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Volume 19 Issue 5 - February 2014

  • Text
  • February
  • Toronto
  • Jazz
  • Musical
  • Symphony
  • Violin
  • Bloor
  • Arts
  • Theatre
  • Concerto

Beat by Beat | World

Beat by Beat | World ViewHappy (Chinese)New YearANDREW TIMARThe Chinese New Year (CNY for short) is celebrated all over theworld. Based on the lunar calendar, this year the auspiciousdate falls on January 31. Overseas Chinese communities celebrateCNY in various ways and several are represented in the GreaterToronto Area. There are however a few ritual common denominatorsamong these groups. The first thing which might catch your eye is allthe red and gold. Chinese households and businesses post as manyred and gold paper decorations up around CNY as possible and eachof these has a specific meaning. The essential notions embodied inthem include the desirability of such universals as prosperity, luckand happiness throughout the New Year. You might see also intenselycoloured depictions of the horse, 2014’s animal of the year.Another recognised symbol of CNY are the red or gold envelopes –known as lai see in Cantonese or hongbao in Mandarin – which aretypically given by married couples to single people, and especially tochildren, wishing them the universals described above. Tucked inside:nothing but crisp cash. To many, celebrating CNY is synonymouswith special food shared with friends and family. In the GTA we’respoiled with dozens of restaurants that cater to celebrants with specialmenus, often serving parties of ten or more. One authority advised mestrongly to order a fish dish, as the Chinese word for it is “a homonymfor abundance.”Now to the main course of this column: music and other relatedforms of entertainment. These too have a place in CNY festivities.The lion dance, internationally emblematic of public Chinese festiveevents with its idiosyncratic loud musical accompaniment designedto animate public space, is a must-have CNY fixture with an ancientpedigree. Stirring both in sound and in the animated movements ofthe “lion/dragon,” its performance is meant to bring good fortuneas patrons and audiences usher in the New Year. It is accompaniedby drumming, cymbals and hopefully the bracing, awakening andauspicious sounds of a shawm. Martial arts and qigong demonstrationschannelling good energy, as well as Chinese astrology auguring(hopefully) much more of the same also have a place in public eventsmarking the CNY.Downtown Chinatown may be the best venue to partake of thefun, after of course putting up some glittering decorations, giving orreceiving red envelopes, pocketing the cash and enjoying a sumptuousfeast. February 1 the Toronto Chinatown Business ImprovementAssociation presents a free public festival launching at noon at theChinatown Centre, 222 Spadina Ave. and continuing until 5pm. Theaction then begins up the street at the aptly named Dragon City Mall,280 Spadina Ave. at 1pm. The lion dance performers will be there aswill martial artists, Chinese theatrical dancers and selections from theseveral regional Chinese operatic styles. In addition the Toronto Zoowill show off their prized panda, one of China’s most celebrated andTsingory Dance Companyin their BHM appearance atCederbrae Library, 2012.internationally recognised icons.The Chinatown BIA evidently wants you to tarry at the festival,enticing visitors with a Wishing Tree, demonstrations of qigongand booths offering numerous fun CNY-themed all-ages activities.I need as much good luck this year as possible so I’ll likely visit the“dart playing to bring good luck” booth. In case you need an extraday to digest your Chinese feast the same two venues present the fullprogram at both locations from noon until 5pm the next day, Sunday,February 2.At the Library: Musically Celebrating Black History Month: As Ihave noted in my columns in previous years February marks BlackHistory Month. This year the Toronto Public Library is celebratingBHM by hosting an ambitious program of well over a dozen separatefree music-centric workshops and concerts by mostly local musiciansin branches all over the city. Most of the events are kid-friendlyand are scheduled for 45 to 60 minutes, so my advice is to arrive alittle early. For full details and locations please visit the TPL’s informativewebsite, but I’ll highlight a few here to give a flavour of theprogramming.The series kicks off Saturday, February 1 at 2pm with “Drummingwith Amma Ofori” at the York Woods branch. Ofori and her troopof young percussionists will in TPL’s words, “rock the library withtraditional African beats.” February 3 at 7pm audiences can joinin “Hands-on Drumming with African Drums for Youth” at DonMills branch’s auditorium. The Mystic Drumz youth workshop willfeature demonstrations on African instruments including djembe (thevery popular hourglass-shaped hand drum of West African origin),“talking drums” (smaller drums with adjustable pitch that can imitatevocal inflections), agogo (bells played with a stick) and other percussion.After the demonstrations, why not stay to learn to play one ofthe instruments and then perform an entire piece together? Space islimited, so best call the branch to register.February 4 at 10:30am younger children will have a chance to enjoya “Steel Pan Experience with Joy Lapps-Lewis” at the York Woodsbranch. Billed as the “Princess of Pan” – pan is a kind of tuned metalinstrument born last mid-century in Trinidad – Joy Lapps-Lewis willtake the audience “on a musical journey to explore the history andevolution of steel pan” music. Again, please call or visit the branch toregister. On February 11, 6:30pm is the time for a “Calypso Party!” atthe Annette Street branch. The TPL site’s description can’t be beat:“Jump up and join the fun in the Junction with Roger Gibbs and Shak-Shak. How low can you limbo?”February 12 at 1:30pm the Humberwood branch hosts “CaribbeanFolk Songs & Calypso.” Roger Gibbs will through music and storiestrace the “Caribbean folk roots of calypso and how the music spreadto the world.” February 15 at 2pm the award-winning kalimba (a.k.a.“thumb piano”) virtuoso, bandleader and storyteller Njacko Backoanimates the Maria A. Shchuka branch. Njacko Backo performs themusic, dances and stories of Cameroon, his West African homeland.February 25 at 2pm the Tsingory Dance Company performs thedances and music of the island nation of Madagascar at the North YorkCentral Library auditorium. Tsingory Dance leads the audience on thetour of the island, “showcasing the changes in Madagascar’s varyingcultures and traditions.” Saturday, March 1 at 2pm, also at the North24 | February 1, 2014 - March 7, 2014 thewholenote.com

York Central Library auditorium, Frederic Sibomana performs storiesand music of Rwanda and region. Titled “Contes et musique d’Afrique/Stories and Music of Africa,” Sibomana’s concert brings to a closeTPL’s Black History Month celebrations.Other picks: On February 1, the Royal Conservatory, Small WorldMusic and Batuki Music co-present “Fatoumata Diawara withBassekou Kouyate” at Koerner Hall purveying an exciting hybridmusic dubbed “Malian blues.” The headliner is the hot Malian divaFatoumata Diawara. She shares the stage with Mali’s BassekouKouyate, the jeli ngoni (a kind of plucked lute) master whose musichas been compared to Ali Farka Touré and Tinariwen’s “electricdesert blues.”Musideum continues its intimate eclectic concert series onFebruary 4 with “Lehera II: Anita Katakkar and George Koller” witha recital centred on the lehera, a concept in North Indian music inwhich a melody in a particular raga outlines the framework of thetala (time cycle here articulated by the tabla). In “Rakkatak,” her latestfusion project, Toronto tabla player Kattakar layers tabla rhythms withinstrumental melodies and electronic soundscapes. The lehera itself isplayed by the veteran Toronto bassist and multi-instrumentalist Kolleron the dilruba, a Hindustani multi-string bowed instrument of whichhe is perhaps the foremost Canadian exponent.On February 21 at the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts theSoweto Gospel Choir offers its own tribute to Black History Month.Celebrating its tenth anniversary with an international tour and anew CD, Divine Decade, the award-winning, 52-voice South AfricanSoweto Gospel Choir is renowned for its passionate gospel sound.The choir is also noted for its choral fundraising efforts in supportof HIV/AIDS orphans, a cause in which it had an ally in the lateNelson Mandela.Andrew Timar is a Toronto musician and music writer. Hecan be contacted at worldmusic@thewholenote.com.Beat by Beat | Jazz NotesWinter Of OurJazz ContentJIM GALLOWAYIn October of 2011 I wrote piece about the debut performance onFebruary 12, 1924 at Aeolian Hall in New York of George Gershwin’sRhapsody in Blue with the composer playing the piano solo. Theaudience included Jascha Heifetz, Fritz Kreisler, Leopold Stokowski,Serge Rachmaninov and Igor Stravinsky. The evening, led byconductor Paul Whiteman, was billed as “An Experiment in ModernMusic” and the focal point, Gershwin’s Rhapsody, was a huge success.Well, on February 12 of this year, Maurice Peress, a conductor whohas made a specialty of leading works in which the influences ofjazz and classical music intermingle, plans to re-create Gershwin’sRhapsody in Blue on its 90th anniversary. Peress will conduct VinceGiordano, an authority on recreating the sounds of 1920s and 30s jazzand popular music, and the Nighthawks with pianist Ted Rosenthal;the concert will be at Town Hall, only a block away from Aeolian Hallwhich is now part of the State University of New York.The Toronto Scene: On Thursday February 27, 2014 at Massey Hallat 8pm The Spring Quartet, four jazz stars covering a wide range of age– three generations – and experience come together under the leadershipof veteran drummer, Jack DeJohnette, with tenor sax virtuoso JoeLovano, bass player, vocalist and Grammy winner Esperanza Spaldingand pianist Leonardo Genovese. All are familiar faces to Toronto audienceswith the possible exception of pianist Genovese.Pianist Leo Genovese was born in Venado Tuerto, Argentina in 1979and moved to Boston in 2001 where he studied at Berklee with, amongothers, Danilo Perez and Joanne Brackeen.I am so accustomed to seeing Jack DeJohnette with Keith Jarrett – hehas been with him for some 30 years – that it will be interesting, notto mention refreshing, to hear him in such a totally different musicalspace. Will we perhaps see more of that in the future?Some other highlights of jazz in Toronto:JPEC Series at the Paintbox Bistro continues with BrubeckBraid –David Braid (piano), Matt Brubeck (cello) Saturday February 8 andLuis Mario Ochoa Quintet – Hilario Durán (piano), Roberto Riveron(bass), Amhed Mitchel (drums), Luis Orbegoso (percussion), SaturdayFebruary 15.If you head out to Old Mill and piano players are your thing,the Home Smith Bar is a happy hunting ground. Mark Eisenmanhas a couple of dates on February 1 and 28, as do John Sherwood(February 7 and 22) and Mark Kieswetter (February 8 and 21). RichardWhiteman, February 14, and Adrean Farrugia, February 15, round outthe month making it a veritable feast of fingers on the keyboard.I’ve written previously about the amount of jazz in churcheswithout tooting my own horn, so this time I wish to report that I’llbe at Deer Park United Church on February 9 at 4:30 as part of theirjazz vespers series with Mark Eisenman on piano and RosemaryGalloway, bass.thewholenote.com February 1, 2014 - March 7, 2014 | 25

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