by Jason van Eyk

By the time May rolls around, we can be sure that warmer and sunnier days are here to stay. So, it's no surprise that many of Toronto's new music performers and presenters are pursuing nature themes for this month's concerts.


Running throughout the month is New Adventure in Sound Art's Deep Wireless Festival of Radio and Transmission Art, which takes as its theme "Ecology: Water, Air, Sound." In this era of climate change and global warming, we're all alerted to environmental indicators of temperature, air and water quality, as well as light (UV index) and soil (waste disposal and brownfields). However, one environmental element to which we pay exceedingly little attention is sound. Most people would be surprised to know that we are affected by noise exposure more than any other environmental stressor. Yet, because the associated health effects of noise are not considered as immediately life-threatening as those for other environmental elements, it is regularly pushed to the bottom of the priority list.

Feedback Fred (aka Benoît Maubrey) "feeds back" his own voice
through the interaction of his wearable PA system. Marie-Josée
Chartier, through interaction of movement with light sensors,
produces an "audio ballet".

Read more: Back to Nature

Would you like to swing on a star,
carry moonbeams home in a jar,
and be better off than you are....

“Embracing” is a word that can be used two ways. Interesting how either way it applies to making music, and particularly to choral singing.

Choral music is "embracing": like a hug that is big enough for as many as many need one. Simple folk melodies and great majestic scores all invite us to be "in the music" as choristers or as audience. This embrace can transcend all kinds potential barriers: age, gender, race, and other diverse but less visible socio-economic walls in our complicated lives.


We are "embracing music", when we sing with others. With our breathing unified, and often our hearts on our sleeves, we wrap a collective voice around a piece of music and hold it tight, and by extension, around one another. It's an act of love.

The Timothy Eaton Memorial Church Choir School "Sing Out!" (May 8)

Read more: Embracing Music

Ramblin' Son, the sophomore release by blues songwriter, singer, guitarist and pianist Julian Fauth took home the Juno for Blues Recording of the Year. Fauth (www.julianfauth.com) plays every Tuesday night at Gate 403 along with James Thomson on bass, Tim Hamel on trumpet and, recently, guest drummer Paul Brennan. To quote Rambling Son's liner notes: "I now play 800 times a week, mostly for beer and tips, but I also do a lot of benefits, which don't include beer and tips." Please tip generously; this band deserves it.

Julian Fauth

The Old Mill is an upscale, touristy landmark that romantically doubles as a picturesque inn and spa. At its intimate Home Smith Bar, indulge in lively live jazz every Friday and Saturday 8-11pm for a $12 cover charge. Ron Davis books both instrumental and vocal resident artists. Brand new: a permanent residency for the Russ Little Trio, Thursdays from 7-10pm. A $20 food/drink minimum applies per person.

Vocalist Terra Hazelton releases her anticipated sophomore album, Gimme Whatcha Got, at The Rex, May 30. This magical singer (www.terrahazelton.com) is perhaps best known for shining with the late Jeff Healey's Jazz Wizards. Today she sings and plays snare in the wildly entertaining Hogtown Syncopators every Friday from 4-6pm. Hogtown is rounded up by Drew Jureka on violin, alto sax and vocals, Jay Danley on guitar and vocals, Richard Whiteman on piano and James Thomson on bass.

Unconventional vocalist Tova Kardonne is a brave composer and astute arranger. The Thing Is, her Balkan-Jazz-Funk Fusion 8-piece band, is devoted to odd time signatures and raised elevenths; it's challenging, refreshing and highly rewarding in a real listening room (www.myspace.com/thethingismusic). The Thing Is performs at the Trane Studio May 31 at 8pm. (Note that The WholeNote's very own Jim Galloway gigs at The Rex at 9:30pm the same night.)

Tallis Choir. Peter Mahon is front left.

The name Peter Mahon will be familiar to many concert-goers in Toronto, especially if, as I do, you have a love of both choral music and early music. The affable Mahon has had a dual musical career: as a conductor over the last two decades he has worked with St. James Cathedral, Tafelmusik, the Hart House Singers, and Grace Church on-the-Hill, as well as being the founder and director of the William Byrd Singers. As a countertenor, over an even longer time, he has appeared with Tafelmusik, Toronto Consort, Aradia Ensemble, Montreal Chamber Music Festival, Pax Christi Chorale, Arbor Oak Concerts, The Bach-Elgar Choir, The Tallis Choir, The Toronto Chamber Choir and The St. James Cathedral Choral Society... .

Read more: Family Mahon

The human voice is the oldest form of musical expression, and in its earliest use was untexted: think of throat-singing and Celtic mouth music, for example.When one considers some of the current pop-music trends, thinking of the voice as a musical instrument might be a challenge, but even the spoken word can be like music to one's ears. Actor James Earl Jones, for example, has a beautiful voice, although he had to overcome a severe stuttering problem and into his teens he had to communicate with teachers and classmates by handwritten notes! From an earlier generation Ronald Colman had a wonderful, resonant voice that made music just by speaking.

This being the choral issue of The WholeNote, I thought I would give voice to my thoughts on vocal jazz groups. The beginnings of the music go back to ceremonial chants, work songs, field hollers and chain gangs, giving us the origins of the blues, which, in turn became an integral part of jazz. In other words, the roots of jazz were very much vocal, although early jazz bands used singers only intermittently.

Read more: Words and Music
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