I have had a lot of fun going to live musical events these past four weeks – so much so that I will spare readers my periodic rant about post-pandemic supply chain woes, and the perilous state of the arts, and society in general, when workers, in the arts and otherwise, struggle to keep roofs over their heads, both for work and sleep.

Read more: Listening Fresh

I remember a while back, during Wimbledon maybe, a well-known violinist on the local scene (concertmaster for more than one orchestra) going on a Facebook rant about tennis, specifically the scoring system. His complaint was not about the way the scoring works – first to four points wins you a game (except you have to win by two points); first to six games wins you a set (except you have to win by two games); and a match is typically “best of three sets”, except in “major” tournaments, when the men play “best-of-five-set” matches, which can consequently end up running longer than Lohengrin.

Read more: What’s In a Word?

Everything I know, for better and for worse,  about making a magazine comes from watching my father pack the trunk (“the boot” we called it) of whatever second-hand family second car we were entrusting our lives to on that particular vacation (“holiday” we’d have called it).

“This time we are leaving crack of dawn” dad would say. So there I was, standing shivering in the dawn’s early light, marvelling at dad’s packing prowess – as wave after wave of impossibly large quantities of stuff kept arriving beside the car, somehow finding their way into every nook and cranny of the trunk. 

Only an hour later than planned, victory! Dad slams the boot lid down. Well, nothing so satisfying as a slam, actually. More like a muffled “humph” as he stands on tiptoe and bears down till the latch clicks. And turns in triumph, only to see my mother coming out of the front door, dwarfed by the largest suitcase yet. 

It’s called explosive silence. With a little staring contest thrown in. “Well you didn’t think I was going to leave my own suitcase behind, did you?” I can still hear Mom say, witheringly quiet, across the many years. I don’t remember what ended up having to be cut to make room. Not any of us four children or the two dogs. So maybe nothing at all.

Just like making a magazine.

Packing to come to Canada in 1975, some 18 years later, was a different story. “Just me and a backpack and a two month bus pass,” is how I used to boast about it to my own children, until they started rolling their eyes. A very full backpack it was, I should add: shoes for every occasion, passport with student visa, complete works of William Shakespeare … three favourite ties. Even a toothbrush. A masterfully stuffed backpack, every nook and cranny of it.

So as this first full post-pandemic season, fuelled by gallons of hope and a dash of denial, roars back to life, and you browse your way through this overstuffed first issue of our 28th season, spare a thought for all the packing and repacking that went into accommodating that last big story that got wheeled out to be added after we thought we were done. (I won’t tell you which one it was.)

Saying I came to Canada with only a backpack is not strictly true, though. I walked into the U. of T. International Student Centre (on St. George St.), some afternoon in late August 1975, dragging my backpack with the broken strap behind me. “Hello, name please?” asked the friendly person at the desk. “Perlman” I said, and started to spell it “P-E-”, but before I even got to R she turned around and shouted to whomever was on the other side of the partition behind the welcome desk, “PERLMAN’S HERE.” And a loud chorus of “woo-hoohs” came back in response. And all of a sudden I remembered the 30 to 40 manilla-wrapped parcels, each with six or seven precious books, that I had mailed to myself care of the ISC in the two months before I left for this new life. 

The books we cannot bear to part with reveal us! Even now, 48 years later, if I spot one of them  among the many hundreds more on my shelves, and touch it, take it down, turn to a page at random, it is like opening a time capsule. 

I dip into the 27-year archive of The WholeNote in a similar way. (All our issues are available on line at kiosk.thewholenote.com.) I skim for the stories I am afraid of forgetting,  then find myself lingering in the listings, marvelling: for the legendary artists I  have been privileged to hear; for the ones I heard before they became legends; for the music I already liked, for music I never knew I would come to like; concerts I went to for some exalted piece of music I craved like comfort food, and instead came away gobsmacked by the joy of encountering something rich and strange that I would never have found on my own.

May the joy continue.


In the old normal, for us as magazine publishers, it used to cost around $1 to print and distribute one copy of an issue this size. In 2022’s post-pandemic pre-dawn, when it’s still too early to see whether the sky is really blue, the cost of printing alone is double that amount. Grim insider joke: if you want to know what the unit cost for printing the next issue of The WholeNote will be, it’ll be posted right above the pumps at your local gas station. 

So whereas, in the old normal, faced with a story lineup like the one we had for this issue, we’d have said “damn the torpedoes” and added pages, instead we had to give more than usually careful thought as to which of those stories have the shortest and longest expiry dates, in terms of topicality. And we had to set aside the ones that will be just as fresh a month from now. 

Like Karen-Anne Kastner’s coverage of an unusual recent concert, for an invited audience of private music teachers, in a filled-to-capacity Koerner Hall, heralding the release of the long awaited 6th edition of the Royal Conservatory’s Celebration Series. This is a significant ancillary resource for piano repertoire, used for decades by tens of thousands of private music teachers across North America. Yes, there were speeches as well.

And like Gloria Blizzard’s searching write-up of this year’s Toronto Arts Foundation’s Awards, (back live again in its normal venue, the Arcadian Court at Queen and Bay), musing on what the phrase “a seat at the table” means in a context like that.

Both stories are on their way.

In the old normal, appearing first in print was what happened with most WholeNote stories, followed by a leisurely stroll onto the website. Increasingly the reverse is the case, with many stories being served better by appearing digitally first, especially when they incorporate elements that print cannot: video and/or audio links; extended photo galleries and the like. So if you haven’t already done so, consider signing up for our e-letter, HalfTones. You’ll be alerted, and linked to, online stories as they are posted. Signup is bottom right on our homepage at thewholenote.com.

And while you are there, make sure to also check the box to receive our weekly listings update. In the old normal we tied our publication dates predictably to the beginning of calendar months, with a couple of double issues thrown in. For the past two years, with event scheduling increasingly opportunistic or hard to predict, we’ve survived, in part, by reducing our publishing frequency to eight issues a year, with each issue covering roughly six weeks. 

Weekly listings updates enable us, and you, to keep up with the volatility of the new normal, with the last minute announcements, date changes, postponements and cancellations. And, by the way, “Weekly listings update” doesn’t mean just events for the coming week. Each update offers an overview of the following six to seven weeks. The print listings in this issue of the magazine are, in fact, a snapshot of last week’s digital listings update; and they will already be out of date by next week! It’s a prime example of a situation where the old normal worked less well, for us and you, than what we’re embarked on now. So check the box. Please.

And finally, in the old normal - for the past 20 years, in fact - The WholeNote happily occupied what now seems like acres of space at 720 Bathurst Street. But with occupancy costs on the same upward trajectory as unit costs and gas prices, that too is about to change. We are already in the process of downsizing incrementally and by the late summer or early fall will hope to be cosily ensconced in more modest quarters, a mere stone’s throw from where, as a column in the Kensington Market DRUM, this magazine came into being 27 years ago.

David Perlman can be reached at publisher@thewholenote.com

Playoff basketball and baseball back in town: The chance just to be unabashed fans of the game, bleacher creatures cheering whenever we goddamn well feel like it – leaving the game exhilarated enough, win or lose, to grab a couple of gloves and toss a ball around, or shoot some hoops ourselves, dreaming “nothing but net” as the ball, oh so close!, clunks off the rim.

Bringing some of the same engagement and freedom of expression back to the concert hall: maybe even a distinction, like the one emerging between full capacity concerts for the damn-the-torpedoes” maskless and the “is it safe to come out?” masked – between “You should know that if you clap after the third movement of Tchaik 6 the program says I am allowed to kill you” versus the “whoohoo!” outbursts of some baseball-loving jazz fan. 

And in either case, leaving the hall exhilarated enough to open the piano lid or dusty instrument case as we plunk or pick or blow away.

Clarity: it’s not altogether clear to me what our provincial government’s medical talking heads mean these days when they say they are “still following the science”: now that my beloved flip phone has bitten the digital dust, I can smartly inform you that a google search for “science of elections” (in quotes) yields 344,000 results in .64 seconds.

Music on street corners and the resumption of “Cafe TO” (street-encroachment for patios from spring to fall): not just as a pandemic-related exception to the rule but (our older and wiser sister-city Montreal has known this for decades) as part of how northern cities need to breathe in and out depending on the weather. 

Not throwing the virtual baby out with the pandemic bathwater: yes, embracing the return of live musical encounters, planned and spontaneous, indoor and outdoor, intimate and spectacular, on porches and street corners and grassy banks, in backyards and parks and festivals. Using all the virtual skills we’ve acquired over the past couple of years, but not just to reach the temporarily locked-down audiences who already knew us. Instead, once music makers are throwing sounds through real air to live audiences (no matter how large or small), to simultaneously make it possible for audiences we don’t yet know (shut in, far away, unaware, without the wherewithal) to see the backs of our heads as we listen. And to feel right there. 

Trust me on this: I would sacrifice a dozen fancy cross-fades, even audio quality, for the pleasure of seeing the back of a head in the frame, even the shiny back of the head of an oldie like me  – just for the pleasure of proof that what I am watching is live.

Exception to the rule (still on the topic of shiny backs of heads): Unless of course I recognized it as the back of the head of the gent in front of me who, at a big event the other night, stiffened so visibly I heard his spine crack when the person asked to “do the land acknowledgment” (I could already see his eyes rolling, right through the back of his head) uttered the words “stolen land.” Funny how we recognize it when it’s happening in the present, right before our eyes but far away. Yet we won’t look back in time that way, especially if it’s home truth. 

I am looking forward to the day when we embrace the act of acknowledging the land as effortlessly as we accept giving thanks for food around a table.


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