November’s Child Joan Watson


photo_joan-adult_true-north-brassJoan Watson — horn soloist, principal horn, chamber musician, lecturer and educator — was born in Dauphin, Manitoba. Presently first horn of the Canadian Opera Comany Orchestra and a founding member of True North Brass, she was associate principal horn of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra for 14 seasons, and has been principal horn with the Esprit Orchestra, New Music Concerts, and the Victoria, Pacific Opera and Vancouver Opera Orchestras.

You’ve probably heard Watson on the CBC as a chamber musician, and certainly (without knowing who you were hearing) in numerous commercials, television shows and movie scores.

A member of the University of Toronto’s faculty of music, Watson joined The Boston Conservatory faculty this fall. She also teaches a course called “Goal Setting for Musicians” (see Allan Pulker’s column in this issue, or her website

When you look at the childhood photo today? Apparently I’ve had an oral fixation for years! I moved from soprano sax to violin at age 5, played trumpet in grades 3–5 and switched to horn in Grade 6 for very self-serving reasons. I wanted to win the Best Musician trophy in Grade 12 and realized early on that I needed to be on a different instrument from the band director’s son who played trumpet. He would likely win the trophy one year ahead of me and they did not give the trophy to the same instrument two years in a row. Horn was my only chance I thought the horn couldn’t possibly be as difficult as everyone said it was. I did win the trophy!

My dad took an annual Christmas photo of the whole family with instruments. Music was his passion until art took over. He was a wonderful watercolourist by the end of his life. He always ran a stage band and my brothers and myself were the sax section, except for one on piano.

I took up the horn in 1963 and we took a family photo that Christmas. It was taken just a few days before my mother passed away. I was holding a violin, at age 10. I really treasure that photo.

Early musical memories? Dauphin did not have a school music program. We had a town band and it was comprised of kids and adults. The stage band was a mix of people who just loved to play. The local chiropractor was the guitarist, our band director played lead trumpet, the lead trombonist ran a construction company. They were wonderful passionate musicians.

We did play LPs and there was always music around the house of some sort. Lessons, rehearsals, chamber music, orchestra rehearsals, etc. Our home was the hub of Dauphin music making. My step mother started the Dauphin String Orchestra and a school music program. She was a concert violinist and had been in the Winnipeg Symphony before coming to Dauphin. She was also the founder of the Winnipeg Schools Orchestra, still thriving today …

Read the full interview, coming soon to

Who is December’s Child?
Never one to take things sitting down, she moved to Toronto by herself, as a young teenager. Today she tours internationally and commutes routinely to Boston, while furiously juggling chamber collaborations in Southern Ontario.
You’ll find her face no less than three times, elsewhere in this issue of The WholeNote.
Think you know who our mystery child is? Send your best guess to Please provide your mailing address just in case your name is drawn! Winners will be selected by random draw among correct replies received by November 22, 2011.
Red is best for recitals, and for everyday! Sporting the full Nanaimo, circa 1982.

59bWho is December’s Child?Never one to take things sitting down, she moved to Toronto by herself, as a young teenager. Today she tours internationally and commutes routinely to Boston, while furiously juggling chamber collaborations in Southern Ontario. You’ll find her face no less than three times, elsewhere in this issue of The WholeNote.
Think you know who our mystery child is? Send your best guess to Please provide your mailing address just in case your name is drawn! Winners will be selected by random draw among correct replies received by November 22, 2011.

The Call of Christmas: An unforgettable afternoon of Christmas music presented by All Saints Kingsway Anglican Church  (Dec. 18, 4pm). The concert features The True North Brass with a massed choir, organist Simon Walker and mezzo-soprano Margaret Bárdos, and includes carol-singing. Shawn Grenke, conductor. Joan Sayer wins a pair of tickets.   Moussourgsky: Picture at an Exhibition: [TNB Records 2011] J. Scott Irvine’s version for brass quintet and organ, recorded by True North Brass with Eric Robertson at All Saints Kingsway Anglican Church, was released November 1, 2011! John Brooker is the lucky winner of this CD.

The Call of Christmas [TNB Records, 2008]: a collection of 16 Christmas favourites, in arrangements by some of Canada’s top musicians, for solo horn, strings, harp and percussion: The winner of this CD is Phoebe Lenez.   Songs my Mother Taught Me [2007 Phoenix Records] is a collection of favourite tunes in soothing arrangements (including a couple by TNB’s Al Kay): a musical tribute to Joan’s mother: musical memories of love, serenity and safety. This CD goes out to Myrna Foley.

Music’s Children gratefully acknowledges Shawn, Ray, Andrea, Michael, All Saint’s Kingsway Anglican Church, and True North Brass.

October ’s Child James Parker


Pianist James Parker, ("Jamie" to many) lives in Toronto "with my wife Mim, our boys Dylan and Max, and our dog Mabel. I've got a Kawaii KG-2C baby grand piano, and a junky upright in the basement.

I love hockey. Music is a very close second in my life. You cannot know how disappointed I was with the Canucks Stanley Cup loss. June 15, 2011 ranks as one of the darkest days in my life. I'm only getting over it now. Belgian beer and chocolate might be third passion in my life.

Everyone should work on their wrist-shot accuracy. It'll help your octaves."

Born in Burnaby British Columbia, James Parker delights audiences at  solo, chamber, and orchestral concerts across Canada, and internationally. He has a huge discography which includes 3 Juno award winning records. Parker's musical roots are at the Vancouver Academy of Music and University of British Columbia where he studied with Kum Sing Lee. and received his Bachelor of Music degree. For over a decade,  Parker attended the Banff Centre, studying piano with Marek Jablonski, and chamber music with Lorand Fenyves  and then went on to complete his Masters and Doctoral with Adele Marcus at The Juilliard School.  Parker was an Associate Professor at Wilfrid Laurier University and now teaches on the music faculty at the University of Toronto as the Rupert E. Edwards Chair in Piano Performance.

Liz Parker had this to say about their mother:

The Matriarch grew up in Japan during the war - she learned to jump under her desk as a child during the air raids. She learned English in Japan and was pen-pals with my dad for 6 yrs - that's how they first knew each other. When she was sent a ring and proposal – she said yes and came to Canada - that's when they met. They received stares in public back then ... this was in the late 1950's.

Mom studied piano with my dad's brother, Edward Parker, and subsequently became a piano teacher but renowned as a music theory teacher. She was so strict, she taught on Halloween night: too bad! But you could show up to class in costume and then  trick-or-treat in her 'hood if you wanted to.

A strict Tiger Mother with a sense of humour at least:  she would come home and touch the TV screen (hot) and piano lamp (cold) to see if we REALLY practiced in her absence, and was upset with dad when he brought home the second TV (= less practice).

She "forgot" to pass on any social phone calls or messages (= less practice) but took us to McDonald's after every competition as a treat (even if we didn't place 1st).

Our mom is the epitome of class and ZEN


James Parker is  also a member of the Gryphon Trio, one of Canada’s best chamber music ensembles. Well known to CBC listeners, the trio has toured many parts of the world, maintained a residency at Music Toronto from 1998-2008, and regularly commission works from Canadian and international composers. The Gryphon Trio's extraordinary schedule also includes major commitments to a wide range of initiatives working with student performers and composers.

Suppose you were with a child who is right now about the same age as you were in your childhood photo  – perhaps the child of a friend who is NOT a musical colleague. If they asked you  "What  do you do?", how might you reply?

I play piano. I also listen to other people play piano and help them get better at it.

You're travelling, and chatting with a friendly fellow traveller. After they have told you all about their career in pest control or medical imaging, they ask about your work. How might you reply? I’m a musician. I play piano concerts by myself and with friends. I’ve got a group, the Gryphon Trio, and we’ve been playing concerts together for almost 20 years all over the world. We’re also in residence at the University of Toronto, where I’m the Head of Keyboard Studies, so teaching is also a very big part of my life. I also record a lot of CDs, so spending hours on end in a studio is something that I do once or twice a year.


When you look at the childhood photo today, what do you think about?

Jackie [Jon Kimura Parker] and I didn’t do too much playing together as kids, since he was a prodigy and way ahead of me. It’s been really great that every two or three years we get to do a two-piano concert.

Your absolute earliest musical memory?

There was always piano music in the house as far back as I can remember – my brother practicing, my mother teaching, my father listening to records

Other musicians in your childhood family? Older brother and younger sister are pianists. My mother is a retired music teacher, my father was an avid listener. My uncle is still teaching, with two sons – one who did his ARCT, and the other who performs. Ian and I will be doing a two-piano concert next season.

Where did hearing music, both formal and informal, fit into  your life as a child?

CBC radio was on all the time, and there was lots of practicing, lessons, and listening going on. I played clarinet in high school band which was a lot of fun (well, the band trips were fun!)

Why the piano?

Why? Genetics. If you’re a Parker, you play piano. End of story. (Although, my little guys just started Suzuki violin, but they’ll get piano lessons for sure.)

Do you sing? What is your first memory of  yourself singing?

Every pianist goes through this – you’re playing for some famous guest artist master class during your studies, and they yell at you, “JUST SING THAT LINE …RIGHT NOW!.” It’s usually a bad memory! Now I’ll sing passages for students during lessons and coachings, and occasionally threaten them to sing in front of the class.

What do you remember about your first piano teacher? Jessie Morrison taught the Kelly Kirby method, so I have vague memories of learning about Doggie D, Bumble B and so forth.

What were your first experiences of making music with other people? I was very late to chamber music – it’s a classic pianist thing – we’re always so busy practicing so many things. I did a couple of chamber pieces at the end of high school at the VAM.

Do you remember when you first performed alone for an audience? No, I seem to have successfully blotted that out! I played all sorts of festivals as a kid, and did all the RCM exams.

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

I didn’t decide to go into music until the end of Grade XII, so it wasn’t until my university years that I really focused on becoming a professional musician.

Do you remember ever thinking you would do anything else? I was planning on doing Pre-Med at UBC, and I still have a strong interest in alternative healing of all sorts, especially Energy Medicine.

If you could travel back through time and meet  young Jamie that childhood photo is there anything you'd like to say?

Not really. I have very few regrets in life. I may tell him to practice a little more each day, but then I may not have developed the kind of friendships in school that I have to this day.


Sat, Oct 1: Gryphon Trio and many UofT Faculty and students playing a benefit concert for Japan --  Walter Hall at 3pm

Sun, Oct 2: Gryphon Trio and Patricia O’Callaghan –- CD launch at the Lula Lounge at 8pm

Wed, Oct 5: Gryphon Trio various school concerts in Hamilton

Sat, Oct 15: Rachmaninov Paganini Variations with Mathew Kraemer and the Mississauga Symphony – Living Arts Centre at 8pm

Sat, Oct 29: inaugural recital on the St. Andrews' Bosendorfer – St. Andrew’s Church at 7:30 or 8pm


Naxos: Jeffrey Ryan “Fugitive Colours” (Gryphon Trio performs his “Equilateral” Triple Concerto with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra under Bramwell Tovey)

Naxos: Gryphon Trio CD anthology – 9 discs with the great trios by Beethoven, Mozart, Schubert, Mendelssohn, and Shostakovich

Analekta: Patricia O’Callaghan and the Gryphon Trio “Broken Hearts and Madmen”

Who is November’s Child?


Today she juggles several orchestral, operatic and chamber collaborations, and combines these with teaching and mentoring all over the True North strong and free.

(This coming month you’ll find her MassBrassing October 30.)

Think you know who our mystery child is? Send your best guess to Please provide your mailing address just in case your name is drawn! Winners will be selected by random draw among correct replies received by October 20, 2011.


The Sorcerer’s Apprentice on Oct 15, at the Living Arts Centre, Mississauga: Jamie Parker plays the Rachmaninov Paganini Variations with the Mississauga Symphony Orchestra, guest conductor is Matthew Kraemer. Noreen Chong and Annie Odom each win a pair of tickets to hear the MSO’s first concert of the season which also includes Dukas and Stravinsky.

The Gryphon Trio on Nov 17, at the Janet Mallet Theatre, Toronto: Jamie Parker, Annalee Patipatanakoon, and Roman Borys are Music Toronto regulars, this time treating the audience to a programme of Beethoven, Jordans, and Arensky. Daisy Leung and Laura Brocklebank each win a pair of tickets.

Broken Hearts and Madmen: just released! This collaboration between The Gryphon Trio and vocalist Patricia O’Callaghan features songs by Leonard Cohen, Nick Drake, Lhasa de Sela and Laurie Anderson alongside traditional melodies from Chile, Argentina and Mexico. (AN 2 9870). A copy each for Linda Devore and Paulette Popp.

Beethoven: Piano Trios Op. 70 No. 1 “Ghost” & No. 2; Op. 11: this Gryphon Trio recording won a 2011 JUNO award for “Classical Album of the Year — Solo or Chamber Ensemble”. It’s their 13th recording on the Analekta label and the last in their series of Beethoven piano trio recordings. (AN 2 9860). A copy each for Myrna Foley and Otto Rath.

Music’s Children gratefully acknowledges Andrew, Eileen, Jennifer, Keiko, Liz, Sébastien, Orchestras Mississauga, Music Toronto and Analekta.

September's Child

Ofra Harnoy.


12What would you like to say to the young person in the childhood photo of you we published in The WholeNote last month?

Fasten your seatbelt, its going to be a wild ride!

Ofra Harnoy was born in Hadera, Israel on January 31st, 1965. Her mother played the piano and her father played the violin. They travelled a lot during her childhood: Harnoy lived in Israel, France, England and then Canada. She attended an alternative Independent high school in Canada called Aisp, which allowed her to tour while being in school.  She studied with her father, with Vladimir Orloff,  then with William Pleeth, and  later participated in master classes with Mstislav Rostropovich, Pierre Fournier and Jacqueline du Pré.

Harnoy's solo debut with The Boyd Neel Orchestra (at 10) was followed by solo engagements with the Toronto and Montreal Symphony Orchestras. At 17 she was the youngest ever to win an International Concert Artists Guild award, followed by concerto and recital debuts in Carnegie Hall. In 1983 she was named Young Musician of the Year by Musical America magazine. She was 18 years old, and the "wild ride" was already well underway.

About a decade ago, in the midst of a vigorous international career, with her name on dozens of highly-regarded recordings, Ofra Harnoy gave up performing in public.

On September 25th at Toronto's Walter Hall she will make her long-awaited return to the Toronto stage for the opening of Mooredale Concerts season.

What do you think of when you look at that childhood photo?

junemysterychild001Now looking at this picture, it looks almost exactly like my daughter!

I don’t actually remember it being taken but it brings back strong memories of playing piano trios with my parents in our living room. I used to play Hayden, Mozart and Beethoven piano trios with my parents. I remember every time there were long rests in the cello part, I would run to the kitchen, open the fridge, pour myself a drink and come back just in time to play my part. It also reminds me that I loved having people over to play chamber music.

Your earliest musical memory?

I remember being moved to tears at the age of 2 ½ when hearing the recording of the Cimarosa oboe concerto.  I can still remember the melody.

Where did hearing music fit into your life as a child?

Listening to music was probably the most influential part of my musical training as a child.  Either listening to multiple recordings, going to classical music concerts or participating in chamber music sessions; music was always part of my life like eating, breathing or sleeping.

Your first instrument?

My first instrument was the cello: my mother had decided that I should play the cello before I was born.  My parents brought home a little quarter-sized cello. No one told me that it was supposed to be difficult so I took to it very quickly.

Your first 'cello teacher?

My father was my first cello teacher and since he was a violinist, he did not teach me proper cello technique. So I learned my own way around the instrument, which somehow worked!

Your first experiences of making music with other people?

When my parents used to have people over to play chamber music, I would sneak out of my bedroom to watch them play, but my first playing experiences were playing piano trios with my parents.

Do you remember when you first performed alone for an audience?

Yes, I was 6 years old, in Israel and I played in the Israeli conservatory and I played a piece by Telemann.

57_david-ofraDid you ever think you would do anything else?

I wanted to take all the abandoned and abused animals and all the poor people and create a farm where they could be self sufficient and happy.  That was just a childhood fantasy.

for additional biographical information and a detailed discography please visit


Who is October’s Child?

57_mysterychildAlready a chamber musician, but not above upstaging his accomplished older brother.

This 3-time JUNO winning pianist grew up on a steady diet of practise, Star Trek, practise, White Spot hamburgers, practise … in a house with five pianos.

Find him in a lounge with some broken hearts and madmen (next month, in Toronto) and — speaking of madmen — playing some Beethoven in November.

Think you know who our mystery child is?

Send your best guess to

Please provide your mailing address just in case your name is drawn! Winners will be selected by random draw among correct replies received by September 20, 2011.


57_prize_1_mooredale_logo_w_o_ak_copyAllison Meistrich (Toronto) wins a pair of tickets to attend the opening of Mooredale Concerts’ 23rd season, Sept 25 (3:15pm, Walter Hall): Ofra Harnoy makes her return to the Toronto concert stage with artistic director, Anton Kuerti, at the piano. This is their first-ever joint performance and includes Bach’s Suite No. 3 for solo cello, Beethoven’s Cello Sonata in A Major, Op. 69, and the Cello Sonata by César Franck.

57_prize_3Leslie Toy (Toronto) and a young-at-heart friend will be Mooredale’s guests when Harnoy and Kuerti give a one-hour, interactive concert, at Music & Truffles, September 25 (1:15 pm, Walter Hall). While this series seeks to engage younger people (ages 5–15), adults wishing to learn more about music-making are welcome.

57_sonymusiclogo_09Joan McGorman (Ottawa) and Alison McTavish (Oakville) will be among the first to hear Ofra Harnoy Plays Vivaldi. This 5 CD boxed set, released August 2011, is a feast of Vivaldi concerti with The Toronto Chamber Orchestra, conductors Paul Robinson and Richard Stamp: RCA Red Label recordings made between 1988 and 1994. SONY 88697-88412-2

57_prize_2_cd-vivaldiTerry Lander (Toronto) and Patrick Huziak (Toronto) will receive Ofra Harnoy’s Imagine: 19 Beatles classics featuring Harnoy on solo cello accompanied at times by the Orford String Quartet or the Armin String Quartet. These are live performances recorded at Glenn Gould Studio, Flora McRae Auditorium, and St. Timothy’s in 1984 and 1985. SONY 68376


20110624_23Soprano and comedienne Mary Lou Fallis has enjoyed an extraordinary career as a lyric coloratura, choral soloist,  teacher and speaker. She has toured extensively with her award winning solo show Primadonna, its various sequels, and several other  original one-woman creations. As music producer of the Gemini award winning BRAVO! TV series Bathroom Divas she was part of a jury selecting a winner from hundreds of nation-wide hopefuls. Ms. Fallis continues to perform and teaches privately, having taught at York University, the Royal Hamilton Conservatory of Music, Queen's University and the University of Western Ontario.

Mary Lou Fallis lives in Toronto with her husband - double-bassist and artist Peter Madgett, and a very woolly dog named Percy.


Saturday July 16, 7:15pm

Amherst Island Waterside Summer Series

Mary Lou Fallis, soprano and Peter Tiefenbach, piano

Monday July 25, 3pm

Stratford Summer Music's Serenade to Maureen Forrester

Avon Theatre

Monday August 22, 7pm

"Opera Highlights" part of Muskoka Opera Festival

Mary Lou Fallis with Peter Tiefenbach

The Rene M. Caisse Memorial Theatre, in Bracebridge


Tell us about your childhood photo?

junemysterychild001I'm wearing a corsage -  it was my 3rd birthday. My mom smocked that yellow dress for me: smocking was all the rage with 50s mothers, like a  competitive sport. She hated sewing so it’s very touching she did that for me. She was a terrible seamstress, and after six kids she doesn't even like to sew on buttons now. But she is, after all 85!

There was always music and singing at birthday parties: Musical Chairs, The Farmer in the Dell, A Tisket a Tasket, a Green-and-Yellow Basket … games where you have to sing and walk around at the same time  - and then run like crazy to catch someone or get their spot!

If a little child asked  "What  do you do?"

I sing for people! I sing music you'd hear at a fancy concert, usually written by people who are dead – not rock and roll or pop music, but I try to make people happier. So I like a lot of music in major keys. That's the music that sounds happy (sings: My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean). Music in minor keys sounds sad (sings Volga Boatmen).  I don't wear a black and white suit – usually I  wear a long sparkly evening gown. Sometimes I sing with a big orchestra, sometimes with a piano.

If an adult asked?

I am a musical comedienne …do you know about Victor Borge or Anna Russell? I do that sort of thing with opera. I send up the persona of the diva, and prick the balloon of pretension!

Just the basics

Mary Lou Fallis was born in Toronto, and attended nursery school at the Institute for Child Studies. As a small child, she and her parents shared her grandparents' Wychwood Park home on Braemar Gardens until the young family outgrew this arrangement (with a third child), and moved to North Toronto. Young  Mary Lou attended Lawrence Park Collegiate, and then the University of Toronto. She later went to New York to study with Daniel Farrell, with funding from the Canada Council,  and subsequently to England with her husband Peter Madgett who was studying composition. In London she pursued additional voice studies, and did some coaching. The couple returned to Toronto when Madgett was offered a position with the Toronto Symphony.

What is your absolute earliest musical memory?

Playing the piano with my wonderful grandmother, Jennie Bouck. She was my mum's mum.

I'd have been two or three. She played the bottom and I played the top. At first it was just making nice sounds, like a descant that I made up as she played. A little later I learned to pick out songs that I knew. Eventually we would play duets, and music for 2 pianos. And we always sang – before there were any kind of formal singing lessons.

I think she did this a bit with all of us children, but she spent most the most time with me. I was the first grandchild, and the one who was the hungriest for it.

Other musicians in your family?

My grandmother was, among other things, the conductor of a women's choir at Trinity St Paul's United Church, as well as the junior church choir.

Here's a fun story about her: she conducted the Toronto Symphony at Massey Hall at the age of 80. The whole family chipped in and we bought it for her as a "Dream Auction" item. They did "Pomp and Circumstance" ( with all the repeats!) Andrew (Davis) was so impressed that he asked her back, and she eventually conducted Handel's "The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba" at Roy Thomson Hall, at the age of 84.

My mum was a singer – taught singing, and went around to different schools teaching Orff music. She was in the Elmer Iseler Singers:  in fact we sang together in that choir. She was also in the Mendelssohn Choir.

At the age of 50, when we were all out of the house, she went back to teacher's college and then taught in the public school system – they were living in Tottenham by then. She also has written three books for children – each one is a whole little opera.

My dad was a doctor – he was also in the Mendelssohn Choir.

My grandmother's sister was rehearsal pianist for the Mendelssohn Choir for a number of years.

David Fallis, artistic director of  the Toronto Consort , is my first cousin. But to me he was always just "little David in the junior choir."  It's funny to think of him being any kind of big conductor, but one sees him all the time now conducting all sorts of things.

In terms of my siblings: mostly not really musicians, although enjoying music was something we all have from all sides, and singing was just a normal thing to do. My sister Loie Fallis, who played the french horn at university, has been on the administrative staff of the TSO for decades – she's now the director of artistic planning.


What do you remember from those days about hearing music, formally or informally?

What's your first memory of singing?

Besides singing with my grandmother there was always lots of singing at church. My grandfather, Colonel Fallis was the minister there. (That’s where my mum and dad met). And I was in the junior choir there. At the cottage we sang songs around the campfire: My Paddle's Keen and Bright, She'll Be Coming 'Round the Mountain, Kumbaya. Driving in the car with my parents – the younger kids would sleep and we sang to stay awake so I learned to sing their songs: Just a Song at Twilight, It's a Long Way to Tiperarry.


What do you remember about early music lessons, and your first instrument?

I didn't have formal piano lessons, or voice lessons, other than with my grandmother until I was older.  But my first piano teacher was Mrs. Kennedy. She and her husband Peter Kennedy were connected with the Royal Conservatory and wrote piano books for children "The Kennedy Method". I used to get out of school early at age nine or ten for piano lessons.

By the time I was about  twelve I would  go to the conservatory for theory on Saturday, and then for voice with my grandmother her at Trinity-St. Paul's. Then we'd have an outing – the ballet, an opera, some sort of a show in the afternoon, and then home to their farm (which was where Ross Lord Park is now). We would have supper and play piano duets and sing, and I could stay up late by myself and watch old movies and drink orange crush. That's when I first saw Deanna Durbin – I was about 16. There was one called Spring Parade, and she sang "Waltzing in the Clouds"

(sings) "Waltzing, waltzing high in the clouds, drifting, dreaming far from the crowds…."

There were these marvellous entire movies around her. Sometimes I think I became a singer because of Deanna Durbin. (She was a Canadian.)

The first time you sang alone for an audience?

What were your first experiences of making music with other people?

I have very faint memories of a garden party for The Institute of Child Study, where I attended Nursery school. I was three, and I sang "Oh isn't it a bit of luck that I was born a YELLOW DUCK, with yellow socks and yellow shoes, that I may wander where I choose, quack, quack, quack, quack...."

I remember that I performed as a soloist with my grandmother's choir at Trinity-St. Paul's when I was about 11 or 12. I sang "The Hills Are Alive With the Sound of Music" and some waltz or other.

But more memorable: when I was 17 I won the rose bowl in the Kiwanis Festival and the prize was singing at Massey Hall – a kind of "Stars of the Festival" concert. I sang the "Bell Song" from Lackmé, with piano. I don't know how good I was but oh boy did I feel like I was Metropolitan Opera bound - almost a diva. That was the year I was in grade 13.


Do you remember when you first thought of yourself as a career musician?

That would have been when I was rescued by the Faculty of Music. At that time, there was still grade 13 but the (U of T) Faculty had a "quiet policy" of accepting students with a performance major after grade 12. And I really wanted to do that but my parents said no, I had to do grade 13. They wanted me to do a general arts degree first. So I duly enrolled  at Victoria College in philosophy and sociology. This lasted 6 exactly six weeks. My good friend Gaynor Jones (who I went to high school with) was in the performance diploma programme. She was supposed to sing  "Et Incartatus Est" (with all those high Cs)  from the Mozart Mass in C minor (with a clarinet choir, if you can imagine that!) Gaynor became terribly sick and asked me to fill in at the last minute. So I went along to Ezra Schabas, who was at the Faculty Of Music, and sang for him. And he said "For goodness sake what on earth are you doing across the road there? Do you want to go back to Vic?"  And of course I said no, and he pulled some strings around there, and by the middle of October I was enrolled at the Faculty of Music. From then on I knew I wanted to be a singer, and perhaps even thought I'd be world famous immediately.

I had a strong opinion of how good I was, I knew my background was good – sight-reading, theory, musicianship. But this does not make up for hard work and there were lots of very talented people there. It was very, very good for me to realize I wasn't the only one. It was a really good experience.


Do you remember ever thinking you would do anything else?

I think I thought about being a high school teacher.

I know I thought about medicine, after all my father was a doctor and I really admired what he did. There were already lots of doctors who were women, and who were really admired by society in general. I liked chemistry, but was not good at math.


If you could travel back through time and have a visit with the little person in your childhood photograph, is there anything you'd like to tell her, or ask?

I'd I want to tell her, somehow, that her gut instincts on important issues are where to go.

You can't always think things through. Some plan may look all logical and you can say something should work, but if your gut still says it's not quite right, then just don't do it.

I'd want to ask her something like "Do you think you've been given a script to play that isn't exactly yours?"

One is so loved when you're very little. One takes in so many things, unconsciously, from everybody who wants the best for you.

But in the end with all best will in the world one has to find their own way. Someone (was it Joyce?) said something about how one has to step back at some point from  church, school, and country, and find out who he is in relation to all those things so they don’t have control over him.

Even if you have support, brains, and talent, you still have to separate your own path from what is expected of you, and maybe even overcome some of those things, to really shine as an artist.

for a complete biography, schedule, and discography, visit

Who is September’s Child?

ofra_on_cello_r“Growing up with my father’s record collection, which had tens of thousands of recordings, I could listen to thirty interpretations of the same piece …”

Who played her professional debut at age ten with the Boyd Neel Orchestra, in Toronto, has a Canadian engagement for the first time in a decade this September in Toronto, and still prefers to play from memory, with her eyes closed?

Think you know who our mystery child is? Send your best guess to Please provide your mailing address just in case your name is drawn! Winners will be selected by random draw among correct replies received by August 20, 2011.


Sandra Newton (Pickering) and Margie Bernal (London) each won a pair of tickets to A Serenade for Maureen Forrester (July 25) presented by Stratford Summer Music, celebrating the life and career of the late Canadian contralto. With production support from the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, where Ms. Forrester played characters she considered among the highlights of her career, this tribute will include live performances by Mary Lous Fallis and many other Canadian singers and musicians of note, seldom seen video excerpts of Ms. Forrester, and personal reflections on her life.

Rita MacKinnon (Oakville) won the CD More or Less Live at the Gould — Mary Lou Fallis with frequent musical co-conspirator, pianist Peter Tiefenbach. Recorded at the Glenn Gould Studio this performance includes “Why Isn’t Love Like It Is In the Opera,” “Bingo Night In Berlin,” a medley from Nebraska, and “I’ve Got Faust Under My Skin” (2009).

Joe Orlando (Toronto) won the CD Primadonna on a Moose featuring music from one of Mary Lou Fallis’ immensely popular one-woman Primadonna shows. These Canadian popular songs from 1840–1930, with members of the TSO and the Victoria Scholars, are arranged and conducted by John Greer and include “Paddle Your Own Canoe,” “Take Your Girl Out to the Rink” and “The World is Waiting for the Sunrise”


June's Child Mayumi Seiler

mayumi_adult Violinist Mayumi Seiler is the founder and artistic director of the Toronto-based chamber ensemble Via Salzburg, an instructor at the University of Toronto and the Glenn Gould School, and one quarter of the Seiler Quartet (with Midori Seiler, violin; Naomi Seiler, viola; and Yuri Seiler, cello). She has a vigorous international touring career  as a soloist and chamber musician. Ms. Seiler has recorded much solo violin and chamber repertoire on the Hyperion, Virgin Classics, JVC Victor, and Capriccio labels.

Born in Osaka, Ms. Seiler lived in Japan until the age of six, when her family moved to Salzburg, Austria. The Seiler Quartet was formed when the sisters were little children and they toured extensively in Europe and Japan. After high school in Salzburg, and formative studies at the University Mozarteum in Salzburg, Ms Seiler spent a couple of years in Germany and then moved to London, England and The Guildhall School of Music and Drama. She based her busy emerging career there until she moved to Toronto in 1996. Via Salzburg, led from the first chair by Ms. Seiler, was formed in 1999.

Today Mayumi Seiler lives in the Sherwood Park neighborhood of Toronto with her partner Michael and her children Hana and Seiji, Kobe the Jack Russell and two overfed guinea pigs!. Some of her other passions include cooking, tennis, watching Law and Order and attending  her children’s many sporting activities.

Mayumi, suppose you are chatting with some nice person during a long wait whilst traveling.

After enthusiastically telling you all about their career in pest control or medical imaging, they ask about your work. What might you tell them?

I am a concert violinist. I am used to performing as a soloist or chamber musician in front of an audience, but when I have a raccoon in my attic I am very happy that the pest control person is good at what they do, and the medical imaging person can help people stay healthy…..I admire people for being very good at what they do, and also if their heart is in what they do. Whatever their passion is.

What does that childhood photo make you to think about? It makes me think of my childhood in Japan, and how I thought everyone in the world played an instrument. Everyone at the time - my sisters and parents - were musicians . For me it was as ordinary as learning to eat with a knife and fork.

Other musicians or performers in your family? Father and mother met while studying piano at Princeton and Juilliard, all four daughters are professional musicians.

Where did listening to music fit into your life?

We had music in our house constantly, my parents had piano students coming in and out of our home and my older two sisters were playing the violin at the time. They later changed to viola and cello.

First memories of playing the violin?

Getting tuned up by my parents as a  four year old before a big concert with my two sisters in a very big concert hall. The smallest instrument gets tuned first, and mine was a 16th - size violin. I didn't wait for their violins to be tuned. I went on to the stage all by myself and played my 3rd violin part, bowed before and after, and got big applause. We then played the piece again, with ALL the parts.

I remember my wonderful violin teacher very well. I remember not liking her lipstick and telling her that. I loved the way she taught though. She has followed my career for all these years and still comes to concerts when I play in Japan. I like her lipstick now …

What were your first childhood experiences of making music with others?

In a Yamaha school in Japan and also with my sisters and parents.

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

I always thought I was going to be a professional violinist. At  the age of about 15 I rebelled, which was very healthy for me. After a few months I was even more committed than before.

Do you remember ever thinking you would do anything else? if so, what were those things?

I always liked languages. Japanese was my very first language I learned, soon German became my strongest, then I loved French, but that was taken over by English. I still want to learn better Italian and learn Spanish. So languages always fascinated me. Cooking and food is also a passion of mine and working with children in homes who have no family to support them is another fantasy I had.

Not necessarily in this order though…

If you could travel back through time and meet face to face with the little person in that childhood photo, is there anything you would like to say to her?  Or ask her?

You are in for an adventurous life…and if you keep practicing, continue loving your music and growing with it,  you'll  perform as a soloist in Carnegie Hall, Musikverein, Concertgebow and other exciting places when you are grown up!

You also will be able to play with your sisters and other fun people who love chamber music and travel the world!

And don’t let your father cut your hair!


I am taking part in a fundraising concert for the Japanese  Earthquake Relief Fund at Christ  Church, Deer Park on June 16th, then I have a recital in Ottawa. Also this summer, after the Toronto Summer Music Festival (july 19-August 13), I will be with my partner, my kids and my puppy, along with my younger sister from Germany with her husband and kids by a lake in Ontario for some holiday time! And listen to the loons.

Who is July and August’s Child?

junemysterychild001The life of the birthday party!

This poised little comedienne, already with an appetite for primadonna ribbons and bows, is certainly not your typical bathroom diva, and this summer she’ll be part of a Stratford celebration, serenading the life of another beloved Canadian diva.

Think you know who our mystery child is? Send your best guess to Please provide your mailing address just in case your name is drawn! Winners will be selected by random draw among correct replies received by August 2011.

Singing “The more we get together – the happier we’ll be!”
1952, Braemore Gardens, Toronto.


• Clement Ng (Hamilton) and Stephen Erlichman (Toronto) both won a pair of tickets for Toronto Summer Music’s FORGOTTEN ROMANTICS (July 23 7:30pm), at Walter Hall. The celebrated Vienna Piano Trio joins forces with Christopher Costanza, Mark Fewer, and Mayumi Seiler for a concert of music by Moszkowski, Goldmark, and Spohr.
The evening includes a 6:15 pre-concert talk by Dr. Robin Elliott: Three Studies in Fame and Obscurity.

• Tiiu Klein (Kleinburg) and Glenroy Alleyne (Oshawa) both won a pair of tickets for Via Salzburg’s first concert of the new season at the warm and intimate Rosedale United Church. THE REST IS SILENCE
(October 14) will feature music of innovation, tradition, and inspiration: Debussy and Brahms usher in the voice of Mark Richards, one of Canada’s fine young composers.

• Jeff Keff (Toronto) and Kwan-wah Inglis (Toronto) won Via Salzburg’s current recording VIA SALZBURG, VOLUME 3. Mayumi Seiler leads the Via Salzburg Chamber Orchestra, with guests Brian Manker, cello; Eliot Fisk, guitar;
George Gao, erhu; Jaime Martin, flute; Ronald George, horns; Stephen Cameron, french horn; in works by Handel, Piazzolla, Haydn, Mozart and Gao.

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