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.

publisher@thewholenote.com

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 publisher@thewholenote.com

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 publisher@thewholenote.com.

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