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Volume 19 Issue 2 - October 2013

  • Text
  • October
  • Toronto
  • Choir
  • Concerts
  • Jazz
  • November
  • Arts
  • Orchestra
  • Musical
  • Symphony

MERVON MEHTA: Royal

MERVON MEHTA: Royal Mandate | continued from page 9concentrating on the acoustics. Midori told me that she loves KoernerHall because you can hear everything. By the same token, she hatesKoerner Hall because you can hear everything.Why do you think that Koerner Hall was able to establish itself as ago-to place so quickly? For starters, there were fabulous reviews aboutthe acoustics. Also, artists’ anecdotes and word-of-mouth to agents. Forexample, Yo-Yo Ma opened our second season. He had heard about thehall from Midori because they have the same agent. I think we also gotthe reputation for offering a different kind of experience.So let’s talk about programming at the RCM in general, and KoernerHall in particular. Programming was always going to be broad-based andof a high quality. That’s what attracted me. We are, however, fairly limitedin what we can do because thereis no wing space, for example. Wecan’t do rock concerts becausewe don’t have the proper soundsystem. Then there’s logisticsand politics. Some top tier artistsjust don’t want to come to NorthAmerica. It’s also important toprogram a significant numberof Canadians. We don’t repeatpeople in consecutive seasons,but there are exceptions. GidonKremer cut his fee in half so hecould do a warm-up here for hisCarnegie Hall concert.I also look for themes. This season we’re presenting all ten Beethoven“Withoutrentals, wecouldn’tsurvive.We makemore moneyon a weddingthan we do ona concert”violin sonatas. There’s an Italian series featuring baroque, folk, jazz, popand opera. The 21st century music festival features over 17 premieres. Thejazz series is celebrating the musical legacies of Dinah Washington andSarah Vaughan, both of whom would be turning 90 this year. We didOscar Peterson a couple of years ago. It’s more fun to do a concentration.I’m actually open to everything. We keep on experimenting — throwsomething at the wall and see what sticks. In this game, you can’t getcomplacent.Have you had programming that was not successful? The year wefeatured a baroque series, it didn’t sell. It was a tough lesson. We discoveredthat the Tafelmusik audience is loyal, and that they won’t go elsewhere.We lost money on every single concert. Also, the vocal seriescan’t attract an audience, or a sponsor. There doesn’t seem to be starpower in vocal except for rare cases. Ian Bostridge sold just 450 seats atKoerner Hall. It was embarrassing. We thought it would work becausehe had sold 1,000 seats at Roy Thomson Hall. András Schiff is one of ourbiggest sellers for a piano recital, but when he came with a singer, it washalf a house. Jazz great Chick Corea is going to attract the same crowdwhether he’s a solo, or with a band, yet the opera crowd doesn’t seemto come to recitals. We can’t afford to lose ,000 on the vocal series.I do have to exercise fiscal responsibility. It is our biggest weakness, butI’m not giving up on it. We’ve moved down to three concerts from fourthis season. We’re also kind of going at it sideways, by presenting nontraditionalrecitals, like the Natalie Dessay concert featuring the musicof Michel Legrand.Have you shifted the emphasis in programming over the years? Isee that the number of concerts is down from a high of 87 in 2011/12,to this coming season’s low of 71. There’s no fixed number of concerts.It depends on who is available. For example, last year there were noAfrican musicians, because no big names were touring, while this yearthere are four, because they are all coming to North America. I also onlybook things that I think will do well, but balance is the key. Admittedly,87 different concerts just put too many tickets out there. The idealnumber is between 75 and 80.There’s been no appreciable shift in programming. The double missionis still the same given our location — performance and education. Generallyspeaking, the split is 30% to 40% classical, 20% jazz, with the restbeing world music and pop. The faculty concerts are at MazzoleniConcert Hall, so programming for that venue is skewed toward classical.The majority of the concert rentals is also classical, like the MendelssohnChoir. I think the general public sees us as a classical venue so partof the challenge is branding — letting audiences see that there are othertypes of concerts going on here.What’s the audience profile? Seventy-five per cent is from the GTA,although we also get people from London, Ottawa, Burlington andOakville. Some come from the U.S. We did get grants to advertise out oftown, specifically in Buffalo and Montreal.How are you marketing the hall to build audiences? We have arrangementswith local hotels — the Park Hyatt and InterContinental — for packagesthat include hotel room, dinner and a concert ticket, or just dinnerand a concert. We created the Francophone series that brought Montrealartists to Toronto. We partnered with Alliance Française in theChansongs series that featured singer/songwriters, one Anglophone,one Francophone, in an informal eveningItzhak Perlmanperforms atKoerner Hall.of music and stories in the intimateConservatory Theatre.We can also pack Koerner Hall bypresenting ethnic artists, like BatukoTabanka from Cape Verde, but we have tofind the right partners who know theircommunities, and the right conveniencestores to post concert flyers. This yearwe’re partnering with Hot Docs on anexperiment featuring music documentariesthat relate to our season, like Pianomania,about a virtuoso Viennese pianotuner, and Jazz on a Summer’s Day,about the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival. I’mhosting the chats with special guests. We’re also toying with a familyseries for Saturday afternoons.You’ve also made outreach to artists from other organizations inthe city. Peter Oundjian had already conducted the Royal ConservatoryOrchestra before Koerner Hall was built, but I brought in the COC’sJohannes Debus, along with young Canadian conductors like JulianKuerti and Jean-Philippe Tremblay.Is there a rapprochement with other series in the city? Is there aproblem about stealing audiences? The donation pool is also small.There’s a gentleman’s agreement between us and Richmond Hill,Brampton, Oakville and Burlington. There is not a big enough audienceto sustain performances at all five venues. An artist can do two,but not all five. We talk to each other all the time because we have to becareful. We also work with the TSO, to make sure an orchestral appearanceand a recital are spread out. Needless to say, we don’t have biddingwars with Live Nation over rock groups.What’s your budget? We don’t really have a budget. My priority isto break even and pay our overhead. We bring in whom we can underthese conditions. Along with government support, our revenue fromticket sales and rentals is between .5 and .5 million. It’s a milliondepartment overall. The city didn’t give a dime to build Koerner Hall,but it seems that mayor Rob Ford has turned his head around and nowsees that culture means economics and growth.The Ontario Arts Council gives money to the Glenn Gould School andwe get Canadian Heritage money for concerts. We don’t get any CanadaCouncil grants, but the performance division is only five years old andwe have to pay our dues. It’s part of the game. We also get revenue fromradio broadcasts, but that is down. The CBC taped ten concerts the firstseason, and just two last year. Also, advertisement costs just keep goingup, so somewhere down the line, do we stop doing print, and opt onlyfor social media?I’m curious about what you mean by rentals? Are you just referringto other performance groups renting the space? It means a wide rangeof renters. In fact, without rentals, we couldn’t survive. We play hostto weddings, corporate AGMs, product launches, TIFF parties, etc. Wemake more money on a wedding than we do on a concert.And my final question. How have you adjusted to life in Toronto? It’s apretty extraordinary city to live in. When people ask me “Why Toronto?”I counter with, “Do you know what you have here?”Paula Citron is a Toronto-based arts journalist. Her areas of specialinterest are dance, theatre, opera and arts commentary.LISA SAKULENSKY70 | October 1 – November 7, 2013 thewholenote.com

TSTorontoSymphonyOrchestraPeter OundjianMusic DirectorSEASON PRESENTING SPONSOROCTOBERCONCERTSNot to be missed!JAMESEHNESJAMESGAFFIGANJames Ehnes ReturnsTHU, OCTOBER 10 AT 8:00pmSAT, OCTOBER 12 AT 8:00pmStéphane Denève, conductorJames Ehnes, violinJames MacMillan: Three Interludesfrom The Sacrifice (CANADIAN PREMIÈRE)Britten: Violin ConcertoBeethoven: Symphony No. 3 “Eroica”Brahms Symphony 2WED, OCTOBER 23 AT 6:30pmTHU, OCTOBER 24 AT 2:00pmSAT, OCTOBER 26 AT 7:30pmJames Gaffigan, conductorTom Allen, host (OCT 23 ONLY)Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestraplays alongside the TorontoSymphony Orchestra (OCT 23, 24)Janina Fialkowska, piano (OCT 24, 26)Dvořák: Carnival Overture (OCT 23, 24)Lutosławski: Piano Concerto (OCT 24, 26)Brahms: Symphony No. 2Carmina BuranaTHU, OCTOBER 31 AT 8:00pmFRI, NOVEMBER 1 AT 7:30pmSAT, NOVEMBER 2 AT 8:00pmPeter Oundjian, conductorNeil Deland, hornValentina Farcas, sopranoNicholas Phan, tenorJames Westman, baritoneToronto Mendelssohn ChoirToronto Children’s ChorusThomas Adès: Dances from Powder Her Face(CANADIAN PREMIÈRE)Britten: Serenade for Tenor, Horn, and StringsOrff: Carmina BuranaTICKETS START AT CONCERTS AT ROY THOMSON HALLTSO.CA416.593.4828OFFICIAL AIRLINE & OCT 26 SPONSORTORONTO SYMPHONY VOLUNTEER COMMITTEEOCT 23 SPONSOR

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