brittenBenjamin Britten composed some of the most compelling, and widely satisfying music of the 20th century. From huge works for big public occasions, operas, ballets, orchestral and choral works through to intimate chamber music best suited for almost private consumption, Britten’s music is variously (and sometimes simultaneously) for virtuosi, for amateurs, for sophisticates and school children, for reasons meriting more ink than can be afforded here.

On the heels of the Canadian Opera Company’s October production of Britten’s Peter Grimes (arguably the best opera of the 20th century) Britten was named 25 times in The WholeNote’s November concert listings. International centenary celebrations of his life and work are ongoing including November 22 which would have been his 100th birthday, at least 200 concerts in 44 countries. Upwards of 100,000 children performed his song cycle Friday Afternoons in a live-streamed relay which started in Auckland and ended in Los Angeles.

On May 26 2013 in Toronto the closing concert of Stephan Ralls and Bruce Ubukata’s “Britten Festival of Song” concluded The Aldeburgh Connection’s final season (of 31). It included Friday Afternoons performed by young singers from The Canadian Children’s Opera Company. Ralls and Ubukata’s musical and personal partnership began in 1977 when they met as musicians at Britten’s and Pears’ Aldeburgh Festival.

octobers child - atom egoyanAtom Egoyan is an acclaimed film, stage and opera director, also the author of several books and articles who teaches and speaks internationally. He was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1999. When he’s not travelling the world, he lives in Toronto with his wife, actress Arsinée Khanjian, and their son, Arshile.

Egoyan was born in Cairo to Armenian/Egyptian parents and raised in Victoria, British Columbia. As a teenager he was very interested in reading and writing plays. He moved to Toronto at 18 to study International Relations and also classical guitar. As a student at the University of Toronto’s Trinity College his early short films, starting with Howard In Particular were made with the assistance of the Hart House Film Board. His first feature film was Next of Kin (1984); his latest feature The Devil’s Knot, with a score composed by longtime collaborator Mychael Danna, premiered at TIFF in September 8. His vigorous career includes upwards of 20 remarkable films, as well as performance art and theatre starting with projects at the Rhubarb Festival and Tarragon Theatre. He premiered an award-winning multi-media and live action production of Samuel Beckett’s Eh Joe at the Gate Theatre in Dublin in April 2006 which played in Sydney in 2007 and New York in 2008. Egoyan returned to the Toronto theatre scene in 2012 to direct Khanjian in Cruel and Tender at CanStage.

Richard Strauss’ Salome was Egoyan’s first opera. He included significant cinematic elements:  live video and film were incorporated and one crucial scene was performed behind projected images. First staged for the Canadian Opera Company in 1996, it was performed at the Vancouver Opera in November 1997 and Houston Grand Opera in 1998. In 2006 Egoyan directed the COC production of Wagner’s Die Walküre, Salome for the COC again in 2013, and Feng Yi Teng — an opera composed by Guo Wenjing — at Luminato 2013. He’ll direct Mozart’s Così fan tutte for the COC in January 2014.

mysterychild nov  300dpiWhen you look at your childhood photo today …?

I wonder what that person would have thought of the person who’s looking at the picture now?

Musicians in your family?

My sister (pianist) Eve Egoyan is an amazing, brilliant musician. I’ve always been in awe of her talent.

If you could travel back in time and talk with the little person in that childhood photo is there something you’d like to tell him about music?

Take music theory WAY more seriously! I studied classical guitar for many years, but wish I were more versant in technical language, especially now that I’m working in music theatre.

What is your absolute earliest musical memory?

Trying to sing along to “Yellow Submarine,” but thinking the words were “‘Yallah,’ Submarine!” (I understood more Arabic than English at that point.)

Where did hearing music come into your childhood?

Through my love of the Beatles and my parents’ classical recordings of Stravinsky, and then — explosively — Jesus Christ Superstar.

Your first memory of making music?

Singing in my school chair. Later I was in a school production of Pirates of Penzance, which left a huge impression on me.

Music in your film work?

I have an amazing relationship with my composer, Mychael Danna — he’s scored all my films. He won an Oscar this year for his work on Life of Pi.

How did you meet composer Mychael Danna?

Mychael Danna was very famous at U of T where we both studied. We connected through doing plays there.

Music fit in your family life today?

Between the opera work, film scores and various concerts (not to mention the times I still play classical guitar), it remains a huge part of my life. 

For November's Mystery Child Click Here.

To see the winners for this Mystery Child Click here.

musicalchildOctober’s Child, Atom Egoyan, spent much of October in Europe, once the Toronto International Film Festival ended. We’ll have more to tell you about music in his life at a later date.

Acclaimed film and stage director Atom Egoyan (born in Cairo, raised in Victoria, BC) recently directed Feng Yi Teng, an opera composed by Guo Wenjing, which was presented at Luminato in June. Egoyan’s latest feature film, The Devil’s Knot, with a score by long-time collaborator Mychael Danna, premiered at TIFF on September 8 and will continue to premiere internationally through October and November. Egoyan, who directed Salome for the Canadian Opera Company last season, returns to direct Mozart’s Così fan tutte (January 8 to February 21).

rufus and marthaOn the subject of his latest recording, Out of the Game, Rufus Wainwright has said, “In a lot of ways, while my mother was still alive, I was singing to her. She was my toughest critic and my biggest fan. With her not having been around for this album, there was a kind of release, a necessity to get to the next step.”

“There’s a famous saying that your mother gives birth to you twice — once when you’re born and once again when she dies. So having a slightly tougher, wiser attitude on this record, I think I only could have done that after her passing ...”

Composer and singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright is a musical chameleon with roots in both Canada and the USA. He’s the son of Loudon Wainwright III and the late Kate McGarrigle — half of the musical sisters duo Kate and Anna McGarrigle.

Wainwright was born in New York State, grew up in Montreal, and has lived in London, New York and Los Angeles. His daughter, Viva, now two, lives with her mother, Lorca Cohen (daughter of Leonard Cohen), in Los Angeles. Wainwright and his partner Jorn Weisbrodt have a home in Toronto’s Annex neighbourhood (Weisbrodt is the artistic director of Luminato) but Wainwright spends a huge amount of time touring internationally — he’ll make two Ontario appearances before the end of the year — October 11 with the Toronto Symphony at Roy Thomson Hall, and November 2 at Ottawa’s National Arts Centre.

Rufus Wainwright has recorded seven albums of original songs in a range of styles. Other projects (among many) include Shakespearean sonnets set to music for a theatre piece by Robert Wilson, soundtrack collaborations and an acclaimed show and recording in which he recreates Judy Garland’s 1961 Carnegie Hall concert. He recently composed an opera, Prima Donna, which had its North American premiere at Luminato in 2011.

Wainwright’s sister, Martha Wainwright, is also a singer and songwriter with a considerable career. Music was clearly the fabric of their childhood — raised among people for whom singing is as normal as breathing, immersed in a songwriting ethos with the power to move anyone, regardless of musical preferences, because it’s personal in a universal kind of way. Singing to, for and about each other has remained a Wainwright/McGarrigle constant.

In June 2013, Nonesuch Records released Sing Me The Songs: Celebrating The Works Of Kate McGarrigle — two CDs of performances from benefit concerts in New York, London and Toronto which include Rufus and Martha Wainwright and a remarkable array of friends and family. Many, including Anna McGarrigle, elder sister Jane McGarrigle, Emmylou Harris, Teddy Thompson, Norah Jones, Sloan Wainwright and Joel Zifkin are in the feature documentary Sing Me The Songs That Say I Love You: A Concert For Kate McGarrigle, directed by Ian Larson (seen at Luminato and TIFF Go to the Movies in 2012). Proceeds from the CDs go to the Kate McGarrigle Foundation, which supports cancer care and sarcoma research.

Canadian performers across all genres often travel far away before finding themselves on a river that brings them back. Wainwright didn’t sing Joni Mitchell’s River at the June Massey Hall birthday tribute concert for Mitchell’s upcoming 70th birthday, but the songs he performed — All I Want, A Case of You, Slouching Towards Bethlehem and Free Man In Paris — were each in some way about searching and longing. 

CONGRATULATIONS TO OUR WINNERS!

  “Rufus Wainwright with Orchestra” (TSO, Oct 11, 8pm) will feature Wainwright as both a composer and singer-songwriter. The concert will include music from Wainwright’s opera Prima Donna, his orchestral setting of Five Shakespeare Sonnets and songs that reflect his extraordinary range of musical appetites (from Arlen to Berlioz), with Melody Moore, soprano, and Jayce Ogren, conductor. There’s a pair of tickets for Kathleen O’Neil.  

Prima Donna – The Story of An Opera is a 90-minute documentary film by George Scott (Decca, 2010). This fascinating portrait of Wainwright, his musical history and career, includes interviews with Wainwright and family, Prima Donna collaborators and commentary by Renée Fleming. Why opera? A scene with Wainwright and his mother, sitting on her sofa, listening to an old record by Beniamino Gigli, might just hold a clue or two. Lucky Naomi Luker and Paul Sayer each win a copy.  

All Days Are Nights: Songs for Lulu is Rufus Wainwright’s sixth album (DECCA RECORDS, 2010). Wainwright’s first recording after the death of Kate McGarrigle is a departure from his usually more extravagant arrangements: these 12 original songs are for piano and voice. Three are settings of Shakespeare’s sonnets 10, 20 and 43: The words “All Days Are Nights” are from the sonnet 43: “All days are nights to see till I see thee...” Loretta London and Sheri Katz each win a copy, along with a copy of Out of the Game, Wainwright’s newest album of original pop music (Decca, 2012).

1808-musicalchildTenor Richard Margison’s career takes him to the world’s opera houses — the Metropolitan Opera, La Scala, the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, the San Francisco Opera, the Théâtre Royale de la Monnaie, the Sydney Opera and the Gran Teatro del Liceu. Currently he’s singing the role of Herod in the Canadian Opera Company production of Salome (to May 22).

Born and raised in Victoria BC, Margison performed in lounges as a teenager, singing and playing guitar in duos and bands. He began voice studies with Selena James at the Victoria Conservatory of Music in 1976. Early experiences included summer at The Banff Centre and Canada Opera Piccola at the Victoria International Festival.

In 2007 Margison and his wife, violist Valerie Kuinka, launched an advanced month-long training program in Haliburton for emerging operatic performers. Believing that artists at this level should not pay for a summer program, their Highland Opera Studio offers full scholarships each year to a number of young Canadians.

About that childhood photo? Eagle Island, BC: fun days fishing with my dad!

Anything to say to that little fellow? Keep on practising.

Or ask him? Ask what lure he caught that fish on!

Earliest musical memories? My dad singing The Green Eyed Dragon, and my mom playing the piano: music at home, at church, and on records.

Musicians in your family? My mom was a piano teacher. She was my first teacher and I loved it. She was very patient. My dad sang and played the viola. I always hid behind the couch ... 

  For a longer version visit thewholenote.com.

No new contest this month! Music’s Children will resume in June.

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