From where I sat, in row D of the first balcony at Koerner Hall, this past April 10, 2019, jazz definitely lives.
Just like the program in my hand said it did. “Jazz Lives 2019: a Tribute to Jazz.FM91 past, present and future” was the event’s full title. It was the 15th such consecutive event giving faithful followers of the listener-supported radio station a chance to show that indeed they still do support it, in spite of recent upheavals as painful as any in the station’s storied history since its birth as CJRT-FM at the Ryerson Institute of Technology (now Ryerson University) in 1949 (that’s 70 years ago, people!). How long ago was that? Well, the JRT in CJRT’s call sign stood for Journalism, Radio, and Technology, which were three of Ryerson’s cutting edge educational mandates.
By all accounts it’s been a rough spell, and most of the people in the audience had a pretty good idea of what’s been going on. With a new board of directors in place, and a boatload of station personalities bouncing on and off the stage (some of them after being notably absent during the past half year) what was particularly encouraging was a classy absence of gloating – a sense of quiet determination to get on with things. And a really strange sense of intimacy between the audience in the hall and the people on stage – strange, that is, until one realizes that radio is still probably the most intimate of media. For all I know the guy next to me shouting “we love you Brad” to the host of “Afternoon Drive with Brad Barker” was listening to Barker with his shirt on for the very first time.
That’s because radio doesn’t require you to put on a face to meet it, and it meets you, exactly halfway no matter where you are.
A fine time was had by all, not least because the musicians who came to the party treated us to two very swinging sets. Come to think of it, from the youngest members of the JazzFM91 youth band who kicked things off to the oldest of the household names on stage, we were probably looking at an age range pretty damn close to the entire duration of the station’s storied history.
May the beat go on.
Where I sat, in row D of the first balcony at Koerner Hall, this past April 10, 2019, I was definitely a supported listener.
At some moment during the proceedings I looked down at the little silver-coloured plaque on the arm of my seat. It informed me that my particular bum-in-seat was being supported in thanks to a donation in honour of “George Ullmann, music lover and music entrepreneur, on his 80th birthday.”
Once back home, I googled the aforementioned Mr. Ullmann and found that, after graduating with a B.MUS (Toronto) in 1967 and an MA (Toronto) two years later, he had gone on to head up Boosey & Hawkes’ Canadian operations from the late 1970s till they closed their operations at the end of 1994 (with scores by such notable composers as Talivaldis Kenins, Violet Archer, John Weinzweig, Healey Willan and many others among their holdings). At which point the entrepreneurial Mr. Ullmann established Counterpoint Musical Service, which helped bridge the gap left by Boosey & Hawkes’ exit, and who went on to serve on the boards of various music industry and service organizations, SOCAN among them.
One could do worse than to have “music lover and musical entrepreneur” as an epitaph.
From where I sit right now, thumbing through the page proofs of this issue, finally ready to go to press, the music lovers around me give reason for hope:
–the hundreds in our cover photograph joining Choir!Choir!Choir! to sing Here Comes the Sun into the drizzle and mist (see On Our Cover, page 5);
–the more-than-hundred choirs taking the time to announce their presence to prospective choristers in this year’s 17th Annual Canary Pages Choral Directory, inside this issue;
–the writers of the astonishing range of stories in the issue, all so different and yet all reflective, one way or another, of how much music matters;
–the astonishing people we are lucky enough to get to write about, to whom music matters as much as it does to us;
–and, of course, you.
We are lucky.