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. 


  “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 ... 

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

Aprils ChildPianist Eve Egoyan is best known as an interpreter of new music for piano who has performed premieres of many works by Canadian and international composers as a solo recitalist in Canada, England, France, Germany, Portugal, Japan and the US. She has released eight critically acclaimed solo CDs: seven are of works by contemporary composers and one is of works by Erik Satie. Egoyan is both soloist and executive producer on these discs. Egoyan is also an improvising musician, and has collaborated on a wide range of dance projects, interdisciplinary performances, film work and  sound installations. The recipient of numerous commissions and awards, Egoyan is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (FRSC) and is one of 50 Canadian performers and conductors designated as “CMC ambassador” by the Canadian Music Centre.

Egoyan was born and grew up in Victoria, BC. After graduating from the University of Victoria she studied in Berlin, then London (England), eventually returning to Canada where she completed an M.Mus. at the University of Toronto with Patricia Parr.

About your childhood photo ...?

I certainly remember almost living on that beach as a child, loving the beach, the ocean — I’m missing it now.

Anything you would like say to that little person?

Can I play with you? What do you enjoy most about the beach?

Earliest memories of hearing music?

My mother was very self-conscious about her voice, its intonation. She never sang. My father was spontaneously musical, able to pick out tunes on various instruments. There was always classical music played in the house and I was often taken to hear the Victoria Symphony Orchestra. Art, in all its various forms, was important to both my parents who were painters. Listening to and loving classical concert music was a huge part of my general upbringing.

Other musicians in your childhood family?

Not that I know of. I really don’t know my family’s story beyond my grandparents due to the tragic history of Armenia and Armenians. Certainly there were and are artists, artisans and craftspeople in my family.

When and why did you first play the piano?

Piano was my first instrument. We didn’t have a piano in the house. Our neighbour, however, Mrs. Kerley, had a piano. I bugged her to teach me. We had a gentle, unspoken exchange — piano lessons for companionship. After a while I finally convinced my parents that I wanted formal piano lessons. Eventually I also studied violin and flute, briefly. I wanted to be a conductor.

First music teachers?

I am still very much in touch with my first piano teacher, Mrs. Brayshaw. She was able to invite my vibrant imaginative world into the discipline of lessons.

Where does music fit into your family life today?

We listen to a wide range of music. Listening to music most of the day through practising makes my ears a little weary. I do love sharing time at the piano with Viva, gently teaching her/improvising/playing duets. We also select concerts to go to as a family. It is interesting to bring my daughter up in a city which holds music of so many different cultures and so much diversity. 

Longer Version Coming soon to

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daveyoung photo-ed nixon -4by5-promo

The Dave Young-Terry Promane Octet’s new CD Octet: Volume One (released January 2013) has a Juno nomination for “Traditional Jazz Album of the Year.” It is reviewed by Jim Galloway in our DisCoveries section, March 2013. 

Bassist, arranger and teacher Dave Young was born and raised in Winnipeg. He attended Kelvin High School, and then the University of Manitoba. Young has been a member of The Edmonton Symphony, The Winnipeg Symphony and The Hamilton Philharmonic. He’s collaborated over the years with an astounding “Who’s Who” including the late Oscar Peterson (with whom he had a thirty-five year musical relationship), Lenny Breau, Clark Terry, Harry “Sweets” Edison, Zoot Simms, Joe Williams, Oliver Jones, Kenny Burrell, Cedar Walton, Hank Jones, Nat Adderly, Peter Appleyard, Gary Burton, Barney Kessell, Ed Bickert, Ranee Lee, Marcus Belgrave, Don Thompson, Kenny Burrell and James Moody.

Equally comfortable playing pretty much any kind of music, he wears his multiple awards and many fine recordings, his acute musical sensibilities and his life-long commitment to live music and jazz education like a comfy old jacket with lots of pockets. Dave Young is just all about the music – whatever the music is.

Today he lives in Wanless Park, Toronto, with partner Barbara Lewis, two cats Sharp and Flat, and a golden lab, Bailey. They spend much of their downtime repairing and maintaining a farm in Northumberland County north of Cobourg – 36 acres of pasture and cedar trees. “I did residential renovation work for 10 years in Toronto so still have the power tools to fix any problem at the farm. Music occupies a lot of my time:  practising, arranging with Sibelius, teaching (U of T Jazz) and travelling to play …”

musical child feb 2013About that childhood photo … ?

I remember when I sang in the Winnipeg Boys Choir. I was also playing the piano a bit and was just starting to play the violin. I remember Mrs. Christie who was the choir director - very animated and patient with a bunch of young boys, approximately 10 years old. Singing was fun and sociable.

Anything you would like to tell that young fellow?

I’d tell him to enjoy himself in his youth and learn as much as possible in the early years.

Suppose a friendly fellow traveller asks about your work?

I would just say that I'm a musician, and play a wide range of music, which I have done over the years. Variety is the secret of musical development for me. Blues, folk, rock and roll, Broadway shows, jazz, avant-garde improv, classical orchestral music and polka bands all helped me develop a special way of expressing myself. Music is an international language. It allows you to communicate when verbal language doesn’t.

Earliest musical memories?

I remember sitting under the piano and listening to my mother play classical pieces. I was quite young - maybe 2 or 3. I played and sang at home with my mother and father. My mother, Dorothy Young, was a classical pianist and teacher. She was quite artistic – an accomplished painter and an avid reader. My father, William Young, was a chartered accountant and a great singer - by ear. As a kid in Winnipeg he performed vaudeville -singing and dancing. My sister Sydney is also a very fine classical pianist. She graduated from Juilliard in NYC in the 60s.

I heard music live in our home and at concerts with my parents, and certainly on radio and TV which were important outlets in the 50's. Music at school was always interesting – concerts and music period. …

Early music making?

Piano was first, when I was about 8, followed by the violin, guitar, banjo and harmonica. My first teacher was my mother for piano, then Mr. Grymonpre for violin. I studied with him for 6 years and competed in the Kiwanis festival in Winnipeg - I was reasonably good. I first played the bass in my late teens at the suggestion of a bandleader who I was working with playing guitar. He said he was dropping the guitar from the group next week and if I wanted to keep playing in the dance band I should bring a bass next week. The other bass player left the group.

When did you begin to think of yourself as a career musician?

Not until I was in my late teens. I studied accounting as part of my Bachelor of Commerce degree and worked for a public accounting firm in Toronto when I arrived here in 1967.

Suppose an after-school club asked you to talk after school with a group of children.

How might you explain what you do for a living?

I say that I'm a performing musician who plays all over the world, and explain that I didn’t decide to do this. The role of musician evolved over a number of years

What advice, if any, might you offer to a young person who was already sure they were going to have a life in music of some kind?

Be as versatile as possible but try to specialize in one area of music

DaveYoung photo-Bill-King


You’ll can hear Dave Young at

  • The Salty Dog Bar & Grill (Mar 12)
  • The Rex Hotel Jazz Bar (Mar 20)
  • Mezetta Café (Mar 27)
  • Chalkers Pub (Mar 31)
  • Ichricki Sushi Restaurant (Apr 6)
  • Koerner Hall (Apr 13).

Visit, and under gig calendar you will find all the details!

The Dave Young-Terry Promane Octet new CD Octet: Volume One is reviewed by Jim Galloway in this month’s DISCoveries section.

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. 

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