Harley CardThe TD Toronto Jazz Festival has announced the four special projects supported by its 2018 Discovery Series this spring – and with them, an indication of how the festival’s vision for jazz in Toronto is continuing to evolve.

This year’s Discovery Series features guitarist Harley Card’s new Sunset Ensemble octet, on March 1 at Lula Lounge; the Heavyweights Brass Band’s CD release for This City, March 29 at Lula Lounge; Adrean Farrugia and Joel Fram’s CD release for BLUED DHARMA, April 27 at Gallery 345; and “The Smith Sessions Presents: Bitches Brew,” an event featuring female-led groups performing original music, April 28 at the Canadian Music Centre (CMC).

Started in 2011, the series is a part of the TD Toronto Jazz Festival’s outreach to local performers creating original work, and to year-round, multi-venue jazz programming in the city. Each year, an assembled Toronto Jazz Fest jury selects four projects to receive support and funding from the festival. Over the last 8 years, the series has accumulated an alumni list that serves as a veritable who’s who of local jazz innovators – and that has helped transform the festival from an annual affair into a year-round showcase of local music-making.

The announcement of the 2018 projects was one of Josh Grossman’s first, since transitioning from part-time to full-time artistic director of Toronto Downtown Jazz last month. So far, he’s excited about the results. “We always get projects that fit nicely within the festival mandate,” he says. “It’s a nice cross section of projects each year; it never feels like a stretch to find projects that really work and make sense.”

This year in particular brings a wide range of projects to the local jazz community: two CD releases; a collaborative project focusing on women leaders in the arts; and in the case of the Sunset Ensemble, which takes Harley Card and David French’s quintet and expands it into a new octet, a new venture by an already-established local bandleader. “Harley is a great example of a musician who has established himself clearly on the local scene, but who is striking out and taking a bit of an artistic risk by writing music for an ensemble a bit outside of his comfort zone,” says Grossman. “That’s exactly the type of thing we’re hoping to support.”

Grossman notes that the other three projects similarly represent different facets of the festival’s mandate: Heavyweights, for the ensemble’s emphasis on community outreach, Farrugia and Fram for their partnership between local and international musicians, and Bitches Brew for bringing together very different artists in a meaningful way. “The Bitches Brew sessions is such a unique event; it really resonated with the panel,” he explains. “The four musicians brought together there – Aline Homzy, Anh Phung, Emma Smith and Magdelys Savigne – really do come from four very different traditions. It will be neat to see how that all comes together.”

The festival this year also seems to showcase a wide range of venues (from the CMC to Lula Lounge), as well as artists of many different ages and career paths – a move that for Grossman was purposeful.

“I think part of it is the recognition that artists at any stage of their careers are able to take on special projects,” he says. “That’s what makes the best artists the best artists: they’re always trying new things. So there’s no [age] criteria for applying, other than that we’re looking to support local musicians who are making a significant contribution to the local jazz community.”

Moving forward as full-time artistic director, Grossman already has ideas about where the Discovery Series will head, and how it will grow alongside the main festival each year.

“A couple of years ago, a panelist said, ‘wouldn’t it be great if these were projects that were not only set apart in jazz, but also [connected with] broader communities in the city,’” he says. “There’s no way to mandate something like that – what would that thing be? – but [reaching beyond jazz into other communities] is a part of the application form now, and I’m excited to see how people interpret that, moving forward.”

More actively, Grossman plans on building stronger ties between the featured projects and the festival itself.

“Right now, there’s no direct relationship between support in this series and performing at the jazz festival,” he says. “I don’t know what [that would look like], but I want to explore that a little bit more. I want to create stronger relationships.”

It’s safe to say that the series will continue to develop in the future – and that in the meantime, with these four projects lined up for the spring, it’s off to a good start.

The 2018 TD Discovery Series opens on March 1, with a presentation of Harley Card’s Sunset Ensemble at Lula Lounge, Toronto.

Tim Baker, known for his work with Newfoundland band, Hey Rosetta!, is a headliner at this year’s Piano Fest.The Burdock is one of those special Toronto places that feels like it can be anything you want it to be. It’s a bar and restaurant, it’s a brewery – and notably, it’s a music venue. In a room separate from the bar area in the northwest corner of the Bloor Street space, booking manager Charlotte Cornfield and the Burdock team have created an intimate atmosphere that works surprisingly well for a vast array of music: quiet enough for a wind quintet, cosy enough for a folk set, but still spacious enough for something bigger, more adventurous, or experimental. And, for one week every year, they have a piano.

According to Cornfield, at first the Burdock Piano Festival grew out of a kind of team problem-solving exercise. “The original Burdock team are all big music lovers and big piano fans,” she says. “We talked about having a piano in the space, but we wanted the space to be malleable and able to morph into a different kind of stage environment depending on the type of show that we do...and also, January ends up being a quieter gig month because it’s post-holidays and it’s cold. So we were like: what could we do to both embrace the piano and liven up January?

“We often just throw goofy ideas around, and it started as what seemed to be a goofy idea that formed into ‘actually, this is a great idea’,” she continues. “Why don’t we bring in a really nice piano for a week, and just program a week of piano shows, and get people excited about that?”

Charlotte Cornfield.Cornfield and the team came up with suggestions of artists; Robert Lowrey Pianos donated the baby grand. That was for January 2016; three years later, the Burdock Piano Fest is still gathering momentum.

This year’s festival is the biggest yet – 16 shows over 8 days – and the team is trying to expand their scope to match. “This year was the first year that I actually did a call for submissions, because I really wanted to reach out beyond our immediate community,” says Cornfield. “I wanted to reach out beyond the walls of what we already know. And it was great: we got a ton of eclectic submissions. There were a lot of people who I wasn’t familiar with before who reached out, and I’m super excited about the lineup.”

That lineup includes an impressive array of artists: headliner vocalist/pianists Tim Baker (of Hey Rosetta! fame) and Jeremy Dutcher, along with sets spanning classical, jazz, experimental and pop. In particular, Cornfield points out the January 29 shows – emerging baroque pop singer/songwriter/pianist Ryland Dinneen paired in a double bill with Kritty Uranowski, followed by a late-night solo set by singer-songwriter Emma Frank – and a jazz- and soul-influenced show featuring Joanna Majoko and Chelsea Bennett, on January 26.

As usual for the festival, double bills make up the bulk of the programming. For Cornfield – who, as a songwriter, pianist/guitarist and jazz drummer, is herself a musician with several different facets – it’s a part of her strategy to bridge the gap between genres and create new musical connections. “I started doing the double bill thing in the first year, just because I thought it would be interesting to bring people together who might not already know one another but whose music might line up in some way,” she says. “And then that was really cool because it brought in two different crowds to one show.

“It was really fun this year to be like, ‘oh, who would this artist work well with?’ and ‘oh, this is kind of left-field to put this classical guy with a cabaret singer, but I think it would work really well!’ Things like that,” Cornfield adds. “I like to mix it up; I’m a big fan of double bills that wouldn’t be the obvious choice, but that have things about each set that complement one another.”

More than anything, it’s about celebrating the piano in the Burdock space, and making it special.

“What I’ve been looking for are acts and ideas that are unique to having an opportunity to have a piano like that in an intimate space,” says Cornfield. “While we have a lot of different ideas [at the festival], what brings them together is that it’s a special occasion to do something cool with a piano in this space. So genre-wise this year, we’re definitely casting a wider net than we have in previous years. We definitely wanted the programming to be diverse – as diverse as possible.”

The Burdock Piano Fest runs from January 22 to 29.

IbrahimBannerPianist Abdullah Ibrahim, who will perform in Toronto on April 21, 2018.Now that it’s officially 2018, it’s time to start looking forward – and thankfully, there’s a lot to look forward to. The year is full of compelling music, both locally and abroad, and as clichéd as it sounds, there actually is something for everyone. To take stock of the year ahead, we asked our writers: if you had to choose one concert that you’re already planning on attending in 2018, what would it be?

Here are some of WholeNote staff and contributors’ picks for their must-see concerts of 2018.

Toronto Symphony Orchestra - Mahler Symphony 9
June 20 and 23, 2018, Toronto

TSO music director Peter Oundjian's 14-year run comes to a joyous conclusion in June with a series of powerhouse concerts. The one that I'm particularly looking forward to is the June 20 and 23 program, which finds Oundjian leading the orchestra in Mahler's emotionally transformative Symphony No.9, a work its first conductor, Bruno Walter, said was filled with “a sanctified feeling of departure.” Of all the ninth symphonies that followed Beethoven's unsurpassable example, Mahler's stands tallest. As a significant bonus, the program opens with longtime friend of Oundjian's TSO, the always engaging Emanuel Ax, bringing his musical ease and humility to Mozart's Piano Concerto No.15 K451, its celebratory mood perfectly appropriate for the occasion.

- Paul Ennis, managing editor and classical columnist

More info: https://www.tso.ca/concert/mahler-symphony-9#performance-1630

The Royal Conservatory - Abdullah Ibrahim & Ekaya and special guest Freddie Hendrix in tribute to The Jazz Epistles
April 21, 2018, Toronto

For me it's a commemorative confluence April 21 at Koerner Hall: Abdullah Ibrahim on piano with his band Ekaya, and with Freddie Hendrix on trumpet, in an evening featuring Jazz Epistles original compositions. Drawing on the music of Monk, Parker and 'Trane, the Epistles were at the roots of a distinctively South African jazz sound, which filtered into my childhood consciousness from the King Kong kitchen yards of my Johannesburg childhood. And newly arrived in Canada (who knew it would be for good?) 40 years ago, I heard Abdullah Ibrahim, still in exile, spin two hours of solo piano magic at what would become the Jane Mallett Theatre, as part of the “Plus” in Polish refugee writer/director Marion Andre's groundbreaking Theatre Plus series.

- David Perlman, publisher and editor-in-chief

More info: https://www.rcmusic.com/performance/event/jazz-epistlesevent/jazz-epistles

Mirvish - Come From Away
February 13 to September 2, 2018, Toronto

A show I am looking forward to with great anticipation this season is the return of David Hein and Irene Sankoff’s Come From Away. A truly Canadian musical based on a true – and recent – Canadian story that has triumphed on Broadway after quickly selling out its original Toronto run, Come From Away returns to Toronto’s Royal Alex Theatre on February 13 for a long run. Having missed the first run when it sold out so quickly, I am eager to catch up with a show that everyone who has seen it says is not only brilliantly written and composed but enormously heartwarming and inspiring as well.

- Jennifer Parr, music theatre columnist

More info: https://www.mirvish.com/shows/come-from-away

Works by Leoš Janáček
Various

This year I’m excited to hear a variety of music from the Czech composer Leoš Janáček, especially (hopefully) his spectacularly epic Glagolitic Mass. December 8, 2018 is the 90th anniversary of Janáček’s death, which will hopefully serve as an impetus for deeper exploration
of Janáček and his works, and more performances of his music here in Toronto.

- Matthew Whitfield, early music columnist

Glyndebourne Opera Festival - Giulio Cesare
June 10 to July 28, 2018, Glyndebourne, UK

This June will be my first ever visit to Glyndebourne Opera Festival (provided there's no global nuclear war etc. before then). The festival is reviving Handel's Giulio Cesare, which I'd argue is the best production that David McVicar ever created, though my main draw is Sarah Connolly in the title role. Squeaky countertenors have all but taken over this pants role from the powerful mezzos and this could well be the last time Cesare is sung by a woman on a major operatic stage. A few of us are coming from around the world, including a fellow mezzo-sexual opera lover from Australia. Given the Glyndebourne evening-wear dress code, my usual casual getups won't do. What to wear in Sussex in June where a clear sky can quickly turn to rain? To dress feminine or masculine of centre? All those Glyndebourne Cesare clips on Youtube will come in handy for inspiration.

- Lydia Perović, art song columnist

More info: http://www.glyndebourne.com/

Toronto Symphony Orchestra - Beethoven Symphony 9
June 28 to 30, 2018, Toronto

Freude! There are reasons that works like Beethoven's 9th bring tears to performers and listeners alike: the sheer power of a full orchestra and choir belting out a beloved tune; the dancing strings and powerful timpani hits as the choir soars with “Freude, schöner Götterfunken”; the dangerously fast ending that always erupts into applause. As a performer there are few works with the great dynamism of the 9th. This year, 2018, we have an auspicious event to celebrate – Peter Oundjian's final stand on the podium after 14 years as artistic director of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Sure, he'll be back, hopefully often, but what better work to commemorate his time at the TSO and to set a glorious tone for the future of classical music in Toronto? I'll be singing in the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir. Also, although details are still being hashed out, some interesting surprises will be in store for the final performances. Virtual choir? Simulcasts? Public performance? Choir of hundreds? We'll have to see!

- Brian Chang, choral columnist

More info: https://www.tso.ca/concert/beethoven-symphony-9

Music Gallery - Yoko Ono - The Riverbed: Voice Pieces
February 23, 2018, Toronto

In a 2010 interview with Artinfo’s Sarah Douglas, Yoko Ono describes her 1964 conceptual artwork Voice Piece for Soprano – a set of instructions where the reader is told to scream “1) against the wind, 2) against the wall, and 3) against the sky” – as a protest song, and a form of resistance. “The inspiration was that I was feeling very rebellious as a woman,” she says. “The wind, the wall, and the sky didn’t represent men, but they were situations in life that you have to scream against.”

This February, a co-pro between the Music Gallery and the Gardiner Museum will present three performances inspired by these instructions. Experimental improvisers The Element Choir, dub poet Lillian Allen and vocalist Mamalia will each perform an homage to this work, in light of the Gardiner’s February 22-June 3 exhibition of Ono’s art. I have no idea what to expect, or whether the concept of screaming will be interpreted literally or loosely. Either way – like much of Ono’s work – it will likely be bold, and impossible to ignore.

- Sara Constant, digital media editor

More info: https://musicgallery.org/events/yoko-ono-the-riverbed-voice-pieces/

Labyrinth Music Workshop Ontario, NCGMO, Polyphonic Ground
Various

My pick is not one concert/music event, but rather tracing in 2018 the development of a few breaking 2017 stories featured in my WholeNote column. I’d include Labyrinth Music Workshop Ontario, New Canadian Global Music Orchestra and Polyphonic Ground. Why? Collectively, they address core issues in world music education, creation, performance, presentation and legacy relevant in the GTA.

- Andrew Timar, world music columnist

SannacBannerMeludia co-founder Bastien Sannac using the Meludia web application, during a presentation last year in Malta. Photo credit: Alfredo D’Amato / Libération.With the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra’s latest outreach project, they’re giving away free online music lessons – to all Canadians, across the country.

In an announcement last Wednesday, the CPO revealed a new partnership with Paris-based music education platform Meludia. Available as a web and mobile application, Meludia uses the gamification of ear training to build a curriculum of over 600 musicianship games, ranging from beginner to expert skill levels. And in celebration of Canada 150, they’re allowing anyone with a Canadian IP address to sign up for a premium, 1-year-long Meludia account – free of charge.

For CPO music director Rune Bergmann, who officially started his tenure with the orchestra in fall 2017, widespread accessibility initiatives were an important part of the job. ‘When i first arrived in Calgary, I felt there were a lot of good things – but what was missing was that the things going on here were kind of a well-hidden secret,” he said at the press conference Wednesday. “The first thing I felt when I came here was that this should be an orchestra for the world.”

Like many other online learning resources, Meludia – which has previously supplied similar nationwide subscriptions in Malta and Estonia – claims to teach users by structuring lessons as short games and tests. In that sense, it’s not unlike a musical version of the popular language learning app Duolingo.

However, what sets Meludia apart from other programs – especially when it comes to classical music – is the philosophy behind these games. Unlike much conventional classical musical training, which tends to focus heavily on reading sheet music and musical terminology, Meludia is based on a body of research by French composer Vincent Chaintrier, which advocates a focus on developing sensory and emotional responses to sounds. There are four tiers of difficulty in the app: Discovery, Intermediate, Advanced, and Expert. While the Expert level is geared towards professional musicians, the first levels are meant to be highly intuitive, even for users with little to no knowledge of western classical music. And while technically, Meludia is in the business of music literacy, you don’t actually need to know how to read music at all to use it.

A game at the Discovery level in Meludia, where the user is asked to identify between “one note” and “many notes.”Here’s an example. In the Discovery level, there is a game called “Density.” There, the user is given a simple task: when they listen to the sound file, do they hear one note, or many notes? (The app also includes a description of how they would define the word ‘note’.) By the Intermediate level, you can play the same “Density” game, but are asked to be more specific: how many notes do you hear – one, two, three or four? By the Advanced and Expert levels, these same exercises have evolved into high-level classical music ear training: identifying complex chords and chord progressions. And it’s all done using highly intuitive visual graphics, with hardly any reference to conventional classical music notation.

The same game at a more advanced level: the user is now asked to identify the number of notes they hear.“When Rune first logged me into the Meludia platform, I was impressed at how intuitively interactive and fun it was,” explained Paul Dornian, president and CEO of the CPO, last week. “I am thrilled that we can make Meludia available to Canadians and visitors to Canada who want to boost their musical education or start from scratch.”

Another entry-level game on Meludia. The user is asked to identify between sounds that feel “tense and then stable” vs. sounds that feel “stable and then tense.” The game introduces the terminology of tension and resolution; eventually, these skills are used at more advanced levels to identify chord progressions and tonalities. It’s easy to feel skeptical about a program like this one. After all, the definition of music literacy – and the types of music implied by that term – mean that making music education universally accessible is hardly as simple as some may claim. However, by eliminating two of the major barriers that Canadians often face when pursuing musical education – the high cost and the emphasis on ‘insider’ classical music knowledge and jargon – this initiative is without a doubt a step in the right direction. And if you’re reading from Canada right now and have time to play a quick game or two, it’s absolutely worth a try.

As of last week, anyone with a Canadian IP address can log into meludia.com and use the program free of charge, until December 5, 2018.

Sara Constant is a Toronto-based flutist and music writer, and is digital media editor at The WholeNote. She can be contacted at editorial@thewholenote.com.

cassettes100BANNERThe original performance of Cassettes 100, at the Cultural Center of the Philippines in 1971. Photo c/o Andrea Mapili.At a performance in Toronto’s Distillery District this Sunday, over a hundred people will come together to experience community, and community listening, in a monumental way.

Cassettes 100, a 30-minute music/movement piece taking place at the Distillery’s Young Centre on November 19, is, in some ways, exactly what it sounds like: a set of 100 pre-recorded cassette tracks, all played at once. However, it’s also more than that. The piece, first created and presented by late Filipino composer and ethnomusicologist José Maceda in 1971, requires 100 ‘musicians’ to weave their way through and around the audience – each of them carrying one of those 100 cassette players, playing recordings of indigenous Philippine instruments, voices and natural sounds. This performance will be its Canadian premiere.

José Maceda was a leader in the field of ethnomusicology, renowned for his field recordings of the Indigenous music of the Philippines. His granddaughter, artist, movement and awareness coach Andrea Mapili, and theatre artist Byron Abalos, are behind this Toronto performance of Maceda’s work.

José Maceda with field recording equipment. Photo c/o Andrea Mapili.“I’ve always been curious about my grandfather’s work,” explains Mapili. “This January, [Byron and I] were both in the Philippines for the kickoff of Maceda 100, the yearlong celebration of his life and work in honour of [what would have been his 100th birthday]. We were a part of a Cassettes 100 performance there, and we were blown away – and we just thought, ‘we really need to bring this to Canada.’”

The Toronto performance will be a collaborative effort between the University of the Philippines’ Center for Ethnomusicology and Soulpepper Theatre Company’s 2017 Shen Development Festival – a free one-day event dedicated to celebrating theatre, dance and musical works by artists of Asian heritage.

The team needs 100 volunteers to make the project happen; so far, they’re at 70, and counting. “We have more people signing up every day,” says Abalos. “We really tried our best to reach out to many different communities: the academic community, the theatre community, the dance community, the Filipino community in Toronto, and the new music community as well.”

The volunteers will be coached on how to move throughout the space in a rehearsal the morning of the show, have lunch, and then start the performance. They’ll be separated into teams, each with its own distinct choreography, and move through the theatre lobby, stairwells and balconies – creating shifting sonic textures as they go.

“We’re building a soundscape – a moving soundscape,” Mapili says. “That’s really what the piece allows us to do.”

For Mapili and Abalos, Cassettes 100 sits at the juncture of several monumental moments in time – the Maceda 100 centenary celebrations, Canada 150, and the development of Soulpepper’s Shen series. And for both of them, reimagining this piece in a way that makes it transnational, integrative and inclusive has been crucial.

“My grandfather was really interested in technology as a tool for humanism and humanitarianism,” says Mapili. “So it was very important to him to use as low-tech equipment as possible. That’s why we’re actually using .mp3 players for this performance, as opposed to cell phones or even cassettes [like those used in the premiere]. It’s the most low-tech, accessible, cheap-as-possible technology within the current, modern context.”

“And I think it’s important for us to have this moment where we can gather a lot of people to celebrate the launch of this festival,” adds Abalos. “It’s a way to call in people from other communities, so that we’re not so siloed. So that it’s not like, “here’s an Asian Canadian festival; it’s for Asian Canadians’. No – this is a festival for everyone. And it will be a chance for people from Soulpepper’s [audience base], who are used to coming to that space, to be a part of something that is from a different tradition other than the Western, European tradition of theatre, dance and art.”

“We’re trying to highlight difference in people,” says Mapili. “We’re trying to unite through diversity. And I think that that’s a huge hope for Canada right [now]. We hope that even though everybody’s different, we can still come together as a community. And I hope that by seeing the size and the scope of this project – 100 people, almost like a microcosm of Toronto – that people will leave with the knowledge that connection through difference is possible.”

Cassettes 100 will be performed at the launch of Soulpepper’s 2017 Shen Development Festival on Sunday, November 19 at 1pm, at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts in Toronto. For event details or information about volunteering, visit https://www.facebook.com/events/1185305688237509/.

Soulpepper’s Shen Development Festival is a free day-long event on November 19 featuring the work of Asian and Asian-Canadian performers and artists. For details, visit https://www.soulpepper.ca/performances/shen-festival.

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