The act of musical transcription has existed as long as notation has, used over the past millennium to facilitate artistic cross-pollination and the exchange of ideas across international borders. Utilized in centuries past as equal parts pedagogical tool, musical tribute and vehicle for musical propagation, transcriptions exist from some of music’s greatest figures, including Johann Sebastian Bach.

Historically, transcribing involves some element of copying, whether for pedagogy, plagiarism, or practicality, such as copying performing parts from a full score, a task for which Bach received much help, often from his wife and children. It is often from these copies that a work is passed down through centuries. According to the late-18th-century German musicologist Johann Rochlitz, even the Thomaskirche did not possess the full score for Bach’s motet Singet dem Herrn, but only the vocal parts which were preserved “as if they were a saint’s relics.”

Bach’s use of transcriptions extends throughout his lifetime, from his student days copying forbidden scores by candlelight to his organ tablature transcriptions of music by Reincken and Buxtehude, as well as his transcriptions for organ of Vivaldi concerti and his own Schübler Chorale Preludes. In fact, a well-documented theory postulates that Bach’s most famous organ work, the Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, wasn’t written for organ at all, but was an organ transcription of an earlier work for violin.

In its modern conventional use, the term transcription refers to two similar but distinct actions: notating a piece or a sound which was previously unwritten, such as Bartók’s folk song transcriptions or Messiaen’s notations of birdsong; and rewriting a piece of music, either solo or ensemble, for another instrument or other instruments than those for which it was originally intended, including Liszt’s piano versions of the Beethoven symphonies.

Transcription in the latter sense is often conflated with arrangement. In theory, transcriptions are faithful adaptations, whereas arrangements change significant aspects of the original piece. In practice, though, there are many works which fit equally well into either category. Consider, for example, Ravel’s orchestration of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition or Mahler’s re-orchestrations of Beethoven and Schumann symphonies. There is an equal amount of faithful adaptation and significant change in each of these examples, which ride the line between transcription and arrangement.

The act of transcribing is, at first glance, an uncomplicated one – nothing needs to be changed in a work’s notes or rhythms – the piece simply needs to be re-notated for a different instrument. It is in this adaptation, however, that the art and craft of the transcriber is made apparent, for each instrument contains its own idiosyncrasies, technical challenges and limitations, particularly if the music being transcribed and the instrument being transcribed for have their origins centuries apart – Hildegard von Bingen for saxophone and theremin, for example!

Better by the Dozen

One of the relatively recent instruments for which old music is regularly arranged is the modern classical guitar, designed in the 19th century after earlier classical models. Although not in existence during Bach’s time, a great deal of J.S. Bach’s music has been transcribed for the modern guitar, including preludes, fugues, sonatas, partitas, cello and orchestral suites, as well as lute, keyboard and ensemble music by other Baroque composers. One of the most interesting facets of these arrangements is the constant accommodation and adaptation being made by the transcriber and performer, particularly in fugues, where it is nearly impossible for all three or four voices to be as distinctly present on a guitar as they would be on a keyboard. This adjustment creates another arranging/transcribing hybrid, for Bach’s original counterpoint must be compromised to be played, often resulting in a work that is familiar yet new when heard in performance.

While many of us are acquainted with the classical guitar, April brings a supersized surprise to fans of the instrument. On April 15, the Quebec-based ensemble Forestare makes their Toronto debut in Mooredale Concerts’ 2017/18 season finale. What makes this program unusually interesting is the instrumental makeup of Forestare, consisting of 12 guitars and two basses. According to their media release, “Since its 2002 inception, Forestare has participated in the creation of 50 original works and adapted nearly another 100 for its unique configuration – as a result creating the largest repertoire for guitar orchestra in the world.”

ForestareFor their April Toronto debut, Forestare’s program is comprised entirely of arrangements made by David Pilon (also Forestare’s conductor), David Ratelle and Jürg Kindle, taken from their Baroque album. Works including Lully’s Le bourgeouis gentilhomme, Vivaldi’s Trio Sonata (La folia) and numerous works by Bach, including Brandenburg Concerto No. 3, ensure a mixture of familiar earworms and less-familiar discoveries. This concert presents a rare and unique opportunity to experience something that is, for many of us, entirely new: well-known works transcribed for an extraordinary and novel combination of instruments.

Looking Ahead

Scaramella, April 7: In addition to the new and exciting debut of the Forestare guitar orchestra, Toronto hosts a number of other worthwhile early music events this month, including Scaramella’s “Boccherini and Friends,” a survey of Boccherini’s music in the context of his contemporaries, on April 7. With works by Boccherini, Michael Haydn (brother of Franz Josef), Leopold Mozart (father of Wolfgang) and Johann Georg Albrechtsberger, this dip into the late 18th century features those who were lost in the transition between the Baroque and Classical periods, as popular tastes shifted and changed, and many worthwhile and successful composers faded into premature obscurity. According to the late-18th-century author Jean-Baptiste Cartier, “If God wanted to speak to men through music, He would do it with the works of Haydn, but if He wanted to listen to music, He would choose Boccherini.” But don’t take Cartier’s word for it – check out this concert and decide for yourself.

Music @ Met, April 22: Last month’s issue of The WholeNote featured an interview with Dr. Patricia Wright, Metropolitan United Church’s Minister of Music. In her interview Dr. Wright explained that for decades Metropolitan United has hosted a successful and ongoing series of concerts, recently rebranded as the Music at Metropolitan (Music @ Met) program. The next performance in the Music @ Met calendar features Musicians on the Edge and Rezonance Baroque Ensemble in “Mystery of the Unfinished Concerto” on April 22. With music by Corelli, Vivaldi and others, as well as new compositions created on the spot, this presentation continues Rezonance’s exploration of partimenti and Baroque improvisational technique, in both the context of written and unwritten music.

Cantemus, May 5 and 6: Looking ahead to early May, Cantemus Singers present what should be a sublime concert of works from the early Tudor period on May 5 and 6. Although written in social, political, and religious conditions that were decidedly less than ideal, the music produced by such composers as Tallis, Sheppard and Mundy overcame the limitations of their time and began the progression towards what is now considered the English Cathedral style of music. With a rich historical background full of fascinating tales and anecdotes, this performance is ideal for fans of Renaissance music and history buffs alike.

As winter departs, the days grow longer, and the mercury rises, take advantage of a beautiful spring evening or two and explore a concert. If nothing in this month’s column strikes an interest, explore this magazine for hundreds more shows, recitals and presentations – all happening within the area – and find the music that’s right for you. Your feedback is always welcome: send me a note at earlymusic@thewholenote.com or say “Hi” in person; either way, don’t let April showers keep you indoors.

Matthew Whitfield is a Toronto-based harpsichordist and organist.

Emotion is at the core of every musical performance and storytelling is at the heart of emotion. Sometimes the stories can be esoteric, sometimes they are obvious, sometimes they challenge us to find them. There is an extra dimension that conductors put into their concerts when programming songs that tell a story to evoke certain feelings. Take in a well-constructed choral concert this month and see the part that musical storytelling plays. I’ve highlighted a few below.

“I’ll be Your Refuge”

“Music has a way of softening the edges around a message, of getting at its true emotional core, and of transmitting that to a broad range of people,” says Annabelle Chvostek, JUNO-nominated singer-songwriter and artist-in-residence for Echo Women’s Choir. She continues: “Having music carry ideas can make things feel less preachy or didactic. It’s just giving it from the heart.” Chvostek is answering some of my questions by email. I’ve asked her about her experiences creating and adapting her solo music for Echo Women’s Choir.

Annabelle Chvostek - photo by Ximena GrisctiI’ll Be Your Refuge is Chvostek’s feature song that gives the Echo Women’s Choir spring concert its title. This isn’t Chvostek’s first time writing or arranging music for Echo. She has adapted her songs Black Hole and Firewalker for them, amongst others. But “this year is the first time I am actually presenting a song that is a choral song first. I’ll Be Your Refuge is a song I want to be singing, but it is so much more poignant to do it with the intent and attention of these women supporting its delivery. And it was a magical process to have room for four vocal parts to carry it instead of my one.”

The story she’s telling here is one that is deeply personal for her. Her partner is a former refugee and Chvostek is sharing a story of acceptance, belonging and open arms. “Observing the global refugee crisis of the last few years has been powerful. Some of the most moving news moments for me have been around [refugees], including watching Canadian families and communities respond to the crisis with openness and generosity,” she continues.“And frustratingly, some people respond with fear.” Echo is sharing this music to move beyond fear.

Echo is unlike any other choir in the city that I’ve met. It is a gathering of female-identified voices rooted in a compassion and drive for social justice. Their concerts are community gatherings centred around music, much of which is uniquely arranged for Echo by Alan Gasser. Becca Whitla and Gasser are co-directors with Chvostek. They want you to think and be challenged by their music and storytelling. There is deep thoughtfulness behind the music they program and the issues they want you to confront.

Echo Women's Choir - photo by Katherine FleitasDene singer Leela Gilday comes to Toronto as the choir’s special guest. Based out of Yellowknife, Gilday shares stories and describes herself as having “a sense of humour as well as a sense of social justice and an ironic appreciation of human folly.” Her music and stories will be welcomed by the choir.

“Music is one way we can express the things that we hope will contribute to a fairer, more just society,” says Chvostek. “One that cultivates joy within all its diversity of expression. Music can actually get at things in a way that words alone can’t.”

Echo Women’s Choir presents “I’ll be Your Refuge” with special guest Leela Gilday and co-directors Becca Whitla, Alan Gasser and Annabelle Chvostek, Sunday April 29 at 3pm, at Church of the Holy Trinity, Toronto.

Now the Guns Have Stopped

For the Oakham House Choir upcoming concert “Better is Peace than Always War,” artistic director Matthew Jaskiewicz has paired Karl Jenkins’ The Armed Man and Gabriel Fauré’s Requiem. Two distinct works, they are companion pieces in their ability to channel a message of peace in the form of a mass. The concert’s title comes from the opening words of the 12th and final movement of Jenkins’ piece. The Armed Man is popular amongst community choirs for its universal message of peace and its musical accessibility. The work includes poetry by Rudyard Kipling, Jonathan Swift and Sankichi Tōge, a Japanese survivor of the Hiroshima bombing by the USA. The hymn L’homme armé, for which the work is named, is based on an ancient tune. The hymn tells us “the armed man should be feared,” a warning against those who carry and use weapons.

Paired with The Armed Man, Jaskiewicz has chosen the Fauré Requiem. A beloved staple of French music and the requiem canon, this is a mass for the dead. Put into the context of a call for peace, this requiem performance will not be used for actual commemoration. Audiences will instead be challenged to think about the areas of the world plagued by conflict at this very moment. And as we approach the centenary of the end of World War I, it serves to remind us of past conflicts as well. This concert commemorates the end of the First World War and is a collaboration with the European Union consulates in Toronto. Members of the armed forces from the Scottish Regiment and Haller’s Army (Blue Army) will be in attendance. Oakham is also pleased to welcome the Novi Singers of Toronto to this performance.

Oakham House Choir Society presents “Better is Peace Than Always War” on April 28, 7:30pm, at Metropolitan United Church, Toronto.

“Let there be light!”

Pax Christi Chorale is joined by the Toronto Mozart Players for a presentation of Haydn’s masterpiece oratorio: Die Schöpfung (The Creation). The Creation represents the highest form of oratorio,” shares David Bowser, artistic director of Pax Christi, via email. “It was written with love for the listener. Haydn paints colourful and vivid musical depictions of darkness and light, water and weather, plants, birds, animals and people, all framed in grand angelic choruses.”

David BowserBowser is presenting the work in its original German because the “text is closer to today’s spoken German, and gives the music a more buoyant phrasing and crisper articulation. It should be underlined that neither Haydn nor van Swieten, who wrote both versions, spoke English with any fluency and the settings are clumsy,” he says. Many a chorister has frowned when confronted with the awkward English of “And to th’ ethereal vaults resound” or “achieved” in three syllables. The original German allows the choir to move beyond such awkwardness.

Pax Christi is joined for this concert by Sandy Rossignol, a video artist. Bowser explains the creative process and the reasoning behind the inclusion of this added dimension to the music. “Often audiences are buried in their programs reading along with the text,” he says. “And they are not as connected with the performers. A video of images compiled and manipulated by Sandy will serve as abstract surtitles to assist the audience in following the German text. The music is so visual that Sandy was immediately inspired. He is also incorporating themes of science, equality, diversity and conservation to bring modern relevance to the performance.”

Rossignol’s live visual accompaniment promises to give the concert a unique visual storytelling dimension.

Pax Christi ChoralePax Christi Chorale presents Die Schöpfung (The Creation) with the Toronto Mozart Players, Danika Lorèn (soprano), Charles Sy (tenor), Oliver Laquerre (bass-baritone), and live video performance by Sandy Rossignol on April 28 at 7:30pm, at Grace Church on-the-Hill, Toronto.

QUICK PICKS

Apr 6: Exultate Chamber Singers presents “We Sing and Play!” As noted in last month’s Choral Scene, Dr Hilary Apfelstadt is retiring from the University of Toronto and as artistic director of Exultate. She brings the Toronto Winds to her final concert with Exultate, which features the premiere of Resurgam by Canadian composer Matthew Emery, the choir’s composer-in-residence. Emery has blended Renaissance polyphony with contemporary compositional techniques to create a work for an interesting pairing: voice and small wind ensemble. St. Thomas’s Anglican Church, Toronto.

Apr 28 and 29: DaCapo Chamber Choir and the Orpheus Choir of Toronto present This Thirsty Land. Joined by instrumentalists, the choirs present the local premiere of DaCapo artistic director Leonard Enns’ work This Thirsty Land, recently commissioned and premiered by the University of Guelph. Other smaller works include Toronto-based composer Hussein Janmohamed’s Sun on Water and Norwegian Trond Kverno’s Ave Maris Stella. April 28, 8pm at St. John’s Lutheran, Waterloo, and April 29, 3:30pm at St. Anne’s Anglican Church, Toronto.

Apr 29: Amadeus Choir of Greater Toronto presents “I Saw Eternity.” Artistic director Lydia Adams conducts the choir’s final concert of the season featuring music by Eric Whitacre, Eleanor Daley, Hussein Janmohamed, Stephen Chatman and more. The inspiration for the concert comes from Henry Vaughan’s poem The World, which opens with the lines: “I saw eternity the other night.” Leonard Enns’ and Stephen Chatman’s settings of The World are presented along with other spacious works including Ola Gjeilo’s Serenity and Eric Whitacre’s Water Night. Eglinton St. George’s United Church, Toronto.

May 5: Mississauga Festival Choirs present “Generations,” with the Mississauga Festival Choir, the Mississauga Festival Chamber Choir, their youth choir, Resonance, and their intergenerational choir Raising Voices. The signature work of the evening will be John Rutter’s Mass of the Children. Living Arts Centre, Mississauga.

May 6: St. Anne’s Anglican Choir presents “A Hubert Parry Tribute.” The Junction Trio joins a larger orchestra and the St. Anne’s Choir under music director John-Luke Addison. The concert commemorates 100 years since the death of Sir Charles Hubert Hastings Parry. Royal music aficionados will know him for his coronation anthem I was Glad, which was written for the coronation of King Edward VII in 1902. The famous Anglican hymn Repton, a staple of congregations around the world was set to music by Parry. St. Anne’s Anglican Church, Toronto. clip_image001.png

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

St. Patrick’s Day came and went between this issue of WholeNote and the last, so I thought it would be fun to acknowledge my Irish descent – the key word being descent, as in “into madness” – by taking a look at the grand legacy of Irish jazz piano. There have been many more fine Irish jazz pianists than many people realize and here they are, in chronological order:

Ellis LarkinsEllis Larkins – Larkins hailed from Baltimore, County Cork. He was something of a child prodigy, performing with local orchestras by the age of ten. After graduating from the distinguished Peabody Conservatory in his hometown, Larkins became the first jazz pianist to attend the famed Jewel Yard School of Music in Dublin and began his long career after graduation. Larkins had a gossamer touch resulting in a translucent sound, a deft harmonic sense and a sensitivity which made him a great accompanist, especially of singers. He spent many years as a vocal coach and was the regular pianist for a number of fine vocalists including Mabel Mercer, Sylvia Syms and the First Lady of Irish Song, Ella Fitzgerald. Along with his own natural reticence, this supportive role meant Larkins was one of the more overlooked Irish pianists, although musicians like Ruby Braff, with whom he often recorded in a duo, knew his true worth.

Harold McKinney – McKinney was born into a musical family in that hotbed of Irish jazz, Moughtown (pronounced “mow”), County Monaghan. One of his brothers, Bernard, played the euphonium and another, William, was a bassist. They bear no relation to the William McKinney who led the seminal Irish big band McKinney’s Flax Spinners. Harold McKinney might have achieved more notoriety had he left Moughtown for Dublin, as did many of the city’s younger pianists, but he preferred to remain there in the role of elder and mentor, for which he was much treasured.

Dave McKenna – McKennna was from the Aran Islands and eventually emigrated to Boston and later New York, where he was the favourite pianist of such American-Irish greats as Bobby Hackett and Zoot Sims. A huge, anvil-headed man with massive hands who looked like the captain of a whaling boat, he was the most two-fisted of Irish pianists, developing a driving and very full style often displayed in solo outings. His two-fistedness was often seen offstage as well, with a pint of Guinness in his left hand and a small one of Jameson’s in his right. He was also renowned for his almost limitless repertoire, often weaving seemingly disparate songs into long and ingeniously witty medleys.

Tommy Flanagan – Easily my favourite Irish pianist, Flanagan was part of the large wave of young musicians, many of them pianists, to emerge from Moughtown in the mid-1950s. His very fluent playing showed both the delicacy of Teddy Wilson and the toughness of Bud Powell, his two main influences. He was very much of the lace-curtain school of Irish jazz piano; there never was one who played with more lilting grace or elegance. Like Ellis Larkins, he was naturally standoffish and served a long apprenticeship as a sideman, including several stints as Ella Fitzgerald’s accompanist in the 1960s and 70s. He appeared on hundreds of records, including a couple of seminal ones in Irish history: Giant’s Causeway Steps with the great Ulster tenor John Coleraine, and The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery, with Eire’s most celebrated plectrist. Eventually in his forties, Flanagan lit out on his own as a leader with a long series of fine trio records. By the time he died in 2001 he was known as “The Poet of the Piano.”

Armagh J. O’Malley – Born Fritz Peterson, O’Malley eventually adopted a more Irish name taken from his home county in Ulster. He later emerged in the centrally located Shightown with a fine trio, which exerted considerable influence on both the repertoire and rhythmic approach of the mid-1950s’ Miles Davis quintet, bringing him lasting fame in spite of indifference from many critics. Despite virtuosic technique, he played with a very sparse, probing style, often concentrating on the piano’s upper register, and displayed a brilliant knack for arranging unlikely pieces for piano trio, using ingenious vamps and interludes to fully integrate the bass and drums. He was one of the first jazz pianists to become a Steinway Artist and is still going strong. He will turn 88 this July, a special age for a pianist given the number of keys on the instrument.

Wynton Kelly – In contrast to Tommy Flanagan, Kelly developed a hard-swinging, funky, blues-infused style of great craic and spirit much more in keeping with the thatched-roof school of Irish jazz piano. He hailed from the large Dublin borough of Brooke Lynn and went on to form important associations with Miles Davis and Wes Montgomery, often in the company of his long standing trio of bassist Paul Chambers and drummer Jimmy Cobh, who hailed from the small port just south of Cork. He died far too young, but Kelly was the most joyous of Irish pianists.

(For those not familiar with the designations lace-curtain and thatched-roof Irish, the former tend to be more urban and genteel, more prosperous and “of the quality” as the Irish would put it. Thatched-roof Irish are more lively, down to earth and working class, often dwelling in modest rural cottages. The following old joke may help drive the distinction home: What’s the difference between lace-curtain Irish and thatched-roof Irish? The lace-curtain Irish take the dishes out of the sink before they pee in it.)

Roland Hanna – Hanna is another of the fine pianists to emerge from the hyperactive Moughtown jazz scene. He had an eclectic modern approach and was one of the few players influenced both by bebop pianists and Erroll Garner. A great favourite of that noted jazz fan Queen Elizabeth II, he was knighted by her and thereafter known as Sir Roland Hanna, causing no small dismay among his more republican fans, some of whom referred to him as “that poxy royalist bastard.” He survived a couple of knee-capping attempts but eventually won over his doubters by remaining true to his Irish musical roots of lyricism wed with inventiveness.

McCoy Tyner – Tyner came to prominence as a young man when he joined the classic 1960s quartet of renowned Ulster tenor John Coleraine. Tyner developed a rhythmically powerful attack using the 6/8 rhythms and triplets common to Irish jigs and reels, while exploring the modern applications of traditional Irish modality using Uilleann pipe modes and the quartal harmonies of the puntatonic scale. Apart from the Coleraine quartet he made many fine trio recordings as a leader.

Chick O’Rea – O’Rea began in his teens as a percussionist, playing the bodhran in traditional Irish groups. His inherent brilliance as a pianist soon took over, as did his more modern tendencies. He was one of the key Irish pianists in the fusion movement as leader and sideman and has shown a restless spirit in switching back and forth between both electric and acoustic bands and instruments. Indeed, #Corea (as he hashtags himself these days) has at times had difficulty deciding whether he wants to be a popular musician or an uncompromisingly creative one and this dichotomy shows in his music. His 1978 release The Leprechaun was an unabashed exploration of his Irish musical heritage.

Joanne Brackeen – Against all odds, Brackeen (nee Joanne Grogan) managed to break through the more hidebound strictures of traditional Irish society, demonstrating the deeply matriarchal roots of the small island, all those priests notwithstanding. Early in her career she accompanied the noted Irish tenors Stan Getts and Joe Henderson before establishing herself as a leader. Her style can be a little on the challenging and explosive side, but her inventiveness could also be very lyrical and melodic. She often performed with the Irish rhythm team of bassist Cecil McBee and drummer Aloysius Foster.

Todd O’Hammer – O’Hammer is a stalwart of modern Irish bebop, both as an active sideman and as a leader of his own trios. He has performed with such veterans as Charlie Rouse, Johnny Griffin, Art Farmer, and George Coleman, and regularly accompanied the singer Annie Ross. His playing is steeped in the jazz tradition but he continues to look forward, always sounding fresh.

Rossano SportielloRossan O’Sportiello – At just 43, O’Sportiello is the most recent arrival on this list, and yet he is something of a stylistic throwback, often performing in a mainstream/swing style of catholic breadth. He is a dynamic virtuoso in the tradition of Art Tatum and Teddy Wilson, also showing a fondness for such pianists as Ralph Sutton, Barry Harris and the aforementioned Dave McKenna. He has built a solid international reputation working with many fine jazz artists as well as through his own recordings. Toronto fans may know him from his sparkling performances at the last few Ken Page Memorial Trust All-Star fundraiser concerts at the Old Mill.

So there you have them, the great Irish jazz pianists. To all music fans, sláinte, and a belated Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

Toronto bassist Steve Wallace writes a blog called “Steve Wallace – jazz, baseball, life and other ephemera” which can be accessed at wallacebass.com. Aside from the topics mentioned, he sometimes writes about movies and food.

Looking out my window, Old Man Winter is still with us, but according to my calendar, spring has officially arrived. However, the fact is that this is the time of year when community bands frequently experience transition, if not evolution. Organizations, just like humans, age, and have growing pains or other disruptions which require timely attention. With the passage of time every band will have changes in membership, leadership, sponsorship, rehearsal locations and performance venues. Similarly, some new groups will arise while a few may not survive another season. In some cases, if a group prospers and grows, much of the administrative workload must be delegated to a broader crew. So it is with that in mind that I decided to see how some such transitions are in progress this spring. If you are a member of a musical group and have not gone through the problems of some sort of transition, be patient. Your day will come.

New Horizons

Currently the most dramatic of these is New Horizons Band of Toronto. When Dan Kapp first started the New Horizons Band of Toronto, little did he know how many adults were looking for places to learn and play music. They started their first year with only 25 people of varying degrees of musical experience, and a small executive of five people. Through Kapp’s dedication, expertise and enthusiasm for music, the program has grown to seven concert bands and two jazz bands, with six music directors, as well as a number of other New Horizons Bands in surrounding communities.

I remember well their very first concert in the Glenn Gould Studio. When I first heard that this startup amateur band, with many who had never played a concert in their lives, was scheduled to present their very first offering in this prestigious venue, I questioned the sanity of leader Dan Kapp. As would be the case with any such startup group, a few vacancies had to be filled with ringers. In retrospect I can now say that I am proud to have been one of those ringers. How did it go over? To my surprise the hall was packed.

Almost immediately the year-end showcase concerts became a major goal to work for. The next performance step other than full band concerts was the establishment of small ensembles which provide an excellent practice mode for developing musical skills, particularly the skill of listening to the other members of the group. Soon came the Chamber Sweets program, which features ensembles from all band levels playing in concert for family and friends. These have become great social gatherings around the GTA, particularly at holiday times, and include a large array of tasty treats in addition to the music, hence the name.

As is the case with any organization, growth comes with its challenges. One man, now with nine bands and six music directors, can’t be expected to assume the multitude of responsibilities. To ensure their future success, last year the entire association was registered as a not-for-profit organization and established a formal board of directors. Randy Kligerman, one of the original band members, was named as president and Dave Barnes, another early member, as secretary. Soon after, Donna Dupuy, conductor of the most senior band, was contracted to be head of education for NH Bands in Toronto. 

Next year they are planning to offer sectional masterclasses to members, thereby providing further support to enhance their learning and playing experience. This appears to be the first time that this type of program will be will be offered in a community band environment. As the numbers grew they required larger, reliable rehearsal space; they were fortunate to get a long-term commitment for the use of the Salvation Army Hall in Toronto at Dovercourt Rd. and Bloor St. W. in central Toronto. They have been able to lease space to store their equipment and hold practice five days per week. They would never be able to run such a program without this help.

As for Kapp, director since the band’s inception, he is moving on. During a vacation trip to Nova Scotia last summer he and his wife Lisa fell in love with the town of Wolfville. They purchased a home there and will be moving this summer. Consequently, he announced his retirement from New Horizons Band of Toronto, as he and Lisa prepare for their big move. I understand that their reputation precedes them, as the New Horizons Band and local theatre/music groups in Wolfville have already been in contact with them. They may well be busier than ever. As they leave, their legacy will continue, as NHB Toronto starts preparing for next year’s registration. Toronto’s loss will be Wolfville’s gain.

For those not familiar with New Horizons, the Toronto band is a member of a much larger group, New Horizons International Music Association. (Their website is newhorizonsmusic.org.) Roy Ernst, a professor at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, founded the New Horizons movement in 1991, emphasizing entry and reentry points to music-making for older adults. His motto of “Your best is good enough – no auditions required” has inspired over 6000 people in approximately 200 bands across North America to get involved with music.

New president Kligerman says: “I felt very lucky to have met Dan seven years ago, as the band has been a truly enriching part of my life.” Three years ago Kligerman became a member of the NHIMA board, so that he could “further help spread the word of this amazing opportunity to learn music, to anyone looking to enrich their lives through music.”

Having not had much contact with the Toronto New Horizons groups for some time, I decided to visit the most senior group with which I have had contact over the years and also to visit their jazz band. After I introduced myself to the jazz band’s director Patricia Wheeler, I was invited to sit in. Since they did not have a bass trombone in their group and I had one in the car, I was soon holding my own at the bottom of the band. I was very impressed at how Wheeler helped instill the concepts of the jazz idiom into those new to that type of music. After that rehearsal I stayed to listen to the newest of the many groups. This was a woodwind choir with a difference; it consisted of three flutes, four clarinets and one bass clarinet but augmented by piano, bass and drums, similar to their jazz band. The key was to make a different form of music.

My next visit, a few days later, was to the rehearsal of the concert band. Still with several members of that original band, which began seven years ago, the band is now under the direction of Donna Dupuy. Here again, band members don’t just sit down and play the notes from the printed page. They are challenged to get comfortable with the finer aspects of the harmonies and rhythms to produce a distinctive quality performance.

(from left) Donna Dupuy (concert band conductor); holding euphonium, Randy Kligerman (president, NHB Toronto); Bill Condon, who gifted the euphoniumShortly before it was time to wind up that rehearsal there was a visit by Wheeler and her husband Bill Condon. In a brief ceremony Condon was there to present the surprise gift of a euphonium to the NH bands. My timing couldn’t have been better: a rehearsal, the most senior band, the president, two conductors and a generous friend of the band. What better instrument to receive as a gift! When prospective members attend a session to learn about band instruments, more often than not the euphonium is the one instrument they have never heard of. After this brief ceremony I was granted the honour of being the first to make sound on this euphonium. With great flair, the band members heard a B-flat major chord on their new instrument.

Anyone interested in learning more about New Horizons Band of Toronto can contact them at newhorizonstoronto.ca. Remember their motto: “It’s never too late!” Or you can contact Randy Kligerman directly, at randy@jaragroup.org.

Other news

Although I wrote quite a bit about Johnny Cowell last month, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the recent Celebration of the Life of Johnny Cowell, which took place on March 12 at Scarborough Bluffs United Church. With friend and colleague Stuart Laughton acting as MC, we heard not only reminiscences from many, but an amazing musical program. There were recordings of Johnny’s performances, as well as a wide spectrum of live performances of his compositions, from the song Walk Hand in Hand to a number of works for trumpet. The most stirring moment for me was a flugelhorn solo by Jens Lindemann, who came to Toronto specially for the occasion. Normally, the tune Amazing Grace is close to the top of my dislike list, but Lindemann’s rendition was so emotional that I was speechless. I have never heard that number or the flugelhorn sound so wonderful.

From time to time we hear of unusual instruments arriving on the local scene. A couple of years ago it was Jeff Densham with his subcontrabass flute from the Netherlands. He first saw such an instrument when a visitor from overseas played one with the Flute Street ensemble. Now, Nancy Nourse, director of Flute Street, is showing off her new contr’alto flute, also from the Netherlands. In her words: “It has such a rich, flutey baritone voice, capable of reaching well past the tenor range into the mezzo-soprano.”

This instrument’s very first outing with Flute Street will be on April 6 in Reston, VA in the Washington DC area, at the First International Low Flutes Festival (lowflutesfestival.org). Flute Street is one of a number of invited ensembles, amidst groups from Hungary, USA, England and Japan. Then on Sunday, April 15 at 7:30pm, Flute Street will present the same program, including a special contr’alto flute feature, at Christ Church Deer Park in Toronto.

Speaking of new groups, Borealis Big Band, mentioned last month, has risen to local stardom, in a recent edition of snapd Aurora. For those interested visit https://aurora.snapd.com/events/view/1118828. 

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

Photo by Kevin KingThey were as opulent and upfront as the Imperial Room at the Royal York Hotel, which frequently hosted internationally famous stars such as Ella Fitzgerald; or they were as grotty and out-of-the way as the Subway Room of the Spadina Hotel on King Street, where CODA magazine’s Bill Smith presented avant-garde improvisers in the early 1980s. Some like George’s Spaghetti House on Dundas Street E. operated for 38 years until 1994; others like Queen Street’s Matt Muldoon’s lasted barely a year in 1978, But what these clubs and about 75 other music spots did over the years was provide a place for Toronto’s jazz musicians to play, where fans knew they could go to see their favourite music.

Notes in the Night: The History of Toronto Jazz Clubs Since 1946, on show at The Market Gallery until June 23, offers an audiovisual history of that phenomenon. To present a three-dimensional view of the scene, the exhibit includes more than 200 items on its walls, on stand-alone panels and in display cases. Not only are there rare photographs of the clubs and performers in their heydays, but also ephemera that take in club menus and table cards, match boxes, LP covers, tickets, advertisements and wall posters. Highlighting 19 major venues, one wall includes a poster of a kilt-wearing saxophonist Jim Galloway advertising an upcoming gig with pianist Doug Riley at the Montreal Bistro. In one display case is a vintage photo of Moe Koffman playing two saxophones at once during a performance at George’s; in another, pianist/singer Jay McShann leads Galloway’s Wee Big Band through its paces at the Montreal Bistro. A 1982 portrait shows drummer Art Blakey in front of Basin Street’s sparkling tinsel backdrop; and a 1960 photo from the House of Hambourg finds a band of young Toronto jazzers trying to impersonate New York junkies in a local version of the play The Connection. Another wall displays a 1969 Toronto Telegram photo shoot of the mock-picketing of the Savarin Tavern by local reed players demanding to be included in The Boss Brass. There’s also an evocative late-night photo of the Queen streetcar moving past the illuminated Town Tavern sign.

Photo by Kevin KingBesides a continuous slideshow projecting 80 images otherwise not seen in the exhibition, are two audiovisual presentations: one monitor shows Toronto Jazz, Don Owen’s 1963 film classic, featuring performances by guitarist Lenny Breau’s trio and saxophonist Don (D.T.) Thompson’s quintet; another monitor captures musicians Don Vickery, Molly Johnson and Archie Alleyne discussing aspects of their careers on the local jazz scene.

Toronto’s club explosion happened after 1946 when new Liquor Licensing Board of Ontario dining lounge rules allowed live music venues to sell liquor, explains Ralph Coram, guest curator for the Market Gallery show. “Pent-up demand after wartime austerity and later the building of the subway system facilitated the growth of burgeoning nightlife districts downtown.” All the clubs were in an area bordered by Bathurst and Sherbourne, Dupont to Front, often in rundown but historically important buildings. The majority of clubs allowed patrons and players of all backgrounds to mingle. So for almost every photo of well-dressed patrons drinking at tiny nightclub tables with a band in the background, there are shots of intense fans raptly gazing at the improvisation of among others, pianists Ray Bryant or Lennie Tristano. Most jazz clubs were set up and managed by hoteliers or restaurateurs who had an established operation that could be granted a liquor licence, notes Coram. “The pure music places tended to be the unlicensed after-hours clubs whose patrons were attuned to jazz and who appreciated a casual or bohemian atmosphere, as a reaction against the social and cultural mores of Toronto the Good,” he adds. Toronto’s original so-called music room was the House of Hambourg which operated from 1948 to 1963 in four locations near Bloor and Bay.

Photo by Kevin KingSome clubs specialized in Dixieland, others in modern jazz. But the ones which lasted the longest, such as George’s, Bourbon Street/Basin Street, the Colonial and the Town Tavern offered all sorts of fare. “Many of the owners were music fans and they became even more so if the place made money,” notes Coram. “Some even booked hard-core jazz bands as a prestige or loss-leader venture.” Still, in some cases the lowering of the drinking age to 18 in 1971 led some to start featuring rock music. One show sidelight also traces the activities of several jazz entrepreneurs active at the time, such as Dave Caplan. A tailor, not a club owner, during a career that lasted from the late 1950s to the mid-1980s, he booked jazz at locations that included Club Norman, East 85th, St. Regis Hotel and Meyer’s Deli. One photo shows a snappily dressed Caplan greeting patrons at the St. Regis.

The exhibit was the result of four years of research which involved combing though voluminous paper and photographic files in university, library, government and private archives. Coram explains that “I’m old enough to have been to some of these places like the Colonial, and Bourbon Street. The experiences there always stuck with me and I wanted to bring them back to public consciousness through visual history.

“While this exhibition shows that jazz heritage is a large part of Toronto’s reputation as Music City, the debate in this city around the continuing demise of live music venues is something the jazz community has been dealing with for decades. There’s never been a shortage of local jazz musicians, just a shortage of places for them to play. The jazz community was also right at the centre of some of the social issues of the day, including the struggle to overcome racism, to include Canadian musical content in shows and to participate in urban revitalization.”

Notes in the Night continues until June 23. Located on the second floor of the St. Lawrence Market, 95 Front St. E., the gallery is open Tuesday to Thursday: 10am to 4pm; Friday: 10am to 6pm; Saturday: 9am to 4pm. Closed Sundays, Mondays. toronto.ca/marketgallery

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