2204 Feat All That Glitters 1Twenty-two winters ago, Toronto-based impresarios Attila and Marion Glatz took the plunge. The previous year they had acted on a hunch and rented the George Weston Recital Hall in North York for a New Year’s Day performance of “Salute to Vienna” (the “salute” of the title being a nod to the Vienna Philharmonic’s New Year’s Concert from the Golden Hall in Vienna’s Musikverein, these days, broadcast to over 90 countries all over the world and watched by more than 50 million viewers).

The cautionary wise had told the Glatzes they were crazy - that attempting to get Torontonians to go out to such a thing on New Year’s Day was folly. Short version, they sold out the Weston that very first year.

“Just a fluke,” the pundits continued to warn. “Take our word for it. We know the city. After the last Handelian ‘Amen’ has subsided, the musical Night falls Silent around here, except for drinking songs and increasingly raucous rounds of Auld Lang Syne followed by hungover remorse and resolution writing. Nothing happens till around the tenth of January, after which it’s serious musical business again.”

Being cautious incrementalists and prudent business people, the Glatzes listened to the advice and immediately switched the event from the 1100-seat Weston to 2,500-seat Roy Thomson Hall for the following year. They sold that one out too, as they have done pretty much ever since. Tickets for this year’s iteration are scarce as hens’ teeth, as the saying goes – it’s easier to get tickets to Hamilton (Hamilton Place in Hamilton, Ontario, that is, where the same cast will perform “Salute” a day later).

Flagship and Fleet: Now in its 23rd year, the RTH “Salute to Vienna” is arguably still their flagship event (although the on-the-ground team organizing the January 1 Lincoln Center version might argue differently). In any case, the sheer size of the fleet is now as impressive as the flagship. This year, “Salute” will be staged in 24 North American cities over the first few days of January, seven of them Canadian, and six in Florida alone, according to Andrea Warren, affable VP Marketing and Project Development for Attila Glatz Concert Productions, Inc. Around one third of the Florida attendees are Canadian Snowbirds, Warren tells me, as indeed the Glatzes themselves tend to be these days! Nor is “Salute to Vienna” the only show on the Glatz book. At RTH it has, for the past eight years, been paired with a New Year’s Eve operatic extravaganza titled “Bravissimo,” which starts at 7pm and offers the guarantee that you will be out by 10.

And the Glatz name crops up all over the calendar as presenter or co-presenter of a wide range of potential crowd-pleasing concerts and touring shows. For example, if you type the word Glatz into our “Ask Ludwig” listings search engine at thewholenote.com, for the period October 2016 to January 2017, it yields twelve results, ranging from an October 28 RTH performance titled “Magnificat” by the touring KlangVerwaltung Orchestra and Chorgemeinschaft Neubeuern Chorus, to Sony Centre film presentations with live accompaniment (“Amadeus Live” in October and “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial Live in Concert” in late December to the aforementioned upcoming performances of “Salute to Vienna” and “Bravissimo.”

Bravissimo! Of all these, it was “Bravissimo” that was top of Warren’s agenda when we chatted on November 24 (US Thanksgiving). Speaking by phone from the organization’s Toronto headquarters, she confided that the south-of-the-border Thanksgiving holiday was proving to be “a lovely reprieve,” from the chaos of coordination among the various casts and cities involved in this year’s round of “Salutes.”

As mentioned, “Bravissimo” is the New Year’s Eve prequel to “Salute” (albeit featuring an entirely different cast of soloists, a different conductor, and very different repertoire from “Salute’s” Viennese diet of light opera and operetta). It tends to be an operatic highlight reel – overtures, choruses, arias, duets, etc – usually featuring four soloists. They’ve played with the formula from year to year, sometimes matching rising “name” local soloists with Glatz favourites from Europe, sometimes bringing in a purely European cast of soloists. This year it’s the latter, but with, as Warren puts it, “a fun twist. We’re bringing two sets of operatic couples, on and off stage, to kick up the realism in opera’s larger-than-life emotions.” 

The “real life” couples are Donata D’Annunzio Lombardi, soprano, Diletta Rizzo Marin, mezzo soprano, Leonardo Caimi, tenor, and Lucio Gallo, baritone. Fittingly enough, it’s the tenor and the soprano (Caimi and Lombardi) who are real-life partners, as are the mezzo and the baritone (Marin and Gallo). Judging from the announced repertoire, audiences will be regaled with everything from the tender to the tortured to the titillating, ranging through arias, duets, trios, quartets, choruses, overtures and preludes, by Mozart, Puccini, Bizet, Leoncavallo, Verdi, Puccini, Wagner, Offenbach, Mascagni, Bellini…you get the picture. Rest assured, you won’t have to attend a pre-concert chat to figure out whether you’re enjoying yourself (although host for the evening, opera buff Rick Phillips, would be fully capable of delivering one!). Both the chorus and orchestra for the evening, although hired individually for the event (rather than as pre-existing ensembles), will be comprised of seasoned local musical specialists in the repertoire on display. 

Baritone Lucio Gallo, a returnee from last year’s event, Warren informs me, is probably the main reason for this year’s formula. “He brought the house down last year,” Warren says, “with a larger-than-life rendition of the quack doctor in Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore, singing “Udite, udite, o rustici,” strutting across the stage with an enormous bottle of his famous cure-all (in fact, a bottle of cheap Bordeaux), touting it to the village people as a cure for everything from asthma to wrinkles to loneliness.”

It might be a bit rash to tout “Bravissimo” as a New Year’s Eve “cure-all” since it will likely precede most of the evening’s hangovers. But very likely a good time will be had by all!

New Year’s Concert 2017

The Vienna Philharmonic and Gustavo Dudamel

At the top of this story I mentioned that the Glatzes’ “Salute to Vienna” paid homage to the Vienna Philharmonic’s New Year’s gala concert from the Golden Hall in Vienna’s Musikverein.

2204 Feat All That Glitters 2Just announced, the 2017 Vienna New Year’s Concert will be conducted by Venezuelan-born, 35-year old El Sistema-trained and Los Angeles-based Gustavo Dudamel, the youngest ever conductor to lead the event. It will be his debut at this event, but by no means his first outing with the Vienna Phil, with whom he has appeared as a regular guest conductor, starting as far back as 2007. (He is also in his 18th season as music director of the entire El Sistema project, and continues to lead the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra in Venezuela.)

At first glance, Dudamel and the light-opera-fuelled, Golden Hall New Year’s Day event seem an odd match. As the release about the event pointed out, Dudamel has through the years carried a social force mandate with him wherever he goes: guest-conducting youth orchestras, encouraging socially motivated music projects, or ensuring that young people from disadvantaged communities have access to his concerts. His response to recent events in Venezuela may have somewhat diminished the glow, but entering his eighth season as music director of the LA Phil (and with a contract extended to the end of 2021-22), he has nevertheless been instrumental in dramatically expanding the scope of its community outreach programs, including most notably through the creation of Youth Orchestra Los Angeles (YOLA), and related local educational initiatives, which bring music to children in underserved communities of Los Angeles.

With the Vienna Philharmonic regarding the New Year’s Concert as “a musical greeting to the world that is offered in a spirit of hope, of friendship and of peace at the start of the New Year,” it will be interesting to hear (and see) what happens when the spirit of Dudamel and the spirit of Vienna meet.

The live recording of the 2017 New Year’s Concert will be available (via Sony) on CD and as a download (international release on January 9), as well as on DVD and Blu-ray (January 27), on vinyl (March 3) and as a digital long-form video (February 17).

David Perlman can be reached at publisher@thewholenote.com.

2204 Feat Sing AlongFor the last 25 years, my favourite day of the year has been the last Sunday before Christmas. That is the day when, along with thousands of other choral enthusiasts, and conducted by George Frideric Handel himself, I get to sing the wondrous choruses of the Messiah.

The first time I participated in the sing-along, I was eight months pregnant with our first son. I like to think that his musicality and perfect pitch owe something to this first concert experience, albeit in utero. That first time I went by myself, but over the years I have gone with many others, settling over the last decade into a pattern with a treasured friend with whom I regularly sing classical duets. For the past three years, I have had the added pleasure of initiating my daughter-in-law and my granddaughters into this wonderful tradition.

Indescribable pleasures of the sing-along: the soloists, the other singers, the wonderful period instruments used by the Tafelmusik players, their beautiful playing of this amazing piece of music, and the thrill of singing it together, culminating with the exhilaration of the Hallelujah chorus. Even the line-up in the cold outside Massey Hall manages to beguile. Everyone is in high spirits, ready to launch into rousing song once in the warmth of the hall. And those of us who have been doing it for decades know how to dress and when to come….

But, for me, Herr Handel himself (Ivars Taurins), alone, is worth the planning, the lining-up, the practising and then singing the hard soprano runs. I believe in his performance. It manages to take us back to that first performance of Messiah in 1742, to live the extraordinary power of the music, while also offering satiric glances at the topical issues du jour. For one afternoon, every year, on the stage of one of the best concert halls in the world, George Frideric Handel lives and transports us to a celestial realm with a comic dimension.

Heather Wright, a civil servant working for the Government of Ontario, is a WholeNote reader who loves to sing. For more on Handel’s Messiah in this, and other, productions, see Choral Scene on page 30.

2204-CBC-Banner.jpg2204 CBC Radio 1As the year 2016 winds down and gives way to 2017, our usual nostalgic sentiments of the festive season give way to excitement for the festival season in the world of contemporary music across Canada. Beginning on January 28 in Winnipeg, the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra’s New Music Festival signals the start of a series of new music festivals across the country, including the Toronto Symphony’s New Creations Festival, Open Ears in Kitchener, the 21C Festival at the Royal Conservatory of Music and Montréal Nouvelles Musiques, among many others.

Winnipeg’s NMF, as they like to call it, is the festival that started it all. In 1992 the WSO became the first major Canadian symphony orchestra to commit considerable resources to a full exploration of contemporary composition. And it also proved that contemporary music could draw large audiences. Winnipeg’s 2,300-seat Centennial Concert Hall was often filled close to capacity, and even sold out for some concerts. Last January, the WSO’s 2016 festival celebrated its 25-year milestone.

CBC Radio Music was a partner with the WSO in its new music experiment from the very beginning, broadcasting the majority of festival concerts for the first 16 years. Many of the concerts were heard live to air, on programs such as the national CBC Radio Two network series Two New Hours, which I had created in 1978. A highlight of our partnership with the WSO’s festival was our annual live to air broadcast. Every Sunday night concert of the festival, from 1992 to 2007, was broadcast live to the nation on Two New Hours. Our programming of those live concert broadcasts was always designed collaboratively with the WSO artistic team, and aimed to create affinities with the overall programming themes of the year in question. For example, in 1998, when the two featured guest composers were British phenom Mark Anthony Turnage and emerging Canadian Omar Daniel, we designed a program of chamber works by Turnage and Daniel. In 1996 the distinguished international guest composer was American Joan Tower. She was eager for us to include younger Canadian composers, and especially Canadian women. We designed a concert with chamber works by Canadian women Linda Bouchard and Lesley Barber, along with James Rolfe and WSO composer-in-residence, Glenn Buhr.

In fact, women figure prominently among the composers at the upcoming Winnipeg New Music Festival, which runs from January 28 to February 5, 2017. American Meredith Monk is featured in three of the concerts and Canadians Fjóla Evans, Emilie LeBel, Nicole Lizée, Cassandra Miller and Ana Sokolović all have works programmed. Alexina Louie’s new Piano Quintet will have its world premiere as will Jessica Moss’ Glaciers 1 & 2.

CBC Radio Music, generally (and Two New Hours, specifically) played a role in the history of a somewhat lesser known but important festival, the U of T New Music Festival, presented by the Faculty of Music at the University of Toronto. (The 2017 U of T festival runs from January 29 to February 5, and includes a co-presented concert with Toronto’s New Music Concerts, titled “Four Views of Salvatore Sciarrino,” as its closing event. Sciarrino is the Roger D. Moore Distinguished Visitor in Composition, and the featured composer at the festival.) The connection with the CBC is revealed in the opening event, the Karen Kieser Prize Concert, which takes place at Walter Hall at 7:30pm on Sunday, January 29.

2204 CBC Radio 2Karen Kieser was deputy head of CBC Radio Music from 1982 to 1986, and then head from 1986 to 1992. She was the youngest person ever to lead the Radio Music department, and also the first woman to do so. She held three degrees from the Faculty of Music at the University of Toronto: a bachelor of music and a masters of music, both in piano performance, and a master of music in musicology. She could have had a career as a concert pianist, but she chose broadcasting as her life’s work, serving as a gifted CBC host, producer, executive producer, and eventually as a leader in CBC’s senior management. Friends and colleagues endowed the Karen Kieser Prize in Canadian Music upon her death in 2002, too soon a loss at age 53. It is a tribute to her life, her work and her passionate devotion to the cause of Canadian music and musicians.

Her official biography states that “Karen’s nearly 30-year tenure at CBC Radio Music had many highlights, including a renewed emphasis on live broadcasts and documentaries, numerous prestigious special events and international awards, and expanded audiences. She championed the cause of Canadian music and musicians through the creation of Canadian content policies for classical music broadcasting on CBC, an ambitious commissioning program, and the establishment of CBC Records as a high-profile label with a reputation for excellence both at home and abroad. She was equally committed to finding and developing new broadcasting talent, and many of the leading lights of the music department today (both on and off the air) were recruited and nurtured under Karen’s watchful eye. Throughout her career, Karen was a trailblazer for women in senior positions at the CBC. Her tireless work ethic, her ability to master countless details while keeping an eye on the big picture, and her unique combination of unfailing good manners and steely determination, made her both an inspiration and a role model.”

It was fitting, then, that a woman would be the very first composer to win the Karen Kieser Prize. In 2002, Abigail Richardson won for her composition Dissolve, a trio for harp, piano and percussion. In addition to the cash prize, Richardson won a performance of the work, which was broadcast live on Two New Hours. Following that, we submitted the recording of the broadcast to the 2003 edition of the International Rostrum of Composers, a gathering of public radio contemporary music producers in Vienna, where it was selected as the best work by a composer under the age of 30. Radio France commissioned Richardson as a result of her selection, and her string quartet, Scintilla, was subsequently premiered in Paris by the Quatour Castagneri in 2006. It’s reasonable to say, based on this account, that the impact of the Kieser Prize on Richardson’s emerging career was tangible and immediate. She has developed into one of our most active composers and is now composer-in-residence with the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra and serves as artistic director of the HPO’s What Next Festival, yet another new music festival, held in the spring. Richardson recently told me that winning the Kieser Prize literally changed the direction of her career. Karen Kieser would have been immensely proud of her!

In the ensuing 15 years, five women have won the Karen Kieser Prize in Canadian Music, including the last two winners, Shelley Marwood, in 2015 and Sophie Dupuis, in 2016. I spoke with Marwood and Dupuis, and both of them acknowledge that Kieser’s accomplishments are an inspiration. As Dupuis put it, she has not felt gender bias in her creative career “because Karen paved the way.” Her winning piece, Perceptions de La Fontaine, commissioned by the Thin Edge New Music Collective, will be performed on the January 29 opening festival concert, together with the Cecilia String Quartet’s performances of Glass by Patrick McGraw, the 2014 Kieser Prize winner, and String Quartet No.7 by Salvatore Sciarrino.

Dupuis’ Perceptions de La Fontaine is based on three texts from Fables de La Fontaine, a collection of short tales written from 1668 to 1694 by French writer Jean de La Fontaine. She says that “these tales were meant to teach good moral values to children. They feature whimsical characters, often animals or Gods from the Greek mythology. The three tales selected for this piece have to do with perception, more specifically, how one’s own perception of events, things or people might not reflect the truth.” The performance of Perceptions de La Fontaine will feature soprano Stacie Dunlop.

The Karen Kieser Prize in Canadian Music was, for its first 15 years, the only prize available specifically intended for composers at the U of T Faculty of Music. More recently, Ann Atkinson has provided an additional prize at the U of T Faculty of Music, the Ann H. Atkinson Prize in Composition. This is a prize that invites U of T composers to submit electroacoustic compositions for consideration. The inaugural Atkinson prize was awarded in 2015 to co-winners Parisa Sabet and Xintong Wang, and their winning compositions were heard during last year’s U of T festival. The 2016 Atkinson prize competition will be adjudicated in December, with plans for the the winning composition to be heard during this season’s U of T festival on February 3.

Another notable feature of the 2017 U of T festival will be a concert performance of The Killing Flower (Luci mie tradici) by distinguished guest composer Salvatore Sciarrino, on February 1. It’s a one-act opera based on the tragedy of Count Carlo Gesualdo, the murdering composer of the Italian Renaissance. The cast includes soprano Shannon Mercer, countertenor Scott Belluz and baritone Geoffrey Sirett.

Who could have predicted that the festival format that began in Winnipeg in the 1990s would set the Canadian new music community on a new course, one that’s still evolving! CBC Radio was there from the beginning to contribute programming and to bring the excitement to listeners across Canada. That early participation will always remain part of the fabric of the story.

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

Update (December 16, 7:30pm): On January 29, 2017 at the Karen Kieser Prize concert, instead of Patrick McGraw's piece Glass, the Cecilia String Quartet will be playing Rebekah Cummings' Chasing Beauty, which has been named the winner of the fourth annual U of T String Quartet Composition.

Rebekah Cummings' piece Forget, for cello and electronics (winner of the 2016 Ann H. Atkinson Prize in Composition), will also be heard at the U of T New Music Festival, during an electroacoustic concert on February 3.

2203.Feat Naomi BannerIf there’s one trend that can be counted on to dominate the local music scene this year, it’s Canadiana. Concert programmers have a well-known love for anniversaries, and with the Canadian sesquicentennial approaching, many have jumped on the chance to curate their own version of a national “greatest hits” playlist. This year more than most, it’s Canadian music that will flourish.

Yet when music is so heavily branded with nationalism, it is also important to question whether the claims it makes resonate with the experiences of actual Canadians. It prompts a renewed discussion, especially in light of Canada’s rhetoric of multiculturalism, about the inequalities that the country still has to answer for, and what it can still do better.

I’m thinking of our election this time last year, where one candidate threw around racially loaded phrases like “old stock Canadians” – or the current American election, where a candidate has caused anti-Asian, anti-Hispanic and anti-Muslim rhetoric to bloom across the continent like algae. I’m also thinking of my own family, which has lived in Canada for 105 years. My father’s family is German-Canadian and my mother’s, Japanese-Canadian. Their respective communities’ treatment by this country’s government and people has been starkly different, over the last century and during the last world war. Even now, 70 years later, their economic situations, their traditions, their sense of rootedness and belonging continue to reflect that differential.

What Canadian art, especially during this sesquicentennial musical season, can be quick to forget – and what any Canadian who can’t pass as old stock likely understands deeply – is that a truly flourishing intercultural dialogue is one where different communities of people have the opportunity to tell their own stories, in their own words, with their own bodies. Those stories will represent Canadian multiculturalism as dynamic, and yes, as problematic – but will foster a music with a greater capacity for change.

2203 Feat Naomi 1Tapestry: That’s one thing that Tapestry Opera is doing right. Their upcoming November production, Naomi’s Road, is tied deeply to community in both reactive and proactive ways. Based on Joy Kogawa’s children’s novel of the same name, Naomi’s Road follows the eastward journey of a young Japanese-Canadian girl and her brother, as they are displaced and interned by the Canadian government during the Second World War along with around 22,000 other Japanese and Japanese-Canadians – the largest mass exodus in Canada’s history. Written by composer Ramona Luengen and librettist Ann Hodges, the opera was first premiered by Vancouver Opera in its 2005/2006 Opera in the Schools Program. Tapestry now brings it to Toronto’s St. David’s Anglican Church November 16 to 20, for its decade-later Ontario premiere.

For Michael Mori, Tapestry’s artistic director, the opera responds fittingly to present-day national tensions. “I think it’s more important than ever to remember that Canada hasn’t been the perfect, peace-loving, multicultural country that we see it as today, especially in Toronto,” he says. “Partly, I think it’s important because this is the same year when Donald Trump said that it was a good thing to intern the Japanese during WWII, and that we should consider doing the same thing now to Muslims. As if in the 70 years since we hadn’t actually learned anything, hadn’t learned that none of those people were enemy combatants and were just families – families whose property was taken, and whose neighbourhoods and entire lives were destroyed.”

2203 Feat Naomi 2This production of Naomi’s Road is itself highly personal. Kogawa’s book, as well as her earlier full-length novel Obasan, from which Naomi’s Road was adapted, is a record of her own family story; she was a child in the 1940s and grew up in the camps. Hiather Darnel-Kadonaga, who sings the role of Naomi in this opera, is the granddaughter of people who were interned. And for Mori, who is Japanese-Canadian and grew up on the West Coast, the opera feels incredibly close to home.

“Where my family lived in Vancouver was literally eight blocks from the house where Joy [Kogawa] grew up, and where her story would have taken place in the 40s,” says Mori. “I was also involved during my masters at UBC as an understudy in the original production of Naomi’s Road at Vancouver Opera, ten years ago. Joy was very interested in sharing the opera with her community, and I was also very interested in sharing it with my community of theatre- and opera-goers, because in a way, it’s as timely as ever.”

And this particular production of Naomi’s Road is not only timely; it’s also been a powerful means of bringing together communities of Japanese-Canadians, and making connections that, since the war, have been few and far between. “There’s an interesting facet to being Japanese-Canadian in Canada, because the Japanese traditionally and culturally are very proud, in the sense that you don’t talk about shameful things, or things that were bad – you sometimes just put on your proper face and get on with life,” Mori explains. “And unfortunately, with the kind of stigma that came with being Japanese post-WWII, it meant that the Japanese community was completely – you could say either integrated or spread across the country – because it was no longer helpful as a Japanese-Canadian to be seen with other Japanese-Canadian people. And so as a result, the community is one of the less location-based communities [in Canada].”

In my experience – with my own relatives, at least – he’s right. The postwar years for Japanese-Canadians have been isolating ones, without the types of geographical anchors that often support racialized groups. And meanwhile, the classical music scene, where the stories of Asian-Canadians are rarely presented as Canadiana, can feel similarly isolating.

That’s part of what makes Tapestry’s production of Naomi’s Road so special. The show brings four accomplished Asian-Canadian vocalists (soprano Hiather Darnel-Kadonaga, tenor Sam Chung, baritone Sung Chung and mezzo Erica Iris Huang) to Toronto, to perform a contemporary opera that has never before toured east of Alberta; the artists will perform a free preview performance of the show at Toronto’s Japanese-Canadian Cultural Centre on November 14; and the mainstage venue, St. David’s Anglican Church, is Joy Kogawa’s local church and the host church of St. Andrew’s, a Japanese-Anglican congregation that has worshipped in Toronto since the 1940s.

“Discovering the community at St. David’s was fun, because I grew up as a boy soprano in the Episcopalian/Anglican church tradition – that’s where I learned music,” says Mori. “So I thought it would be an interesting way to support the community by drawing attention to this beautiful church that they have, with beautiful acoustics. And also, what better place, in a way, to share the story of Japanese-Canadian history in Canada.”

Brands and branding: These days, it often seems as though Canadian-branded performing arts are involved with the tokenizing and commodifying of racialized communities – or are ignoring them altogether. That trend isn’t, I believe, representative of the country, or of its people. What Naomi’s Road promises – in addition to an acoustically viable venue, a highly talented cast, and all of the musical enjoyment that comes along with those things – is the coming together of communities to start an honest dialogue about what it means to be Canadian.

For my part, when I think of Naomi’s Road, and the work of Joy Kogawa, I’m reminded of my own grandparents, now in their 90s, who during the war had their property seized and their lives disrupted like Kogawa’s family; who worked on farms in the years that followed, as she did;  and who for the last 50 years, have hung their Canadian flag in the window of the Toronto house where they have raised their family. I can’t speak for anyone else, but when I think of a national culture, or of a sense of Canadianness, those are the legacies and the repercussions that come to mind – and if the opportunity exists this year to redefine Canadian art so that it includes those stories, then that’s the type of music I want to hear.

Tapestry Opera’s production of Naomi’s Road runs November 16 to 20 at St. David’s Anglican Church where on the opening night, author Joy Kogawa will read an excerpt from her book in addition to a community performance at the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre (JCCC) on November 14. For more details on the show, visit our listings or tapestryopera.com.

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

2203 Feat Podcast 1It’s amusing to look back at the moment in 2003 when after eight years of ad-hoc existence we incorporated and decided to name the parent company of this magazine Wholenote Media Inc. Prescience or hubris? It’s hard to say. After all, back then the fax machine was at the cutting edge of communications technology, we didn’t have a website, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube didn’t exist, and Bell Canada was seriously contemplating suing for trademark violation anyone who referred to the relatively new phenomenon of the Internet as “the web.”

As wild as the ride has been since then, it’s immensely reassuring to see the re-emergence, out of the madding, digital, multimedia gadget- and platform-driven crowd, of an electronic medium which, if not as old as the hills, certainly predates most of the hyper-kinetic information-dispensing media that compete for the attention of our eyes, ears and app-posable thumbs.

I’m referring of course to the latest incarnation of what used to be good old-fashioned talk radio, where hosts and guests sit and bicker amiably over things they care about – and you and I get to overhear the conversation, while we go about our business, all senses other than our ears, and maybe our minds, undistracted from cooking, or driving or jogging, or whatever else it is that we need to continue doing.

And what, you ask, is this greatest new medium since CBC Radio? Podcasts, of course. And the main point of this story is to tell you that TheWholeNote is now on the podcasting bandwagon and we’d love to have you along for the conversational ride!

Conversations <at> TheWholeNote Podcasts:

All you have to do is find your way to the Conversations <at> TheWholeNote podcast page, where you will not only discover our most recent episodes for your listening pleasure, but will also be able to scroll through audio-only versions of almost three dozen video interviews conducted over the past four seasons.

Who’s on first? Edwin Huizinga:  

The most recent guest in our studio was violinist Edwin Huizinga, who graces the cover of this issue, and who not only brought two violins to the interview but even contrived to play one of them during a wide-ranging half-hour conversation. He spoke of his work as a period violinist with ensembles like Tafelmusik and Cleveland-based Apollo’s Fire. And about his working relationship with California-based steel guitarist William Coulter, with whom he has just recorded an album, Fire and Grace, that doesn’t so much break the boundaries of classical, folk and world music as allow the two players to wander from realm to realm. Other bases touched included Huizinga’s intimate concert series, Stereo Live, co-curated with COC violist Keith Hamm at Campbell House; his involvement with San Francisco-born “Classical Revolution” that seeks to take the music out of its traditional venues; touring Versailles with Opera Atelier; all this and more in a freewheeling chat with an individual for whom clearly “serious” is not a description of one type of music or another but rather a description of the kind of love a listener or player brings to the experience.

Here’s just a taste from the podcast itself:

WholeNote: You do a lot of period playing and a lot of other stuff. Do you have two violins for that?

Edwin Huizinga: Always. Nowadays I just always perform and tour with a double case. At the moment I’m performing about 50 percent on my modern violin and about 50 percent on my Baroque violin. That’s really exciting for me.

WN: The recent recording you did with William Coulter, guitarist – steel string guitarist, is that steel and gut [strings] or steel and… .

EH: That’s steel and steel…in that project, even though we are exploring music from around the world, Baroque music, classical, Celtic, Argentinian, Bulgarian, I’m performing that almost exclusively on my modern violin. The project was sparked in Cleveland of all places; we met because a really great friend and colleague of mine, Jeannette Sorrell, who is the artistic director of Apollo’s Fire, actually suggested that Bill work with me on a project that he was directing in Cleveland with Apollo’s Fire…eventually a YouTube video of me jamming with Mike Marshall was the ticket to Bill, who had not met me yet, understanding that I could break the boundaries of classical music and really get into fiddling and bluegrass…Then this past year we’ve basically dedicated a lot of time together to record this album of all kinds of classical and folk repertoire and it’s coming out in just a couple of weeks.

Ivars Taurins, conductor, Tafelmusik Chamber Choir: this conversation, October 11, 2016, was occasioned by the fact that the Tafelmusik Chamber Choir is celebrating its 35th anniversary, kicking things off with a concert right at the beginning of November (November 2 to 6) that draws on repertoire and composers that have made a mark on the choir over the years. The charm of this kind of chat is that it can range far and wide, as this one did. Why violists make good conductors, if indeed they do; how Taurins’ “Herr Handel,” who conducts Tafelmusik’s renowned annual sing-along Messiah at Massey Hall, came into being (thank you, Ottie Lockey!); the Choir’s and Tafelmusik’s ongoing relationship with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra’s Kent Nagano; pros and cons of memorization; the undervaluing of choristers (musicians who sing together), especially in a world that gears post-secondary music education towards the idea that success consists of a solo concert career.

Again, just a taste from the podcast:

WholeNote: …We’re going to need to wrap, so coming back to violists is a good way to do it since your final concert is Mozart’s C Minor Mass, which is you and the orchestra fully joined in a work by another great violist.

Ivars Taurins: Yes, exactly – and it’s such an incredible work in terms of a composer who again is looking back, inspired by Bach’s B-Minor Mass and by Handel’s oratorios and counterpoint, so it’s a fascinating work to dive into. I’ve sunk into that work a number of times and it was a great opportunity in this anniversary season to pay tribute to it.

WN: And before that in February you a have program devoted completely to Bach.

IT: Completely…and it explores the choral works, elements of the choral works, that [audiences] don’t know. Again, it’s the tip of the iceberg. We get to hear the great cantatas, we know the great choruses, but of the hundreds of cantatas he did write – well, over a hundred – and the church cycles he composed, there are so many hidden gems….

Guy Fawkes Day Elijahs, with Stephanie Martin and Noel Edison:

We previewed this interview extensively in the October 2016 issue of the print magazine, as two conductors of major choirs, both in their 20th seasons with the choirs in question, compare notes on (entirely coincidental) November 5 Toronto performances of Mendelssohn’s Elijah.

Needless to say, there’s far more in the conversation than what found its way into print!

Sondra Radvanovsky: Beyond that, a stroll through the audio archive is a delightful trip down memory lane full of insights and delights (while you wait for the lasagna, or ponder whether, sitting on the 401, it is indeed worth the drive to Acton). Take this snippet from our October 2015 conversation with opera superstar Sondra Radvanovsky in her Caledon home. It was interesting enough at the time, but having heard her triumphant Norma at the COC just last week, it’s just that little bit more interesting, this time around.

WholeNote: …And then I heard you, very memorably in the lobby at Classical 96, when they launched…and what was astounding was this ability, it doesn’t seem to matter what the size of the room is, to do your pianissimo the same way in the Four Seasons as in a room like that…the power is astounding and beautiful and it’s very unusual. I have wished to be able to be in the seat I was in – for the Roberto Devereux it was right in front by the orchestra and I wished I could have, during the really quiet moments, parachuted to the very back of the fifth balcony because I had the sense it would be the same….

Sondra Radvanovsky: Spinning the pianissimi.

WN: Spinning the pianissimi, yes that’s it.

SR: There’s a real technique to singing piano. And I think I learned a lot of that from listening to the greats. Montserrat Caballé. Because you have to always keep the sound moving forward. Because you can sing piano but block off the air and it goes probably about two rows up. And the real trick is in the placement of the voice; what we say, keeping it in the mask right here. Because if you keep it spinning with air it will reach the very back of the hall but still sound just like a filament….

To listen to our podcasts, you have two options: you can listen via a website (streaming), or you can use a podcast app on your phone, tablet or computer to subscribe and have the podcasts delivered to your device as they happen. The WholeNote podcast is available to stream by visiting www.thewholenote.com/podcasts – or on all your favourite podcast services including iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, BluBrry, PocketCasts and more.

David Perlman can be reached at publisher@thewholenote.com.

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