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Volume 16 Issue 3 - November 2010

  • Text
  • November
  • December
  • Toronto
  • Jazz
  • Musical
  • Symphony
  • Choir
  • Concerts
  • Orchestra
  • Choral

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cocks is the son of Sir David Willcocks, whose Carols for Choirshas been a mainstay of Christmas choral singing for decades. Hisson has carved out his own impressive career as a conductor andcomposer, as well. Hamilton’s John Laing also combines conductingand composing. His operetta St. George and the Dragon is performedby the John Laing singers November 6 in Guelph and November7 in St. Catharines.The Nathaniel Dett Chorale’sIndigo Christmas (December 15and 18) features works by threeAfrican American composers:Glenn Burleigh, Adolphus Hailstorksand Margaret Allison Bonds.These are likely Canadian premieres,although the NDC websiteisn’t clear about this. The mostintriguing-sounding work is Bonds’The Ballad of the Brown King,with settings of poetry by the greatAmerican writer Langston Hughes.Premieres and performancesof unfamiliar works give concert-future audiences which pieces willbecome part of a regular concerttradition. This is an ongoing process– and works that were onceConductor BrainerdBlyden-Taylor leads theNathaniel Dett Chorale.unfamiliar but are now well known include Bernstein’s ChichesterPsalms and Ramirez’s Missa Criolla (York University Concert Choir,November 23), Fauré’s Requiem (Amadeus Choir, November 6) andBritten’s St. Nicholas (Orillia’s Cellar Singers, November 6).We are also heading into Messiah season, with a plethora ofchoices to satisfy Handelian addictions. In The WholeNote’s list-Messiahs,opulent thousand-voice Messiahs – just about everything but JustinBieber’s Messiah, or Messiah as interpreted by competing Led Zeppelintribute bands.Perhaps I should avoid jocularity when it comes to this work.Two columns ago I wrote that the famous “Hallelujah” chorus wasnot in fact by Handel but by Nicola Porpora. “Accordingly,” I continued,“no performance of Messiah this year will include that sectionof the work. (Just kidding!)”Evidently some people missed the “just kidding” part. This bit ofwhimsy got a swift response from any number of irritated Handelians,and I was denounced both in print and in person. I indignantlycited Freedom of the Press and held my ground. Then, one fatefulOctober night, I dreamed that the People’s Protectorate In Supportof Handel (PPISH, Toronto Chapter) showed up on my front lawnand broke into a special arrangement of “He Was Despised.” I hadnever actually heard a baroque-era contrabass kazoo before, especiallyplaying what was supposed to be an alto vocal cadenza.All I need say is that I will never write disrespectful things aboutHandel ever again.Benjamin Stein is a tenor and theorbist. He can be contacted atchoralscene@thewholenote.com.The Good Old DaysJIM GALLOWAY“In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death andtaxes.” So wrote Benjamin Franklin in a letter to French historianJean-Baptiste Leroy, on November 13, 1789. Well, Ben, addanother one: change. As a veteran of the Toronto jazz scene I’ve seena lot of changes. I wish I could say they’ve been for the better, butthe sad fact is that looking back is more enjoyable than looking ahead.What has changed Toronto from being a leading city on the jazzclub circuit to the sad state of today? For a start, there is no clubcircuit any more. Rising costs and declining, aging audiences putcerthall, have become a thing of the past. With the demise of thegreat jazz clubs in this city – the Colonial, Town Tavern, BourbonStreet, Cafe des Copains, Montreal Bistro, Top O’ The Senator, toname only some of them – I feel a sense of loss. The club circuit hasits equivalent now in the festival roundabout, relying more and moreon ticket sales, often at the expense of the music. And festivals comearound once a year; clubs entertained us year round.Jazz has undergone hugechanges since the 1930swhen Louis Armstrong wasnot only a musical genius,he was a pop star. His musicwas accessible and entertaining.Even into the 1950sjazz was relatively popular,based on a melodic foundation.But it evolved into acomplex musical form muchof which was no longer easilyaccepted by the public atlarge. Audiences started todecline. It was becoming asophisticated art form rather than an entertainment.Last month I wrote about nicknames of some of the musicianswho played with Duke Ellington. Why did they have nicknames? Be-music. In Canada, in his early years Oscar Peterson was “Thebrown bomber of boogie-woogie.” Trumpeter Jimmy Davidson was“Trump.” But today where are the characters, players who have apersonal trademark sound, making them immediately recognizable?As a profession, jazz is perhaps at its lowest ebb. Making a de-26 thewholenote.comNovember 1 - December 7, 2010

cent living in jazz has never been easy. Now it is just about impossible.The irony is that jazz has now become something that can be“taught.” In Toronto alone scores of graduates from jazz courses entera market that hardly exists any more. They have been taught byincome because there isn’t enough work out there to pay the bills. (Ibut I am echoing what I hear in a lot of opinions expressed whenCertainly, students can learn to master the techniques andmechanics of playing in all the scales, coming out at the end of it allas superb musicians. But the thing that can’t be taught is the soul ofthe music. “The teaching of jazz is a very touchy point. It ends upwhere the jazz player, ultimately, if he’s going to be a serious jazzplayer, teaches himself.” Whose quotation is that? Pianist Bill Evans.A technically great musician doesn’t necessarily know how to makemusic.Some musicians with relatively limited technique made greatmusic: Muggsy Spanier, Pee Wee Russell, Art Hodes, Kid Ory. And– not that I recommend it – greats like Errol Garner and Buddy Richdidn’t even read music. I also believe that a well rounded musicianshould have a vocabulary which includes songs by the great songsmiths;as well, the great ballad players have also known what thelyric, if there is one, is about.A well-known Toronto musician once told a story about being onan engagement which was a surprise birthday party. There were acouple of horn players on the gig who were recent graduates of oneof the jazz courses. When the guest of honour (a well-known hornplayer) walked in he asked the band to play “Happy Birthday.” Thehorn players didn’t know it!Now, it wasn’t the responsibility of their teachers on the courseof studies to teach them that song – it was their job to have it in theirmusical vocabulary. Not that they would ever choose to play it on ajazz gig, but not all of their gigs are going to be opportunities to playtheir original compositions. Some gigs are “bread and butter” ones,no matter how well you play.Here’s a suggestion. If you are a young player about to makeevery number an original composition. Swallow your pride and playat least one number by one of the great songwriters. It gives your listenersa point of reference and demonstrates how well you can interpretone of the numbers which, as I pointed out, should be in anywell-rounded musical vocabulary. the society of its time. And given that we live in a world full ofdoubt, insecurity and danger to a degree unequalled in this decliningcivilization, it’s no surprise that much of the joy has gone from themusic. So I accept the fact that change is inescapable and indeed ne-word to replace “jazz” – Duke Ellingtonstopped using the term in 1940 –because much of today’s music simplydoes not meet the criteria of some ofthe music’s great players.Here are a few things to consider.Miles Davis: “I don’t care if a dudeis purple with green breath as long ashe can swing.” Stan Getz: “The saxophoneis actually a translation of thehuman voice, in my conception. Allyou can do is play melody. No matterhow complicated it gets, it’s still amelody.” John Coltrane: “I’ve foundStan Getz.you’ve got to look back at the old things and see them in a new light.”Swing, melodic content and a knowledge of the roots –I rest my case.PostscriptI wrote this month’s piece just before leaving for an engagement atJazzland in Vienna, one of the few remaining jazz venues whichpresents jazz six nights a week. I’m sitting looking at the photo collectionon the walls of musicians who have played the club, amongthem many of the players who used to appear in Toronto clubs. IBut then, years from now I’m sure there will be another generationlooking back at 2010 as “the good old days.” However, in my presentmood, to paraphrase playwright John Osborne, it’s “Look Back InSorrow.”Jim Galloway is a saxophonist, band leader and the former artisticdirector of Toronto Downtown Jazz. He can be contacted atjazznotes@thewholenote.com.TORONTO’SPRINT MUSICHEADQUARTERSAttention: private studio musicteachers and students! we’ve goteverything you need this September -come check out our new Pianorepertoire selection featuring G.Henle and BaerenreiterVerlageditions!WE PROUDLY FEATURE: St. Philip’s Anglican ChurchA casual, relaxing hour of prayer + great musicwith the city’s finest musiciansSunday, November 14, 4:00 pmGraham Howes, Neil Swainson +Perry WhiteSunday, November 28, 4:00 pmJorge Lopez TrioSunday, December 12, 4:00 pmDiana Panton, Reg Schwager +Don Thompson St. Philip’s Anglican Church | Etobicoke25 St. Phillips Road (near Royal York + Dixon)416-247-5181 www.stphilips.netDedicated RCM exam requirementbook sections for Theory, Piano,Strings, Brass & Woodwind.Diverse repertoire, method & studyselections for all instruments.Full selection of electric andacoustic guitars,keyboards,drums,and accessories including amplifiers& public address systems/dj equipment.Band and string instrument sales.Ask about our teacherdiscount program.415 Queen Street West,Toronto, Ontario, M5V 2A5store: (416) 593-8888www.stevesmusic.comeducational@stevesmusic.comNovember 1 - December 7, 2010 thewholenote.com 27

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