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Volume 19 Issue 5 - February 2014

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  • February
  • Toronto
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Beaches Children’s

Beaches Children’s Chorus, located in the east end not too far from us,was adding a choir for four and five year-olds. I registered my granddaughterin it, and began taking her to, and observing, the weeklyrehearsals back in September 2011. I really liked the way musicaldirector, Bronwen Low, worked with the children, introducing themto singing by making sounds to go with amusing stories: “…he wentu-u-u-u-u-u-u-u-p (voices starting low and sliding high) the hilland d-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-w-n (voices starting high and sliding low) thehill.” The children were totally engaged from day one and after a fewmonths were singing together, confident, in tune and happy. Now inher third year, my granddaughter has moved up to the next level, andloves it more than ever.One of the things Bronwen has been focussing on in her groupis the development of relative pitch, the ability to hear the distancebetween pitches reliably enough to sing a notated line of music.Bronwen is using the Kodály (or Curwen) hand signs, which take theplace of written notes, and make “sight singing” a shared, communalexperience. This is the development of the same “psychic muscle”I remember developing in me as a child, that has stood me in goodstead throughout my own life. There are other things the childrenare learning as well: working together co-operatively, listening toand following instructions, and the discipline to focus and work ondemand. It seems to me that there is a level of maturity that is fasttrackedby participating in this type of program.Sharon Burlacoff, the director of the Kingsway Conservatory ofMusic where I do some of my own teaching is an early childhoodmusic specialist. We talked about the benefits of participation in earlychildhood music programs. “I read somewhere,” she told me, “thatthere is more brain development between 12 and 24 months than atany other time of life.” Exposure to music in infancy and early childhoodhas a tremendous influence on how the brain processes information.One baby, who got started in her program at the age of fivemonths, now, at the age of ten months connects words and actions.Even though babies generally begin to talk after the age of one, thefoundation for speech is being laid in the first year of life, and musicdefinitely helps with that. Another benefit is the social developmentand sense of self that accrues to participants in this sort ofprogram. Children develop self-esteem and confidence in expressingthemselves.Earlier I mentioned the Suzuki (violin) method. As it happens, mid-January I went to a concert given by pianist and U of T professor,John Kruspe, and his two extraordinarily accomplished violinist children,Jamie and Emily. Both, John told me, began violin around theage of two, taught by his wife, Cathie Goldberg, using the Suzukimethod. She supervised their practising every day, seven days a week,the only breaks being out–of-town vacations. “She did a fantastic job,so much so that when they came to study with, for example, ErikaRaum and Jacques Israelievitch (Emily and Jamie respectively), neitherteacher had much if any technical changes to make, and in fact Erikacommented on how well they both were set up.” In addition bothstudied piano and clarinet, and, according to Kruspe, are both blessedwith wonderful ears and (thanks in part to the Suzuki emphasis onlistening, I think), a highly developed skill in memorization; and bothsight read so well that it’s as if they have been working at it for weeks!Admittedly, the situation of being taught every day by a motherwho is a professional musician and teacher, is unusual, but Emilyand Jamie’s story is indicative of what the Suzuki method hasmade possible.There are many teachers and programs around; many if not allshould be much more easily findable in the coming months in theeducational search engine we are devoting our energies to developingon The WholeNote website. Each child is different, and no programwill ever be right for all, but I firmly believe there is a “right teacher”out there for everyone. Your child or grandchild may even thank youright now for the helping hand. Better still, the gift of music, oncehanded down, is never gone.VISITORS | continued from page 10Philip Glass with conductor Michael Riesmanfeedback – it finally came clear. He says, ‘Oh, I get it, Godfrey. Youwant me to write music for the attention of the audience, not inany way to illustrate this image.’ Now, he knows that already, but‘for the attention of the audience’ was a breakthrough, so I got whatI wanted.”Glass continued: “There were a whole bunch of early pieces whichnever ended up in the movie. We were looking at some other music,and Godfrey and Jon were very kind. They never said, ‘This is terrible.’Most film people would have said, “This is terrible,’ but they never didthat. They said. ‘Well, let’s try something else.’ They’re very gentle.And, well actually, by the second week I had changed gears completelyand I hit the tone of the film about ten days into the writing. I got itright away in the second week and I stayed with it to the end, and thatwas fortunate, because at a certain point, the production of the film isworking hand-in-hand with the music.”Reggio then brought the uniqueness of their collaboration home:“Philip’s looking for the criticism, I think, because in most of the films– I don’t want to speak for him, but – he’s done a lot of Hollywoodfilms. He might get a disc of the film and speak to the director, maybe,and then everything goes to the sound or the image editor, and that’sthe end of it. He writes cues but he’s not implicated in the processlike this and, of course, there’s a difference. In this [Visitors] he’sco-equal with the image, he’s half the film, and it’s the fusion of thosemediums that create the film. If one’s off, then the whole thing’s gone.So it’s much more demanding. That Philip took basically five monthsduring his 75th year where he was literally all over the planet to dothis is something I’m highly aware of and super thankful for.”Visitors (with Dennis Russell Davies and the Bruckner OrchestraLinz supplying the soundtrack) began its run in Toronto at TIFFBell Lightbox on January 31, as well as in Montreal and QuebecCity. It opens in London February 7, Ottawa on February 14 andin Edmonton, Saskatoon, Vancouver, Winnipeg and Regina later inFebruary and March.Paul Ennis is the managing editor of The WholeNote.Allan Pulker is co-founder of The WholeNote and plays and teachesflute and recorder. You can contact him at allan@thewholenote.com50 | February 1, 2014 - March 7, 2014 thewholenote.com

Since coming across bass-baritone JoséVan Dam’s recording of Les nuits d’étéby Hector Berlioz while working atCJRT-FM some years ago, this has been oneof my favourite song cycles. The setting of sixsongs on texts of Théophile Gautier, originallywritten for tenor or mezzo-soprano withpiano accompaniment, was one that Berliozreturned to time and again over more than adozen years, eventually providing versions forbaritone, contralto and soprano and in 1856completing an orchestral accompaniment.It is in this arrangement that we most oftenhear it and that is the case with a recentCentaur recording (CRC 3239) featuringsoprano Shannon Mercer and Toronto’sgroup of twenty-seven (groupof27.com)led by Eric Paetkau. Gautier’s poems areselected from La Comédie de la mort anddeal with death, love and longing. The wellcraftedsongs work wonderfully in everyvocal range and Mercer is in superb voice,catching every nuance in this live recordingfrom Grace Church on-the-Hill from April 1,2011. Berlioz’ cycle is complemented by aset of five songs by Polish composer NorbertPalej who has been assistant professor ofcomposition at the University of Toronto sincecompleting his doctorate at Cornell in 2008.He is the director of the University’s gamUTcontemporary music ensemble and of theannual New Music Festival that takes placeat the Faculty of Music January 25 throughFebruary 2 this year. Palej uses his ownEnglish translations of poems by KrzysztofKamil Baczyński, a leading member ofPoland’s so-called Generation of Columbuseswho was shot and killed at the age of 23 whilefighting the Nazis in the Warsaw Uprisingof 1944. The poetic fragments – From here…,Sparrows, Dark Lullaby, Hangmen’s Balladand White Magic – are powerfully movingand effectively set, perhaps most so thefinal lyric which portrays the poet’s wife(who, pregnant with his child, was killedin an explosion a few days after Baczyński’sdeath). Once again, Mercer is in fine form.The disc concludes with Palej’s work forstring orchestra, Rorate Coeli, inspired bya poem of the same name by Baczyński.After a tempestuous opening the tensionrelaxes into luscious and haunting melodictextures that eventually die away, reflectingthe poem’s final lines “At night – may it growlike a column of grass, At night – let it benight eternal.”The group of twenty-seven, foundedseveral years ago by Eric Paetkau who previouslyserved as resident conductor withLes Violons du Roy in Québec, is a Torontobasedchamber ensemble which draws onsome of this city’s finest musicians, includingDISCOVERIES | RECORDINGS REVIEWEDDAVID OLDSmembers of the TorontoSymphony and CanadianOpera Company orchestras,and soloists from across thecountry. g27’s latest release –Canadian Concerto ProjectVolume One (MSR ClassicsMS 1480 msrcd.com) –features bassoonist NadinaMackie Jackson and trumpeterGuy Few in solo rolesperforming new works byMathieu Lussier, MichaelOcchipinti and Glenn Buhr.Lussier, himself an accomplishedbassoonist, contributestwo concertante worksfor that instrument whichMackie Jackson performswith flare and grace, as wellas Impressions de l’Alamedafor trumpet and strings. It isthis three-movement Spanishflavouredwork which opensthe disc, setting the stage forthe lush and lyrical musicwhich pervades the CD. GuyFew is impeccable here andin Occhipinti’s two contributionsand Buhr’s and manwill only grieve if he believesthe sun stands still for corno,bassoon and strings. Buhr’spiece has enjoyed a number ofsettings, originally written asan aria for the opera Anna’sDream Play and now existing ina variety of vocal and instrumental settings.The current version comprises the secondmovement of a concerto written at MackieJackson’s request and I only wonder whywe are not treated to the other movementson this disc. Although Occhipinti’s ThirteenSeconds is billed as being for trumpet,bassoon, guitar and string orchestra it is thewind instruments which dominate while theguitar simply adds texture to the strings. Likemost of the works on this disc the music isflowing and melodic and the same is true ofhis Sicilian Proverbs, which with its liltinggeographically inspired rhythms brings thedisc full circle. I look forward to Volume Two.Concert notes: On February 7 groupof twenty-seven presents “I’m Austrian-Canadian” with works by Aaron Gervais,Maya Badian, Jocelyn Morlock, Haydn andMozart featuring soloists Gregory Oh, piano,Ed Reifel, timpani and Mike Fedyshyn,trumpet at Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre. OnFebruary 16 Nadina Mackie Jackson and GuyFew will premiere Fort Coligny-L’épopé de laFrance Antartique, Mathieu Lussier’s doubleconcerto for bassoon, trumpet and orchestrawith Orchestra Toronto in a matinée performanceat the Toronto Centre for the Arts. OnFebruary 17 another side of group of twentysevenis revealed when the g2-7 recitalseries presents Bethany Bergman, violin,Amy Laing, cello, and Monique de Margerie,piano, in music by Ravel and Beethoven atHeliconian Hall.Speaking of lush recordings,there is a new disc fromNewfoundland that I am quiteenjoying. Rob Power’s Touch:Music for Percussion (robpower.ca) includes seven tracks of mostlywarm and resonant music featuringmallet instruments. Power isjoined by a number of accomplishedmusicians, several of whomhave been active on the Torontoscene including John D.S. Adams(who contributes electronic treatmentsand co-produced the discwith Power) and Bill Brennan(who returned to his nativeNewfoundland a few years ago afterbeing a member of the EvergreenClub Contemporary Gamelan fornearly 20 years). All of the trackswere composed by Power since2000 with the exception of Shardswhich is a collaborative compositionwith Adams, Brennan, KevinCoady and Erin Donovan featuringglass triangles, shakers, a djembeand electronic pitch modulation.This pointillistic piece is an exceptionto the overall lushness of thedisc, although there are percussivebursts and moments of stillnessinterspersed throughout,especially in the final solo trackwhich features Power on congas,bongos, gongs, temple bowls,triangles and the like in a piecewritten for New Brunswick percussionistD’Arcy Gray (who was recently in Torontoperforming with Motion Ensemble at theMusic Gallery). While the overall sensibilityof the music presented here might be classifiedMinimalist with its use of ostinato and“friendly” harmonic writing, there is actuallya wide spectrum of musical thought on offer,including extensive exploration of unpitchedsounds as well. A number of the worksreceived their premiere performances at thebiennial Sound Symposium in St. John’s andtwo are dedicated to the memory of iconicfigures associated with that festival, JohnWyre and Don Wherry. The disc was recordedat the Memorial University School of Music,where Power is associate professor of percussionand directs the Scruncheons PercussionEnsemble.I was pleased and intrigued to receiveThe Edge of Light (harmonia mundi HMU907578) featuring pianist Gloria Cheng andthe Calder Quartet. The disc juxtaposes theearly piano Préludes of Olivier Messiaen(1929) and his final work, Pièce pour pianoet quatuor à cordes (1991) with two worksthewholenote.com February 1, 2014 - March 7, 2014 | 51

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