In my column last month I introduced two new Toronto initiatives, both barely launched in September, and both in their way aiming to address issues of interest to students, performers, presenters and audiences of globally sensitive music. So I’ll begin this month’s column by following up on these.

Polyphonic Ground

Polyphonic Ground, an umbrella organization of 12 live music presenters “committed to building and sustaining Toronto as a global music city” kicked off its first monthly concert at the Revival Bar on September 14.

On October 12 the series continues at the same venue, this time presented by two well-established local organizations. Batuki Music Society promotes African music and art, while Uma Nota Culture is a “cultural production house focusing on Brazilian, Latin, Caribbean, Funk and Soul music.” As in the first concert, these two organizations collaborate to present a program geared to spark transcultural musical discovery.

Three groups are featured in the concert. Matatu Express performs a highly dance-friendly blend of pan-African music genres including Ghanaian highlife and palm wine, Malagasy salegy and blues, and East African benga and rumba. West-African dancer Mabinty Sylla demonstrates how it is done back home.

Beny Esguerra & New Tradition serves up live hip hop, R&B and soul with Afro-Colombian percussion, a blend they evocatively dub “Afro-Native Colombian music from an inner city perspective via Jane-Finch, Tkaronto.” The third group, Future Primitive, presents what they have dubbed “tropical soul” with elements of Latin American and Caribbean, along with catchy bespoke songwriting.

Labyrinth Musical Workshop Ontario Launch

I was on hand for the September 15 Labyrinth Musical Workshop Ontario launch and fundraiser held at the 918 Bathurst Centre. The concert and reception had a warm, mixed-community feel. The buzzy excitement of the launch of a new venture hung in the air and was reflected in the music: there were four ample sets by various groups and individual musicians. They covered aspects of Persian, Southeastern European, Turkish/Kurdish and Middle Eastern musical ground.

The most unusual single item was the joint group performance of the tender lilting Kurdish wedding song Dar Hejiroke, bringing all the performers together onstage. For me this performance perhaps most clearly reflected LMWO’s mission, which includes the fostering of “detailed study of particular modal musical traditions and encounters between different traditions, encouraging intercultural understanding, artistic development and an appreciation of music as embracing all aspects of life.”

LMWO is a significant development on the Toronto music scene, one which not only connects with the transnational movement Ross Daley instituted in Greece, but also animates regional musical threads here in the GTA. LMWO’s website, www.labyrinthontario.com, is now fully operational. It’s worth a visit to see what workshops by leading modal music practitioners are planned for next May.

Festival of Arabic Music and Arts (FAMA)

Canadian Arabic OrchestraThe Festival of Arabic Music and Arts launches October 28 at Koerner Hall, then moves to various locations in the GTA and in Montréal until November 12. Its presenting organization is the Canadian Arabic Orchestra (CAO) based in Toronto, co-founded by the husband-and-wife team of qanun expert and CAO president Wafa Al Zaghal, and pianist Lamees Audeh, its music director.

Not only is this the festival’s inaugural year, but it’s my first encounter with the CAO. Audeh filled me in on the backstory in a phone interview.

“Wafa and I formed our duo in 2009,” Audeh recounted. “Then in 2014 we formed an ensemble of five musicians: piano, Arabic violin, oud, qanun and tabla [aka. darabuka]. This group initially performed a repertoire of well-known classical songs drawn from across the Arabic world, both instrumental and vocal.”

Today the orchestra boasts a much larger complement including ney, oud, piano, clarinet, a string section of violins, viola, cello, bass and three percussionists. This instrumentation reflects the mission of the CAO to combine Western and Arabic classical musics.

“Our repertoire is evolving, along with the makeup of the orchestra,” noted Audeh. “The arrangements for our upcoming festival were prepared by me, Wafa, and composers and arrangers drawn from the orchestra and across the Arabic diaspora. Our approach puts less emphasis on [Arab] ethnicity and rather more on the [Arabic] music itself.

The first FAMA concert on October 28 at Koerner Hall brings Iraqi guitarist, singer and composer Ilham Al-Madfai together with the Toronto instrumental group Sultans of String. Al-Madfai formed The Twisters, Iraq’s first rock and roll band, in 1961. His subsequent synthesis of Western guitar, popular song and Iraqi music has kept his popularity as a performer alive in his native country and throughout the Middle East. Led by Canadian violinist and music producer Chris McKhool, the multiple award-winning Sultans of String quintet presents audiences with a “genre-hopping passport.” Celtic reels, Manouche jazz, flamenco, South Asian ragas, and Cuban and Arabic folk music mix onstage, “all presented with pop sensibilities, forms and lengths,” notes McKhool.

October 29 FAMA presents “Jazzy Arabia” at the Maja Prentice Library, Mississauga. Five members of the Canadian Arabic Orchestra perform jazz standards reinterpreted through an Arabic musical lens, as well as Arabic songs rendered in a jazz idiom. The common ground here may well turn out to be the spirit of melodic improvisation and taqsim, which animates both jazz and Middle Eastern performance practices.

November 1 the festival takes a deeper, more mystical turn, when Syrian oud virtuosa and singer Waed Bouhassoun performs solo at the Revue Cinema, Toronto. In 2008 Bouhassoun – who has been performing onstage since she was 10 – received star billing at the inaugural concert of “Damascus, Cultural Capital of the Arab World” held at the Alhambra Palace in Granada, receiving extensive international media coverage. In 2010 she was awarded the Coup de Coeur by the Académie Charles-Cros for her first solo album.

Six more concerts in the first half of November round out FAMA’s first iteration. Please return to these pages next month to find out more about them.

Autorickshaw’s 15th Anniversary Season

Autorickshaw's Ed HanleyI’ve followed the Toronto band Autorickshaw’s career through its release of award-winning albums, concerts and international tours. This season marks its 15th anniversary, a good time to take stock and reflect on the changing landscape of global music and how it has developed for musicians and audiences alike.

By the time you read this, Autorickshaw will have already officially released its fifth studio album Meter on September 28 and 29 at Small World Music Centre. They will tour the album this fall in Southern Ontario and then in India, with a follow-up concert back in Toronto. I’ve had a quick listen to Meter’s 12 tracks. The music moves confidently between commissioned compositions, covers and many overt as well as covert references to the music of the subcontinent.

I spoke to founding band member Ed Hanley about Autorickshaw’s evolution, first asking about changes in the scene since the early 2000s.

“The music industry’s completely changed, of course,” he says. “For instance, our first CD wasn’t even on iTunes (though it was on Bandcamp). Our new release will be available on a number of online stores.”

Hanley directed the video of one of the songs on Meter, the polished Hare Shiva, recently published on YouTube. I was struck by the presence of the personal, the trans-musical genre references, the easy musicality of the Autorickshaw trio, as well as by the prominence of Odissi dance.

“That’s certainly another change from 15 years ago,” commented Hanley. “YouTube has become the main discovery platform for music, and you really need to have a music video now – though it is of course a major extra expense. I feel you need two types of videos now: live videos to show presenters and audiences what the music looks and sounds like in concert, and an ‘art video’ to serve as a companion piece to the album.”

Presenting music with roots on several continents often means having to explain the various constituent elements. “I feel we have to explain less about our music today,” said Hanley. “Speaking for myself, more people seem to know what a tabla is than during Autorickshaw’s early days. I get much less ‘is that bongos?’”

“When we started out we were aware of the world music category, specifically the Indo-Jazz sub-category we felt our music fit. Since then we’ve moved in many different musical directions, and the industry has also evolved. Musically speaking, today we don’t feel the need to be concerned with genre. We’re more comfortable in our musical skins now.”

I’ll be keeping tabs on Autorickshaw as they roll out their season and embark on their cross-India tour.

The fall theatre season in Toronto is usually overshadowed by TIFF, so most seasons launch after the end of that festival. One company that did start during the film festival in mid-September was Red Sky Performance, launching their 2017/18 slate of shows with the magical Miigis transforming the military colonial setting of Fort York into a site of myth and reconciliation. Red Sky is all over the city this year, it seems (as well as touring internationally), and, as such, is a perfect exemplar of two themes emerging from season announcements: the increased presence of Indigenous artists and companies on the Toronto scene on their own and in collaboration with other companies; and collaboration itself, which can be seen across the board in the arts scene.

On October 7, Red Sky partners with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra to present, as part of Canada 150, the world premiere of Adizokan, a new genre-bending creation that explores an image-rich experience of Indigenous dance, video, music, electroacoustic and orchestral music. Next they collaborate with Canadian Stage to present the Toronto debut of Backbone (November 2 to 12), a cutting edge Indigenous dance creation noted for its masculine ferocity, inspired by the spine of the continents (originally co-commissioned with the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity).

Canadian Stage

BackboneCollaboration is at the heart of the Canadian Stage season, a theme chosen to celebrate their 35th year and featuring a plethora of genre-bending creations from around the country, most involving music, and many choreographed movement, as integral ingredients. Their first production (before Backbone), as previewed in our September issue, is a collaboration with the Musical Stage Company and Yonge Street Theatricals: Life After, a newly expanded and developed version of the Toronto Fringe Festival musical hit by Britta Johnson, directed by Robert McQueen. Opening on September 29 and running until October 22, Life After is already generating a lot of buzz. Along with theatrical productions at the Bluma Appel and Berkeley Street Theatres there is also an intriguing wide-ranging music series which includes (in March) a bringing together of multi-award-winning Inuit throat singer Tanya Tagaq with trailblazing Greenlandic mask dancer Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory in a concert event combining tour-de-force vocals, kinetic movement and powerful spoken word.

Buddies in Bad Times

Bathory also collaborates with Canadian poet, composer and performance artist Evalyn Parry for Kiinalik: These Sharp Tools (October 24 to November 5) at Buddies in Bad Times, in a co-production with Theatre Passe Muraille as part of a new initiative between those two companies to share resources and introduce audiences to the work being done on other stages in Toronto. Both powerful storytellers, Parry and Bathory, who met on an Arctic expedition from Iqaluit to Greenland, will use music, movement and video as well as spoken word to map new territory together in a work that gives voice and body to the histories, culture and climate we’ve inherited, and asks how we reckon with “these sharp tools.”

Tarragon

Across the city, Tarragon Theatre has two musicals as part of its mainstage season: in January Richard Rose directs a new version of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, reimagined through the powerful lens of rock ‘n’ roll with a score and music direction by Thomas Ryder Payne. Earlier, in November, Tarragon presents the Macau Experimental Theatre/Music Picnic/Point View Art Association Production of Mr. Shi and His Lover, another show that began life at a festival, in this case the 2016 SummerWorks festival where it was an award-winning hit. Performed in English and Mandarin and with performers from Toronto and Macau, Mr. Shi and His Lover, written by Wong Teng Chi and Njo Kong Kie with music and music direction by Kie, tells the real-life story of a French diplomat in China who falls in love with a mysterious opera singer. With music inspired by Chinese opera and vintage pop from both East and West, the show will be performed in Mandarin with English surtitles.

(Kie, who is also the long-serving music director of Montreal’s La La La Human Steps, also collaborates with Canadian Stage toward the end of their season [April 26 to May 6], introducing the Macau-based Folga Gaang Project in their Toronto debut with the hybrid musical performance Picnic in the Cemetery.)

Soulpepper

Almost cheek by jowl with Canadian Stage downtown, Soulpepper presents a more traditional season but again, music plays an important part, with the blues-infused Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom in the spring. Soulpepper’s expanded concert series also begins in October with Riverboat Coffee House: The Yorkville Scene (October 6 to 14), bringing to life the 1964 launching pad of Canadian singer-songwriters like Gordon Lightfoot, Ian and Sylvia, Murray McLauchlan, Joni Mitchell and Neil Young. Mike Ross will music-direct a lineup of multi-disciplinary artists as they celebrate the stories and songs that made Yorkville the place to be in the free-loving 60s. The series also includes A Very Soulpepper Christmas (December 15), Prohibition, the Concert (February 9, 10, 14) and A Moveable Feast; Paris in the 20s (March 30 to April 2). Created by Albert Schultz, with overall music direction by Mike Ross, the scripted concert series has a lively energy marked by its collaborative nature and its bringing together of different Toronto artists and musicians for each event.

Soundstreams

Michael Greyeyes - photo by Jeremy MimnaghDowntown and uptown, venue depending on the type of event, is Toronto’s eclectic and experimental yet classical Soundstreams, where music combines with dance and theatre in ever-evolving combinations.

Soundstreams’ 35th season opens very strongly with two productions in October. On October 16 at Koerner Hall, Northern Encounters celebrates Canada 150 and Finland at 100 with Europe’s northernmost professional orchestra, the Lapland Chamber Orchestra, performing music by Jean Sibelius, Harry Somers and Claude Vivier and, most interestingly for me, includes a new dance piece by powerhouse Canadian choreographer Michael Greyeyes to Vivier’s Zipangu exploring the idea of “the city of gold.”

A bit later in the month (October 26 to November 4) at Crows Theatre’s new permanent space (at 345 Carlaw) Soundstreams collaborates with Crows’ artistic director Chris Abraham (whose production of Moliere’s Tartuffe is currently electrifying and delighting audiences at the Stratford Festival) on the world premiere of the first staged production of Claude Vivier’s Musik für das Ende.

The wonderful Soundstreams Salon 21 series has also begun and continues throughout the season, offering audiences the opportunity to meet artists involved in upcoming events and to explore the inspiration behind those events, usually in the intimate setting of the Gardiner Museum. The Salon on October 19 (at Crows Theatre), “Endings: Lieke van der Voort and Jumblies Theatre,” will feature a special rapid-creation performance inspired by Vivier’s Musik für das Ende.

Quick Picks

Sept 22 to Oct 7: Hart House Theatre pushes the boundaries with what should be a strong production of John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask’s rock ‘n’ roll Hedwig and the Angry Inch. (WARNING: Coarse language, mature themes and sexually explicit scenes.)

Oct 24 to Dec 24: For fans of Meatloaf, David Mirvish presents the North American premiere of Brian Steinman’s Bat out of Hell The Musical at the Ed Mirvish Theatre. A critical and popular hit already in England, the run here has quickly been extended to December 24.

October 20 and 21: Catch one of Toronto Masque Theatre’s iconic double bills in TMT’s final year: Dido and Aeneas/Aeneas and Dido, pairing Purcell’s classic with James Rolfe’s contemporary take on the same tale, starring Krisztina Szabó, Alexander Dobson, Andrea Ludwig and Jacqueline Woodley. At Jeanne Lamon Hall, Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre.

October 28 and 29: Gilbert and Sullivan fans might want to catch TrypTych’s production H.M.S. Parliament  at Trinity Presbyterian Church West Hall, 2737 Bayview Ave. With a script by Canadian William Henry Miller and music by Arthur Sullivan, it’s an intriguing music-theatre piece featuring eminent Canadian figures Sir John A. MacDonald and Sir Alexander Mackenzie.

My calendar says that fall has begun, but the weatherman tells me that he has declared a “weather alert.” Whichever it is doesn’t make much difference for the community band scene. The summer events have passed and the events scheduled for this time of year will go ahead as planned unless our weather deteriorates to the kind we have seen in the Caribbean recently.

The Summer Scene

The Shimoda Family Consort - In the left hand of the performer at far right is a recorder even smaller than a piccolo.In some ways, from my perspective, the local community music scene has been a bit benign, with most groups emphasizing Canada 150 and the works of Canadian composers. Over the official summer period I heard many of the same works many times over with only minor variations. The one musical event which stood out for me was not by a community band, but by an excellent Baroque recorder consort. In the June issue I mentioned that I was looking forward to hearing the Shimoda Family Consort at the Foster Memorial. Well, on August 25 I was not disappointed. This is truly a family ensemble. Mother, father and two sons all move around playing an amazing array of recorders, from one somewhat smaller than a piccolo to the largest, which is taller than a contrabassoon. In this concert, in addition to playing a couple of different recorders, the mother also accompanied the others on harpsichord and played one harpsichord solo.

While I used the term “Baroque” to describe this group, most of their repertoire was from a period earlier than that usually referred to as Baroque. From such well-known names as Bach, Vivaldi and Telemann backward in time to such unknowns as Ludwig Senfl (1486-1543) and Gregorio Allegri (1582-1652), the music was all very enjoyable. Newest works on the program were two pieces from Mozart’s The Magic Flute. Such music on a beautiful summer evening in this architecturally stunning venue has left its mark in my memory.

Coming soon

The most notable event on the community band horizon this fall – that we are aware of – is a “50th Anniversary Concert” and banquet for the Northdale Concert Band. Having played in this band for some years in the late 1970s and early 1980s, under the direction of conductors Carl Hammond and James McKay, this event is of particular personal interest.

The Northdale Concert Band had its beginnings in 1967, with a group of students who had originally met and first played instrumental music together at Willowdale Junior High School and later played together at Northview Heights Secondary School in Toronto. There, along with other interested music students, they formed the band. The name Northdale came from the names of these two schools. Music teachers Ted Graham and Wayne Moss took on the band, held rehearsals once a week, and gave concerts open to the public. As time passed, the band became an adult group.  None of its original members remain in the band today. However, the band has its roots in the community, and has developed into a skilled group of dedicated amateurs and many music professionals, with a number of the members having been with the group for several decades. Many members play and teach music professionally; others teach music in the elementary and secondary schools; and others are students in the music faculties of York University or the University of Toronto. Other members are in varied careers, but all turn out reliably to rehearse and perform in various community venues.

Through the years, there have been many fine Northdale conductors, too numerous to mention here. Stephen Chenette, professor emeritus, Faculty of Music, University of Toronto, was the conductor from 1996 until 2010 when the present conductor, Joseph Resendes, took over the baton. Born in Toronto, Resendes has extensive professional credits as an active conductor, composer, performer and educator, and is currently in the process of completing his PhD in the field of musicology, ethnomusicology focusing on wind studies, conducting and the development of community music in Canada. As well as being the musical director and conductor of the Northdale Concert Band, he also currently holds positions as the music director of East York Concert Band, St. Mary’s Church Choir, VL Sax Quartet and as assistant music director of Ecos of Portugal.

A feature of this anniversary concert will be the world premiere of a newly commissioned piece, Dance Suite, by renowned Canadian composer Gary Kulesha, composer advisor to the Toronto Symphony Orchestra since 1995. Although principally a composer, Kulesha is active as both a pianist and conductor, and as a teacher. In 1986, he represented Canada at the International Rostrum of Composers in Paris, and has twice been nominated for JUNO awards, for his Third Chamber Concerto (in 1990) and again in 2000 for The Book of Mirrors.

Another feature of this Northdale anniversary program will be guest soloist Vanessa Fralick, associate principal trombone of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Prior to joining the TSO, she played three seasons as acting associate principal trombone of the St. Louis Symphony, after winning her first orchestral position with the San Antonio Symphony in 2009 while pursuing her master’s degree at The Juilliard School with Joseph Alessi of the New York Philharmonic. She completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Toronto, and is an alumna of the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra, National Youth Orchestra and the National Academy Orchestra of Canada. She occasionally plays alongside her brass-playing parents in the Niagara Symphony Orchestra in her hometown of St. Catharines, Ontario.

The concert and banquet take place on Saturday, November 4 at 3pm, at the Salvation Army Citadel, Lawrence and Warden Ave. (2021 Lawrence Ave. E.) in Toronto.

A unique aspect of Northdale Concert Band is their music publishing venture known as Northdale Music Press Limited. The project of issuing new works by Canadian composers for concert band began with Ontario Arts Council funding in 1985, when six new works were commissioned by Northdale Concert Band. The band travelled to Expo 86 in Vancouver and performed the world premiere of these compositions at the Canada and Ontario Pavilions. The scope of publication has increased, and today, Northdale Music Press publishes compositions for other ensembles, including brass band, stage band, and wind octet.

CBA Community Band Weekend

As if they didn’t have enough to plan for with their anniversary concert and banquet, the Northdale Concert Band is hosting the Canadian Band Association’s Fall Community Band Weekend, Friday October 13 to Sunday October 15 at the Church of St. Jude’s Wexford, 10 Howarth Avenue in Toronto. Visit either Northdale or CBA websites for details.

New Horizons Bands

As in past years the news from New Horizons Bands is great. The Toronto group’s annual “Instrument Exploration Night” was a huge success, with 22 participants and six instrument coaches honking, tooting and banging on all the instruments. Many signed up for beginner classes. With 45 new members this year, total membership now stands at well over 260, spread out over eight bands and two jazz groups. And it’s still not too late to join for this year.

Their annual Remembrance Day concert, “A Night to Remember,” is scheduled for November 10 at 7:30pm at Church of the Holy Trinity, 85 Livingston Rd., Scarborough; their annual band festival is set for January 27, 2018.

With this kind of growth it was decided that the organizational structure should be updated. So, New Horizons Toronto incorporated last year to facilitate adding stability to the group should Dan Kapp and his wife Lisa decide to move on to new challenges. The board is working to figure out how to cover all of the activities that need to be done to run such a large group.

Meanwhile, the York Region New Horizons group, which just started last year, held an event which they called “Test Drive a Band Instrument,” and will have started classes by now at Cosmo Music in Richmond Hill. Their classes are all on Mondays with morning, afternoon and evening sessions. For information contact Doug Robertson at 416-457-6316 or nhbyrdirector@gmail.com.

Hannaford Street Silver Band

As they enter their 34th season, the Hannaford Street Silver Band is adding even more colour and variety to their annual concert programming. Over the years they have gradually added other musical artists to broaden the taste and colour from the traditional all brass band repertoire. This year it is even broader. Every concert will have a unique flavour. Their opening concert “Tango!” will feature, as guests, the Payadora Tango Ensemble. This quartet of violin, accordion, piano and double bass with their traditional Argentine Tango music will certainly be a departure from what we have come to expect at an all brass band concert. That’s Sunday, October 22 at 3pm in the Jane Mallett Theatre.

 

Sometimes it’s something in the water. Sometimes it’s something in the air. Sometimes you just scratch your head and say “weird, eh?”

The case of John Blow

Not exactly a household word in musical circles, John Blow (who it is reasonable to assume was born sometime not too long before his baptismal date of 23 February 1649, was an English Baroque composer and organist whose most enduring musical claim to fame was that he was a teacher of Henry Purcell, who was born on September 10, 1659. Purcell, in contrast to Blow was, right up until the beginning of the 20th century, if not a household name, the most widely recognized English-born composer. (Blow’s other claim to fame, I suppose, is that he outlived Purcell, who died in 1695, by 13 years.)

Purcell’s name has certainly featured regularly in this magazine over the 22 years and a bit we have been in business. But as of the end of January 2002, Blow’s name, to the best of my knowledge, had never appeared in our listings or anywhere else in the magazine.

And then all of a sudden, there he was! Twice. In both cases in the context of concerts featuring the music of Blow and Purcell. Two concerts titled, roughly, “Music of John Blow and Henry Purcell.” Same date (March 2, 2002), same time, and within one block of each other, on Bloor St. W., at Trinity-St.Paul’s and Church of the Redeemer respectively.

Weird, eh?

Sometimes coincidences like these can be easily explained by significant anniversary dates. Take the case of Glenn Gould, for example, who was born in September 25, 1932; all years ending in a two or a seven tend to become an occasion for heightened remembrance of Gould’s contribution to music and art. This month, for instance, Gould would have turned 85. Two of our writers this issue, David Jaeger and Paul Ennis, both take note of occurrences relating to this anniversary – one well worth commemorating, in my humble opinion, especially when (according to a recent (and admittedly entirely random and unscientific) survey, an alarming number of students currently enrolled in the Glenn Gould School at the Royal Conservatory cannot name the musical instrument that Glenn Gould played.

Miller’s Tales

Nowhere near as seismically weird as the case of John Blow, but interesting nonetheless, is the following:

A month ago I received an enthusiastic message from Stuart Broomer, a longtime regular reviewer of jazz recordings for this magazine, asking if we had seen a copy of Mark Miller’s latest book. (With at least a dozen books to his name and countless articles, Miller is very likely Canada’s leading jazz writer, photographer and journalist. Safe to say, he is at this moment in time probably better known than drummer Claude Ranger, the subject of this latest book (although I am sure Miller would be only too happy if his book helped to redress that fact.) Broomer’s cogent review of Miller’s book appears in this issue.

Meanwhile, independent of the above development, contributor Ori Dagan submitted a story for the issue on the second annual Kensington Market Jazz Festival, headed up with a short quote from, you guessed it, none other than Mark Miller, taken not from one of Miller’s books but, this being the century we live in, from a recent Facebook post by Miller, musing on the implications, mostly positive, of this year’s TD Toronto Jazz Festival’s decision to refocus its operations on a single neighbourhood, in this case the once-and-(perhaps)-future Village of Yorkville.

At risk of stealing Dagan’s thunder, the Miller quote seized on for the KMJF story bears repeating. Musing on how festivals, driven by commercial imperatives, find themselves drifting further and further away, musically, from why they started in the first place, Miller says “I’ve always thought that if the “jazz festival” model no longer works the way it once did, then change the model — not the music.”

Changing the Model

In the arts, it’s not only festivals that find themselves driven by commercial imperatives further and further from their roots, philosophically and geographically. As people with means flee the suburbs for gentrified city cores, property values and rents skyrocket and the working urban poor (most musicians and cultural workers I know among them) find ourselves struggling to hang on in the neighbourhoods where up till now we have managed to both live and work. Sadly, vibrant urban culture is, almost by definition, a noisy messy thing, requiring constant negotiation between those who need to make noise and those who expect the same right to peace and quiet in the downtown as they enjoyed in the suburbs they have forsaken.

Readers have seen me railing in this space against those seeking or inhabiting public office indulging in the rhetoric of phrases like “making Toronto into a real music city.” As I have said before, and will doubtless say again, the problem is that if one buys into that formula one is rejecting the idea that we already are a real music city. We do not need more mega-sized venues and spectacles, all driven by what Mark Miller calls “commercial imperatives” and all taking place in ring-fenced isolation from our neighbourhoods.

So, as you get back into the post-summer humdrum of urban living, do your bit! Scour our listings for the small stuff as well as the large. Support your local small-scale nodes of music and culture and art, as well as the large. Make music where you live, and continue to fight for the right to live where you make music.

To the betterment of all.

publisher@thewholenote.com

Perfection, and in particular, the pursuit of perfection in the performing arts, can be an infectious thing. An artist who has attained a high standard of perfection cannot tolerate anything less than that standard in their ongoing work.

Thus it was with pianist, composer and media artist Glenn Gould, whose obsession with and ability to achieve perfection in his recordings is well documented.

I experienced this on a personal level during our work together, making broadcasts on CBC Radio during the last eight years of his life. His approach to making radio paralleled his philosophy as a recording artist: every last detail would be determined by him as the creator of an artistic act.

Glenn Gould at Stratford, Ontario, 1956 - photo by Herbert NottGould and I met early in 1974, when I was producing with CBC Radio’s national network music department. This was the same music department through which Gould’s very first broadcasts were heard in the 1950s, before he signed as a recording artist with Columbia Masterworks. And it was through CBC Radio that Gould also honed his skills as a radio artist. He related so completely as an artist to the medium of radio, that his many radio documentaries were, essentially, his symphonies.

Prior to 1974, Gould had already begun to plan a series of CBC Radio broadcasts to celebrate the centennial that year of the birth of a composer he admired every bit as much as J.S. Bach or Richard Strauss: Arnold Schoenberg. Gould told me that these three composers were his avatars, and this was precisely the word he used. These were the three composers whose complex counterpoint most fascinated him, and whose music satisfied his need for a convincing musical, intellectual and spiritual discourse. The celebration of Schoenberg’s centennial was of enormous importance to Gould, and he managed to convince the senior managers of CBC Radio music to devote ten one-hour-long broadcasts on the national network to mark the occasion. The programs, naturally, would be planned, written and hosted by Gould, and much to my surprise, he approached me to serve as his producer. And so it was through an exploration of Schoenberg and his music that I came to encounter the workings of Gould’s very particular and ever so precise mind.

“Perfection was the focus of everything we did,” audio engineer Lorne Tulk, Gould’s lifelong friend, told me. It was Tulk who spent countless hours with Gould after his recording sessions, reviewing takes and marking the musical scores with him, to show where the edits would be made. Gould once proudly showed me one of these resulting “paper edits” with its detailed markings. It was a Mozart sonata, and he was eager to show me where a certain passage had been “regenerated” by Lorne and inserted into the edited master, every time that particular passage appeared. Regeneration was, to the world of analogue recording, what cloning is in the digital world.

The point was, once Gould had determined that a key ingredient of an edited performance was perfect, nothing less than that perfect representation would be allowed to stand.

Likewise, in making Gould’s radio broadcasts, every detail was scripted, including his and his co-host’s supposed personal opinions and observations. For example, there was this brief exchange in episode nine of the Schoenberg series:

Ken Haslam: Oh, wait a minute, Glenn, John Cage studied with Arnold Schoenberg?

Glenn Gould: Of course he did. I assumed you knew that, Ken.

Ken Haslam: No, I didn’t. That’s the most unlikely bit of casting, yet!

Such was a moment of scripted spontaneity in Glenn Gould’s wondrous world of radio. As a broadcasting collaborator, he was always inventive, provocative and stimulating, and as a friend he was delightful and considerate, if occasionally demanding, such as when his late night phone calls came at inconvenient moments.

The 85th anniversary of Gould’s birth is being marked in a great variety of ways. Perhaps the most notable of these is the release, by SONY Classical, of a new multi-disc album titled GLENN GOULD, The Goldberg Variations, The Complete Unreleased Recording Sessions, June 1955. As the title indicates, the album documents Gould’s complete takes of Bach’s Goldberg Variations from those famous recording sessions, which took place between 10 and 16 June 1955. It was the 22-year-old Gould’s debut recording for Columbia Masterworks, and took place in Columbia’s 30th Street Studio in New York.

In the extensive album booklet, writer Robert Russ calls the new release, “...the chance to attend the birth of a legendary album and gain an insight into the analogue recording process.” The booklet documents every aspect of the recording, from the background story leading to Gould’s signing his original contract, to his choice of the piano, to technical matters such as the qualities and limitations of recording to analogue tape. There’s a discussion of how the recording team dealt with Gould’s singing along with his playing, as well as a detailed transcript of the spoken exchanges between pianist and producer, associated with every recorded take. There’s also an interview with the late Howard Scott, the producer of the recording, in which Scott, among other things, comments on the advisability of such a release.

I asked Lorne Tulk what he felt of the decision to release these unedited sessions, given the constant striving for perfection in their work together. Lorne was unconcerned and of the view that Gould wouldn’t have objected. Ray Roberts, the man who served as Gould’s aide in all practical, non-artistic matters, responded to the same question somewhat differently.

“There are two sides to that particular coin,” Ray told me.

It’s a question that can never be answered definitively, but the speculation may continue a good long time, adding to the fascinating Gould legacy.

David Jaeger is a composer, producer and broadcaster based in Toronto.

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