to their usual fare. Eateries get to add music to the menu.

All of this is of course a huge generalization. Certain mainstay venues, like some of the regulars in these listings, are largely immune to seasonal vicissitude. But it’s useful background information to the interesting announcement that Toronto venue Hugh’s Room Live has decided this year to ramp up its programming rather than go quiet through the dog days of the summer. The Hugh’s Room battle to keep its doors open got a lot of press some 18 months back; relaunched cooperatively under the name Hugh’s Room Live, it has now successfully negotiated a full comeback year (including a complete makeover of its previously ponderous and predictable dinner menu in favour of an agile, sharing-friendly, tapas-style approach).

Derek Andrews (who among many other things in his curatorial career programmed memorable public stage lineups at David Pecaut Square for Luminato) is the programming lead for Hugh’s Room Live. For this particular venture, billed Summer Nights Festival, he has to date lined up close to 50 shows between June 15, when it kicks off with a Stevie Wonder Tribute show, and August 23 (We Banjo 3 from Ireland) when it officially ends.

In between, Andrews’ (and Hugh’s Room’s) creative eclecticism will be on full display: check out the recurring “Solo Piano Double” series (which brings together unlikely pairings like Robi Botos and Suba Sankaran, for example) to see what I mean. Look at a Hugh’s/Andrews’ lineup and no matter what your musical tastes are, you will likely not know half the names on the list. Chances are once you’ve heard them, you won’t forget them either.

Talking about when Summer Nights officially ends is a bit like talking about when summer itself “officially” ends, because the whole point of the venture is to emphasis that places like Hugh’s are neither fair-weather friends nor just a shelter from the storm. They are part of the necessary musical fabric. Live. Local. Musically intentional.

As for the fair-weather venue phenomenon mentioned at the outset of this story – there’s maybe a bright side there too. How would it be if each year even a few more of the venues that come on board for music during summer festival times decided to stay the course for the rest of the year? And, as important, what would the neighbours think?

Food for thought.

Hugh’s Room Live’s Summer Nights Festival runs from June 15 to August 25, 2018.

David Perlman can be reached at publisher@thewholenote.com.

Across Toronto, throughout Ontario and into the rest of Canada, wherever you travel, this summer promises music to suit the most discerning listener. What follows is meant to augment our Green Pages supplement, concentrating on the Toronto Summer Music Festival in particular and highlighting other noteworthy events beyond the GTA.

Toronto Summer Music

This year’s edition of the Toronto Summer Music Festival (TSM), July 12 to August 4, commemorates the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I by focusing on works written during, or inspired by, wartime. It’s an intriguing premise that makes for some thought-provoking programming. As artistic director and TSO concertmaster Jonathan Crow put it: “Some of the most beautiful, emotional and challenging music has been written during times of war and conflict as artists struggled to find meaning and give expression to the horrors gripping the world.”

Borodin QuartetBut the programming is not limited to such works; they become central to or merely part of a greater whole. For example, the Borodin Quartet’s two concerts that begin the festival do include Shostakovich’s intense String Quartet No.8 Op.110 (1960) dedicated “to the memory of the victims of fascism and war,” but overall spotlight Russian-themed compositions. So the Shostakovich is followed by Tchaikovsky’s String Quartet No.1 Op.11, which contains the famous Andante Cantabile melody. The next evening, July 13 in Walter Hall, Russian pianist Lukas Geniušas joins the Borodins for Shostakovich’s justly popular Piano Quintet in G Minor, Op.57 written in 1940 as WWII was just beginning. Geniušas opens the program with Rachmaninoff’s 13 Preludes (1910) then moves to Prokofiev’s Sonata No.7 Op.83 (1942). When I interviewed Geniušas two years ago he called the Prokofiev one of the central pieces of 20th-century piano music: flawless in form and matchless in its violent brutality inspired by the outrage of WWII.

The overall arc of this year’s TSM ranges widely over the musical spectrum, encompassing a myriad of chamber music offerings, big band vocals, early music, gospel music, the pianism of Angela Cheng, lyric tenor Christoph Prégardien and a multi-disciplinary musical journey into the life of Francis Pegahmagabow, the renowned Ojibwe WWI sniper and decorated officer of the Canadian military. And of course, a series of concerts by art song and chamber music academy fellows is back, spotlighting a core element of TSM’s mandate in which musicians on the cusp of professional careers are mentored by, and perform with, seasoned artists.

There are many instances where the war theme yields a bounty of masterpieces. Stravinsky’s L’Histoire du Soldat (1918), in which a naive soldier sells his soul (and his violin) to the devil, is an indelible concoction filled with memorable tunes and asymmetrical rhythms. Performed in its full version with narrator and dancer, the July 19 Koerner Hall performance presents a rare opportunity to experience one of Stravinsky’s masterworks. And what does it tell us about the human spirit that Copland’s sunny Appalachian Spring, with its unfailing optimism, was written in the last year of WWII? TSM will present this enduringly popular work, in its original version for 13 chamber musicians, on the same program.

Messiaen wrote most of the Quartet for the End of Time after being captured as a French soldier during the German invasion of 1940. The premiere took place in an unheated space in Barrack 27, where the German officers of the camp sat shivering in the front row. “This is the music of one who expects paradise not only in a single awesome hereafter but also in the happenstance epiphanies of daily life,” Alex Ross wrote in The New Yorker. “In the end, Messiaen’s apocalypse has little to do with history and catastrophe; instead, it records the rebirth of an ordinary soul in the grip of extraordinary emotion. Which is why the Quartet is as overpowering now as it was on that frigid night in 1941.” Take advantage of the opportunity to hear this spellbinding work when Jonathan Crow (violin), Julie Albers (cello), Miles Jaques (clarinet) and Natasha Paremski (piano) perform it in Koerner Hall at 10:30pm on July 19.

Crow and pianist Philip Chiu base their tribute to the great violinist, humanist and teacher Yehudi Menuhin (in Walter Hall on July 30) on concerts Menuhin performed at liberated concentration camps and military bases during WWII. The program, anchored by Beethoven’s Violin Sonata No.9 in A Major, Op.47 “Kreutzer,” includes works by Corelli, Ravel and Kreisler. More joyous music, in this case represented by Schubert’s ineffable “Trout” Quintet, seemingly apart from TSM’s war theme, is the feature of another Walter Hall recital, July 20. Taking advantage of the presence of art song mentors, tenor Christoph Prégardien and pianist Steven Philcox, the evening also includes Schubert’s song, Die Forelle, which is the basis for the theme-and-variations fourth movement of the quintet. Filling out the program are works by Shostakovich, Rachmaninoff (his unforgettable Vocalise) and Paul Ben-Haim (who fled the Nazi regime for Palestine).

Another unmissable highlight of TSM’s musical abundance includes the pairing of two recent American classics in a July 24 concert at Lula Lounge by the New Orford String Quartet: Steve Reich’s haunting Different Trains, which contrasts the composer’s nostalgic feelings for the trans-American railway trips he made as a child in the early 1940s with the horrific train rides that Jews were forced to make at the same time in Europe, and George Crumb’s searing response to the Vietnam War, Black Angels (1970), written for electric string quartet. The following day, July 25 at the Church of the Redeemer, Jonathan Crow’s soloist role in Vivaldi’s Four Seasons is paired with Biber’s Battaglia (1673), a realistic instrumental depiction of war.

Beethoven’s Sonata No.31 in A-flat Major, Op.110 and Chopin’s Ballade No.1 in G Minor Op.23 are major pillars of the piano canon. Angela Cheng performs them July 31 at Walter Hall before being joined by her husband Alvin Chow for three contrasting French works for piano four-hands by Debussy, Milhaud and Ravel. Ravel put all his disillusionment with the horror of WWI into La Valse, which takes an elegant waltz and ultimately twists it into madness and mayhem. Brilliant.

The New Orford String Quartet and pianist Pedja Muzijevic’s program (July 27) mixes Debussy’s Sonata for Cello and Piano, written in the early days of WWI, and Beethoven’s “Serioso” String Quartet, which may have been influenced by Napoleon’s occupation of Vienna the year before it was written, with Elgar’s expansive Piano Quintet, completed just as WWI was ending.

Chiu, along with violinists Aaron Schwebel and Barry Schiffman, are among the musicians taking part in two more chamber music concerts, one (August 1) bearing the weighty title “War in the 20th Century” and the other (August 3) focusing on a cornerstone of string players’ repertoire, Brahms’ Sextet No.1 in B-flat Major, Op.18.

Apart from the mainstage events, there are reGENERATION concerts, in which TSM academy fellows and mentors perform together; and members of the academy also participate in lunchtime concerts. There are pay-what-you-can hour-long late afternoon performances by TSM artists and daytime chats that provide insight into the world of classical music. However much you decide to take in of TSM’s ambitious programming, you will be well-rewarded.

Stratford Summer Music

Founder and artistic producer John Miller’s 18 years at the helm of Stratford Summer Music come to an end this year (July 16 to August 26) with a festival filled with something for everyone, from Bach brunches to the Blind Boys of Alabama, and Tanya Tagaq interpreting the classic silent film Nanook of the North. My personal must-see list has Marc-André Hamelin and Jan Lisiecki at the top. Miller has been trying to book Hamelin since day one; he’s finally got him in a typical Hamelinesque program that mixes the well-known -- Schumann and Chopin -- with the lesser-known: Weissenberg and Castelnuovo-Tedesco. Be assured that Canada’s greatest pianist will charm and astound. Lisiecki, who has been on a stellar trajectory over most of his young career, makes his ninth appearance in Stratford (and Miller warns it may be his last for a while, since he’s in so much demand).

Montreal Chamber Music Festival

Getting an early start on summer, the Montreal Chamber Music Festival has several attractive concerts in mid-June. The Rolston String Quartet continues their Banff Competition grand tour pairing Shostakovich’s String Quartet No.7 (his shortest at 13 minutes) with Steve Reich’s powerful Different Trains (June 12). Later that night, the Rolstons and Andre Laplante perform Schumann’s iconic Piano Quintet Op.44. Amit Peled plays Bach and Bloch on Pablo Casals’ 1733 Matteo Gofriller cello (June 15). Four pianists (Alon Goldstein, David Jalbert, Steven Massicotte and Wonny Song) in various combinations play Mozart, Wilberg (his Fantasy on Themes from Bizet’s Carmen), Stravinsky’s Petroushka and more (June 15). The New York Philharmonic String Quartet (the principals of the famous orchestra) make their Canadian debut with a program of Haydn, Shostakovich and Borodin (June 16).

Festival of the Sound

The 39th edition of the Festival of the Sound is varied and extensive: from the world premiere of Sounding Thunder, Timothy Corlis and Armand Garnet Ruffo’s work honouring the renowned Ojibwe WWI sniper, Francis Pegahmagabow, to a series pairing Bach with Mozart, Debussy, Dvořák, Schubert, Schumann and Brahms; from concerts featuring the emerging pianist Charles Richard-Hamelin, to The Mosaïque Project, for which Ensemble Made in Canada commissioned 14 award-winning Canadian composers to each write a four-minute movement for piano quartet inspired by a particular province, territory or region, thus creating a unique musical quilt representing the diversity of Canada. The breadth and depth of this beloved festival on the shore of Georgian Bay continues to astonish.

Clear Lake Chamber Music Festival

Under the artistic direction of father-and-son pianists Alexander and Daniel Tselyakov, Manitoba’s first chamber music festival is a long weekend of well-chosen repertoire set in Riding Mountain National Park (July 26 to 29). This year’s highlights include Alexander Tselyakov performing Mozart’s “Elvira Madigan” Piano Concerto No.21 K467 arranged for piano and string quartet; an evening of masterworks by Bruch, Poulenc and Dohnányi with Alexander and strings; Mozart’s Piano Quartet No.2 K493 with Daniel Tselyakov; and a midday seriously fun concert complete with coffee and pastries. A unique festival.

Ottawa Chamberfest

Ottawa Chamberfest celebrates its 25th season July 26 to August 9 with a star-studded roster. Highlights include Marc-André Hamelin (July 27) extending his exploration of the piano music of Samuel Feinberg (and Chopin) as well as teaming up with the exceptional Danel Quatuor for Shostakovich’s Piano Quintet Op.57. Israel’s Ariel Quartet and Banff winners, the Rolston String Quartet, combine for Mendelssohn’s great Octet (July 30); Quatuor Danel (July 29) and the Rolstons (July 31) each give additional concerts. OSM concertmaster   Andrew Wan and rising-star pianist Charles Richard-Hamelin play Beethoven sonatas (August 5); the Gryphon Trio celebrates their own 25th anniversary with an evening of greatest hits and favourite stories (August 5); the masterful Pražák Quartet delves into their Czech heritage (August 7); and Angela Hewitt brightens her visit to her hometown with programs featuring Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier Book One (August 4) and Goldberg Variations (August 6).

Blythwood Winds - Terry Lim PhotographySummer Music in the Garden

An oasis of calm downtown by the lake, Harbourfront’s Music Garden is one of Toronto’s best kept secrets. And it’s free! Now is the time to spread the word. Here are some highlights. The Venuti String Quartet (violinists Rebekah Wolkstein and Drew Jurecka, violist Shannon Knights and cellist Lydia Munchinsky) performs Ravel’s breathtaking String Quartet June 28; The New Zealand String Quartet illuminates Beethoven’s String Quartet No.7, Op.59 No.1 as well as Stravinsky’s little-heard Concertino for String Quartet July 19; Blythwood Winds, a classic wind quintet, present a program spanning the last century, including Elliott Carter’s Wind Quintet, Abigail Richardson-Schulte’s nature-inspired Emerge and music from the score to Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, July 20. Famous for their marimba-duo version of Ann Southam’s Glass Houses, Taktus (Greg Harrison and Jonny Smith) brings it all back home to Toronto on July 22. Playing violin, mandolin and the nine-string hardanger fiddle, Rebekah Wolkstein and Drew Jurecka perform music by Brahms, Bartók, Mozart and Grieg, along with folk music of Norway, August 16. 

Paul Ennis is the managing editor of The WholeNote.

With the arrival of warmer weather, it’s time to dive into the world of summer music festivals. One that caught my attention this year is Festival of the Sound, located in the heart of vacation country, the town of Parry Sound. This year’s festival, which runs from July 20 to August 11, is offering two unique contemporary music events, both of which focus on themes related to cultural identity, history and place. I’ll be concluding the column with a summary of a few new music events happening this summer within the city of Toronto.

Ensemble Made in Canada (from left) Elissa Lee, Angela Park, Sharon Wei and Rachel Mercer - Photo by Bo HuangThe piano quartet Ensemble Made in Canada will be premiering their unique and ambitious Mosaïque Project at Festival of the Sound on July 26. The ensemble got their start in 2006 at the Banff Centre for the Arts, when Angela Park (piano) and Sharon Wei (viola) were inspired to begin a chamber music ensemble that would enable the two of them to play together – thus a piano quartet was formed rather than the usual choice for chamber ensembles, the string quartet. Additional members of the current quartet include Elissa Lee (violin) and Rachel Mercer (cello), and it was Lee who I had a conversation with about Mosaïque.

A few years ago, the quartet began brainstorming about future projects, and had the vision of travelling across the country by train. Not able to physically manage it – since until recently taking a cello on VIA Rail was not allowed – they came up with the idea of commissioning a piece of music that would do it for them.

The original idea was to commission 13 composers (one for each province and territory), but later this increased to 14 composers, who were then selected based on the quartet’s attraction to their individual compositional styles rather than on where they lived. After the composers were on board, the quartet then came up with a strategy to allocate a specific province/territory to each composer to serve as the initial starting point for their compositions. As things turned out, even though each composer was given free reign to find their own inspiration related to the assigned province/territory, a majority of them chose the theme of water as their point of departure. In our conversation, Lee remarked how nature is “so close to our hearts as Canadians,” so it’s no surprise that this would emerge as a common thread amongst the creators. Each of the pieces is four minutes in length, and in the premiere performance in Parry Sound, all 14 of these miniatures will be woven together. An extensive tour is planned across the country after the premiere, with dates and locations scheduled into the fall of 2019 and a changing set list of Mosaïque selections for each show. Audiences in Toronto will be able to hear the complete set of 14 works on November 15, as part of Music Toronto’s concert season and their full touring schedule is available on their website.

One of the distinctive features of this project is a visually based component that will engage the audience. During the concert, audience members will have the opportunity to doodle or draw while listening. Lee explained that many audience members only want to experience familiar music and are more skeptical of contemporary pieces. Based on Lee’s own practice of doodling while talking on the phone, she had the inspiration that if people were doing something more unconscious like doodling, “they could abstract the music and be less apt to judge it. By engaging in a drawing experience, people are able to tap into their own creativity and draw something based on what they’re hearing to inspire them. It opens up a different approach to how you digest the music and is much more friendly. People may find themselves hearing something in the music they would otherwise miss,” Lee said. The other goal of the visual element is to concretely capture how the music is inspiring the audiences. “Canada is inspiring the composers, the composers are inspiring the ensemble, and since the concert is travelling throughout the country, the music is inspiring a nation-wide audience. We can capture what is being created and put it on our website, creating a visual mosaic as another layer to how we celebrate and represent our country.” Through the Mosaïque Project, Canada’s diversity and richness are celebrated not only through the music, but also through the eyes and ears of its people.

Francis Pegahmagabow (1945)Sounding Thunder

The second contemporary music event at the Festival of the Sound is the world premiere of Sounding Thunder: The Song of Francis Pegahmagabow, composed by Timothy Corlis and written by Ojibwe poet Armand Garnet Ruffo. Corlis explained that the work is not an opera, but rather a story that includes a narrator, a chamber ensemble of instrumentalists, three Ojibwe singers and an actor who plays Pegahmagabow. Performing this role is Brian McInnes, the great grandson of Pegahmagabow and writer of an extensive biography of his great grandfather. Other direct descendants have acted as advisors for the project. Pegahmagabow was born in 1889 on the Parry Island Indian Reserve (now the Wasauksing First Nation), an Ojibwe community near Parry Sound, Ontario. He was considered the most effective sniper of World War I and was decorated with various military medals. The writer Armand Ruffo took great pains to reference real events in the script, Corlis told me, using either things commonly talked about in the family or documentation from books.

Timothy CorlisThe instrumentation of the music was designed to be a copy of what is used in L’Histoire du Soldat, Igor Stravinsky’s piece about World War I. Corlis’ vision is that for future performances, excerpts of Stravinsky’s work will be performed on the same program, thus presenting different viewpoints of this cataclysmic world event. Sounding Thunder is divided into three acts, with the first focusing on Pegahmagabow’s childhood and formational spiritual experiences, including an encounter with the spirit of his clan – the Caribou. In the music, Corlis has created a Caribou motive using interlocking patterns invoking the sounds of a large herd. One of the singers will portray the spirit of the Caribou throughout the work, which opens with Pegahmagabow acknowledging the four directions while vocables are sung. At another point, the instruments foreshadow the war with rippling gunshot sounds on the drum. Act Two takes us to the battlefield in Europe and musically, the score has many references to European music and its harmonic traditions. Corlis said that the music even sounds a bit like Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, yet there is another unmistakable component – the presence of the drum, which is played with great force underneath the European-based music. This was one way Corlis brought together references to both cultures, as the drum is a significant element in Ojibwe culture and customarily resides in the home of its owner.

Armand Garnet Ruffo in his office at Queens University CREDIT Julia McKayAct Three focuses on Pegahmagabow’s life after returning to his home after the war. Despite his many accomplishments on the battlefield and his ability to gain loyalty and trust in his role as an army sergeant, when back on the reserve, he had to once again face the systemic racism towards First Nations people. Much of the third act portrays his struggles with the Indian agent, fighting for the rights to receive his military pension and for all Indigenous people to have access to legal advice. Writer Armand Ruffo is a strong activist for Indigenous rights, and this is very evident in the script. The work ends with Pegahmagabow’s death, with the instrumentalists surrounding him onstage while playing gentle light trill motives to represent the ascension of his spirit, with the finale being the performance of a traditional Ojibwe song.

City Summertime Listening

Somewhere There: On June 10, at Array Space, Somewhere There will present the first screening of Sound Seed: Tribute to Pauline Oliveros, a performance by Vancouver-based integrated media artist Victoria Gibson. The piece draws on Gibson’s 2009 encounter with composer Pauline Oliveros and members of the Deep Listening Band, who invited her to document their 20th anniversary that took place in the underground cistern in Fort Worden, Washington with its spectacular 45-second reverberation. This was the site of the groundbreaking 1989 recording Deep Listening, which launched both the term and concepts of Deep Listening, Oliveros’ signature work which invites us to engage with and contribute to the sonic environment from a place of inner focus and awareness. The concert includes a launch of the DVD along with two sets of music. Vocalist/composer Laura Swankey opens the evening, with the closing set featuring Gibson performing with Heather Saumer (trombone) and Bob Vespaziani (electronic percussion), a version of Gibson’s variable-member project, Play the Moment Collective.

Contact Contemporary Music: A unique concert on June 14 co-presented by ContaQt and Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, “Many Faces: We Are All Marilyns,” will explore the themes of vulnerability, strength and defiance, topics that are particularly relevant in light of recent issues of violence within Toronto’s queer community. Music by Eve Beglarian, Amnon Wolman and John Oswald will be performed, along with choreography by Laurence Lemieux. Fast forwarding to the Labour Day weekend, Contact’s annual multi-day festival INTERSECTION takes place from August 31 to September 4, and is a co-presentation with Burn Down the Capital. This year’s event offers an extensive lineup of musicians, with their opening concert featuring NYC-based experimental metal guitarist and composer Mick Barr, the Thin Edge New Music Collective, and heavy metal band Droid. The day-long event on September 2 will take place as usual at Yonge- Dundas Square, with music performed in the midst of an intense urban scene. By contrast, the final concert will take place at Allan Gardens, with another opportunity to hear Laura Swankey, amongst others.

Luminato: An exciting new work which combines sound, image and an unspoken narrative, Solo for Duet: works for augmented piano and images, will be performed by pianist Eve Egoyan on June 19 and 20. I refer you to my April column, which features a more detailed description of this work, along with a look at Egoyan’s performances of long-duration works. On June 24, Icelandic composer and musician Ólafur Arnalds premieres his new work All Strings Attached, featuring a wired ensemble of string quartet and percussion, with Ólafur performing on an array of pianos and synthesizers. A highlight of this work will be Ólafur’s use of intricate algorithm software, which he designed to control two self-playing pianos acting as one.

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

I once mused in this column that “summer in the city for me also means music in the city.” It’s not an especially deep statement, but it does suggest that experiencing sound in warm outdoor weather is different from listening indoors. Summer liberates music in Canada in a way other seasons cannot.

The advent of short sleeves, shorts-and-sandal weather means music lovers need no longer be confined to indoor spaces. We can enjoy music at a wide range of outdoor venues this summer. To name only a few: Harbourfront Centre, North York’s Cultura Festival, Peeks Toronto Caribbean Carnival (commonly still called Caribana), Small World Festival, and Ashkenaz Festival. We can also experience global music at TD Sunfest 2018 in the parkland heart of London, and at Stratford Summer Music in the Ontario town Shakespeare made famous.

Many of these concert series feature music which reflects the diversity we see and hear around us every day.

Summertime concerts often cover a huge cultural range, sometimes with several genres on a single bill. It’s an ideal opportunity to sample music you’ve been meaning to try – or never knew existed. The latter’s a special treat for inveterate sonic explorers.

In this 2018 summer column I’ll explore that en plein air experience as presented by three Toronto music festivals rich in global sounds.

Harbourfront Centre: Summer Music in the Garden, June 28 to September 16

We begin our summer global music journey at Harbourfront Centre, which I once called “the granddaddy of current Toronto summer music festivals.” It has followed its multicultural mandate for more than four decades, presenting what it calls a cross-section of the “mosaic of cultures from within our country and around the world.”

I’ve mentioned here before that I was a Harbourfront Centre early-adopter. I hadn’t yet shared, however, that as well as being an enthusiastic audience member, I also performed there with various groups from the 1970s on. Bringing my children along when they were young to Harbourfront Centre’s eclectic high-quality (and mostly free) music programming proved to be a summertime essential for our growing family. Along the way I learned a great deal about diverse musics there. Perhaps our kids did too.

Harbourfront’s concert series Summer Music in the Garden returns for its 19th year by the shores of Lake Ontario. Located in the Yo-Yo Ma co-designed Music Garden, the free concerts are scheduled on most Thursdays at 7pm and Sundays at 4pm. Audiences are encouraged to sit on the lawn and to bring a blanket or lawn chair since bench seating is quite limited. Hats, umbrellas and sunscreen are wise options.

Summer Music in the Garden’s logo is “Our garden is your concert hall.” It’s an apt description of the relaxed backyard-in-the-city environment you can expect, though you’d have to be in the upper one percent to personally own such a waterfront property.

This year’s 18 concerts have been carefully curated by longtime Summer Music in the Garden artistic director Tamara Bernstein. They include outstanding local and touring artists performing in a wide range of music genres. Here are just three picks from the Music Garden’s abundant 2018 crop.

July 1. Kontiwennenhá:wi and Barbara Croall: “Songs for the Women.”

It’s very fitting that Bernstein booked Kontiwennenhá:wi and Barbara Croall for Canada Day. Kontiwennenhá:wi (Carriers of the Words) have performed at the Toronto Music Garden as The Akwesasne Women Singers in the past. They return performing both received songs that are an integral part of Haudenosaunee life, as well as original repertoire.

Barbara CroallOdawa First Nations composer and musician Barbara Croall was (from 1998 to 2000) resident composer with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Her Summer Music in the Garden set features a performance of her Lullaby (2008) for pipigwan (traditional Anishinaabe cedar flute) and voice. The work is dedicated to the many Indigenous mothers whose children died at residential schools.

July 5. Kongero: “Scandinavian Songlines.”

Formed in 2005, the popular Swedish a cappella group Kongero consists of four women folk music singers, Lotta Andersson, Emma Björling, Anna Larsson and Anna Wikénius. They have performed at major folk music, a cappella and chamber music festivals in Europe, Asia and the Americas. Their repertoire consists of a mix of traditional and original songs characterized by tight harmonies, lively rhythms and vocal clarity. They playfully call their genre, “Swedish Folk’appella.”

Summer and beer go together for many Canadians, but how many a cappella groups can boast a beer named after them? This quartet can. Kongero is a bottled Saison/Farmhouse Ale-style brewed by Jackdaw Brewery in Sweden. Audiences can expect to hear excerpts from Kongero’s four full-length albums, though sadly I saw no mention of samples of their eponymous ale.

August 9. Bageshree Vaze, Vineet Vyas and Rajib Karmakar: Satyam (Truth).

The Indo-Canadian dancer and musician Bageshree Vaze and tabla soloist Vineet Vyas both studied their respective art forms with the best in India. They have been part of the Ontario performing arts scene for over two decades. Currently based in LA, Rajib Karmakar is an award-winning electric sitar musician, educator and digital artist with ample international touring credentials.

Last year these three artists were commissioned by Opera Nova Scotia to create Satyam (Truth). Their opera is based on the love story of Savitri and Satyavan, first found in the Mahabharata, one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India.

Small World Festival at Harbourfront Centre, August 17 to 19.

Harbourfront Centre is the venue for several other festivals this summer. For three days in August, this year’s Small World Festival takes over Harbourfront’s facilities for the first time. Placing its 17th annual festival at the height of the summer season in one of the city’s premier summer cultural and tourist destinations is a bold and perhaps even risky move for Small World Music. On the other hand, the fit feels organic. The weekend celebration of “diversity through music” suits the mandates of both organizations well.

In a recent telephone interview with Alan Davis, SWM’s executive director, he told me that this year’s Small World Festival is inspired by the 30th anniversary of WOMAD. Founded by Peter Gabriel in the UK 36 years ago, World of Music Art and Dance was first produced in Canada at Harbourfront Centre in 1988. (I recall that WOMAD particularly well. I performed a concert there with Evergreen Club Gamelan on the outdoor Tindall stage, a stone’s throw from busy Queens Quay.)

Davis noted that the “inspiration [WOMAD] provided created a direct line to the formation of Small World ten years later. Three decades on, this festival explores its legacy and how it resonates in multicultural 21st-century Toronto.”

Small World’s annual signature concert series is known for its “eclectic mix of top artists from around the globe and around the corner, representing the state of the-art in global sound,” continued Davis. “Taking place on multiple stages, the mostly free program will attract a wide range of demographics, ranging from audiences that identify culturally with the music onstage, to mainstream music fans, families and tourists seeking a global cultural experience.”

Davis makes a case for providing “a predominately free program in one of Toronto’s premier summer locales helping to reduce the barriers in celebrating multiculturalism and enriching the cultural tapestry of our city.” He projects the weekend will “draw over 25,000 participants from markets beyond the GTA, including Southern Ontario, Montreal and American border-states.”

What will audiences see and hear? Davis aims “to continue to feature the high-quality presentations that the festival is renowned for. This includes international and Canadian artists from a diverse range of cultures, including but not limited to Korean, South Asian, Iranian, Latin American, Portuguese and Afro-Caribbean.”

Given that the Small World Festival will be held in the middle of August, Davis was reluctant to nail down programming months prior to the festival. When pressed, however, he revealed to The WholeNote readers the acts booked at press time.

The wide-ranging mix includes Daraa Tribes (Morocco), which present a fusion of the ancestral tribal music at the heart of the Moroccan Sahara; DJ Lag (South Africa), a pioneer of the explosive dark techno movement out of Durban; and one of Italy’s hottest bands, Kalàscima, purveyors of a unique brand of “psychedelic trance tarantella.” Also confirmed is the East LA band Las Cafeteras, which fuses spoken word and traditional Son Jarocho, Afro-Mexican and zapateado dancing into a joyous celebration of Chicano culture.

Vieux Farka TouréThe Malian singer and guitarist Vieux Farka Touré may be the best-known Small World Festival headliner to Toronto audiences. Carrying on the musical legacy of his Grammy-winning father Ali Farka Touré, Vieux’s latest album Samba (2017) was praised in the Monolith Cocktail Blog: “This is the devotional, earthy soul of Mali, channelled through a six-string electric guitar.”

Canadian groups include Toronto’s Surefire Sweat, a diverse and multi-generational roster of musicians who feature the danceable original music of drummer Larry Graves which draws on “an amalgam of New Orleans brass band, funk, jazz, blues and Afrobeat.” The Montreal-Moroccan outfit De Ville will also take the stage. More Canadian and international acts will be announced during the summer, so keep an eye out.

Ashkenaz Festival at Harbourfront Centre, August 28 to September 3.

The 12th biennial Ashkenaz Festival happens over the final week of the summer, wrapping on Labour Day Monday. Following the template established in previous editions, this year kicks off with an assortment of events at venues across the GTA before Ashkenaz segues to Harbourfront Centre over the Labour Day weekend.

The 2018 festival features over 90 performances, with more than 250 individual artists coming from across Canada and at least a dozen countries. Following the lead of previous iterations, the festival showcases diversity and cross-culturalism within the Jewish music world. This year the festival also features the enhanced participation of women performers, “spotlighting the role of women as prominent performers, innovators and key custodians of various Jewish musical traditions from around the globe.”

Given the vast scope of the festival I can only provide a few picks.

On August 28, Yiddish Glory (Russia/Canada) is the festival opener at Koerner Hall. The show is built on songs and poetry from the Holocaust era, rediscovered in a Ukrainian archive a decade ago. The songs and texts are presented in a concert format featuring jazz chanteuse Sophie Milman, Psoy Korolenko and Trio Loyko.

Other acts have been confirmed, though their festival appearance dates have not yet been released. Here’s but a taste.

Frank London, Grammy-winning group Klezmatics’ co-founder and one of the godfathers of the new Yiddish culture scene, is this year’s Theodore Bikel artist-in-residence. Fronted by trumpeter London, the band Sharabi has been dubbed “a Yiddish-Punjabi bhangra-funk-klezmer party band.” (Would I kid you?)

Salomé: Woman of Valor (Canada/USA) was created by London and Adeena Karasick. This new work is a multidisciplinary spoken word opera incorporating the interplay of poetry, music and dance. It seeks to refute Oscar Wilde’s “misogynist and anti-Semitic interpretation and re-casts [Salomé] as a powerful revolutionary matriarch, translating the renowned myth to one of female empowerment, socio-politic, erotic and aesthetic transgression.”

Gili Yalo, making his North American debut, is one of the most intriguing new artists in Israel’s world music scene. Yalo mashes his Ethiopian roots with soul, reggae, funk, psychedelia and jazz, forging an energetic new sound.

Neta Elkayam, a leading researcher and performer of Moroccan Jewish music, presents songs with Andalusian, Berber and Middle Eastern influences. Her latest project is a multimedia concert tribute to the great Moroccan-Jewish singer Zohra Al Fassia, featuring 11 musicians..

Choro Das Tres (Brazil) is a virtuoso instrumental ensemble comprised of three sisters and their father who perform choro, Brazil’s first popular music. The group pays tribute in this concert to Brazilian-Jewish mandolin master Jacob do Bandolim, on the 100th anniversary of his birth.

No matter which festival or open-air concert you choose, I wish you a pleasant global musical summer! 

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

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