The cast of What Goes Up learning frisbee. Photo credit: Dahlia KatzOn August 19 to 22 on the 17th floor of the new offices of Canada’s newspaper The Globe and Mail, a remarkable new initiative for fostering the creation of new musicals is taking its first public steps.

REPRINT is the first project of a new program called LAUNCH PAD, created by the combined forces of The Musical Stage Company and Yonge Street Theatricals – and it sounds thrilling.   Three creative teams have spent the last ten months creating new short (approximately 20-minute) musicals, each inspired by an article and/or photograph from The Globe and Mail’s archives.

A photo of screaming fans at the Beatles concert in Toronto in the 1960s inspired the team of Anika Johnson, Barbara Johnston and Nick Green to create Fan Girl, set in a contemporary (2019) YouTube world of fans and idols. The famous widespread blackout of 2003, as captured in the photo of a couple sitting in a Riverdale Park looking out over a Toronto without lights, led to the creation of Cygnus by composer/lyricist Anton Lipovetsky and book writer Steven Gallagher, all intrigued about how major events like this can bring people together unexpectedly. And in perhaps the most unexpected choice of all, it was photos of frisbee players on the Toronto Islands in the 1980s that caught the imaginations of composer Colleen Dauncey, lyricist Akiva Romer-Segal and book writer Ellen Denny (whom readers will remember from playing the leading role in Britta Johnson’s musical Life After) and led them to create What Goes Up—an exploration of the little-known world of Freestyle Frisbee competition (which bears the same relation to the sport of Ultimate Frisbee that figure skating bears to hockey).

Each short musical has its own specific director and music director team, but all three shows share the same cast of four actors. Guiding the project as a whole are program co-directors  Robert McQueen (acclaimed director of Life After, Fun Home, and many more) and New York City-based orchestrator, musical arranger and music director Lynne Shankel (previously in Toronto for Life After).

Fascinated by this project, its structure and its ambitious goals, I reached out to The Musical Stage Company’s artistic director Mitchell Marcus to find out more.

The following interview has been condensed and edited.

WN: The upcoming REPRINT is the first project of LAUNCH PAD, a new initiative from The Musical Stage Company and Yonge Street Theatricals. Can you tell me what inspired this idea and what your goals with the program are?

MM: Because musical theatre is in its infancy in Canada, some of our most innovative and interesting writers likely have not had many (or any) chances to bring a musical to full production. This is problematic, as creating a good song or an interesting story is only the first phase of being a great musical theatre writer – musicals are a highly collaborative form and so much of the work happens not just in a writer's head, but through 'in the room' experience, where pieces are rewritten and honed over and over again in a collaborative setting.

LAUNCH PAD was intended to bridge this gap for a large group of people, in a country with limited capacity to develop tons of full-length musicals each year, and to offer exciting voices the chance to take their work through a full developmental process. Long-term, we hope that it gives us an army of artists (composers, lyricists, book writers, directors and music supervisors) who understand the trajectory and phases of developing new musicals, and who develop a common language around how to do development work.

WN: The performances of REPRINT will take place on the 17th floor of the offices of The Globe and Mail newspaper, and each of the three short musicals is inspired by a photograph and/or headline from the Globe’s archives. Can you tell me what inspired this specific location and context?

MM: In 2016 we invited writers to respond to the permanent collection at the Art Gallery of Ontario. The resulting short musicals were exceptional, and the experience for the audience was superb – having a common collection as a prompt, and allowing the audience to experience the final product in the space that houses the collection, really demonstrated the artistic process. It struck us that newspaper articles similarly offer a wonderful prompt. News tells us stories through facts. But it's ripe for inspiring characters, circumstances, worlds and conflicts. In particular, because of their glorious 17th floor space in their new building, we thought that The Globe and Mail would have both the right archive and the right performance space to help audiences see the hidden 'theatre' in our collective history.

WN: There are three teams involved in REPRINT, each responsible for creating and preparing one of three short musicals – teams that include composer, lyricist, book writer, director and musical director (though some team members wear two “hats”). How were these teams chosen?

MM: Because the goal of the program is to build an army of people who have a common expectation around new musical development, we chose a collection of people who are excellent in their craft, who we feel (based on their past work) can make a major contribution to the development of new musicals in Toronto, and who would benefit from fine-tuning their work on a full-length development process. Remarkably, other than two composer/lyricist teams, no one had partnered together previously. This was a huge risk, and the artists took an enormous leap of faith letting us pair them up in combinations that we felt would be fruitful based on what we knew of their work. Thankfully, I think the matches turned out to be fantastic!

The cast and creative team of REPRINT. Photo credit: Dahlia Katz.WN: There is one small team of four musical theatre actors who will perform all three shows. How were these people chosen, and how has having this set number of very specific performers affected the creation of the shows? 

MM: We went in search of actors who fulfilled two criteria: [first], we needed very versatile performers, as we had to choose a cast before the works were written. Second, we knew that these pieces would be seriously "in development" until the very first audience, so we needed actors who could learn music and lines quickly, and who thrived in an environment that was constantly changing. After we created a shortlist based on those criteria, we tried to find an assortment of ages, genders, looks, types, etc. so that we would be covered no matter what the musicals ended up requiring.

WN: Can you tell me about the process that the teams have gone through to create their new musicals for REPRINT

MM: In the fall, the writers were given access to the news and photo archive at The Globe and Mail. First step was to select a prompt which spoke to them alongside a rough idea for the musical. The writers created a first draft and had a chance to work with their directors, music supervisors and actors in a two-day workshop in the winter, after which they received notes from their teams, from our organization, and from two international mentors who were attached to the project. They then created a second draft in the spring and again had a two-day workshop and notes. Over the summer, they had the chance to go on a writers' retreat to fine-tune their final draft. And then, during the three-week rehearsal period, they had the chance to continue to hone the work as it was staged. In between, we also had sessions with international experts in musical theatre to talk about effective methods of collaboration, and at the end of the process, international guests come to see the works and then meet 1-on-1 with the writers about their musicals.

WN: This is an exciting experimental process for creating new musicals. Have there been any surprises for you along the way? What can audiences expect?

MM: The biggest surprise has been how well the teams have thrived in this complex structure – and how truly helpful I think this has been to solidify a practice of developing new musicals for them and for us as an organization. 

For audiences, I think it will be absolutely thrilling to watch three original pieces that are each so different and yet so compelling. It will be a tour-de-force to see these actors transform from show to show. Plus, REPRINT will demonstrate the breadth of imagination that exists in both the minds of our talented local writers and the black and white pages of the newspaper.

Fan Girl
Anika Johnson and Barbara Johnston (music & lyrics)
Nick Green (book)
Tracey Flye (director)
Adam Sakiyama (music director & supervisor)

Cygnus
Anton Lipovetsky (music & lyrics)
Steven Gallagher (book)
Ann Hodges (director)
Wayne Gwillim (music director & supervisor)

What’s Goes Up
Colleen Dauncey (music)
Akiva Romer-Segal (lyrics)
Ellen Denny (book)
Lezlie Wade (director)
Shelley Hanson (music director & supervisor)

All three musicals will star Brandon Antonio, Kaylee Harwood, Michael De Rose and Kelsey Verzotti.

REPRINT is onstage from August 19 to 22 at The Globe and Mail Centre, Toronto. It will be filmed for broadcast via podcast in 2020. The original articles that inspired the works can be viewed online here.

Jennifer Parr is a Toronto-based director, dramaturge, fight director and acting coach, brought up from a young age on a rich mix of musicals, Shakespeare and new Canadian plays.

Syreeta Hector in Black Ballerina. Photo credit: Jason Tse.The SummerWorks Performance Festival is celebrating its 29th year of showcasing new and groundbreaking multidisciplinary theatre, music, and dance in Toronto from August 8 to 18.

Though similar to the Fringe in that there are many wildly different companies and artists to see, SummerWorks is very different in that the Fringe chooses its shows by lottery, while Summerworks chooses its shows by a careful process of application and selection. Under artistic director Laura Nanni’s leadership, the festival’s jury process has led to increasingly fearless, risk-taking programming, giving both artists and audiences an opportunity to explore many of the often difficult ideas and topics at the forefront of our contemporary world.

This year there are over 400 performers in over 30 events, based mostly in the Queen Street West area near the Theatre Centre, but also at individual sites around the city. Looking at the lineup of music theatre works, five in particular  stood out for me. While all completely different, they do have two things in common: each piece has an urgent story to tell – and in each case, music is an integral part of the telling.

Cliff Cardinal. Photo credit: Nadya Kwansibenz.1. Cliff Cardinal’s CBC Special
Theatre Centre, BMO Incubator, August 11-17

Perhaps the most high-profile music theatre work in the Summerworks Presentations series is Cliff Cardinal’s CBC Special. A highly anticipated follow-up to Cardinal’s multi award-winning solo show Huff, it teams him again with his director/dramaturge Karin Randoja. While Huff  was hard-hitting in its depiction of the lives of a group of Indigenous youth dealing with substance abuse and a high risk of suicide, audiences also found it hilarious and this same combination of dark humour and grounded storytelling is expected in this new solo show, though this time it will probably be on the lighter side. Cardinal (son of acclaimed Canadian actor Tantoo Cardinal) grew up on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation listening to CBC Radio, but not hearing the experiences of his family and community being represented very much in its programming. To address that gap, he has created his own ‘CBC broadcast’ and filled it with dark and catchy folk songs, miraculous stories of familial resilience, and legends of Turtle Island survival, with an aim of entertaining – as well as giving untold stories their time on the air.

2. Audible Songs from Rockwood
Theatre Centre, Franco Boni Theatre, August 10-18

On the darker side is Audible Songs from Rockwood, a “concert staged for theatre” based on the album of the same name by Simone Schmidt and her band Fiver. The songs in turn are based on the case files of women incarcerated at the Rockwood Asylum for the Criminally Insane in Kingston, Ontario between 1856 and 1861. Yes, prison and criminalized insanity make for a dark musical show, but this is part of what makes SummerWorks important – that it does not shrink from telling these uncomfortable stories.

Schmidt, a veteran songwriter, spent two years conducting research in the prison archives, retrieving the stories of these women. This led to an acclaimed album of songs that have now been turned into a theatrical event (co-created with director Frank Cox O’Connell and designer Shannon Lea Doyle), which uses these story songs as a starting point to ask questions about not only the historical definition of sanity, but also the contemporary ramifications of a system of incarceration built upon the foundation of a colonial settler agenda. Schmidt, who has a distinctive husky alto voice, leads the cast of three which includes Carlie Howell and Laura Bates.

3. Crossing Into Lullaby
Theatre Centre, BMO Incubator, August 8, 10, 11

In the Lab series of works at an earlier stage of creation, Crossing Into Lullaby takes as a starting point an old family story of an undiagnosable sickness that binds the living to the dead. More enigmatic fable than historical fact, the show revisits this story in a re-telling by creator Dian Marie Bridge and a team of multi-disciplinary artists, and harnesses voice work and electronic soundscapes in an attempt to cure the sickness by breaking the bindings of the story’s characters’ unspoken fears and laying them to rest. The use of music to heal in the story and production is particularly intriguing.

Syreeta Hector in Black Ballerina. Photo credit: Jason Tse.4. Black Ballerina
Theatre Centre, BMO Incubator, August 11, 14, 18

Another show in the Lab series, Black Ballerina, starts from a very real and very personal point of view – that of creator and performer Syreeta Hector, a young but already highly accomplished dancer and educator of mixed Indigenous, African, Canadian and French descent.

Trained at the School of Toronto Dance Theatre as well as the National Ballet School’s Teacher Training Program, and having received a master’s degree from the Dance Program at York University, she uses this new solo show to explore questions of identity and dance form, specifically the clash between her own blackness and the usually white bodies of the classical ballet world. She promises to dig into these issues, including the need we all feel to fit in, through storytelling, movement and music (an original score by Zarnoosh Bilimoria). To give even more depth and detail to her vision is movement dramaturge Seika Boye (It’s About Time, Dancing Black in Canada 1900 - 1970). It will be fascinating to see the range of movement the show employs.

5. The Breath Between
Theatre Centre, BMO Incubator, August 8, 10, 12, 16

The Breath Between, created and performed by the young artists of the AMY (Artists Mentoring Youth) Project, seems to strike a true note of hope in the context of calamity. Set in a future following a climate catastrophe where everyone is forced to live under the control and cover of “the Dome,” the queer youth of Tkaronto emerge to take part in the first Pride event in years, only to discover that it is not the celebration they had hoped it would be. A small band of them break out of the dystopia and journey into space to explore the meaning of community, connection, and home. While the format of an interweaving of monologues, poetry, movement and music is not in itself ground-breaking, it sounds as though the content is refreshing in finding positivity despite the surrounding dystopia. The young characters share stories of their resilience, but even more importantly, their dreams of what new worlds we can make together – even in apocalyptic times.

Please see www.summerworks.ca for a full schedule and information about all the shows and events. Tickets for most shows are $15-35, and some events are free.

Jennifer Parr is a Toronto-based director, dramaturge, fight director and acting coach, brought up from a young age on a rich mix of musicals, Shakespeare and new Canadian plays.

JenShyu Photo1 StevenSchreiberbannerJen Shyu, who performs at the Guelph Jazz Festival this year. Photo credit: Steven Schreiber.Though many summer festivals have already wrapped up their 2019 editions, the season isn’t over yet. There are a number of late-summer festivals slotted for August and September, both in southern Ontario and further afield. Whether you prefer to make a day trip out of town or stay close to home, there are upcoming musical offerings that suit your end-of-summer plans.

Here are five music festivals to consider visiting before the end of the summer.

1. Guelph Jazz Festival
September 11-15
Guelph, Ontario

Founded in 1994, the Guelph Jazz Festival always promises varied and risk-taking programming, with a range of local and international artists. This year – the festival’s first under the artistic co-leadership of Scott Thomson (artistic and general director) and Karen Ng (assistant artistic and general director) – features several notable experimental artists, including vocalist/dancer/multi-instrumentalist Jen Shyu’s interdisciplinary solo show Nine Doors and Nova Scotia-based jaw harp player chik white. The festival has organized a Friday Night Street Music Party, 7pm to midnight on September 13 in Guelph’s Market Square. Festival details at www.guelphjazzfestival.com

2. The 21st-Century Guitar
August 22-25
Ottawa, Ontario

This summer, the University of Ottawa Piano Pedagogy Research Lab, the International Guitar Research Centre (University of Surrey), the Canadian Music Centre, and the Ottawa Guitar Society have joined forces to co-host The 21st-Century Guitar, a conference focusing on interdisciplinary perspectives towards guitar performance, composition and pedagogy.

Featuring guitarists from classical, experimental, folk, and numerous other genres, the conference promises a wide range of guitar-centric music – including presentations of solo and duo pieces from Canadian and international composers, a selection of works using 8-channel sound and surround video projection, and performances by a giant ‘guitar orchestra’. Details at www.21cguitar.com

3. Prince Edward County Chamber Music Festival
September 13-22
Picton, Ontario

Running from September 13 to 22, the PEC Chamber Music Festival is one of several music events taking place in Prince Edward County each summer. Now under the artistic leadership of the New Orford String Quartet, the PEC Chamber Music Festival promises an impressive program of top-notch Canadian artists. With performances this year by the New Orford String Quartet, Gryphon Trio, soprano Julie Nesrallah with collaborative pianist Robert Kortgaard, and brothers Jamie and Jon Kimura Parker in a program for two pianos, the festival is full of concerts perfect for a mid-September day trip. Info at www.pecmusicfestival.com.

4. The Fifth Canadian Chopin Piano Competition
August 23-29
Toronto, Ontario

At the end of August, the Canadian Chopin Society will present the fifth edition of the Canadian Chopin Piano Competition, hosted at the Royal Conservatory in Toronto. Presented in conjunction with the renowned International F. Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw, Poland, the Canadian competition is open to Canadian pianists in both Junior and Senior divisions.

In addition to competition rounds open to the public, the Canadian Chopin Society will also present Polish pianist Krzysztof Jablonksi, the competition jury chair, in a solo recital of Chopin’s music at Koerner Hall. Details at www.rcmusic.com

5. Summer Music in the Garden
Thursdays and Sundays until September 15
Toronto, Ontario

The Toronto Music Garden continues its annual summer programming until mid-September this year, offering a variety of free outdoor concerts from now until the end of the summer. Upcoming highlights include performances by Eastern European vocal quartet Blisk; Laüsa, a group rooted in the traditional music of Gascony in southwest France; local cello duo VC2; and Aiyun Huang and Mark Fewer, in a program of works for percussion and violin. More information at www.harbourfrontcentre.com.

CAPTION: Toronto’s Yorkville neighbourhood. Photo credit: Laura Headley and Phyllis Jacklin. When I first investigated the extensive, 24-panel brochure for this year’s TD Toronto Jazz Festival, I was struck by the phrase “Jazz After Dark,” which appeared as one of the many thematic concert categories that the TJF used to shape its 2019 offerings. (Some other categories: Emerging Artists, First Plays, Educational Programs, CBC Music and JUNOS 365, and a “musical celebration” of “gospel, jazz and hip hop” on Bloor Street.) I’d spoken to TJF Artistic Director Josh Grossman in May about the festival’s 2017 shift from Nathan Phillips Square to Yorkville, and the coincident severance of links to the many clubs that used to present music under the auspices of the festival, albeit with no real administrative oversight from the TJF offices; during our conversation, Grossman had mentioned that there would be more nocturnal options in and around Yorkville, so that festival patrons could easily move from outdoor stages (whose days typically finished by 9:30pm) to nearby indoor venues (at which performances began at 10pm).

TJF’s goal, then, was clear: work with local bars and restaurants to create a kind of pop-up ecosystem of late-night jazz venues, in order to create a fuller, more all-encompassing experience for patrons who would – at least theoretically – be able to seamlessly transition from out- to indoor shows, all the while feeling as though they were still participating in activities that were comfortably within the festival. Given the location, this is a more daunting task than it might seem. For those who may not know: though Joni Mitchell may have sung about the way “music comes spilling out into the street” in the area during the late 1960s when it provided a comfortable home to artists, bohemians, and other members of the contemporary Canadian counterculture, Yorkville does not currently have an abundance of live music venues (it is possible, however, to purchase “handcrafted bohemian moccasin boots,” currently on sale for $458.43 at Free People, a local boutique). (The Pilot is something of an exception: while it is not a full-time music venue, it does host a weekly jazz series on Saturdays, although it was not a festival venue this year as it was last year.)

And so – being of relatively sound mind and body, having an overarching interest in Toronto jazz in general and the TJF specifically, and, most importantly, looking for any excuse to get out of my apartment and not spend another evening contemplating the horrifying inevitability of my eventual descent into the endless silent void, I decided to check out the TJF’s “Jazz After Dark – Presented By Mill St. Brewery.” My goal: attend a show at each of the four night-time venues, and attempt to assess whether the TJF’s evening offerings hang together and feel linked, both to one another and to the festival as a whole. Briefly put: does the TJF succeed in creating the kind of ineffable festive affect that, while difficult to plan and implement and control, constitutes an immediate and palpable shared experience for festival attendees, from the most ardent local jazz fan to the friend of a friend who was dragged along to the show and whom I heard asking aloud (hand to God), “isn’t Miles David [sic] the ‘Wonderful World’ guy?” More briefly: does the “Jazz After Dark” portion of the festival feel, well, festive?

Mill Street Late-Night Jam at Proof Bar

As in previous years, the jam – a central component at most major Canadian jazz festivals – was held at Proof Bar at the InterContinental Hotel, located opposite the ROM on Bloor Street. Hotel bars seem to provide the de facto location for Canadian jazz festival jams; hotel-bar-pricing on drinks notwithstanding, the choice seems logical. The InterContinental is something of an upper-middle class hotel, with large washrooms, crisply-uniformed staff, and the kind of stark marbled lobby that would come standard with, say, a starter mini-mansion in Thornhill. The bar area is fairly large, and is mirrored by an even larger back patio; in my two visits to the jam, both areas were full. With the exception of two of its ten sessions, the jam was hosted by bassist Lauren Falls. Falls is a confident, experienced jazz player, and was also adept at managing the jam’s attendant duties. (In addition to playing as much as is needed for your particular instrument, hosting a jam also requires you to meet with prospective jammers as they arrive, keep the ever-shifting ensemble organized, and keep track of tunes, all the while maintaining some semblance of consistent set lengths; it’s a bit like being both server and chef simultaneously.) Between my two visits to the jam, I took in a combined total of three and a half sets of music, all of which were interesting, entertaining, and indicative of the high level of musicianship in Toronto. Most of the musicians I heard seemed to be Torontonians who had come specifically to play, as opposed to musicians (local or otherwise) who had played in the festival and were stopping off for a post-gig nightcap. At one point, a couple in attendance got up and started swing dancing; more on this later.

Hemingway’s Restaurant and Bar

I know I joked about the moccasins, but Yorkville is much more like The Distillery than it is, say, the Upper East Side, and most of its dining and shopping options are geared more towards the visiting sub- and exurbanite than towards the demonstratively wealthy. Hemingway’s – which, like The Pilot, contains a number of distinct rooms, including a never-unbusy rooftop patio – is more typical of the area than a bar like Proof, and features local craft beer priced at a reasonable $8.50 for a 20oz. pint (because, as the drink menu reads with no hint of irony, “SIZE MATTERS!”). I went to Hemingway’s on Saturday, June 29, and started things off by eating some nachos and drinking a 20oz. pint on the aforementioned rooftop patio with some friends, including JUNO-award-winning saxophonist/comedy enthusiast Allison Au, who was gracious enough to hang out with me on that particular evening, and my brother Sean, who has not won a JUNO, and whose knowledge of modern comedy is middling at best. After paying our reasonable bill, we went downstairs to watch guitarist Margaret Stowe play with her trio. Stowe – a fluid, technically-accomplished guitarist, whose playing pairs folky lyricism with an athletic grace – was holding court on the main floor. It was a beautiful, warm night, Hemingway’s was beyond full, and staff members were never seemed anything but polite and good-natured about everything in what, as far as I could see, was a pretty good venue.

Sassafraz Restaurant

After watching Melissa Aldana’s set on the Cumberland mainstage, van-owner/bassist Mark Godfrey and I tried to go to Sassafraz, but it was busy, and it was impossible to secure a table close to the band. Happily, the Sassafraz windows were wide open, and we were able to enjoy the music while sitting at a table in the Village of Yorkville Park (as it is named on the TJF brochure).

Later, while the band at Sassafraz was playing a 32-bar standard, an aggressive man stood close to us and yelled “Really?! The blues, in Yorkville, the richest neighbourhood in the city? Nice, reaaaaal nice.” He moved away quickly, so I did not have time to tell him my theory about how Yorkville is really more like The Distillery than it is the Upper East Side, or about Hemingway’s reasonably-priced 20oz. pints.

The Gatsby At The Windsor Arms Hotel

I saw two shows at The Gatsby: the violinist Aline Homzy, who played a beautiful show with bassist Andrew Downing and guitarist Jozsef Botos, and the guitarist Eric St-Laurent, who played with bassist Jordan O’Connor and pianist Todd Pentney. The Gatsby – a neo-jazz-age bar, named, presumably after the titular character of The Great Gatsby, a novel about the ultimate meaningless of decadent wealth – is located in The Windsor Arms hotel, which, as I learned online, has “been the home away from home for visiting royalty, aristocracy, stars of film and screen as well as heads of state and industry.” The décor is heavy on chandeliers and velvet. There is also a rack of fancy hats available at the entrance to the tea room, so that High Tea attendees won’t have to endure the shame of being hatless in the very room, apparently, in which Richard Burton proposed to Elizabeth Taylor for the second time, in 1967. (Some Wikipedia research indicates that Burton and Taylor were still on their first marriage by 1967, and would not divorce and remarry until 1974-75; in any case, one imagines that Taylor would have brought her own hat.) Perhaps it’s because of all of the velvet, but The Gatsby had good acoustics, and worked well, at least from a sonic perspective, for the drummer-less groups I heard. As at Proof Bar, the food and drink options, though tasty, were not inexpensive, and attendees tended to be an older, sedate crew, with the notable exception of musicians who were there to support their friends.

On Dancing

As I mentioned above, there was a moment at the jam when a middle-aged couple got up and started swing dancing (they seemed perfectly nice, and I’m sure they were having a good time, and what’s to come is really not about them, although, I suppose, it really is). This dancing occurred during someone’s solo, continued until the end of the song, and, minor occurrence though it was, proved to be a deceptively complicated moment to parse; I’ve come back to it more than a few times over the past week. Initially, it seemed nice, as any physically affirmative reaction to live music tends to seem: the couple enjoyed the music, and, like so many have before, they started to dance to demonstrate their appreciation and to participate more fully in the experience. But I soon started to wonder if it wasn’t, well, sort of disrespectful to the soloist and to the band, if not intentionally so: is a jam not meant as a dedicated space specifically for musicians, in which they have the freedom to engage in the creative play of improvisation for an audience that should not treat them, even inadvertently, as background music to another activity? But, then again, the idea that jazz is calcified art music and that audiences should be bound by strict behavioural guidelines seems damaging, and, anyway, who’s to say that the couple dancing weren’t fully invested in the band’s music, and were earnestly trying to participate and honour the art they were experiencing? And yet: did the dancing not represent, in a venue that was not set up for dancing, in front of players who were concentrating on the deeply serious act of improvising, a moment in which the audience, innocent though it no doubt was of its error, made a claim about the balance of power in the room? I don’t know; it is still hard for me to say.

And so, as to whether the “Jazz After Dark” offerings fulfilled their implicit mandate to foster the intended post-sunset festival vibe: I can’t say, really. The more pressing question seems to be related to the dancing episode, and the complicated power structure that exists between festival, venue, artist, and audience. It is, I suppose, this: who is a jazz festival for, anyway? It is certainly not just for the audience, but nor is it for the artists. It is, ideally, both, simultaneously. But how can any festival – not just the TJF – strive to better strike that balance? I don’t know, at least not yet. It’s getting late, and I need to get to bed.

The TD Toronto Jazz Festival ran from June 21 to 30, 2019, in various locations throughout Yorkville, Toronto.

Colin Story is a jazz guitarist, writer and teacher based in Toronto. He can be reached through his website, on Instagram and on Twitter.

A new report published by Orchestras Canada last month promises to shed new perspective on classical music in Canada – and on how the orchestra can do better for the communities it aims to serve.

Co-authored by Soraya Peerbaye and Dr. Parmela Attariwala, “Re-sounding the Orchestra: Relationships between Canadian orchestras, Indigenous peoples, and people of colour” serves as a preliminary investigative look into Canadian orchestral culture, with a specific focus on interrogating the orchestra as a colonial, political and educational entity. The product of over one year of research, interviews, and roundtable discussions with arts administrators, orchestral artistic directors, Indigenous musicians and musicians of colour, the report is an effort to consolidate research and recommendations for a more equitable framework for orchestral music – including discussion around gender and racial diversity, cultural appropriation, and decolonization.

The report was presented at an Orchestras Canada national conference in Ottawa on June 12, and is publicly available for download here on the Orchestras Canada website.

Organized into three main chapters, “Re-sounding the Orchestra” begins with a presentation of insights gathered from interviews and roundtable discussions on the relationship between an orchestra and its surrounding communities. The second chapter takes the Orchestras Canada 2017 IDEA (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accessibility) initiative (of which this report is a part) as its basis, and presents an overview of issues related to equity, diversity and coloniality in Canadian orchestras. The third, titled “Re-visioning Western classical musical training for the 21st century”, discusses how issues of equity are connected with orchestral training, mentorship and collaborative processes, including potential new directions for classical music education. The report ends with recommendations by the authors for how Orchestras Canada as an organization might move forward in the pursuit of defining – and creating – a more equitable orchestral culture.

As co-author Attariwala details at the beginning of the report, this is an important opportunity to open up discussion around the often-problematic legacies of the country’s musical institutions. “Who belongs in the orchestra, and whose music belongs in the orchestra?” she asks. “What is the relationship between orchestras and other musical cultures? Can those relationships exist equitably and according to current definitions of cultural ownership and sovereignty?” 

They’re challenging questions to answer, but the current report is an encouraging start towards reconsidering and reinventing those orchestral relationships. It’s a valuable document, not only for orchestral personnel, but for anyone interested in the creation of more equitable futures in the arts – and hopefully, the beginning of more discussions to come.

Re-sounding the Orchestra: Relationships between Canadian orchestras, Indigenous peoples, and people of colour” was published in June 2019 by Orchestras Canada, and is available online on the Orchestras Canada website: https://oc.ca/en/resource/re-sounding-the-orchestra/.

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