With summer chilling down, and with the Toronto International Film Festival safely caged in its Lightbox again, we hardcore live-music lovers can get down to the serious, year-round business of enjoying ourselves!
Well, almost. For myself, I’ll only be able to start doing that once this October issue is safely to bed. Which means I have to get this last little bit of writing done as usefully as possible in the next two hours. So that I can decide which of the Blue Jays/Yankees game or the first of the U.S. presidential debates to watch, and which to record. (It’s not a question of which will be more enjoyable live. It’s a matter of which will be unendurable without the ability to fast-forward.)
To be quite honest, I’d likely have finished this yesterday (Sunday), if I hadn’t decided to play hooky from the office in the afternoon in order to slip downstairs for a couple of hours to listen to a highly entertaining concert (if concert’s the right word) in “The Garage.”
The Garage, as my legions of faithful readers both know, is the back end of the endlessly malleable ground-floor amenity space in the Centre for Social Innovation, here at 720 Bathurst St. (The WholeNote offices are on the fifth floor.)
Yesterday afternoon’s little concert was by an as-yet lesser known Baroque ensemble in town called Rezonance. (If the name rings a bell, it’s likely because our early music columnist regularly notes his affiliation to the group, as their harpsichordist, at the end of his column.
I’m very glad I went. First half consisted of the Bach Coffee Cantata, second half, a Brandenburg. Both were played to an audience of what looked like well over a hundred people, most of whom looked as though they were there because they were already familiar with the group, and found their way, via the ensemble’s instructions, to an unfamiliar (and somewhat unorthodox) venue.
But there were others there, I am sure: people who work in the building and heard something musical but unfamiliar drifting up the freight elevator shaft. And some who just happened to be on the street, passing by, and felt entitled to come in.
It was a comfortable setting to just walk into. Straight back chairs were arranged higgledy piggledy in rough concert hall formation about halfway down the room. Most were occupied. Other people stood, or lounged elsewhere in the large room, as close to or far removed from the music as they chose to be. Footsteps could be heard creaking on the second floor above. Sporadically, the city sang like a siren choir outside, as emergency vehicles passed on Bathurst St. Every so often a streetcar driver, who cared a bit more than some others do, blared an indignant horn at a motorist failing to stop behind the rear doors for passengers alighting from the northbound car at the Leonard St. stop just north of the building.
People at the far edges of the room talked quietly but comfortably (no hissy stage whispers!). Conversely, the closer one moved toward the music, the more one became aware of a certain something in the air. I am not sure I have the words for it, but at some level it represents the best hope for live music of the kinds I care most about, so I’ll give it a try.
As best as I can describe it, it was like moving, layer by layer, into a consensual circle of active listening – a bubble within which, by some unspoken agreement, everyone there was simply attending on the music being offered. No-one shushing or tutting anyone else. Active listening rather than demanded or orchestrated silence; something biostatic (like a good old-fashioned wooden cutting board, rather than antiseptic steeling quiet, where the slightest sound infects the whole room.
The point? Simply this. We tend to think of the word “concert,” in musical terms, as the thing itself - an event that music makers or presenters arrange for audiences that dutifully arrive at the appointed time, occupy some designated spot for the appointed duration, and respond in ways time-honoured, or prescribed, or enforced with a glare or a sidelong glance.
But what if “in concert” routinely meant something more like the thing I’ve been describing for the past eight or nine paragraphs? Not so much the name of an event, but rather more a description of how people are, together, when they actively choose to listen to what they came there to hear?
Blue Pages: I’d be remiss not to do a shout-out here for the 17th Annual WholeNote Blue Pages, tidily tucked inside this issue of the printed magazine (and maintained online, year-round). In an odd way, the 155 presenter and venue profiles in this annual directory amount to something a bit like the “In Concert” moment I’ve just finished describing.
For one thing, they’re certainly not “everyone in the room” when it comes to the ever-changing map of presenters and venues in our catchment area. Every year brings new presenters to the scene, with dreams, plans, new energy, new ideas how best to get the word out as to what they do.
But these 155, whose profiles you can read, do represent a kind of heightened engagement with what we do. They tend to get us their free listings more systematically, to buy advertising when they can, to keep us in the loop about what they are doing.
They are certainly not the only music makers we write about! But they are proof that there is a living musical community out there, worthy of our, and your attention.
As always, in its scope and variety, it’s a compendium well worth dipping into. May it lead you into a season of concerted listening, some of it entirely unexpected!