In the wake of Canada’s triumphant performance at the Vancouver Olympics, I can’t help but wonder: where are our live broadcasts of choral concerts, anticipated for months by the music press, watched by millions on television, attended live by thousands of screaming fans with “Tenors Rule and Basses Drool” scrawled across their naked chests?

I propose that Canada found the International Choral Olympics. Singers will be luxuriously sequestered in the Chorister’s Village and fed only the best coffee and cookies during rehearsal breaks. Gold, Silver and Bronze medals will be awarded in such events as loudest fortissimo in the last movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony; most obscure languages learned phonetically over a six-week period; choir best able to sing a cappella without tuning problems. But the ultimate Choral Olympic event will be the Broadway Medley Marathon. Choirs able to prevail in this grueling contest could look forward to years of lucrative endorsement contracts with throat lozenge manufacturers and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s publishing company.

Of course, such potential riches could tempt choirs to cheat. Any winning ensemble will thus have to be carefully reviewed for unfair tactics such as extra rehearsal time, longer coffee breaks, illicit coaching in North German pronunciation of “ich” and most crucially, going home after dress rehearsal for a restful night’s sleep instead of convening at the pub for several hours. Such heinous practices will have no place in the Choral Olympics.

I challenge choral enthusiasts to envision a Canada in which a young boy grows up dreaming not of being the next Sidney Crosby, but a member of the bass section of the North Woodchuck, Sask. Community Chorale. Let us build this dream together!

 

Down to Earth

Becca Whitla 3In the meantime, choirs continue to compete for our ears in upcoming weeks. Several groups present spring and Earth-themed concerts. The University of Guelph choirs present “Force of Nature” (April 11); the Annex Singers perform excerpts from Orff’sin “Songs of the Earth” (April 17);Hamilton’s John Laing Singers present “Spring’s Joy” (April 24); and the Echo Women’s Choir, Povera Chamber Choir and Holy Trinity Choir combine in a massed celebration of Earth Day entitled “Hymnody of Earth: A Ceremony of Songs for Choir,
Hammer Dulcimer and Percussion” (April 17).

There are also several choices for Good Friday and Easter (several notable concerts were mentioned in last month’s column – please go to www.thewholenote.com to read about them). On April 2, the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir performs “Sacred Music for a Sacred Space.” On the same night, the Newman Festival Chorus and Orchestra present Bach’s St. Matthew Passion. The Elmer Iseler Singers play catch-up on April 7 with “The Glory of Easter.” Other Good Friday evening concerts are by the All Saints Kingsway Anglican Church Choir in Toronto, the Cantabile Chorale of York Region in Thornhill, and the Durham Community Choir in Oshawa.

Themed concerts include the Brampton Symphony Orchestra Chorus in an all-French programme entitled “La Vie en Rose”: (April 1), and Toronto’s Kir Stefan Serb Choir’s “Slavic Sacred And Traditional Music” (April 24). In Bradford, Achill Choral Society sings movie music in “Sounds of the Silver Screen” (April 24-25). On April 25 the Elora Festival Singers present cabaret and theatre music in “Spring Fever.”
For those who like to see choral singers unleash their inner diva or divo, two opera-centred concerts are given this month by the Kingston Choral Society and Kingston Symphony Orchestra (April 25) and the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir (“A Night at the Opera,” April 28).

Toronto’s Cantemus Singers present an intriguing programme entitled “The Fairer Sex: A celebration of women in Renaissance madrigals and motets” (April 17-18). Combining music that praises female saints and holy women with some deliciously salacious and decidedly secular madrigals, this sounds like a ideal programme to which one might bring a date.

For those interested in large scale works: the NYCO Symphony Orchestra and Chorus perform Beethoven’s Mass in C (April 10). On the same night, Amadeus Choir celebrates its 35th anniversary season with an all-Mozart programme that includes the D minor Requiem and his lesser known Vespers. The latter work, one of two Vespers settings by Mozart, is a true gem, preferred by many to his Salzburg masses.

Catherine Robbin 1The Mozart Requiem is also being performed by Hamilton’s Central Presbyterian Church choir on April 2, and by the Pax Christi Chorale on April 24-25. The King Edward Choir performs a winning combination of Mozart’s Mass in C Minor and Poulenc’s Gloria in Barrie (April 10) and the Mississauga Choral Society sings Fauré’s Requiem (April 11). Cantores Celestes Women’s Choir perform Pergolesi’s luminous Stabat Mater on April 17. A portion of proceeds from this concert will go to the Because I am a Girl foundation.

As an alternative to lengthy works, choirs often combine smaller scale works in pleasing and varied programmes. On April 10, the Healey Willan Singers.offer a mixed programme in Toronto, while the Georgetown Bach Chorale and Chamber Orchestra perform various works by Vivaldi in a concert that also includes the composer’s well known Four Seasons. Similarly styled concerts are given by the Voices Chamber Choir (April 17) and the Tactus Vocal Ensemble (April 18-19). A combination hymn-sing and concert is given by the Glenview Choir and North Toronto Salvation Army Band (April 25).

Spring also affords us an opportunity to see what the next generation of choral singers has been working on this year. The Church of St. Simon-the-Apostle hosts a “Young Musicians Showcase” on April 16, in a fundraising concert. The Viva! Youth Singers perform a free noon-hour concert (April 7). The Toronto Secondary School Music Teachers’ Association presents band, string, and choral students in the “59th Annual Sounds of Toronto Concert” (April 15). The Oakville Children’s Choir hosts four other boys choirs in a concert entitled “Let the Boys Sing!”(April 17). And the Toronto Children’s Chorus performs “All Creations Sing,” featuring a rare appearance by revered mezzo-soprano Catherine Robbin (April 1).

Finally, on April 17, “Singing Together: A Celebration of Cultures” assembles a panoply of choirs worth listing in their diversity: the Caribbean Chorale of Toronto; Toronto Maple Leaf Chorus; CroArte Chorale; Chinese Canadian Choir of Toronto; Schola Cantorum; Edelweiss Chor; Nayiri Armenian Choir; Coro San Marco; and Creative Notes. Such a concert, which could only take place in sprawling, multicultural Toronto, suggests that we already have a pan-cultural choral Olympics of our own well under way.

 

Benjamin Stein is a tenor and theorbist. He can be contacted at: choralscene@thewholenote.com.

 

Spring is here – and by association I think of people in the spring of life, who are well represented in The WholeNote’s listings this month.


Lang Lang 2International Touring Productions brings the Slovak Sinfonietta, conducted by Kerry Stratton, to Toronto and six other cities in Southern Ontario in late April and early May. With the orchestra will be two pianists: Haiou Zhang, who will perform Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No.5 in E Flat (the “Emperor”); and Elaine Kwon, who will play Rubinstein’s Piano Concerto No. 4. Both pianists are young artists, still in their 20s.

There’s yet another orchestra visiting from Europe this month, the Schleswig-Holstein Festival Orchestra, which according to its websiteis comprised of the world’s finest young musicians under the age of 27, hand-picked through a rigorous auditioning process.” The young musicians are given an extraordinary opportunity to grow together as an orchestra under the direction of principal conductor Christoph Eschenbach, in a community setting based on “mutual understanding, respect, tolerance and awareness of the universality of music and life beyond it.”

The Toronto stop on their first North American tour will be at Roy Thomson Hall on April 6. On their programme will be Mozart’s Piano Concerto No.17 in G K453, performed by Lang Lang – who, speaking of youth, is only 27. I recently read on his website that when he was only two years old, he saw a Tom and Jerry cartoon on TV, in which Tom was attempting to play Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 in C-Sharp Minor. This first contact with Western music at this incredibly young age is what motivated him to learn piano! I hope the creators of Tom and Jerry have come across this story!

 

The Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony Orchestra’s three concerts on April 23, 24 and 25 are called simply, “Zeitouni Conducts Brahms.” At a relatively young age, Jean-Marie Zeitouni, another product of the fertile musical soil of Quebec, was appointed associate conductor of Les Violons du Roy. With a long and impressive list of guest conducting appearances to his credit, including the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, he has become a big enough name to draw audiences.

 

Sibelius at the TSO

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra has put together an ambitious Sibelius Festival, highlighting the orchestral music of Finland’s most famous composer. Over the course of five performances, taking place from April 14 to 22, all seven of Sibelius’ symphonies will be performed, as well as several lesser-known works for violin and orchestra. Guest conductor Thomas Dausgaard will be on the podium for the whole week – no stranger to the TSO or Toronto audiences. The featured violin soloist will be Pekka Kuusisto, the first Finn ever to win the International Jean Sibelius Violin Competition. He’s no stranger, either: Kuusisto played with the TSO in September 2008, and he’s also appeared in recital at Hart House.

 

“Spring” Quartets

Martin_BeaverA frequent visitor to Toronto, thanks to Music Toronto, is the Tokyo String Quartet. While the quartet’s genesis was in the 1960s at the Toho School of Music in Tokyo, and it has been quartet-in-residence at Yale University since 1976, it also has a strong Toronto connection through Martin Beaver, its first violinist. When you hear the Tokyo String Quartet, you are hearing not only one of the best string quartets in the world, but also “The Paganini Quartet,” a set of Stradivarius instruments named after the legendary virtuoso Niccolò Paganini, who acquired and played them during his illustrious career. The Tokyo String Quartet will perform Beethoven’s Quartet in C Major Op. 59 (“Razumovsky”), the Quartet in E-flat Major Op. 74 (“The Harp”) and the Quartet Op. 95 (“Serioso”) in Music Toronto’s last concert of the season, on April 10

 

There are several more fine opportunities to hear string quartets. Also on April 10, the Lindsay Concert Foundation presents the Cecilia String Quartet, and the Oakville Chamber Ensemble will perform string quartets by Mozart and Mendelssohn. On April 19, a quartet composed of members of the string section of the TSO will play quartets by Schubert, Beethoven and Brahms as part of the Associates of the TSO’s “Five Small Concerts” series. On April 25, Mooredale Concerts will present the Afiara Quartet, which some people think will be the next great Canadian string quartet. Flutist Robert Aitken, who needs no introduction to WholeNote readers, joins the Quartet in a Boccherini quintet, Alberto Ginastera’s Impresiones de la Puna, and Donald Francis Tovey’s Variations on a Theme by Gluck. The quartet will complete the programme with the Lyric Suite by Alban Berg and Mendelssohn’s Quartet in F minor. On April 29, the Silver Birch String Quartet will give a concert for the Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber Music Society.

 

Student Talent

Last but not least, there’s plenty of student talent to be heard in April. The Toronto Secondary School Music Teachers’ Association “59th Annual Student Concert” on April 15 stands out. Others are the university choir visiting from East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania on April 9, the benefit concerts for the St. Simon’s and University Settlement music programmes on April 16 and 18 respectively, the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra on April 16, the Toronto Wind Orchestra on April 30 and the Toronto Children’s Chorus on May 1. On April 17 and May 2 respectively, the Canadian Sinfonietta and Arcady are presenting concerts showcasing young artists. The post-secondary music schools, of course, are hotbeds of music-making by young people – and even though many of the student ensemble concerts took place in March, there are still several in April. There are also student solo recitals at York University, the University of Toronto, Wilfrid Laurier, Waterloo, Guelph, Western, Queen’s and the Royal Conservatory’s Glenn Gould School.

 

Allan Pulker is a flutist and a founder of The WholeNote who currently serves as Chairman of The WholeNote’s board of directors. He can be contacted at classicalbeyond@thewholenote.com.


 

There’s a relatively new organization in town with a unique purpose: to celebrate the art of continuo playing. The Toronto Continuo Collective was established in the fall of 2005 by Lucas Harris, player of theorbo, lute and Baroque guitar; and Boris Medicky, harpsichordist and organist. Having both worked with the New York Continuo Collective, these two musicians saw fertile ground for nurturing this art in Toronto.

Lucas Harris 1Continuo is the art of interpreting the accompaniment to a melody as practised in the Baroque era, starting with a written bass line and (often but not always) attendant symbols known as “figures.” A good continuo player (lutenist, guitarist, keyboardist or harpist) can interpret the implied harmonies, and also has a handle on the appropriate stylistic elements – ornamentation, word painting, etc. – that make the music expressive, colourful and interesting. This takes some expertise, which the musicians of the ToCC are enthusiastically immersed in developing.

Of course, having a melody to accompany is a fundamental necessity, so a Singers’ Collective was also created as a parallel workshop for singers interested in working on Baroque vocal style, technique, gesture etc. These two groups working together have produced several staged performances.

Borys Medicky 1 1505On the evenings of April 11 and 12 they’ll present the latest in their projects: a performance of scenes from Cavalli’s 1645 opera Doriclea, along with Italian instrumental music from the same period. With theorbos, lutes, harpsichord, viola da gamba, Baroque harp, Baroque guitar, a string ensemble and eight singers, they’ll tell stories of the character Doriclea who oscillates between female and male, along with suitors and foes in love and war.

Also on April 11 (in the afternoon, fortunately), there’s a concert performance by two gamba players I admire, Kate Bennett Haynes and Justin Haynes. They’ll be playing solo repertoire for bass instruments – gorgeous music from early 18th-century France, works by Marais, Barriere and Boismortier. This concert is one of the “Musically Speaking” series presented by the Toronto Early Music Centre, an organization whose name is very familiar to me. However, after thinking about it, I admitted to myself that I have a pretty sketchy idea of what, exactly, the Toronto Early Music Centre does. So I asked president Frank Nakashima to tell me a bit about the focus of TEMC’s activities.

These are summed up in its mandate: “This non-profit organization promotes the appreciation of historically informed performances of early music in the community through sponsorship of concerts and activities such as lectures, workshops, exhibitions and masterclasses with visiting and local artists.” It has been active since its founding in 1984 – and is more a “centre” in the philosophical rather than the physical sense. Its role is often behind the scenes: sponsoring and supporting events through organizing venues and advertising concert appearances.

But the TEMC also has a visible component. It hosts the well-known Early Music Fair, held at Montgomery’s Inn every September, as well as the TEMC Vocal Circle, which meets once a month to explore early choral music. And its own concert series, “Musically Speaking,” occurs monthly from January to June at Toronto’s Church of the Holy Trinity.

Concerning this series, Nakashima tells me: “We try to make it as inviting and as friendly as possible, not just enticing, but to create a learning environment. These programmes are only one hour in length, and are meant to provide an opportunity, especially for the uninitiated, to give early music a try. Pay-what-you-can admission isn’t a big financial risk. I encourage the performers to be interactive and engaging, with the intent of helping the audience to leave that concert having learned something about their music.”

Sounds like a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

 

More concerts

Julia Wedman 1April 7 to 11: Tafelmusik violinist Julia Wedman, in collaboration with Earth Day Canada, has conceived the programme “Forces of Nature: An Earth Day Celebration,” taking us on a musical journey with our Earth through the course of a single day. Not only music by Rameau, Vivaldi, Geminiani, Haydn, Telemann and Buonamente, but also a pre-concert lecture, a gallery of photography and interactive displays will be available.

April 17 & 18: My mistress has a laugh sweeter than honey…” This is just one of the many attributes of women that will be celebrated by the 15-voice a cappella Cantemus Singers in Renaissance poetry and song. This programme is presented on Saturday evening at Hope United Church, Danforth and Main; and on Sunday afternoon at the Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Keele and Glenlake.

April 18, in Kitchener: Nota Bene Period Orchestra with their guest, Tactus Vocal Ensemble, presents “Meet you at the Crossroad.” In recognition that Easter 2010 marks a crossroad in the calendars of the Western and Eastern Orthodox faiths, music celebrating both traditions will be explored.

April 23: Sine Nomine Ensemble for Medieval Music presents “Fort oultrageuse et desraisonable depense – Music for medieval feasts and occasions.” Banquets, weddings, coronations could be lavish affairs, as this selection of music and readings reveal.

April 24: In their final concert of the season, “Songs of the Americas,” Musicians In Ordinary takes us to Latin America and the USA with songs and guitar solos from the 17th to 19th centuries.

April 24: Scaramella presents “Stylus Phantasticus,” featuring music that reveals all kinds of extraordinary harmonic and melodic ingenuity, by composers who were not afraid to break a few rules.

May 5 to 8: The Classical Music Consort, directed by Ashiq Aziz, presents “Handel @ St. James.” In this four-concert festival, various facets of Handel’s genius are explored in lesser-known solo, chamber and vocal music.

There’s a lot more! A brief search through this month’s listings reveals a string trio version of Bach’s Goldberg Variations, presented twice by Trio Accord (April 5 in Waterloo and April 8 in Toronto); Bach organ music played by Philip Fournier (April 17); the Pergolesi Stabat Mater sung by Cantores Celestes Women’s Choir (April 17); recorder duets from the 17th, 18th and 20th centuries played by Claudia Ophardt and Colin Savage (April 8); music by Palestrina, Victoria, Vivaldi – and other treasures for you to find.

Simone Desilets is a long-time contributor to The WholeNote in several capacities, who plays the viola da gamba. She can be contacted at: earlymusic@thewholenote.com.

The term “perfect storm” has been used this season to describe the whirlwind of top-tier international composers gracing our stages, as well as the sheer density of concert activity in Toronto and nearby. If we continue the analogy, April might conceivably be the “eye of the storm,” at least in the new-music world. This is not to say that the quality of work and calibre of creativity is on the wane – quite the contrary. There are many exceptionally excellent concerts to be heard. Rather, we may get a little more breathing space between events this month, before we’re hit by the tempest of May concerts that traditionally close the season.

 Continuing with the theme of celebrating leading composers, New Music Concerts hosts the Aventa Ensemble on April 10 at the Betty Oliphant Theatre in a Tremblay-heavy programme. The concert is part of the ensemble’s 2010 East Coast tour. Hailing from Victoria, Aventa is one of Canada’s younger yet larger new music ensembles, formed in 2003 from a regular roster of 15 players under artistic director Bill Linwood. Since that time, the musicians have completed almost 40 concerts, several tours (including to Europe and the USA), numerous commissions and at least 50 premieres.

Gilles Tremblay 1For this tour, their second to land in Toronto, Aventa will connect to the season-long celebrations of Canadian composer Gilles Tremblay, initiated by the Société de musique contemporaine du Québec. Never one to keep things small, SMCQ artistic director Walter Boudreau has encouraged a nation-wide project to pay homage to one of our own musical heroes through a collaborative series of at least 30 different events. For their part, Aventa will perform two of Tremblay’s most distinctive works – Solstices for horn, flute, clarinet, double bass and percussion (which carries the subtitle “or how the days and the seasons turn”) and À quelle heure commence le temps? for baritone, piano and 15 musicians. Included in the programme are two recent Aventa commissions from BC composers, including the most recent addition to Dániel Péter Biró’s Mishpatim (Laws) series and Altus by the intriguing early-career composer Wolf Edwards. To learn more about Aventa, visit www.aventa.ca. To learn more about the Gilles Tremblay Homage series visit www.smcq.qc.ca. For tickets and venue information contact nmc@interlog.com or call 416-961-9594.

It’s a rare opportunity when an ensemble lets a composer curate a whole concert of works to frame a new commission. That’s why it’s remarkable that, when Arraymusic invited composer Linda Catlin Smith to compose a new work for them, she was also invited to set the entire programme for this April 18 concert at the Music Gallery. More specifically, she was asked to dig into Array’s score library, representing decades of commissioning and performing some of the world’s most adventurous composers, to create a programme from works already in the ensemble’s repertoire. Linda is one of the few people that Array could comfortably trust with such a project, given her history and familiarity with the ensemble: she is a past Array artistic director and co-creator of their Young Composers’ Workshop. As a result, the concert will feature works by two of Linda’s mentors: Canadian composer Rudolf Komorous (the short but haunting Sweet Queen for piano and percussion), and Japan’s Jo Kondo (his seminal work, Standing, for any three instruments of different families), alongside some new discoveries: Scott Godin’s internationally inspired Soccer (which can be heard on the Canadian Music Centre’s CentreStreams online audio service), Gerald Barry’s piano solo Sur les points and Italian composer Aldo Clementi’s Madrigale for piano four hands, glockenspiel and vibraphone. To learn more about Linda Catlin Smith and her music, visit the CMC website at www.musiccentre.ca or www.catlinsmith.com. To purchase tickets, visit www.musicgallery.org or call 416-204-1080.

Bringing us back to the “perfect storm,” Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Steve Reich returns to Toronto on April 29 for a concert featuring the Canadian premiere of his most recent work, Mallet Quartet for two marimba and two vibraphones. Mallet Quartet, which received its US premiere by So Percussion on January 9, is a co-commission of Soundstreams, the Nexus percussion ensemble and the Amadinda percussion group. The work will be a feature of Soundstreams’ “Cool Drummings” percussion festival, which kicks off mid-month.

This must-see concert at the Royal Conservatory’s Koerner Hall will also include Reich’s other newest work – the substantial 2 x 5 for five musicians and tape, or 10 live musicians – alongside Reich classics like Clapping Music and Music for Pieces of Wood as performed by talent like our local Nexus, whom the New York Times have hailed as “the high priests of the percussion world.”

As one of the instigators of the American minimalist style and a founder of New York City’s downtown music scene, Steve Reich is sometimes referred to as America’s greatest living composer and one of the greatest musical thinkers of our time. His musical creativity, which is credited with altering the path of music history, has embraced not only aspects of Western classical music, but the structures, harmonies, and rhythms of non-Western music, particularly African, and American vernacular music, particularly jazz. As a consequence, his work has been widely embraced by numerous artistic communities from high-art music to contemporary dance and DJ culture.

Leading up to this concert are a number of other performances and events that frame the Reich premiere and make up the bulk of “Cool Drummings.” On April 19, Soundstreams will extend its “Salon 21” series at the Gardiner Museum to celebrate Steven Reich with inspired dancers, DJs and musicians who recognize him as the “the father of DJ culture,” and “one of today’s most choreographed composers.” Then on April 27 and 28, the celebration will move over to the more laid-back Hugh’s Room for two marimba-heavy concerts titled “Virtuoso Vibrations.” On the programmes are commissioned world premieres from top-tier Canadian composers, including Andrew Staniland, Michael Oesterle, and Peter Hatch, performed by some of our best musical artists like percussionists Ryan Scott and Russell Hartenberger. The programme also features world-renowned koto virtuoso Kazue Sawai, who is coming from Japan for the occasion. Full “Cool Drummings” details, including venue and ticket information, can be found online at www.soundstreams.ca or by phone at 416-504-1282. 

 

Jason van Eyk is the Ontario Regional Director of the Canadian Music Centre. He can be contacted at: newmusic@thewholenote.com.


 

“Spring is God’s way of saying, ‘One more time!’” wrote Robert Orben, American magician and comedy writer. Maybe so, but not for the National Jazz Awards, which have been cancelled for this year.

Bill and Chris King 1The announcement was not entirely unexpected. Attendance last year was very disappointing, giving Bill and Kris King good reason to ask themselves if it was worth going on with the event. What had begun 15 years ago as the Jazz Report Awards, an intimate evening in a club setting, over the years had evolved into a large and costly production.

Raising support money for the arts in Canada is an uphill struggle, and another nail was firmly hammered into the coffin when the financial support of FACTOR (the Foundation to Assist Canadian Talent on Recordings), was cut in half. Spare a thought for the huge amount of time and energy that goes into producing an event. Whether it is a ten-day festival or a one-off evening, the amount of work is immense and the returns, not only the financial ones, can be disheartening.

That said, those of you who know me are probably aware of my mixed feelings regarding “best of” awards in the arts. I have no problem with awards recognizing an artist’s contribution to his or her chosen discipline; I do question polls which decide that Joe Blow is the best. It’s too subjective, and a bit like saying that Picasso is better than that Cezanne.

I feel the same way about some of the Olympic events. There was a time when the Games was made up of contests in which there were clear cut and measurable winners. In a race, the first one past the finishing line was the winner – but in today’s Olymics, striving to capture a wider audience, there are events such as formation swimming, which may be visually entertaining, but how does one judge it objectively and decide a winner?

With jazz, I guess I just don’t see it as a contest. Certainly in days gone by there were some famous “cutting contests,” mostly in late night after-hours sessions when players duelled with each other, but that’s a far cry from winning a poll which may, or may not be a true measure. In addition the voting system is open to the possibility of “vote loading.” (More about that later.) This is not intended to take away from past “winners” at the National Jazz Awards. They have all been great players and important contributors to the music and worthy of recognition. The bottom line is that it is regrettable to see the cancellation of a jazz event for lack of support – but sometimes a thankless task becomes too hard to take.

Some years back I wrote about jazz polls and I thought it might be interesting to include some excerpts from that article. “Jazz polls are almost as old as Downbeat magazine, which was first published in 1934. Gone but not quite forgotten is Metronome magazine, which used to vie with Downbeat for the cachet of being the most popular jazz mag. But jazz polls were not confined to music publications in the 1940s. Esquire magazine added an annual jazz poll to its (for the day) spicy pages. Playboy magazine got into the act as well, but on a few occasions came up with some “interesting” winners – this was a jazz poll, remember –  such as Henry Mancini for bandleader (1964-66), Barbra Streisand for female vocalist (1965-66), and Peter, Paul and Mary in the vocal group category (1964-66)!”

I rest my case.

Spring into Festival Mode

We tend to think of jazz festivals and the summer season going hand in hand, but on the international front April brings a shower of events for those of you with itchy feet, money and an urge to travel.

The biggest and best known is, of course, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, which takes place from April 23-25 and April 29 - May 2. Confirmed artists include Dr. John, Jon Cleary, Joe Lovano, Leroy Jones, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Average White Band, Aretha Franklin, Marcus Miller, The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, The Neville Brothers, Van Morrison, B.B. King – and that's only a few!

Further afield, there’s the National Jazz Festival – April 1 to 5 in Tauranga, New Zealand – while in South Africa on the 3rd and 4th there's the Cape Town International Jazz Festival. In addition, there is the Cully Jazz Festival in Switzerland, the Tallinn International Festial in Estonia, Jazzfest Gronau in Germany, the Cheltenham Jazz Festival in England, the City of Derry Jazz and Big Band Festival in Northern Ireland, April Jazz Espoo in Finland, and Bray Jazz Festival in North Wicklow, Ireland. Still in the U.K., the Norwich Jazz Party – certainly one of the best jazz parties on the planet – takes place on the first weekend in May. (You can find out more at  info@norwichjazzparty.com.) You could make quite the grand tour out of that lot!

By the way, also this month in Portland, Oregon, there is the first year of an event which wins a gold star in my pun-laden life. It’s called The Soul’d Out Music Festival. Just don’t take the way it sounds literally! And with the month of April comes the 9th annual Jazz Appreciation Month (JAM) festivities courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution, and you can find out more about it by visiting smithsonianjazz.org/jam.

Good listening – and please support your local musicians.

 

Jim Galloway is a saxophonist, band leader and the former artistic director of Toronto Downtown Jazz. He can be contacted at:
jazz@thewholenote.com.

 

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