What are the odds of two concerts both involving recreations of Zimmermann’s Coffee House in Leipzig (circa 1725), both happening on Saturday May 21, 2016, one in Toronto and one in Bethlehem, and that I will get to go to both of them? Pretty good actually because they’re both happening on other nights as well, and it’s only a short-haul hop, skip and bus ride from Toronto’s Island Airport to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. But it’s a pretty neat coincidence, as Alison Mackay agrees. (All is revealed in my conversation with Alison Mackay, starting on page 16.) That story, by the way, is excerpted from a much longer conversation taped in what we refer to, rather grandly, as “our studio” in The WholeNote offices. The entire conversation is one of two (the other is with choral conductor Lydia Adams) recently made available as a podcast on our website at thewholenote.com.
Still on the topic of May 21, what are the odds that the other concert this month I really don’t want to miss (Ernie Watts, Brad Goode, Adrean Farrugia et al.) also takes place that very same night, at the George Weston Recital Hall in North York. Steve Wallace explains why it’s a concert not to miss (the story starts on page 13).
Still on the subject of odds, it was a pretty safe bet that Toronto would be one of the venues as 37-year-old iconic a cappella group the Nylons kick off a yearlong farewell tour. Ori Dagan talks with sole remaining founding member Claude Morrison in a great little meander through the evolution of our a cappella scene from those beginnings to today (page 11).
Simple coincidence throws up all kinds of interesting patterns and synchronicities when one views things, that maybe just happened to have taken place at the same time, from a particular point of view. Face to face with the momentous, we can look back on some small moment as the one that started it all. Listening to Tanya Tagaq with the Kronos Quartet on the opening night of the upcoming 21C Music Festival (see Wendalyn Bartley’s cover story) for example, it will be hard for me not to wonder what would have happened had David Harrington not listened all the way through to track 18 of that particular CD on that particular plane on that particular night 13 years ago.
Odds are, I suppose, that if one compiles enough stories and facts about all the interesting musical stuff going on around us all the time, the resulting document will always contain enough different threads for the individual reader, depending on your likes, to weave into pleasurable patterns of interesting connectedness. Maybe for you, somewhere down the line, you will look back on something you found in this issue of the magazine as having changed things for you in some interesting way – a piece of music that fell fresh on your ears, a new ensemble or performer or recording. Or, for that matter, a band or choir to join, so that making music became (again) an integral part of your life.
Odds of the latter happening this month are somewhat higher than usual, because this is the month we publish our Canary Pages choral directory (you’ll find it following page 34, just ahead of the daily concert listings). This is our 14th annual Canary Pages, and if perusing it leaves you a step closer to thinking that maybe finding a choir that would suit you is a distinct possibility, it will have served its task.
Longtime readers will have to forgive me for telling those of you who haven’t heard this story how in the first heady year of compiling this directory, we called it our Choral Yellow Pages. That was before we received friendly legal advice to cease doing so before we were ordered to cease and desist. Canary seemed a clever alternative but drew an almost immediate reproach from a reader who pointed out that canaries were solitary songsters, charged with the grim responsibility of singing in cages in mines so as to warn miners, by falling deathly silent, of the impending threat of lethal gas in the mines. “So, not a very cheerful name,” our reader opined.
I see it a bit differently, still. Choirs have long been the bedrock of our thriving music scene and, especially while music sits sidelined in our school system, perhaps our greatest hope. As art, yes, but also as a social, communal force. Count the canaries! Take heart from the fact that they haven’t fallen silent! Better still, join the singing! Odds are good that where there’s this much musical life, there’s hope.