For the 2012 Mystery Child Contest Click Here

For the names our November contest winners and to see and the prizes they won, click here

molly-2People either know who Molly Johnson is, or they don’t, and the latter may come to a surprise to some of her fans.

A funny thing often happens if someone asks “so who is Molly Johnson?” There’s this thunderstruck pause, followed by: “Well! She’s a (pause) singer! She’s a fabulous (pause) singer!” Then without stopping for breath they’re likely to say: “But she’s also ...” and they will go on to tell you something else about her. “Mother-singer-songwriter-artist-philanthropist-radio broadcaster” proposes her official online biography, and pretty much everyone who knows Johnson’s work knows from one area knows about another as well.

The little girl with the trademark grin in last month’s rocking horse photo has rocked and smiled her way into the hearts, minds and musical hungering of audiences in little intimate bars, grand and elegant nightclubs, great big concert halls and packed music festivals across Canada and France. Her career already embraces five decades, starting with a debut at the age of four in a Mirvish production of Porgy and Bess, and includes running wild in Kensington Market and on Queen Street, simultaneously sort of punk and glam, exploring and making musical scenes. On a trajectory that shows no sign of stopping, Johnson’s music is animated by everything from ballet, music theatre and cabaret repertoire, to dicso, punky art rock, pop-jazz, singer-songwriter collaborations, and the several bands in her experience. The music she sings today is significantly blues and jazz: smoky and emotionally informed in ways that only come from living broadly. But while her more recent and recordings are increasingly rooted in older jazz repertoire, you can’t pin down Molly Johnson for style.

Johnson grew up in Toronto with a black father and a white activist mother. Her ingrained need to set things right, but doing it her own way is reflected in her work with numerous charitable organisations that support health, education and human rights. Johnson herself started the Kumbaya Foundation and Festival in 1992 and ten years later, plans are underway to “power up to focus on the global battle against the HIV/AIDS pandemic by bringing together Canadians for an evening of music and words” in 2013.

In 2008 Johnson was honoured by being named an Officer of The Order Of Canada. She won a 2009 Juno Award for Best Vocal Jazz Album with her record Lucky, and holds a National Jazz Award for Best Female Vocalist.

Fans of Molly Johnson might go right on by her downtown house without noticing her hanging out on the porch with her two teenaged sons, her partner and her dog, or laughing uproariously in the laneway with a neighbourhood acquaintance—maybe even in her housecoat and slippers. But not on Saturday and Sunday mornings — that’s when you can hear Johnson’s unmistakable voice on CBC Radio 2 (6am-9am) sharing stories and music by and about ordinary and extraordinary Canadians.

Molly Johnson seems to have both those bases covered herself. 

For the December Mystery Child Click Here

For the names our October contest winners and to see and the prizes they won, click here

mysterychild oct scan-091007-0015Kevin Mallon grew up in Belfast, Northern Ireland. A student at Chetham’s School of Music, the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester and at Dartington College of Arts, he studied composition with Peter Maxwell Davies and conducting with John Eliot Gardiner, specializing in baroque violin. Mallon was concertmaster with Le Concert Spirituel and Les Arts Florissants in Paris and led the Irish Baroque Orchestra until he moved to Canada for opportunities with Tafelmusik and at the University of Toronto.

kevinoutou img 7804Today he is artistic director (and a founder, with Chris Reibling) of the vocal and instrumental Aradia Ensemble, which tours widely and records extensively, and conductor of the Toronto Chamber Orchestra, with upwards of 50 NAXOS recordings. Mallon’s recent appointments are as music director of the Thirteen Strings Chamber Orchestra (Ottawa) and conductor of the newly formed West Side Chamber Orchestra (New York).

Mallon specializes in music of the baroque period but conducts and is known for his fresh vigorous approach to a wide range of repertoire.

KEVIN MALLON, in this own words

Absolute earliest memories of music?

My mother playing the piano – we used to love it when she played the "Sabre Dance" from Khachaturian's ballet Gayane!  Also my father playing the piano and singing songs of the John McCormack repertoire – “Roses of Picardy.” My father was a big listener of the old tenors – Caruso, Björling, McCormack. He had a big collection of records and 78s, many of which I inherited. Indeed I got my love of records and being a collector from him. When I was about 14, he had a stroke and couldn't talk. Interestingly he lost interest in vocal music then and became an avid listener of orchestral music. This too was a big influence on me.

My uncle Kevin played the clarinet – the one in my childhood photo. He didn't stick with it his whole life although he is a great lover of music and a great supporter of mine. Kevin was an electronic engineer genius (went to university to do such at 17). He made my grandfather a stereogram in the 1960s, with a record player, a reel-to-reel and radio all built in – something else I inherited later on. Along with this he bought one of every type of record he could think of. (As kids we were always amazed that grand-da had a Beatles LP!) Among those records was a record of Menuhin playing the Beethoven concerto. I put it on one day, at the age of ten, and thought it was the most beautiful thing I had ever heard. I absolutely insisted then, that I get a violin and have lessons …

Do you remember that childhood photo being taken? 

No, but I have many happy memories of that period.

While it was likely not that way for the grown-ups at the time, I truly remember my early childhood as a golden time. Weekends were usually spent visiting my maternal grandparents in the small village of Jonesborough in rural Northern Ireland. These were large gatherings with the country folks seemingly able to listen to multiple conversations at once. I was the first grandchild – so of course I was spoilt rotten!

Imagine you could travel back through time and meet the little child in the childhood photo. Is there anything you would like to tell him?

Yes! As a teenager I was strongly independent, and when I left to go to music school at sixteen, I truly left home and distanced myself from my family. I may have fulfilled my independent aspirations, but I was often lonely and somewhat distanced from my family. I would want to tell that young child in the picture to stay close to this loving and supportive family.

Anything you'd like to ask?

I'm not sure if there is anything specific I would like to ask - but it would be a really neat thought that I could hang out with this younger me. I would like to see if his outlook and spirit is as I see it in the old photos – as I imagine myself to have been!

Suppose you're travelling, and chatting with a friendly fellow traveller, and they ask what you do for a living.

Well, I am a musician! When I say that I make my living primarily as a conductor, that usually opens up lots of questions, as people want to know how I do that, or what indeed it means to be a conductor. The fact that I play the violin also, usually makes it all seem that much more solid or understandable.

JUST THE BASICS

Where were you born?

It may come as a surprise, but I was born in Newark New Jersey. Yes, I’m American-- but I left to go to Ireland when I was 6 weeks old. I have multiple passports – US, British, Irish and am a landed immigrant in Canada!

Where did you grow up?

I spent my first 16 years in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and then spent 7 years as a student in England.

Where did you attend high school?

Until 16, I went to St. Malachy's college in Belfast, a Catholic grammar school with a particularly strong music department. At 16 I went to Chetham's School of Music in Manchester.

What did you do after high school?

Dartington College of Arts (composition major, studies with Maxwell Davies), Royal Northern College, Manchester

What do you remember about your first music teacher?

I started having violin lessons with a Christian Brother who was learning at the same time. He was only ever a page ahead of me! Soon after, I got better teachers.

What were your first experiences of making music with other people? What do you remember about this?

Even though I grew up in Belfast in the middle of the so-called "troubles" there was a very good Belfast School of Music with orchestras from junior to the youth orchestra. I was lucky to work my way up through these.

When did conducting become part of the picture?

When I went to the specialist high school, Chetham's School of music in Manchester when I was sixteen, there were some students who were interested in conducting. One of my best friends –Grant Llewellyn was one such. He also is a conductor today. John Eliot Gardiner came to the school to conduct the student orchestra, which was of a high standard. He took me under his wing and became a mentor.

When did you first conduct for an audience? 

When I was 16, I was also a choirboy and the first piece I conducted in front of an audience as a Monteverdi mass.

Do you remember the point at which you began to think of yourself as a career musician?

I always wanted to be a musician. I wanted to be ambitious and to strive for the absolute best I could be. However, I remember one string teacher, while I was in Belfast, trying to discourage me from auditioning for the music school in Manchester, saying that I didn't have the talent and the best I could aspire to would be to be a music teacher. (He meant this in a derogatory sense-- clearly I respect such a position!) Anyhow, it made me all the more determined!

Did you ever think you would do something else?

I have always been a writer-- in and around music, but also creatively. A number of years ago, I had a bad fall off Tafelmusik's stage. I tore my shoulder. In order to heal, I studied as an Alexander teacher and qualified as such. I haven't in fact started a practice as a teacher, but I do hope to someday.

Where does music fit into your family life today?

I am extremely lucky in that my fiancé is a huge support to me. She sits on Aradia's board and is  sort of my unofficial manager. It makes a huge difference to me that I can share my professional life with her. She also has a real job, by the way, working for the government!

UPCOMING …

I am just finishing a busy 2 months: in September and October I had eight major projects – including one CD, one opera and working with orchestras in New York, Toronto, Windsor, Ottawa and Nova Scotia. In November I was supposed to do Cosi fan tutte in Bulgaria and on tour in Europe, but the production was cancelled! So, I am going to Europe anyhow to have meetings in Holland, to visit my mother in Ireland and to visit my brothers in Abu Dhabi!

December brings concerts with the Thirteen Strings (December 11) and Aradia's “Dublin Messiah” (December 22nd)

NEW RECORDINGS ...

I just recorded a CD for Naxos with my New York orchestra, the West Side Chamber Orchestra, of modern harpsichord concerti – Glass, Francaix and Rutter.  Later this season sees the release of a 3 Cd set of Handel, Concerti grossi Op.6 with Aradia (Naxos also).

I have just signed a new, long-term contract with Naxos.

For an extended version of Jane Bunnett's interview, please re-visit this page next week
 

adult jane bunnett band danilo img 5246Jane Bunnett plays soprano saxophone, flute, piccolo and piano, and is one of Canada’s foremost jazz musicians. Known for her improvising talents, technical alacrity, versatile writing, band leading abilities and also for her collaborative work celebrating the music of Cuba, Bunnett is a multiple JUNO Award winner, Grammy nominee, and a recipient of the Order of Canada. A film, Embracing Voices: The Woman Behind The Music Of Jane Bunnett, which follows a recent recording project, premiered in April 2012. Driven by a deep appreciation for the universality of music, she continues to tour internationally, forge new collaborations and record.

Bunnett lives with her partner of 34 years, trumpet player Larry Cramer, in Toronto’s Parkdale neighbourhood and enjoys “painting and creating art, gardening, hiking in the woods, chilling out and cooking with friends and digging into our great vintage record collection.” This summer marked Jane’s and Larry’s fourth year as co-artistic directors of the Bancroft & Maynooth Jazz and Blues Fest.

About that childhood photo?

I do remember loving my stuffed animals. Often at night they’d end up one by one in my bed because I’d be sorry about any of them feeling left out. My mother would come in and find me asleep on the floor. Today maybe I’d tell little me “don’t ever let the sidemen upstage you!”

What is your earliest musical memory?

Lying under a grand piano, having all that lovely music wash over me. This was at our neighbours’ home, Rosemary Hahn and Marta Stayner — two elderly German ladies — sisters. Rosemary had studied to become a concert pianist. She was incredibly widely read and philosophical, and was pretty much my first piano teacher — she had a major impact on my life.

My parents cut a miniature gate in the fence so as a four-year-old I could visit freely.

What do you remember about music as a child?

I loved lip-syncing and pretending to play along with records in front of a big mirror with my friends. We had the Supremes and Aretha Franklin ... There was also the Jim Kweskin Jug Band — Maria Muldar sang with them. I got the idea of making home made instruments and I’d bring my friends over to play jug band with me.

We made one of those things with a wash tub with a string and a broomstick. And I remember that the Canadian Brass come to perform for us at Brown School. Right in front of us they cut up a garden hose into pieces, stuck some kind of nozzles on the ends, and played them like horns. We had band in grade 5 and 6, and I loved it.

I saw this NFB film in grade 6 or 7 with people playing music on flower pots, so I went out and gathered terracotta pots and hung them from the pipes in the basement to play on them. My brother lent me some kind of a tape recorder, and I recorded it.

And I had these bongos — I remember playing along with Gordon Lightfoot’s The way I feel is like a robin. It was kind of bossa nova Lightfoot.

I loved going to Sam’s to buy a new record. I’d come home, turn the lights out and listen in the dark ... 

A longer version of Jane Bunnett’s interview continues at thewholenote.com.

crow-photo 1 tso credit sian richards

Violinist Jonathan Crow lives in Roncesvalles Village, Toronto, with his wife Molly Read and their two daughters – Lucy and Sabina. He’s a proud Canadiens fan.

A native of Prince George, British Columbia, Crow attended high school in Victoria and graduated in Honours Performance from McGill University, at which time he joined the Montreal Symphony Orchestra as associate principal second violin. From 2002 to 2006 he was the concertmaster of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, at the time the youngest concertmaster of a major North American orchestra. The 2011/12 concert season marked Crow’s debut as concertmaster of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, an appointment which provides him with the opportunity to play a Guarneri del Gesù 1738 violin – recently restored by Ric Heinl, and newly lent to the TSO for the concertmaster’s use by Dr. and Mrs. Edward Pong. An avid chamber musician, Crow is a founding member of the New Orford String Quartet. A passionate and caring teacher, he juggles an extraordinary schedule to accommodate it all.

Suppose a friendly fellow traveller asks about your work? How might you reply? Hard to say – often if I'm travelling it's for a freelance chamber music show or a concerto. Some people seem very worried: “how can you make a living at that!” Luckily I can explain that I have a “real job” with the TSO.

Do you remember that childhood photo being taken? I don't actually remember when that photo was taken, but I certainly remember the dinner bell in the background – a good way to get kids in from street hockey for supper in Prince George! The photo makes me think of my parents - both avid gardeners, as you can (maybe) see from the plants also in the background. I'd love to know where my parents went shopping to pick up my concert shirts – I had a more extensive selection of button ups than I do now!

What is your absolute earliest memory of hearing music? My sister practising violin at night while I was falling asleep. I knew all the Suzuki tunes before I played them – my sister is six years older. She played violin and later viola, while my brother played trumpet and piano. The first CD I can remember buying was Itzhak Perlman playing Dvorak works for violin and piano

When did you first play the violin? I started at the age of six – there was a free Suzuki program in our school district at the time. I actually wanted to start on cello, but there wasn't a teacher available. Plus, three kids and a Volkswagen Rabbit ... surprised my parents didn't have me play the flute!

What do you remember about your first music teacher? I went through many teachers in Prince George – often people would come for a few years to teach and work there before moving on. I was lucky though to have many great people to work with!

crowe scan0010First recollections of making music with others? I performed regularly with a few close friends at their church in Prince George. It was a very musical environment, and many of us continued into the profession. One of the advantages of playing a string instrument is getting the chance to perform with friends basically from day one. I can't actually remember a time playing the violin where I wasn't playing in Suzuki groups, string orchestra or ensembles of some sort. This is one of the things that kept me going in music – I didn't want to lose out on hanging out with all my friends!

What are your first memories of performing? Good question- perhaps playing for my grandparents in England when I visited them as a child? My grandmother loved the Mendelssohn concerto- wasn't quite at that level for many more years though. Beyond that It would have to be at the Prince George Music Festival. I don't remember the performance, but I'm pretty sure I got to go for ice cream after.

crow enfamilleWhere does music fit into your family life today? My wife is a cellist, my eldest daughter plays violin and my youngest has just started cello. Music is very important to us. Regardless of what career paths my children choose, I feel that music lessons are so useful in life to help with developing creativity and self-esteem.

The point at which you began to think of yourself as a career musician? I actually never had a clear moment where I decided that music was the career for me - I went to university doing both math and music, and only later found myself drifting in the direction of a career in the music field. It always seemed to make more sense to try out music first and see how it worked out rather than giving it up for a few years and trying to regain facility in the fingers.

Suppose an after-school club asked you to talk informally with a mixed group of children ten to 12 years old, as part of a series called "What people do" …

I’d tell them I get to play music for a living. Playing the violin gives me a chance to meet some of the most interesting people in the world and play music written by some of the most musically creative and talented people ever to have lived.

Advice for a young person already sure they were going to have a life in music of some kind? Be open-minded! There are so many ways to make a living in music, but not everyone will end up playing in a orchestra or teaching. Find your own opportunities!

UPCOMING  engagements  …

TSO – regular concerts as concertmaster

Sep 11 - Gallery 345: New Orford String Quartet

September 12 –  Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber Music Society:

September 13 –  Integral House: New Orford String Quartet

September 15 & 16 – Prince Edward County Music Festival New Orford String Quartet

Sep 30 – Mooredale Concerts: Stars of the TSO

Oct 10  – Beethoven Concert, Orchestra London

October 12 – Brandon:  New Orford String Quartet

October 13  –  Winnipeg: New Orford String Quartet

October 14  – Saskatoon  New Orford String Quartet

Oct 26 – University of Western Ontario: New Orford String Quartet

Oct 28  - Mooredale Concerts: New Orford String Quartet

Nov 14-19 – TSO (Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Brockville) Beethoven Triple Concerto with André Laplante and Shauna Rolston

New recordings?

I just recently finished a recording of Schubert Works for Violin and Piano with Philip Chiu. The disc is on XXI-21 Records and will be released this fall. My latest release is on Bridge with the New Orford String Quartet – late works of Beethoven and Schubert

For the September Mystery Child Click Here

For the names our June contest winners and to see and the prizes they won, click here

Vibraphonist, percussionist, composer Peter Appleyard was born in Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire, England, in 1928. At 84, a consummate performer for most of his life, Appleyard continues to tour this summer — indefatigably entertaining, with no signs of slowing down.Before discovering the vibraphone, he started out as a drummer playing in vaudeville and dance bands, was conscripted into the RAF where he spent 18 months playing with RAF bands, and took an 18-month contract in 1949 to play in Bermuda.

In 1951 he came to Toronto, for what was going to be a vacation in Canada, and he has remained to become one of our most celebrated jazz musicians and an Officer of the Order of Canada. A list of people with whom he has played or is playing or has influenced would simply be endless. Appleyard has released 22 albums, including two in 2012, and collaborated on dozens more. He has hosted CBC Radio shows and had his own television program, Peter Appleyard Presents, syndicated throughout North America.

When you look at your childhood photo today, what do you think about? Those were happy innocent times, prior to WWII, when the whole world, it seems, changed forever.

Your absolute earliest memories of hearing music? I was taken to see at a circus called Bertram and Mills. One of the acts was a guy with about 20 cigarettes in his mouth: the music they were playing was Smoke Gets In Your Eyes.

I was a choirboy at Old Clee Church, Grimsby.

There was radio, and records, I remember hearing Paul Robeson’s Old Man River, Crosby, later Sinatra — the first record I ever bought myself was Nat Cole singing Sweet Lorraine.

What about making music? I remember messing about with the piano and drums at Clee Pier whilst father decorated the stage — the drummer was not around. And I played bugle and snare drum in the Boys Brigade.

Do you remember a time when you thought you would do something else? In those days to have a secondary education in high school, you had to pay for it, which my parents who were victims of the recession could not afford. So they obtained an apprenticeship for me, as a nautical instrument maker. The main work I did was as a compass adjuster — this had to be done routinely as they were not electronic compasses. But one day I was sent on an errand picking up some naval charts and I stopped off at a record store. In those days you could listen to records you were thinking of buying . So I was listening to a record and tapping away along with the drums and this fellow stuck his head around a corner and said “Hey … are you a drummer?” And I said “well … yes, I am!” And he said he was the bandleader of Felix Mendelssohn’s Hawaiian Serenaders and he offered me a job. Seems their drummer had been caught with another woman by his wife, who took a hatchet to his drums … I’d been earning 7/6 a week as a compass adjuster and they were offering me 17 pounds a week to play the drums. We worked the vaudeville/variety circuit — these shows would have a comedian, and maybe some jugglers, but the main attraction was a band. Ours was a kind of Hawaiian-flavoured. We had a couple of dancers: hula girls. We were the first band ever to appear on British television, in 1946 … 

A longer version of Peter Appleyard’s interview coming soon.

 

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