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Volume 18 Issue 3 - November 2012

  • Text
  • November
  • Toronto
  • December
  • Jazz
  • Arts
  • Theatre
  • Symphony
  • Orchestra
  • Choir
  • Concerts

CHRIS MUELLERManitoba

CHRIS MUELLERManitoba Theatre Centre (MTC) where Winnipeg native Paul DeGurse,as musical director, will use orchestrations by Joseph Aragon, whosemusical Bloodless: The Trial of Burke and Hare I discussed in my columnlast month. Instrumentation includes piano, cello and violin.The set and costumes for the show are designed by Torontonian ScottPenner who, like lighting designer Siobhan Sleath, created the imaginativeset of I Love You Because for Angelwalk last season. Unlikethat set, this one will be built professionally in the shop of MTC thenshipped from Winnipeg afterthe show’s brief run there intime for the Toronto opening.Gordon acknowledges thechallenge of “mounting theshow in a space in Winnipegand then taking it to a smallervenue in Toronto,” but sheconsiders that “it will keepthe show fresh, which is greatfor the actors.” Goldenbergsees other benefits of aco-production that is “artistically-driven.”Noting that“cost savings are incidental,”he suggests that “the primaryAdam Gwon,writer and composerof Ordinary Days.benefit to both companies isthe exposure that our artistsgain in a different city,” andhe muses about how it might“open doors” to opportunitiesfor all of them. But perhaps the biggest winners in this undertakingare the audiences in Winnipeg and Toronto for each of whom theshow will introduce a new company, as well as a new musical. Byexpanding horizons and combining resources, Angelwalk and WSTare helping to widen Canada’s musical theatre community in bothsize and vision.Fundraisers: One of the methods that small companies such asAngelwalk use to build funding and raise awareness for their work isthe celebrity showcase. Earlier this year, Angelwalk produced Dianneand Me, a solo show that was a hit at the 2011 Vancouver FringeFestival. A portrait of mothers, daughters and the sacrifices they make,the tiny musical starred award-winning actress, Elena Juatco (I LoveYou Because; Canadian Idol top 10 finalist). Next February, the companyoffers something more ambitious — “Villains and Vixens,” aconcert featuring songs by some of the most infamous charactersin musical theatre, from Javert in Les Misérables to Sally Bowles inCabaret, all performed by Angelwalk stalwarts.This month, Acting Up Stage Company mounts a similar one–nightonly fundraiser on November 26 in Koerner Hall at the Telus Centrefor Performing and Learning. “Tapestries: The Music of Carole Kingand James Taylor” continues the tradition of compilation concertsthat Acting Up introduced several years ago, a hit series that includessuch sold out concerts such as “Both Sides Now,” a celebration of thesongs of Joni Mitchell and “Long and Winding Road,” a tribute to themusic of Lennon and McCartney. Under the stellar music direction ofReza Jacobs, these one-off evenings showcase some of the best performerscurrently working in Canadian musical theatre. “Tapestries,”for example, will present performances by Bruce Dow, Cynthia Dale,Arlene Duncan, Jake Epstein, Sara Farb, Kelly Holiff, Sterling Jarvis,Amanda LeBlanc, Eden Richmond, and Josh Young, among others.Blurring distinctions between cabaret, musical theatre and pop concerts,these evenings feature original orchestrations and new vocalarrangments (also by Reza Jacobs) that foreground the performers’voices and talents in a format that appeals to a wide audience. To addpanache to the procedings, Elenna Mosoff oversees continuity andstaging. While the affair is informal, it is by no means casual in itsapproach. Consider it my hot tip for the month.Based in Toronto, Robert Wallace writes abouttheatre and performance. He can be contacted atmusictheatre@thewholenote.com.Beat by Beat | World ViewUnexpectedlyANDREW TIMARPerhaps one of the most unexpected venues for regular worldmusic performance in our town is the Richard BradshawAmphitheatre at the Four Seasons Centre for the PerformingArts. As a performance space it is both casually chic and spatially flexible.This month, with two concerts scheduled, I thought it wouldbe an opportune time to examine both the institutional frameworkand artistic talent which serves up this perennially bountiful worldmusic smorgasbord.The COC has hosted a noon hour World Music concert series sinceits inaugural season in 2006, an integral component of their larger seriesof free concerts. Its ambition as noted in a COC press communiquéis to “reflect in its programming the richness of Toronto’s cultural fabricand create an opportunity for people to experience the artistic excellenceand cultural diversity of the city.” Over the past seven years it hasbecome a dependable showcase for international music, very often performedby top musicians who make their home in the GTA.If success can be measured by audience attendance then the WorldMusic concert series is a runaway hit; whenever I’ve attended there hasappeared to be a full house. COC stats show that some 15,000 peopleannually enjoy the various free concerts on offer from September toJune. This is no mere fluke. Obvious care has been put into the curationof the series, reflecting both what our performing artists are producingtoday and what will convince audiences to make the trek at noon to witnessin person. If success can be measured by community engagementthen a compelling case can readily be made for the concerts’ collectivebreadth and depth. It’s personally satisfying to see that Nina Draganic,the programming director of the free World Music concert series, hasnot forgotten the often neglected “c” word — challenge — in the rush tomaximize patron numbers.This season the series encompasses nine diverse concerts embracingmusic blanketing the earth. I counted music from South Asia, EastAsia, Western Europe, the Caucasus, North Africa, South America andthe Caribbean.On November 6 under the rubric “Many Strings Attached: Spotlighton Sarangi” Aruna Narayan, a pioneering sarangi virtuosa, headlinesat the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre. The sarangi is a NorthIndian bowed 39-string instrument of considerable vintage, its playingtechnique challenging to tackle and supremely difficult to master.Ms. Narayan, the only woman to play this instrument professionally, isthe daughter of the renowned sarangi master Pandit Ram Narayan. Hesingle-handedly established the sarangi, formerly exclusively used toaccompany vocalists, as a soloist in Hindustani classical music. She willperform in the classical khyal manner a concert of ragas selected fromthose appropriate to the time of day, accompanied by the drummedmetric framework provided by the tabla and by the tambura, theplucked string instrument that establishes the indispensable dronethroughout the performance.What is she doing when not performing at the COC? Narayan maintainsan active sarangi teaching atelier at her home just north of the cityand teaches it at regional schools. She also keeps up an internationalconcert career, having appeared in recent years with her father at theBBC Proms, Royal Albert Hall and on India’s Doordarshan TV, as well aspremiering the sarangi part in Nolan Ira Gasser’s World Cello for Celloand Orchestra with the Oakland East Bay Symphony. Nor has Narayanneglected home town audiences in her globetrotting. She’s appearedin the Music Gallery’s World Avant series, and crossed yet moremusical borders in her 2007 performance with Toronto’s TafelmusikBaroque Orchestra in a novel intercultural interpretation of Vivaldi’sFour Seasons.Darbazi: November 13 the COC’s World Music concert series presentsthe Darbazi Georgian Choir directed by the charismatic tenor ShalvaMakharashvili. The title of the concert, “Gideli,” means a grape har-28 thewholenote.com November 1 – December 7, 2012

vest container. It’s not an unlikely thematic basket given that in Georgiafall is grape harvest season and the time to make the country’s favouritebeverage from its juice. Many Georgian songs praise the vineyard,the grape and wine as divine gifts. Such songs are also characteristic ofthe supra–but more of that later. The Darbazi choir’s appearance in theCOC series is a sharp counterpoint to the solo virtuoso concert traditionexemplified by Aruna Narayan, reflecting instead a kind of music makingwhich is community based and polyphonic,Founded 17 years ago in Toronto, theDarbazi ensemble passionately and exclusivelyfocuses on performing the traditionalpolyphonic music of the various regionsof Georgia, a mountainous country at thecrossroads of Europe and Asia. Darbazi’sconcerts typically mine rich repertoirewhich ranges from meditative sacredOrthodox ecclesiastical chants to exuberantsongs meant for horse riding, field working,drinking, dancing and general partying.An exciting new feature of their recentToronto performances has been the additionof the Georgian dance group, Kakheti,with their elegant couple dances and hyperextendedmale leaps and spins fuelled bysheer machismo.When not performing at the COC,Darbazi — the core of which is composedof three women and seven men — does itsToronto choir Darbazibeing fêted at a supra,Republic of Georgia,September 2012.share of gigs which include Toronto’s Fete de la Musique and First Night,Montreal’s World Music Festival, concerts in St. John’s, Newfoundlandand New York City. Yet over the years, no matter the gigs on the table,the choir has been on a quest for an ever deeper understanding of theplace of music in Georgian heritage and identity. Furthering this keymission, Darbazi returned last month from its latest visit to the Georgianmotherland where they learned new song repertoire from legendaryGeorgian cantors. They were also featured performers at the RecitalHall of the Conservatoire in the country’s capital, Tbilisi, appeared onthe Georgian TV channel, Imedi, and were feted at several supras — thatmost Georgian of feasts — a key site for social and cultural interactions.Back in Toronto Darbazi also does weddings, baby showers and funerals.I’ve attended a number of Darbazi-powered Toronto supras. In fact animpromptu supra-like moment sprang up at one of my recent birthdayparties. I always felt it was at these community events — after the stagedconcert — that these songs came to vivid, palpable life.Other Concert Picks: At the top of the month is the Day of the DeadFestival, Mexico’s celebration of all that has passed, especially one’sancestors — our Halloween. Harbourfront Centre is marking it with awide range of daytime cultural events on November 3 and 4. Musicalperformers at the York Quay Centre include the guitarist Pedro Montejo,the Café Con Pan group, Jorge Salazar, Viva Mexico Mariachi andJorge Lopez.Also on November 3, Small World Music presents the well-knownCuban singer and guitarist Eliades Ochoa at the Danforth Music HallTheatre. First propelled to international attention as a member of theunlikely chart-topping Buena Vista Social Club, Ochoa is considered oneof Cuba’s top soneros. Proudly displaying his guajiro roots, his folksymusic exemplifies one of the streams which feed into the powerfulcurrent of Cuban music. His repertoire includes songs in the son, Afro-Cuban, bolero, changüi and guaracha genres.Staying with Cuban music, on November 9 Alex Cuba performs atKoerner Hall. The Cuban-Canadian singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalistis launching his latest album Ruida in el Sistema (Static in theSystem), combining tasty elements of rock, pop, soul and Latin funk.In 2010, Alex Cuba was awarded a Latin Grammy for Best New Artist inaddition to a nomination for Best Male Pop Vocal Album, so we know hehas studio and vocal chops galore. In his new CD, four tracks in Englishdemonstrate that he is settling nicely into his adopted land — yes, really,in Smithers, B.C.November 7 at St. Stephen-in-the-Fields Anglican Church, Concertsat Midday presents Viktor Kotov on the haunting sounding duduk, anArmenian double reed instrument, accompanied by Raisa Orshanskyon tsimbaly, a trapezoidal hammer dulcimer from Belarus andUkraine. Kotov’s arrangements of European classical instrumentals,jazz standards, blues, Broadway and film music serve as a basis for hisimprovisatory style of playing the duduk.November 10 and 11 we move musically to an island at the other endof the globe, Japan. Toronto group Nagata Shachu, led by Kiyoshi Nagata,performs “Work Songs” at their 14th annual live show at the EnwaveTheatre. Artistic director Kiyoshi Nagata,whose career spans 30 years, explains: “InJapan there is a saying, ‘Where there is work,there is song’ ... often cheerful and uplifting.”The concert, featuring many types ofJapanese taiko, gongs, bells, wooden clappers,shakers, bamboo flutes and voice, is atribute to labourers, farmers and fishermen.The Métis Fiddler Quartet plays atthe Alliance Française de Toronto onNovember 24. This young bilingual French-English group specialises in fresh andenergetic interpretations of Canadian Métisand Native old style fiddle music passeddown by elder masters from across Canada.This under-represented music chock full ofwit, spirit and joy is worth searching out.Touching on a few concerts early inDecember, on December 1 the RoyalConservatory presents Amanda Martinez atKoerner Hall. What more can I add to Metro’s assessment of Martinez’sCanadian-Latin singer-songwriter music, “reminiscent of the Latinsongstress of days of old ... strong and defiant while soft and vulnerable.”In this concert, featuring influences of flamenco and Afro-Cubanrhythms, bossa nova and Mexican folk music, she collaborates withSpanish producer Javier LimónDecember 6 the University of Toronto Faculty of Music stages itsannual free “World Music Ensembles Concert” at the MacMillan Theatre,Edward Johnson Building. This year’s student ensembles includeAfrican Drumming and Dancing directed by Ghanaian master drummerKwasi Dunyo, Klezmer by “klezpert” Brian Katz, and Japanese TaikoDrumming by sensei Kiyoshi Nagata. I used to attend this annual worldmusic roundup eagerly when younger. Just two examples of my earlydiscoveries were Balinese gamelan Semar Pegulingan and SouthwestIranian coastal folk music. What in the world will you discover?Andrew Timar is a Toronto musician and music writer.He can be contacted at worldmusic@thewholenote.com.LUCA MAKHARASHVILI, ANDREW TIMARNovember 1 – December 7, 2012 thewholenote.com 29

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