L-R: Terry Lim, Katherine Watson, Amelia Lyon, Laura Chambers, Tristan Durie.For flutist Terry Lim, the path towards founding a professional chamber ensemble started with the realities of life as an orchestral musician. “The other members and I knew each other from doing the rounds of orchestral auditions, bumping into each other all the time,” he says. “And then we all ended up here in Toronto.”

Those other members were four other flutists – Kaili Maimets, Laura Chambers, Sarah Yunji Moon and Amelia Lyon – and the group that they formed was a flute quintet called Charm of Finches, that, with a perfect blend of playfulness and professionalism (flutes are often compared to birds, and a group of finches is called a “charm”), has since established itself firmly in the Toronto chamber music scene.

Sitting down with me at The WholeNote office, Lim talked about the first impromptu Finches performance, and how right from the outset, he knew they had found something special. “In 2015, there was a Canadian Flute Association convention here in Toronto, and we wanted to play something together for it, just for fun. We didn’t think it would go any further than that. In the first rehearsal, we played an arrangement of Daphnis and Chloe for five flutes and, right away, I thought – oh. This could go somewhere.”

And it did, with concerts and festival appearances over the next three years in Toronto and across southern Ontario. Since that first rehearsal they’ve switched out two members, with Tristan Durie and Katherine Watson replacing Moon and Maimets in the ensemble’s current iteration. “They both won full-time jobs with orchestras,” Lim explains. For him, it’s not necessarily a bad thing, either. “Each year, we’ve had to find a new person because of everyone’s job situations, that sort of thing,” he says. “And each year, it sounds different depending on who’s playing with us. It just brings in different musical qualities all the time – which for me is fascinating.”

The reason for getting together to chat at this particular moment is the Finches’ upcoming concert, “Circle of Sound,” on June 17 in the Hart House East Common Room in the University of Toronto. True to form, that program promises to bridge the orchestral and chamber worlds, with an arrangement of Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a premiere of a new flute quintet by local composer Bekah Simms, and a popular classic of the (admittedly limited) bona fide flute quintet repertoire, Derek Charke’s Raga Terah. The show will also feature David Heath’s flute septet Return to Avalon, where the Finches will be joined by soloists Kelly Zimba and Camille Watts, from the flute section of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.

I ask if there’s much repertoire available for five flutes. He laughs.

“When we started, we started with almost nothing,” he says. “But I’m pretty involved in the flute community, so I asked friends. And then there were a whole bunch of arrangers and composers who decided they would arrange things for us without charging anything, which was really helpful in the beginning when we had no money. That’s how we started building up our repertoire. And each year we try to commission a new piece. Bekah’s piece on June 17 is our second commission.”

“Which was the chicken and which was the egg?” I inquire, in connection with Avalon [Heath’s flute septet]. “Did you find the piece and say oh good, let’s ask Kelly and Camille to play it with us, or did you say it would be great to play with Camille and Kelly, and then start looking for a piece to play?”

“Actually I found this piece last year,” he says. “in fact it’s originally written for two flutes and piano, which Heath arranged for two flute soloists plus five flutes. I found the piece on YouTube and listened to it and thought, ok, this piece could work. And that was around the same time that Kelly won the principal flute position at the TSO. She lives a couple blocks away from me, so we go out for lunch and stuff like that. So I asked her if she was interested and then I thought, Camille would be perfect. Because this piece actually requires the soloists to play both regular flute and either piccolo or alto flute as well. So Kelly is going to play the part with alto flute and Camille is going to do the one with piccolo. So it worked out perfectly. Even better, they both play Burkart flutes, so Burkart will be sponsoring the event.”

For this upcoming concert, as with all their others, programming and the rehearsal process are intense and thoughtful.

“There would be no point if we didn’t take it seriously. All of us have really different schedules. So sometimes it’s almost impossible to find time. Normally we rehearse every week, once a week. We book it about a month or two in advance. And for me, even doing once a week is not enough. To get all of the details in and everything, I find that it’s almost impossible. But all the musicians are great. A lot of experience with solo, contemporary music, orchestra. So it just brings many different ideas all the time. And we do fight. In rehearsal we argue all the time! That’s a kind of fun part of chamber music.”

Seven flutes sounds like an abundance of riches, I comment.

“People think, oh, seven flutes, that’s weird” he replies. “But I grew up in Vancouver where I was used to doing ten-flute contemporary work, every year in different groups out there. And with top-notch players from the Vancouver Symphony, all pro, and a couple professors from UBC, so very, very high level playing. That’s what I’m used to seeing, whereas it’s not quite as common out here. So five or seven flutes is not that unusual for me.”

And large ensemble doesn’t necessarily mean less challenging repertoire either: “I think with flute ensemble, people automatically think of lighter music. But we wanted to make sure that people think of us as a serious chamber ensemble. Chamber music is a different kind of playing - much more difficult.”

In the final analysis, this is a group that exists in some ways because of the high level of orchestral profiency and involvement of its members, but also as a foil to the particular rigours and constraints of orchestral playing. It’s an outlet for all kinds of things - chamber music, commissioning, community projects and, yes, good old-fashioned arguing back and forth on the path to collective creative discovery - that an orchestra-size ensemble typically cannot manage. So it’s a story about flutes and flute players - but it’s also about more than that: it’s about the small ensembles that grow within the musical community of our city, in each fertile nook and cranny.

“We keep trying new things,” Lim says. “Finding what works.”

Concert note: for the June 17 concert Amelia Lyon will be replaced by Anh Phung, who has worked with the group previously. There will be a masterclass by Kelly Zimba as part of the event prior to the performance.

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

Photo by Carl MilnerSharp-eyed readers may already have spotted John Miller’s Hitchcockian cameo appearance as a satyr, silhouetted against the moon, on the cover of this year’s Stratford Summer Music program book. It’s a distinctive profile, almost as distinctive as his artistic fingerprint on the festival itself – one that he’s curated for 18 years – and this year for the last time.

The moon is a fitting backdrop for Miller’s final appearance as SSM artistic director, heralding as it does the upcoming appearance at Stratford of Luke Jerram’s Museum of the Moon. It will be the third Jerram creation to be part of Stratford Summer Music; the relationship cultivated with Jerram over the years is quintessential Miller. He finds talented people, notices that essential something in them that works for him, and then having forged the relationship he maintains it. Artists and performers come back, and so do audiences.

In a recent visit to The WholeNote Miller talked about Jerram’s first SSM visit in 2007, describing Jerram as “an inventor … a futurist … a guy who has experiences and then leads them in directions that most of us would never think of going.” That first visit was with a project called Sky Orchestra, Miller explains. “It was inspired by a trip to the Middle East and Jerram’s first experience of hearing, from several imams simultaneously, the call to prayer; suddenly the sound of compelling music was everywhere.” Back in the UK Jerram collaborated with composer Dan Jones to create eight hot air balloons, each with two speakers attached, which take off at dawn or dusk and fly across a city of sleeping or waking people. Each balloon plays two different tracks of a 16-track orchestral score, creating a huge audio landscape. In the case of Stratford Summer Music the music of Sky Orchestra flooded the early morning sky as it took off from Stratford and flew towards St Mary’s.

Jerram’s popular Play Me I’m Yours project – artist-decorated street pianos, for anyone to play – came to Stratford for the first time in 2012, and returns in 2018 for a fourth time. So this summer’s Museum of the Moon is Jerram’s third project at Stratford and its premiere Ontario appearance. Jerram’s 23-foot balloon, illuminated from within, is a reproduction of the exact surface of the moon: an assembly of actual photographs taken by NASA cameras from lunar space craft. As part of its world travels it will float over Stratford’s Tom Patterson Island for ten August days and nights.

“Since the moon shines everywhere all over the world we will have heritage world music every night under the moon, including First Nations artists Jeremy Dutcher, Laura Grizzlypaws and Tanya Tagaq,” says Miller. “It somehow feels fitting to characterize a festival that embraces music, dance, literature, movies, family celebrations, photographic and astrological ideas as being ‘everything under the moon.’”

Jerram’s presence at SSM reflects aspects of how the festival’s own identity has evolved during the Miller years in two ways particularly important to Miller. One is about putting music and performance art in public spaces – like the Jerram projects or Murray Schafer on Tom Patterson island or the BargeMusic series. The other is the cultivation of SSM’s own loyal audience, drawn by SSM’s earned reputation for attracting the finest Canadian and international artists, not just once but on an ongoing basis. Artists come back because they feel part of a community: not just as part of a festival circuit. Sometimes it’s their only Canadian appearance or else one of very few. And their Stratford experience is not typical of the daily grind of a tour: they walk and rest, go to the theatre or other performances, enjoy the restaurants and café brunches and the generally relaxed atmosphere.

Miller has always believed that it was better for music in Stratford to be its own festival, with its own board, personality, experience and sense of accomplishment in spite of the original vision of a consolidated theatre and music festival. He credits his friend, Stratford Festival’s Richard Monette, for believing in and encouraging variety. Today SSM both has its own faithful audience and manages to put itself in the path of the tens of thousands of people who come to Stratford for “that other festival.”

John Miller - photo by Scott WishartMiller reflected that during these formative 18 years it was good that he is not, himself, a musician, because he was able to bring an open appetite to the task. “It might not have been like that if I’d had a particular instrument or history that I was bringing along. With music if you only program what you enjoy then you shut the door to all sorts of other people. Variety is what a real festival is about.”

Visitors this year can look forward to re-encountering, or meeting, some returning SSM favourites: the Blind Boys of Alabama, Orchestre de la Francophonie, John MacLeod’s Rex Hotel Orchestra, the Langley Ukuleles, the Mzansi Youth Choir of South Africa, to name a few. And while this year, more than any, Miller is going back to the well in terms of inviting or re-inviting the artists who have helped make SSM what it has been over the last 18 years, there will also be artists he’s finally “landed” after hoping to present them for years.

Four important Canadian pianists who will be featured are a striking example of this range. Marc André Hamelin makes a long-anticipated SSM debut. Angela Hewitt, featured last summer, returns to perform JS Bach’s entire Well Tempered Clavier in two concerts over one weekend. Jan Lisiecki takes time out of a now very international career to make his ninth consecutive appearance, and Jean-Michel Blais will be featured for a second consecutive year.

Musicologist, music writer/broadcaster Robert Harris returns for the fifth year of illustrated lectures “Music That Changed the World”; this July SSM will release their newly published book The Stratford Lectures: Ten Perspectives about Music by Robert Harris which includes ten of the Harris lectures in an expanded form. The book initiative is another example of the kind of artistic relationship building, and audience building, that is a Millerian hallmark.

Equally a tribute to Miller is the fact that SSM won’t be going out in a blaze of glory with its founder. There has been nothing last minute or ad hoc about the process of going about finding a successor. The orderly process is already complete with the announcement earlier this year that violinist Mark Fewer will succeed Miller in the post. Miller will continue in an advisory capacity for a couple of years only: Fewer will take the helm as artistic director in October.

Stepping down, Miller said, is a little bit like how he imagines walking one’s daughter down the aisle. “But it feels as though I’m giving her away under the best possible circumstances” he says.

If Miller’s face on the satyr in front of the moon is this year’s opening salvo, then perhaps the BargeMusic finale, with the Border Cities Caledonia Pipe Band, is another whimsical Miller autobiographical touch. Learning to play the bagpipes has always been on his bucket list, he explains.

Fittingly, SSM’s final evening festivities – the “J.A.M.boree” – will be a picnic on Tom Patterson Island with another Miller favourite – the Lemon Bucket Orkestra, under the August 26 full Sturgeon Moon, and the Jerram moon. And with J.A.M. (Miller’s initials) as one last sly signature touch.

mJ Buell, a regular contributor to The WholeNote, can be reached at musicschildren@thewholenote.com.

Across Toronto, throughout Ontario and into the rest of Canada, wherever you travel, this summer promises music to suit the most discerning listener. What follows is meant to augment our Green Pages supplement, concentrating on the Toronto Summer Music Festival in particular and highlighting other noteworthy events beyond the GTA.

Toronto Summer Music

This year’s edition of the Toronto Summer Music Festival (TSM), July 12 to August 4, commemorates the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I by focusing on works written during, or inspired by, wartime. It’s an intriguing premise that makes for some thought-provoking programming. As artistic director and TSO concertmaster Jonathan Crow put it: “Some of the most beautiful, emotional and challenging music has been written during times of war and conflict as artists struggled to find meaning and give expression to the horrors gripping the world.”

Borodin QuartetBut the programming is not limited to such works; they become central to or merely part of a greater whole. For example, the Borodin Quartet’s two concerts that begin the festival do include Shostakovich’s intense String Quartet No.8 Op.110 (1960) dedicated “to the memory of the victims of fascism and war,” but overall spotlight Russian-themed compositions. So the Shostakovich is followed by Tchaikovsky’s String Quartet No.1 Op.11, which contains the famous Andante Cantabile melody. The next evening, July 13 in Walter Hall, Russian pianist Lukas Geniušas joins the Borodins for Shostakovich’s justly popular Piano Quintet in G Minor, Op.57 written in 1940 as WWII was just beginning. Geniušas opens the program with Rachmaninoff’s 13 Preludes (1910) then moves to Prokofiev’s Sonata No.7 Op.83 (1942). When I interviewed Geniušas two years ago he called the Prokofiev one of the central pieces of 20th-century piano music: flawless in form and matchless in its violent brutality inspired by the outrage of WWII.

The overall arc of this year’s TSM ranges widely over the musical spectrum, encompassing a myriad of chamber music offerings, big band vocals, early music, gospel music, the pianism of Angela Cheng, lyric tenor Christoph Prégardien and a multi-disciplinary musical journey into the life of Francis Pegahmagabow, the renowned Ojibwe WWI sniper and decorated officer of the Canadian military. And of course, a series of concerts by art song and chamber music academy fellows is back, spotlighting a core element of TSM’s mandate in which musicians on the cusp of professional careers are mentored by, and perform with, seasoned artists.

There are many instances where the war theme yields a bounty of masterpieces. Stravinsky’s L’Histoire du Soldat (1918), in which a naive soldier sells his soul (and his violin) to the devil, is an indelible concoction filled with memorable tunes and asymmetrical rhythms. Performed in its full version with narrator and dancer, the July 19 Koerner Hall performance presents a rare opportunity to experience one of Stravinsky’s masterworks. And what does it tell us about the human spirit that Copland’s sunny Appalachian Spring, with its unfailing optimism, was written in the last year of WWII? TSM will present this enduringly popular work, in its original version for 13 chamber musicians, on the same program.

Messiaen wrote most of the Quartet for the End of Time after being captured as a French soldier during the German invasion of 1940. The premiere took place in an unheated space in Barrack 27, where the German officers of the camp sat shivering in the front row. “This is the music of one who expects paradise not only in a single awesome hereafter but also in the happenstance epiphanies of daily life,” Alex Ross wrote in The New Yorker. “In the end, Messiaen’s apocalypse has little to do with history and catastrophe; instead, it records the rebirth of an ordinary soul in the grip of extraordinary emotion. Which is why the Quartet is as overpowering now as it was on that frigid night in 1941.” Take advantage of the opportunity to hear this spellbinding work when Jonathan Crow (violin), Julie Albers (cello), Miles Jaques (clarinet) and Natasha Paremski (piano) perform it in Koerner Hall at 10:30pm on July 19.

Crow and pianist Philip Chiu base their tribute to the great violinist, humanist and teacher Yehudi Menuhin (in Walter Hall on July 30) on concerts Menuhin performed at liberated concentration camps and military bases during WWII. The program, anchored by Beethoven’s Violin Sonata No.9 in A Major, Op.47 “Kreutzer,” includes works by Corelli, Ravel and Kreisler. More joyous music, in this case represented by Schubert’s ineffable “Trout” Quintet, seemingly apart from TSM’s war theme, is the feature of another Walter Hall recital, July 20. Taking advantage of the presence of art song mentors, tenor Christoph Prégardien and pianist Steven Philcox, the evening also includes Schubert’s song, Die Forelle, which is the basis for the theme-and-variations fourth movement of the quintet. Filling out the program are works by Shostakovich, Rachmaninoff (his unforgettable Vocalise) and Paul Ben-Haim (who fled the Nazi regime for Palestine).

Another unmissable highlight of TSM’s musical abundance includes the pairing of two recent American classics in a July 24 concert at Lula Lounge by the New Orford String Quartet: Steve Reich’s haunting Different Trains, which contrasts the composer’s nostalgic feelings for the trans-American railway trips he made as a child in the early 1940s with the horrific train rides that Jews were forced to make at the same time in Europe, and George Crumb’s searing response to the Vietnam War, Black Angels (1970), written for electric string quartet. The following day, July 25 at the Church of the Redeemer, Jonathan Crow’s soloist role in Vivaldi’s Four Seasons is paired with Biber’s Battaglia (1673), a realistic instrumental depiction of war.

Beethoven’s Sonata No.31 in A-flat Major, Op.110 and Chopin’s Ballade No.1 in G Minor Op.23 are major pillars of the piano canon. Angela Cheng performs them July 31 at Walter Hall before being joined by her husband Alvin Chow for three contrasting French works for piano four-hands by Debussy, Milhaud and Ravel. Ravel put all his disillusionment with the horror of WWI into La Valse, which takes an elegant waltz and ultimately twists it into madness and mayhem. Brilliant.

The New Orford String Quartet and pianist Pedja Muzijevic’s program (July 27) mixes Debussy’s Sonata for Cello and Piano, written in the early days of WWI, and Beethoven’s “Serioso” String Quartet, which may have been influenced by Napoleon’s occupation of Vienna the year before it was written, with Elgar’s expansive Piano Quintet, completed just as WWI was ending.

Chiu, along with violinists Aaron Schwebel and Barry Schiffman, are among the musicians taking part in two more chamber music concerts, one (August 1) bearing the weighty title “War in the 20th Century” and the other (August 3) focusing on a cornerstone of string players’ repertoire, Brahms’ Sextet No.1 in B-flat Major, Op.18.

Apart from the mainstage events, there are reGENERATION concerts, in which TSM academy fellows and mentors perform together; and members of the academy also participate in lunchtime concerts. There are pay-what-you-can hour-long late afternoon performances by TSM artists and daytime chats that provide insight into the world of classical music. However much you decide to take in of TSM’s ambitious programming, you will be well-rewarded.

Stratford Summer Music

Founder and artistic producer John Miller’s 18 years at the helm of Stratford Summer Music come to an end this year (July 16 to August 26) with a festival filled with something for everyone, from Bach brunches to the Blind Boys of Alabama, and Tanya Tagaq interpreting the classic silent film Nanook of the North. My personal must-see list has Marc-André Hamelin and Jan Lisiecki at the top. Miller has been trying to book Hamelin since day one; he’s finally got him in a typical Hamelinesque program that mixes the well-known -- Schumann and Chopin -- with the lesser-known: Weissenberg and Castelnuovo-Tedesco. Be assured that Canada’s greatest pianist will charm and astound. Lisiecki, who has been on a stellar trajectory over most of his young career, makes his ninth appearance in Stratford (and Miller warns it may be his last for a while, since he’s in so much demand).

Montreal Chamber Music Festival

Getting an early start on summer, the Montreal Chamber Music Festival has several attractive concerts in mid-June. The Rolston String Quartet continues their Banff Competition grand tour pairing Shostakovich’s String Quartet No.7 (his shortest at 13 minutes) with Steve Reich’s powerful Different Trains (June 12). Later that night, the Rolstons and Andre Laplante perform Schumann’s iconic Piano Quintet Op.44. Amit Peled plays Bach and Bloch on Pablo Casals’ 1733 Matteo Gofriller cello (June 15). Four pianists (Alon Goldstein, David Jalbert, Steven Massicotte and Wonny Song) in various combinations play Mozart, Wilberg (his Fantasy on Themes from Bizet’s Carmen), Stravinsky’s Petroushka and more (June 15). The New York Philharmonic String Quartet (the principals of the famous orchestra) make their Canadian debut with a program of Haydn, Shostakovich and Borodin (June 16).

Festival of the Sound

The 39th edition of the Festival of the Sound is varied and extensive: from the world premiere of Sounding Thunder, Timothy Corlis and Armand Garnet Ruffo’s work honouring the renowned Ojibwe WWI sniper, Francis Pegahmagabow, to a series pairing Bach with Mozart, Debussy, Dvořák, Schubert, Schumann and Brahms; from concerts featuring the emerging pianist Charles Richard-Hamelin, to The Mosaïque Project, for which Ensemble Made in Canada commissioned 14 award-winning Canadian composers to each write a four-minute movement for piano quartet inspired by a particular province, territory or region, thus creating a unique musical quilt representing the diversity of Canada. The breadth and depth of this beloved festival on the shore of Georgian Bay continues to astonish.

Clear Lake Chamber Music Festival

Under the artistic direction of father-and-son pianists Alexander and Daniel Tselyakov, Manitoba’s first chamber music festival is a long weekend of well-chosen repertoire set in Riding Mountain National Park (July 26 to 29). This year’s highlights include Alexander Tselyakov performing Mozart’s “Elvira Madigan” Piano Concerto No.21 K467 arranged for piano and string quartet; an evening of masterworks by Bruch, Poulenc and Dohnányi with Alexander and strings; Mozart’s Piano Quartet No.2 K493 with Daniel Tselyakov; and a midday seriously fun concert complete with coffee and pastries. A unique festival.

Ottawa Chamberfest

Ottawa Chamberfest celebrates its 25th season July 26 to August 9 with a star-studded roster. Highlights include Marc-André Hamelin (July 27) extending his exploration of the piano music of Samuel Feinberg (and Chopin) as well as teaming up with the exceptional Danel Quatuor for Shostakovich’s Piano Quintet Op.57. Israel’s Ariel Quartet and Banff winners, the Rolston String Quartet, combine for Mendelssohn’s great Octet (July 30); Quatuor Danel (July 29) and the Rolstons (July 31) each give additional concerts. OSM concertmaster   Andrew Wan and rising-star pianist Charles Richard-Hamelin play Beethoven sonatas (August 5); the Gryphon Trio celebrates their own 25th anniversary with an evening of greatest hits and favourite stories (August 5); the masterful Pražák Quartet delves into their Czech heritage (August 7); and Angela Hewitt brightens her visit to her hometown with programs featuring Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier Book One (August 4) and Goldberg Variations (August 6).

Blythwood Winds - Terry Lim PhotographySummer Music in the Garden

An oasis of calm downtown by the lake, Harbourfront’s Music Garden is one of Toronto’s best kept secrets. And it’s free! Now is the time to spread the word. Here are some highlights. The Venuti String Quartet (violinists Rebekah Wolkstein and Drew Jurecka, violist Shannon Knights and cellist Lydia Munchinsky) performs Ravel’s breathtaking String Quartet June 28; The New Zealand String Quartet illuminates Beethoven’s String Quartet No.7, Op.59 No.1 as well as Stravinsky’s little-heard Concertino for String Quartet July 19; Blythwood Winds, a classic wind quintet, present a program spanning the last century, including Elliott Carter’s Wind Quintet, Abigail Richardson-Schulte’s nature-inspired Emerge and music from the score to Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, July 20. Famous for their marimba-duo version of Ann Southam’s Glass Houses, Taktus (Greg Harrison and Jonny Smith) brings it all back home to Toronto on July 22. Playing violin, mandolin and the nine-string hardanger fiddle, Rebekah Wolkstein and Drew Jurecka perform music by Brahms, Bartók, Mozart and Grieg, along with folk music of Norway, August 16. 

Paul Ennis is the managing editor of The WholeNote.

With the arrival of warmer weather, it’s time to dive into the world of summer music festivals. One that caught my attention this year is Festival of the Sound, located in the heart of vacation country, the town of Parry Sound. This year’s festival, which runs from July 20 to August 11, is offering two unique contemporary music events, both of which focus on themes related to cultural identity, history and place. I’ll be concluding the column with a summary of a few new music events happening this summer within the city of Toronto.

Ensemble Made in Canada (from left) Elissa Lee, Angela Park, Sharon Wei and Rachel Mercer - Photo by Bo HuangThe piano quartet Ensemble Made in Canada will be premiering their unique and ambitious Mosaïque Project at Festival of the Sound on July 26. The ensemble got their start in 2006 at the Banff Centre for the Arts, when Angela Park (piano) and Sharon Wei (viola) were inspired to begin a chamber music ensemble that would enable the two of them to play together – thus a piano quartet was formed rather than the usual choice for chamber ensembles, the string quartet. Additional members of the current quartet include Elissa Lee (violin) and Rachel Mercer (cello), and it was Lee who I had a conversation with about Mosaïque.

A few years ago, the quartet began brainstorming about future projects, and had the vision of travelling across the country by train. Not able to physically manage it – since until recently taking a cello on VIA Rail was not allowed – they came up with the idea of commissioning a piece of music that would do it for them.

The original idea was to commission 13 composers (one for each province and territory), but later this increased to 14 composers, who were then selected based on the quartet’s attraction to their individual compositional styles rather than on where they lived. After the composers were on board, the quartet then came up with a strategy to allocate a specific province/territory to each composer to serve as the initial starting point for their compositions. As things turned out, even though each composer was given free reign to find their own inspiration related to the assigned province/territory, a majority of them chose the theme of water as their point of departure. In our conversation, Lee remarked how nature is “so close to our hearts as Canadians,” so it’s no surprise that this would emerge as a common thread amongst the creators. Each of the pieces is four minutes in length, and in the premiere performance in Parry Sound, all 14 of these miniatures will be woven together. An extensive tour is planned across the country after the premiere, with dates and locations scheduled into the fall of 2019 and a changing set list of Mosaïque selections for each show. Audiences in Toronto will be able to hear the complete set of 14 works on November 15, as part of Music Toronto’s concert season and their full touring schedule is available on their website.

One of the distinctive features of this project is a visually based component that will engage the audience. During the concert, audience members will have the opportunity to doodle or draw while listening. Lee explained that many audience members only want to experience familiar music and are more skeptical of contemporary pieces. Based on Lee’s own practice of doodling while talking on the phone, she had the inspiration that if people were doing something more unconscious like doodling, “they could abstract the music and be less apt to judge it. By engaging in a drawing experience, people are able to tap into their own creativity and draw something based on what they’re hearing to inspire them. It opens up a different approach to how you digest the music and is much more friendly. People may find themselves hearing something in the music they would otherwise miss,” Lee said. The other goal of the visual element is to concretely capture how the music is inspiring the audiences. “Canada is inspiring the composers, the composers are inspiring the ensemble, and since the concert is travelling throughout the country, the music is inspiring a nation-wide audience. We can capture what is being created and put it on our website, creating a visual mosaic as another layer to how we celebrate and represent our country.” Through the Mosaïque Project, Canada’s diversity and richness are celebrated not only through the music, but also through the eyes and ears of its people.

Francis Pegahmagabow (1945)Sounding Thunder

The second contemporary music event at the Festival of the Sound is the world premiere of Sounding Thunder: The Song of Francis Pegahmagabow, composed by Timothy Corlis and written by Ojibwe poet Armand Garnet Ruffo. Corlis explained that the work is not an opera, but rather a story that includes a narrator, a chamber ensemble of instrumentalists, three Ojibwe singers and an actor who plays Pegahmagabow. Performing this role is Brian McInnes, the great grandson of Pegahmagabow and writer of an extensive biography of his great grandfather. Other direct descendants have acted as advisors for the project. Pegahmagabow was born in 1889 on the Parry Island Indian Reserve (now the Wasauksing First Nation), an Ojibwe community near Parry Sound, Ontario. He was considered the most effective sniper of World War I and was decorated with various military medals. The writer Armand Ruffo took great pains to reference real events in the script, Corlis told me, using either things commonly talked about in the family or documentation from books.

Timothy CorlisThe instrumentation of the music was designed to be a copy of what is used in L’Histoire du Soldat, Igor Stravinsky’s piece about World War I. Corlis’ vision is that for future performances, excerpts of Stravinsky’s work will be performed on the same program, thus presenting different viewpoints of this cataclysmic world event. Sounding Thunder is divided into three acts, with the first focusing on Pegahmagabow’s childhood and formational spiritual experiences, including an encounter with the spirit of his clan – the Caribou. In the music, Corlis has created a Caribou motive using interlocking patterns invoking the sounds of a large herd. One of the singers will portray the spirit of the Caribou throughout the work, which opens with Pegahmagabow acknowledging the four directions while vocables are sung. At another point, the instruments foreshadow the war with rippling gunshot sounds on the drum. Act Two takes us to the battlefield in Europe and musically, the score has many references to European music and its harmonic traditions. Corlis said that the music even sounds a bit like Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, yet there is another unmistakable component – the presence of the drum, which is played with great force underneath the European-based music. This was one way Corlis brought together references to both cultures, as the drum is a significant element in Ojibwe culture and customarily resides in the home of its owner.

Armand Garnet Ruffo in his office at Queens University CREDIT Julia McKayAct Three focuses on Pegahmagabow’s life after returning to his home after the war. Despite his many accomplishments on the battlefield and his ability to gain loyalty and trust in his role as an army sergeant, when back on the reserve, he had to once again face the systemic racism towards First Nations people. Much of the third act portrays his struggles with the Indian agent, fighting for the rights to receive his military pension and for all Indigenous people to have access to legal advice. Writer Armand Ruffo is a strong activist for Indigenous rights, and this is very evident in the script. The work ends with Pegahmagabow’s death, with the instrumentalists surrounding him onstage while playing gentle light trill motives to represent the ascension of his spirit, with the finale being the performance of a traditional Ojibwe song.

City Summertime Listening

Somewhere There: On June 10, at Array Space, Somewhere There will present the first screening of Sound Seed: Tribute to Pauline Oliveros, a performance by Vancouver-based integrated media artist Victoria Gibson. The piece draws on Gibson’s 2009 encounter with composer Pauline Oliveros and members of the Deep Listening Band, who invited her to document their 20th anniversary that took place in the underground cistern in Fort Worden, Washington with its spectacular 45-second reverberation. This was the site of the groundbreaking 1989 recording Deep Listening, which launched both the term and concepts of Deep Listening, Oliveros’ signature work which invites us to engage with and contribute to the sonic environment from a place of inner focus and awareness. The concert includes a launch of the DVD along with two sets of music. Vocalist/composer Laura Swankey opens the evening, with the closing set featuring Gibson performing with Heather Saumer (trombone) and Bob Vespaziani (electronic percussion), a version of Gibson’s variable-member project, Play the Moment Collective.

Contact Contemporary Music: A unique concert on June 14 co-presented by ContaQt and Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, “Many Faces: We Are All Marilyns,” will explore the themes of vulnerability, strength and defiance, topics that are particularly relevant in light of recent issues of violence within Toronto’s queer community. Music by Eve Beglarian, Amnon Wolman and John Oswald will be performed, along with choreography by Laurence Lemieux. Fast forwarding to the Labour Day weekend, Contact’s annual multi-day festival INTERSECTION takes place from August 31 to September 4, and is a co-presentation with Burn Down the Capital. This year’s event offers an extensive lineup of musicians, with their opening concert featuring NYC-based experimental metal guitarist and composer Mick Barr, the Thin Edge New Music Collective, and heavy metal band Droid. The day-long event on September 2 will take place as usual at Yonge- Dundas Square, with music performed in the midst of an intense urban scene. By contrast, the final concert will take place at Allan Gardens, with another opportunity to hear Laura Swankey, amongst others.

Luminato: An exciting new work which combines sound, image and an unspoken narrative, Solo for Duet: works for augmented piano and images, will be performed by pianist Eve Egoyan on June 19 and 20. I refer you to my April column, which features a more detailed description of this work, along with a look at Egoyan’s performances of long-duration works. On June 24, Icelandic composer and musician Ólafur Arnalds premieres his new work All Strings Attached, featuring a wired ensemble of string quartet and percussion, with Ólafur performing on an array of pianos and synthesizers. A highlight of this work will be Ólafur’s use of intricate algorithm software, which he designed to control two self-playing pianos acting as one.

Wendalyn Bartley is a Toronto-based composer and electro-vocal sound artist. sounddreaming@gmail.com.

I once mused in this column that “summer in the city for me also means music in the city.” It’s not an especially deep statement, but it does suggest that experiencing sound in warm outdoor weather is different from listening indoors. Summer liberates music in Canada in a way other seasons cannot.

The advent of short sleeves, shorts-and-sandal weather means music lovers need no longer be confined to indoor spaces. We can enjoy music at a wide range of outdoor venues this summer. To name only a few: Harbourfront Centre, North York’s Cultura Festival, Peeks Toronto Caribbean Carnival (commonly still called Caribana), Small World Festival, and Ashkenaz Festival. We can also experience global music at TD Sunfest 2018 in the parkland heart of London, and at Stratford Summer Music in the Ontario town Shakespeare made famous.

Many of these concert series feature music which reflects the diversity we see and hear around us every day.

Summertime concerts often cover a huge cultural range, sometimes with several genres on a single bill. It’s an ideal opportunity to sample music you’ve been meaning to try – or never knew existed. The latter’s a special treat for inveterate sonic explorers.

In this 2018 summer column I’ll explore that en plein air experience as presented by three Toronto music festivals rich in global sounds.

Harbourfront Centre: Summer Music in the Garden, June 28 to September 16

We begin our summer global music journey at Harbourfront Centre, which I once called “the granddaddy of current Toronto summer music festivals.” It has followed its multicultural mandate for more than four decades, presenting what it calls a cross-section of the “mosaic of cultures from within our country and around the world.”

I’ve mentioned here before that I was a Harbourfront Centre early-adopter. I hadn’t yet shared, however, that as well as being an enthusiastic audience member, I also performed there with various groups from the 1970s on. Bringing my children along when they were young to Harbourfront Centre’s eclectic high-quality (and mostly free) music programming proved to be a summertime essential for our growing family. Along the way I learned a great deal about diverse musics there. Perhaps our kids did too.

Harbourfront’s concert series Summer Music in the Garden returns for its 19th year by the shores of Lake Ontario. Located in the Yo-Yo Ma co-designed Music Garden, the free concerts are scheduled on most Thursdays at 7pm and Sundays at 4pm. Audiences are encouraged to sit on the lawn and to bring a blanket or lawn chair since bench seating is quite limited. Hats, umbrellas and sunscreen are wise options.

Summer Music in the Garden’s logo is “Our garden is your concert hall.” It’s an apt description of the relaxed backyard-in-the-city environment you can expect, though you’d have to be in the upper one percent to personally own such a waterfront property.

This year’s 18 concerts have been carefully curated by longtime Summer Music in the Garden artistic director Tamara Bernstein. They include outstanding local and touring artists performing in a wide range of music genres. Here are just three picks from the Music Garden’s abundant 2018 crop.

July 1. Kontiwennenhá:wi and Barbara Croall: “Songs for the Women.”

It’s very fitting that Bernstein booked Kontiwennenhá:wi and Barbara Croall for Canada Day. Kontiwennenhá:wi (Carriers of the Words) have performed at the Toronto Music Garden as The Akwesasne Women Singers in the past. They return performing both received songs that are an integral part of Haudenosaunee life, as well as original repertoire.

Barbara CroallOdawa First Nations composer and musician Barbara Croall was (from 1998 to 2000) resident composer with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Her Summer Music in the Garden set features a performance of her Lullaby (2008) for pipigwan (traditional Anishinaabe cedar flute) and voice. The work is dedicated to the many Indigenous mothers whose children died at residential schools.

July 5. Kongero: “Scandinavian Songlines.”

Formed in 2005, the popular Swedish a cappella group Kongero consists of four women folk music singers, Lotta Andersson, Emma Björling, Anna Larsson and Anna Wikénius. They have performed at major folk music, a cappella and chamber music festivals in Europe, Asia and the Americas. Their repertoire consists of a mix of traditional and original songs characterized by tight harmonies, lively rhythms and vocal clarity. They playfully call their genre, “Swedish Folk’appella.”

Summer and beer go together for many Canadians, but how many a cappella groups can boast a beer named after them? This quartet can. Kongero is a bottled Saison/Farmhouse Ale-style brewed by Jackdaw Brewery in Sweden. Audiences can expect to hear excerpts from Kongero’s four full-length albums, though sadly I saw no mention of samples of their eponymous ale.

August 9. Bageshree Vaze, Vineet Vyas and Rajib Karmakar: Satyam (Truth).

The Indo-Canadian dancer and musician Bageshree Vaze and tabla soloist Vineet Vyas both studied their respective art forms with the best in India. They have been part of the Ontario performing arts scene for over two decades. Currently based in LA, Rajib Karmakar is an award-winning electric sitar musician, educator and digital artist with ample international touring credentials.

Last year these three artists were commissioned by Opera Nova Scotia to create Satyam (Truth). Their opera is based on the love story of Savitri and Satyavan, first found in the Mahabharata, one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India.

Small World Festival at Harbourfront Centre, August 17 to 19.

Harbourfront Centre is the venue for several other festivals this summer. For three days in August, this year’s Small World Festival takes over Harbourfront’s facilities for the first time. Placing its 17th annual festival at the height of the summer season in one of the city’s premier summer cultural and tourist destinations is a bold and perhaps even risky move for Small World Music. On the other hand, the fit feels organic. The weekend celebration of “diversity through music” suits the mandates of both organizations well.

In a recent telephone interview with Alan Davis, SWM’s executive director, he told me that this year’s Small World Festival is inspired by the 30th anniversary of WOMAD. Founded by Peter Gabriel in the UK 36 years ago, World of Music Art and Dance was first produced in Canada at Harbourfront Centre in 1988. (I recall that WOMAD particularly well. I performed a concert there with Evergreen Club Gamelan on the outdoor Tindall stage, a stone’s throw from busy Queens Quay.)

Davis noted that the “inspiration [WOMAD] provided created a direct line to the formation of Small World ten years later. Three decades on, this festival explores its legacy and how it resonates in multicultural 21st-century Toronto.”

Small World’s annual signature concert series is known for its “eclectic mix of top artists from around the globe and around the corner, representing the state of the-art in global sound,” continued Davis. “Taking place on multiple stages, the mostly free program will attract a wide range of demographics, ranging from audiences that identify culturally with the music onstage, to mainstream music fans, families and tourists seeking a global cultural experience.”

Davis makes a case for providing “a predominately free program in one of Toronto’s premier summer locales helping to reduce the barriers in celebrating multiculturalism and enriching the cultural tapestry of our city.” He projects the weekend will “draw over 25,000 participants from markets beyond the GTA, including Southern Ontario, Montreal and American border-states.”

What will audiences see and hear? Davis aims “to continue to feature the high-quality presentations that the festival is renowned for. This includes international and Canadian artists from a diverse range of cultures, including but not limited to Korean, South Asian, Iranian, Latin American, Portuguese and Afro-Caribbean.”

Given that the Small World Festival will be held in the middle of August, Davis was reluctant to nail down programming months prior to the festival. When pressed, however, he revealed to The WholeNote readers the acts booked at press time.

The wide-ranging mix includes Daraa Tribes (Morocco), which present a fusion of the ancestral tribal music at the heart of the Moroccan Sahara; DJ Lag (South Africa), a pioneer of the explosive dark techno movement out of Durban; and one of Italy’s hottest bands, Kalàscima, purveyors of a unique brand of “psychedelic trance tarantella.” Also confirmed is the East LA band Las Cafeteras, which fuses spoken word and traditional Son Jarocho, Afro-Mexican and zapateado dancing into a joyous celebration of Chicano culture.

Vieux Farka TouréThe Malian singer and guitarist Vieux Farka Touré may be the best-known Small World Festival headliner to Toronto audiences. Carrying on the musical legacy of his Grammy-winning father Ali Farka Touré, Vieux’s latest album Samba (2017) was praised in the Monolith Cocktail Blog: “This is the devotional, earthy soul of Mali, channelled through a six-string electric guitar.”

Canadian groups include Toronto’s Surefire Sweat, a diverse and multi-generational roster of musicians who feature the danceable original music of drummer Larry Graves which draws on “an amalgam of New Orleans brass band, funk, jazz, blues and Afrobeat.” The Montreal-Moroccan outfit De Ville will also take the stage. More Canadian and international acts will be announced during the summer, so keep an eye out.

Ashkenaz Festival at Harbourfront Centre, August 28 to September 3.

The 12th biennial Ashkenaz Festival happens over the final week of the summer, wrapping on Labour Day Monday. Following the template established in previous editions, this year kicks off with an assortment of events at venues across the GTA before Ashkenaz segues to Harbourfront Centre over the Labour Day weekend.

The 2018 festival features over 90 performances, with more than 250 individual artists coming from across Canada and at least a dozen countries. Following the lead of previous iterations, the festival showcases diversity and cross-culturalism within the Jewish music world. This year the festival also features the enhanced participation of women performers, “spotlighting the role of women as prominent performers, innovators and key custodians of various Jewish musical traditions from around the globe.”

Given the vast scope of the festival I can only provide a few picks.

On August 28, Yiddish Glory (Russia/Canada) is the festival opener at Koerner Hall. The show is built on songs and poetry from the Holocaust era, rediscovered in a Ukrainian archive a decade ago. The songs and texts are presented in a concert format featuring jazz chanteuse Sophie Milman, Psoy Korolenko and Trio Loyko.

Other acts have been confirmed, though their festival appearance dates have not yet been released. Here’s but a taste.

Frank London, Grammy-winning group Klezmatics’ co-founder and one of the godfathers of the new Yiddish culture scene, is this year’s Theodore Bikel artist-in-residence. Fronted by trumpeter London, the band Sharabi has been dubbed “a Yiddish-Punjabi bhangra-funk-klezmer party band.” (Would I kid you?)

Salomé: Woman of Valor (Canada/USA) was created by London and Adeena Karasick. This new work is a multidisciplinary spoken word opera incorporating the interplay of poetry, music and dance. It seeks to refute Oscar Wilde’s “misogynist and anti-Semitic interpretation and re-casts [Salomé] as a powerful revolutionary matriarch, translating the renowned myth to one of female empowerment, socio-politic, erotic and aesthetic transgression.”

Gili Yalo, making his North American debut, is one of the most intriguing new artists in Israel’s world music scene. Yalo mashes his Ethiopian roots with soul, reggae, funk, psychedelia and jazz, forging an energetic new sound.

Neta Elkayam, a leading researcher and performer of Moroccan Jewish music, presents songs with Andalusian, Berber and Middle Eastern influences. Her latest project is a multimedia concert tribute to the great Moroccan-Jewish singer Zohra Al Fassia, featuring 11 musicians..

Choro Das Tres (Brazil) is a virtuoso instrumental ensemble comprised of three sisters and their father who perform choro, Brazil’s first popular music. The group pays tribute in this concert to Brazilian-Jewish mandolin master Jacob do Bandolim, on the 100th anniversary of his birth.

No matter which festival or open-air concert you choose, I wish you a pleasant global musical summer! 

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

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