Between and around and beyond and outside of our temples of art, our cathedrals of culture, our venues custom-built for this or that, music creeps and seeps and sprouts and shouts in new and unexpected places.
As the clearly defined lines between the “this” and the “that” start to erode – this is a proper concert, that is not; this is classical, that is jazz; this is the performer, that is the audience; this is art, that is politics; this is music, that is noise – so too, opportunities for growth, new and hopeful, take root in the soil in the cracks between the stones.
And as those cracks widen and expand, the stones themselves, the hard chunks of convention, of dictum and dictate and decorum, begin to fragment under the relentless, battering, grass-root pressure of the fact that art will always just happen to exist.
Case in point #1: Is this a concert or a what?
I wrote a note to David Goldbloom the other day. His day job is psychiatry, at College and Spadina, within the walls of what in the neighbourhood we still collectively refer to as “The Clarke.”
This time I wrote to him because I noticed he had just been announced as a speaker at this year’s “High Notes Gala for Mental Health” which takes place April 28 at the Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts. It’s an event that’s hard to describe – a blend of speakers, professional and personal, and performers across a wide range of musical genres – think Luba Goy, Richard and Lauren Margison, Ron Korb and David Goldbloom and you start to get a sense of the range. And it’s not so much a fundraiser (although it is that) as part of the attempt to bring the conversation about creativity and mental illness out of the shadows. “What’s changed over the ten years since we last talked?” I asked.
“I would say that we have come a long way and we have not come far enough” he replied. “When I spoke [at Off Centre] a decade ago, it was about long-dead composers and their long-dead therapists, knowledge that was already in the public domain. ‘High Notes for Mental Health’ is not an historical exegesis as much as a bold statement about problems facing every Canadian family now. It’s a conversation about the present, not the past, about those people close to us, not distant admired musicians. Today I would aim for the kind of personal disclosure that requires both courage and candour, that illustrates that people with talent and success – as well as those without – can be vulnerable to the impact of mental health problems and illnesses, without it necessarily eroding their identity or their gifts. If any of the performers were to ask the audience to raise their hand if someone they know and care about has experienced some form of mental illness, every hand would be up in the air.”
Case in point #2: The “Garage” is not a garage, it’s Galloway’s:
I think it was six years ago that Jim Galloway and I, three times, took the freight elevator from just outsideThe WholeNote office on the fifth floor at 720 Bathurst Street down to the then-abandoned ground floor and surveyed the space, rife with potential, its high ceilings, exposed brick walls, old wooden pillars and beams. I remember how his eyes gleamed at the thought of what a jazz venue it might be, in the spirit of the Montreal Bistro and some of the other venues he loved and lamented in the 16 years he wrote his column for The WholeNote. The building at 720 Bathurst was between owners then, and for a few heady weeks, oh how we dreamed and schemed.
Almost miraculously, after five years of ownership by the Centre for Social Innovation, that ground floor space still exists, with room for dreams and schemes and for a “wee big band” to play in, right in front of that selfsame freight elevator. So that, dear friends, is what will be happening April 14 from 7pm to 10. For one shining moment the back half of the space, whimsically called “The Garage” because of its large rollup door, will become “Galloway’s” as the “Wee Big Band” under the direction of Martin Loomer makes the building ring with music in memory of Jim.
Join us! (Invite details are on page 18.)
Case in point #3: Salon West Meets the 18th Century
I found myself ever so slightly out of my comfort zone the other day, attending a gathering of something called Salon West, in a little rooftop solarium, with seating for around 25 people, on the fifth floor of the Spoke Club at Portland and King. Salon West bills itself as “a forum for much-needed dialogue on the arts and public policy in Toronto,” with the goal of “creating positive change through the arts” and inspiring “actionable solutions to the issues facing our great city.”
Guests on this particular day (March 23) were both from Tafelmusik - violinist Julia Wedman - and the orchestra’s recently appointed managing director, William Norris, described in the Salon West program note as being “dedicated to pushing the boundaries of a traditionally conservative art form to attract new audiences.”
It was a fascinating encounter. As readers of last November’s magazine may recall, Norris, from his description of his previous role with London’s Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, is already firmly committed to finding new ways of taking this music that he is clearly passionate about to new audiences, on their own turf. And he has strong views too about how some of the more rigid aspects of concert etiquette impose on how we listen to music constraints that the composers of that music would themselves have been uncomfortable with. “The music tells you when to applaud and not to,” for example, is a tenet with interesting implications. Just think of the cracks in decorum that might result if it were applied without qualification to our town’s typical concert halls!
Wedman’s contribution was to interweave brief moments of music and musical treatise (Telemann, Mattheson) with detailed information about the unique characteristics of her baroque-style bow and instrument, before concluding with two movements from Bach’s Sei Solo Sonatas and Partitas. It was an object lesson in everything, from technical and intellectual skill to visceral and emotional commitment, that this music demands of its practitioners.
I left with a spring in my step – with the image in my mind of a solution already well under way, rather than some burdensome problem to be gnawed over; 25 to 30 people sat and stood, listening as one to unamplified Bach in a rooftop room at twilight, oblivious to the noise of the building’s mechanical plant and the dull roar from dining and meeting rooms below.
Happy reading! There are many more musical moments inside!