Katherine Carleton. Photo by Esther VincentKatherine Carleton, C.M. is the executive director of Orchestras Canada. We talked over Zoom in June.

LP: What are you hearing from the orchestras these days?

KC: I’m hearing several things. They’re looking back on the season that was and endeavouring to see from a financial perspective where they’re going to be at the end of the fiscal year. Some have fiscal years that end in May, some in June, some in July and all are trying to sort through financial impact of the forced closures in mid-March. At the same time, they’re each working on a range of scenarios around what the coming season will look like, potentially. I don’t think there’s a single orchestra that has a complete picture of what next year’s going to look like. Reopening and the speed with which that can happen, the size of groups that can convene, is all decided at the provincial level. It’s different picture in each part of the country.

Simon Rattle and several other musicians in the UK recently published an impassioned letter to their government that says, among other things, “Our entire industry is united, ready, prepared, and desperate to get back to doing what we do best.” They’re eager to cooperate with public health, and are asking for timelines. Do Canadian orchestras need a timeline? What do we need from the government?

Read more: Stuck on Safety: Go Small or Stay Home? The Orchestral Dilemma | A conversation with Katherine...

Middle of April I sent out an email  (you might have seen in your inbox) containing four or five questions that would form the basis of a story planned for the May/June issue of The WholeNote, and inviting anyone who wished to respond, to complete the  questionnaire and mail responses to me at publisher@thewholenote.com

Well here are the fruits of that invite, both the replies that came in in time for publication in the May/June issue, and those that are still coming in, using the online form at the foot of this article. And the invitation is still open.

Responses are still coming in and being added, so consider yourself invited. We are hoping that this compendium of views can online, over time, help us share and compare as our music community, collectively and individually, finds our way through these gnarly times.

I hope you get the same pleasure out of reading it as I have putting it together. If you feel a little less alone at the end of it, that’s a good day’s work done. If you feel like adding your voice to the mix, better still.

David Perlman


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Considering Matthew Shepard premiered by Conspirare, February 2016 in Austin, Texas. Photo by JAMES GOULDENThere’s never before been a time like this for the arts community. And we’re all in disarray. I’m feeling disconnected from my musical community, the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir and the wider connected cultural family of the Toronto live classical music world. These are people and friends I spend hours with every week, and hundreds of hours with over the course of a season. They are faces I see and smile with, they are voices I sing with and feel comforted by. But like many of us across the arts community, we’re all separated from one another and the current season for the choir and most other arts organizations is totally up in the air.

A month before you get the magazine in your hands, writers are usually hard at work combing through listings and reaching out into networks to build and develop stories about what matters to everyday people. More often than not, it isn’t an issue about finding something interesting to write about, but rather, how to focus on only a handful of things in the musical chaos and glory that the region has to offer. It is heartbreaking to look at the pages of listings with close to 100 listings, knowing that none of them are coming to fruition. This has never happened before. 

Read more: How They So Softly Rest

Brett Polegato. Photo by Shayne GrayI had heard through the musician grapevine that baritone Brett Polegato owns a remarkable library, but putting in a request to poke around someone’s house and then write about it is not the easiest of asks. This March, however, after a sudden flurry of cancellations of his Lebanese, Italian and Nova Scotian engagements due to You-Know-What, Polegato found himself spending an unusual amount of time at home and we easily scheduled a get-together. I visited the three-storey row house he shares – or shall we call it his three-storey library – in the Carlton and Church area on one of the last evenings before the city went into a complete lockdown. Like a majority of working artists, he’s been hit hard by the loss of income due to cancellations. But this evening we decide to focus on what brings joy.

We skip the ground floor, which houses the piano, the CD collection in the middle of a major clearing out, and the downstairs books to which we’ll return, and go up to the living room. There are already bookcases here, behind glass doors in cubes on each side of the sofa, and I spot Naomi Alderman’s Disobedience in one of those. But that’s just a teaser for the main event upstairs, with the first stop in what looks like a linen closet. Packed with books.

Read more: Bitten by the Book Bug: Baritone Brett Polegato

Photo by Richard AnsettSince the 2008/2009 season when his star began its rise, celebrated pianist, author and media personality James Rhodes has released seven chart-topping classical albums, written four books and appeared in and made several television programs for British broadcasting. According to his website, Bach, Beethoven and Chopin offered comfort for the “suffering that dogged his childhood and early adult life.” Classical music offered “solace” and was key to his survival.

Now in his mid-40s, Rhodes’ unfettered passion for classical music is at the core of his approach to concertizing; he communicates directly with audiences, interweaving anecdotes of composers’ lives with his own experiences as they relate to the music being performed. March 5, 2020, in Koerner Hall, the Glenn Gould Foundation is presenting Rhodes’ Canadian debut, in an all-Beethoven recital, as part of the Foundation’s “continuing commitment to celebrating excellence and exploring the indelible impact of the arts on the human condition.”

The following Q & A took place via email in early February.

Read more: “Inhaling Music for All of My Life” - James Rhodes
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