8 years ago

Volume 10 Issue 9 - June 2005

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BAND Stand by Merlin

BAND Stand by Merlin Williams Diary of a Doubler Sunday, May 8 - I can't understand my own fascination with the bassoon. It's fiendishly difficult, with a key layout that requires you be all thumbs. And once you do get the notes.out, you're lucky if they're heard with a full brass section doing their level best to obliterate your sound from the landscape. Yet I persist. I'm working on passages from trumpeter/composer Allen Vizzutti's "Montana Suite" - a work for solo trumpet and concert band. I'm grateful that he's actually written interesting and challenging lines for the bassoons. And I will get them together. I keep at it and I do. I want to be ready for the rehearsals and concerts with him this week. Monday, May 9 - I'm subbing in with the Jazz Mechanics big band on tenor sax tonight. I've actually played the last several rehearsals with them, preparing music for the Vizzutti concert on Thursday. The leader, Jim Lewis, calls "My Foolish Heart" for the band to warm up on. It's a great chart - but I haven't played this particular part before. I turn the page and see 4 pages of changes to blow on! And it's up a tone from the standard key. Looks like my scant personal time this week is going to be taken up with more woodshedding. We run through Al's numbers after that, and he sounds incredible. He also looks supremely relaxed. Tuesday, May 10 - After teaching 3 flute students in the afternoon, it's off to rehearsal with the Brampton Concert Band. I'm supposed to be on bassoon, but we' re short in the clarinets. Lots of notes, most of which I'm sightreading. Hearing the solo parts on Vizzutti's compositions helps - we've been running them without, which makes it difficult to hear where you tit. At least I don't have to, worry about the bassoon part now ... though I did have it down. Wednesday, May 11 - I spend the entire evening working on the changes to My Foolish Heart in C concert on tenor. At leat worrying about chord changes keeps me from obsessing about reeds. Thursday, May 12 - Joint concert with the Big Fish Jazz Orchestra, the Jazz Mechanics and trumpet soloist Allen Vizzutti at Earl Haig S.S. Al sounds incredible; I get to sit in the house for the first half to listen to him. It's really my only chance, since most of the time when I play, he's facing the other way. We kick off the second half with "Foolish Heart". I manage not to embarrass myself. Now I'm relaxed. Vizzutti sounds amazing, and the crowd, though only a half house, responds enthusiastically. Very enthusiastically. Friday, May 13 - Dress rehearsal for the Saturday concert with the Brampton Concert Band, Things are straight-ahead. JAZZ ON THE GRAND /., . . *'" h ot JG Saturday, May 14 - This is the big night. I look out into the audience at St. Paul's Church in Brampton and everywhere I look, I see a trumpet player. They're practically salivating. We play coe>l a:rt, great c . "' · ;, www SATURDAY JUNE 25 1-Spm (rain date June 26) Live Jazz, food & drink, Art Show & Sale in Private Gardens Tickets in advance call 519-846-698 A Fundraiser for the Elora Centre for the Arts major works before Al comes out to play "Montana Suite". All goes quite well. He gets called back for an encore before intermission and plays my arrangement of "My Man's Gone Now". But during the break, things go a bit strange. For the first time in 30 years, I get a swab stuck in my clarinet. It's really jammed in there. I dash home and grab my spare and get back barely in time for the downbeat of the second half. It's hard to get grounded again after something like that, but I settle back. in to playing just in time for Vizzutti's big showpiece - "Rising Sun". His piccolo trumpet playing on the first movement is so stunning that people were missing entries 'in rehearsal because they were so entranced. I nearly miss one because l 'm watching the looks of amazement on the trumpet players in the audience. Playing· with him this week has been an absolute joy; not only is Al Vizzutti a spectacular soloist, but he's a fine composer and very friendly guy. The only real downer of the evening is that there are seats available in the house. We had one of the top ten trumpeters in the WORLD, and· had empty seats. Think this was a busy week? Most of the time I end up playing more than four instruments in one week! Summer concerts have started in earnest. The Etobicoke Community Concert Band has five gigs in June alone! Check the listings section of this month's Whole­ Note. And make sure you get all of your July/ August concert info to me ASAP. I want to make sure your audience knows where to find you this summer. Final note: The Toronto Wind Orchestra is running a Summer Band Camp at the RCM Community School, July 11-15. You can get complete information from www, or by calling 416-461-6681 aild asking for Carol Savage or Ken Fudurich. Merlin Williams can be reached at merlinwilliams@sympatico. ea. or by phone at 416-803-0275. IN THE JAZZ LISTINGS ... by Sophia Perlman JUNE 1s always a big month for jazz in Toronto, as the city hosts the TD Canada Trust Downtown Jazz Festival, which kicks off with a performance by legendary saxophonist Sonny Rollins at Massey Hall. Even before the festival starts, however, there is a. whole wealth of great jazz to be heard across the city. For many musicians, most of the month will be business as usual. 28 WWW. THEWHOLENOTE.COM Before immersing yourself in jazz for the entire span of the festival, you may want to find a way to get your toes wet. Even if you're not a musician, one of the best ways to do this is to attend a jam session. Not only do you get to hear some great performances, but you get to observe the entire process happen right. before your eyes. The Rex Brass - Woodwind - String Instruments - Guitar· Buy direct from the Distributor hosts a Tuesday night jam session, led by a constantly changing roster of musicians, and in addition this month, the Rex is holding its annual Player's Party on June 23rd. Also, there's a weekly jam session every Monday night upstairs at the Poor Alex Theatre. And of course, there are the legendary Saturday afternoon sessions at Grossman's Tavern with the Happy Pals. Toronto also has a huge social dancing community, and for them, the festivals won't mean any kind of a shortage in places to go. Lula Lounge continues presenting great Latin music for their Salsa Fridays and Saturdays, Reservoir Lounge continues with their regular Tuesday-through-Saturday lineup, and continues on page 41 \JHARKNETT Musical Services Ltd. MUSIC BOOKS BEST SELECTION OF POPULAR & EDUCATIONAL MUSIC Piano · Guitar - Instrumental Mid-Town Store 416-423-9494 AUTHORIZED DEALER FOR: 943 Eglinton Ave. E. (W. of Leslie) Armstrong. Artley, Besson. Benge (Next door to Robert Lowrey·s Piano Experts) Boosey & Hawkes. Buffet, Conn Getzen, Jupiter. Keilworth. King Ibanez Guitars. Scherl & Ruth String Inst. Main Store 905-477-1141 2650 John Street Qust North of Steeles) ]UNE 1 - ]ULY 7 2005

UsuALLY BY JuNE Torontonians are already looking to summer festivals for their fix of opera and music theatre. On OPERA by Chris Haile Yet, this June Toronto will see one of the most highly anticipated operatic premieres of the season-"The Midnight Court" presented by Queen of Puddings Music Theatre. The music for the 70- minute opera is by acclaimed Montreal composer Ana Sokolovic. The libretto is by Paul Bentley, the same man who wrote the much-lauded libretto for Pou! Ruders' "The Handmaid's Tale" seen here just last September. Conducted by Dairine Ni Mheadhra, directed by Michael Cavanagh and designed by Michael Gianfrancesco, "The Midnight Court" has only four performances, June II, 14, 16 and 18 at the Harbourfront Theatre Centre. A conversation with John Hess, Co-Artistic Director with Ni Mheadhra of QoP, revealed stepby-step the background of how the opera came to be. Ana Sokolovic wrote the concluding sextet for QoP's music theatre piece "Sirens/ Sirenes" in 2000. The success of. that work prompted the Co-Artistic Directors to ask Sokolovic to consider writing an opera for them. Several subjects were suggested but nothing quite appealed. Then, as it happened, Hess came across a lecture by Irish Nobel Prize laureate Seamus Heaney in the collection "The Redress of Poetry" concerning an 18th-century Irish comic poem "The Midnight Court" by Brian Merriman ( 1749- 1805). Reading Frank O'Connor's translation of the poem in a Dublin bookstore, Hess immediately thought, "This is an opera". The larger-than-life characters, the outrageousness, the humour all made it the kind of work that would suit Sokolovic. Written in Gaelic in about 1780, "The Midnight Court" tells of the poet Merriman strolling through a pastoral setting on a summer day. He lies down for a nap, but before he knows it, it is midnight and he is awakened by a gigantic female bailiff who summons him to a court presided over by Aoibheal, the fairy queen of the north. The court hears the case of a young woman who wants Aoibheal to take action against the young men of Ireland )UNE 1 - )UL Y 7 2005 Ana Sokolovic who refuse to marry. In response, an old man, dubbed "Snarlygob" by O'Connor, derides the wantonness of women in general and of his own wife in particular and calls for marriage to be replaced by free love. The young woman snaps back that Snarlygob's complaint stems from his inability to perform and calls for a ban on clerical celibacy. Aoibheal rules that all men must marry by age 21 and older men who don't satisfy their wives should be punished. To his horror, the poet finds he'll be made the first example of the law. Earthy language, frank discussion of women's sexual needs and praise not condemnation of sexall this seems surprising contemporary in a poem written in 1780. Hess and Ni Mheadhra were right. Sokolovic loved the subject. created a female quartet to repre- sent the Court and to function as a kind of chorus. This quartet of "Muses" has now become in a way to the universal aspects of the stothe lead character and in fact has the most music to sing. The work is scored for two percussionists, double bass, accordion, violin and clarinet. Hess says, that the range of timbres Sokolovic has achieved not attempted to create an "Irish" sound world or to evoke the l 8th century. Rather she has responded ry, its celebration of women, of life, its joyousness and playfulness. Hess assures us that Sokolovic is "not afraid of tonality" and feels certain that the-audience will exit "humming the tunes". It sounds with this ensemble is very evoca- like a remarkable poem has now • tive of the text. The composer has become a remarkable opera. OPERA at Home by Phil Ehrensaft Collector Items Italy's Hardy Classic Label WrnLE so MUCH of the classical recording industry was and is bemoaning its sad fate, two enterprising opera experts created a new label specialized in restoring the visual record of great performers. In just ten years, Gianni Scotti and Testa Armando established Hardy Classic Video as a reference point in working hi tech magic on old master prints. Scotti, whom l had the pleasure of interviewing via a telepho!]e call to the Hardy office in Milan, is a professional tenor. Scotti 's musicianship provides a good base for Hardy's musical integrity. As does the spirit behind the choice of the label's name: two Italians' love for the novels of Thomas Hardy. Step one for Hardy is the detective work: scouting out the vaults of broadcasters, film companies out of the visuals. In the latter case, the remastered sound can be downright luscious. The common thread in all of the raw material is great performers in notable performances. The earlier materials are rare and invaluable visual records of singers like Franco Corelli, Renata Tebaldi, THE NEXT STEP was to find a librettist. Hess and Ni Mheadhra attended a contemporary opera symposium in Oslo and heard Paul Bentley speak about writing the libretto to "The Handmaid's Tale". They contacted and theatres. Once a hidden treasure is discovered, and a contract is hammered out for publication rights, Scotti and Armando face a double challenge. First, the master tapes and films were often not Mario Del Monaco, Boris Christoff, Leyla Gencer. Renata Scotto, Carlo Bergonzi, and Etorre Bastianini in their respective prime. The later materials bring us Jon Vickers, Birgitt Nilsson, Monserat him and though he did not that great to begin with. That's Caballe, Alfredo Kraus, Leo know them or the poem he agreed. The subject clearly inspired him because he had a first draft ready by the following month. His task was to take a poem that consists of several long monologues and make it dramatic. Therefore, rather than hearing Snarlygob describe his life with his wife, we will see it in flashback. Hess praises Bentley for his "brilliant job of bringing the characters to life". Bentley's libretto calls for a cast of six. In performance they will be sung by Laura Albino, Alexander Dobson, John Kriter, Shannon Mercer, Krisztina Szabo and Giles Tomkins. In addition Sokolovic has especially the case for black & white tapes from the early days of TV broadcasting. Second, the masters often deteriorated while poorly stored. There can be special disappointments when all the king's hi tech horses and men can't put Humpty-Dumpty together again. The raw material ranges from black and white mid-l 950's tapes of the first Italian TV opera broadcasts through films and archival tapes from the l 960's through late l 980's, when colour and stereo were the norm. In the former case, images are typically grainy but the mono sound is surprisingly good. It can take six months of hard work Nucci, Walter Berry, and Barbara Hendricks. Conductors are the like of Tulio Serafin and Karl Bohm. The performances are mainly but not exclusively core Italian repertoire. To date, the Hardy catalogue includes II Trovatore, Aida, Rigoletto, La Forza del Destino, Norma, Andrea Chenier, Elisabetta Regina d'Inghilterra, L'Elisir d'Amore, Don Pasquale, 1 Puritani, and two Tosca's. The French repertoire includes the first available DVD of Gounod's Faust, a 1988 performance featuring Kraus in the title role at the Teatro Regio di Parma; Les contes d'Hoffman; and Carmen. Vickers, Nilson, and to squeeze what can be squeezed Berry I ight up a 1973 performance CONTINUES NEXT PAGE WWW. THEWHOLENOTE.COM 29

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