As 2009 turns over to 2010 we wish bon voyage to two long-time pillars of the musical communities of Southern Ontario.

At the end of the 2009/10 season, conductor Howard Dyck will lay down the baton of Kitchener-Waterloo’s Grand Philharmonic Choir, after an astonishing 37 years as its conductor. Last year he moved on from his other career, as a CBC broadcaster, for such programmes as “Saturday Afternoon at the Opera” and “Choral Concert.” His remarkable achievements are the subject of an insightful interview with WholeNote columnist Benjamin Stein.

As well, it was recently announced that, after 23 hot, sticky summers running the Toronto Downtown Jazz Festival, saxophonist and band-leader Jim Galloway has stepped down as the festival’s artistic director. Jim is also a regular WholeNote contributor, and this month he looks back on the joys and challenges of steering this major festival for more than two decades.

I chose my words carefully when I used the phrase bon voyage in my opening sentence. This is because neither of these two musicians will be “retiring” in any ordinary sense of the word – but, rather, will embark on new journeys. To liberally paraphrase a line from the play Rosenkranz and Guildenstern are Dead – their exits from their current positions are simply entries into new possibilities. While both men are discreet about what, exactly, they intend to do in the future, I have no doubt that we’ll be hearing from them.

Both Dyck and Galloway appear on the cover of this month’s magazine – arising from Lake Ontario, like characters out of the Canadian Opera Company’s recent production of Le Rossignol. And on this map, you’ll also see a forest of little orange pins. Each one represents a location where copies of The WholeNote can be picked up. (The big red pin in the centre of Toronto is The WholeNote’s office, at 720 Bathurst St.)

At this time of the year, it seemed fitting to come up with a cover design that illustrates our commitment to our communities – and our communities’ commitment to us. There are in fact close to 1,000 places throughout the province where readers obtain our magazine, and thanks to this extensive network, 30,000 copies of The WholeNote are distributed every month.

Perhaps I should say almost every month. Twice a year we publish a double issue – and this is one of them, with listings for the months of December and January (up to February 7). For this reason, there are almost 700 concert listings in the magazine. That, as my Scottish grandmother would have said, is more than you can shake a stick at – and it’s proof of the rich and diverse musical life of the province.

We wish all our readers a musical holiday season, and an event-full 2010!

 

Colin Eatock, managing editor

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The WholeNote doesn’t publish a “Manitoba Edition” – but if we did, it might well feature the two artists interviewed in this issue. Violinist James Ehnes hails from  Brandon, Manitoba, and has gone on to international fame and fortune. Vocal coach and conductor Miah Im, who currently teaches at the University of Toronto, was born in Winnipeg.

And something else connects Im and Ehnes, at least on this occasion. They’re both performing in halls on Philosopher’s Walk – the brick lane that’s a direct path between the Royal Conservatory of Music and U of T’s Edward Johnson Building. With the opening of Koerner Hall, the Bloor-Avenue Road area has become an intensely musical place. And while the RCM and the Faculty of Music tend to maintain their solitudes, their approximity seems to be a good thing from a concert-goer’s standpoint.

The WholeNote has never published a “Vocal Edition,” either – although the current issue comes pretty close. In addition to our usual columns on the operatic and choral scenes (contributed by Christopher Hoile and Benjamin Stein, respectively), several other columns draw attention to the variety of vocal music in our community.

Allan Pulker focuses on several singers who are busy this month: sopranos Shannon Mercer and Carla Huhtanen will both be performing in Queen of Puddings’ presentation of Puksånger-Lockrop (by the contemporary Swedish composer Karin Rehnqvist) – which, judging by descriptions, should be a wild and earthy piece of folk-inspired music. Later in the month, Huhtanen will be joined by mezzo Krisztina Szabó and baritone Jesse Clark for a (presumably) more civilized Schubertiad, under the auspices of Off Centre Music.

As well, Pulker mentions a remarkable recital at the U of T this month: soprano Lorna MacDonald, and mezzo Kimberly Barber will recreate a 1973 joint performance of Lois Marshall and Maureen Forrester. Also at the U of T, the Aldeburgh Connection will stage a programme of two English composers: Britten and Purcell.

Our early music columnist, Simone Desilets, points out that Tafelmusik will also present vocal music by Purcell in November: soprano Suzie Leblanc, tenor Charles Daniels and baritone Nathaniel Watson will sing in Purcell’s King Arthur.

And our correspondent Terry Robbins returns to The WholeNote this month, with much news about the community musical theatre scene. A new company, “Steppin’Out Theatrical Productions,” which will perform at the new Richmond Hill Theatre, is the creation of 16-year old Brian Lee. Steppin’Out’s season opens in November with The Pajama Game. Robbins also talks about November shows by Clarkson Music Theatre (Thoroughly Modern Millie), Brampton Music Theatre (Footloose – The Musical), Scarborough Music Theatre (Nine), and Curtain Call Players (A Chorus Line).

Several performers from the instrumental side of the street are also featured. Pamela Margles, talks to James Ehnes about his nascent career as a pianist, among other things. Jason van Eyk, our new-music correspondent, focuses on the St. Lawrence Quartet’s ambitious commissioning project, which has led to the creation of five new works for the ensemble by Canadian composers. And mJ buell’s contribution to the issue is an interview with clarinetist Joaquin Valdepeñas.

Finally, Jack MacQuarrie, who writes our band column, reports on a tragedy. Fred Mills, who played trumpet in the Canadian Brass for nearly a quarter of a century, was killed in a car accident near his home in Augusta, Georgia. MacQuarrie talks with Charles Daellenbach and Raymond Tizzard about the late trumpeter’s distinguished career. Mills’ passing is a loss to the musical world.

Colin Eatock, managing editor6_colin eatock

 

Toronto plays host to just a handful of touring symphony orchestras in the course of a season – so it’s surprising to see two remarkable orchestras appearing in the same month. And what makes this particularly interesting is that they couldn’t be more different. One comes from a nearby city, the other from a distant land. One is a well-established, elite ensemble with a glorious history; and the other is a young ensemble that arose in unlikely circumstances.

The first of the pair to unpack their instruments in Toronto will be the Cleveland Orchestra, who will perform at Roy Thomson Hall on October 20. They’ve been here before – I remember hearing in them in 1985, and being astounded by their nigh-on perfect precision and balance. Not for nothing have they been called the “hundred-piece string quartet.”

That was 24 years ago, so their return is long overdue. And the music they’ll be bringing with them – Debussy’s Fêtes, Haydn’s Symphony No. 85 “La Reine” and Shostakovich’s Symphony No.5 – should offer a multifaceted account of what the orchestra sounds like these days, seven years into the tenure of music director Franz Welser-Möst.

The second orchestra to come to town in October will be the Orquesta Sinfonica Simón Bolivar, from Caracas Venezuela. They’ll be playing at the Four Seasons Centre – the only hall in Toronto large enough to accommodate this huge ensemble – on October 26, led by their dynamic young conductor, Gustavo Dudamel.

Strictly speaking, the Bolivar Orchestra is an amateur youth orchestra, although they play at a professional level. The ensemble stands at the pinnacle of a burgeoning classical-music culture for young musicians, that owes its existence largely to one man. It was an economist, José Antonio Abreu, who founded the country’s graduated network of youth orchestras (“El Sistema,” as it’s known) in 1975, as a way of encouraging poor kids to take up music rather than crime.

For his efforts, Abreu has won many international awards, including Canada’s Glenn Gould Prize – and the Bolivar Orchestra’s tour to Toronto was organized by the Gould Foundation in recognition of Abreu’s achievements. In addition to the big orchestral concert, there are two other “Sistema” events scheduled, both at the Royal Conservatory’s new Koerner Hall on October 28: an all-day panel discussion on music as a social tool, beginning at 8:30 am; and a concert by the brass section of the orchestra, at 8:00 pm.

And October has more – lots more – to offer. In the pages of this magazine you’ll find about 500 listings for performances in Toronto and Southern Ontario. You’ll also find our annual Blue Pages directory: a “Who’s Who,” containing more than 170 profiles of local performing and presenting organizations. Judging by the level of musical activity this month, I can’t help wondering if there’s really a recession out there. But perhaps I should leave economic questions to Dr. Abreu.

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Colin Eatock, Managing Editor

Most calendars say that the year officially commences on January 1 – but in the musical world, September is the time for beginnings. Brochures are printed, tickets are sold, and a new season takes its first steps. With this in mind, some of The WholeNote’s regular “beat” columnists have examined what the 2009/10 season has to offer. In the following pages you’ll find their thoughts on what looks promising.

 

I’ve also done some perusing of the coming season, and I’ve come up with a few events that might not receive the attention they deserve. No doubt, the big events with big publicity budgets will take care of themselves – but every year there are a handful of worthy performances that could use a little help. Here are ten “bumps” for ten concerts in the next ten months.

September 14 8:00: Gallery 345. The Art of the Piano: Dan Tepfer. Tepfer is a jazz pianist who will interpret Bach’s Goldberg Variations. This sounds intriguing.

October 26 8:00: Glenn Gould Foundation. Simón Bolivar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela. This huge event, at the Four Seasons Centre, has received astonishingly little publicity so far. Let’s hope it gets some.

November 5 7:30: University of Toronto. Il Mondo della Luna. When was the last time you saw a Haydn opera?

December 4 8:00: Art of Time Ensemble. Brasil. This programme of Brazilian music by Villa Lobos and others, could easily get lost in the Christmas rush. But Brazilian music in December sounds like a good idea to me.

January 17 2:00: Royal Conservatory of Music. Bryan Epperson, cello, with Dianne Werner, piano. With so much attention focussed on the new Koerner Hall, let’s hope that concerts like this one, in the RCM’s smaller Mazzoleni Hall, aren’t forgotten.

February 4 12:10: University of Toronto. Brahms Piano Quintet. Pianist Henri-Paul Sicsic and a quartet of string teachers from U of T will give this performance. Again, this is the sort of concert that could easily be overlooked, but shouldn’t be.

March 20 8:00: I Furiosi Baroque Ensemble. The Noiseless Foot of Time. Furiosi’s guest on this occasion is Lucas Harris, who plays the lute and theorbo. Personally, I think the theorbo is a fascinating instrument.

April 29 8:00: Soundstreams Canada. Cool Drummings: Steve Reich. Maybe this concert, at Koerner Hall, doesn’t need a bump – but I’m giving it one anyway.

May 16 8:00: Esprit Orchestra. No Reason to Panic. I don’t know much about the works by Andriessen, Schmidt and Nas on this programme. What I do know is that the final work, R. Murray Schafer’s Gitanjali, is well worth the price of admission.

June 20 3:00: Hannaford Street Silver Band. Brass Belles. This concert is the grand finale of the International Women’s Brass Conference, and features an all-female cast of soloists and composers. Despite the silly title, this is an idea whose time has come.

Finally, I should note that The WholeNote’s publisher, David Perlman, got into the spirit of things as well. You’ll find his two cents worth on this topic in “Counterpoint – the Publisher’s Perch,” on page 29.

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Colin Eatock, Managing Editor

 

We measure time in decades and centuries, and we like to take special note of the round numbers. In the musical world, these are often celebrated as "anniversary years." It's an arbitrary system (why not multiples of four or eleven?), but it can be used to bring focus to a particular composer.

 

I'll say more about the composers celebrating anniversaries a bit further on. But first, I'd like to point out that anniversary years can also apply to musical institutions. This summer, there are two Ontario music presenters - the Elora Festival and the Festival of the Sound in Parry Sound - that are both tooting their horns to celebrate 30 years. And why not?

 

Both grew from humble beginnings, and have come a long way. Elora was founded by conductor Noel Edison, who has run it for three decades. (He was just awarded the Order of Ontario for this feat.) Advantageously, the festival was located in a pretty village just a few hours drive from Toronto and other cities. There's no real concert hall in Elora - so the festival has made imaginative use of some unlikely venues: the Gambrel Barn, pictured on our cover, and an abandoned quarry.

 

The Festival of the Sound is a little farther from Toronto, but in the midst of cottage country - and some of Ontario's most spectacular scenery. Founded by pianist Anton Kuerti but run for many years by clarinetist James Campbell, this festival took a different approach to its concert facilities. After years of lobbying, the Charles W. Stockey Centre - containing a state-of-the-art concert hall - opened in 2003.

 

The two festivals also took different approaches to programming. Elora, with its professional choir (also on our cover) has emphasized vocal music; whereas Parry Sound's strong suit is chamber music. Both are leading off with festive events: Berlioz's Requiem in Elora and the Canadian Brass at the Festival of the Sound. (See The WholeNote's Summer Festival listings, beginning on page 34, for more information.)

 

Now about those composers. Handel has an anniversary in 2009 - he died 250 years ago - but he doesn't seem to be getting much special attention at the summer festivals. On the other hand, the year 1809 looms large this summer, as it was the year of Haydn's death and Mendelssohn's birth. You can find lots of piano trios and string quartets from both of them.

 

However, anniversary celebrations are most useful when they bring attention to lesser-known composers or works. So this summer's Purcell performances - he was born 350 years ago - are especially welcome. Montreal Baroque focussed on him in a big way in June. In July Toronto Masque Theatre is taking their production of The Fairy Queen to Elora, and organist Andrew Grant is playing an all-Purcell recital for Stratford Summer Music. As well, Toronto Summer Music has taken an interest in the Czech composer Bohuslav Martinů, who died in Switzerland in 1959.

 

Next year, look for celebrations of Chopin and Schumann. They were both born in 1810.

 

Colin Eatock, Managing Editor

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