Speaking as an editor, sometimes it’s coming up with a title for a story that’s the biggest problem. Interestingly, it’s sometimes even more of a problem when the story is a good one, because there’s all the extra pressure of doing justice to a great piece of writing. Or feeling guilty about reducing something nuanced to a clever phrase.

Speaking as a writer, sometimes coming up with a clever title for a story (especially before it’s written, when the pressure of deadlines is mounting) is just what the doctor ordered in order to get the drought-stricken creative juices flowing again. And here I know, from bitter experience, what I’m talking about.

And then there’s that other situation, like today, when having lulled myself into the false sense of security of having a great title, I realize that it’s gone, already used for something else in this issue of the magazine. And right on the cover, which went to press yesterday, so I can’t even pull rank and change the title of the other story instead.

Seeking Synergies

That’s what I wanted to call this Opener. The phrase must have snuck into my writer’s mind while I was editing Andrew Timar’s feature story in this issue on this year’s FAMA (Festival of Arabian Music and Art). In that story it is used to discuss the process whereby the Canadian Arabic Orchestra is going about building awareness of the festival’s cultural scope in the musical community at large.

But, as a phrase, it could apply equally well to the issue’s cover story. Or to librettist Daniel MacIvor’s account (in Chris Hoile’s On Opera column) of figuring out a working relationship with Rufus Wainwright, composer of the COC-commissioned Hadrian, soon to be unveiled.

It’s all a bit like talking to people discovering The WholeNote for the first time, after walking by it for years, or even decades. “Now that I’ve noticed it,” they say “I see it everywhere.” Same with the “Synergies” thing.

Look for it as a thread in the conversation (in Lydia Perović’s Art of Song column) when mezzo Simone McIntosh describes the circuitous route she took en route to getting a first opportunity to perform Messiaen’s “black pearl” Harawi song cycle. Or in Wende Bartley’s In with the New column this month, first in the description of how the Music Gallery’s David Dacks invited Bear Witness from A Tribe Called Red to curate this year’s X Avant festival and then, beyond that, in the energy that Bear Witness applied to the curatorial process itself.

Seek and you shall find synergy-seeking everywhere! Composer Linda Bouchard’s pilgrimage to Bennington, Vermont to study with the formidable Henry Brant; Soundstreams’ invitation to the Shanghai New Music Week; Nurhan Arman’s description of acquiring and adapting repertoire to the string orchestra format Sinfonia Toronto has made uniquely their own over nearly two decades on the local musical front; TSO concertmaster Jonathan Crow’s response to the announcement of the hiring of Gustavo Gimeno as the TSO’s new music director (in Classical and Beyond)… the list goes on.

Much like the word “tragic,” so tragically debased in its usage that it has entirely lost its particularity, “synergy,” loosely used, is not worth much. In the sense of an interaction producing a combined effect greater than the sum of the effects that could be separately achieved by the interacting agents, it’s a useful idea. And it’s a great thing to read about, or to witness, or to be part of when it happens.

It can happen in music-making at any time.

Enjoy the issue. It’s a real labour of love at this time of year, given the extra work of pulling together the performer and presenter profiles in the Blue Pages at the centre of this magazine without compromising on our coverage of all the other stuff. And speaking of the Blue Pages, I highly recommend giving it at least a fast read, cover to cover. You will stumble across old musical friends. You’ll for sure have things catch your eye that you never knew about. And besides, what is more satisfying than reading something where the combined effect – the sense of community you’ll get – is greater than the sum of its constituent parts?

There’s got to be a word for that.


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