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.

PHOTO: LUCA PERLMANMarch 4, 2022: I woke this morning, brutally at a loss for words of my own. Instead, these: Simon Wynberg’s, from Back in Focus, the final section of this issue, echoing in my head.

“Hard to watch and impossible to ignore.” So I reached automatically for the remote, channeling to the BBC, where I go as an admittedly weak antidote to CBC and CNN –  the closest thing I can find to a triangulated viewpoint on world news within a closed and often self-congratulatory loop where refugees in adjacent seats on the same bus, fleeing the same war, can expect to be treated differently at the border to freedom, based on the colour of their skin.

Uncannily, this is what flashed immediately onto my screen.

BBC: The acclaimed Russian conductor Valery Gergiev, has been sacked by the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra for refusing publicly to condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The mayor of Munich said Mr. Gergiev could no longer remain in his position because of his support of President Putin. Well, Semyon Bychkov joins me now. He is the chief conductor and music director of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra and he is Russian. 

Semyon Bychkov, let me ask you, first of all, unlike some other very prominent culture and art figures from Russia living in the west, are you prepared to condemn what you see happening in Ukraine? 

SB: Since day one when this war has begun, since the invasion happened, myself as well as the office of the Czech Philharmonic immediately issued statements to that effect and I have gone further in the following days. You know, there is time in life when one feels one must take a position on something that is so existentially important as this particular subject today. Everyone is free to make up their mind what they want to do if anything. In my particular case I’m free to take the position that I take, which is fiercely opposed to this genocide, this act of aggression.

BBC: Well you couldn’t be clearer Mr. Bychkov, but when you say you’re free is that because you have made a decision to cut your ties with your homeland completely? 

SB: I have emigrated in 1975 at the age of 22. And at that time, people have asked me but why have you left your country, and I said because I had to be free. And the question sometimes comes up today, and the answer has never changed. And I am actually fortunate to be free – not to have any debt to any state or company. The only debt I have in life (which will be for the rest of my life) is to my family, to my friends, to my teachers, to those colleagues, those orchestra musicians, all of the musicians with whom I make music, all those who helped me be better than I otherwise could have been. And that debt is something that I am very happy to pay.

Therefore I am absolutely free to express my opinions on the matter when it is called for, and I feel that, now, silence is not the right thing, because basically it means acquiescence to this, ah, power of evil if you will, and that is what we are faced with.

BBC: Mr. Bychkov thank you very much for speaking to us. 

David Perlman can be reached at

Red Pepper Spectacle Arts, Baldwin Street, Kensington MarketRed Pepper Spectacle Arts, Baldwin Street, Kensington MarketRed Pepper Spectacle Arts, Baldwin Street, Kensington Market

February 2, 2022: There’s no automatic, straight-line connection between the #blacklivesmatter photograph above and the 2022 Black History Month posters further in.. Dutifully observing something officially called “Black History Month” for one month a year, can even backfire: offering an excuse to get back to “business as usual”, whatever we think usual may be, for the rest of the year. 

And the journey towards Black History Month has been a winding road too, from its beginnings in 1926 when Harvard-educated African American historian Carter G. Woodson proposed setting aside “a time devoted to honour the accomplishments of African Americans and to heighten awareness of Black history in the United States.” The result was the establishment of Negro History Week in the USA the same year, with Canada following suit shortly thereafter. It then took till the early 1970s for the week to become known as Black History Week, after which it only took till 1976 for it to become Black History Month.

After that, it took almost two decades (December 1995), for the House of Commons to officially recognize February as Black History Month in Canada, thanks to a motion, carried unanimously, by Jean Augustine, the first African Canadian woman elected to Parliament, followed by a mere 13 years (lightning speed for them) for the Senate to make the decision unanimous, largely at the initiative of Senator Donald Oliver, the first Black man appointed to the Senate. It was March 4, 2008, when the Senate, unanimously, passed Oliver’s Motion to Recognize Contributions of Black Canadians, and February as Black History Month. Publication in Hansard made it official, and the initiative entered a new phase. 

Read more: No Straight Lines

Massey Hall[David] - welcome back to [Massey Hall]!

My name is [Jesse Kumagai], I am the [President and CEO] of [Massey Hall and Roy Thomson Hall] a [charitable non-profit organization] and I want to tell you about [last night].

[Last evening], [2,500 thrilled Torontonians] gathered in the [Allan Slaight Auditorium] – a space that has brought us together for [more than 127 years.]

Getting to this milestone moment has been a long and challenging journey. When we closed our doors [in the summer of 2018], nobody could have predicted [what fate had in store.]

Because in March of 2020, the world changed.

The pandemic had a significant impact on our [project], stopping [construction] for an extended period of time, then making it so much more challenging when we resumed. It increased [the cost], interrupted our [fundraising], and delayed [our completion]  –  all while [Roy Thomson Hall sat dark, our business halted in its tracks]. The fact we [opened last night] is something of a minor miracle.

Truthfully, there are a few elements that [are not quite finished], and under the circumstances, we could have [postponed our reopening]. But the pandemic also made us all appreciate just how important [cultural events like this] are to the fabric of our society. And as we [return to the life we once knew], this moment has taken on an entirely new significance. Nothing was going to deter us from [welcoming you back] and who better than [legendary Gordon Lightfoot] to [perform at Massey Hall’s reopening.]

So I hope you’ll [forgive our imperfections], and know that in due course, [every last detail will be brought up to the standard Massey Hall deserves]. And in the coming months, we will be [opening more performance venues], and [spaces for music education, community groups, and of course, artists], to realize the promise of [Allied Music Centre.]

But for now, I want to thank [you all]. I want to thank you for being part of our journey, and our community. You make it all worthwhile.

Let’s make some [new memories at Massey!]


Here’s the thing. I hope you get a bit of a chuckle, or a smile anyway, out of the adjacent treatment of Jesse Kumagai’s heartfelt words, via email, on the occasion of the recent re-opening of Massey Hall. But I hope just as hard that the chuckle isn’t cynical. Because that’s not where I am coming from.  It’s hard for me to find anything to be spiteful about here. 

What’s not to like, for example, about  main floor seating which can be slid under the stage transforming bums-in-plush-seats conventional concert attendance for those who desire it, into standing room for those audiences who cannot imagine being comfortable not moving to the music? 

As Marianne McKenna principal architect of the loving and visionary restoration/renovation put it during a sneak peek guided tour for EXCLAIM! the day before the reopening: “[It’s] what “everybody” wants, but the other part of the everybody, they want to sit down. So we can do both. We’ve introduced adaptability, flexibility. This really is a hall for the 21st century.”

And what’s not to like about the transformation of a great hall into a great hub, as Kumagai described it, full of “spaces for music education, community groups, and of course, artists”

Think about it. If the largest among us in the arts ecosystem can opt for visionary transformation – from concert hall to hub for community arts – then maybe we are truly emerging into a time where support for that ideal will, for once, filter all the way down. Can you imagine some version of Kumagai’s message being delivered when some not-to-distant big day dawns for an arts organization or cause that in every way you are invested in? 

I sure can!

David Perlman can be reached, for now anyway, at

Fall can be either a rough time or a good one to start feeling hopeful, depending on your point of view. Just like “back to school” means a lot of different things, depending where you are coming from and who is taking you there. 

This year in particular, the season of first cold nights and falling leaves brings very mixed feelings. Alongside “fourth wave”pandemic dread that nothing will ever be “normal” again, is a glimmering hope that, yes indeed, there is a chance that some aspects of what we called normal are gone for good, because just like “back to school” what’s called normal depends on where you stand in relation to it.

Blue Pages

Normally, for more than 25 years in fact, the fall issue of The WholeNote has been “Blue Pages” time – a special supplement containing dozens of short profiles by music makers and presenters in our community, telling readers about themselves and their plans and hopes for the season underway. Individual profiles could be interesting or not to a reader, depending on your personal musical likes, but collectively they were always more than the sum of their parts, because they gave a comforting sense of who “we” were as a music community, chock-a-block with the familiar, but always offering up something new for the adventurous to explore.

Read more: Blue Pages and Orange Shirts
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