2205 CBC TwoA long-awaited and impressive new Centrediscs CD filled with distinctive orchestral compositions by Harry Freedman (1922-2005) will be launched Friday, February 10, at Chalmers House, the national headquarters of the Canadian Music Centre. Freedman was a master of orchestration, an art that was informed by the 25 years he served as English horn soloist in the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (1945-1970). He wrote for many other genres, including art song, ballet, chamber music, choral and film music, as well as incidental music for the theatre. But his orchestral music contains much of his very finest work, creating a canon of compositions that is not only large, but also diverse, both in style and creative approach. This Centrediscs compilation of Freedman’s orchestral works displays five vivid examples of his imaginative takes on orchestral composition, all beautifully recorded in live performances for broadcast on CBC Radio. The new CD is titled Harry Freedman: The Concert Recordings.

In 2002, in a broadcast interview on the national CBC Radio Two series I created, Two New Hours, Freedman spoke of how his skill with orchestration had developed during his time with the TSO. He told program host Larry Lake, “You’re sitting in the middle of an orchestra. Anything you hear that strikes your ear, thinking, ‘Oh wow, how’d he do that?’, well you can just go find out how he did it – there’s a score sitting right up on the conductor’s podium. And when I was writing and had a problem with, say something for the trombone, I could go to the trombonist and ask, ‘Can you do this? What if you did this? Would that be OK?’ And you find out so many things in the orchestra you just can’t get from reading an orchestration text. There’s no better way to learn.” Largely as a result of all this practical experience, Freedman’s orchestral compositions show refinement and sophistication and are stunningly effective works in the Canadian repertoire.

Many of Freedman’s works were the result of commissions from CBC Radio Music. I remember the first time I commissioned him, in 1977. The occasion was the approaching 50th birthday of Freedman’s good friend, the famous baritone saxophonist, Gerry Mulligan. Freedman himself was approaching his 55th birthday, but his point was, he wanted to compose a concerto for Mulligan to celebrate the soloist’s own half century milestone. Harry and I discussed the project, and I checked with Radio Music senior managers to get their support for the idea. They liked the concept of a concerto for Mulligan and orchestra and we went ahead with it. The hidden factor in this conversation was that, at this very time, I was preparing to launch Two New Hours, the new national contemporary music series on what was then called the CBC FM Network (and eventually CBC Radio Two.) We knew we would need plenty of content to support a weekly network series in which everything would be new. Freedman, who was president of the Canadian League of Composers at the time, was well aware that these plans were in the works, and he was pleased to be one of the earliest collaborators with the new series.

The premiere of Celebration, Freedman’s new concerto for Mulligan, was at Hamilton Place in September 1977, during what was called the CBC Hamilton Festival. The late Howard Cable (1920-2016) was engaged to lead the orchestra, which we called the CBC Hamilton Festival Orchestra but was largely made up of the members of the Hamilton Philharmonic. The chemistry between Freedman, Mulligan and Cable was wonderful and the premiere of the new concerto went famously. According to Walter Pittman (writing in Music Makers, his 2006 biography of Freedman and his wife, soprano Mary Morrison), Mulligan subsequently performed Freedman’s Celebration, “around the world.” Celebration was released in 2002 on the Ovation series on CBC Records.

Jazz also constituted no small part of Freedman’s musical language. On the new Centrediscs CD this is reflected in Indigo, which CBC Radio commissioned in 1994 for the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra. Although it was scored just for the strings of the MCO, Freedman’s deft and subtle inflections echo a wide palette of jazz sonorities, and show how well Freedman understood the intricacies of string writing.

2205 CBC Two 2In contrast, Freedman’s 2000 composition Graphic IX: For Harry Somers uses strings to evoke a succession of expressive textures that reference his close friendship with Somers, who died in 1999. In the interview with Larry Lake mentioned earlier, Freedman, a lifelong student of painting, shared the story of the memory that triggered Graphic IX. He said, “Somers came over one day. I was practising Japanese sumi-e painting, particular strokes. He was watching and was amazed at the brush I was using, a sumi-e brush, made from the hairs of a male Manchurian wolf. And you can do so many different things with that one brush: you can make some very thick textures, what they call ‘broken ink,’ or, depending on how much water and ink there is in the brush, you can make a fine point and draw a hairline, so versatile that one brush. And he was looking at me and he said, ‘That’s just like your music, it’s all about the textures.’ Harry, he recognized it: he had that kind of perception.”

I was also involved with commissioning the last of the works Freedman wrote as a CBC Radio Music Commission, a large composition titled Borealis, in 1997. Borealis combined the forces of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the Danish National Radio Choir, the Swedish Radio Choir, the Elmer Iseler Singers and the Toronto Children’s Chorus, all under the direction of conductor Jukka-Pekka Saraste. These combined forces surrounded the audience, from the ground floor up into the various levels of balconies ringing the ten-story Barbara Frum Atrium in the Canadian Broadcasting Centre. The occasion for this commission was our collaboration with the Northern Encounters Circumpolar Festival of the Arts, organized by Soundstreams Canada. The effect of the music was stunning. Harry Freedman himself considered it one of his finest achievements in writing for large-scale musical forces. He called it “a summation.”

We subsequently presented Borealis to the International Rostrum of Composers (IRC) in Paris in 1998, where it was voted fourth overall among the submissions by the delegates from public radio services in 30 countries around the world, leading to broadcasts in all those countries. Harry was very pleased with this accomplishment, comparing it to the experience of “being shortlisted for the Booker Prize.” He pointed out that, in the big international competitions, “[the] shortlisted works receive just as much attention and visibility as the eventual winners.”

Now that Borealis has been included in this new Centrediscs Freedman compilation, many more listeners can marvel at its sonic brilliance. The sense of soaring space in the Barbara Frum Atrium was wonderfully captured by the engineers in our Two New Hours production team. And the fact that Freedman responded to the opportunity to write such a work for just such a big international occasion, with all the creative might he possessed is one of those miracles of Canadian artistic achievement.

2205 CBC Two 3It’s significant that two of the works in this new CD (Borealis and Freedman’s iconic 1960s masterpiece Images) are performed by the TSO, an orchestra he knew intimately. Two other compositions, Graphic IX: For Harry Somers and Manipulating Mario are represented in performances by Toronto’s Esprit Orchestra and their founding music director and conductor, Alex Pauk, with whom Freedman had a close relationship. Pauk commissioned several of Freedman’s orchestral compositions and frequently programmed his music on Esprit Orchestra concerts. The performance of Indigo was by The Composers Orchestra, under conductor Gary Kulesha, recorded in Glenn Gould Studio.

The five compositions in Harry Freedman: The Concert Recordings are all different in style, construction and message. This fact alone is indicative of the remarkable breadth of Freedman’s musical output. We hear, at various points, the sounds of jazz, impressionism, modernism, minimalism and many more textures and colours, all blended perfectly to serve his expressive purpose. Freedman was at ease with the music of many cultures around the world and he was always open to fresh musical discoveries. He was both an innovator and an artist who could unite different aesthetic trends.

For the more than 30 years that we were colleagues, Freedman and the orchestras who played his music fuelled an ongoing stream of broadcasts on Two New Hours. But Harry was also my friend. I respected him for his prolific creativity and we enjoyed working together on all manner of innovative musical projects. I valued that our many conversations about composition, art making and life in general were always fresh and stimulating. Harry Freedman made a deep impression on many people in the musical community, and his work remains an example of the very highest level of achievement in Canadian music.

David Jaeger is a composer, producer and broadcaster based in Toronto.

TheWholeNote 2205 Cover FINALWe tend to hear a lot these days about presenters experimenting: tinkering with the traditional concert form, making imaginative changes to programming and presentation. We hear (or care) less about the constant tinkering and re-imagining that goes on at the marketing end of things, although the creative and promotional aspects of things are inextricably intertwined. As the poet (Thomas Gray) put it, “full many a flower is born to blush unseen, and waste its sweetness on the desert air.” Translation: great concert, but the seats needed bums.

For marketers, it’s no easy task to keep up: audiences’ personal information-gathering preferences change; new sources of information and devices emerge; new ways of searching and sorting the endless stream of invitations and demands on precious, non-expanding time.

The temptation is to grasp at each new straw as it rushes by on the tide – to declare that tried and true methods of garnering audiences have had their day. An example: going into this decade, there was a lot of gloomy prognostication on the PR and marketing side of things – predicting that season ticket sales and subscriptions were about to go into a precipitous decline. Audiences are no longer in a position to lock themselves into a whole season’s worth of performances months in advance, the argument went. Not with the health of parents, the welfare of children, and our own increasingly creaky bodies making it harder to predict, months in advance, what the demands on our time and other resources are going to be on any given day.

Instead, it seems that for many, with so much uncertainty, from personal to geopolitical, rocking our worlds, looking at a calendar stretching six to eighteen months into the future has become even more important: a way of saying “well at least  I know where I will be on THAT day, right down to the specific music I will be losing (or finding) myself in.”

All this is not to say that the season launch and its accompanying rituals remain monolithically unchanged, any more than the concert form itself. Timing; whether to have a launch event and if you do who to invite – previous subscribers, sponsors, donors, the public; whether to live-stream it; whether to tie it to a particular concert in the current season; what kinds of packages, series and sub-series and “pick- your-own” mini-packages to offer; where (if anywhere) the media (if there are any left) fit in… All questions to be answered.

And hardest question of all: how do we best capture, in a few precious pages or minutes, our prospective audiences’ attention to the essence of a whole year’s inspired creative endeavour that has been months or years in the planning?

Take the Opera Atelier photograph on this issue’s cover as an example. It looks like a production shot, and in a way it is. But the production in question is not either of the two mainstage shows around which 2017/18 will revolve. Rather, it is the season itself. OA senior communications manager Bronwen Bradley explains: “We always do a photoshoot in December specifically to create images for our upcoming season. Marshall [Pynkoski] and our set designer Gerard Gauci are typically working on the concept and art direction months in advance! Meghan [Lindsay]and Eric [da Silva] are wearing Martha Mann’s Dora Award-winning costumes from Figaro, and are loosely representing Figaro and Susanna. The photo is tied to our season theme of ‘Taking Aim at Your Heart’ as Love is the driving force in our two operas next season.”

Impeccably shot by Bruce Zinger, OA’s resident photographer since the early 2000s, the photograph is instantly recognizable as Opera Atelier’s to anyone who knows OA’s work. Meticulous gestural language, minutely detailed staging, opulently detailed, yet at the same time tantalizingly non-specific. Lindsay, a company regular, is in this spring’s Medea and will return next season, but not in Figaro. Da Silva, a member of the Atelier Ballet, uncharacteristically thrust into the foreground, strikes a characteristically balletic pose. All in all it is trademark Opera Atelier, selling the brand, not a specific product: “For those of you who know us, 2017/18 is business as usual! But for those of you who don’t, oh what lovely business it is!”

As mentioned, no one size or style or date of subscription drive or season launch fits all. What follows is a somewhat random sampling of information from presenters likely to be known to our readers. It’s a handy guide to how, and when, you’ll be able to start planning out next season’s long-term musical certainties amid the vagaries of daily life.

And be sure to check back on this story online for updates and additions to the list as they become available.

Early Birds (Jan-March)

Art of Time Ensemble  February 15; artoftimeensemble.com.
Canadian Opera Company announced their 2017/18 season on January 12. coc.ca.
Isabel Bader Centre (Kingston) end of March; theisabel.ca.
Music Toronto February 16 (at their Eybler Quartet concert); music-toronto.com or 416-366-7723).
Soundstreams March 1 by media release. For advance notice, sign up for their email newsletter, at soundstreams.ca.
Tafelmusik February 13; tafelmusik.org or 416-964-6337.
Toronto Consort March 3-4, at their March concert; brochures available at the show, and details at torontoconsort.org.
Toronto Symphony Orchestra January 25, no event; tso.ca.
Women’s Musical Club of Toronto March 9, at their March concert; online (by e-newsletter at wmct.on.ca) on March 16.

Work for an ensemble, music presenter or performing arts venue and want to add your name to this list? Send us an email at editorial@thewholenote.com.

2205 Feat Hughs 1It was just over 16 years ago that Richard Carson contacted me and said, “Hey kids, we’re going to put on a show.” Richard called me because he knew I had a background in the production side of folk music (Mariposa, the Flying Cloud at the TRANZAC, the Oasis, etc.). When he described what he had in mind I started to get excited: the best musicians, the best sound gear, great food and drink. All I had to do was tell him what was the best sound equipment to buy and away we’d go.

I informed Richard that I had had almost no experience working with the “best gear,” as I worked in the folk business. So I talked to a couple of other folkie techs, Anne Keillor and Dave Lang, who knew way more about gear than me, and we put together some quotes for the club. Richard looked at the quotes and decided that maybe “the best” was a bit pricey and asked if it could be done for less. And we found a way.

We opened the club with a couple of 750-watt-powered speakers, no subwoofers, a 16-channel board and the ability to deliver two monitor mixes, in case we went all crazy and had more than one musician on stage during a show.

And since that opening day on April 13, 2001, the sound system has evolved like everything else in the room. I could go on about how great the PA is and will be more than happy to provide anyone interested with a gear list, but I am of the firm belief that the club hasn’t existed for 16 years because it has great microphones. Even the best microphone doesn’t sound very good if what is going into it is poor. There is a sound tech expression, “polishing turds.” In 16 years there has been very little polishing done in Hugh’s. Or rather it has been confined to the silverware and menus.

The Hugh’s Room Philosophy

What happened in 2001 was the inception of a team. The Hugh’s Room philosophy has always been that the club was based on three pillars: the staff, the audience and the artists.

Hugh’s Room wants its staff to not only enjoy working here, but to use Hugh’s as a stepping stone to other things. If you’d really rather be a painter than a dishwasher, then we will try and help. If you like washing dishes, then turn up on time for your shift and wash away.

We have applied the same approach to artists; i.e. we will be thrilled if it turns out you are doing your next show at Massey Hall. We are glad that we have helped advance your career. Can you put Richard on the guest list?

And of course, even with good music and a good staff it is all rather pointless without an audience.

Behind the Curtain

2205 Feat Hughs 3So, why is Hugh’s Room in its current predicament?

I am “the booker” at Hugh’s Room. (I have tried to convince people to refer to me as “supreme talent purchaser,” but to no avail). I follow in the footsteps of Holmes Hooke and Amy Mangan, my predecessors, and as the booker, my perspective is somewhat limited. But what I do know is that Hugh’s Room is engaged in two of the most difficult businesses in which to succeed: live music and restaurant.

On the restaurant side, we are running a full-service kitchen which, unlike other eateries, doesn’t get to turn its tables over. Ouch.

On the music side, Hugh’s has been able to create an illusion of success. I am sure that when people see a sold-out (Judy Collins) show at a $90 ticket, the assumption is that Hugh’s has had a wildly profitable evening. Well, Judy doesn’t stay in a cheap motel or stand on the corner and flag a cab to get to the gig and these are all costs borne by Hugh’s Room.

The Magic

Given the struggle it has been at Hugh’s, almost from day one, from time to time we all ask ourselves – staff, techs, musicians, and even Richard, the owner – “Why bother?” And it comes down to the wonderful shows we have all been a part of. Here are my own personal magic moments:

2205 Feat Hughs 4In 2001, Eric Andersen was playing a Hugh’s Room show. Just after the show got underway a friend of Eric’s showed up at the door (without any Canadian cash) and was eventually admitted. Hello Joni Mitchell. To everyone’s delight, Joni got up on stage and sang a few tunes with Eric. To my personal delight, for most of the set, Joni sat back at the bar and, as it was legal at the time, I got to light a cigarette for her. My life was complete. Cross another one off that bucket list.

And then there was the time the McGarrigles played the club and, as their sound tech was ill, I had to mix the show. When we got to the end of the show, Anna McGarrigle announced from the stage that it was the sound person who usually started off the final tune and would I mind initiating it? Not knowing what song she had in mind I demurred. “Perhaps tomorrow night’s show, when I am prepared.”

The next evening, after we had a quick rehearsal in Hugh’s luxuriant green room, for the finale, I sang Green, Green Rocky Road for the finale backed up by Anna and Kate. It can’t get much better than that. And they gave a generous tip to me, the sound guy. Nobody ever tips sound.

More Memorable and Moving Moments

2205 Feat Hughs 2How about when Chris Hadfield got up on stage with Gord for the finale of a Gordon Lightfoot tribute? Hugh’s hosting Odetta’s last performance. Paul Quarrington singing his lungs out on stage while on a respirator. The three incredible shows which Lhasa de Sela did at Hugh’s. Jane Siberry singing Love Is Everything. Pete Seeger, yes, the real Pete. Ray Wylie Hubbard crooning an evil rendition of Snake Farm (sure sounds nasty – pretty much is). Ian Tyson’s concerts.

There has been crazy comedy. A somewhat refreshed performer who changed his guitar strings then realized he’d put them on upside down and had to ask a sound tech to re-string the instrument. The poorly trained guide dog which snatched a pork chop off a patron’s plate. Mickey Rooney banging his cane and shouting, “Who the fuck is running this show?” Even Wendell Ferguson’s jokes about throwing fiddles on the fire. (There is a general agreement that this is a good plan).

And there have been some very sad things at Hugh’s too. Mostly revolving around artists who were not only acts who appeared on the Hugh’s stage but friends of the club. We have lost the aforementioned Odetta, Paul Quarrington, Kate McGarrigle and Lhasa. Also Jesse Winchester, John Mays, Jeff Healey, Rita McNeil, Jackie Washington, Brian Cober, Long John Baldry, Willie P. Bennett and on and on.

Not to be left out of this list is Hugh, himself. The Room is, after all, named after him. Hugh, Richard Carson’s brother, did not live long enough to see the club open. Hugh was a real music lover and he and Richard had always dreamed of opening a music venue in Toronto. When Hugh died, Richard took up the torch and managed through a sheer act of will to make their vision a reality.

What everyone is asking now is, has that dream come to an end?

As a part of the Hugh’s Room community, I certainly hope not.

When I was asked to write this story, things looked bleak. The rumour was that Hugh’s had closed permanently. I am happy to report that this is not necessarily the case. A committee comprised of musicians, promoters, audience members and other interested parties has come together to attempt to open the club’s doors as soon as possible. The goal of the committee is to reopen in March.

Yes, things still hang in the balance, but I am pretty optimistic.

The sound man suggests you stay tuned!

 

2205 Feat DutcherFor someone who’s only been working full-time as a musician for less than a year, Jeremy Dutcher has been keeping busy.

Fresh off the heels of an artist residency at the National Music Centre in Calgary and a solo appearance in Soundstreams’ Electric Messiah, Dutcher’s 2017 calendar is already starting to fill – appearing with the Toronto Consort on February 3 and 4, in Winnipeg and Kingston in March, and at the Music Gallery in April – and beyond that he has a clear artistic vision in mind. A classically trained operatic tenor and composer and a member of Wolastoq (Maliseet) First Nation, his performance practice blends his classical background with his interest in jazz and the contemporary, plus traditional music from his community. Here in Toronto, the New Brunswick-born singer is making waves with his distinct compositional voice – using song as his platform for Indigenous cultural reclamation and rediscovery.

A lot of these upcoming gigs will include performances from his album-in-progress – Dutcher’s first. Titled Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonaw, the album will present Dutcher’s own arrangements of traditional Wolastoqiyik songs, and is slated for release at the end of 2017.

In many cases, the songs on this album haven’t been heard in Dutcher’s community for decades. “On the East Coast, we’ve been dealing with the longest period of colonization – of cultural friction between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people,” he explained when I sat down with him last week. “We’ve lost a lot...Growing up, much of what was thought of as ‘traditional’ music wasn’t actually sung in the language or even originating in our territory. For me, I wanted to think about songs that are specific to my nation.”

Finding those songs required legwork. Dutcher visited the archives of the Museum of Canadian History in Gatineau, Quebec, where he transcribed wax cylinder recordings made in Wolastoq territory by ethnographer William H. Mechling in the early 1900s – one of the earliest field recordings of Wolastoqiyik music.

“Listening to these recordings for the first time, I felt a profound connection with these voices,” says Dutcher. “The sound quality may be scratchy and unclear, but [they] provide a unique glimpse into the musical lives of my ancestors.” He’s also being careful to recognize the bias of the original ethnographer – and take the work of musical reclamation for his community seriously. “For me, as someone who’s re-interpreting [these recordings], I wanted to question – as an artist and as somebody who wants to put my own stamp on this – how do I stay true to the melodies and give them the life that they deserve, without taking on some of the bias that’s really built into the recordings?” he says. “And I want to do it really right – you only get one first go.”

Dutcher assures that the arrangements on the album, which will be for voice, piano, string quartet and some percussive elements, will be similar to his own work as an artist – classically influenced, but broad-ranging. “[Classical music] does inform the way that I sing, and the way that I play. But for me, this project is also so much more than that,” he explains. “It’s [also] complex, because Indigenous communities are not just one community,” he continues. “When you think about Indigenous music, a lot of people go straight to big drum songs. So I think a big part of this project is also education: to blow up people’s ideas about what Indigenous music is, and what it’s going to be.”

The songs on the album will also all be recorded in their original language – and for Dutcher, that part is non-negotiable. “It’s all in Maliseet, and I don’t apologize for that,” he says. “I do sometimes translate, but sometimes not…and that’s a pretty strong statement, especially in this day and age. In my community there are only about 500 people who speak the language left. It’s at that place where if people in my generation aren’t taking linguistic reclamation, and the work that entails, seriously, then we’re going to lose our language, and [we’re going to lose] that entire way of seeing the world.

“Going forward, I can imagine writing stuff in English,” he adds. “But for this one, I really wanted to say, this is who I am. This is the language that I choose to sing in. Come along for the ride.”

The album is a timely one. It’s certainly not lost on Dutcher that a number of the upcoming shows he’s been asked to appear at fit under the year’s growing banner of sesquicentennial concerts, for the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation – and that, even when well-meaning, when it comes to Indigenous representation it can be easy for non-Indigenous music presenters to miss the mark.

“As an Indigenous artist, I’m thinking a lot about the sesquicentennial,” he says. “What is it that we’re celebrating? 150 years of what? Of ‘nationhood,’ which at its fundament is negating nationhood that has existed in this place for much longer than 150 years.

“[This year], people really want to highlight an Indigenous voice as part of the [national] fabric. But for me, it has to have a critical lens. If it doesn’t then I’m not at all interested.”

I mention the trepidation that I’ve felt from a number of local arts workers – myself included – about arts organizations that seem too eager to jump unquestioningly onto the sesquicentennial bandwagon. I’ve found myself increasingly skeptical of all shows painted with the “Canada 150” brush – even those that appear to be doing good work. It’s a sentiment that Dutcher shares.

“I think that as both audience members and as practitioners, it’s okay to say, ‘I’m very skeptical about this – about all of this’,” he says. “And within that musical space, to question the hegemony of the Western canon and how art music is framed, and which voices get privileged within that framework. It’s an important question to ask and to keep asking. All the time, but especially in a year like this.”

The first of Dutcher’s upcoming gigs, the Toronto Consort’s “Kanatha/Canada” program on February 3 and 4, seems to be doing some of that good work. Looking at the first meeting between French settlers and Indigenous members of the Wabanaki Confederacy, the show will be presenting the Consort in a performance of John Beckwith’s work Wendake/Huronia, as well as French-Canadian folk songs brought over with the early colonists. The members of the Consort will be joined onstage by Dutcher, First Nations singers Marilyn George and Shirley Hay, and Wendat Traditional Knowledge Keeper Georges Sioui, who collaborated with Beckwith on the composition of his piece when it was premiered in 2015. A big part of the concert, in a diversion from the Consort’s usual musical focus as early-music performers, will be to provoke discussion about new musical dialogue between European (Eurocentric) and Indigenous communities.

Dutcher will be speaking onstage and sharing some of the pieces from his forthcoming album, using the material that he found in the archives to bring forth a current-day, Indigenous perspective. For Dutcher, it’s an opportunity to bring his own musical work into a wider discussion, with new audiences. “When [David Fallis, of the Toronto Consort] brought me this project,” he says, “we had long conversations about the implications and about how to take this on in a good way. I’m hopeful that those conversations will continue even on the nights of the show.

“For me,” he continues, “it’s about reaching audiences that I otherwise couldn’t with what I do. My work speaks to certain audiences, but the Toronto Consort has their own set of people who attend their concerts and admire what they do. Those people might not have an entry point into conversations about Indigenous issues, or about Indigenous identity within the framework of a sesquicentennial. So for me, it’s about creating dialogue – and that’s what I hope it will do.”

Following shows in Winnipeg and Kingston – the former a premiere of his new choral composition, and the latter a program of songs featuring Dutcher, mezzo-soprano Marion Newman and multidisciplinary artist Cheryl L’Hirondelle at the city’s new Isabel Bader Centre on March 28 – Dutcher will return to Toronto to host another discussion, this time at the Music Gallery.

Co-produced by the Music Gallery and RPM.fm, the April 25 event is a panel titled “What Sovereignty Sounds Like: Towards a New Music in Indigenous Tkaronto.” The discussion will centre around contemporary Indigenous music in the local scene, and how settlers can best respect and support local spaces for Indigenous and transnational musical performance. Dutcher will host and moderate, and will be joined by Anishinaabe electronic musician Ziibiwan.

David Dacks [the Music Gallery’s artistic director] has been in conversation about these things for as long as I’ve known him,” says Dutcher. “In the past year and a half, I’ve known him to reach out and offer space – one of the big things that as Indigenous artists we lack access to.

“I went to a gathering in Vancouver this year, where Indigenous scholars and Indigenous artists were able to join in conversation together,” Dutcher adds. “I realized there how little that actually happens: how infrequently we’re not just a token in a room, and how infrequently we’re able to sit down and have those dialogues between our practitioners and theorists. I think that gatherings like that are a good model for creating those spaces where Indigenous perspectives are centred, and where we’re not having to argue and fight and educate every time we walk into a room...because that’s often how it goes.”

With an increasing awareness of Indigenous issues among non-Indigenous Canadians, it seems as though requests – both explicit and implied – for local Indigenous voices to speak for their communities and educate others are also inevitably on the rise. And while on the one hand Dutcher encourages the learning process, he also is articulate about the clear problems with this: first, that it is the responsibility of settlers to educate themselves instead of demanding lessons from their Indigenous peers; and second, that asking any single person – Indigenous or otherwise – to bear the responsibility of representing their entire community in the public eye is a big, and ignorant, ask.

“I don’t begrudge people for it, because that’s a systematic thing,” he says. “That’s a lack of education, a lack of having relations with the first people in this land. It’s built into society…But it is exhausting to be an educator all the time. There are so many things that artists who are not in our community don’t even have to consider.

“As a young person and someone who grew up mostly off-reserve, I struggle to speak to the breadth of things that our community has to say,” Dutcher continues. “I just try to centre [my work] on my own experience, and how I experience moving through different musical and political worlds.”

Focusing on his music – and on what that means for his community – has been a learning curve for him, too. The album, and the other musical work that has come along with it, has proven an all-encompassing, but ultimately rewarding, task.

“I can’t deny who I am as a person, and my positionality within this landscape of reclamation,” says Dutcher. “I’m a young Indigenous person, but I’m also a city dweller, I’m half-white, I’ve spoken English my whole life, I studied classical music…there are all of these things that have made me a bit of an outsider. But I’ve come to find beauty and strength in that. That’s one thing that this project has taught me.”

What all of these projects seem to have in common is how they reveal the layers of complexity that musical identity can have – both in the physical space of this continent and within the rapidly expanding world of what we label as classical music. And what Dutcher’s own hard work shows is that, now more than ever, it is not the time to be complacent about the problematic ways that we as classical musicians represent our craft. Instead, as he suggests, it’s an apt moment to criticize, to complicate and to build a vocabulary for understanding the future of transcultural performance. Dutcher is one of the artists out there who is making musically powerful, relevant work, and who has the chops and conscientiousness to do it well. It’s a good time to listen.

Sara Constant is a Toronto-based flutist and musicologist, and is digital media editor at The WholeNote. She can be contacted at editorial@thewholenote.com.

2205 Feat SommervilleToronto-born James Sommerville has been principal horn of the Boston Symphony since 1998. Formerly a member of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra and the TSO, he also spent seven years as music director of the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra beginning in 2007. He answered the following questions several weeks in advance of his upcoming return to his birthplace on March 5, when the Boston Symphony Orchestra (conducted by Andris Nelsons) makes its first appearance in Canada in 21 years.

In your BSO video profile, you spoke of soaking up the orchestra’s tradition as it relates to sonority, attack and style. Could you please elaborate on the BSO’s brass sound in particular, the character of the orchestra’s overall sound since 1998 when you became principal horn, and how the BSO’s tradition is transmitted over the years?

Any orchestra section’s sound is defined by several more or less equally important factors: the acoustics of the hall, the provenance and culture of the players, their individual genius and originality, the predilections of the music directors, and the overall tradition of the group. The BSO has a deserved reputation as the most “European” of American orchestras; meaning a clarity and flexibility of sound and expression, a lightness and transparency that was long unique – although it must be said that orchestras worldwide are more similar in approach than they used to be. The BSO brass section has always prided itself on its cosmopolitan style – not massive, but direct, clean rather than woody, brilliant rather than hard. There has been a great deal of change in the brass section’s personnel over the past 19 years, but without exception the newer players have been sincere and successful in adapting to the BSO sound, and using their talent to help us evolve and improve in this century.

What are Andris Nelsons’ great strengths as a conductor? What particular skills do you think he has in interacting with the orchestra?

I think Andris’ greatest skills are rooted in his personal warmth, empathy, and in the spontaneous energy and enthusiasm he brings to performances. He has always been amazingly collaborative and collegial on the podium, and very approachable and affable off it. He is a very intuitive and emotional musician.

How would you characterize the kinds of skills of the other music directors you’ve played under, in Boston, Montreal and Toronto?

Seiji Ozawa, my first boss at the BSO, was the most physically gifted conductor I have ever played for, as well as a deeply emotional musician. James Levine brought ebullient enthusiasm to all the repertoire he chose to perform, and exposed me to a lot of great repertoire I was unfamiliar with – Schoenberg, Carter, Wagner. I was a fan of Jukka-Pekka Saraste, who was MD when I was a member of the TSO; he was a very imaginative and creative conductor. I played in the MSO during the Dutoit years. As much as the relationship between him and the orchestra ended abruptly and awkwardly, there were many years of terrific music-making with him there. The MSO in the 80s and 90s was an orchestra that you could still always recognize instantly on the radio: that transparent, clean sound was so distinctive, and a source of pride to both maestro and players.

Please describe your early music education.

I grew up in Toronto, and had piano lessons early, but never excelled at that. I was lucky to have a terrific music teacher in high school (John Fautley, then at UTS), who really opened my ears to the whole range of world music. Most of my university education was at U of T, where I studied with the great Eugene Rittich. And as an orchestral player, my finishing school was the NYOC, where I learned what it really takes to win and keep a major orchestra position.

Who were your musical heroes in your formative years?

In no particular order: Glenn Gould, Robert Fripp, Hermann Baumann, Martha Argerich, Charles Mingus, Gordon Lightfoot, Jacqueline du Pré, Brian Eno. And many more.

How did your interest in conducting develop?

It’s something I began to some extent in high school, and studied intermittently after that. As an orchestral player, it gives a really amazing new and profound perspective to the great repertoire: as a conductor you of necessity need to know every detail of every note in the score, and as much of the historical, cultural, personal context of each work in as much depth as you are capable of.

Now that your tenure with the Hamilton Philharmonic is over, how do you exercise your conducting muscles?

I do a fair amount of guest conducting in Canada and the US, and am music director of the Canadian National Brass Project (canadiannationalbrassproject.com), which brings many of Canada’s finest brass players together every year for tours and recording – we have a CD and streaming audio release set for this spring: music of Mussorgsky, Lizée, Lau, Lauridsen and Cable.

The BSO/Nelsons DG recording of Shostakovich’s Symphonies 5, 8 and 9 was highly praised by The WholeNote in our September 2016 issue. Is there a difference in approach to making a recording vis-à-vis performing a live concert?

Well, the short answer is that those recordings are all edited from live concerts, so in that case, no difference at all! But in ideal circumstances, we can approach a studio recording with a little more freedom: when you know there is the possibility of another take, you can experiment a bit more, take a few more chances, technically and musically. Stretch a phrase a little longer, play a dynamic that’s a little riskier, that sort of thing.

Is the March 5 concert the first time you’ve been back to Toronto since your Women’s Musical Club recital last November?

I was back for the holidays, as usual; most of my immediate family still lives in Toronto.

Do you recall the last time you played Roy Thomson Hall?  How does it feel to be returning?

I think the last time I played here was when I came back for a couple of weeks and played principal horn as a guest with the TSO – maybe this would be late 90s or early 00s. It’s going to be great to be back on that stage. We have a wonderful acoustic at Symphony Hall in Boston, but I have tremendous memories of my time in the TS, and listening to it when I was growing up. I do remember when the hall opened in 1982; in fact my mother was a sponsor before it opened, so my name and those of my siblings are on the back of one of the audience seats.

What is it like to work with Emanuel Ax? Have you played Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No.2 with him before?

I haven’t played that work with him. We have played chamber music on a couple of occasions; doing the Schumann Adagio and Allegro [for Horn and Piano Op.70] as part of the Boston Symphony Chamber Players series was a highlight. He’s an incredibly warm and generous person, and of course a sublime and inspiring musician.

In your BSO video, you mentioned owning a few French horns. How many do you have in your basement? How many do you use in performance?

At the moment I have three or four in “rotation,” one of them is a “triple” horn, which comes in handy for music that is both very high and very low, very soft and very loud. I have a few other instruments that I use depending on the repertoire, to make a specific colour of sound easier to achieve. Some are warmer and darker, some clearer and brighter – just depends what the pieces require.

The Boston Symphony conducted by Andris Nelsons with featured guest Emanuel Ax performs at Roy Thomson Hall on March 5.

Paul Ennis is the managing editor of The WholeNote.

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