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Volume 13 - Issue 9 - June 2008

WE ARE ALL Music's

WE ARE ALL Music's CHILDRENby mJ BuellJUNE's Child ...MAY's Child ....... was Brainerd Blyden-Taylor, Artistic Directorand conductor of The Nathaniel Dett Chorale,which he founded in 1998, named after renownedAfrican-Canadian composer R. Nathaniel Dett(1882-1943). Canada did not have a professionalensemble dedicated to Afrocentn'c choral music,where persons of African heritage could seethemselves represented in the majority, andBrainerd felt compelled to fill this void.The Chorale's success all over North Americais proof not only of this need, but also of theirextraordinary collective musicianship.Brainerd Blyden Taylor was born in Trinidad& Tobago and immigrated to Canada in 1973.He's been guest conductor with the TorontoSymphony Orchestra, Symphony Nova Scotia, theHannaford Street Silver Band, Nova Scotia YouthChoir, Ontario Youth Choir and the NewBrunswick Choral Federation Youth Sing, andrecently completed a 25-year tenure with TheOrpheus Choir of Toronto .Brainerd has taught at the U. of T. Faculty ofMusic, is a Master Teacher with the TorontoBoard of Education, and is in constant demand asa clinician, adjudicator and lecturer.At home in Toronto he's also an active churchmusician, currently Music Director of St.Timothy's Anglican Church.Earliest musical memory? "Sing them over againto me, wonderful words of life" ... my mother:singing and whistling all the time - hymnsmostly, while she did her daily stuff.Other musicians in your family? I was born intothe church: there's always music around. Myfather was a minister of religion. He'd also studiedthe violin. His brother, also a minister, played theaccordion. My grandmother, my uncles and auntsall sang.First experiences of making music? My father atthe piano singing "come to family worship" everymorning to gather me and my three youngersisters. We'd sing, read from scriptures, praytogether.Memories of the time the picture was taken ... ?Radio, records, and our Philips reel-to-reel taperecorder .... At school we sang in the morning,when we broke for lunchtime, and again at the endof the day. Next-door to our house the peoplemade steel drums. I remember the sound whenthey pounded the bumps into the heated pan,cooled it down and tuned it. When they had a setof drums ready a bunch of people would get50together and play ... an intense sound that has reallystuck. At that age I also encountered East Indianmusic ... tabla ... the mix of cultures was amazing.My father always found "other things" for usto do during Carnival time: I think he didn't wantus hanging out, running around. But in February1964, when we were about to move to Barbados,I guess he wanted us to see a little bit of carnivalbecause we were leaving. We got into the car andhe said "Let's listen for a steel band and find avantage point where we can see and hear ... ". Butwe found ourselves caught between bandsconverging from two directions, and stuck in themiddle of all the celebrations - windows rolled upand the doors locked. People sat on the car andbounced up and down. I was 10. It wasunforgettable.The point at which you began to think ofyourself as a musician? I'd conduct chairswhen I was supposed to be polishing floors onSaturday. It meant moving all the chairs, so I'dline them up, play Handel's Messiah on the reelto-reel,and conduct. (I still have a thing for theMessiah ... a collection in fact - about 10different readings.)In Barbados my father was principal of theWesleyan Methodist Seminary. He started a choirand insisted that all the seminarians sing. He alsotaught basic choral conducting, felt it wasimportant that they could lead. This was the startof my formal training: he'd comi home talkingabout what they could/couldn't do and I wouldsay "I could do that!" I became his rehearsalaccompanist. I became music director of mychurch just before my l 4th birthday. It was a realjob, with my first real (pump) organ.Do you remember ever thinking you would doanything else? There were a lot of things -athletics, theatre arts, regimental music - but myfather had strong feelings about anything thatinvolved Sundays. It wasn't clear what my fatherDID want me to do. But I must have triggeredmemories for him, from his own life before thehounds of God got him: politics, athletics,music.Brainerd's mother championed hisemigrating to Canada in 1973 - a family friendmentioned an opening for a music director atOakwood Wesleyan Church in Toronto. Threeyears later a transitional year at the U of Topened the door to the Hart House Choruswhere he met conductor Denise Narcisse-Mair,who would become a significant mentor.Fenno Heath once told me that people shouldonly conduct if it's all they want to do.Conducting is a calling, just like a priest feelscalled. It's what draws me to the church. My jobis to really present myself, open and willing tothe flow, to let the music speak, letting the magicand the mystery happen, and through the choir tothe audience.Face-to-! ace with little Brainerd in that photo,is there anything you'd say?Stick to your guns little dude. We have the bestjob in the world.WWW. THEWHOLENOTE.COMIf you think this is good, you shouldsee me write my last name! PHOTO:SuzuKJ CONCERT, SPRINGTIME CIRCA1969, CALGARY .Think you know who JUNE's childis? Send your best guess tomusicschildren@thewholenote.com(be sure to send us your mailingaddress, just in case your name isdrawn!) Winners will be selected byrandom draw among correct repliesreceived by JUNE 15 2008.!!Tickets & Recordings!!CONGRATULATIONSTO OUR WINNERSWilma Cromwell and Pat Foltas willeach receive a pair of tickets for TheNathaniel Dett Chorale's 2008annual Christmas concert, An IndigoChristmas: Afrocentric seasonalmusic with a soulful message and asocial conscience - a heart-warmerfor a chilly December evening.Jeanne Yuen will receive CarryMe Home: The Story & Music ofThe Nathaniel Dett Chorale.Filmmakers Liam Romalis andGerald Packer won a Gemini awardfor this portrait of Brainerd Blyden­Taylor and the Chorale: works by R.Nathaniel Dett and other Afro/American composers, andinterviews with jazz pianist/educatorEllis Marsalis, the late conductor/composer Moses Hogan,musicologist Rob Bowman, andMary Lou Fallis (Available fromMarquis Classics.)Peter McGillivray will receiveListen to the Lambs, the NathanielDett Chorale's first CD: songs ofinspiration, hymns, andarrangements of spirituals byCanadian composer R. NathanielDett. (CDC 81293-2 MarquisClassics I EMI Music Canada)Music's Children gratefullyacknowledges !he Nathaniel DettChorale, Michelle LynneGoodfellow, and significant others.JUNE 1 - JUL Y72008

MUSICAL LIFE:Teaching composingexcerpts from an e-mail conversationwith composer Michael ColgrassWholeNote: The creative spark for this exchange was appropriatelyenough a festival by that name. What was "Creative Sparks" exactly.Michael Colgrass: Alex Pauk, Music Director of Toronto's Espritorchestra, got the idea of having experienced composers of variousages act as mentors, teaching middle school, high school and collegestudents to create musical pieces that either their fe llow students orthe Esprit musicians could play. Composers Scott Good, DouglasSchmidt, Alex and I took on the task. On May 7 1 h these works werepremiered at MaRS hall in Toronto. Alex conducted grade 12youngsters from the Etobicoke School of the Arts in a piece thatthey collectively wrote for chamber ensemble. Scott Good conductedchildren of North Toronto Collegiate in a set of variations whichthey had written as a group. Douglas Schmidt directed grade 8 and9 students from the Rockcliff Middle School in a piece they wrotedepicting a storm. My students were members of the Claude WatsonSchool of the Arts. Two wrote pieces for orchestra, another wrote aduo for two violins, which she played herself with a school colleague,and two collaborated on a piece for orchestra, in which theyperformed as soloists. Esprit played the orchestra works with Alexconducting.Wi'V: How do you teach youngsters to write music when they havenever done it before? Where do you start?MC: With a prayer! I had students from Alan Torok's Music Theoryclass at Claude Watson, so they already knew something aboutmusic though not how to compose it. My approach was to teachthem the principles of writing music through the use of graphicnotation.Wi'V: Which is?MC: Lines, curves, dots,jagged wedges, etc., whatever marks wouldrepresent sounds they might sing. I had the whole class of 27 create awork collectively on a blackboard, using these, then had the classsing it as a chorus. Next I had them create their own individual piecesand conduct these with the class.I explained through this graphics method how music is made,that music is basically a compilation of sounds and shapes that areinteresting. That the best pieces are usually based on one simpleidea - a motif or melody, in graphic terms represented for exampleby, say, one curved line varied in a number of different ways -and that this single idea can be the basis for a whole movement oreven a whole work. (I played examples from the classicalcomposers.) Also that the sonata form is made from twocontrasting ideas (say, a curved line for the first theme'and then a series of dots for the second) presented separatelyand from which a conflict can result when thesetwo ideas are presented together, suggesting the need fora resolution. I made the analogy that, in this way, a pieceof music, essay, speech, novel, play or movie all operateon the same basic principle - conflict and resolutionbased on one simple underlying idea. I pounded this pointhome for two months, always using graphics as the modeof notation because I could create musical examples veryquickly in this way.WN: Two months? How often did you visit?MC: In the first semester, the whole class, about twice aweek. In the second semester we whittled the group downto those who wanted to write graphic pieces for the MayEsprit concert. That left a group of five student musicians:horn player Amy Kazandjian, violinist Coco Chang Chen,cellist Jenny Eng, singer Jana Vigor and guitarist LucianGray .JUNE 1-JULY72008Wi'V: And then?MC: A most interesting"problem". As I got deeper into graphicswith the five I suggested that they might insert in with the graphicssome conventionally notated material with staff lines and clefs andrhythms etc. They liked that, ... in fact began to get the urge towrite a whole piece with conventional notation. This raised my eyebrowsbecause this kind of highly advanced work in compositioncan take months, or years, and our performance deadline was onlysix weeks away! We could write orchestra pieces with graphic notationin that time, but scoring their pieces with specific rhythms,chords, orchestration and voicings . . . I was pleased that workingmetaphorically with graphics had given them insights and confidence,but the thought of making the quantum leap into full scoringfor orchestra in the time we had left felt like the symptoms of aheart attack.Wi'V: So what did you do?MC: Told them that if they were willing to make the necessaryvisits to my home for private lessons I would do it. I had threetwo-hour visits each with two of them, four with another and fivewith another. These sessions were very intense and interspersedwith e-mails. Their pieces began to take shape, but even so, twoweeks before the deadline I almost phoned Alex Pauk to say that wewould have to bow out. Instead I made myself available anytime ofday or night in these last two weeks and they came through withvery hard work. We were still working out details on the piecesduring the three-day rehearsal period, actually writing and re-writingbetween rehearsals to put on the final touches. It was only at thelast rehearsal I heard for the first time the completely finished worksand I could hardly believe it. Leaving that rehearsal I was so excitedI walked all the way home from the MaRS building saying to myself,"We did it! We did it!" I could hardly sleep that night. Thedress rehearsal and concert two days later on May 7 sounded evenbetter and the audience at the premieres was extremely impressed,giving each composer a resounding applause. Watching each of thembow somewhat selfconsciouslyfollowingtheir workbrought tears to myeyes.NEXT TIME:"Creative Sparks"afterthoughts, andmore on graphicnotation.,...,.,,,,,.,,.,,,., I .l'I I-II l ~.11' '-~ ,,314 Ch u rchill Ave f~ Toron t o , Ontario '~ M2R 1 E7 Canada I,;, Y.~ Tel: 416-224-1956 i; Fa x : 416 -224-2964 ;I MlKROKOSMOS www.mikrokosmos.com ; ;,, ;; ;~ We buy your ~, classical LP '~ ;~ collection ~; ~; ~: (classical, such as :; Beethoven, Mozart, ;~ Stockhausen) ~~ I;; we travel anywhere i; ~, for good collections ~' ?WWW. THEWHOLENOTE.COMSUITES FOR RENTat 720 Bathurst StreetLooking for a friendly, arts-positive environmentfor your organization?Do you need 24-hour access to your workplace?Our comfortable five story red-brick building,at 720 Bathurst just south of Bloor hashigh ceilings, big bright windows, and freightelevator facilties with rear-lane access.Short and long-term leases will be consideredon a range of suites from 450 to 2000 or moresquare feet (availability varies) .Cafe or ground floor retail space currentlyavailable for lease or events.(416) 424-1191 go4real@sympatico.ca51

Volumes 21-24 (2015-2018)

Volume 24 Issue 8 - May 2019
Volume 24 Issue 7 - April 2019
Volume 24 Issue 6 - March 2019
Volume 24 Issue 5 - February 2019
Volume 24 Issue 4 - December 2018 / January 2019
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Volume 24 Issue 2 - October 2018
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Volume 23 Issue 9 - June / July / August 2018
Volume 23 Issue 8 - May 2018
Volume 23 Issue 7 - April 2018
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Volume 23 Issue 4 - December 2017 / January 2018
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Volume 23 Issue 2 - October 2017
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Volume 22 Issue 9 - Summer 2017
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Volume 22 Issue 4 - December 2016/January 2017
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Volume 21 Issue 6 - March 2016
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Volume 21 Issue 4 - December 2015/January 2016
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Volume 21 Issue 2 - October 2015
Volume 21 Issue 1 - September 2015

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