Terri Lyne Carrington. Photo by John Watson.

Of the many things that music audiences have regained in the 2022/2023 concert season, the most valuable may be the very concept of a “season” in and of itself. No longer must we sit, nails bitten to the quick, waiting for the inevitable notification that the concert – that very special concert to which we’ve looked forward for so long – has been suddenly and unceremoniously cancelled in the wake of the latest round of lockdown regulations. 

Now, well on the other side of our first post-COVID holiday season, we can confidently purchase tickets, mark dates in our calendars and rest assured that nothing will come between us and an evening of beautiful music (except the usual calamities: snowstorms, professional turmoil and the grim realization that we’ve become our parents).

Read more: The Soft-Seat Beat: A Tale of Three Halls

Anne-Sophie Mutter and Mutter Virtuosi at Teatro Mayor Julio Mario Santo Domingo, Bogotá, Colombia (2019). Photo by Juan Diego Castillo.

Like the “O Fortuna’’ chorus from Orff’s Carmina Burana and the first bars of Rossini’s William Tell Overture, Vivaldi’s Le quattro stagioni (The Four Seasons) has a ubiquitous presence in the soundtrack of our lives via films, television commercials, malls and elevators. Thanks to the desire of audiences to experience these concerti repeatedly, and the ambition of many virtuoso violinists to play them, there are many thousands of recordings to date and countless yearly performances of symphonies all over North America and Europe. In fact, Toronto audiences who were quick enough off the mark will have their next opportunity to hear this classic work revisited on February 7 when Anne-Sophie Mutter and Mutter Virtuosi perform it at Roy Thomson Hall. I will be among them.

Read more: To Everything there is a Season... or Four

Jennifer Tung. Photo by Joseph Pepelnak.

A fascinating yet seemingly ordinary scenario forms the basis for a tension-filled new opera by composer Rodney Sharman and librettist Atom Egoyan. The last time these two creators collaborated was for their opera Elsewhereless in 1998, which received over 35 performances both across Canada and the Netherlands. The new work, commissioned by Continuum, is titled Show Room, and a concert presentation will be performed at the Music Gallery on March 18 and 19. The story reveals a complex relationship between a mother, her son, the mother’s clothing, and a woman who runs a haute couture business. The instrumentation consists of soprano, mezzo-soprano, baritone, two soprano recorders, alto and tenor recorders, an alto and tenor sackbut (a Renaissance- and Baroque-era trombone), percussion, piano, toy piano, violin, cello and double bass.

Read more: Continuum’s Show Room and Soundstreams’ Reich

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
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