7 years ago

Volume 21 Issue 8 - May 2016

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  • Toronto
  • Jazz
  • Festival
  • Arts
  • Symphony
  • Quartet
  • Choir
  • Theatre
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  • Bach
INSIDE: The Canaries Are Here! 116 choirs to choose from, so take the plunge! The Nylons hit the road after one last SING! Fling. Jazz writer Steve Wallace wonders "Watts Goode" rather than "what's new?" Paul Ennis has the musical picks of the HotDocs crop. David Jaeger's CBC Radio continues golden for a little while yet. Douglas McNabney is Music's Child. Leipzig meets Damascus in Alison Mackay's fertile imagination. And "C" is for KRONOS in Wende Bartley's koverage of the third annual 21C Festival. All this and as usual much much more. Enjoy.

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school vibe is unmistakable in this one-of-a-kind cultural sideshow that marries flag twirling, and the tossing and catching of facsimiles of rifles, with music that romanticizes American adolescence. The experience creates real bonds among the participants, a crosssection of societal groups. The musical highlight was former Philip Glass assistant Nico Muhly’s sophisticated, What Are You Thinking?, which took its post-rock stance seriously, balancing a grounded chamber music centre against a hypnotic percussion groove. A perfect component for what is essentially a high concept reality show. The Wonderful Kingdom of Papa Alaev: According to Hot Docs programmer Myrocia Watamaniuk, Allo “Papa” Alaev, nearly 80, rules his celebrated folk music clan with an iron tambourine. Beginning with his unilateral decision to emigrate to Israel from Tajikistan, the gifted musician micro-manages nearly every aspect of his family’s lives, both on stage and off. Every child and grandchild lives in their single-family house in Tel Aviv, except his only daughter who chose her own way in life, a sin her father will not forgive. Set to a blazing tribal soundtrack, drama and drumbeats sing out from every entertaining exchange in this grand family affair. Hip-Hop Evolution: The Banger Films team behind Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey and Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage traces the evolution of hip-hop using Canadian rapper/q host Shad as a guide and placing the genre’s huge cultural influence in historical context. Director Darby Wheeler told The Fader that Hip-Hop Evolution won’t be a rehash of the genre’s most well-documented moments. “The process [of making the film] revealed some stories that have never received major attention, and we’re hoping that even the most knowledgeable hip-hop heads will be entertained, informed and surprised by what Hip-Hop Evolution has to offer.” Gary Numan: Android in La La Land shows the electro pop, 80s rocker as family man, dealing with Asperger’s and wondering how he will ever make meaningful music again. With the support of his wife and three daughters, his painstaking studio work on a new album gives him the confidence to go public once again. As Variety pointed out, despite the film’s occasional feel as a glorified promo for the new recording, Numan himself is “winningly candid and guilelessly charming.” Raving Iran follows two young Iranian men at the centre of Iran’s techno scene as they dodge the authorities and prepare for one giant rave in the desert. As an Italian critic wrote: “The beats of electronic music become synonymous with freedom and healthy rebellion. [Director] Susanne Regina Meures conveys this world suspended between illusion and reality through hypnotic images of bodies letting themselves go to music completely, like in a liberating exorcism.” Spirit Unforgettable: John Mann, frontman for Canadian Celtic rock band Spirit of the West, faces the reality of early onset Alzheimer’s at 52. With the support of his wife, he and his lifelong bandmates give their fans one goodbye performance at Massey Hall. De Palma, the indispensable documentary about Brian De Palma, directed by Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow, is a candid look at one of Hollywood’s longest directorial careers from the mouth of the man himself. In compulsively watchable detail, De Palma – who considers himself “the one practitioner who took up Hitchcock’s form” – talks about each of his 29 features, dropping one factual nugget after another, from camerawork and direct influences to gossip about famous actors not learning lines, while Baumbach and Paltrow seamlessly intercut scenes from 45 years of filmmaking. De Palma has worked with the cream of film composers, from Bernard Herrmann (“who sees the movie and goes off and writes the score”), John Williams, Danny Elfman, Mark Isham and Ryuichi Sakamoto to Paul Williams (who was able to write parodies of all sorts of pop music forms in Phantom of the Paradise) and eight with Pino Donaggio (Carrie, Dressed to Kill, etc.) and offers several insights into Ennio Morricone’s work on The Untouchables. It all began when De Palma saw Vertigo at Radio City Music Hall as a teenager in 1958. Paul Ennis is the managing editor of The WholeNote. CONVERSATIONS AT THE WHOLENOTE Alison Mackay’s Coffee House Creation DAVID PERLMAN We are approaching the half-hour point in my taped conversation with Alison Mackay, Tafelmusik’s longtime violone/ contrabass player and concert curator extraordinaire, and are finally getting round to the ostensible reason for having this conversation at this time – Tafelmusik’s upcoming presentation titled “Tales of Two Cities: The Leipzig-Damascus Coffee House.” As always with Mackay’s projects, it’s an immensely engaging premise – taking two cities, thousands of miles and worlds apart – and viewing them through the musical lens of the same moment of historical and cultural time. “Let me tell you a fun thing before we get into it,” I say. “On May 21st, which is the middle of your run at Koerner Hall, Zimmermann’s Coffee House in Leipzig will be featured on stage in your show, and the same evening in the Peter Hall of the Moravian College in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, “Zimmerman’s Coffee House” will be the title of the last evening concert of their 109th festival. And if you trace that college back to its schoolhouse origins, it goes back to 1745, which is only 20 years after Bach arrived in Leipzig!” “Oh that’s wonderful,” she says, delightedly. “We should get in touch with them and see what we could do together.” It’s a typical response from Mackay, whose relish for the juxtapositions, coincidences and synchronicities that offer opportunities to see old things anew, has become her curatorial trademark. Memory Lane: We have just finished a rambled down memory lane, starting with the first of her Tafelmusik projects I can remember, “The Four Seasons: Cycle of the Sun,” back in 2004. That project took 1725, the year Vivaldi’s Le quattro stagioni was published, and made that year the departure point for an investigation of other musics being made in the world in the same year – an exploration that encompassed Chinese pipa, Indian veena and Inuit throat singing. One can see the same bird’s eye imagination at work in her “Galileo Project.” “It was in 2009, she says, “part of the International Year of Astronomy, because 1609 was the year Galileo first turned his telescope on the night sky. There were to be international celebrations of that event and we were actually approached by the Canadian committee that was planning events surrounding the year, to curate an event that would link astronomy and art.” “Cutting across strata of geography and time is something you are good at,” I say. “For me the seed of these projects is always in the music,” she says. “These events and performances are always concerts and there’s always a concert’s worth of music in them. And it’s very much about celebrating having a chance to perform the very best music in our repertoire. I hate having to include anything that’s only there because it matches the subject. I love to include profound, wonderful music – the best of our repertoire but giving the chance, just once in a while, to see it in a wider historical and cultural context. It shines a new light on the music. So it’s not that I think that audiences now have shorter attention spans or anything like that, or that they need visuals or bells and whistles. I still very much believe in purely musical concerts.” These amplified concert forms are just as much for the musicians benefit as for the audience’s, she points out, using Vivaldi as an example. “Something like The Four Seasons is something our 16 | May 1, 2016 - June 7, 2016

audience likes to hear pretty regularly. It’s a pretty beloved piece. It’s become a little bit cliched, because we hear it so much in elevators and things like that, but our audience loves to hear it, we love to play it, it’s a showpiece for our violins…but it’s very wonderful to bring some new dimension to it, a new kind of excitement for us. “To give another example, a lot of the repertoire we play contains overtures and dance suites from operas, Lully for instance. And many opera composers in the 17th and 18th centuries were inspired by Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Brief stories, a lot of them with a central moment of incredible dramatic power and transformation…when you put that same music in the context of the story that informs each of its movements (Marin Marais’ Alcione, for example) it makes it incredibly profound for the performers and the audience, so not only does it add a cultural dimension to the music but it also adds a new layer of emotional context.” It’s an emotional “informing” of the piece that remains for the musicians after that, even when the piece is performed without the story added. “Somehow I think the emotion of the way we perform with each other, especially when we are playing from memory the way we do in these projects, communicates a new excitement and emotion to the audience. Of all the things that have influenced performing life at Tafelmusik, this – the grounding and heightening and enriching of context – has meant so much.” Perhaps her most ambitious project to date in terms of multidisciplinary scope and scale was “House of Dreams.” It was a journey to five houses in five European cities, all of them still standing, which for one reason or another, at some time in their history housed very important private collections of paintings. “In London, Venice, Delft, Leipzig and Paris,” she explains. “And in the rooms where the paintings were hanging, there were known to be performances of music, often by the most important composers in those cities.” The buildings, in their present incarnations encompass a range of uses. “Two are small museums, one is a rather down-at-heel palazzo on the Grand Canal in Venice, one is a pancake restaurant in Delft, on the main square which has changed very little since the 17th century.” The Delft house, she explains, Alison Mackay was owned by a very poor bookbinder, married to a young woman who died tragically, soon after. When his death followed, a few years later, he was found to have had, “hanging in his little tiny house, 23 of the 36 known Vermeers.” Today, she informs me, the pancake restaurant prides itself more on the fact that Bill Clinton ate there, and has a letter from him to that effect on the wall. “We had to ask to remove it from the wall when we went to do our photography session there.” The way the project worked was that over the course of about a year Tafelmusik formed relationships with the present owners for the purpose of photographing all the walls where the paintings had been. They then acquired high resolution images of all the paintings and were able to put the paintings back on the walls, and then put the music, live, back into the rooms with the paintings on the walls. “A bit like a guest in the house experiencing a Rembrandt on the wall and listening to Handel conduct his music at the same time.” “House of Dreams” was also a memorized project; “Tale of Two Cities” will be their fourth. For Mackay, the fact, and feat of incorporating memorization into these projects has radically transformed, for the better the ensemble’s musicianship. She is aware of the toll it takes, but conscious of its immense rewards, for audience and performers alike. “It’s a huge, huge undertaking for the orchestra and I cannot tell you how incredibly grateful I am at the number of hours of unpaid work that go into that…It’s been socially transforming…The music is so complex. I think that when you memorize something it frees you up physically. You present a more complete physicality. And the more that you do these projects – I think we have done the “Galileo Project” around the world around 75 times and “House of Dreams” in nearing 40, so they continue to grow and develop musically. We had these very nervous discussions at the start, none of us knew how it was going to work. Normally you’d say ‘okay, we are all going to start at bar 76.’ That was never an issue; someone would just start playing and everyone knew where to come in. You practise in a different way. It lifts the technical and it also lifts the ensemble.” SIAN RICHARDS PHOTOGRAPHY Music Director: Jordan de Souza Director: Michael Hidetoshi Mori Set Designer: Camellia Koo Costume Designer: Ming Wong Lighting Designer: Michelle Ramsay Starring: Carla Huhtanen Keith Klassen Peter McGillivray Asitha Tennekoon 2015-2016 FEATURE WORLD PREMIERE ROCKING HORSE WINNER LIBRETTO BY ANNA CHATTERTON | MUSIC BY GARETH WILLIAMS Based on the short story by D.H. Lawrence A Tapestry Opera Production Co-Commissioned by Scottish Opera and Tapestry Opera May 27 - June 4, 2016 Berkeley Street Theatre-Downstairs, 26 Berkeley St. Tickets: - 2 (includes HST + all service charges) A modern adaptation of D.H. Lawrence’s short story, Rocking Horse Winner is an intimate, psychologically chilling look at love, luck, and greed. Canadian Stage Box office: 416-368-3110 May 1, 2016 - June 7, 2016 | 17

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