Earlier this year, we came to a twofold realization about summer in Toronto: first, that it’s long, and in a lot of cases, the time when music presenters close up shop for the year; and second, that if local musicians aren’t at their usual musical day-jobs, they must be doing something else. Maybe that seems like an obvious conclusion to come to—but, as we found out, what that ‘something else’ is differs significantly across the local scene. Some performers are touring the festival circuit; others opt to pursue more personal projects that they otherwise wouldn’t have time for; still others take the time as a much-deserved chance to relax.
This June, we started a series called “How I’ll Spend My Summer Vocation,” to ask around about Toronto’s long musical summer. Where do our opera singers go when the opera house is closed? How do musicians put on concerts when local venues have put a pause on their programming And what do our city’s orchestral players do when most of the major orchestras’ next concerts are in September?
Here are some of their replies.
Name: Sondra Radvanovsky
How you might know her: Regular appearances with the Metropolitan Opera and COC
Summer Vocation: “The ONE thing that I will be doing this summer vacation, if you can call it a vacation, is resting my voice and NOT singing everyday. I think it is important when a singer sings the difficult repertoire like I sing to actually give the voice a rest and let the muscles in the throat just relax. Also, giving the mind and body a good rest is so important. Plus, then when I come back to singing before the opera season starts, I feel even more excited about getting back to singing and love my music even more. I guess that I just look forward to being a “normal” person in the summer…not having to worry about the voice, what I eat or drink giving me reflux, exercising and keeping up the “regime” plus also just spending time with our friends and family…oh, and driving our cars, if it isn’t raining all summer!”
Hear her next season: Radvanovsky will present a workshop for emerging singers, hosted by the International Resource Centre for Performing Artists (IRCPA), in Toronto on October 12. Radvanovsky will also sing the title role in Bellini’s Norma—sharing the part with Elza van den Heever—this October 6 to November 5 with the COC.
Name: Alex Pangman
Instrument: Jazz vocalist
How you might know her: “Canada’s Sweetheart of Swing”; regular performer at the Reservoir Lounge
“This summer I’ll be heading to the country and trying to find the groove with my new friend, Lola the horse. I’m delighted to have found an equine who is almost as vocal as me. (She whinnies on average more than the average!) Apart from that, travel usually serves to inspire me: to free up my find from the humdrum of normal life, shake things up, create new ways of thinking and hopefully new project inspiration.”
Hear her next season: In addition to her monthly show at the Reservoir Lounge, Pangman and her band will make appearances at the CNE (September 2 to 3) and at the first-ever Kensington Market Jazz Festival (September 17) this fall.
Name: Alan Gasser
Instrument: Singer and choral conductor
How you might know him: Co-director of Echo Women’s Choir; co-founder and member of Georgian folk group Trio Kavkasia
“Our family has big plans this summer, a Song Masters study tour in the Caucasus Mountains. I’ve been singing the folk polyphony of Georgia for about 30 years, and travelled to Georgia a handful of times, mostly in the 90s, when my Trio Kavkasia was more active, and when the bigger choir, Darbazi, took shape in my living room. Over the past decade and more, my life in Toronto had family thrills and other musical work, but no possibility for Georgia travel.
I’ve got friends I will be eager to see again, my family members who will thrill to the sights, songs, dances and tastes, and memories to resurrect. The plan includes some time in Lechkhumi, a remote part of the country that many visitors don’t see. Even a day or two in the capital city, Tbilisi. The elevation in Mestia, where we’ll stay for a week, is 1,500 m, but I expect we may get higher than that, emotionally and spiritually.”
Hear him next season: Echo Women’s Choir, led by Alan Gasser and Becca Whitla, plans to perform two main concerts in Toronto this year, in December and May (programs TBA).
Name: Christina Petrowska Quilico
How you might know her: Regular solo appearances throughout Toronto and recordings on the Centrediscs label; professor of piano and musicology at York University
“One thing that recharges my battery is learning and recording 7 Mozart Piano concerti at the Glenn Gould Studio in August. Mozart writes such pure and beautiful music that it lifts my heart and soul. I can’t wait to practise the concerti every day.”
Hear her next season: York University boasts a busy concert schedule throughout the school year—including a faculty concert series where Quilico makes regular appearances.
Name: Jonathan Crow
How you might know him: Concertmaster at the TSO and associate professor of violin at the University of Toronto; artistic director designate at the Toronto Summer Music Festival
“I rarely get much of a break in the summers, as festival season starts up right after TSO shuts down for the summer, but this summer is a chance for me to catch up on chamber music, as I’m doing chamber music festivals in Orford, Beijing, Toronto, upstate NY and Maine! The closest thing to orchestra during that time will be performing a Brahms Sextet with Alan Gilbert on 2nd viola- hopefully it will go well and he won’t need to step up to a podium… I’m also doing two weeks at TSM this year- not as AD, but I’ll certainly be hanging around pretty regularly trying to figure out how things work!”
Hear him next season: Crow continues his work with the TSO for a busy 2016/17 season, and will perform throughout North America with the New Orford String Quartet (of which he is a founding member). The quartet will play its first Toronto show of the season on November 1, at U of T’s Walter Hall.
We want to hear your summer stories! If you are a local musician and have a story to share about how you have been spending your own “summer vocation,” send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Here’s to the summer, and to the musical season ahead!
Sara Constant is social media editor at The WholeNote and studies musicology at the University of Amsterdam. She can be contacted at email@example.com.