SHHH!! Ensemble. Photo by Alex Dean.Three weeks to the day after attending Chalmers House (home of the Canadian Music Centre) for the launch of John Beckwith’s book Musical Annals, I was back in the same space (though arranged in a more intimate horseshoe pattern for the attendees), for the return of Edana Higham and Zac Pulak, aka SHHH!! Ensemble, who had come in from Ottawa to perform at the Beckwith launch, and were back to launch their own opus – SHHH!! Ensemble’s first CD, Meanwhile. I’m sure I will find myself at more Chalmers House events like these as things continue opening up. The otherwise obscured work of many fine composers and performers of Canadian music needs this kind of shelter, immune to the vagaries of public demand.

Read more: Meanwhile, Back at Chalmer's House...

FUJ|||||||||||||||TAFutureStops Festival is by no means Toronto’s first organ festival, but it is the first to expand the envelope to the contemporary potential of “the king of instruments”, highlighting the versatility of the centuries-old instrument and renewing interest in its capabilities.

“[It’s] about trying to create a program that will bridge the many different silos of activity that are going on around the organ that have so much in common,” said organist Blake Hargreaves, the festival’s curator.

The inaugural FutureStops Festival will be held September 29 to October 1, presenting a series of concerts and free talks across Downtown Toronto. It’s a global hub for 21st-century pipe organ music, convening artists from many different countries in three venues with three of the city’s most distinctive organs – Roy Thomson Hall, Cathedral Church of St. James and Metropolitan United Church. Roy Thomson Hall is an architectural gem whose pipe organ, the Gabriel Kney Pipe Organ, turns 40 this year and is one of the largest mechanical-action instruments in Canada. Metropolitan United Church’s organ, the largest pipe organ in Canada, was built by Casavant Frères of Quebec in 1930 and, according to the MUC website “has a tonal palette that places it among the finest recital instruments in the country.” And the organ at Cathedral Church of St. James was originally built in 1888 and has 5,101 pipes. Hearing cutting-edge organ players perform on these special instruments will be a treat, but for those who can’t attend in person, the festival will also be broadcast online, extending FutureStops’ community to the virtual world.

Read more: FutureStops Festival Expands the Organ Envelope

RUR Torrent of Light A by ElanaEmerSeptember waits for no magazine! School is back, and our mailbox is jam-packed with stuff that can’t wait for our September 20 print pub date. 


Surfing the TIFF tsunami, The Screen Composers Guild of Canada has announced the nominees for their first ever Canadian Screen Music Awards (CASMA). Awards in nine categories, covering screens little and large, will be presented in person at a live streamed event at the El Mocambo in Toronto on September 21st, 2022, preceded in early September by the announcement of the recipient of the Distinguished Services to the Industry award in early September.

Barrie Concert Series

BarrieConcerts Bruce Owen by Dana RobertsThe Barrie Concert Series was founded in 1946 by eminent Simcoe lawyer Bruce Owen. Having chosen, as did many small and mid-sized presenters, to lay low during pandemic times, they have announced they will resume performances on September 10. “We lost our founder and guiding spirit, Bruce Owen [in February 2022]” their release states, “and this concert will be an homage to Bruce.” Music will feature pianist Sheng Cai playing Barber and Schubert, and and Sinfonia Toronto under the direction of Nurhan Arman playing Puccini and Dvořák. Tickets can be purchased through the Barrie Concerts website

Read more: Can't Wait to Tell You...

THE GRYPHON TRIO   PHOTO ALL PHOTOS BY KAT RIZZANestled in every story is another story, like those wooden dolls hidden within selves. The festively decorated Arcadian Court was the site of this past April’s Toronto Arts Foundation Awards. The event, also referred to as the Mayor’s Lunch, has been a part of the Toronto arts ecosystem since 1996. The venue, located in what was then the Robert Simpson Company Store, at Queen and Bay, has been part of the city’s social, cultural and commercial fabric since the 1930s. 

The large crowd in attendance included the Mayor of course, at the head table at the front of the room, along with Claire Hopkinson, Director and CEO of the Toronto Arts Foundation and its sister organization, the Toronto Arts Council, many financial donors to the arts, city councillors, and the event host, award-winning writer, producer and tv/radio host, Amanda Parris.

The Lunch

Round, white-table-clothed tables fill the rest of the room, each seating about ten guests. The finalists for the Toronto Arts Foundation’s Celebration of Cultural Life Award, Breakthrough Artist Award and Arts for Youth Award are interspersed among others like me, who have various links to the arts. So are representatives of Meridian, Ontario’s largest credit union, on hand to accept the already-decided Toronto Arts and Business Award in recognition of their ongoing program of providing transformational cultural funding to the communities they serve.

After some speeches, it’s time to eat. They feed us well and I chat with my table mates, a lustrous group of artists, arts administrators, heads of arts organizations, theatre directors, arts professors, and so on. After lunch, the brilliant Gryphon Trio plays Fugitive Visions of Mozart by Ukrainian composer, Valentin Silvestrov, followed by a tango, La muerte del ángel by Astor Piazzolla from Argentina. And then it’s time for the finalists to be recognized. 

Read more: "A Seat at the Table" Reflections on April’s Toronto Arts Foundation Awards

Tony Yike Yang, at the Royal Conservatory's event “Music Lights the Way”. PHOTO: RCMUSIC.COMThe Royal Conservatory of Music, established in 1886, was the first institution in Canada focused on providing a graded music curriculum for musicians of all ages. In 1916, it published its first piano book based on the Conservatory’s graded curriculum. For private teachers sprinkled throughout the small towns of Canada, these books became a vital teaching resource: access to regulated examinations promoted a more consistent quality of teaching and a new sense of professionalism.

Cards face up on the table – my own first experiences as a student with The Royal Conservatory repertoire and examinations were not positive. Acceptable piano pieces, of primarily the ODWG (old dead white guy) variety, were limited to what could be played for the exam. Examiners were snappish if one took too long to look over a sight-reading excerpt or burst into tears because all memory of the List A Gigue had evaporated. Then again, it was the late 1960s. I was 11. My perception of reality could perhaps have been a bit off. 

Perhaps, but 40 years into a piano-teaching career, the memory of those (mis)perceptions has been instrumental (as it were) in helping me clarify and stick to my goals as a music educator: to impart a love of music, thereby opening a door to each student’s inborn musicality; to affirm, for the student and society, the emotional, intellectual and spiritual benefits of music, while at the same time guiding the development of technical skills that will increase proficiency and build confidence; and to provide the historical and theoretical context of a wide palette of musical compositions via a depth of repertoire by composers of all sexual orientations, cultures and historical periods, living and dead. And by doing all this, to provide each student with an individual course of study uniquely aligned with their strengths, challenges and personal goals.

In attempting to fulfill these goals, I have for many years cherry-picked from the curricula of different organizations including, but not confined to The RCM. Granted, The RCM piano-repertoire books were upgraded sporadically over the years, but largely within the ODWG loop. The exception to this would be the few works by living composers, such as Boris Berlin and Clifford Poole, appearing in the 20th-century section of the books.

Read more: Music lights the way at The RCM’s Celebration Series launch
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