8 years ago

Volume 15 Issue 9 - June 2010

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Beat by Beat / Early

Beat by Beat / Early MusicTown and CountryBaroqueSimone DesiletsAs usual, there’s no shortage of interest on the early music scenethis month, as the 2009/10 season draws to a close and the2010 summer season begins.Viva BiancaLuna Biffi is a name I hadn’t heard before, untilI was alerted to her presence at three different concert series inSouthern Ontario this month. This engaging Italian musician has asolid grounding in medieval fiddle, renaissance viola da gamba, baroquecello and voice, and she’s a specialistin the late 15th/early 16th-century form ofItalian secular song known as the frottola, apredecessor to the madrigal.Biffi has revived a long-lost art practisedby late renaissance and early baroque musicians,singing the upper line of the songswhile performing her own arrangementof the other voices on the viola d’arco (nomean feat!) – and, judging from the audiofiles I’ve heard, she’s a consummate and I’llbet completely delightful musical storytellerwith a twinkle in her eye, a smile in hervoice and an apt sense of accompaniment onher instrument.The one-woman show she brings to Canadais Fermate il Passo (“Stay a moment,passer-by!”). She describes it as a mini- orproto-opera (opera as we know it had yet tobe born), that charts the course of love fromsunset to night to dawn. I thought it mightbe interesting to follow her around and havea look at this area’s summer festivals whereshe’ll be performing.On June 19 you can hear Biffi at KnoxUnited Church in Ayr, one of the GrandRiver Baroque Festival’s two venues. I thinkshe’ll fit in well with the spirit of this festival– it really is a feast of wonderful performers and very unusualprogramming. Artistic directors Guy Few and Nadina Mackie Jacksonhave conjured up three days of celebration that include a masqueradegala with fireworks, a concert-combination of Vivaldi andPiazzolla, and another concert of music by Glenn Buhr, MathieuLussier, Vivaldi and the Chevalier de Saint-Georges. There’s earlymusic mixed with pop (“Pop-Period Fusion”) and fencing demonstrationstoo. It all takes place from June 18 to 20, just west ofKitchener in the Buehlow Barn and a bit south of that in Ayr.Then, after appearances at the Montreal Baroque Festival (June25) and in Quebec City, Biffi returns to Toronto on July 4 for theToronto Music Garden’s “Summer Music in the Garden” series, curatedby Tamara Bernstein. The design of this lovely public gardenwas inspired by a Bach unaccompanied cello suite – an appropriatesetting for early music – and Biffi’s performance there will be thefirst of this year’s early music lineup. (There will be more news ofwhat’s to come in the July/August WholeNote.)Biffi’s final appearance in this area is on July 5 at the Church ofthe Holy Trinity, in its “Music Mondays” series. Right in the middleof downtown Toronto, you can spend an hour or so on a Mondayafternoon in this quiet setting, enveloped in intimate music-making.Tafelmusik’s “Baroque Summer Institute” is a comprehensivetraining programme in baroque performance, now in its ninth yearMulti-talented Italian musicianViva BiancaLuna Biffi.and held at U of T’s Faculty of Music. It attracts about 85 participantsfrom around the world – and no wonder: study includes orchestraand choir rehearsals, masterclasses, opera scene study forsingers, chamber ensembles, private lessons, lectures and workshops,classes in baroque dance, and concerts. This year’s Institutetakes place from June 6 to 19. During this time four concerts willbe presented – June 7, 12, 16 and 19 – featuring either Institute participantsor faculty, and ending in a “Grand Finale” with combinedforces in a baroque extravaganza. Both faculty and students are topnotch,and one couldn’t go wrong in checking out the fruits of theirlabours.A few more concertsHelmuth Rilling came to town a few weeks ago to conduct theToronto Symphony and collaborating artists in stunning performancesof Bach’s B Minor Mass. A lot of it is still in my ear, and I rememberhaving particular “heroes” within the performing forces –one of whom was the first cellist, whose sheer commitment to thebeauty and inexorability of her line was rivetingto hear and to see. Winona Zelenkawas the cellist – featured in the magazinethis month. She’ll be playing at theGlenn Gould Studio on June 6, to celebratethe release of her new two-CD recording ofBach’s cello suites.About 40 kilometres north of Torontostands the Sharon Temple, a unique architecturalbeauty and a testimonial to the visionof the Children of Peace, who built itin the 19th century. The “Music at Sharon”concert series takes place there on Sundayafternoons, and Ensemble Polaris (a groupdifficult to classify) appears there on June13. While they seek to explore the music ofnorthern countries and traditions, many ofthe members of this group are early-musicspecialists as well, and you can hear ancientinfluences in their varied and colourfulsoundscape.Also on June 13, the Toronto EarlyMusic Centre presents the last of its “MusicallySpeaking” series for this year. EnsembleL’indiscrète performs the Pièces de clavecinen concerts by Rameau, as well as music byMarais, Buxtehude and Telemann, on harpsichord,baroque violin and viola da gamba.Another concert at the Sharon Temple that is clearly devoted toearly music is a performance by Les Voix Baroques, on July 4. Acelebrated ensemble specializing in vocal works from the Renaissanceand Baroque, they will perform music by Charpentier andCarrisimi.Simone Desilets is a long-time contributor to The WholeNote inseveral capacities, who plays the viola da gamba. She can becontacted at: thewholenote.comJune 1 - July 7, 2010

Beat by Beat / Choral SceneThriving and InventiveBenjamin SteinI’ve been writing the “Choral Scene” column for The WholeNotesince last fall – and my short time writing this column leads meto the happy conclusion that our local choral music scene is thrivingand inventive.To be sure, the final concerts of the season attest to the livelinessand diversity of the choral scene. For instance, on June 2, the TorontoChoral Society performs The Resting Place of Pioneers, an interestingprogramme that combines music and story to illuminatethe journeys and exploits of the first settlers of Toronto. The centerpieceof the concert is Toronto composer Eleanor Daley’s tunefuland appealing setting of the Requiem text. In Newmarket on 5June, the Blue Bridge Festival Choirand Orchestra perform two relativelyrare choral pieces, Weber’s Mass inE flat and Vaughan Williams’s Serenadeto Music. And on July 1, First Nation’sgroup the Ahkwesasne WomenSingers will be singing at the Queen’sQuay Toronto Music Garden, combiningtraditional Mohawk songs with anew work by distinguished Canadian-Odawa composer Barbara Croall.Four more concerts demonstratethe breadth of current choral activity. Composer Barbara Croall.On June 2, the St. Thomas’s AnglicanChurch choir performs music to celebrate Canadian composerand music director Walter MacNutt, who served at St Thomas’s from1954-1977. Toronto’s Jubilate Singers celebrate their 40th anniversarywith a concert on June 5. On June 13 the Headwaters Concert Choirsings Inspiration, a fundraising concert for First Nations’ children inOntario. And the Niagara Vocal Ensemble perform the intriguinglytitled Night Music – A Women’s Voice in Stratford on June 28.One of the hidden bargains of the early summer are the free concertsgiven as part of the TafelmusikBaroque Summer Institute.Combining Tafelmusik musicianswith the up-and-coming talentswho attend the Institute, concertsrun on June 7, 12 16 and 19. Priorto this, Tafelmusik will be closingits run of Handel’s sprawling Israelin Egypt on June 1. This massivework has some of Handel’smost dramatic and inventive choruses,and is in fact more choirheavythan the more famous Messiah.Those looking for a Handelchorus fix to tide them over for thesummer need look no further.Those who prefer their choralmusic to come from religioussources and “serious” composersmay turn their noses up at concertsthat draw upon music fromareas such as music theatre, filmand television. But as anyone whohas tried can attest, singing popularmusic well is a good deal harderthan it may appear, and thework of a classically trained musiciantruly comfortable in popularstyles is both rare and a pleasureto experience. In this crossover vein, the Choralairs of North Yorkperform a free pops concert at Earl Bales Park Community Centre,and Toronto’s East York Choir presents a programme of operaand music theatre (both on June 6). As well, Burlington’s HarlequinSingers perform “Here Comes Broadway” on June 4-6, and Barrie’sBravado! Show Choir performs “Reel Music” on June 11-12.On the classical end, Bach’s Magnificat in D is performed onJune 5 by the St. Anne’s Concert Choir and Orchestra, with all concertproceeds going to help repair the historic and unique St. Anne’sParish. The Toronto Mendelssohn Choir and Toronto Symphony Orchestraperform Beethoven’s beloved Symphony No. 9 on 16-17 June.The two groups also collaborate the next night for “Scheherazade,” aRussian-themed programme of Khachaturian, Rimsky-Korsakov andRavel. The Victoria Scholars perform “Choral Explorations” on June2, as part of the Canadian Opera Company’s vocal series, and aficionadosof British choral music can attend a “Concert of 20th CenturySacred Music” by the visiting Choir of St. Chad’s College, (Universityof Durham) at Toronto’s Church of St. Mary Magdalene onJune 11.June brings the opportunity to hear a new oratorio, the Dark StarRequiem, written by young Toronto-based composer Andrew Staniland.Tackling the twenty-five-year modern history of the AIDS epidemic,the Elmer Iseler Singers, Gryphon Trio and four vocal soloistsperform this work on June 11-12 as part of the Luminato Festival.As well, three youth choir concerts take place this season, allon June 5: the Mississauga Children’s Choir presents “Eine KleineJazz Musik”; the Guelph Youth Singers present “Whistle While YouWork,” songs of carpenters, clowns, goatherds, sailors and pirates;and the St. Mary’s Children’s Choir presents “It’s a Grand Night ForSinging.”Finally, on 14 June, the Cantabile Chorale of York Region performs“Strawberries and Song 2010,” with strawberries and icecream, raffles and more. Any choral concert that includes strawberriesgets my vote! Happy singing and concertgoing to all during thesummer months.Benjamin Stein is a tenor andtheorbist. He can be contactedat: WELCOMEAmateur & ProfessionalAuditions for 2010/11 Season:••Welcome Yule••Handel’s Messiah••Gala CabaretDavid J. KingCONDUCTORSUMMER SIGHT-SINGING & VOCAL TECHNIQUE 416 225 2255PETER MAHONSales Representative416-322-8000pmahon@trebnet.comwww.petermahon.comThe Grand Philharmonic Choir,based in Kitchener, Ontario,announces the appointmentof Mark Vuorinen as ArtisticDirector, effective July 1, 2010.Mark is music director of theToronto Chamber Choir, a leadingearly music ensemble. Heis also the George Black Fellowin Sacred Music at the Churchof the Redeemer, Toronto, andis completing his Ph.D. at theUniversity of Toronto. Markis founding artistic director ofToronto Choral Artists, a semiprofessionalgroup that championsemerging Canadian works.Mark replaces Howard Dyck,who retires this summer after38 years leading the GrandPhilharmonic Choir.June 1 - July 7, 2010 25

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