p13aAtruism: technology shapes culture. One could argue that we are less the children of Stravinsky, Schoenberg, Bessie Smith and the Beatles than we are of Thomas Edison, Scott de Martinville and Charles Cros, and their progeny, the anonymous technicians who developed digital sound in the 1970s.

And yet the things that influence musicians most deeply remain unchanged. No recording matches the excitement of a masterful live performance. No online musical forum or resource replaces the one-on-one human connection between teacher and student through which musical ideas are most essentially conveyed.

We envy, admire and emulate musicians of renown. But we retain a special love for our teachers and mentors, who have touched us in way that a concert or recording never can. Agrade school music teacher, a private instructor, a conservatory lecturer; sometimes stronger as teachers than performers; sometimes well known, often not. It is they that give each of us the tools to add our unique voice to the music.

By all accounts, Deral Johnson was one such teacher. He taught choral music for 20 years at the University of Western Ontario, and after his death, March 24 this year, tributes from the musicians he touched poured in to The WholeNote and other forums. An expatriate American, Johnson taught in Texas and Colorado before moving to London in 1969. He threw himself into the Canadian music scene with a zeal and enthusiasm for which he became renowned, championing the music of Schafer, Cabena and Telfer, and training many distinguished Canadian musicians, including conductor and producer Robert Cooper, and University of Toronto voice professor Darryl Edwards.

Choral conductors who studied with Johnson include Michael Bloss, Lynn Janes, Jenny Crober, Ken Fleet and Carol Ratzlaff, all of whom direct choirs in and around Southern Ontario. Many of his former students speak glowingly of his combination of humour, rigour, kindness and passion. Margaret Thibideau, a former choral conductor, writes, “There was nothing quite like singing Gospel with Deral – it was fun, uplifting, and all I can say is that I have never had the privilege of finding anyone who even comes close to his high standards of musicianship or excellence.” Johnson will be missed both by those who knew him personally and those who felt his influence.

Meanwhile, the choral scene that Johnson helped develop and foster is in good form this spring. For instance, Robert Cooper’s Orpheus Choir performs the rarely heard Handel Oratorio Athalia on May 8, in a concert that showcases their Sedgwick Scholars (up-and-coming vocal talents who both sing in the choir and handle the solos). It is a mentoring programme now in its 20th year.

p14_viva_youth_singers_530And Carol Ratzlaff’s Annex-based Viva! Youth Singers have a 10th anniversary celebration concert, May 16. The concert features commissioned new works by composers James Rolfe and Juliet Palmer, as well as a musical by Leslie Arden. With singers from 4 to 25 and a wide range of choirs to choose from (including one for parents!), the choir’s proud lineage is clear.

The number of choral concerts at this time of the year is astounding, and sorting through them a fascinating task.

For one, thing, this appears to be the spring of the “crossover” programme. Concerts including a mixture of Broadway, opera and cabaret music are being given by the Toronto Sinfonietta (May 1), Alexander Singers and Players (May 6-7), the East York Choir (June 6), the Harlequin Singers (June 4-6), and the Oriana Women’s Choir, in a programme centred around the music of George Gershwin (May 8). Concerts focusing on the beloved music of Gilbert and Sullivan are given by Chorus Niagara (May 15-16) and the Etobicoke Centennial Choir (May 28-29).

There are also many concerts of works from the classical canon. On May 2 the Toronto Classical Singers sing an all-Mozart concert. On May 8 the Burlington Civic Chorale does the same, in a programme that includes two masses as well as rarer Mozart choral works. On the same evening the Peterborough Singers sing Mendelssohn’s majestic Elijah, and Kitchener’s Grand Philharmonic Choir sing the Verdi Requiem. The Durham Philharmonic Choir’s May 15 concert include’s excerpts from Hadyn’s Creation, and on the same evening Orchestra London and Philharmonic Choir perform Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis.

From May 28-30 the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony, Grand Philharmonic Choir and Children’s Chorus perform that perennial favourite, Orff’s Carmina Burana. Three concerts featuring works by Bach are given by Orchestra London and Chamber Choir (May 5), Toronto Chamber Choir (May 16) and the St. Anne’s Concert Choir and Orchestra (June 5), in a benefit concert towards repairs for the St. Anne’s Parish. On May 1 the Tallis Choir focuses on the music of Purcell and his contemporaries, and on June 06 Unionville Symphonia and Chorus sing the Duruflé Requiem and the Haydn Te Deum.

And there are several of choices for modern and folk-based mass settings as well. The Amadeus Choir’s concert on May 15 includes Ramirez’s Misa Criolla and Toronto composer Sid Robinovitch’s Canciones por las Americas. The Toronto Beach Chorale’s May 2 concert includes Paul Winter’s Missa Gaia. Other multicultural offerings include a concert by the University of Toronto Gospel Choir (May 1), Plamen Ukrainian Women’s Vocal Ensemble (May 2), the Victoria Scholars’ “Postcard from Around the World” (June 6), the Toronto Jewish Folk Choir’s 84th annual spring concert (May 30) and the Nathaniel Dett Chorale’s “And Still We Sing,” featuring the steel pan work Legacy, in a programme focusing on music of the Caribbean islands (May 26 and 29).

That’s not all! In this magazine, and on our website, you’ll find many promising mixed end-of-season programmes by a wide variety of choirs. See The WholeNote’s listings for more choral events.

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

p11aImagine that we’ve just learned that some hitherto unknown manuscripts of music by a number composers have been discovered – and the names of these composers are Mendelssohn, Liszt and Weber. Since we already know these names, our response might well be along the lines of “What an important discovery! The history of European music in the 19th century will have to be rewritten to incorporate these previously unknown works.”

Looking at the phenomenon of newly discovered work from a different angle, what, then, is our response to the news that the music of a number of very good early- to mid-20th century composers has actually been discovered, performed and recorded? The names of some of them are Busch, Braunfels, Kahn, Reizenstein, Röntgen, Weinberg and Eisler; and since they are not familiar names, it’s easy to dismiss them as “minor composers.”

p11bIn fact, this isn’t exactly news. About seven years ago the Royal Conservatory appointed guitarist Simon Wynberg artistic director of its flagship ensemble, ARC (Artists of the Royal Conservatory). In that capacity he’s been doing the programming and research for ARC, and has been in contact with musicologists, record labels and institutions who are researching lesser-known composer of the 20th century, many of them victims of the Holocaust.

ARC gave its inaugural performances in the 2002-03 season. Since then it’s given concerts not only in Toronto but also in New York, Washington DC and London. Wynberg has organized a major tour to Israel in March 2011, and concerts at the Concertgebouw. In the long term, he plans for the ensemble to continue to perform and record unjustly neglected works, many of which have fallen through the cracks because of the political upheavals of the 20th century, as well as commissioning new works from contemporary composers.

However, getting back to the present, the current news from ARC is the release of its third CD, Two Roads to Exile, on the morning of May 6, with a short performance of excerpts from this disc. (The free mini-concert is a special event for WholeNote readers.)

Interestingly, the two composers featured on this disc were not victims of the Holocaust. Both survived World War II, but in very different ways. One of them Adolf Busch, was not Jewish, and the form his exile took was to move to the United States; the other, Walter Braunfels, was half Jewish, and survived the war by hiding in a church in the German village of Überlingen.

Consequently the reason their music has been forgotten is not because it has been found after 60 or 70 years in a basement. In fact the String Quintet by Braunfels was actually published in the 1950s. Wynberg bought a score and set of parts for the ensemble from the publisher – brand new but yellow with age. The String Sextet by Adolf Busch, despite Busch’s having made quite a name for himself in the USA as a violinist and as a co-founder of the Marlboro Festival, was never published – more a casualty of the exigencies of life, and the disruption of forced emigration than anything else. The ensemble’s performances and recording were all done from a hand-written manuscript, presumably by the composer himself.

I find the last paragraph of the CD liner notes, written by ARC artistic director, Simon Wynberg, on the reasons for the obscurity of these two composers and their works particularly fascinating. “After the war,” he writes, “there was an understandable desire to protect and encourage the music that the Nazis had proscribed.” This led eventually to “the hegemony of the avant-garde” and the dismissal, particularly in universities, as reactionaries “those who had followed traditional musical avenues.” Braunfels and Busch were both masters of traditional practices, and so, from the avant-garde perspective, had nothing to say. I’ve listened to their music on this CD and can assure you that this isn’t the case; while the compositional procedures may be familiar, I would never describe the music of either composer as imitative or derivative.

In the course of our conversation, I asked Wynberg whether the history of 20th-century music would be rewritten to include many formerly forgotten composers. He commented: “The more intriguing question is whether we are gradually moving away from the concept of a ‘core repertory,’ towards the cultivation of a new, broader and younger audience who do not have an inbuilt allegiance to the pillars of repertory, but are curious to explore the vast range of music that is now so readily and instantly available.”

Looking at The WholeNote’s monthly listings from this angle it appeared to me that this development is well under way. On May 2, for example, Amici’s “Silenced Voices” concert reads almost like one of Wynberg’s ARC programmes, with infrequently performed music by forgotten or ignored composers such as Schulhoff, Klein, Ullmann, Stetsenko and Gomidas. Curiously, on May 7 and 8 Brahms’ Two Songs, Opus 91 for mezzo or contralto, viola and piano, which because of the unusual voice/instrument combination will never quite be “core repertoire,” will be performed in two completely unrelated concerts. (The piece will first be played on a programme by the Birthday Series at Heliconian Hall, followed by a performance on Lansing United Church’s Chamber Concert Series.)

p12ap12bThe trend extends beyond chamber music to symphonic music, as many orchestras combine “core repertoire” with repertoire that is anything but. For example the Slovak Sinfonietta has programmed Zeljenka’s Musica Slovaca alongside Beethoven’s “Emperor” Concerto; the Oakville Chamber Orchestra has programmed Purcell’s Virtuous Wife and MacMillan’s Two Sketches on French Canadian Folk Songs with Vivaldi’s Four Seasons; the Scarborough Philharmonic has compositions by contemporary Canadian composers Ronald Royer and Michael Conway Baker on a programme that also includes Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 3; and the Toronto Symphony has programmed Stravinsky’s Petrouchka (which I think is considered “core repertoire”) along with de Falla’s Suite No. 2 from The Three-Cornered Hat and Piazzolla’s The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires. There are lots of other examples of programming that even a few years ago would have been considered “adventurous,” but which evidently is now occurring frequently.

The Royal Conservatory has published a book, written by Simon Wynberg, to provide background to the “Music in Exile” project. Early in the book he explains that the sense of dislocation experienced by those fortunate to be exiled to the United States was due to the absence there of “the European sensibility that considered music and culture not just central but indispensable to life.” The situation in Canada is no different. While so much of our art-music here is European, it seems clear that if a strong cultural tradition is to take root here it can’t be simply transplanted European culture, but something that has grown out of life in this part of the world. We live in an interesting time, when performers and performing organizations – finding that sticking with what may at one time have been the “canon” in Europe doesn’t always work that well here – are motivated to explore new and less known repertoire, at the same time developing the cultural sensibilities of our place and time.

Allan Pulker is a flautist 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.

p14The Aradia Ensemble has not been one to remain set in what’s usually considered the “baroque music norm.” They’ve often in the past reached out to collaborate with other traditions – for example Irish performers, Isadora Duncan dancers, Balinese gamelan.

The fascinating combination of baroque music and First Nations arts is the focus of their next presentation, “Thunderbird.” Intrigued to know how these two very different cultural expressions could be put together in one concert, I spoke to some of the performers involved. I can do no better than to offer their words:

“The biggest thread that ties together baroque and Aboriginal culture would be the beat that music provides. It starts with the heartbeat, it moves to the drum, the instruments strike up, people’s feet begin to twitch and dance is born. It may seem like a crazy thing to be combining such forces, but in my heart and mind it makes perfect sense that we are doing this concert. We all need music in our lives, no matter where we came from. No matter what exact form that music took during the early periods, we’ve always celebrated through song and movement.”

These are the words of Marion Newman, whose two lives as a classically-trained mezzo-soprano and a First Nations artist merge in “Thunderbird,” a concert centred around a centuries-old legend passed down for generations through the Newman family. On stage to tell it will be revered members of that family: Marion herself, of course; her uncle George Taylor, a renowned drummer and singer of stories of his people; and his son Jason Taylor, who will dance the story using a Thunderbird mask carved by master carver Victor Newman, Marion’s father.

Also on the programme is a new work by West Coast composer Dustin Peters, who explains how baroque and aboriginal elements reside in it: “The piece is not written in a baroque style; rather, sound qualities of a baroque ensemble are heavily considered. The use of harpsichord and chamber organ, gut strings vs. steel strings, period instruments, employing little vibrato in the strings have all played an important part in conceiving the work and its ‘sound.’ The text (in Kwakwala, sourced and developed by Marion Newman) remains the fundamental inspiration. It should also be noted that there is space for improvised contributions from the drummer and dancer written into the work.”

Aradia’s artistic director Kevin Mallon tells of the choices for the other pieces on the programme: “The Thunderbird is considered a ‘supernatural’ bird of power and strength. It is described as a large bird, capable of creating storms and thundering while it flies. The exploration of birds in baroque music is fairly standard, so we have decided to go more along the baroque Tempest way. Central to the baroque element are two works: Matthew Locke’s Music for the Tempest was written in 1674 for Shadwell’s Restoration version of Shakespeare’s Tempest. Included in this incidental music is an extraordinary ‘curtain tune’ which has as one of its markings ‘violent’ – this movement certainly hits the mark with the idea of the Tempest! The other baroque work is Louis-Nicolas Clérambault’s La Muse de l’Opéra. This is like a small opera – the music includes two dynamic storms, roaring waves and the earth trembling.”

This unique event takes place on May 15 in Glenn Gould Studio.

More Concerts

May 2: Community Baroque Orchestra of Toronto. This chamber orchestra specializes in music of the Baroque era performed on period instruments and in period style. They’ll present selections from Charpentier’s David and Jonathan, Telemann’s Water Music, and Lully’s Armide.

May 4: Vicki St. Pierre, a remarkable mezzo who is completing her doctorate in vocal performance at the U of T, gives her DMA recital in Walter Hall, singing solo alto cantatas by Bach and Vivaldi’s Stabat Mater. This free recital is one of many concerts of high artistic quality at universities, begging to be discovered.

May 5 to 8: Classical Music Consort. “2010 Springtime Handel Festival.” In this 4-concert festival at St. James’ Cathedral, some of Handel’s great but lesser-known solo, chamber and vocal music is explored. Founded by harpsichordist/conductor Ashiq Aziz, this group is committed to fostering new and talented performers, as well as giving innovative and enlightened performances of baroque and classical music.

May 7 and 8: The Toronto Consort presents “Lutefest,” which you can read about in this issue’s cover story. How fascinating to bring three world lute traditions together on the same stage!

May 8: The Orpheus Choir of Toronto presents another of Handel’s lesser-performed but great works, his dramatic oratorio Athalia.

May 9: Toronto Early Music Centre’s “Musically Speaking” series deserves to be better-known. In the serene, intimate setting of the Church of the Holy Trinity, these one-hour concerts bring exquisite music and wonderful performances. The series continues with a programme of late 16th-century Spanish and Italian repertoire, featuring soprano Katherine Hill, gambist Joëlle Morton and harpist Julia Seager-Scott.

May 12 to 15: Toronto Masque Theatre presents “A Molière Celebration.” Molière’s collaborations with two giants of French Baroque opera of his time, Marc-Antoine Charpentier and Jean-Baptiste Lully, are here celebrated in abridged versions (alive with vocal soloists, dancers, actors and baroque orchestra) of Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme and Le Malade Imaginaire.

May 16 in Kitchener: Folia presents “The New Orpheus of Our Times: A Celebration of Arcangelo Corelli.” This is a tribute to the musician whose virtuosity, compositions and teaching brought the violin to new artistic heights.

May 16: Toronto Chamber Choir’s “Kaffeemusik: Bach and the German Motet.” The Choir’s afternoon Kaffeemusiks are mixtures of informative and entertaining commentary by music director Mark Vuorinen and music sung by the choir, with goodies to follow. In this presentation they’re joined by a chamber choir from Rosedale Heights School of the Arts, the school with which TCC has an educational partnership.

May 29: With intention to explore the sacred vocal music of the 17th century, Capella Intima presents a reprise of their well-received programme “Celestial Sirens,” performing a mass and motets by Cozzolani, Leonarda and others.

May 29 and 30, June 1: Tafelmusik presents Handel’s oratorio Israel in Egypt. As their press release states, “this is a tour de force of choral writing: Handel employs the choir to paint the vivid images of the Exodus on a musical canvas of massive proportions.”

June 5: With their indestructable panache, I Furiosi and guests recall the glory days of major battles and horrified, anxious soldiers, in “I (Furiosi) Declare War.”

June 5: St. Anne's Anglican Church presents “Raise the Roof with Bach.” Bach’s Magnificat in D and works by Vivaldi will be offered in a concert whose proceeds go toward repairs of historic St. Anne’s Church. The domed ceiling and chancel of this beautiful building display mural paintings dating from 1923, by ten Toronto artists, including three members of the Group of Seven.

Finally, the musical world mourns the death of Kenneth Solway, co-founder (with his wife, the late Susan Graves) of Tafelmusik. Their legacy is one of the foremost early music ensembles in the world, right here in Toronto.

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.

p16aThis year May is the new April. In the past, in Southern Ontario, April has seen the most operatic activity of any month of the year – but this year, May seems to have taken over that position. This month there are works from the 17th century to the 21st, most fully staged but some in concert format.

Dominating the schedule are three works staged by the Canadian Opera Company. The COC’s revival of its 1996 production of Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman opened on April 24 but continues until May 20. Evgeny Nikitin sings the title role, while Julie Makarov is Senta and Mats Almgren is Daland. The original director, Christopher Alden, directs, and COC music director Johannes Debus conducts his first Wagner opera for the company.

From May 1 to 30 the COC presents its first-ever Maria Stuarda, the 1835 opera by Gaetano Donizetti that premiered only three months after his Lucia di Lammermoor. Serena Farnocchia sings the title role with Alexandrina Pendatchanska as Elisabetta. Stephen Lawless directs the 2007 Dallas Opera production and Antony Walker conducts.

The COC concludes its 2009-10 season with its first production of Mozart’s Idomeneo since 2001. Toronto was treated to an outstanding Idomeneo from Opera Atelier in 2008, so it will be interesting to see how this 2007 production from l’Opéra du Rhin, directed by François de Carpentries, compares. Paul Groves sings the title role, with Krisztina Szabó as Idamante, Isabel Bayrakdarian as Ilia and Tamara Wilson as Elettra, so memorably sung for OA by Measha Brueggergosman. The opera runs from May 9 to 29 and is conducted by early music expert Harry Bicket.

Three more fully staged works come from smaller companies. Toronto Masque Theatre presents “A Molière Celebration.” In addition to purely spoken comedies, Molière also wrote so-called “comédie-ballets” that included interludes of song and dance often omitted in modern revivals. TMT will present the interludes written by Jean-Baptiste Lully for Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme in 1670 and those written by Lully’s rival Marc-Antoine Charpentier for Le Malade imaginaire in 1673. Soloists will include sopranos Shannon Mercer and Dorothea Ventura, countertenor Richard Whittall, tenor Cory Knight and baritone David Roth. Performances take place at the Al Green Theatre in the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre from May 12 to 15, directed by Derek Boyes and conducted by Larry Beckwith. Visit www.torontomasquetheatre.com for details.

p16bMay will see the world premiere of Dean Burry’s The Secret World of Og, adapted from the beloved 1961 children’s book by Pierre Berton. The work is a commission by the Canadian Children’s Opera Chorus, and all 200 members of the CCOC will be on stage. As many will know, the story concerns four children who descend through a trapdoor into an underground world of mushrooms whose green inhabitants can only utter the word “Og.” CCOC artistic director Ann Cooper Gay will conduct and Joe Ivany will direct. The opera runs from May 5 to 9. For more information visit
www.canadianchildrensopera.com.

p17Later in the month, from May 26 to 30, Urbanvessel revives its popular but highly unusual opera Stitch at the Theatre Centre. The 45-minute opera, subject of an “On Opera” interview with composer Juliet Palmer and librettist Anna Chatterton in March 2008, is written for three female voices accompanied only by the sound of sewing machines and concerns the mechanization of women’s work and its political ramifications. As in 2008, Christine Duncan, Patricia O’Callaghan and Neema Bickersteth will perform under the direction of Ruth Madoc-Jones. For more information visit
www.urbanvessel.com.

Two concert performances from Opera By Request fill out the month – Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail on May 7 and Carl Maria von Weber’s Der Freischütz on May 15. Both take place at the College Street United Church, 452 College St. See www.operaby-request.ca for details.

Finally, on May 1 and 2 Toronto Operetta Theatre is holding “A Gilbert and Sullivan Extravaganza,” a gala concert of G&S highlights including high tea. All the funds raised will go to assist TOT’s 2010-11 season. TOT patrons will know that the company was forced to cancel its production of The Pirates of Penzance last month for financial reasons. One consequence of the economic downturn in the arts has been the loss of donors and sponsors. TOT was hit particularly hard when a major sponsor pulled out just before the current season began. The company had to raise emergency funds simply to stage its second show, Canada’s own operetta, Leo, the Royal Cadet, a work that TOT’s efforts had rescued from undeserved obscurity. As Canada’s only professional operetta company, as one of the few in the world that strives to present works from all the national traditions, and as a company that from the beginning has showcased Canadian singers, TOT is a gem that must be preserved. Potential sponsors and donors please take note. Visit www.torontooperetta.com for more information.

Christopher Hoile is a Toronto-based writer on opera. He can be contacted at: opera@thewholenote.com.

With the wealth of choirs, opera companies and vocal music presenters that have a penchant for new music, we’re never at a loss for performances of contemporary repertoire. But this month there’s a visibly larger interest in the human voice, with several new-music presenters offering programs from the traditional to the unusual. Accompanying these concerts, summits and site-specific installations is an equally far-ranging exploration of themes concerning our place in the world and the state of humanity.

p18The Talisker Players, who are certainly no strangers to vocal music, close their 10th anniversary season on May 11 and 12 with “Illuminations” – a title that refers to the mystical and visionary texts that influence the selected pieces. The Taliskers depart from their usual chamber ensemble format to present Benjamin Britten’s stunning Illuminations, based on the fantastical poetry of Rimbaud, for soprano and string orchestra. Rising talent William Rowson conducts soprano Meredith Hall, who reaches beyond her renown in early music circles to also perform Harry Freedman’s Trois Poèmes de Jacques Prévert for soprano and string quartet. (It’s a shame that we won’t get to hear the Freedman in its original setting for soprano and string orchestra; he withdrew that version in 1981 and replaced it with the current setting.)

Also joining the Talisker’s is the much-in-demand tenor Lawrence Wiliford. Credited for his luminous projection, lyrical sensitivity and brilliant coloratura, Wiliford will perform Gerald Finzi’s Dies Natalis for tenor and strings, and Toronto-based Andrew Ager’s From the Rubáiyát for tenor and string quartet. A generation older but still a contemporary of Britten’s, Finzi may be lesser known, but certainly no less talented when it comes to lush writing, here inspired by metaphysical texts from Thomas Taherne. Ager’s rich and expressive piece, based on words from Persian philosopher Omar Khayyám, shows stylistic affinities with these British composers. It would have been lovely to hear the version for string trio and French horn, as it appears in the CentreStreams online audio service. Perhaps there is an opportunity to programme it with Britten’s Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings in the future?

Nonetheless, these two concerts at Trinity St. Paul’s Centre allow us to hear lush music in the capable hands of excellent performers. For more info visit www.taliskerplayers.ca. For tickets call 416-978-8849 or e-mail words.music@taliskerplayers.ca.

A few days later, we take a sharp turn towards the outer reaches of vocal exploration when a trifecta of adventurous vocalizers land at the Music Gallery and surrounding sites for the Voice Summit. Toronto’s Christine Duncan, Vancouver’s DB Boyko and New York City’s Shelley Hirsch show us why the world’s oldest and most democratic instrument has retained its power to create unbounded sonic experiences that also collapse social barriers.

At 8:00pm on May 16, Duncan and Boyko launch the Summit with a site-specific performance of Stall, a newly commissioned work by Victoria-based composer Christopher Butterfield, at the Harrison Baths and Swimming Pool. Stall, for voices and ambient sounds, explores the soundscape and social boundaries of the public washroom. The work is intended to cajole, disturb and at the same time demand restraint. Using a combination of absurd spoken word, humorous chant and a barrage of cut-up text, Stall examines the more subtle aspects of this particularly ubiquitous but often socially uncomfortable location.

Duncan and Boyko have a history of collaboration and over the years have developed a mesmerizing musical rapport that should make for a captivating world premiere performance. Back in the Gallery, the remarkably accomplished Shelley Hirsch will deliver a solo concert vocal improvisations at 9:00pm. Her practice encompasses story telling, staged performances, compositions, improvisations, collaborations (with a “who’s who” of contemporary music), installations and radio plays that have been presented on five continents. Those inspired by what they hear may want to attend Hirsch’s free vocal improvisation workshop on May 17. For more details visit www.musicgallery.org. For tickets call 416-204-1080 or visit www.ticketweb.ca.

Continuum’s 25th anniversary season closes on May 21 at the Music Gallery with “Wisdom of the Elders,” a concert that ambitiously seeks to ask questions about the human race and its place in the world. A cornerstone of the programme is a newly commissioned work by Toronto composer Juliet Palmer. How it Happened for ensemble and narrator re-examines an aboriginal creation myth in a setting of text taken from Thomas King’s Green Grass, Running Water. Renowned actor and activist RH Thomson joins Continuum as narrator for this world premiere.

Two works by American proto-minimalist Tom Johnson draw on diverse sociological inspirations. Narayana’s Cows uses the population explosion calculations of 14th-century Hindu mathematician Narayana as cumulative musical building blocks. Tortue de Mer for bass saxophone transcribes sand-drawing games and story-telling practices of the Vanuatu people of the Pacific islands. Soprano Carla Huhtanen returns to Continuum to perform British composer Geoff Hannan’s Where I Live is Shite/Where I Live is Posh, a politically satirical work that tackles the subject of contemporary population pressures that result in absurdity, irritation and unhappiness. The progamme is rounded out by a reprise of early-career Canadian composer Aaron Gervais’ Jackhammer Lullaby – a re-arrangement of his work Community-Normed, which was commissioned by Continuum in 2008. In writing about the piece, Gervais said “I’ve become increasingly interested in presenting pieces in multiple versions and combinations. Why multiple versions? Because music today is multiple. Everyone is exposed to music from multiple cultures, from multiple time periods and in multiple versions. Musically, Jackhammer Lullaby presents a humorous musical setting of trying to fall asleep with construction going on outside the window.” For more info visit www.continuummusic.org. For tickets, visit www.wisdom.eventbrite.com.

p19The month closes out with Urbanvessel’s remount of its Dora-nominated Stitch from May 26 to May 30 at the Theatre Centre. This production brings together the original creative team behind the sold-out, critically acclaimed production that premiered during the 2008 Free Fall festival. Stitch is an a cappella opera created by composer-librettist duo Juliet Palmer and Anna Chatterton. As they describe it, the opera is “hemmed in by the language of sewing and the inexorable rhythm of the machine, [where] three women fight to find space for imagination and individuality. Stitch gives voice to the unseen women who clothe us all.” Ruth Madoc-Jones directs a remarkable cast of vocalists: Christine Duncan, Patricia O’Callaghan and Neema Bickersteth. For more info, including details about the May 29 gala performance and links to sneak-peek videos, visit www.theatrecentre.org. For tickets, call 416-538-0988.

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

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