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Volume 19 Issue 9 - June/July/August 2014

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Beat by Beat | Choral

Beat by Beat | Choral SceneOpen Ears,Open MindsBENJAMIN STEINOver the course of the 2013/14 concert season I wrote severalcolumns about the challenge that choirs face when programming newmusic: how to get audiences to risk the price of a ticket on repertoirethat is not tried and true, safe and familiar.One final observation to sum up this theme, before the summerbreak: most new music for choral ensembles that is not strictlypopular falls into the category of “extended tonality.” What exactly isextended tonality?Twentieth-century music can be viewed as a kind of pitched battlebetween composers whose work dispensed with the idea that musicought to have a key centre that could help orient the listener andcomposers who kept elementsof traditional harmony andmelody even when they wereventuring into more experimentalterritory. The so-called“Second Viennese School” –Schoenberg, Berg, Webern –who began writing what isconfusedly known as atonalmusic and later composersthat built on their work, suchas Babbitt, Boulez and Stockhausen, are examples of the former,Stravinsky, Britten and Shostakovich, of the latter.There were many other categories, sub-genres and trends, but verybroadly, these were the two opposing camps of musical endeavourthat emerged out of the European classical tradition.Extended tonality won.It won in the sense that younger composers generally did not pickup on the atonal experiment in music, and this musical strain nowappears to be going the way of cool jazz and the songs of the Germanmeistersingers – intellectually-driven styles that ran aground andseem to have little current appeal to revivalists. Late 20th-centurycomposers did not want to leave behind rock, jazz and world music,influences that operate almost entirely in a tonal framework. Theirinsistence on integrating these influences in their music placed themfirmly in the tradition of earlier composers who had integratedvarious types of popular music into their sophisticated compositions.What does this mean for listeners? Looking at this year’s newcomposition programming in retrospect, I can state that none of itwas music that ought to have sent anyone but the most timid listenersscreaming for the exit. So, are you willing to take a chance on somethingnew, knowing that it is not likely to be that weird?Speaking as someone who will order fish and chips for lunch,dinner or breakfast if possible, I hesitate to be overly judgementalabout anyone’s musical menu choices. But it’s time to recognize thatwe’re living in an era in which composers are reaching out to listenerswith alacrity as well as skill and insight. We’re well past the point atwhich we should be thinking of new music with hostility. So I hopeyou’ll give some of it a chance this summer, and in the new season aswell. Below is a selection of concerts taking place from June to August.The Ontario Youth Choir was founded in 1971 by the choral organizationChoirs Ontario. The OYC quickly became a vital instrument forgenerating enthusiasm for choral music among young singers, and forproviding an important bridge between children’s choirs and adultensembles. Each summer 40 talented young singers are auditionedand selected to take part in two weeks of rehearsals, masterclasses andvoice lessons, culminating in a short three-city cross-Ontario tourand several concerts. The ensemble is conducted by a different Ontariodirector each summer. This year Guelph University’s Dr. MartaMcCarthy leads the OYC in concerts in Toronto and Midland.The Open Ears Festival is a great event to attend for those interestedin new music – it’s one of my favourite new music festivals around,in part because it always conveys a sense of fun and irreverence in itsprogramming. The Da Capo Chamber Choir will be taking part in thefestival with concerts on June 7 and 8. For more information about thefestival in general, see June 8 and 14 the Kokoro Singers will be performing in Guelphand Dundas, respectively. Their concert “Celebration of CanadianComposers” features several composers – Mark Sirett, DonaldPatriquin and Stephen Chatman among them – who are the mostlistener-friendly in the country. If you’re looking to ease your way intonew music, this is a very good place to start.On June 11 the Hamilton Children’s Choir performs “Together asOne”; the concert is in support of the choir’s tour to Korea.On June 20 the Adelphi Vocal Ensemble performs “Music forSt. John’s Eve,” a concert of English choral music that includesVaughan Williams’ Mass in G Minor, as well as selections by Tallisand early-20th century composers Harwood and Naylor. The VaughanWilliams mass is an appealing and historically important work that isalways worth hearing live.The Choir of Trinity College CambridgeSpeaking of historically significant, this summer Ontarians havetwo chances to hear the Choir of Trinity College Cambridge. Thisensemble dates as far back as the 14th century and has past associationswith important composers and conductors. The choir will beperforming at the Elora Festival on July 13 and at the Westben ArtsFestival on July 19.On June 7 and 8 the University of Waterloo’s Conrad GrebelUniversity College choirs will perform “Sound in the Land: Music andthe Environment: Kalahari Journey,” a choral initiative that is part ofa larger environmental project to understand the nature of the earththrough the medium of sound. The event involves workshops, lecturesand events as well as concerts. More information can be found, check out the Festival of the Sound in Parry Sound forperformances of Rachmaninoff’s Vespers by the Elora FestivalSingers on July 29 and of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony by the ElmerIsler Singers on August 10. The Elora Festival Singers will also beperforming several exciting-sounding concerts at their own festival,notably David Fanshawe’s celebrated African Sanctus on July 12.Benjamin Stein is a Toronto tenor and lutenist. He can becontacted at Visit his website MAHONSales Representative416-322-8000pmahon@trebnet.comwww.petermahon.comBENJAMIN EALOVEGA30 | June 4, 2014 – Sept 7, 2014

Beat by Beat | On OperaSummer HarvestCHRISTOPHER HOILEWe think of opera season ending with the end of May, but this is byno means the case this year. Three important opera productions takeplace in June and operatic events occur throughout Ontario in Julyand August.First up June 3 to 8 is the worldpremiere of Airline Icarus byBrian Current to a libretto byAnton Piatigorsky. Icarus is oneof the figures in Greek mythologywhose story is an exampleof humanity’s overweeningpride. His father Daedalus fashionedwaxen wings for himselfand his son to escape the labyrinthDaedalus designed. WhileDaedalus took the moderatepath halfway between the sunand the sea, Icarus attempted tofly as high as he could; the sunmelted his wings and he plungedinto the sea.In referencing the story, Piatigorsky means to “impart a mythicdimension to the mundane experience of contemporary air travel.”The action is set on board a plane bound for Cleveland and exploresthe inner thoughts of the passengers and crew on their journey. Thecast includes Dawn Bailey, Vania Chan, Sean Clark, Alexander Dobson,Larissa Koniuk, David Roth, Zorana Sadiq, Geoffrey Sirett, KrisztinaSzabó, Jennifer Taverner and Graham Thomson. The composerconducts and Tim Albery, best known for his staging of the COC’sGötterdämmerung, directs. The opera runs from June 3 to 8 at DanielsSpectrum. See for more information.From June 12 to 15 is the Toronto premiere of another new opera,Shelter by Juliet Palmer to a libretto by Julie Salverson. A coproductionbetween Tapestry Opera and Edmonton Opera, Shelter hadbeen scheduled to open last year in Toronto after its world premierein Edmonton in November 2012. Of the opera, a depiction of anuclear family in the Atomic Age, Salverson says, “I’ve always beenattracted to catastrophic events. Joseph Campbell says to ‘follow yourbliss,’ and while most people go after love or fulfillment, I’m drawnto tragedy and the fault lines in the psyche of a culture – the secretsthat fester in families, leak quietly into communities and eventually,sometimes, explode. Such is the story of Shelter.” Toronto audienceswill remember New Zealand-born Palmer as the composerof the a cappella sewing-machine opera Stitch in 2008 and thewomen’s boxing opera Voice-Box in 2010. Palmer’s music for Shelteris described as combining the influences of Brahms, big band,funk and the post-apocalyptic sounds of 1990s Japanese punk. Thecast includes Christine Duncan, Teiya Kasahara, Andrea Ludwig,Keith Klassen and Peter McGillivray. Leslie Dala conducts and KeithTurnbull directs.June gives us not only new operas but older operas presented innew ways. That is what the inventive company Against the GrainTheatre intends with its production of Debussy’s 1902 masterpiecePelléas et Mélisande. Continuing its mission of performing operain unconventional places – La Bohème in a pub, The Marriage ofFigaro at the AGO – AtG plans to stage Pelléas outdoors in the MaxTanenbaum Courtyard Gardens of the Joey and Toby TanenbaumOpera Centre at 227 Front St. E. on June 19, 21, 23 and 25.Sung in French with English surtitles, Pelléas et Mélisande featuresan outstanding Canadian cast comprising baritone Étienne Dupuismaking his role debut as Pelléas, soprano Miriam Khalil as Mélisande,baritone Gregory Dahl as Golaud, bass Alain Coulombe as Arkel,Miriam Khalil and Étienne Dupuismezzo-soprano Megan Latham as Geneviève and soprano AndreaNúñez as Yniold. Guest music director Julien LeBlanc provides pianoaccompaniment, and the same creative team that created AtG’s muchlauded 2012 production of The Turn of the Screw is reunited withdirection by Joel Ivany, set design by Camellia Koo and lighting designby Jason Hand.On June 15, the Open Ears Festival in Kitchener is presenting anopera marathon. First on the bill is the one-person opera Love Songsby Ana Sokolović sung by Kristin Hoff. Next is a series of contemporaryopera excerpts from the Bicycle Opera Project (see below).And last is a triple bill of new Canadian operas presented by EssentialOpera. Premiered just in April thisyear, the three are Etiquette byMonica Pearce, Regina by ElishaDenburg and Heather by ChrisThornborrow. Also at Open Ears onJune 11 and 12 is the multimediachamber opera Mirror for sopranoand visual artist from Inter ArtsMatrix and on June 12 L’Homme et leciel from Fawn Opera.July: Those with a taste for oldoperas done in period style shouldhead over to the Westben ArtsFestival in Campbellford, a townabout midway between Torontoand Ottawa on the Trent-SevernWaterway. There from July 4 to 6,Toronto Masque Theatre will performHenry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas with the Toronto Masque TheatreChamber Orchestra and Chorus and members of the Westben FestivalChorus under the direction of Larry Beckwith.Late July and early August: Summer Opera Lyric Theatre has beena favourite refuge for operagoers in Toronto. This year all of SOLT’sperformances fall in August. First to open is The Magic Flute playingon August 1, 3, 6 and 9 with Nicole Bellamy as pianist and musicdirector. Next is Madame Butterfly playing on August 2, 5, 7 and June 4, 2014 – Sept 7, 2014 | 31

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