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Volume 17 Issue 8 - May 2012

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Beat by Beat | Classical

Beat by Beat | Classical & BeyondSome AssemblyRequiredSHARNA SEARLEIn past columns you’ve read about many of the “big guns” cometo town — major, professional orchestras, world-renowned soloistsand quartets — and you’ve read about an array of gifted artistspresented to us by local groups and organizations who don’t have thebig bucks but have great taste and know a talented “up and comer”when they see one.This month, I want to focuson two other categories: first,ensembles which don’t easily fallunder neat labels such as “quartet,”“quintet” or “chamber orchestra,”because they are constantly morphingin size, depending on what’s onthe program; and second, the communityorchestras which provide thebackbone of the musical life of theircommunities. Both attract dedicatedbunches of musicians who play forthe love of it in a variety of settingsincluding seniors’ residences,hospitals, churches, intimate venuesWychwood Clarinet Choir.and large concert halls. Here’s whatsome of them are up to this month.“Extra cello” with magic on the side, please: The ensemblecalled Alchemy offers the following irresistible blurb on its website:“Alchemy was a medieval chemical science and speculativephilosophy which aimed to transform base metals into gold, andto discover a universal cure for disease and a means of indefinitelyprolonging life. Notwithstanding its failure to succeed, some of itslofty aims have been inherited by a group of Toronto musicians whofeels that if music cannot prolong life and cure disease — though whocan tell — it is certainly known to transform an ordinary hour intosomething magical.”Alchemy began “making magic” in 2003 and has since performedchamber music from the 17th to 21st centuries with about 50 musicians,selected from a pool of accomplished friends and colleagues.Meri Gec, pianist, founding “alchemist” and the group’s programcoordinator, explains: “The mix continually changes, dependingon which instruments are needed for a program idea and whichmusicians are available. Program and repertoire ideas come fromanywhere — the musicians, the internet, radio, summer music camp,live concerts.”Gec’s role is to organize the one-hour programs using those ideas.And while, more often than not, she’s the one “initiating the ideasand recruiting the right musicians” (most with busy lives and dayjobs), she adds that “the musicians participate actively with researchingideas, finding extra musicians when needed, introducing piecesat concerts, suggesting venues, and so on.” As she says, “Alchemyhas become an engaged and collaborative ensemble.” For Gec,Alchemy represents “all that is great about music, friendship, andcommunity service.”It’s a winning combination that has seen the ensemble performfor almost ten years and at over 20 venues — all of which have beenpredominantly retirement residences and hospitals, in keeping withthe ensemble’s original — and unwavering — philosophy. Fittingly,Alchemy will perform at Baycrest Centre on May 23 at 7pm. On theprogram is Prokofiev’s Overture on Hebrew Themes, String QuartetOp.44 No.1 by Mendelssohn and Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet. Gec (onpiano), will be joined by Kaye Royer on clarinet, violinists CatherineSulem and John Bailey, violist Dorothy Pellerin and Susan Naccacheon cello. Heal on, musical alchemists!Did someone order an extra clarinet? Make that 18. That’s thenumber of members currently playing in the Wychwood ClarinetChoir. This lively group is now in its third season and they’re goingstrong, under the leadership of Michele Jacot, WCC’s artistic directorand conductor. Founding member Roy Greaves, who plays bassclarinet with the group (as well as the “usual soprano in b-flat” thateveryone in the ensemble plays), shared a few words with me, bye-mail, about the WCC, starting with its inception in 2009:“Some adult clarinet students of Michele Jacot were looking foran alternative to playing in a community band at the same time asMichele was considering adding conducting to her teaching andperforming schedule. I was about to retire from teaching music atOakwood Collegiate (Michele is a former student of mine) and wasalso looking for a different musical challenge. (The teacher becomesthe student; the student the teacher.) Thus began the start of theWychwood Clarinet Choir.”By fall of that year, a rehearsalspace was found, as were severallike-minded clarinetists, and inits first season the WCC gavetwo major concerts along withsmaller performances, includingone at the (then) new WychwoodBarns. They’ve since added schoolperformances to the mix, alongwith opportunities for high schooland university students to performwith them, in varying capacities,including that of conductor. WhileGreaves assists with artistic choicesand occasionally conducts, andseveral members of the group arrange and compose for the choir,he credits Jacot with having the “vision that really makes the groupwork.” Jacot gets the last word (which I lifted from the WCC’swebsite): “The goal of the WCC is to both learn together as wellas to play the best music possible to reflect the unique sound of ourensemble and it’s my job to ensure that we have fun doing it.”Well, actually, I get the last word: the WCC’s “SpringConcert 2012” is on May 27, 3:30pm, at St. Michael and All AngelsChurch. On the wonderfully eclectic program will be works byJulius Fucik, Clare Grundman, Glenn Miller, Mozart and Mancini.Putting the “commune” in community orchestra: There are wellover a dozen concerts being performed by community orchestras(COs) this month. So, rather than scant words about each, I thoughtI’d ask one dedicated CO player to give you an idea of the manyrewards of participating in this often unsung sector of the musicalscene. (You will also find a number of CO concerts in the QuickPicks list at the end of this column.)Adam Weinmann, a busy oboe player, accompanist, cabaretperformer and teacher (and our Canary Pages editor) suggested Icontact Laura Rosenfield, principal oboe with the NYCO SymphonyOrchestra, someone he met when he sat in with NYCO a few times,about two years ago. Good call, Adam.“Belonging to a community orchestra means playing the world’smost beautiful music with like-minded people who share a love ofclassical music,” Rosenfield wrote. “Community orchestras allowamateurs of all ages and from all walks of life to experience the joyof making music, as well as the opportunity to grow and improve asmusicians. They also offer high school students and university musicmajors invaluable real-world experience with conductors, ensembleplaying, and classical repertoire. While I frequently attend concertsby professional orchestras, I love the unique and thrilling challengeof playing the same repertoire in ‘my’ community orchestra.“Perhaps the greatest reward of performing is bringing music toaudiences that might not otherwise be able to hear live music, viaoutreach concerts in seniors’ homes and hospitals. School concerts,which help children to appreciate classical music and learn about theJamie Roblin18 thewholenote.com May 1 – June 7, 2012

AdAM Rosenfieldinstruments of the orchestra, are heartwarming experiences, as well.I think that my own children learned early to appreciate classicalmusic by hearing my daily practice, as well as recordings of pieces Iwas working on. Also, they were curious to attend mom’s concerts!“Amateur orchestras foster a feeling of community that is trulyenriching and transformative. I have learned about the volunteer andnon-profit sector, have benefited from taking on various volunteeradministrative tasks in community music over the years, and havemade lasting friends. I suspect that most of my fellow musicianswould agree that the stresses of everyday life melt away when thebaton drops and the orchestra begins to play … ”The NYCO Symphony Orchestra, by the way, began as a readingorchestra under the auspices of the North York Symphony in 1975and evolved into an independent, community-based orchestra around1988. Rather than hold formal auditions, it invites new players tosit in for a couple of rehearsals to test the “compatibility factor.”Then, if you are offered a permanent position you are expected topay a membership fee. (A wonderful twist to the typical professionalmusician’s fate ofNYCO SymphonyOrchestra oboistLaura Rosenfield.often not gettingpaid enough fortheir efforts.) Inaddition, NYCOmembers areobliged to purchasea subscription.Clearly,both these feesare critical inallowing thisCO to provideits exceptional, community-enhancing, music-making opportunities,and you will find variations on the same theme among many othercommunity orchestras.You will find Rosenfield in her first oboist’s chair when NYCOperforms Smetana’s The Moldau, Tchaikovsky’s Rococo Variations(with principal cellist, Sybil Herceg-Shanahan) and Dvořák’sSymphony No.8, under the baton of its music director and conductor,David Bowser, June 2, 8pm, at Centre for the Arts, St. Michael’sCollege School. There’s a pre-concert chat at 7:30pm.COMMUNITY ORCHESTRA Quick PICks●●May 6, 2:30: Orchestra Kingston. Works by Suppé, J. Strauss,Tchaikovsky, Copland and others.●●May 6, 3:00: Symphony on the Bay. Works by Bach, Lisztand Rachmaninoff.●●May 10, 8:00: Corktown Chamber Orchestra. Works by Beethoven,Bach and Dvořák.●●May 12 and 13, 7:30: Huronia Symphony Orchestra. Works byDvořák, Raum, Beethoven and Verdi. (Beyond the GTA).●●May 12, 8:00: Counterpoint Community Orchestra. Works by Widor,Saint-Saëns, Bach-Stokowski, Bizet and others.●●May 12 and 13, 8:00: Oakville Symphony Orchestra. Guest: PolovoisIssariotis, guitar.●●May 12, 8:00: Scarborough Philharmonic Orchestra. Works byVivaldi, Mozart and Magowan and Denomme-Welch. 7:15: Preconcertchat.●●May 26, 8:00: Cathedral Bluffs Symphony Orchestra. Works by R.and J. Strauss and Bizet.●●May 26 and 27, 8:00: York Symphony Orchestra. Works by R.Strauss, Amram and Prokofiev.●●May 27, 3:00: Orchestra Toronto. Beethoven’s Symphony No.9.2:15: Pre-concert talk.●●June 1, 8:00: Etobicoke Philharmonic Orchestra. Works by Debussy,Rodrigo and Berlioz. 7:30: Pre-concert chat.Now go out and get yourself some of that community spirit!Sharna Searle trained as a musician and lawyer, practised alot more piano than law and is listings editor at The WholeNote.She can be contacted at classicalbeyond@thewholenote.com.May 1 – June 7, 2012thewholenote.com 19

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