It’s September, and, for students and faculty members of the Toronto jazz community, it’s time to head back to school. While not all who play jazz in Toronto teach or study, the scene is still very much tied to the academic calendar, and, as the pervasive humidity of summer gives way to the first crisp whispers of autumn, everyone is suddenly back in town, venues return to their regular post-festival-season programming, and a variety of new musical ventures are suddenly at hand. September heralds the coming of a new artistic year, and, in the spirit of yearly reassessment and rejuvenation, September prompts the jazz community to undertake new projects.

Despite the persistent sentiment that performance opportunities for jazz musicians are shrinking by the minute, it is reassuring that the past few years in Toronto have seen new jazz programming efforts in festivals, clubs and other venues. These larger efforts reflect the ideals found, at the best of times, in post-secondary music programs: namely, that new opportunities and resources should be developed not for the gains of the individual, but for the betterment of the community.

TUJF: One of the best examples of this community spirit comes in the form of the Toronto Undergraduate Jazz Festival, now in its fourth year (having had its inaugural run in 2015), running from September 4 to 8. Helmed by David M.J. Lee, Dave Holla and Eunsang Edwin Yu – all of whom attended post-secondary jazz programs in Toronto – the festival’s mandate is to “bring attention to the younger generation of musicians” in Toronto, with an emphasis on musicians currently enrolled in (or recently graduated from) post-secondary music programs at the University of Toronto, York University and Humber College. This mission is commendable, as it can take a considerable amount of time for young jazz acts to establish themselves and book the larger shows necessary to the process of audience development; by programming a number of these acts together, the TUJF has created both a valuable opportunity for musicians and a compelling package for audiences who, in other circumstances, might not connect with these performers for several years.

With main festival grounds at Mel Lastman Square and additional performances at Jazz Bistro, Memorial Hall, and The Frog: A Firkin Pub, all of the TUJF performances and masterclasses are open to the public and free to attend. In addition to performances from young musicians, Toronto jazz mainstays Mike Downes and Larnell Lewis are also playing with their respective bands. (Both Downes and Lewis, it should be noted, are also prominent jazz educators, and are on faculty at Humber College.) In addition to these performances, highlights from the festival include The Anthology Project, playing at 8:30pm on September 6, guitarist Luan Phung, playing with his quintet at 6pm on September 7, and Montreal pianist Marilou Buron, whose sextet will be playing at 6pm on September 8. Other notable attractions, according to the 2018 festival map: food trucks, a VIP section, and multiple bouncy castles. Check out listings in this issue of The WholeNote and tujazz.com for full schedule and additional information.

The Heavyweights Brass Band return to this year's Kensington Market Jazz Festival. Photo by Tom Rose.The Heavyweights Brass Band return to this year's Kensington Market Jazz Festival. Photo by Tom Rose.

Kensington Market Jazz: September will also feature the third annual edition of the Kensington Market Jazz Festival, another relatively new enterprise started by local musicians looking to fill a gap in pre-existing jazz programming. Led by Molly Johnson, Ori Dagan, Genevieve Marentette, and Céline Peterson, the KMJF will take place from September 14 to 16, with a large number of different artists in various formats, from solo pianists (including Nancy Walker, Robi Botos and Ewen Farncombe) and guitarists (such as Margaret Stowe, Harley Card and David Occhipinti) to full big bands (including the John MacLeod Orchestra, the Brian Dickinson Jazz Orchestra and the Toronto Jazz Orchestra), with all manner of acts in between.

One of the most interesting aspects of the KMJF is its engagement with Kensington Market businesses in the creation of new performance spaces: while many shows will be taking place at venues that present music throughout the year, including Poetry Jazz Café, Supermarket and LOLA, a large number of shows will be held at businesses that are not regular music venues. Some, like the coffee shop Pamenar and the Hotbox Lounge and Shop, are venues that do host live events, although they do not usually present jazz. Other businesses, like the discount suit shop Tom’s Place, are functioning as special venues specifically for the festival.

Beyond the shows previously mentioned, highlights include Joanna Majoko, playing at 1pm on September 15, Tania Gill and Friends, playing at 5pm (also on September 15), and Anh Phung, who will be playing at 6pm on September 16. Please check out listings in this issue and kensingtonjazz.com for full schedule – and please note that ticketed events are cash only (although the festival features both free and ticketed shows).

Apart from new programming at emergent jazz festivals, September sees the return of post-secondary ensembles to the Toronto club scene, with representation from U of T, York and Humber: U of T jazz ensembles resume their weekly slot on Mondays at 6pm at The Rex, the Humber College Faculty Jazz Jam will be taking place at 9:30pm on September 18 (also at The Rex), and the York Jazz Ensemble will be performing in the matinee slot on September 22 at Alleycatz. Beyond school-associated acts, there are several other exciting shows taking place throughout the month, including Sam Kirmayer, at Jazz Bistro, on the 16th; The Rex’s Annual Birthday Tribute to John Coltrane, with the Pat LaBarbera and Kirk MacDonald Quintet, on September 20, 21 and 22; Christine Duncan, Laura Swankey and Patrick O’Reilly at the Tranzac, on September 23; and the Nick Fraser Quartet at The Emmet Ray, on September 24.

September marks the beginning of a rich artistic cycle within the improvised music community that will play out through summer 2019. For the concert-going public – from the most casual fan to club regulars – September is a wonderful opportunity to become reacquainted with your favourite performers, check out a few new venues, and set the tone for the rest of the 2018/19 scholastic year, regardless of your own educational status. Enjoy.

MAINLY CLUBS, MOSTLY JAZZ QUICK PICKS

Pat LaBarbera (left) and Kirk MacDonaldSEP 7, 6PM: Toronto Undergraduate Jazz Festival: Luan Phung Quintet. Drawing from the work of Boulez and Schoenberg as well as the jazz tradition, guitarist Luan Phung brings his exciting quintet to Mel Lastman Square for a free show at the TUJF.

SEP 16, 6PM: Kensington Market Jazz Festival: Anh Phung. Equally at home playing orchestral music and the music of Jethro Tull, flutist and singer Anh Phung performs at LOLA as part of the KMJF.

SEP 20 to 22, 9:30PM: The Rex’s Annual Birthday Tribute to John Coltrane: Pat LaBarbera & Kirk MacDonald Quintet. An annual event at The Rex featuring master saxophonists Pat LaBarbera and Kirk MacDonald leading a world-class quintet, celebrating Coltrane’s life and music.

SEP 23, 10PM: Christine Duncan, Patrick O’Reilly, and Laura Swankey at The Tranzac. Leading improvising vocalist Christine Duncan is joined by guitarist Patrick O’Reilly and vocalist Laura Swankey for an evening of new music at The Tranzac.

Colin Story is a jazz guitarist, writer and teacher based in Toronto. He can be reached at www.colinstory.com, on Instagram and on Twitter.

HughsRoom bannerHugh's RoomIt’s a time of year when a distinct trend emerges insofar as traditional concert venues are concerned. A bunch of the year-round busy ones tend to go dormant. And places one might never have thought of as concert venues become the sky-lit backdrop for all kinds of music that more usually remain indoors.

A parallel syndrome manifests itself on the club scene – the mainstay, bastion venues (the “real listening rooms,” as we like to call them), concede defeat to the beach, the cottage and the patio. “You can’t fight patio syndrome. We’ll be back in the fall when you’re ready to get serious again.”

On the other side of the coin, dozens if not hundreds of other clubs, bars and restaurants, all over the map, get drawn into the ever-growing summer scene and buy into the music venue idea, for a brief and glorious explosion of musical activity. After which the potted plant gets put back on the piano, where it belongs, and the extra table or two gets put back in place where the temporary stage inconveniently was.

Festivals have a lot to do with this explosion of activity, of course: within Toronto, TD Jazz, Kensington Jazz Festival and the granddaddy of them all, the Beaches Jazz Festival, turn whole districts into summer postcard illusions of Basin Street. Music festivals all over (Westben, Montreal Baroque, TD Niagara Jazz and Music at Port Milford jump to mind) forge intricate partnerships with networks of eateries and imbiberies (to coin a phrase) that more usually primarily cater to other-than-musical appetites. It’s a win-win. Festivals get to add new audiences, and sometimes a broader range of music, to their usual fare. Eateries get to add music to the menu.

All of this is of course a huge generalization. Certain mainstay venues, like some of the regulars in these listings, are largely immune to seasonal vicissitude. But it’s useful background information to the interesting announcement that Toronto venue Hugh’s Room Live has decided this year to ramp up its programming rather than go quiet through the dog days of the summer. The Hugh’s Room battle to keep its doors open got a lot of press some 18 months back; relaunched cooperatively under the name Hugh’s Room Live, it has now successfully negotiated a full comeback year (including a complete makeover of its previously ponderous and predictable dinner menu in favour of an agile, sharing-friendly, tapas-style approach).

Derek Andrews (who among many other things in his curatorial career programmed memorable public stage lineups at David Pecaut Square for Luminato) is the programming lead for Hugh’s Room Live. For this particular venture, billed Summer Nights Festival, he has to date lined up close to 50 shows between June 15, when it kicks off with a Stevie Wonder Tribute show, and August 23 (We Banjo 3 from Ireland) when it officially ends.

In between, Andrews’ (and Hugh’s Room’s) creative eclecticism will be on full display: check out the recurring “Solo Piano Double” series (which brings together unlikely pairings like Robi Botos and Suba Sankaran, for example) to see what I mean. Look at a Hugh’s/Andrews’ lineup and no matter what your musical tastes are, you will likely not know half the names on the list. Chances are once you’ve heard them, you won’t forget them either.

Talking about when Summer Nights officially ends is a bit like talking about when summer itself “officially” ends, because the whole point of the venture is to emphasis that places like Hugh’s are neither fair-weather friends nor just a shelter from the storm. They are part of the necessary musical fabric. Live. Local. Musically intentional.

As for the fair-weather venue phenomenon mentioned at the outset of this story – there’s maybe a bright side there too. How would it be if each year even a few more of the venues that come on board for music during summer festival times decided to stay the course for the rest of the year? And, as important, what would the neighbours think?

Food for thought.

Hugh’s Room Live’s Summer Nights Festival runs from June 15 to August 25, 2018.

David Perlman can be reached at publisher@thewholenote.com.

For the 10 or 12 remaining people on the face of the planet who haven’t yet heard the news, this past May 16 The WholeNote received the Toronto Arts Foundation biennial Roy Thomson Hall Award of Recognition for our “role in promoting current music, emerging artists, and for being vital to the entire music community.”

We were one of three finalists in our category. Musicworks magazine and Mitchell Marcus of the Musical Stage Company (formerly known as Acting Up) were the others.

Our category was one of five. The Arts for Youth Award went to RISE Edutainment – a youth-led grassroots performance arts and storytelling movement “in recognition of its role in creating a healthy and inspiring space for youth, and for challenging systemic barriers through innovative partnerships.”

The Celebration of Cultural Life Award went to Ruth Howard – founding artistic director of Jumblies Theatre “in recognition of the impact, sustainability and legacy of her community-engaged arts practice.”

The Emerging Artist Award went to Jivesh Parasram – multidisciplinary artist, researcher and facilitator “in recognition of his ability to create excellent work that is honest, diverse and collaborative.

And the Toronto Arts and Business Award was shared this year by Active Green + Ross – Complete Tire and Auto Centre “in recognition of its first-time contribution to the arts through its sponsorship of the HopeWorks Connection, covering transportation costs for performers and offering discounted and VIP services,” and to RBC “in recognition of its sustained contributions to the arts through its Emerging Artist Program, making RBC a vital contributor to the arts ecosystem.”

The awards were announced and presented at the 13th Annual Mayor’s Arts Lunch (this year held at the King Edward Hotel) and actually attended by Mayor John Tory (not something one could count on with his predecessor!), along with a broad cross section of arts and business leaders, elected politicians and a hearteningly strong representation from the arts community itself.

All finalists were instructed to prepare acceptance speeches around two minutes in length (300 words maximum), and I am pleased to say that, as befits my inky stained status in life, I complied to within a dozen words of the letter of the instruction.

I’m equally pleased to say that the majority of the other recipients blithely ignored the stated limitations, leading to some of the event’s most heartfelt, inspirational, moving, hope-filled and, yes, constructively political moments.

(I also found myself wishing I had a chance to see what the other finalists wrote down. I would wager there was no set of words among them that would have been less inspiring than the ones we heard.)

In my two minutes and 15 seconds and 314 words, this is what I said:

I want to acknowledge, by name, Allan Pulker, co-founder of The WholeNote (or Pulse as it was originally known) 23 years ago. His unshakeable belief in the richness and variety of Toronto’s grass-roots music scene is the reason The WholeNote exists. I also want to thank Sharna Searle who nominated us for this award. It took her three years to persuade us, mind you. We are more comfortable telling stories than being in them.

I can’t name everyone else – our eight-member core team; 30 to 40 writers every issue; a five-member listings team who come up with 400 to 500 live performance listings each month; the 20 to 25-person distribution team regularly carrying 30,000 free copies per issue to 800+ locations where a deeply loyal readership snatches them up.  

To the finalists and other artists in this room, flag-bearers for countless others for whom the arts are necessary to feel fully alive, thank you for being passionate contributors to all our city’s villages – street by street, block by block. Thank you for giving us something to write about. And to the Toronto Arts Council and the Toronto Arts Foundation, the knowledge that you share our belief in a grass-roots music city makes this award very special.

Make no mistake, though: the grassroots music city is at risk. Housing/land cost is displacing artists, along with the rest of the working poor, from our overheated downtown; small-scale live performance venues are disappearing one by one. Outside the downtown, the nurturing of block-by-block cultural life across our metropolis is a mighty challenge – painfully slow because it is a process of planting not paving.

It’s astonishing, thinking back, that the breakthrough technology that helped launch this magazine was … the fax machine! Now we must all adjust, almost daily, to the ongoing challenge of dizzying change with all its dangers and opportunities. What a story it promises to be.”

Two weeks on, there’s not much I would want to add to those words, except this: the bit about a “deeply loyal readership” means you. Without your use of what we harvest, there would be no point to our labours.

May your summer be filled with the music you find in these pages! And may much of it be live! We’ll see you on the other side.

publisher@thewholenote.com

Peter Oundjian conducting La Mer - Photo by Malcolm CookKnowing how busy his schedule was going to be over the course of the spring, I booked my final interview with Peter Oundjian good and early (Thursday, March 8, to be precise). He was in town for New Creations, one of the signature series he created in the course of his 14 years as the TSO’s conductor and music director. I’d had a chance to get a sneak-peek look over the first “post-Oundjian” 2018/19 season before going in to meet him and what struck me immediately was the fact that all the Oundjian signatures are conspicuous by their absence – New Creations, the Decades Project, and most noticeably, Mozart @, which he had launched as Mozart@249 the very first year he arrived – stealing a march on the looming Mozart at 250 hullabaloo, in that endearing blend of cheeky and canny that has characterized his stay here.

(As it turned out, he had not looked at the upcoming season at all and in fact had no hand in putting it together. So rather than, as in some previous years, the spring interview being with musical director Peter Oundjian with an enthusiastic agenda of “upcomings” to promote, this was a rather more leisurely and relaxed ramble through this and that, looking back as much as forward. Enjoy.)

WN: So 14 years with the Tokyo String Quartet and then 14 years of this? What’s with that?
Peter Oundjian (laughs): Yes, well it did rather play into my decision – because I knew the time was coming when everyone would need to reinvent themselves a little bit on both sides; so then I looked at that number, 14 years, and said, well, it seems about right. But, truth be told, we were hopeful we had found a successor so I thought, “Well, this is going to be smooth, because you always want to know that your organization is going to be in good hands when you leave.” Whenever I wake up at night it’s “What do they need, what could go wrong, what do they need going forward, what do I do about this particular personnel issue, conflict, this sound issue, what about fundraising, why are we not having more success in this area?” There are just a million things to think about… More than there were with the [Tokyo] Quartet, actually. I mean with the quartet it was like going to the moon. “Here’s your schedule for the next two years… Go!” 140 cities every year. Here are the programs. Practise. Rehearse!

If this is Houston it must be Opus 131 again… that kind of thing?
Exactly. Here it’s been different every week. I mean figuring out the guest conductors. Who the orchestra really enjoys? Who challenges the orchestra the most? Who simply makes the orchestra feel good. What’s the right balance? It’s an enormous task, and really challenging because it’s so multifaceted. There’s a tremendous emotional input that goes into it – and intellectual. So when you decide the time has come to move into a different place in your own life and the life of the organization, the one thing you worry about is – and this is maybe going to sound a bit self-centred – will people realize how much attention goes into this? And… You don’t want a vacuum, put it that way. That’s what you worry about, because when I arrived there was a serious vacuum. The first few times I conducted this orchestra there had been serious leadership vacuums on both sides. I mean certainly we had not had luck with CEOs staying very long, and the right kind of vision. Jukka-Pekka [Saraste] had left several years before.

Yes, there was an uneasiness at the time. I agree. But is there going to be less of a vacuum this time round?
Oh I think so. Very much. First of all, Sir Andrew Davis is a great friend and is somebody everybody trusts implicitly, and he has a very strong relationship with the city and with the orchestra. But also I have to say we are in a less tenuous situation. The morale of the orchestra is in a very different place from where it was in the 90s, and that’s by the way not to point fingers at Jukka-Pekka in any way. He came into a very difficult economic situation, where the Canadian government was backing away not just from support of the TSO but from the arts in general – and that’s what brought about the tax structure change, by the way, more of a feeling that the private sector should enable it, if we believe in it, then let the private sector, with the help of the government via new tax structures, show their vision and prove their worth.

So in those terms, Sir Andrew is coming in as the vacuum cleaner…
Well put! (laughs) Right. I mean, if the orchestra had come to a decision regarding a conductor in the last two years since I announced my departure it would have been different, but they didn’t… it was close but it didn’t happen.  

It was close?
It was. But the person took another position.

From an audience perspective these searches are pretty boring actually – certainly not a public blood sport. I mean, nobody wants to be known as the shortlisted candidate who didn’t get the job.
Exactly. It’s the opposite of politics, and so it should be. Nobody should know who’s on the shortlist, and at this point, by the way I don’t think there’s even a shortlist. There’s a lot of discovery going on.

Listening to you talking about capital gains and tax structures and the like, is that one of the hats you’ll be hoping to wear less moving on?
It’s a good question. I mean, I have been music director of two organizations for almost seven years now – I took on the Royal Scottish National Orchestra (RSNO) officially in 2012 but before that you’re [still] doing all the planning. I have been working in that kind of “administrative capacity” for two symphony orchestras for the past seven years or so. So definitely it was on my mind that now’s the time to focus more exclusively on musical discoveries, and musical adventures and musical thinking. Also I will be doing a tiny bit more work at Yale. Well, I shouldn’t say tiny, more work at Yale anyway. I have taken over the Yale Philharmonia – the Yale Music School is one of the postgraduate schools at Yale and it’s the only major research university in North America that has a dedicated performance music school and it’s tuition-free so the standard is very high. I’ve been a professor there since 1981 actually…

Tokyo String Quartet had a Yale residency, right?
Exactly. Part of my obligation as a member of the quartet was teaching chamber music at Yale.
So I have had a very close affiliation with Yale. It’s very close to my home in Connecticut and it’s meant a lot to me over the years. So I was asked if I would take over the program, which is an interesting ensemble in that they prepare in the same way as a professional orchestra – all the rehearsals are within one week – six rehearsals. So not only is it easier for me to be involved, but…

… Also a taste of the real world for the orchestra.
Exactly! And not only that, it means I can bring in international guest conductors who can give a week, but could never have given two or three weeks in the old way of preparing.

So tell me a bit more about the RSNO music directorship. I assume it has its own mix of rewards and challenges, but have there been transferable solutions from here to there?
The important thing is not to take anything for granted, because if you go with your expectations rather than with your observations you are in trouble. Similar and different problems and exciting rewards. It’s been a wonderful experience with RSNO: it’s an orchestra that plays with a great deal of expressivity. We’ve been able to tour them to China and Europe and the United States. And a lot of recordings. That’s been one of the best things with the RSNO because at the TSO, as you know, we don’t have a contract that really allows us to make recordings. The only recordings we have made here are live, with possibly a patch session. Two performances and you have to hope there isn’t a bar where things didn’t go well on both nights. But in the RSNO you actually really record. You go in and you do the thing and if something goes wrong you work it out. And that allows people to play with a lot of risk. When you are recording live you want it to be exciting but the risk element is a really tricky one. I have to say, though, the TSO has been amazing, really amazing in their live recordings. If you listen to them… I mean we did The Planets and Rite of Spring in one night! And I listen to those recordings sometimes and say “If we had done those in recording sessions, what would have been more, quote, perfect.” Some of the most exciting recordings are live; they are not the most perfect but…

But at least you can hear the hall breathe…
Right. So with the RSNO it’s a different kind of contract, where a service can mean a rehearsal or it can be a concert or a recording session. In the States and North America generally, that’s not the case. Recordings have to be in a separate contract.

With kids at Roy Thomson Hall - Photo by Cylla von TiedemannHas raising kids in this city helped shape your perspective on what needed to be done at the TSO to build bridges to that next-generation audience that everyone talks about as some kind of holy grail?
I’d say first that one’s own children are not a good gauge because they’ve grown up with music around them all the time and they play instruments and so on. But for me, reaching out is not just a generational thing. I have always tried to make the concert hall a friendly place, a non-elitist place. And sometimes that’s been quite trying, because when you are about to go out and really perform… I mean, when an actor’s about to go out and be Hamlet they really don’t want to go out before and spend five minutes explaining the play. How do you gain the credibility of then being Hamlet? Obviously it’s not quite the same when I step onto the podium. I am not becoming another person, but when I start to conduct I am becoming an interpreter, and hopefully some kind of transmitter of feeling and atmosphere and everything else.

So it’s a tough transition from “mine genial host”?
Exactly. You’re in two very different modes. And certainly, there are certain pieces before which I have not spoken. Or have tried to separate the speaking from the performance in some way. But people have been generally appreciative of my welcoming them, trying to give them some sense of what they are listening to and what to listen for.

To demystify the thing…
Right. So to get to your question, if I can help people who might otherwise not come back, and who might now say “I have friends who would actually enjoy this,” and even bring someone with them the next time, then that’s gratifying. And all in all, the size of our audiences is gratifying.

I remember a performance of the Tchaikovsky Sixth where you spoke from the front of the stage. The second mezzanine was filled with first-timers. You were explaining the structure of the piece how the Third and Fourth Movements are a reversal from the norm.
In terms of character you mean?

Yes, exactly. And you said “So don’t be surprised if you want to applaud at the end of the third movement.”
Ah yes, I remember.

And then you actually went further – you said “In fact, if you feel like applauding, go right ahead because this ‘rule’ we have about not applauding between movements of a symphony actually didn’t come into effect until a decade after this symphony was written and performed.”
That’s correct. Yes.

And what was so interesting about that for me was seeing what you earned from that as conductor later on.
How so?

Peter Oundjian and violinist Itzhak Perlman perform Bach's 'Concerto for Two Violins' with TSO - photo by Dale WWell, you got to hold the silence at the end of the final movement way, way longer – maybe eight, ten seconds of…
Of meaningful atmosphere. Right.

So I’m really interested to know where you stand on the whole etiquette thing, because what that particular intervention at the beginning did was to disentitle the purists in the audience from being your glare police. And from where I sit, the rewards of that kind of recalibration of what’s okay far outweigh the disadvantages.
Right. So, I’m not convinced that the house rules, developed by Mahler and Schoenberg really, have the same relevance now as they did then. And by that I mean that people behaved pretty badly in concerts then. People talked a lot in the 19th century. It was much less formal, from the reports we hear. And in opera, too. I mean, at La Scala there was cooking and eating going on in the boxes. So they were frustrated that people were not really listening during the movements, and they wanted to take control, to say “No! You’re going to be quiet, and even between the movements you’re going to be silent and not talk because otherwise we can’t get your attention back.” I may be exaggerating slightly, but I think that it was really a reaction to failed listening. Otherwise, how did movements get encored in Beethoven’s time? Because people applauded like crazy. They thought it was so amazing. “Play it again. Play it again. We want to hear that movement again!” Obviously there was a huge reaction to each movement. 

That’s a delightful thought.
Now obviously there are certain pieces, certain movements that, when they end – first movement of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto for example – it’s just plain awkward when it’s silent after that, it so calls for a response. Nobody has any problem with that at the opera. People applaud after the big arias; nobody looks at them and says “What are you doing?” That hasn’t changed. I don’t think applause necessarily interrupts the flow of a symphonic performance. But it depends on the symphony and it depends on the movement. Now I happen to like applause at the end of the third movement in Tchaik Six because I then get to completely destroy their good mood, by hearing when that applause is going to die and then bringing in that devastating chord. I think it’s incredibly dramatic. Much more dramatic than bringing it in out of silence. Personally. But then I come from a family of different kinds of performers too so… I mean you know who my cousin is?

You mean Eric [Idle]?
Exactly. Of all the Monty Python guys he’s the one they all trust with putting on the shows because he understands how people react and what order to do things in. Anyway, all this to say, understanding the theatre of things is very important.
Now, do I want applause after the Adagietto? Of course not. It’s not the end of anything. The silence is very, very powerful. So I think I know when applause is okay and when it’s not, and I hope what I have developed is a kind of trust from people.
And one last thing to say: people with a real love for the symphony, when other people react and clap after a first movement, they should be saying “Wonderful – there are new people in the audience tonight!”

Going way back, the first time I interviewed you, you were standing in the hallway of your house in Connecticut waiting for the movers – Tippett Richardson I’m guessing – to arrive....
(Laughs). You’re right, it was Tippett Richardson. In fact, it was John Novak’s son Dave, who was one of the movers. John has been a fantastic supporter of the TSO.

So on the subject of houses – this is a bit roundabout, but bear with me – when people are selling a house they have lived in, realtors will advise that, yes, it needs to be furnished, but it really shouldn’t be too personal.
Staged.

Yes, exactly. And looking at the upcoming 2018/19 season, that’s what it feels like. Functionally furnished for whoever the new occupants are going to be.
Right, and that’s possibly exactly what it is. As I say I haven’t seen the brochure (not for any intentional reason, I just haven’t got round to it), but that may well be the thinking behind it, because the new person wants to come with a vision.

The Oundjian branding is gone. New Creations is gone. The Decades Project is gone. The Mozart@ series is gone.
Yes, Well the Decades Project, I never really got to complete. I actually loved that project. I have to say I wish it had intrigued people more. It intrigued the people who came, for sure, but I thought it was just so fascinating. It was a good example of the things I like to do. Bartok/Strauss is another example. You know, programming unlikely contemporaries. Or Rachmaninoff and the Impressionists. Or Stravinsky/Brahms. Stravinsky/Brahms was especially indulgent on my part, because Stravinsky was 16 when Brahms died, and I was 16 when Stravinsky died, so I thought “Wow, was Brahms to Stravinsky in his head that great contemporary, living composer?” And yes, he was! As Stravinsky was to me when I was a young man hearing Stravinsky premieres. So I was fascinated by that. It’s all about ways of framing programs. Of storytelling.

So to get back to my point, this coming season doesn’t have that curated, storytelling feel to it. I’m assuming that in a transitional year, with 20 different conductors coming in – I listed them all if you’d like to look – some of whom one might infer are under consideration for the new appointment, one way to truly evaluate the chemistry between candidates and the orchestra is to say “Let’s see what the new people do with the old stuff.”
Very much so. Part of the thinking is you need to see these conductors under the same observational umbrella. It’s sensible. And it’s exciting in a different way. Clearly a lot of the conductors on this list have never been here before. Some of course are old friends. So it’s clear what the concept is. There are some people coming simply because we like to hear them make music with the orchestra – Gunther [Herbig], Pinky [Pinchas Zuckerman], Sir Andrew of course. Others may be under the microscope in some sense. But it’s not a shortlist or anything like that.

And you are completely gone from the picture for the entire season, I see, although I gather you’ll be part of the picture for the 2019/20 again.
That’s right, yes.

So is that part of the “getting the previous occupant out of the way” blank-slate thing we were talking about?
Yes. I think a lot of conductors don’t really step aside properly, it seems to me. I mean, you can look at all kinds of examples. You know, huge farewell and then a couple of weeks later they’re back on the podium again and you’re wondering, well, what was that farewell about then? So it made sense to me to have the announcement of the new season, which I had no hand in, while I’m still in farewell mode, or whatever you want to call it; and to include me in the announcement as music director would not have seemed right. And as for the season, obviously they’re going to be looking at a lot of people over time, and also inviting back well-loved, trusted friends of the orchestra who’ve been here quite a bit and whom they really know. And the following season, all going well, I’ll be back as one of those!

David Perlman can be reached at publisher@thewholenote.com.

Sky bannerWhat does the summer mean for musicians? For some, it means a break from a busy concert season. For others, it means the busiest time of the year – either touring the summer festival circuit or running a festival themselves. In either case, for many arts workers the end of the “official” concert season marks a break from routine, and an opportunity to pursue new things.

In this annual series, we interview music-makers from across our local community to ask them about their summer plans. This year, we got in touch with pianist Philip Chiu, who will be busy touring the country as a chamber musician and recitalist; stage director Amanda Smith, who is preparing for an upcoming season of operatic endeavours; composer Elisha Denburg, who has new compositions in the works, in addition to helping organize this year’s Ashkenaz Festival; and soprano and arts administrator Donna Bennett, who will be helping to manage the upcoming season at Westben, as the organization makes the transition from summer festival to year-round music centre. With all of these artists, their plans for summer vacation, or lack thereof, provide a hint of exciting musical projects to come – and a glimpse into the ever-evolving nature of what it means to build a career, and a life, in the arts.

Philip Chiu

PHILIP CHIU, pianist

What are we interrupting (i.e. what music-related activity are we taking you away from to write this)?

When I received your email earlier this week, I was in the middle of a tour dedicated to performing in small communities throughout Ontario and Quebec, as Trio Corventano (Thomas Beard, cello and Dakota Martin, flute). We had a blast playing an incredibly diverse program of Gaubert’s Trois Aquarelles, Haydn’s Trio in G Major, Hummel’s Adagio, Variations and Rondo on “Beautiful Minka, and Nikolai Kapustin’s absolutely fiendish Trio.

What, if anything, are you most looking forward to as an audience member between now and September 7?

I’m spending a fair amount of time teaching and performing at two major music festivals this year, Domaine Forget and Toronto Summer Music (TSM), so I’ll definitely be taking in concerts at both locations.

During my stay at Domaine Forget, there is no doubt that Orchestre Métropolitain’s concert with Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony and flutist Emmanuel Pahud playing Ibert’s Concerto is going to be outstanding ... I’m already on my feet.

As for TSM, I am looking forward to hearing Angela Cheng and Alvin Chow in their concert of solo and duo rep, which includes some of my favourite pieces (Debussy’s Petite Suite and Ravel’s La Valse). It is sure to be a home-run.

How about as a music maker/arts worker?

I’ll refer to both festivals again: June 29 is my birthday and it turns out I’ll be in concert at Domaine Forget with a number of wind greats, including the Philadelphia Orchestra’s principal bassoon Daniel Matsukawa and the Berlin Philharmonic’s Mr. Needs-no-introduction Emmanuel Pahud. I have a hard time imagining a better birthday gift.

As for TSM, I’m scattered throughout concerts from July 30 to August 3, but if I had to choose... it would be my recital with pal Jonathan Crow in his “Tribute to Yehudi Menuhin.” I have enormous respect for Jonathan’s talent and discipline, and we also share a passion for never wanting to rehearse too much, so it promises to be fun.

What are you already preparing for musically beyond the summer? And (how) do your summer plans tie in with these longer term plans?

Projects starting this summer and continuing into the fall include a big Québec tour with my other woodwind trio, Trio Canoë (Marina Thibeault, viola and Jean-Francois Normand, clarinet), as well as a big solo project focused on the piano music of Ravel and Debussy.

Finally, there’s a super-secret project with my friend and chef Sean Murray Smith and co-proprietor Nada Abou Younes of Restaurant Île Flottante in Montréal. I can’t say too much at the moment, but we’re looking forward to continuing our collaboration of combining food and music in unexpected ways.

Pianist Philip Chiu concertizes extensively as one of Canada’s most sought-after chamber musicians. He performs regularly in recital with principal members of Canada’s leading orchestras and ensembles, including Toronto Symphony Orchestra concertmaster Jonathan Crow, l’Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal concertmaster Andrew Wan and Pascale Giguere of Les Violons du Roy.

Amanda Smith - Photo by Dahlia Katz

AMANDA SMITH, stage director

What are we interrupting?

I always have a few projects in various planning stages. For the past few months, I’ve been working with the Iranian-Canadian Composers of Toronto on the early development stages of a one-woman opera called Notes of Hope, which will premiere in the fall. I love creating new work, so I feel very fortunate to have been invited to join the project by this incredible group at the pre-libretto stage. It has really allowed me to get to know them and their vision for the project, so I can confidently ensure their message is heard as I direct the piece.

Most immediately, I’ve been working with the rest of the FAWN Chamber Creative team to get ready for a week-long workshop for Pandora in June. This is an opera-ballet triple bill with librettos by David James Brock and music by David Storen, Joseph Glaser and Kit Soden (and is the direct result of a workshop FAWN hosted last year). It’s a really exciting project for me because I have a strong interest in alternative methods of creating opera and we’re doing exactly that.

What are you most looking forward to as an audience member between now and September 7?

I’m so often taken away in the summer and always regret not getting to see what’s on at Luminato. I’m fortunately only away for two weeks this year to direct the scenes for Cowtown Summer Opera Academy, so I’m looking forward to taking in as much as I can during the festival.

How about as a music maker/arts worker?

I view them as the same. Even when I go to an electronic music show, I’m there as both an audience member and an artist ready to learn.

What are you already preparing for musically beyond the summer?

I’m actually getting married early September, so I expect that will be taking up a lot of my summertime. Alongside that, I will be planning for Notes of Hope, creating concepts for Pandora with my creative team and working on my plans for the production of Massenet’s Cendrillon that I am directing at Wilfrid Laurier University in the winter of 2019. It’s looking to be a really exciting summer.

Amanda Smith is a Toronto-based stage director and founding artistic director of FAWN Chamber Creative. With FAWN, she commissions, produces and directs new Canadian operas and interdisciplinary works that correlate new classical music with other contemporary art forms.

Elisha Denburg

ELISHA DENBURG, composer/arts administrator

What are we interrupting?

Right now I’m taking a coffee break from my duties as community relations manager at the Ashkenaz Foundation. This year we are launching the 12th biennial edition of the Ashkenaz Festival, a huge gathering of Jewish-global music, arts and culture! It takes place this year from August 28 to September 3 in Toronto.

My job involves a lot of different tasks, from coordinating volunteers, to booking vendors, ads, and writing grants for the foundation. If you’ve never been, do check it out! Visit ashkenaz.ca to find out more (and hey, maybe you wanna volunteer?).

What are you most looking forward to as an audience member between now and September 7?

I’m really looking forward to attending what I can of the Open Ears Festival in Waterloo Region – in particular, Katerina Gimon’s outdoor installation and Jason Doell’s CD release party [on June 2]. As well, the Toronto Creative Music Lab always produces some very interesting collaborations and fosters interaction between some very talented new artists. I’m always excited to hear what they come up with.

How about as a music maker/arts worker?

Definitely the Ashkenaz Festival! This will be the culmination of months of hard work and I am so excited to see it come to fruition, which for me will be the first time. Others who have been working at the festival for a long time expect this to be the biggest and best Ashkenaz yet! Most of the events are free, so if you’re around before and on Labour Day weekend, come join us!

What are you already preparing for musically beyond the summer?

In the new year, I’m looking forward to starting a piece commissioned by the Orchid Ensemble in Vancouver, in celebration of the 70th birthday of my uncle Moshe Denburg, who is likewise a composer steeped in the traditions of Jewish music. So, I plan to keep my ears open at the Ashkenaz Festival to help fuel the inspiration and ideas for this upcoming work.

Elisha Denburg’s music has been played across Canada and the US. His catalogue focuses on vocal/chamber works, and is often informed by Jewish liturgical and folk traditions. He currently works at the Ashkenaz Foundation.

Donna Bennett - Photo by Melanie Elliott

DONNA BENNETT, director of marketing, Westben

What are we interrupting?

Well, I was just having a meeting with the head of our volunteers, sorting out what volunteers are going to be used for our season. We have a new series on Saturdays this year called Dare to Pair, where, before concerts, patrons can come and have wine tastings, with lunch by a local chef and conversations with musicians. We’re doing that for six Saturdays – so, I was going to the volunteers and talking about how many tables we need, and tablecloths, and wine glasses – all of that stuff.

What are you most looking forward to as an audience member between now and September 7?

I’ll be pretty busy with Westben – we have 30 concerts over two months this summer. But I’m looking forward to our production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. We have a 100-member cast, and it features two of the choirs that I run throughout the year. So I’m looking forward to seeing them get up onstage.

How about as a music maker/arts worker?

I’m a soprano and I’ll be singing on July 21 at Westben in a Scottish program, with tenor Colin Ainsworth and my husband Brian Finley, Westben’s artistic director, on piano. I’m really looking forward to preparing for, and performing in, that concert.

What are you already preparing for musically beyond the summer?

Now that we’re a year-round centre, we have concerts coming up in September as well. [That transition] has been really exciting: just calling ourselves a “centre for connections and creativity through music” opens the door to so many possibilities. We’ve added more programming like house concerts, we’ve started some residency programs – such as a performer-composer residency this July that our son Ben Finley is organizing.

We’re coming up to our 20th anniversary in 2019, and it seemed that we needed to develop; we couldn’t just stay the same. We’d already naturally been doing more events year-round, and we realized that what Westben does is bring people together through music. So we thought that becoming [year-round officially] this year would open up possibilities to develop that. We want to get Westben more out in the community – all year, both digitally and physically.

Soprano Donna Bennett has performed in operas, musical theatre and recitals across Canada, the USA and Europe. Her favourite stage is at the Westben, near Campbellford, Ontario, the home of Westben Concerts at The Barn, which she and her husband Brian Finley co-founded in 1999. Donna directs five choirs, teaches privately and is the director of marketing at Westben.

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