8 years ago

Volume 13 - Issue 10 - July/August 2008

Serving upthe Soundsof

Serving upthe Soundsof SummerFour "festivals" through their curators' eyesInterviews by David Perlman, Allan Pulker, and Catherine MuirThere are dozens of summer music series and festivals in this part ofCanada. Each one has its own character - a "fit" with the landscape itis set in. And behind each one there is a visionary, a "curator" whoplans and programmes it, taking months to make sure each detail isright before the summer comes. From southernmost and westernOntario to the eastern townships of Quebec, we've picked four festivalsand talked to their directors about the curatorial process. Thesefestivals are not only geographically representative but also reflectthe range of the festival experience: Summer Music in the Garden,Festival de Lanaudiere, Niagara International Chamber Music Festival,and Stratford Summer Music.For each of the dozens of festivals in our festival listings, there issome individual like the people interviewed here with an equallyfascinating vision and story to tell. We hope that after you meetthese four, you will turn to our festival listings and discover,through each one's programming, the people who make it happen.Tamara Bernstein, Summer Music in the GardenThe Toronto Music Garden opened in 1999; and its first concertseries was held in 2000. Tamara Bernstein came on board as curator/artisticdirector in 2001 .Tamara: Don Shipley, who was then head of programming for HarbourfrontCentre, invited me. Even though-true confession!-! hadnever even been to the Music Garden, and didn't even realize therewas a summer concert series in it - I said yes immediately. I wasvery, very drawn to curating, and to the whole concept. Imagine: achance to share music I love, and musicians whose playing I love,with the whole city; to give musicians a chance to perform for amuch wider demographic than you usually find in classical musicconcerts, and to experiment with programming without having toworry about selling tickets-what a gift! Sure, there's a price to payfor being outdoors, and that first season I didn't know what to expectwith ambient noise, rainouts, amplification, and whether musicianswould want to play outdoors. But I just approached some ofmy favourite musicians and hoped for the best. Right from the startthe musicians were fantastic. What I hadn't anticipated was the magicof the Music Garden itself .... I'm still constantly amazed by howintently Music Garden audiences listen, given that this is an outdoorconcert. I'll never forget a solo improvisation that the dancer JuliaSasso performed without music last summer: the audience's intense,silent attention was such a strong presence that it "drowned out" anyambient noise, odd though that sounds! It also fascinates me to seehow attentive children are during Music Garden concerts. My theoryis that because they know that if they need to move around they can,they don't need to move around (though I love it when children-oradults, for that matter-get up and dance).The Music Garden concerts have certainly confirmed my ownfaith in classical music. People are hungry for this stuff! And I'mnot just talking about "greatest hits": The first time I programmed aconcert of wacky, early 17th-century Baroque violin sonatas, I hadno idea how it would go over: Baroquies adore this music, but atypical symphonic musician would have no idea what to do with itthemusical language is so different. Well, the audience went crazyover it-afterwards a little boy, maybe eight years old, begged for aCD by the group; adults came up with pens and paper, wanting the('Lspelling of the composers' names. So now I make sure there's atleast one concert of early l 7th-century Italian music each season.(This year it's Folia, on July 27.) And string quartets, which areone of the most sophisticated forms of music-making, are alwayshugely popular at the Garden. Yes, people who think that classicalmusic is passee, or that it's a pill that needs to be sugared, definitelyneed to come to the Music Garden!So how do you choose?It's a juggling act, on many levels: there are moments each yearwhen it feels like a big, crazy Rubik's cube that will never fall intoplace! Returning versus new artists; balancing genres of music­Medieval-Renaissance, Baroque, "standard" European canon, newmusic, South Asian classical, Middle Eastern classical; Chinesemusic, Japanese music ... And I've been trying to expand the contemporarydance component, although that requires commissioningmoney, as well as dancers-choreographers who are comfortableworking on the grass, in a very low-tech environment. The culturaleclecticism is really important to me. You can always hear musicfrom different ethnic cultures in Toronto if you're plugged into aparticular community. But I think it means a lot to people when theycan enjoy classical or traditional music from their own culture in amainstream, public space like the Music Garden. (Where else canyou see women in saris clapping and singing along in the chorus ofa Yiddish song?) This takes multiculturalism to a whole differentlevel, for me.I've also started to pay attention to-all right, obsess over!-theoverall shape and flow of the season. The simplest example: theMusic Garden is all about a piece for cello (Bach's Suite No. 1 in GMajor for solo cello), so I now like to open the season with a smallensemble of cellos. It's "culturally neutral " because it's about theGarden itself. Also it's an ensemble concert, so that puts the focuson community. I like to return to Bach in a more reflective way inthe final stretch of the season, in the Bach at Dusk concert that happensin early September. Right now Winona Zelenka is working herway through all six of Bach's Suites for solo cello-one a year!That's always a special moment.Other things?There are a zillion-large versus small groups, new music, old music,dance-you name it, I will agonize over it! And I know thatthere are some loyal audience members who can only come to theThursday night concerts, and others who only come Sunday afternoons.So I try to make sure that if there are three string quartets ona season, they don't all perform on the same day of the week. AlsoHarbourfront Centre, which produces the Music Garden concerts,has a different theme, or focus, each summer. (This year's is "Borders.")I tuck it away in my subconscious, listen to what musicianswhom I like are excited about right now, and try to give them theopportunity to perform that. Then when I've finished booking theseason, I return to Harbourfront's theme . And you know what? Sofar it has always worked out. I hope this doesn't sound as if thecurating is all anxiety. I really enjoy it as a creative process too, andtry to leave room for serendipity and intuition - that's the fun part!I find it hard to imagine the series anywhere else at this point.8 WWW. THEWHOLENOTE.COM ] ULY 1 - SEPT 7 2008

"In my first season,2001, a sudden thunderstormbrought an abruptend to a children'sconcert created byviolinist Julia Wedmanand double bassistPeter Pavlovsky, justas the concert gotunderway. We all fledfor shelter, but Peterand Julia got soaked.Then the sun came backout, and a small group of children returned with their parents, and Peter andJulia didn't have the heart to turn them away. There was no way we could useamplification at that point-the ground was too wet-so everyone cozied upand they gave their show anyway. We are now much better prepared, withtarps, umbrellas etc.! I don 't think any performers have actually gotten wetsince that one time. "I'm glad you feel the same way about the venue as I do! The beautyand creativity of the Music Garden attracts performers and choreographersGust as some of its flowers specifically attract butterflies!),and that makes my life much easier! Performing out of doors is noteasy in musical genres that demand the kind of subtlety that we expectfrom classical musicians. But musicians really respond to theMusic Garden, partly because of the audiences, and because theconcerts are free, but also because the sheer beauty of the venue isso inspiring. And although I'm totally biased, I would say that theconcerts give the Music Garden its voice. I cycle there during nonconcerttimes, and see its different lives, the light at different timesof day, etc. But to me it always seems to be listening, waiting forthe next concert!People come from all over the city to the concerts-I know onesenior who walks most of the way from Scarborough every Sunday.At the risk of sounding flakey, I also feel that the concerts leave asort of a psychic imprint, as it were, on the Garden- energy thatcontributes to its spirit of place. For instance, one of the 13 bouldersthat half encircle the willow tree will always be "Julia's rock" forme now, because it's the boulder that choreographer-dancer JuliaSasso sat on in the beautiful piece she created for last year's season(to Heinrich Biber's Passacaglia for solo violin). You felt as thoughthat boulder had been waiting for Julia its whole long life!This year's programming in particular?I'm looking forward to every concert so it's hard to single thingsout ... A couple of new dance works commissioned through HarbourfrontCentre. Aug 17 Hari Krishnan and his company in­DANCE give the world premiere of a full-length piece inspired bySouth Asian mythology (Five Gods, Two Kings and the Frog Princess)-it'slarge-scale, for the Music Garden, with 10 dancers andsix musicians. Keiko Kitano (dancer-choreographer) and Aki Takahashi(musician-composer) are creating a shorter piece for Sep 11,inspired by the Music Garden's willow tree, which in Japanese traditionis often connected to ghosts, particularly of women. We alsohave a few out-of-town performers this year: Kiri Tollaksen, NorthAmerica's pre-eminent cornettist, is coming up from Ann Arbor toperform 17th-century music with Linda Melsted's group Folia (July27); and percussionist Aiyun Huang is coming in from Montreal todo a solo recital July 24, but instead of showing up with a van fullof instruments, as percussionists usually do, she has set herself thechallenge of designing a program for which all the instruments haveto fit in her suitcase.Wish list? Crystal ball?Wish list: In general, I'd like there to be less noise everywhere inthe world; I'd like Canada's artists-particularly in the performingarts- to be better paid than they usually are - they are the soul ofour cities. We also need more free concert series like the MusicGarden and the series in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre, in thenew opera house.Crystal ball? Hahah: PERFECT weather every Sunday and Thursday,from June 29 through Sept. 14!ELOR_,,,.,,,,,..__.-BRlNGlNG THE!!£~~a1k :TO ELORA• Ki ri Te Kanaw aAndre LaplanteThe Choir of Trini tyCollege Cambridge• Handel's Solomon• Destina• Elora Festi va l Singersand more ...AUGUST 3 ,'

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