Michelle Williams and Casey Affleck, in Manchester by the Sea. Credit: Claire Folger, courtesy Amazon Studios and Roadside Attractions.

One of the year’s best films, Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester by the Sea follows Lee (Casey Affleck) as he copes with his late brother’s request that he serve as his 16-year-old nephew Patrick’s guardian. Lonergan jumps back and forth in time to paint a fully formed picture of this emotionally scarred handyman/janitor, who has been living in Quincy, a working-class neighbourhood of Boston, since he moved down the road from the fishing village of Manchester after a personal tragedy.

The utter naturalism of the characters as they interact is characteristic Lonergan – real characters, real situations, real interactions – but now we’re in the orbit of a mature filmmaker at ease with a world where tragedy doesn’t preclude humour (and with the technical skills to convey it). Lucas Hedges as Patrick is one fount of situational comedy; the extraordinary Michelle Williams, as Lee’s ex-wife, is another.

Mirroring the action (and the evocative cinematography – especially of Manchester’s rows of small hillside houses lit up in the flickering night) is an original score by Toronto-born Lesley Barber (who worked with Lonergan on You Can Count on Me). Uncannily, her score can suggest an element of uncertainty or trepidation at the same time as it expresses calm or warmth; as Affleck’s emotions are reined in, unleashed or in a holding pattern, as the case may be. It’s an award-worthy performance.

Barber, who began writing the music at the script stage, was inspired in part by 17th-century New England Puritan hymns and threnodies. One element she uses is a haunting, ethereal, soprano a cappella tune (sung by Barber’s daughter Jacoba, a third-year music student at McGill who sings in Opera McGill). Another is a minimalist piece for piano and strings with repetitive broken chords reminiscent of Philip Glass, suddenly interrupted by painful sonic dagger thrusts that reflect what Lee is going through in the film.

Lonergan likes to use music as counterpoint. “It always feels right to have the music help you step back a little and look at the whole environment, not just the characters’ experience,” he told Variety. In that vein, Lonergan supplemented Barber’s score with excerpts from Handel’s Messiah, Albinoni’s Adagio for Strings and Oboe Sonata and a resonant cover of I’m Beginning to See the Light by the Ink Spots and Ella Fitzgerald.

Members of The National Theatre in London Road.

Rufus Norris’ London Road is a film adaptation of The National Theatre’s groundbreaking musical by Alecky Blythe and Adam Cork about the “Suffolk Strangler” murders in Ipswich in 2006. London Road uses the townspeople’s own words describing the events they lived through as the basis for the show’s lyrics, creating a fresh and arresting re-imagining of the form. The emotionally empathetic Tom Hardy is one of the townspeople. Watching London Road was an exhilarating experience to the point of walking out of the theatre humming the catchy tunes. This mesmerizing musical hybrid, as satisfying as it was innovative, is at its core a hymn to humanity.

Manchester by the Sea is currently playing at Cineplex Varsity & VIP. London Road can be seen at Cineplex Yonge and Dundas & VIP.

Paul Ennis is the managing editor of The WholeNote.

Photo credit: Miklos Legrady.New music isn’t exactly known for its accessibility. It gets a bad rap—sometimes unfairly—for being esoteric and exclusive. Circus, on the other hand, is the opposite—often stereotyped as empty, mindless spectacle.

Balancing on the Edge, a local music-and-circus collaboration at the Harbourfront Centre last weekend, showed audiences just how wrong both of those assumptions can be.

A co-production from Thin Edge New Music Collective and A Girl in the Sky Productions, Balancing on the Edge (November 18-19) combined six contemporary compositions with six contemporary circus acts. At the closing night show on November 19, the artistic directors of both companies introduced the production by bringing up their own definitions of new music, and the analogous “new circus.” Thin Edge directors Cheryl Duvall and Ilana Waniuk spoke about their focus on performing music that reflected all aspects of modern life. Rebecca Devi Leonard identified her circus company as part of a “post-Cirque-de-Soleil” tradition, and spoke about reinventing the spectacle of circus to find something imaginative and honest. The result: a performance where emotive storytelling is put front and centre—and an example of contemporary multimedia at its very best.

Photo credit: Miklos Legrady.

Each half of the two-part program comprised three main acts, as well as a transitional clowning interlude. The show featured the circus performers on aerial silks, ladder and other suspended apparatus, as well as juggling, clowning, and dancing with flaming torches. Thin Edge musicians supplied the musical component, performing works by Nicole Lizée, Iannis Xenakis, John Cage and David Lang, as well as premieres by composers Scott Rubin and Nick Storring.

Music and circus alike proved technically impressive and emotionally potent. The show opened with Magma, a double choreography with fire, stones and aerial ropework set to Nicole Lizée’s Phonographenlieder for string quartet, piano, percussion, voice and turntables. Here, circus artists Diana Lopez and Rebecca Carney performed with seamless fluidity, while DJ Paulo Kapunan and vocalist Andrea Ludwig in particular brought Lizée’s pop-like, polystylistic music to life. Other standout acts included Excavating Meaning, where aerialist Brandy Leary and composer Nick Storring took the bossa nova ballad as a starting point for a profound meditation on sadness, stillness and grief; and Ghost Bicycle, an aerial choreography on a suspended bicycle frame that followed the death and afterlife ascension of a young cyclist, set to David Lang’s 1993 piece Cheating, Lying, Stealing. Throughout, the musicians of Thin Edge were a tight ensemble, playing with conviction and settling into their new role as circus accompanists with ease.

The only moment in the night that I found wanting was Ascension, a trio act for soprano and two circus performers on a ladder apparatus, using John Cage’s Aria & Fontana Mix (1958/59). For me, Cage's repetitive glissandi in the soprano line and the act's back-and-forth ladder work lacked some of the immediate clarity of emotion and narrative that seemed so evident in the other pieces, as well as some of the internal structure necessary to generate non-programmatic interest. Having said that, soprano Stacie Dunlop’s use of extended techniques (including a visceral, amplified vocal fry-like growling effect) meshed well with the backing electronics, and the circus artists’ ladder work evoked a playful spirit of spontaneity—but I still couldn’t shake the feeling that some structural or narrative element was missing. Neither wholly abstract nor explicitly descriptive, the act seemed at first viewing to lose its bearings in a vague, unfruitful middle ground.

Taken as a whole, Balancing on the Edge deserves the highest of praise. Skillfully combining new music with new circus, the two companies together found a combined means of expression that worked. They demonstrated a profound depth of emotion, and captured a musical-dramatic clarity that should serve as a high-water mark for what multimedial storytelling can do.

The performers and crews of both companies shone Saturday night, in a production that showed the modern spirit at its best. If their goal was to redefine what contemporary music, or contemporary circus, could be, they succeeded. If it was to tell modern stories in a visceral and relevant way, I was left in awe.

TENMC and AGITS Productions’ Balancing on the Edge was presented November 18-19 at The Harbourfront Centre. For details on the show, visit www.balancingontheedge.com. Photo credits: Miklos Legrady.

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


Updated: November 23, 11:15am.

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In November’s Choralscene I previewed the Grand Philharmonic Chamber Singers' performance of James Whitbourn’s Annelies, a setting of the Diary of Anne Frank. I stopped by Waterloo to catch the performance. Under the artistic direction of Mark Vuorinen, each time I’ve seen the choir in action I find them warm, balanced and talented. Soprano Natasha Campbell provided a strong and proficient solo voice for the evening.

There is nothing musically wrong with the GPCS performance of Annelies. I enjoyed their interpretation and performance. However, I find the work lacklustre and confusing. I understand using text and stories to inform choral writing. I understand that there are deliberate choices that help shape and define what a composer chooses for instrumentation and compositional tools. I just can’t actually figure out or explain the choices that James Whitbourn has made. Repetition is a core theme, both in the text and in instrumental motifs, and Vuorinen is insightful and manages to make these different and fresh every time with the ensemble. This is not an easy feat and the choir provided a superior interpretation of what the work intends to convey.

But the story falls flat because Whitbourn either forgot or chose to ignore one key thing – that Anne Frank was a child. The Diary of Anne Frank is a collection of deeply personal and remarkable thoughts from a child enduring inhumane conditions. This is my discomfort with the piece: it is devoid of references to childhood and child performers. The only overt attempt at bringing this in with the “Military marching dance” section in the middle of Number 5 Life in Hiding just came across as odd. I believe Whitbourn managed to compose this entire work about and for Anne Frank and forgot her childhood in the process.

This disconnect continues in a few other parts of note. For one, the use of a Kyrie Sinfonia was odd because Anne Frank was Jewish, not Christian. And towards the end as the diary entries end and the choir takes on a narrative tone, it is done in plainchant – again, invoking a distinctly Christian compositional tool. In the middle of the work, Whitbourn chose to set two German traditional songs. This section was the messiest by the choir and it is unfortunate because their German diction was on point.

In works like this, a strong director is a key point of reference. My conversation with Vuorinen last month showed an understanding of the work, despite its flaws. Vuorinen’s addition of Srul Irving Glick’s Radiant is the World Soul (part of the larger Triumph of the Spirit collection) to the program showed thoughtfulness, and this fit into the overall presentation of the evening very neatly. It provided a superior addition to the lacklustre finish of Annelies.

Throughout this performance, I kept thinking about the profound impact of war and conflict on the lives of children. I think of our contemporary conflicts, of which there are plenty: the hate-filled warful Daesh, the Syrian civil war, the state-sponsored eradication of the Rohingya, the US-Mexican border drug wars, and too many others to name. There is an Anne Frank somewhere in those conflicts, hiding, terrified, and awaiting death. This is my takeaway message from this performance – stories like this should never have to be told. Sadly, this isn’t the world we live in. We have far too many stories like these to tell. And there is no end in sight.

James Whitbourn's Annelies was performed at Maureen Forrester Hall, Wilfrid Laurier University on November 19, by the Grand Philharmonic Chamber Singers under Mark Vuorinen.

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

Photo by Dahlia KatzI’ve been looking forward to seeing Tapestry Opera’s opening 2016/17 production, Naomi’s Road, ever since I heard about it months ago. Running November 16 to 20 at St. David’s Anglican Church by Donlands station, the opera comes to Toronto from Vancouver Opera, and is an Ontario premiere.

Written in 2005 and based on an autobiographical children’s novel of the same name by Canadian author Joy Kogawa, Naomi’s Road presents an hour-long look at the trauma of the Japanese Canadian internment during the second World War, through the eyes of a young girl who is sent away with her aunt and brother to a camp in the BC interior. It’s a story that’s close to my own family history—and as Tapestry director Michael Mori mentioned on opening night, one that, with its themes of cultural conflict and fear politics, feels as relevant now as ever.

On opening night, that relevance was urgently heard and felt onstage. Much of the opera stayed true to the original material of Kogawa’s novel; though streamlined for the stage, the show nonetheless captured the essence of Kogawa’s story, and the polarities of hope and despair felt by the Japanese Canadian community during the war. Though technically a children’s opera, Ann Hodges’ libretto is equally engaging for an adult audience—given that the story is told from the point of view of a child protagonist, the simple language and storyline make powerful narrative sense.

Ramona Luengen’s score proved a powerful complement to the story. Ranging from narratively poignant dissonances to more structured songs bordering on the pop-music sound of musical theatre, the music felt like a natural addition to the narrative. Diegetic music in the show—children’s songs, folk tunes sung in Japanese, and even a cameo by the Canadian national anthem—provided memorable musical anchors for an audience of first-time listeners. Lyric soprano Hiather Karnel-Kadonaga shone in the title role, singing with impeccable clarity, and tenor Sam Chung, in the role of Naomi’s brother Stephen, matched her well, with a powerful emotive range. Baritone Sung Taek Chung and mezzo Erica Iris, both singing multiple roles, are to be applauded for their quick vocal and dramatic switches of character. The sets, taken from the original Vancouver production, added clever visual interest.

I wrote in the October issue of The WholeNote that I hoped this production would bring together a new type of community, during a time when community-building—especially across cultures—has felt especially urgent. The production, thus far, has succeeded. The church venue, which is home to St. Andrew’s, Toronto’s Japanese Canadian Anglican congregation, surprised opening night audiences with its beautiful acoustic—and the opera stage, built with the support of Tapestry’s production sponsor The Frank H. Hori Charitable Foundation, will remain at the venue for the church’s use, so that it can continue to build up its performing arts programming. The crowd—members of the congregation, and friends and colleagues of Kogawa’s who were first-time Tapestry audience members side-by-side with opera fans who had never before heard Japanese Canadian stories told live—was itself an encouraging sight.

In her book reading at the post-show reception on opening night, Joy Kogawa spoke about how this production grew out of her own involvement with her church community in Toronto. Kogawa already runs a monthly series at the church called We Should Know Each Other, about bringing together Japanese Canadian figures from across a still-dispersed community. “There were about 1100 Anglican Japanese Canadians in Vancouver,” Kogawa said. “They ordered us to disappear, and we did...and this church is the tail end of that story. It’s a miracle that this community exists at all. I asked them, who would you like to see? And they said, ‘we’d like to see other Japanese Canadians.’ I thought that if this opera comes, then [Japanese Canadians] will come too. So that’s why it’s here.”

Get to know this story, and the people behind it. It’s a socially and politically urgent production, with music that does it justice—and with a sense of community-building that embodies the hope Kogawa has tried to bring into the world.

Tapestry Opera’s production of Naomi’s Road opened on November 16 (with preview performances at the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre and Momiji Health Care Society), and runs until Sunday, November 20. For details on the show, visit our listings or www.tapestryopera.com.

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

BPO BannerSir Simon Rattle conducts the Berliner Philharmoniker in Mahler’s Symphony No.7 at Roy Thomson Hall, November 15. CREDIT Jag Gundu for the Roy Thomson Hall Archive.The renowned Berliner Philharmoniker (BPO) stopped by Roy Thomson Hall November 15 and 16 for two concerts as part of a seven-city North American tour under Sir Simon Rattle. Rattle is leaving his post in September 2017 after 15 years as principal conductor and this tour is his last in that capacity. We in Toronto are indeed fortunate to have had the opportunity to experience his wondrous instrument comprised of more than 130 players. Their unsurpassed individual skills notwithstanding, it is their collective whole and how it is shepherded by Rattle, how he kneads it, shapes it and inspires it that we hear and see. It’s a question of unerring balance, where the brass doesn’t outshine the strings; and of transparency, where individual players make a strong contribution to the overall sound.

The two programs were brilliantly conceived; in fact, they could be read as one, centred around the music of Vienna in the first decade of the 20th century. Tuesday’s concert was devoted to Mahler’s 80-minute Symphony No.7 (1904/1905) with a brief but crucial opening work, Éclat for 15 instruments (1964-65) by Boulez. Wednesday’s consisted of Schoenberg’s Five Pieces for Orchestra, Op.16 (1909); Webern’s Six Pieces for Orchestra, Op.6b (1909 -- reduced version 1928); Berg’s Three Pieces for Orchestra, Op.6 (1913-15 -- revised version 1929); and Brahms’ Symphony No.2 (1877).

Rattle addressed the audience (RTH was at capacity including a fully occupied choir loft) before Wednesday’s concert providing some perspective while telling us that the 14 movements of the three works we were about to hear before intermission would be played without a break and requesting no applause. He asked us to imagine those three young composers in Vienna having heard, as many of us had done just the night before, the vast Mahler symphony, that harbinger of modernity. “What are we supposed to do after that?” he supposed they might be thinking. “The first half of tonight’s program is the answer -- a 14-movement suite or Mahler’s 11th symphony.”

The link between Mahler and the Second Viennese School trio is clear. As for Brahms, Schoenberg regarded him highly and analyzed his music when he taught composition, calling him “the progressive” who paved the way for the future of music.

There was an ever-present chronological push/pull in the Toronto concerts beginning with Boulez’s Éclat, Tuesday’s opening work, a clear outgrowth of the 14-movement suite that opened Wednesday’s. Boulez said that Éclat meant “splinter” or “fragment” and the piece begins with an “explosion” on the piano forcefully played by Majella Stockhausen, daughter of Karlheinz Stockhausen (who wrote his Klavierstück XII and Klavierstück XIII for her). The ten-minute piece is a showcase for live sound: sounds emerge and dissipate into silence then rebuild into a tonal roar mainly using keyboards, harp and percussion before winds, brass and strings reach a climactic tutti that diffuses at the finish. It’s a focus on tone colour, timbre and dynamics that reflects back on the Second Viennese School. That’s what made Rattle’s choice of it to precede Mahler’s Symphony No.7 so apt.

Sir Simon Rattle conducts the Berliner Philharmoniker in Mahler’s Symphony No.7 at Roy Thomson Hall, November 15. CREDIT Jag Gundu for the Roy Thomson Hall Archive.The Mahler under Rattle (he conducted without a score) became a showcase for the marvellous musicianship of his orchestra. From the depth of trumpet pianissimos to the way the flutes floated above the strings in the opening movement; from the French horn duo and pointed English horn dialogue in the second, the way the “Night Music’s” mysteries were unveiled by the violins and woodwinds and the exposed flute and harp; the way the unhinged waltz crackled and cackled in the third movement as Rattle dug into Mahler’s sardonic side; the fourth (a second “Night Music”) was beautiful music beautifully played; while the fifth delivered over-the-top joy cloaked in martial underpinnings.

Schoenberg described his Op.16 as “merely a bright uninterrupted interchange of colours, rhythms and moods,” a thought the Berliners actualized with aplomb. The first piece growled with excitement and fluttering colours while in the second the BPO’s diaphanous sound was exposed to brilliant effect.The third played up the atmospherics lurking below the surface while the scattershot fifth felt like listening to wild sound dialogue from a Robert Altman film (a good thing).

Rattle illuminated the Webern insightfully, its deconstructed brilliance served up on a platter by the orchestra’s brilliant ensemble work, all leading to a breathtaking conclusion. Berg’s Op.6 showcased the orchestra’s full resources, big and small, with emotional phrases long and short, culminating in the third piece’s Romantic tinges and Mahlerian trombones.

After the massive forces that preceded it, the concluding Brahms’ symphony felt like it was being performed by a chamber orchestra. It was masterful playing that brought a staple of the concert hall to life, its sumptuous lyricism an organic outgrowth of developmental pushes and pulls. It was a demonstration of how to build music architecturally with Rattle teasing the melody out of the second violins or bringing out the whispers, hints and glimmers that Brahms put in the score.

And at the end of each concert, Rattle walked through the orchestra to shake hands with the principal players, asking each to stand, and then inviting the supporting players to do so as well. It seemed so warm, convivial and civilized. After a final bow, the conductor left the stage, the orchestra members stood up, shook each other’s hands and walked off, leaving a standing ovation behind, suddenly truncated.

Last month, Wired published a story about a company called Groupmuse, calling it “Uber, but for millennials who want orchestras in their living rooms.” The company, which is based in the states, helps ordinary people organize low-cost house concerts using a roster of for-hire musicians. The concert presenters host the show at no cost to them, their guests pay a small fee to come to their house, and the musicians get the profits.

That company might be a young one, fashioned in a world of startups, apps, and made-to-order online services, but the concept—hosting live music in your living room—is as classical as it gets. That's where chamber music (as the name implies) is designed to be performed—and from the salons of Classical Europe’s wealthy elite to the infamous Schubertiads and similar series, the classical music house party is a centuries-old staple.

And in Ontario today, in an age where the traditional concert hall is starting to lose some its hegemony in the classical scene, the trend is again on the rise. I think immediately of the Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber Music Society, run by Jean and Jan Narveson out of their living room, which presents around 70 professional chamber music shows each year; I also think of Pocket Concerts, which uses a Groupmuse-like model and presents public and private classical house parties out of host homes across Toronto. And next week, from November 20-27, there’s Toronto’s third annual Festival of House Culture—a headlong dive into what at-home concertizing can do.

Here’s how it works: the festival calendar online provides a summary of events, as well as details about each of their dozens of host houses. Naturally, what each event offers is highly specific to the homeowners: some shows are PWYC concerts, while others are free art exhibitions, workshops or social events; some houses welcome all ages while others prefer an adult audience; some shows are BYOB, with one homeowner even offering to cut the ticket price in half for anyone who arrives with a potluck item. With each, you can expect to get a sense of who the hosts are as people, and to connect with the musicians and other audience members in an openly social atmosphere.

Notable classical concerts at the festival include hillbilly swing duo HOTCHA! on November 24 at 6:30pm; Distant Skies, a sci-fi story reading with flute, violin and cello accompaniment on November 26 at 4pm; and, also on November 26 (at 8pm), a performance by Toronto-based flute quintet Charm of Finches.

It's an age-old formula in a new context, and it seems to be working. And whether the growing presence of concerts like these should be attributed to a modern musical revolution, or simply to a “return to roots” approach to chamber music, it promises something special—a type of concertizing that brings the people involved, and the spaces they create together, into a new kind of spotlight.

Toronto’s Festival of House Culture runs from November 20-27, at various homes throughout the city. For details and to see the festival calendar, visit www.housecultureto.blogspot.ca.

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

Miriam Khalil in Against the Grain Theatre’s production of Ayre_CREDIT Darryl BlockI’ve just completed a four-day foray into the music city we live in and the diversity of what I heard reflected the diversity of Toronto itself. It began with the opening session of the International Artist Managers’ Association (IAMA) annual conference on the morning of November 10 with a nugget-filled conversation between TSO conductor Peter Oundjian and Damascus-born, clarinetist/composer/Silk Road Ensemble-member Kinan Azmeh. From witty banter -- Azmeh talking about his early failure to learn the violin not working out because he was left-handed (“But I’m left-handed,” said Oundjian. “Some people are smarter than others,” Azmeh retorted.) -- to an illuminating and focused exploration of Azmeh’s musical life, the two musicians created a template for an ideal interview, with Oundjian interjecting enough of his personal experience to stimulate Azmeh’s telling of his own story.

Azmeh then picked up his clarinet, moved to the centre of the Koerner Hall stage and played two duets with the Canadian-based, Sri Lankan-born pianist/composer Dinuk Wijeratne, something they first began doing 15 years ago at Juilliard. The sweet Whose Windows Are Songs and Silences, which was commissioned from Wijeratne specifically for this IAMA conference, began with the peaceful serenity of Wijeratne’s quiet piano before expanding into new territory. Quietly celebratory, it was often improvisatory, always joyous music.

That evening it was off to the Ismaili Centre for a celebration of the music of Osvaldo Golijov; the next night to the Opera House for a Zimbabwe dance party led by the great Oliver Mtukudzi. Sunday afternoon found me back in Koerner Hall for a polished performance of four Bach violin concertos by the flawless Viktoria Mullova and the Accademia Byzantina led by harpsichordist Ottavio Dantone.

Golijov once said that constant migration has been the story of his life. Born in 1960 to Eastern European parents in Argentina, he moved to Jerusalem and then to Boston, his music inspired by “inner voices,” whether they were Yiddish, Galician, Arabic or that of his muse, Dawn Upshaw. Last Thursday was the first of three evenings of Golijov’s music presented by Against the Grain Theatre. Its centrepiece was Ayre (2004), which received an exhilarating performance by Miriam Khalil and a merry band of 11 collaborators, including Jeremy Flower, on laptop/electronics, who has been performing the work since its inception.

As Golijov himself explained in his introduction, Ayre is an 11-song cycle that contains a great deal of tension with its lyrics and music from both the Muslim and the Sephardic Jewish traditions. Its ancient texts related to how Golijov perceived the world soon after 9/11 when the piece was written.  “It seems like the conflicts and the beauty stay the same,” he said. “Only the actors change.”

The singer plays a number of roles in this multilingual concoction that depends on her convincing portraits to carry it off. There was a beautiful Andalusian lullaby sung by a mother who, in a paraphrase of the Lamentations of Jeremiah, is forced to eat her child; a princess who executes a captured Christian captain after he spurns her marriage proposal; a recitation of a poem by the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish; a couple of Christian Arab songs from Good Friday; all concluding with a wordless song that soared from Khalil’s mouth like a sirocco blowing soft, warm and seductive. After earlier moments of impassioned singing, angry vocal rhythms, the intrinsic melody of Darwish’s spoken verse and Khalil’s profoundly moving duet with her own electronic self, that worldless climax was a siren song to a triumphant evening.

Earlier, members of the Glenn Gould School Ensemble performed Golijov’s Yiddishbbuk (1992), Lúa Descolorida (2002) and Tenebrae (2002) in three other locations in the Ismaili Centre. Second violinist Barry Shiffman took charge of Yiddishbbuk. The piece is based on a collection of apocryphal psalms Kafka read while living on Prague’s Street of the Alchemists. Shiffman, who premiered Yiddishbbuk as a member of the St. Lawrence String Quartet in the early 1990s, mined its violent pain and beauty with his intensity and passion.

Adanya Dunn’s vibrant soprano voice joined the quartet for the dolorous Lúa Descolorida, reminiscent of Cantaloube’s Songs of the Auvergne, but with a Galician edge. In Tenebrae, soprano Ellen McAteer and clarinetist Brad Cherwin, augmented by the quartet, took us from the lush darkness of the first movement to the tonal comfort of the second, on the composer’s sojourn to the solace of Yerushalem.

Goodyear - Nov 2016.jpgStewart Goodyear returns to discuss upcoming programs, performing and more.

To hear the full conversation with Stewart Goodyear click the play button below. For any of our other podcasts, search for “The WholeNote” in your favourite podcast app, or go to TheWholeNote.com/podcasts for the entire list.

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Iggy and the Stooges

Gimme Danger is iconoclastic American indie filmmaker Jim Jarmusch’s scrupulous two-pronged documentary look at the Iggy and the Stooges phenomenon. Iggy (aka Jim Osterberg) provides a detailed historical chronology, paying particular attention to the band’s musical origins and influences. From the 1950s TV show Lunch With Soupy Sales to the idiosyncratic American composer Harry Partch, from Iggy’s brief, meaningful relationship with Nico (on the rebound from Lou Reed) to Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew, James Brown and Maceo Parker, the film drops one memorable nugget after another. At his press conference in Cannes (where the film premiered) Iggy also mentioned his indebtedness to Bo Diddley, Link Wray, Frank Zappa and Karl-Heinz Stockhausen. Fascinating.

As a child, Osterberg was fascinated by Clarabell the Clown on the Howdy Doody show. Soupy Sales would solicit his fans to write to him “in 25 words or less.” Osterberg thought that was a good length for a song and kept to it as his songwriting developed. Ann Arbor, where Osterberg grew up, was a hotbed of new music. The young Iggy worked in a record store and played with the MC5 when they were a high energy cover band. Before that he played behind the Four Tops and the Shangri-Las. At the same time Partch was “huge for me.” He would turn off all lights after smoking pot or taking LSD and soak in his music.

Jarmusch presents it straightforwardly, judiciously including pop culture touchstones from his subject’s formative years as well as key video evidence of the band’s iconic career. Osterberg’s chronicle of Iggy and the Stooges’ formation and brief meteoric rise (1967-74) is told with matter-of-fact hindsight and a survivor’s instincts. The band that Jarmusch calls the “greatest rock ‘n’ roll band ever” in the film’s opening minutes became an inspirational template for the punk movement that followed. I Wanna Be Your Dog, indeed.

Gimme Danger opened its Toronto exclusive engagement at TIFF Bell Lightbox, November 4.

DSC_0265.JPGI’ve never seen Amadeus before. This is blasphemy amongst choral singers and I’ve been lambasted many times. To be fair, it came out a few years before I was born and Mozart isn’t exactly standard repertoire for high school arts programs in Scarborough. I was excited when it was announced last year that the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir would be singing in a live screening of the film on October 28 and 29 at the Sony Centre. As a chorister, I’ve now sung Mozart many times, most often the great unfinished Requiem. And now I can say I’ve seen the film as well.

Read more: Concert Report: Tutti Contenti at Amadeus Live

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