Peace, my heart, let the time for
the parting be sweet.

Canadian composer Matthew Emery’s musical setting “Peace, my heart” uses a poem by legendary Bengali poet and musician, Rabindranath Tagore. Emery’s composition is spartan and focused, somehow enabling deep mourning and peaceful contemplation to coexist within a single shape. Reflecting on the tumultuous state of current affairs, it’s going to be good to be able to get back to making collective music. The summer of presidential-inflamed white supremacy, the threat of nuclear war, the homophobic hatred in Chechnya, the loss of democracy in Venezuela, the imprisonment of elected officials in Hong Kong – there is a great heaviness throughout the world. The weight of recent events sits deeply in the minds, hearts, and souls of many people. As artists and enjoyers of music, our personal and communal healing often takes place in the context of music and to that we can turn our minds, hearts, and souls for healing. There is much good music ahead.

That Choir

At the beginning of August I lost an old friend who was only 31. Many of my memories with him were music related; we went through the same music program in high school. I can picture him vividly with flute in hand; I can picture him attempting clarinet; I can remember our conversations about Polish music. Music is all around us, and indeed, healing, if we allow it. At the back of the commemoration card, his family chose the poem “Do not stand at my grave and weep” by Mary Elizabeth Frye.

That Choir will feature Eleanor Daley’s iconic setting of Frye’s poem, In Remembrance, part of her Requiem in their first concert of the season, “That Choir Remembers.” That Choir has been busy, making itself one of Toronto’s busiest and most dynamic. Recently featured in Ramin Djawadi’s “Game of Thrones Live!” concert and “Hans Zimmer Live,” both at the Air Canada Centre, the choir is proving itself able to rise to a wide range of big occasions. These two events have been among the most amazing performances of live music I have ever, and will probably ever, witness.

This year, That Choir enters its tenth season under the direction of Craig Pike. Stay tuned for guest appearances as new concerts are announced.

Sistine Chapel Choir comes to St. Michael’s

Sacred Music Concert - photo courtesy of St. Michael's CathedralThe oldest operating choir in the world, the Sistine Chapel Choir, is coming to Toronto. Its official name, Cappella Musicale Pontificia Sistina, describes its purpose – created for the Pope to serve in the Sistine Chapel. For centuries, the music and the ensemble were fiercely guarded and protected by the Church. The choir visits North America with several stops in the United States and Canada; on September 26, St. Michael’s Cathedral Basilica will host them, a fitting celebration to launch and ambitious series of concerts in the recently renovated Cathedral.

This choir is very rarely heard except by those who are lucky enough to visit Vatican City during liturgy. It is for this choir that great Renaissance composers like Gregorio Allegri and Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina wrote music intended to be sung in the Sistine Chapel itself. In the context of a growing fascination with Renaissance and early music, the Sistine Chapel Choir offers something unique. A direct descendant of the tradition, the choir also boasts access to the historical archives of music at the Vatican. In 2015, the choir released its first-ever recording, Cantate Domino, with performances directly from source materials and recorded in situ. The source in question, a 1661 version of the Allegri Misere, is especially haunting in its simplicity and the absence of the storied high C. Their second recording featured Palestrina and was reviewed by The WholeNote’s own Michael Schwartz.

St. Michael’s Choir School has quite a season of its own ahead, ambitious even by the standards of this storied choir program. Of note is the splitting of Handel’s Messiah into two performances, one for the Christmas season and another for the Easter season. The Choir School does not often perform Handel and Jennens’ masterpiece, and Peter Mahon, senior choir director, looks forward to teaching this music to another generation. Part 1 will be featured in Massey Hall in a contemporary interpretation featuring the 160 voices of the senior choir. In April, Parts 2 and 3 will be presented in a much smaller performance, with Mahon leading an early music interpretation with Baroque instruments and pitch. Alumni and early music specialists Simon Honeyman and Richard Whittall will be featured alto soloists for the performances along with Joel Allison, bass.

St. Michael’s Cathedral music programming is also turning to a new ticketing model, one with no ticket sales. Suggested donations are now the norm for this season. “Anyone can come and may pay only as they are able”, says William O’Meara, St. Michael’s Cathedral organist. “We all hope it welcomes those who may not be able to afford to go to regular concert series in the city.” This admirable choice will bring peace and music to many people who would otherwise not be able to afford the experience.

(And as an aside, St. Michael’s Choir School’s junior choir director, Maria Conkey, also takes on a new role this year, as artistic director of Young Voices Toronto, heading into its 31st season. Stay tuned for more news as Conkey takes the reins.)

Canadian Children’s Opera Company

Speaking of storied children’s and youth choirs, the Canadian Children’s Opera Company (CCOC) heads into its 50th anniversary season under music director Teri Dunn, also a choral instructor at St. Michael’s Choir School! The renowned Ben Heppner will host the CCOC’s October 26 gala concert at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, which will feature performances by Richard Margison, Krisztina Szabó, Simone Osborne and Andrew Haji and a chorus made up of company alumni, many of whom have gone on to notable musical careers. Former music and artistic directors John Tuttle and Ann Cooper Gay will also conduct.

Their 50th anniversary season will also include the world premiere of The Monkiest King with music by Alice Ping Yee Ho and libretto by Marjorie Chan. This beloved Chinese folk tale will be brought to life by the CCOC in May 2018 as the CCOC under artistic director Dean Burry continues its pursuit of artistic, educational and cultural excellence.

TSO Doing Its Part

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra has several big choral works planned this season, featuring the Toronto Children’s Chorus and the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir. September 27, 28 and 30, Brahms’ A German Requiem will be performed, including soprano Erin Wall and baritone Russell Braun. Just over a month later, the Toronto premiere of Afghanistan: Requiem for a Generation will be performed by the massed power of the Toronto Children’s Chorus, the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir and Measha Bruggergosman. Victoria Symphony Orchestra music director Tania Miller takes the podium, guiding the words of Suzanne Steele, Canada’s war poet, and set to music by Canadian composer Jeffrey Ryan.

I bow to you and hold up my lamp
to light you on your way.

As musicians around the region return home to start the new season, I will be there, diligently sitting in rehearsal, seeking that elusive balance of emotion and contemplation through music, and hopefully bringing peace to a few others along the way. Make sure to come out to as many performances as you can – audiences are an essential part of the musical process. See you out there and don’t forget to say hi!

Follow Brian on Twitter @bfchang. Send info/media/tips to choralscene@thewholenote.com

The 2017/18 music theatre scene is starting with a bang this month with two large-scale, vastly different projects, both equally exciting.

Miigis

Miigis by Red Sky Performance: Sandra Laronde, concept/direction; Jera Wolfe, choreography; Sophia Lebessis, performer - photo by Donald LeeIn this year of celebrating Canada’s 150th birthday how perfect is it to have a new creation by Red Sky Performance taking up residence at Fort York. Red Sky, based in Toronto, is Canada’s leading company of contemporary Indigenous performance in dance, theatre, music and media.

On September 15 and 16 they are bringing to life the world premiere of Miigis, a fusion of contemporary Indigenous dance and powerful original music, with concept and direction by artistic director Sandra Laronde, choreography by associate artist Jera Wolfe, and design by Julia Tribe, exploring the catalysts, trade routes, and stories of a journey from the Atlantic coast to the Great Lakes and the “seven prophecies marked by miigis.”

The seven prophecies (or seven fires prophecy) are at the heart of the belief of the Anishinaabe people, prophecies that follow seven epochs (and predicting an eighth) in the life of the people of Turtle Island (North America) following the migration of the people from the East Coast into the interior of the continent and encompassing the arrival of the Europeans and the effects of the meeting of the two cultures. The miigis in different tellings of the prophecies are either/both the cowrie shells that mark the various lands where the migrating people should stay and settle, and the prophets that guided them.

Fascinated with Laronde’s choice of this as the heart of the new piece, I asked her a few key questions about the inception of Miigis and her production choices (her responses have been edited for length).

WN: Can you tell me more about the choice of the seven prophecies of miigis as the subject matter for the new work? What is it about the prophecy that you want to communicate through the piece and that you think is important for audiences to learn about/experience now?

SL: Miigis is akin to the holy grail for the Anishinaabe people. We followed it from the Atlantic Coast to the Great Lakes. I’m interested in the third fire prophecy given to us which was ‘to move westward until you come to a place where food grows on the water’. I’m interested in what happened along the travel and water routes, what got exchanged, what happened. The food that ‘grows on water’ is known as manoomin or wild rice which the Anishinaabe are renowned for harvesting. Its harvest life cycle is part of the structure of the Miigis production.

Our seven fires prophecy includes an eighth fire, where society could choose to go down either a dark path or a bright path, and we are in this eighth fire now. All of the warnings are here – now – especially with regard to the environment, nature, and the loss of many species.  The question is can we turn this around? Can the dominant culture move beyond a ‘take, take mentality’?

WN: Why did you choose Fort York as the location for the world premiere, and how will this location set off the work you will be creating? 

SL: We are fortunate to have wonderful partners involved in Miigis, and it is co-commissioned by the City of Toronto, The Bentway Conservancy and Fort York Historic Site. This location is perfect because the Gardiner Expressway was the natural shoreline of Lake Ontario, one of the five Great Lakes. Garrison Creek runs along Fort York which is where the Anishinaabe used its waterways. Of course, Fort York has a lot of history before it became known as a fort, as Anishinabek and Haudenosaunee shared this land that is now known as Toronto. Toronto is a Haudensaunee word that means “where trees grow in the water.” That speaks to quite a beautiful image of Toronto, and its natural beauty.

Fort York has a lot of big open spaces and it has quite a good feel there. Ironically, while creating a high Indigenous content with Miigis, we would hear cannonballs being fired off on a daily basis, and young men and women marching around outside in colonial vestments. At first, it was quite startling to hear cannonballs firing a few times a day. It’s ironic that we have something very colonial happening all around us while we are inside the Blue Barracks creating a work that goes right back to our origin story and our seven fire prophecies. It’s strangely appropriate somehow as we are giving Indigenous voice back to this tract of land.

It’s ideal to be at the Bentway and Fort York because this work has approximately 18 to 20 dancers, both contemporary and traditional, and six live musicians, so a lot of people are involved. We need the space for this outdoor spectacle experience of original live music and dance. The music is extraordinary, rich, Indigenous and surprising. It’s a big ambitious piece in many ways.

WN: Will the piece take place in one place or move about the fort? How do you see this affecting both the creation of the piece and the reaction of the audience? 

SL: We will have a procession from The Bentway area into Fort York, and we will perform outside on a low-rise stage. We all want the feeling of the performance being accessible to audiences. Miigis is a piece to be performed outdoors amidst nature and the Toronto cityscape. This land allows our production to move distances, to cover ground, and to involve a lot of artists involved in the process, including traditional dancers and singers.

I would love audiences to take away images, moments, and knowledge nuggets that swim around in their heads and hearts for years to come, to feel the urgency of what Miigis is about, to experience the Indigenous artistry, and to have a rich sonic experience of Indigenous music. We are very excited to reveal this new terrain of dance and live music that immerses audiences in the power of nature and Indigenous prophecy right here in downtown Toronto.

Miigis plays for two performances only, September 15 and16, with a third music-only concert on September 17. Performances are free.

Life After

Britta Johnson’s musical Life After, which will debut at Canadian Stage September 23 to October 22The other centrepiece of the September season is Life After, a new Canadian musical by Britta Johnson, first seen and widely acclaimed at the Toronto Fringe in 2016, workshopped again last April, and in rehearsal now for its debut at Canadian Stage September 23 to October 22 (at the Berkeley Street Theatre), in a three-way co-production with the Musical Stage Company and Yonge Street Theatricals. A funny and frank story of love, loss and vivid imagination, Life After follows 16-year-old Alice, left to navigate life after her father, a superstar self-help guru, dies in a car accident. The audience is plunged into Alice’s overactive inner world as she tries to decipher the events that led to that fateful day.

Unusually for a musical, the composer is also the writer of both book and lyrics, and the story is one she says she has been writing since her teens as it draws in part on her own experience of losing her father when she was young.

Reviews of the original Fringe production speak of how moving but also how funny Life After is, calling Johnson’s work revolutionizing and comparing her to Sondheim. In a recent blogpost, director Robert McQueen (who also directed the original Fringe production) wrote that he “can’t wait to get Life After back into the theatre and to invite audiences to hear the unique voice of this truly gifted musical theatre artist.”

Joining McQueen at Canadian Stage is a top-notch creative team and cast featuring emerging star Ellen Denny, Dan Chameroy, Rielle Braid, Tracy Michailidis, Kelsey Verzotti and Trish Lindström; leading the ensemble are Neema Bickersteth, Barbara Fulton, and Johnson’s sister Anika Johnson (who also is the production’s dramaturg).

The production is also marking a number of firsts. Britta Johnson is the inaugural artist chosen to be part of the Musical Stage Company’s new Crescendo series which gives the chosen composer a three-year residency with a commitment to produce three of her new musicals in development over that time. This is also the first Canadian musical to be programmed at Canadian Stage under artistic and general director Matthew Jocelyn. Jocelyn, whose family origins trace back to Johnson’s hometown Stratford, Ontario, caught some of her early student productions  and was immediately struck by the mature, insightful voice in her work, both as librettist and as a composer: “Life After is a searingly beautiful piece of music theatre that we are honoured to have opening our 30th anniversary season,” says Jocelyn.

We are in an exciting era of musical theatre development in Toronto with a growing proliferation of new musical incubators as well as more companies featuring music theatre of various kinds in their seasons. Canadian Stage stands out as breaking new ground in this regard with fully 10 out of 15 productions in their new season featuring music as an integral element of the production. I will be writing more on that next month.

Not Too Late

If you are still feeling the draw of summer days in small-town Ontario, head out to Stratford to see their strong production of Damon Runyon’s classic Guys and Dolls featuring Steve Ross’ perfect Nicely-Nicely Johnson at the Festival Theatre (until Oct 29) or grab the chance to see brilliant Canadian actor Michael Therriault (Golem in the ill-fated LOTR musical) starring in the 1930s musical Me and My Girl at the Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake (until Oct 15).

Or for something more modern, watch Cirque du Soleil explode into the Port Lands with Volta, their new show about blazing your own trail (Sept 7 to Oct 29).

Toronto-based “lifelong theatre person” Jennifer (Jenny) Parr works as a director, fight director, stage manager and coach, and is equally crazy about movies and musicals.

 

Update 4pm, Aug 31 2017: A previous version of this article referred in one instance to Canadian Stage as 'CanStage'; this error has since been corrected.

In my summer 2017 column I examined the formation and first season of the New Canadian Global Music Orchestra – the Royal Conservatory’s supergroup celebrating cultural diversity and pluralism – and its search for a common language here in Toronto, Canada.

Now, with fall subtly nipping at our heels, two new initiatives aiming to address issues of interest to students, practitioners and audiences of globally sensitive music, are poised to set projects in motion. On the one hand, Polyphonic Ground aspires to bring under a big tent a group of individual “live music presenters committed to building and sustaining Toronto as a global music city.” On the other hand, Labyrinth Musical Workshop Ontario is a non-profit “dedicated to promoting the study and appreciation of modal music traditions of Asia, Africa and Europe.” Both publicly launch in September.

Polyphonic Ground

TurkwazKayla McGee, Small World Music’s managing director, serves as Polyphonic Ground’s community lead. In a mid-August interview she told me why Polyphonic Ground was an obvious next step in the evolution of our region’s global music community. “We at Small World saw there was no real infrastructure for live music presenters, no shared platforms to allow us to work and grow together.” Small World couldn’t do it alone. But the need for setting up such infrastructure became abundantly clear to McGee when she served with Ontario’s Live Music Working Group, an industry association promoting live Canadian music.

Polyphonic Ground’s activities, McGee explains, will include collaborative programming, fundraising, addressing resource issues and professional development such as presenter panels and surveys. “We also want to stress to audiences that the music we collectively present is for the culturally curious and not just for members of a specific group. Many of us are looking for ways to break out of genre and confirmed audience silos … to cross-pollinate audiences.”

That Small World had identified a real need became instantly clear when they put the word out about Polyphonic Ground; 12 small-to-medium-sized organizations responded to the call for “a new initiative to strengthen Toronto’s culturally diverse music industry.” It’s an impressive list: Ashkenaz Foundation, Lula Music and Arts Centre, Batuki Music Society, Good Kind Productions, Link Music Lab, MonstrARTity Creative Community, Music Africa, Revolutions Per Minute, Uma Nota Culture, World Fiddle Day Toronto, iNative and Small World Music Society, the initiative’s catalyst.

I have featured the activities of many of its members individually in this column over the years. Under the Polyphonic Ground banner these presenters could constitute a significant cultural voice. Taken as a whole the numbers are impressive. Collectively they employ 40 people in their operations and present some 300 concerts each year, to an estimated audience of over 300,000.

The press release announcing Polyphonic Ground’s formation — Hear Toronto. Where the World Lives. — sets out its mission systematically: to provide points of connection for artists and audiences; to strengthen industry practices and be a united voice to government, business and industry; to encourage exchange and discovery through a monthly double-bill performance series and professional development initiatives for diverse artistic leaders. The release also acknowledges funding by the Ontario Media Development Corporation, as well as support from MusicOntario, Music Canada Live, City of Toronto and Cultural Pluralism in the Arts Movement Ontario (CPAMO). So at some level the collective has already begun making its case.

SandcatchersPolyphonic Ground serves up the first in its series of monthly double-bill concerts at Revival Bar, 783 College Street. As planned, for each concert, two partner organizations will pair in collaborative programs geared to transcultural musical discovery. The September 14 inaugural concert is spearheaded by Ashkenaz Foundation and Small World Music Society in co-presentation with three groups: Turkwaz (Toronto), GROOZ (Montreal) and Sandcatchers (Brooklyn). Transcultural the evening certainly will be, featuring the Balkan voices of the seasoned JUNO-nominated Turkwaz trio, the Middle Eastern-meets-Appalachian fusion of Sandcatchers, and GROOZ’s spirited Algerian-Québécois septet. (This inaugural concert also celebrates the launch of the 16th annual Small World Music Festival, running September 14 to 17, “bringing Toronto music from around the world and around the corner.”) Further double-bill Polyphonic Ground musical juxtapositions are scheduled for October 12, November 9 and December 14, with different Polyphonic Ground member organizations presenting. I’ll be eagerly following these concerts.

I’ll also be following with interest Polyphonic Ground’s other meaningful initiatives beyond the concert hall. These include access to training and leadership and bolstering professional development opportunities within the music industry. Already announced is its Diversity and Live Music Panel series, supported by Ontario government and industry players; the Developing Diverse Leaders program “with the goal of empowering young talent through mentorship;” as well as its Best Practice Workshops. The titles may not be as catchy as “Middle Eastern-meets-Appalachian fusion” but the need is real.

Labyrinth Musical Workshop Ontario

While Polyphonic Ground is presenter-driven, Labyrinth Musical Workshop Ontario focuses on the education of a new generation of musicians – and also audiences. Its stated mission and mandate is also distinctly different: “dedicated to promoting the study and appreciation of modal music traditions of Asia, Africa, and Europe.”

Founded in 2017 by two Toronto-based musicians, Persian tar player and teacher Araz Salek and keyboardist, composer and sound designer Jonathan Adjemian, LMWO takes its cues directly from the successful Labyrinth Musical Workshop founded in 2002 at Houdetsi, Crete by leading world musician and educator Ross Daly and running annually since. That successful model has inspired similar workshops in Spain and Italy, establishing an international Labyrinth network.

In a recent telephone interview Salek framed the core reason for establishing Labyrinth Ontario as a belief “in encouraging the study of modal musical traditions in their specific details. [We believe in] embracing the diversity of musical traditions and audiences in the GTA rather than smoothing out particularities of tuning, rhythm or phrasing to cater to an assumed common ground. Our ultimate hope is to see the GTA become a global hub for the study and performance of these traditions, providing institutional support to the many world-class musicians already living here and encouraging a new generation of performers.”

Having begun his music career in Iran, Salek has been active as a tar player and leader in Toronto for about a decade in both Persian ensembles as well as in more eclectic music circles. He has taught and performed at the Labyrinth Musical Workshop in Houdetsi since 2011. Labyrinth Ontario will hold its first annual Toronto training intensive in May 2018. On offer will be a series of three week-long seminars in instrumental technique and in regional modal theory systems. Topics will cover aspects of Afghan, Arab, Azeri, Bulgarian, Greek, Iranian, Kurdish, and Turkish music. Confirmed faculty includes Bassam Bishara (CAN, oud), Ross Daly (Greece, modal music composition), Imamyar Hasanov (USA, Azeri kamancha), Pedram Khavarzamini (CAN, tombak), Ali Akbar Moradi (Iran, Kurdish tanbur), Araz Salek (CAN, tar) and Kelly Thoma (Greece, Cretan lyra). In addition to the workshops, faculty and their students will give concerts each week and moderated panel discussions will be open to the public.

Pedram KhavarzaminiFriday September 15, Labyrinth Ontario holds its Launch Event and Fundraiser at 918 Bathurst Centre for Culture, Arts, Media and Education in order to celebrate its upcoming 2018 programming. The concert features performances by oud player and faculty member Bassam Bishara, Bulgarian and Balkan vocal and instrumental ensemble Meden Glas and Iranian Modal Music Ensemble of Toronto. Then a quartet co-led by faculty members tombak master Pedram Khavarzamini and artistic director Araz Salek on tar takes the stage, capped by a set by DJ Cheba Khadijah of Souk Sessions, known for his “Arab techno for the people.”

New Canadian Global Music Orchestra, Polyphonic Ground and Labyrinth Ontario all launched this year. They are all ambitious adventures in imagining new ground on which global music can grow in Ontario soil, in our Ontario souls. They also address, albeit in very different ways, challenges of bridging musical cultures and expanding global musics’ musician and audience base while maintaining the music’s quality.

We’ll keep eyes – and ears – open for just how they engage with all their necessary Toronto region stake-holders consisting of learners, creators, presenters, audiences and funders alike.

Andrew Timar is a Toronto musician and music writer. He can be contacted at worldmusic@thewholenote.com.

Update 3pm, Sep 6 2017: A previous version of this article incorrectly implied that Polyphonic Ground received financial support from organizations other than the OMDC, and that McGee encountered barriers among colleagues to setting up the organization. These errors have since been corrected.

As I sit down to put pen to paper (sit down to the keyboard; this is 2017!), and muse on where to start for this September issue, after our two-month hiatus, one question seems to be: What was significant in the summer in the band world? The answer which keeps coming up is just another question: What day was summer on this year? What with cancelled concerts and rained-out festivals I’m going to have to dig back all the way to June for some of my highlights.

Three of the Best

In the June column I mentioned that I was looking forward to attending the final concert of the season of the Wychwood Clarinet Choir. I certainly was not disappointed. In particular, the arrangement of Calixa Lavallée’s Bridal Rose Overture by Richard Moore and Roy Greaves surpassed my expectations. In a previous column I had also mentioned that I hoped to meet Wynne Krangle, the clarinet player from Whitehorse who rehearses with the choir over the internet. There she was in the choir, and we managed to have a brief chat after the concert.

Another concert I mentioned in the June issue as one I hoped to attend was that of the Strings Attached Orchestra. Here again the concert exceeded my expectations. The orchestra has developed their Young Composers Initiative (YCI) where they “hope to encourage the writing of contemporary works for strings by composers 16 years of age and younger.” In this concert they performed Viaggio delle Farfalle by Damiano Perrella, a 16-year-old Grade 11 student from Port Credit Secondary School. In simple terms, one might say that it describes the evolution of a caterpillar to a butterfly. The title, translated from the Italian, means “the voyage of flight of the butterflies.” The composer states that he was inspired to write this during a stroll where he came across a butterfly flying away, and was immediately curious as to how he could translate this grace into music. In his words: “I wanted to convey the emotions related with flight starting from a caterpillar.” As Franz Liszt once said: “The musician who is inspired by nature exhales in tones nature’s most tender secrets without copying it. He thinks, he feels, he speaks through nature.” This young composer did just that.

Dan and Lisa Kapp (with Alphorn)The third musical event of the summer which stands out in my memory was by the Resa’s Pieces Concert Band. Not only were they joined for some numbers by Resa’s choir and strings, but they had a featured alphorn solo by none other than Dan Kapp of New Horizons fame. This was Dan’s arrangement for band of Ballad for Alphorn and Frustrated Percussionist by composer Dennis Armitage. He was aided by his wife Lisa who, as the frustrated percussionist, displayed her virtuosity on the triangle, cow bell, small and large cymbal, slide whistle, police whistle, bird call etc. Having never heard of this composer, I checked and learned that he was born in England, but lived most of his life in Switzerland. Hence the interest in the alphorn. We have learned that Dan and Lisa will be performing this work in Lindsay on October 28 with piano and organ accompaniment. Hopefully, we’ll have details of that event in time for the October issue.

Other

For those concerts which were not cancelled because of weather conditions, the common theme was the Canada 150/sesquicentennial. For most that meant a major component of the programs had to be Canadian content. In most of the programs this Canadian content was largely by lesser-known contemporary Canadians. As a form of memorial, almost every concert that I was aware of featured something by Howard Cable. Unfortunately I saw little, if any, 19th-century or early 20th-century Canadian works. Although there are several fine concert band arrangements of his work, the only work by Calixa Lavallée in any concert program which came to my attention was O Canada (other than, as mentioned, Calixa Lavallée’s Bridal Rose Overture at Wychwood).

Trivia

To lighten things up for the coming musical season it might be time for a bit of trivia. In the spring I had the pleasure of attending a fun-raising trivia night for the Amadeus Choir. Based on the popular Trivial Pursuit, attendees formed teams around tables and provided team answers to questions posed. Each team had to choose a team name. There were prizes for correct answers, but there was also a prize for the best team name. The name which struck the chord with me was “La Triviata.”

Anyone who plays a musical instrument knows only too well that one of the perils on the learning curve is learning the meaning of the multitude of stylistic markings which lie beneath the notes on any score telling us how that bit should be played. During a recent rehearsal, while sight reading a new work, I realized that I had never seen a warning of an impending awkward, difficult or tricky passage. Ergo, it is time to add to the lexicon. How about jp or justo pretendo as a recognized warning for such situations?

Hail (and Farewell?)

On a recent TV news broadcast there was a brief showing of US President Trump arriving at some ceremonial function. He was greeted by a military band in full dress regalia with ceremonial trumpeters at the fore. After suitable trumpet flourishes and fanfare, the president stepped down to the tune of the traditional Hail to the Chief. Having heard of a controversy about this particular music, I dug into some notes which I had made some years ago. The first question might be why this music, written by an Englishman? Based on a Scottish Gaelic melody, it was written around 1812 by James Sanderson who added words from Sir Walter Scott’s Lady of the Lake. It seems that Chester Arthur, US President in the late 1880s questioned why important ceremonial occasions would require music by anyone but an American composer. Based on this, a call went out for an American composition. While there may have been other submissions, John Philip Sousa submitted his new Presidential Polonaise. It never caught on, and Hail to the Chief is still the choice. But with his emphasis on buy American, will the current president reconsider? Several renditions of Presidential Polonaise are available on YouTube.

Coming

The Toronto New Horizons bands will be starting back soon with their annual Instrument Exploration Workshop to be held Friday, September 8 at 7:30pm at the Long and McQuade store on Bloor Street. As in the past, this will be an excellent opportunity for anyone, considering taking up music or getting back after an absence, to consider which instrument might appeal to them. Just a few years ago the first New Horizons band was formed in Toronto with modest hopes. This year there will be a second beginner band bringing the total number of NH bands in Toronto to ten. Classes begin September 11.

On Tuesday, October 10, Silverthorn Symphonic Winds presents the first concert of their season in the series, 59 Minute Soiree. Wilmar Heights Event Centre – Concert Hall, 963 Pharmacy Ave, Toronto (just north of Eglinton). These informal musical entertainments feature a variety of lighter music.

The Hannaford Youth Band is preparing for an interesting season including a concert with the West Humber Steel Band in their “Rising Stars Brass and Steel” concert in the new year. For anyone interested in joining this great band, auditions are Saturday, September 16. Applications may be submitted online.

The York Regional Brass are preparing for another season of brass band music. They are looking for new members and would welcome inquiries. They rehearse in Aurora on Wednesday evenings. If interested, contact Peter Hussey at pnhussey@rogers.com.

Jack MacQuarrie plays several brass instruments and has performed in many community ensembles. He can be contacted at bandstand@thewholenote.com.

Lula Lounge at 1587 Dundas W. in Toronto describes itself as a “music club, venue, bar, restaurant, community centre, ground zero to the exploding world music scene in Toronto ... home to Latin, salsa, jazz, reggae, indie, and more.” So when a place like that shuts up shop in the middle of summer, people notice.

We certainly did. So we decided to ask José Ortega, Lula co-founder and artistic director, what was up.

WholeNote: Can you say something about the reno — is it mainly cosmetic or also functional?

Ortega: It’s a facelift, for sure: it vastly improves the washrooms and installs a wheelchair accessible washroom on the main floor. The reno will also give us more room in the lobby area, which Lula patrons know can become really crowded on a busy night. But it’s more than just a facelift. Making Lula more accessible will let us serve clients and communities better and more safely.

And in terms of your overall Lula mandate and your relationship with the surrounding community?

We do a lot of educational programming for youth and host many public meetings. The barrier free, universal washroom will make it easier for clients of all ages with mobility challenges to enjoy the music and activities presented here. Lula programming is done by the not-for-profit organization Lula Music and Arts Centre, which allowed us to get help from the City of Toronto Culture Build fund as well as from Enabling Accessibility, a national program. It’s encouraging because we see both the municipal and federal government stepping up to invest in cultural projects that serve diverse communities. 

Lula LoungeSo what can we look forward to when you re-open September 9?

This is the second stage (the first was removing the drop ceiling in 2015 to reveal the true height of the main room) of what we hope will be a multiphase project. Within the next couple of years, we’re hoping to open up a enlarged mezzanine area so that we can increase our capacity and can accommodate more music lovers in an even better, more beautiful venue!

I recognize what you say about encouraging support from the city’s Culture Build fund and the federal Enabling Accessibility program. But what kind of risk is undertaking something like this at a moment in time when local street level venues in the city seem to be under siege on many fronts?

That’s an interesting question. We want to make sure that as leaders at city hall put forth the idea of a music city, that they understand that our city of music includes salsa, reggae, samba, jazz, classical Indian, soca and many other genres. Toronto can be a leader in all of these areas, not just in pop and indie forms. The folks down at the city’s music office have been very open to hearing about this but we need to keep delivering this message.

I sometimes get the feeling that various topdown initiatives intent on “making us into a music city” take priority over initiatives to nurture the music city we already are.

We’ve been very involved with the efforts to look at the challenges facing Toronto music venues and have been working with the Toronto Music Office, TMAC and other venues to see explore how bylaws and enforcement of those bylaws can create almost impossible situations for responsible live music venue operators. We’ve also been working with Music Canada Live on their Regional Advisory Committee on Toronto Venue Health. We do see a need to recognize what grassroots venues contribute to the culture and economy of our city. It’s easy to take this stuff for granted but it takes a huge amount of energy, money and dedication to keep a music venue going. 

So you’re hopeful?

We’ve been at this for 15 years and have learned by trial and error how to survive in this market with its challenges and benefits. We’re feeling like the model we’re working with is supporting our mandate and should allow us to present live music for many years to come.

I noticed, from another story we’re following, Lula’s name among the organizations signing up for the new Polyphonic Ground collective. What’s your take on that?

We’re part of the Polyphonic Ground collective, which is currently a pilot project led by Small World Music to see what potential exists for small presenters who are serving diverse audiences and artists, to work together to lobby for resources, share best practices and develop audiences together. We’ll see where it goes but it’s bringing to light some interesting issues about access within the music industry.

On October 13, we’ll be hosting the first of a Polyphonic Ground panel series, which Lula has helped to put together, alongside the City of Toronto, Music Canada Live, Music Canada and Music Ontario. The series builds on a panel talk that we organized back in May and will look and diversity and inequities in the music industry. Ideally the series of conversations will lead to some clear recommendations about how to ensure that the festivals, conferences, funding, etc., better reflect the makeup of Toronto. As I say, we’ll see where it goes.

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