DH Collage 2017 WEBIt has been two months since Dmitri Hvorostovsky is no longer with us, but it still hasn’t sunk in. It is just too hard to accept when a man of such physical and spiritual power and an instant smile on his face has left this world. The whole world knows him as an artist, but I was fortunate enough to know him as a human being and I want to share my thoughts and memories of him in that regard.

I have just returned from NYC, attending a special gathering organized by the Met Opera chair, Ann Ziff, for the artists, chorus members, stage hands, cleaners, ushers … basically everyone who works at the Met and wanted to come and raise a glass in Dima’s memory. The place was packed. And once again it reminded me how much Dima was loved by people, not just by his colleagues or opera connoisseurs but by the general public. He could connect with anyone … and he respected everyone, no matter their level of importance.

We first met in 2007 when I presented him in the War Songs project. I was trembling. He was a huge star already and I didn’t know what to expect. Also back then, I didn’t have much mileage dealing with stars of such calibre. But he made it so easy for me … it was a great first experience!

I remember how he wore a Maple Leaf jersey with his name on it, given to him by a friend the night before. He brought the jersey to the concert and tacked it near the stage. When I saw it and asked what it was for, he smiled and replied, “That’s my stage costume for tonight.” And he actually put it on for the encore! The audience went WILD!

It happened that the Toronto concert was the last one on a long 40-city world tour, and we took everyone, including the choir and orchestra, to a restaurant. In the middle of dinner, all the members of the choir and orchestra got up and sang to Dima – Mnogie Leta, a traditional Russian folk song that wishes someone a long life – Dima was so touched. I caught a tear on his face. He was a very humble man.

Now I understand that he crushed all the stereotypes of being a “star”. He was a truly deep, kind man, and he became quite philosophical towards to the end of his life … always thankful for everything he was able to achieve.

Within two years we had our next project here with Dima – Verdi arias with Sondra Radvanovsky. And there I saw the other side of him. We hired an orchestra from Montreal to accompany the tour (I am specifically not giving the name of the orchestra here) and when soloists arrived for the first rehearsal, the orchestra was not ready at all. Half of the scores were missing, as were some of the musicians. Dima stormed out of the room and said that either we find another orchestra or they have to get to work. Well… with having a first concert in three days and union musicians, it was not an easy time for me. I had to get into a lot of fights with the orchestra management in order to make things right (besides being totally embarrassed in front of my soloists). But Dmitri was absolutely right in his professional demands. He was a total perfectionist at his job.

Not everyone knows, but he practised EVERY DAY while he was sick and in treatment, and didn’t give up until almost his last days. He also pushed himself to exercise pretty much until the time he couldn’t walk anymore.

Incredible willpower prolonged his stage life for at least another year compared with his prognosis. He took every opportunity to be on stage during his illness whenever he could physically be there.

I recall him saying to me here in Toronto back in April 2017, “I don’t care if I am on stage in a wheelchair as long as I can sing. The moment I can’t, I am no longer interested in life.”

He also told me something which I will never forget, which was related to his last concert here in Toronto. He said, “You brought me back to life. Thank you.” Again, not many people know but Dima was in ICU for almost a month in December 2016. It happened in St. Petersburg. After his concert, he was taken to hospital with a terrible, very dangerous form of pneumonia. He had a huge hole in his lungs. Doctors were in awe that he was able to beat it, but he couldn’t sing for almost four months, and only started to sing a few weeks before his Toronto concert in April. One can only imagine what we went through as no one knew or could predict if Dima would be able to perform or not. We were all very nervous including Anna and Yusif and Mark Hildrew (Dima’s manager) … Everyone… But the internal power of this man was above and beyond any imagination.

He flew here with the whole family – Florence, Max, Nina and Illi (his mother-in-law), but he was already in a wheelchair.

Next day was the first rehearsal. He was nervous but he sounded beautiful! After the third aria, once he felt comfortable with the orchestra and his voice, he said “I am sorry we are done now – this is my first time singing after a four-month break and I need to be cautious.” One cannot imagine how much effort he put into going on stage that night … and it was a triumph!

Lots of people were here from all over the world including the top people from the Met. After such success in Toronto, Peter Gelb spoke to Dima and decided that he would go to NYC to participate in the Met gala two weeks later. He made a surprise appearance and the audience went wild!

Unfortunately, after that, things went downhill pretty quickly.

I went to see Dima on his birthday on October 16 … I was at his house and it was the last time. It was apparent that he was struggling with his speech and couldn’t walk at all. But despite all, he was extremely happy to see everyone. He smiled and looked satisfied. He spent about two hours with us – as long as he could. It was clear that this was goodbye.

Then it was the funeral in Moscow.

It was a very emotional and dramatic experience overall. I am sure many people watched the ceremony online. I tried to prepare myself mentally but I crashed at the very end. I lost it when thousands of people started clapping and screaming bravo.

The ceremony was held at Tchaikovsky Hall and a number of political figures and famous artists were making speeches while a huge line of Dima’s fans was entering the hall and stopping by the stage to say a final goodbye – tens of thousands of people in an endless line-up, with tons of flowers in the best of Russian traditions.

It was very quiet in the hall except for Dima’s voice in the background and occasional songs by the choir. So at the very end when they announced the service was over, everyone got up and started to clap. That lasted for over 30 minutes. While that was happening, the coffin was taken outside, where 10,000 people had gathered and created a corridor, throwing flowers on the pavement where men were carrying the coffin to the hearse.

That was truly heartbreaking and simply showed how much Dima was loved by his people. At the cemetery the next day, an old woman approached me. She was dressed very simply and cried all the time – she was such a big fan. She gave me 2,000 rubles (which I think might have been her full pension), asking me to wire this money to the National Hospital of Neurology and Neurosurgery in London, where Dima had been taking treatment. She said she didn’t have a computer and didn’t know how to do this but she wanted to do it in Dima’s name. That’s the impact he made on people’s lives. 

I can’t even begin to tell you how gratifying it is for me that I had a chance to work with him and be instrumental in presenting him in Canada.

I think he will remain with us for a long time before it will start to sink in that he is gone.

Despite how difficult it is for all of us – his friends and colleagues – to absorb this loss, it is totally unbearable for his family – kids, wife and of course his parents. It is simply unimaginable.

But his voice and his smile are here for eternity. He lived like a hero, fought like a hero and died like one.

Thank you, Dima.

–Svetlana Dvoretsky

Cathy ElliottI first met Cathy Elliott back in the early summer of 2004 when I stage managed her in an experimental musical production at the Toronto Fringe Festival. The days were long and intense, yet Cathy’s spirit shone through all of the stress with her laughter-infused genuine warmth and caring for everyone in the company.

More recently, when I started to adapt and direct Shakespeare plays for the DAREArts Foundation’s summer camps our paths crossed again, as Cathy wore many hats for DA in marketing and publicity as well as her now almost legendary work with the foundation in First Nations communities in Northern Ontario. One memorable summer she came to our rescue when the artist in charge of teaching our campers about set design was called away at the last minute. Cathy was there, ideas and plans ready to implement, energy to burn and to spare, to make everything work out well.

In mid-October of this year I heard with delight that she had just completed a very successful first workshop of the new musical Starlight Tours at Sheridan College, and Facebook was full of glowing posts from the participants about the inspiration of working with her. Created by Cathy with Leslie Arden, this musical, like a lot of her most recent work, combined two central themes in her life – her brilliant talent as a musical theatre creator and her desire to honour and share her heritage as an Indigenous artist and proud member of the Mi’kmaq nation.

The next day, October 16, I was shocked to hear that she was gone, killed the night before by a car while walking near her home in Alliston, Ontario. This was even more of a shock since her career was just beginning to soar, with her acclaimed performance this year in Corey Payette’s new musical about the residential schools, Children of God, at Urban Ink in Vancouver and at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa. There was also the successful workshopping of Starlight Tours, her recent one-woman musical Moving Day, and another new musical very close to her heart, Lonecloud, about to begin its public journey at Native Earth Performing Arts’ Weesageechak Festival this week.

This past Sunday, November 19, there was a beautiful celebration of Cathy organized by her partner, Leslie Arden, and Native Earth, at their performance space at Daniel’s Spectrum in Regent Park. It was an amazing evening, not only moving but joyous, full of love and laughter, many stories from her friends and family, and performances from her musicals.

It was also a showcase of her work over the years: several songs from The Talking Stick commissioned by the Charlottetown Festival in 2011, the first all-Indigenous musical performed there; a sweet and moving solo from Silas Marner sung by the ageless Glynis Ranney; scenes from Lonecloud featuring Herbie Barnes in the title role of the Mi’kmaq medicine man who performed in Wild West shows; and excerpts from Fireweeds: Women of the Yukon from 1993, the musical she researched while performing as Diamond Tooth Gertie in the Yukon. The songs from this musical were feminist and galvanizing – why isn’t this a more widely known classic of Canadian musical theatre? The evening wrapped up with a magical rendition of “Stories Have Souls” from the in-progress Lonecloud sung by Arden, and then Cathy herself in a recorded version of From the Heart from The Talking Stick, to a final video photo montage (created by Michael Morey).

These last two songs can be seen as theme songs for Cathy, combining as they do the use of music to tell stories, the content of those stories being rooted in her Indigenous heritage and her desire to explore and share that heritage with the world – and, even if those stories begin in darkness like Starlight Tours, always looking for messages of love and hope.

These goals seem to have really begun when Cathy was the first Indigenous artist invited to join the charitable foundation DAREarts, as they headed up north to Webequie for their first time working with Indigenous youth, using arts, story and song to give confidence and inspire leadership. This was a partnership with Cathy that continued for ten years, only stopped by her passing, and would include her directing a documentary film about the experience, Fill My Hollow Bones, narrated by Graham Greene.

Marilyn Field, founder and director of DAREArts, has spoken about how that first trip for Cathy “was the beginning of her embracing and finding her Indigenous self,” that she seemed to find “her voice coming from deep inside herself.” Laura Mackinnon, lead teacher for DAREArts, who worked with Cathy for five years travelling all over the remote areas of the North (even to Tuktoyaktuk in the Arctic), put into words what many are feeling: “She taught me so much about Indigenous culture, about artistic generosity, storytelling and the power of a limitless imagination.”

Cathy leaves an immense legacy that we are lucky to have.

Sheridan College has established a Cathy Elliott Memorial Scholarship for Indigenous students: Sheridancollege.ca/giving-to-sheridan/ways-to-give/memorial-or-tribute-giving/cathy-elliott-memorial-scholarship.aspx; and DAREArts has created the Cathy Elliott Fund to Empower Indigenous Youth – darearts.com.

In conversation with Tina Pearson

Pauline OliverosNovember 24 2017 will mark one year since the passing of Pauline Oliveros, a beautiful soul who brought to the world the practice of what she called Deep Listening.

To mark this occasion, there will be an event on November 28 at Array Space titled “Gratitude Listening for Pauline Oliveros” for people to gather to listen and sound in gratitude for what Pauline offered.

I spoke recently with Tina Pearson who has had a personal connection with Pauline since the late 1970s, and whose inspiration it was to have this event. Pearson was active in the new music community in Toronto during the 1970s and 80s, as a performer with the New Music Cooperative, a collaborator with TIDE (Toronto Independent Dance Enterprise) among others, and as the editor of Musicworks. Currently living in Victoria, Pearson was here this past summer as composer in residence with Contact Contemporary Music, offering an intensive workshop on Deep Listening at the Canadian Music Centre as well as a community-based Deep Listening workshop that I organized. She also facilitated the creation of a new work titled Root, Blood, Fractal, Breath for the Contact Ensemble performed at Allan Gardens. Pearson is a Deep Listening Certificate holder.

I began by asking about her first encounter with Pauline Oliveros and the impact Pauline had on her as a composer and performer

I first heard of Pauline through Jim Tenney (who taught composition at York University from 1976 to 2000), but met her in person when she came to the Music Gallery in November of 1979, where she was invited to present her Sonic Meditations. Experiencing her practice was quite powerful and validating. Suddenly the world opened up. Pauline seemed untethered from the masculine contexts of contemporary Western European art music and jazz-based free improvisation. She was a brilliant, strong, compassionate and attentive woman presenting an opportunity to everyone to listen in a complete and deep way. a

One of the remarkable things about Pauline was that she could be in the same moment so absolutely connecting personally as well as globally.

During her visit, I recorded and transcribed the interview that Andrew Timar conducted with Pauline for Musicworks. In those days [when I transcribed] I transcribed everything – every pause, nuance and emphasis. Listening so deeply to her voice and her expression while transcribing that interview was quite significant and I think some resonance of that stayed with me.

Afterwards, I kept in touch with her. Pauline was incredibly encouraging and generous with her time and support, especially of women. I started working with her Sonic Meditations, and incorporated her ideas about listening and attention in collaborations with the New Music Cooperative, with TIDE and in a project with David Mott titled Oxygen Tonic. I also started teaching Sound Studies at OCAD in 1983, and used the Sonic Meditations in those classes each year. Looking back now, I’m aware that there was an opening up in the thinking that many of us had about our approach to music which were in part influenced by Pauline’s ideas of embodied listening as performers and creators.

I was already considering the separation between audience and performer in concert music, for example, so one of the welcome revelations, among many, about Pauline’s approach was her absolute commitment to taking into account the experience of everyone: the witnesses, the audience, the participants, and the performers.”

Tina PearsonI then asked Tina to relate these earlier experiences to her recent experiences in Toronto this past summer facilitating Deep Listening Workshops:

Facilitating the Deep Listening intensives this summer was heartening. The participants were very open and able to quickly understand and take in this practice. The capacity for listening was there, and as Pauline believed would happen it is continually growing and deepening: The more listening there is, the more listening there will be.

I then asked her to say more about the focus and intention for the upcoming “Gratitude Listening for Pauline Oliveros” event happening on November 28 at Array Space:

The idea for this free event is to acknowledge the one-year anniversary of Pauline’s passing and to give gratitude to her. The quality, depth and acuity of Pauline’s sensibility about listening is rare. There’s nobody else who has embodied a listening practice like she has. Her courageous approach to listening and attention, and letting that guide where one goes and how one approaches life and one’s work, is something that’s so essential, and quite a beacon. The deep compassion that comes when one is attending to listening is important right now – the notion that listening can be a response to anything.

There will be a performance by several local performers of Pauline Oliveros’ work Arctic Air, which includes the text The Earth Worm Also Sings, written originally for the 1992 Glenn Gould Technology and Music Symposium held in Toronto. In addition, everyone will be able to participate in two of her Sonic Meditations, and there will be an opportunity for people to speak about their memories and Pauline’s impact. And of course, everyone is welcome.

Wendalyn Bartley is a Toronto-based composer and electro-vocal sound artist. sounddreaming@gmail.com.

2208-Remembering-Banner.jpg2208-Remembering.jpgAt The WholeNote we knew the late Bill McQueen as a founding member and forever champion of the Counterpoint Community Orchestra, based out of the 519 Church St. Community Centre in Toronto. Bill played clarinet and served in various capacities as a board member and chairperson from 1987 to 2016. Counterpoint Community Orchestra’s regular classified ad, encouraging musicians of all kinds to join the orchestra, was updated by Bill in person only a few weeks before he died. He appeared in our office, late on a winter afternoon, to make sure the ad was all in order, and chatted with me about the upcoming December concert. Then he was gone. And he will be missed.

McQueen was deeply committed to Counterpoint’s continuity not only as an inclusive community orchestra, but one which emerged from and is still giving back to the LGBTQ community. He was also the guy sitting at the back with the sweet clarinet, doggedly patient about taking the time to get things right, with a warm smile and a great sense of humour, who liked to think up entertaining names and themes for concerts.

McQueen’s life touched and changed the lives of so many that it’s very hard to know where to begin, other than at the beginning. He was born in Alva, Oklahoma, into a family of musical people. After high school, he moved to New York City where he earned a B.A. in humanities from the City University of New York. A person of profoundly humane politics he left the USA and its war with Vietnam in 1969 and moved to Canada, first to Montreal and then to Toronto where he earned an M.A. in adult education and learning from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at U of T. He worked in New York City as a radio program host for about ten years and later at the Globe and Mail inToronto.

He was the editor, for several years, of the Canadian Association for Studies in Adult Education journal and worked to engage students and academics in that field in the promotion of democratic citizenship and lifelong learning. McQueen’s personal lifelong musical activities are a testament to the way he led by example.

He was a community organizer and tireless advocate for social justice. He worked as an adult educator, also as a consultant for small to large corporations on including people with disabilities – not just in hiring practices but in the company culture. He co-founded Fireweed Media Productions whose work gave rise to The Disability Network, a groundbreaking series that ran on CBC Television from 1990 to 1997.

Author, former journalist and broadcast producer, Cynthia Reyes, wrote on her website in A Strong Voice, Silent Now: “Most of Bill’s work was voluntary. He was a musician, and belonged to his beloved symphony, but there’s an impressive list of other voluntary initiatives…many of them focused on getting people with disabilities employed in the media, or changing the way the media portrays them.” Read more about this aspect of Bill McQueen’s life, including Reyes’ personal account of how he helped her at a time of great need, at cynthiareyes.com.

Bill McQueen passed away suddenly in February 2017 from a brain hemorrhage – a complication of his health conditions. Bill is survived by his longtime partner Bon Posavanh; his brother, Jim McQueen, and Jim’s wife Beth Wolf; his niece Kathy McQueen; and his nephew James McQueen. And by his orchestra.

 Jack Buell

2205 Remembering Hamilton 1“Darling, there’s a market for everything!”  Whether in reference to an obscure Massenet opera or his specially designed outfits from Northbound Leather, Stuart more than proved the point during his 87 years on planet Earth.

Hello Bohème! was my official introduction to Stuart Hamilton. I had of course heard of him but had never experienced the force of his personality firsthand. Stuart had dreamed up a potted version of the Puccini masterpiece for Theatre in the Dell, one of Toronto’s then-flourishing cabaret hotspots. We’re talking 1973, dimly lit second-floor rooms, cheap wine and suspect Italian food. Roxolana Roslak and Michael Burgess and Lynn Blaser and Avo Kittask were the two pairs of lovers. The remainder of the cast was me…filling in for the chorus, sugar daddy Alcindoro, Parpignol and the children’s chorus. Stuart, though, was the big star. He had been hailed as a comedian and pianist in Beyond the Fringe and his name is what drew in the crowds. Night after night for over five months, he’d sit at the rickety old spinet playing a tune or two from La Bohème, the phone on the piano would ring and he’d answer with a lilting “Hello… Bohème… you’re going to see Bohème? Darling, you’ll love it…!” And away we’d go on his guided tour through the life and death of poor doomed Mimi. Who knows…the surprisingly robust market for Hello Bohème! may have planted the seed for his big idea.

And that was Opera in Concert.

Stuart believed passionately in the wealth of talent to be found right here in Toronto and despaired that so many fine young singers felt they had to go to New York or Europe to get ahead. His other passion was French opera. So, why not a concert series showcasing rarely heard French opera performed by rarely heard Canadian singers? That first season (1974/75), Thomas’ Hamlet, Massenet’s Thaïs and Berlioz’s Béatrice et Bénédict hit the boards of the Jane Mallett Theatre and the rest is history. What history does not reveal is that Stuart coached all the singers for free and never took a salary as founder, artistic director and pianist for Opera in Concert. As it turned out, the market for less familiar operatic fare – French and not-so-French! - was significant and soon enough the series was expanded to four operas, some performed with orchestra.

My partner Guillermo (Bill) Silva-Marin and I were in that first OIC season; Bill was Hamlet and I was Marcellus, the guy who sees the ghost and disappears never to be heard from again. The full story can be found in Stuart’s memoir, Opening Windows: Confessions of a Canadian Vocal Coach. Over the years, Bill and I appeared for Opera in Concert numerous times and Stuart became a valued coach, mentor and, most importantly, a great friend.

Stuart was born in Regina at the dawn of the Great Depression, third son of a lawyer and his North Dakota-born wife, and brother to two sisters, Dorothy and Patricia. His first brush with fame came in 1939 when he was greatly applauded for his skating routine, performed to Rimsky-Korsakov’s Flight of the Bumblebee. The ten-year-old’s performance was notable for remarkable spins and his bumblebee costume. Growing up, the prairie boy practised piano, joined the high school drama club and listened fanatically to the Met’s Saturday Afternoon at the Opera broadcast. By 1947, the call of neon and concrete had become too great and he moved to Toronto to seek his fortune. During his salad days, he was an usher at the Eaton Auditorium, conducted Broadway shows in Buffalo, gave recitals in New York and London, taught at the Hamilton Conservatory, toured with Lois Marshall and Maureen Forrester and occasionally conducted for June Kowalchuk’s early version of Opera Hamilton.

The piano was Stuart’s principal means of musical expression and he maintained a fractious relationship with those 88 keys right up until the end. His forte was French high romanticism and composers such as Mozart and Bach rather intimidated him. Nevertheless and because “Darling, I’ll do anything to make a buck,” he and a trio of his singer friends turned up on the Brunch with Bach series at Harbourfront. To his great surprise, The Globe and Mail critic praised his Bach style in lavish fashion and gave everybody a good review. Stuart’s response was something on the order of “What does he know, I left out half the notes!”

2205 Remembering Hamilton 2Never anybody’s idea of a homebody, Stuart was a great traveller and he did not stay in dumps. “Leave me alone, I’m a rich millionaire” is another of the lines his close friends remember, a zinger he’d deliver whenever anyone questioned his fondness for the George V in Paris or invite buddies to dinner at La Tour d’Argent. During one memorable trip to San Juan, he checked into and out of three first rate hotels: El Convento, Normandie and the renowned Condado Beach Hotel. The Condado was particularly trying because each night he was serenaded by a choir of Puerto Rican frogs…coquis. They are thumb-sized little buggers, but Pavarotti had nothing on them when it came to volume. According to Stuart their cry was a piercing minor ninth (co-QUI) and it drove him mad!

Looking back at his multi-faceted career, one wonders how he found time to do it all and still keep up his daily coaching schedule, which over the years included a who’s who of Canada’s vocal elite…and some of the rest of us! Quizmaster of CBC’s Saturday Afternoon at the Opera from 1982 till 2007, he also appeared regularly as a panelist, and occasional guest quizmaster, on the Met’s broadcasts from Lincoln Center. He was the first music director of the Canadian Opera Company Ensemble, an in-demand lecturer and adjudicator for competitions such as the George London and Sullivan Foundation Awards, Mexico’s Oralia Dominguez Competition, the CBC Young Performers’ Competition and Bathroom Divas, while in his later years, countless young singers benefitted from his wise counsel as a recital adjudicator for the Royal Conservatory of Music and the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Music. Stuart was appointed a member of the Order of Canada in 1984, won the Toronto Arts Award in 1989, received the Governor General’s Commemorative Medal for the 125th Anniversary of Confederation in 1992, the first Ruby Award from Opera Canada in 2000 and the Beckmesser Award from the Los Angeles Opera in 2004. Dalhousie University awarded him an honourary doctorate in 2008 and he received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012.

My last memories of Stuartissimo, as so many of us called him, were positive ones. Even though he became increasingly fragile due to the effects of prostate cancer, he was alert and energized when the subject was opera. I went over one Saturday afternoon last December and he wouldn’t be interrupted…Manon Lescaut was on. After the opera, he made some incisive comments about the development of Puccini’s genius, from the boyish Le Villi through to Manon Lescaut and the triumph of La Bohème; then he let me know that it was naptime. A couple of days later, Bill and I were invited for Christmas dinner, which he himself was determined to cook! This turned into a hilarious and somewhat chaotic affair featuring turkey, mashed potatoes and rutabagas; Dorothy later told me that they forgot to serve the coleslaw and Apple Betty.

And now he is gone.

Much will be written, many stories will be told and we will all cherish the memory of a man whose life was dedicated to music.

A Memorial for Stuart Hamilton will be held at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts on Sunday,March 5, 2017 at 3pm. Admission is free. Please call the St. Lawrence Centre Box Office at 416-366-7723 to reserve a seat. Those wishing to honour Stuart’s memory are invited to make a contribution to the Stuart Hamilton Memorial Fund for Emerging Artists.

Henry Ingram, a reformed tenor, is Managing Director of Dean Artists Management and Director of the Concerts Division.  

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