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Volume 17 Issue 10 - July/August 2012

  • Text
  • August
  • Jazz
  • Festival
  • Toronto
  • September
  • Festivals
  • Theatre
  • Quartet
  • Concerts
  • Musical

y Rebecca

y Rebecca Chua“Artistic directors, like chefs, have to beadventurous and curious, and at the sametime express their own style and passions”Summer’s turning out to be another scorcher, beckoningwith promises of endless sun-kissed days filled with musicfestivals. There’s always an embarrassment of riches on display,but the ones brimming most with energy and enthusiasm,abuzz with imagination and excitement— the most toe-tappingand hum-inducing — seem to be the open-air concerts.Everyone loves them: families with boisterous young children, courtingcouples, friends exploring new music, aficionados revisiting oldfavourites, thrill-seeking tourists seeking out novel experiences. Andthen there are the homing pigeons, the ones who return season afterseason, the ones who think they know all the best-kept open secrets,and very often want to share them!This column is being launched in that spirit of sharing, of shiningthe spotlight on the obvious, and the not-so-very obvious: on the rolethat programming plays in the myriad musical discoveries that everyoneshares, and the personalities that shape the journeys we all take.These are the people who work tirelessly behind the scenes to createa very public experience. They might even be people with very publicpersonae or, equally, very private ones. What they all share, unequivocally,is a sense of passion, an infectious enthusiasm and the ability toget things done.This issue, we focus on the artistic directors of three festivals thatbask in the sun. Why? Because, as Tamara Bernstein attests, “ArtisticDirectors, like chefs, have to be adventuresome and curious, and at thesame time express their own style and passions.” Nor, despite helmingfestivals that are very different in nature, are they narrowly confinedto specific genres. There’s a lot of crossover in their often eclectic programming.The effect is often a dizzying mix of the electric and theelectrifying, the familiar and the oddly reminiscent.The ubiquitous Beaches International Jazz Festival is obviously thegrande dame as it nears its 25th anniversary and continues to attractclose to a million party-goers. It commandeers six stages at the KewGardens, the Boardwalk and Woodbine Park to feature genre-blendingand –bending sounds, everything from Big Band, funk and soul, to Latinrhythms, Calypso and World Beat. This year, there’s even home-grown,certified Canadian organic Balkan Klezmer Gypsy Party Punk, courtesyof Lemon Bucket Orkestra. Artistic director Bill King explains: “Theaudience doesn’t go to see jazz. They want to be entertained, they likeAIR’LETH AODHFIN8 thewholenote.com July 1 – September 7, 2012

to be surprised. If you give them something memorable,they keep coming back.”“The first priority is to make the experience memorablebecause it uniquely revitalizes the whole person,”agrees Roman Borys, artistic director of theOttawa Chamberfest, the world’s largest chambermusic festival, which has also booked the self-sameLemon Bucket for its closing bash.Begun in 1994, the Chamberfest showcases about250 local and international musicians playing 100intimate concerts in three churches and the mausoleumof a cemetery, as well as the National Art Galleryand the National Arts Centre. While all this soundsimpossibly stately, as befitting the national capital, it’sthe Waterway Soundfaire that has attracted as manypedestrians as cyclists, local families as well as tourists.What started as the Musical Breeze Bicycle Paradein 2008, wends its way from Lansdowne Stadium onthe west bank of the Rideau Canal to sample a delectablearray of musical interludes before ending upunder the bridge. It may seem like a splash of whimsyamidst the heavy hitters of the ensemble world but,as Borys explains, “There has to be a multi-layeredapproach to audience development.”He is keenly aware of the growing reputation ofthe festival not just for tourists across the countrybut from further afield. He’s very much hands-onas he grapples with formidable software to scheduleperformances, track audiences, ask for donations,manage ticketing, conduct marketing campaigns — inshort, to get the Chamberfest message across.“Technology is a major step in the evolution of anorganization as it’s used to capture and share information,”he says. He’s proud that, for the first timethis year, audiences will be able to navigate throughand attend every single performance, if they sochoose, with meal stops and a bus shuttle to boot.That was a particular flourish inspired by the FinnishKuhmo Chamber Music Festival founder and fellowcellist Seppo Kimanen.The Music Garden was actually the title of the firstfilm in a six-part series that inspired cellist Yo-Yo Mato work with landscape designer Julie Moir Messervyto interpret Bach’s Suite No.1 for UnaccompaniedCello as an actual garden. Although the Music Gardencomprises six sections, each corresponding toa different dance movement of Bach’s suite, it’s thelast movement, the Gigue, transformed into giantgrass steps, that provides the lakeview arena wherethe performances take place.The Music Garden is a relative teenager on the open-air music circuit,having been officially opened only in 1997, but it already draws a devotedcrowd. Bernstein, who curates the roster of concerts for HarbourfrontCentre, remembers the first year when “audiences — sometimes familieswith kids — patiently waited out thunderstorms until artists could performwith all their hearts once the sun came out again … One time thestring players of the Gryphon Trio performed in the truck with whichwe had transported the sound equipment, because it was too dampfor their instruments outside, and the audience was so hungry to hearthem. It was so exciting and crazy!”What’s changed in the last baker’s dozen years? “Performers don’tget wet any more! We are more careful about rain calls! And we haveshade umbrellas for the performers, which protect valuable instruments,”she’s quick to respond. “Oh! One not so good change is thenoticeable increase in dogs who poop in the Music Garden, and whoseowners don’t clean up after them. “For King, what’s changed in the last two and a half decades is technology.Where he used to have to wade through a mountain of paperwork,King says, “I don’t need histories or band photos any more.“ Youtubevideos now tell him everything he needs to know about how bandsJuly 1 – September 7, 2012thewholenote.com 9

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