4 years ago

Volume 24 Issue 4 - December 2018 / January 2019

  • Text
  • Toronto
  • December
  • January
  • Jazz
  • Symphony
  • Arts
  • Theatre
  • Faculty
  • Musical
  • Performing
When is a trumpet like a motorcycle in a dressage event? How many Brunhilde's does it take to change an Elektra? Just two of the many questions you've been dying to ask, to which you will find answers in a 24th annual combined December/January issue – in which our 11 beat columnists sift through what's on offer in the upcoming holiday month, and what they're already circling in their calendars for 2019. Oh, and features too: a klezmer violinist breathing new life into a very old film; two New Music festivals in January, 200 metres apart; a Music & Health story on the restorative powers of a grassroots exercise in collective music-making; even a good reason to go to Winnipeg in the dead of winter. All this and more in Vol 24 No 4, now available in flipthrough format here.


NOTT AND MELL (CITY OF TORONTO ARCHIVES) “One of the things we were joking about on the way over,” we tell Elliott, “is that it should be possible to map the history of a venerable institution like this one, by looking at the roles played in that history by the individuals the institution chooses to name its buildings and rooms after. Edward Johnson, Ernest MacMillan, Arnold Walter, Herman Geiger-Torel, Barker Fairley …” “Ah yes, we shouldn’t forget Barker Fairley! He was, of course, a professor of German and a keen amateur painter. In the Barker Fairley Room there are all these portraits, or ‘faces’ as he liked to call them, of musicians in Toronto, in the 50s and early 60s. I think they are really lovely. Yes, he’s the outlier … the only one who was not a musician.” We go back to the top of the list: “So, first, why is it the Edward Johnson Building? Obviously he was a famous tenor, director of the Met Opera during the Second World War. Came back to the Toronto area after retiring from the Met. He was on the U of T board of governors as well as on the board of directors of the Royal Conservatory. And his daughter was married to a former premier of Ontario, George Drew. So he was politically well-connected, powerful in the administration. One can draw conclusions. Certainly there are those who think that they should have named the building after Ernest MacMillan and the opera theatre after Johnson, not the other way round. Johnson obviously deserved some recognition for what he helped to set up, in terms of plans for the new building and he died in 1959 while the building didn’t open till 1962, so he didn’t live to see it. He laid the groundwork and clearly deserved some recognition, but maybe not that much.” MacMillan’s contribution, on the other hand, was fundamental. “Beyond dispute, really. Dean from 1926 all the way to 1952; we have the MacMillan Theatre, the MacMillan Singers, so that’s something,” In October 2000, the Faculty of Music celebrated the permanent installation of a collection of musical portraits by Canadian artist and distinguished German scholar Professor Barker Fairley (1887-1986), thanks to a donation from the Fairley family. The fourteen paintings date from 1957 to 1964 and belong to the U of T Art Collection. Ezra Schabas, Fairley’s son-in-law, is pictured here at the opening with Ruth Budd whose portrait hangs beside her. Elliott says. Several of MacMillan’s works are being, or have already been, featured in this centennial concert season: “In the first orchestra concert they played his Fanfare for a Centennial, and the overture to England: An Ode which was a big choral and orchestral piece written in prison camp in Berlin in 1918 and earned him a doctorate from Oxford. And we’ll have more of his music in a choral concert later in the season.” Next on the list, Arnold Walter, whose arrival in 1946 signalled a big change. “He was neither British nor Canadian, the first central European to arrive on faculty, although along with him came Herman Geiger-Torel (the next room on your list!). Geiger-Torel was an opera director, also from Central Europe. Being Jewish he fled from Nazi German occupation, to South America first, then came north in 1948, courtesy Niki Goldschmidt.” Between the three of them, Elliott explains, they were instrumental in setting up opera here between 1946 and 1948. “The direct result was our Opera Division which initially gave performances at the Hart House Theatre, officially opened the MacMillan Theatre in 1964 with a production of Benjamin Britten’s Albert Herring, and faithfully stages two productions a season, year in, year out.” As the shadows lengthen across Philosopher’s Walk outside Elliott’s office window, we examine lists of eminent alumni and prominent faculty, and look at the concerts in the season brochure specially marked with a 100th anniversary symbol. The picture that emerges, paradoxically, is of a season that looks very much like last year’s or the year before that. “Is it fair to say if you’d reached this milestone last year, we could have used last season’s listings to tell the same story?” “Exactly,” he replies. “That is exactly what the Dean had in mind. It’s a year that says here are the things we’re doing, but as a portrait of what we always do. Not a ‘drop everything to celebrate’ thing – more like ‘It’s a hundred years, that’s nice but we have students to teach.” Business as usual: students to teach (900 of them, now, by 240 fulltime and part-time staff); two opera productions a year to stage; music created by U of T-affiliated composers to nurture and perform (“All the way from Healey Willan to our current students”); concerts to present, by faculty performers and students, ranging from 18 and 19 years old in large ensembles to Phil Nimmons, 95 years old and still teaching; a tradition of chamber ensembles in residence to maintain, going back to the Orford String Quartet, here from 1968 to 1991; a pioneering electronic music studio, launched in 1959, to relaunch, completely refurbished, in time for its own 60th anniversary this coming spring; groundbreaking work in musicology and ethnomusicology, and now music and health, to build on. “And for you particularly?” we ask Elliott. “As Director Ernest MacMillan at the piano with (left to right) Godfrey Ridout, Leo Smith, John Weinzweig and Healey Willan surrounding him, circa 1948. of the Institute for Music in Canada, our work as a custodian of things Canadian,” he replies. “Our rare book room, papers of important musical figures – Kasemets, Beckwith, Nimmons 10 | December 2018 - January 2019

UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO Members of the cast of the 1964 production of Britten’s Albert Herring, performed March 4 and 6 as part of the opening ceremonies of the Edward Johnson Building. … For a long time, this was the main university for musical education in Canada, our graduates from the forties, fifties and sixties spread out across the map from Memorial University to Victoria. It’s an evolving legacy.” The hand-written sign on the door of the Barker Fairley Room, just a few steps away from the MacMillan Theatre, says that the room will be the location for the pre-concert chat for that evening’s Opera Division performance of Street Scene, Kurt Weill’s self-described “American Opera.” We wait outside for conductor Uri Mayer to finish a class with five or six of his students. Except for the 14 paintings clustered on its north and east walls, it could be just another classroom (it even served as a faculty lunch room in the 80s). But the faces in those 14 paintings leap out from the walls, most of the people they portray rendered in the act of making music. It would have been a fine point of departure for this story; but it works just as well as a point of departure from it. All the paintings in the collection were done between 1957 and 1964, the years when plans were firming up for the Faculty to vacate its premises at University and College, the site today of the Ontario Power Building. At the very moment Fairley was laying down pencil lines that still show through these oil-on-masonite works, some draftsman was laying down the lines in the blueprint that would become this room. Many of the people portrayed are still with us. Some of their names are well-known. Some, like flutist Robert Aitken, will even appear in concerts in this very building before the next issue of this magazine comes out. Next to Aitken on the wall, clarinetist Ezra Schabas has walked many miles, in many roles, up and down the meandering path between the Faculty and the Royal Conservatory, since this painting was done. And fittingly it was Ezra Schabas and his wife Ann who in 1990 made the donation that ensured the existence of the Barker Fairley Room as a repository for her father’s paintings, which for close to 30 years prior to that had been scattered here and there throughout the Edward Johnson Building. This particular 100-year history delights in the details. David Perlman can be reached at Toronto’s Christmas Tradition featuring St. Michael’s Choir School continues at Roy Thomson Hall Repertoire to include Benjamin Britten’s ‘A Ceremony of Carols’ and an array of seasonal favourites Special Guests True North Brass, Lori Gemmell, harp Conductors Vincent Cheng ( SMCS 1999 ), Maria Conkey, Teri Dunn, S. Bryan Priddy / Accompanists William O’Meara, Joshua Tamayo ( SMCS 2003 ) DEC 9 AT 3PM DEC 10 AT 7PM Tickets to ROY THOMSON HALL 416-872-4255 December 2018 - January 2019 | 11

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