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Volume 18 Issue 7 - April 2013

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  • April
  • Toronto
  • Jazz
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  • Singers

The Elmer Iseler

The Elmer Iseler SingersLydia Adams, ConductorJoby Talbot’s Path Of MiraclesSaturday, May 4, 2013 at 8:00 p.m.Church of St. Mary Magdalene477 Manning Avenue, Toronto (corner of Ulster and Manning)Special Guest: Photographer Barbara MannersThe moving and magical “Path of Miracles”, written by JobyTalbot for a cappella choir with text by Robert Dickinson, isa dramatization of the religious pilgrimage to Santiago delCompostela in Spain. Using Greek, Latin, Spanish, Basque,medieval French, English and German languages, thisatmospheric work in four movements has moments ofcelebratory vigour, intense serenity, and a rapturous finale.Tickets ; Seniors ; Students 416-217-0537 www.elmeriselersingers.comONTARIO ARTS COUNCILCONSEIL DES ARTS DE L’ONTARIO50 YEARS OF ONTARIO GOVERNMENT SUPPORT OF THE ARTS50 ANS DE SOUTIEN DU GOUVERNEMENT DE L’ONTARIO AUX ARTSCanada Councilfor the ArtsConseil des Artsdu Canadato the Canterbury Tales, and William Westcott’s In the AlmostEvening, a setting of lyrics by Canadian writer Joy Kogawa. EasternEuropean choral music is a specialty of this choir, and the concertincludes songs from Bulgaria, Macedonia and the Republic of Georgia.Often, the focus on large-scale religious works of the Europeanclassical canon can obscure the reality that composers also wrotemusic to celebrate the joys and pleasures of temporal love. On May 4and 5 the Cantemus Singers’ “Love Songs,” a concert appropriate forspring, includes works by Josquin, Byrd, Janequin and Schütz. Thesecomposers are the backbone of the early music repertoire and this is arare opportunity to hear their music performed live.Having just given a lecture on making a living as a musician lastmonth, I am more than usually aware of how difficult it can be tofund music making. Choirs are fighting hard for both audience shareand the funds necessary to execute concerts, as ticket sales can neverapproach more than a fraction of performance expenses.Two choirs are holding their own fundraisers. On April 6 theAmadeus Choir presents “A Celtic Celebration.” The event includes liveand silent auctions. Lydia Adams, the choir’s conductor, also leads theElmer Isler Singers and is a central figure in Canadian choral endeavour.On April 20 the Toronto Jewish Folk Choir hosts a fundraisingReaching OutThrough Music.concert of solos and songs titled “Sing Mea Song in Yiddish.”Last but perhaps most urgently,Reaching Out Through Music programholds a benefit concert and silent auctionon April 20, which includes the participationof the St. James Town Children’sChoir. Many of the families of St. JamesTown are struggling to provide basic carefor themselves and their children. TheReaching Out Through Music was createdto provide children with group and privatemusic lessons. For young people in economic need music can bea focus for discipline, self-expression and hope. This is one of the mostimportant areas of musical outreach in the city.Finally, I would like an opportunity to write more extensively aboutthe phenomenon of the show choir, and will do so at some point. Thiscombination of singing and stage work may well be the future of choralmusic in North America. Show Choir Canada conducts its nationalchampionships on April 20 and 21 in the Queen Elizabeth Theatre atExhibition place. This is an event that will be excellent for children andmay be a way to inspire their interest in choral singing.Ben Stein is a Toronto tenor and theorbist.He can be contacted at choralscene@thewholenote.comVisit his website at | April 1 – May 7, 2013

Beat by Beat | Jazz NotesSpring Takes WingJIM GALLOWAY“Come, fill the Cup, and in the Fire of SpringThe Winter Garment of Repentance fling:The Bird of Time has but a little wayTo fly—and Lo! the Bird is on the Wing.”—Omar KhayyámOmar didn’t know it, but the last line of the above probablyinfluenced the following flight of fancy:Spring is sprungThe grass is ris’I wonder where the boidies isThe boid is on the wingBut thats absoidI always thought the wing was on the boid!And speaking of “boid,” or morecorrectly bird, makes me think ofthe jazz bird, Charlie Parker, andfrom there it’s an easy step to“Bird and Diz.”Which leads me to a concert worthchecking out this month — the DaveYoung-Terry Promane Octet and theHeavyweights Brass Band, with specialguests percussionist GiovanniGiovanni Hidalgo.Hidalgo and trumpeter Claudio Roditi,will celebrate the music of Dizzy Gillespie on April 13 at Koerner Hall.I hardly need to say anything about Dave Young and Terry Promane,both stalwarts of the Canadian scene, but maybe a line or two aboutthe visiting firemen is in order.Master percussionist Hidalgo was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico,into a musical family and came to the United States via Cuba. Whileperforming with Eddie Palmieri at the Village Gate in New York City,the legendary jazz musician Dizzy Gillespie walked in and was soimpressed with Hidalgo that he later invited him to join Gillespie’sUnited Nations Orchestra.Roditi, born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, cites Clifford Brown and LeeMorgan as important influences and was also a member of Gillespie’sUnited Nations Orchestra.It should be one of the highlights of this month.Early this month I’ll be winging my way over to Europe, not forApril in Paris, but springtime in Vienna and London. Sad to say, thejazz scene in London has diminished over the years. Ronnie Scott’sstill soldiers on, but be prepared to pay New York prices; the PizzaExpress is still active, but that seems to be it for full-time jazz clubsin the heart of London. Likewise in Vienna you have two major clubs,Porgy and Bess and Jazzland, where I have played at least once a yearfor well over 30 years and that’s where I’ll be for part of this month.“Tain’t no sin to take off your skinand dance around in your bones.”—1929 song by Walter Donaldson; lyrics by Edgar LeslieAs I looked over the listings for this month I was struck by the numberof jazz performances there are in churches. I counted at leastfive — an interesting transition when you consider that it was onceregarded by many as the Devil’s music and Toronto was a bastion of19th-century Victorian morality known as “Toronto the good.”But narrow-minded prejudice wasn’t confined to Victorian times.In the early years of the 20th century jazz music was one of the maintargets. For example, in 1921 the Women’s Home Journal printed anarticle entitled, “Does Jazz Put The Sin In Syncopation?” To say thatthe writer disapproved of the music is an understatement. I quote:“We have all been taught to believe that ‘music soothes the savageClaudio Roditi.St. Philip’s Anglican Churchbreast,’ ... Therefore, it is somewhat of a rude awakening for many ofthese parents to find that America is facing a most serious situationregarding its popular music. Welfare workers tell us that never in thehistory of our land have there been such immoral conditions amongour young people, and in the surveys made by many organisationsregarding these conditions, the blame is laid on jazz music and itsevil influence on the young people of today ... That jazz is an influencefor evil is also felt by a number of the biggest country clubs, whichhave forbidden the corset check room, the leaving of the hall betweendances and the jazz orchestras — three evils which have also beeneliminated from many municipal dance halls, particularly when thesehave been taken under the chaperonage of the Women’s Clubs.”Sounds incredible doesn’t it? But back in 1921 there was an outcryfrom many segments of society, coming from both religious leadersand music educators, that jazz music had an evil influence on its listeners!Some felt that it led to immoral dancing and promiscuity whileothers went so far to say that jazz could cause permanent damage tothe brain cells of those who played or listened to it!But it doesn’t end there. If we fast forward in time to 2007, anextreme religious fundamentalist website contained the followingwords: “Like the blues, boogie-woogie, and ragtime, jazz wasborn in the unwholesome and sensualenvironment of sleazy bars,honkytonks, juke joints, and whorehouses.The very name “jazz” refers toimmorality.”What a collection of sinners we are!Contrast the above with thesewords by Dizzy Gillespie: “The churchhad a deep significance for me musically... I first learned there how musiccould transport people spiritually.”And there is this from DaveBrubeck: “To me, if you get into that creative part of your mind whenyou’re playing jazz, it’s just as religious as when you’re writing asacred service.”When it comes to questions of morality I rather like the words ofErnest Hemingway: “I know only that what is moral is what you feelgood after and what is immoral is what you feel bad after.”Before leaving the topic it is interesting to note that from medievaltimes improvisation was a highly valued skill and improvised counterpointwas a fundamental part of every musician’s education. Manyfamous composers and musicians were known especially for theirimprovisational skills.I would hazard a guess that if Bach, Handel, Mozart, Chopin andLiszt were around today they might well have been jazzers.By the way there are at least two significant birthdays on April 1:that wonderful singer Alberta Hunter and Harry Carney, long-timebaritone sax player with Duke Ellington.No April fools, they!Happy listening and make sure you get out and hear some of thatsinful music!Jim Galloway is a saxophonist, band leader andformer artistic director of Toronto Downtown Jazz.He can be contacted at● Sunday, April 7, 4pm | Jazz VespersAmanda Tosoff Quartet● Sunday, April 21, 4pm | Jazz VespersMike Murley Trio● Sunday, May 19, 10:30am | Jazz MassPeter Togni, Mike Murley,George Koller, Malcolm GouldSt. Philip’s Anglican Church | Etobicoke25 St. Phillips Road (near Royal York + Dixon)416-247-5181 • April 1 – May 7, 2013 | 27John meixner

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