The following paragraph appeared in The New York Times on August 16.

 In his Magic Songs (1988), the Canadian composer R. Murray Schafer did away with literal meaning, giving his singers strings of phonemes instead of words and creating a ritualistic drama partly through movement and partly through the way the vocal sounds were ordered and shaped. Chants, declarations, call and response and communal celebration were all suggested in turn, indicating that the magic of a ritual can have more to do with the physicality of its enactment than with its text.”

I’m pleased to say that I was in the audience at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall for this performance. I was in New York, attending a music critics’ conference (yes, there are such things), and so I went with a group of critics to hear the Scuola Cantorum Venezuela.

Read more: Schafer in New York

For a few months, rumours have been swirling that Toronto would receive a visit from the Simón Bolivar Youth Orchestra, from Caracas. This is one of the foremost youth orchestras in the world – a professional group, really, in terms of the quality of their performances.

The orchestra is also famous for its social mandate in Venezuela, offering poor kids around the country free instruments and music lessons. As well, it was the training-ground for the Venezuelan conductor Gustavo Dudamel, who was appointed conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic a couple of years ago, at the tender age of 26.

Read more: Simón Bolivar in Toronto

The simultaneous projection of orchestral concerts on big screens is gradually creeping into the classical music world.

The idea hasn’t caught on with the wildfire appeal of opera titles, which stormed the world following their introduction by the Canadian Opera Company in 1983. Part of the problem is that big-screen projections are more expensive and elaborate to produce than surtitles. But there’s also a strong aesthetic resistance to the idea.

Read more: About Those Big Screens

Although founded only three years ago by oboist Christopher Palameta, the Montreal-based ensemble Notturna is quickly making its mark on the early music scene. Just recently, their first recording in a series of five compact discs of the complete (27) "quadro sonatas" of Johann Gottlieb Janitsch (1708-1763) was released on the ATMA Classique label. These progressive sonatas are sometimes referred to as "continuo quartets" because of the 4-voice style in which they are written, like a string quartet.

Read more: Notturna at Lamèque


About a month ago, when I first perused the brochure for Toronto Summer Music, it suddenly struck me that this is quite an unusual festival. In it, I found an array of prominent pianists, string quartets, and other ensembles – all playing classical music. What's up with that? Where are the Dixieland bands, the Celtic harpers and the guitar-wielding singer-songwriters that a summer festival is "supposed" to have? (To read what artistic director Agnes Grossmann has to say about her approach to programming, see my interview with her in the July-August issue of The WholeNote.)

I'd like to say "brava" to Grossmann's programming.  I’m pleased that in the year 2009 there’s at least one festival out there that isn’t ashamed to be just classical.

Read more: Who's Diversifying – and Who's Not

Melody Gardot completely captivated the audience Monday night with her one-and-a-half-hour set as part of the Jazz by the Lake series in the TD Canada Trust Toronto Jazz Festival. Every now and then a performer comes along who has a quality that goes beyond their singing and playing ability to make an extraordinary stage presence. They say Judy Garland and Edith Piaf had that kind of quality, and Gardot has joined those ranks.

Read more: Seduction by the Lake


Growing up, I didn't have much musical influence on my life. My father didn't listen to music when he drove. My mother did, but she almost never drove anywhere. Never was music playing in my home, either – so I was forced into finding my musical tastes through my peers.

I started with Weird Al Yankovic as many 10-year-old boys do. Then in my teens I favoured the grunge rock, and bad rap of the early 90s, which I carried with me until I found classic rock: Pink Floyd to be exact. Now, I know you are asking yourself "Pink Floyd in The WholeNote? What is going on here?" Don't worry, I do have a point to all this.

Read more: What's Classical in Classic Rock?

The 21st Annual Beaches International Jazz Festival held a press conference today to announce their line-up of events for July 17–26. The street festival and mainstage concerts in Kew Gardens are their usual robust selves with an eclectic roster of mostly local talent such as Rich Brown with his fusion group Rinse the Algorithm, blues belter Shakura S’aida, and the added international draw of Southern Rocker Jimmy Hall and Barbadian R&B singer Hal Linton.

Read more: When Is a Jazz Festival More Than a Jazz Festival?

t seemed as if todo o mundo was in Yorkville for the Brazilian Guitar Marathon this past Saturday. The Luminato Festival had set up a stage in the little park at Bellair and a couple of blocks of Cumberland Avenue were blocked off to cars, turning the area into a mini, urban Tanglewood-meets-Carnival-in-Rio. (Note to the Bloor-Yorkville BIA: let’s turn part of Yorkville into a pedestrian-only area every weekend in the summer.) The guitarists who had been brought in for the five-hour extravaganza are the cream of the nylon-string set in Brazil, and therefore the world. I’m not sure what it is about Brazilian musical culture that breeds such nimble-fingered musicians, but Antonio Carlos Jobim wasn’t kidding around when he said “Brazilians seem born with a guitar in their arms.”

Read more: Five Hours, Six Guitarists, a Gazillion Notes

The Sultans of String brought their “atomic world jazz flamenco” to the warm, intimate confines of Trinity St. Paul Centre Friday night and the audience couldn’t have been happier about it. The affection for this group was palpable as the band alternated between sincere tributes to whales, Sable Island horses and Mayan ruins, meditative rumba flamenco and smokin’ East Coast kitchen parties. Head Sultan Chris McKhool plays 6-string violin and is the main musical voice for the band. Other core players are Kevin Laliberté (who co-writes the songs with McKhool) and Eddie Paton on guitars, the two contrasting beautifully as Paton provided the fiery solos and Laliberté turned in precise and melodic phrases. Drew Birsten bowed, slapped and strummed his way through the bass parts. Master percussionist Chendy Leon sat amongst a small forest of drums and toys, but favoured the versatile cajon for most of the night alternating between hands, brushes and feet as the mood demanded.

Read more: What Has 32 Strings and Grooves?

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