Pedja MuzijevicThe American Avant-Garde concert July 28 at Walter Hall marked the midpoint of Toronto Summer Music's tenth anniversary season. It's been a diverse, well-planned festival so far with the promise of even more treasures to be unearthed before it ends August 9.

The numerous open rehearsals, lectures and masterclasses, all free and open to the public, are a welcome addition to the wide variety of concerts by mentors, fellows and special guests that have become the hallmark of this musical oasis where formerly not much bloomed here in past Julys and Augusts.

Read more: Concert Report: Toronto Summer Music Midpoint

Garrick OhlssonAmerican pianist Garrick Ohlsson brought his considerable musicianship and imposing physical presence to Koerner Hall July 23 as Toronto Summer Music wrapped up the first week of its tenth anniversary season.

Before intermission the program was devoted to the first two of Beethoven's final three piano sonatas. Op.109 began with a bright sound, almost jagged at times, that became limpid with the return of the opening theme. As Ohlsson continued, he harnessed his power, choosing not to rush a series of slow builds that led to an ethereal echo. A deliberately calibrated Prestissimo announced the serene theme and variations of the third movement, which progressed from strength and an unflinching forward motion through heavenly trills, then veered between bliss and agitation before ringing out in a kind of triumphant life force that marks so much of Beethoven.

Read more: Concert Report: Garrick Ohlsson at Toronto Summer Music

(from left) Timothy Nishimoto, Dan Faehnle, Nicholas Crosa, Phil Baker, China Forbes, Thomas Lauderdale, Anthony Jones. Credit Malcolm CookThe Portland-based trans-genre 10-piece band (plus vocalist) Pink Martini turned the Roy Thomson Hall stage into a sophisticated nightclub/dancehall/cabaret venue as it entertained a capacity crowd with 18 songs spread over two hours including intermission. Led by two former Harvard classmates, pianist Thomas Lauderdale and vocalist China Forbes, Pink Martini has been acting as the unofficial house band of the United Nations since its first independent album Sympathique broke out in the late 1990s.

That album is still the bedrock of their appeal. Half a dozen tunes from it (from Bolero to Brazil) anchored the show June 30. Bolero's opening iconic rhythmic figure played by four percussionists backed the sweet violin of Nicholas Crosa which started the stately progression of the melody from violin to piano to trombone.

Read more: Concert Review/Music and the Movies: Pink Martini at RTH: Maya Forbes' Infinitely Polar Bear

The Element Choir with Schafer. Photo credit I. WisdomIt was late in the day on what had been a long Saturday a few weeks ago. The multiple choirs, percussion, brass, winds, solo performers and dancers had just completed a run-through of Part One of Murray Schafer’s epic piece Apocalypsis which the Luminato Festival is presenting June 26, 27 and 28. Schafer himself was there, his first chance to hear what we had all been up to in the weeks prior.

The music came to its close. The brilliant conductor David Fallis lowered his hands. A silent hush fell over everyone. Just for a moment. It was as if we all had to take a collective in-and-out breath to honour what had just transpired. We were witness to something much bigger than each of us individually: the collective whole creating and bringing to life this masterpiece. Yes, I will say that, a masterpiece. It needs to be said, to be recognized, here in Canada. To respect the breadth of the visionary force that propelled Schafer back in the late 1970s to pen this work. Like a modern-day John the Divine, the author of the original biblical book of Revelations. Yet instead of the crashing doom and destruction we often associate with the apocalypse, this transcendent moment that occurred as the music came to its close was serene and sublime, creating a deep quiet within. A moment for revelation – which is in fact the true meaning of the word apocalypse.

I myself have been in one of the choirs, the Speech Chorus, in which we get to yell, chant, call out warnings and even scream. So lest you get the impression it’s all peaceful and calm… No, definitely not. There is plenty of cacophony and sturm und drang going on – of course. But it was this flicker of silence that occurred that day at the end of the first half that remains so strong in my memory. This inward space that prepares us for “what is yet to come” in Part Two. Using an entirely different set of choirs, Part Two, as I recall from having witnessed the original performance in 1980, continues and builds upon this moment.

It’s quite remarkable that for the past month, hundreds of performers, conductors, production staff and stage crew have been dedicating their June weekends to the rehearsals for Apocalypsis under the brilliant vision of director Lemi Ponifasio and members from his Company MAU based in New Zealand. I remember well the first rehearsal when we all met Lemi, who told us that in essence, what we were creating was a ritual by bringing this piece to life: a ceremony to which the audience is being invited. And as I’ve witnessed and participated in the final rehearsals with lighting and staging this past week, it is indeed just that. A meditation in sound and movement, light and image.

I could on about details and specifics and the appearance of star performers, but that’s not really what this is about. Ultimately it’s about creating a vision for a new kind of world. It’s as if we are opening up a crack through which a different collective story can find its voice. This old one we are desperately clinging to that has lead to untold human suffering is no longer sustainable. It has run its course. And just as John the Divine of old received his vision from a large crack in the wall of a cave on the island of Patmos, this performance is a collective moment to stop and pause, reflect, cleanse and consider another possibility. This is the power of what the sound of silence can create. As we say in the speech chorus: “Tell the people of what is now, and what is yet to come.”

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