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Volume 24 Issue 6 - March 2019

  • Text
  • Composer
  • Song
  • Reviews
  • Piano
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  • News
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  • Live
  • World
  • Choral
  • Education
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  • March
  • Music
Something Old, Something New! The Ide(a)s of March are Upon Us! Rob Harris's Rear View Mirror looks forward to a tonal revival; Tafelmusik expands their chronological envelope in two directions, Esprit makes wave after wave; Pax Christi's new oratorio by Barbara Croall catches the attention of our choral and new music columnists; and summer music education is our special focus, right when warm days are once again possible to imagine. All this and more in our March 2019 edition, available in flipthrough here, and on the stands starting Thursday Feb 28.

Beat by Beat | Music

Beat by Beat | Music Theatre Seeking Hope And Human Connection JENNIFER PARR Judith R. Cohen needlessly, I think) shamed term ‘world music’? It sure doesn’t have the marketing zip of ‘world,”’ Cohen concludes. So what’s the future of culturally diverse music teaching and performance in Ontario music education? Irene Markoff is encouraged: “York U [Department of Music] is now trying to find ways to draw more music majors to the world music ensembles, which is a good sign. … I believe that any Ontario music university student who has a desire to teach at the public or high school level should be required to take a few world music ensemble classes when offered. That would prepare them to meet the challenges of cultural diversity in the classroom.” Rick Lazar adds: “I hope culturally diverse teaching and performance continue to develop as they give students exposure to different cultures, while providing personal enjoyment…. I have many East Asian students who love my courses. They come from a completely different culture [from the Brazilian and Cuban ones I teach] so they have to learn how to hear, move and play to an internal pulse … and to hear their individual part as part of the larger whole.” Mark Duggan gets the last word among these contributors in our discussion: “The reality is that we have to start referring to specific styles of music or specific regions with their proper names, the names that the creators and purveyors of those traditions use. I think the next step is to stop exoticizing non-Western musics and put them on equal footing with privileged traditions. Like integration in a multicultural society, that means giving them equal space in music schools, or perhaps creating schools that specialize in one or more non-Western traditions without including any European classical perspectives.” At the same time as we reach toward increasing diversity, entrenched attitudes remain in music education – as in other reaches of our society – which marginalize certain musics, particularly non-Eurocentric ones, such as Indigenous voices. What music is “ours”? And what place should so-called “other” musics have in our music education today? These are bracing, far-reaching questions. Footnote: Regular readers of this column over the years will know that this is not the first time I have delved into aspects of these topics. My September 2018 column Rebooting the Beat: Thoughts on the “World Music” Tag explored the implications of the 1962 and 1987 disparate points of entry for the “world music” tag. For more on the spread of world music as a discipline in Canada, see my March 2016 column, York Music’s World Class Role. And for more insights into the Waterloo Balinese Gamelan Ensemble, see my April 2014 conversation with ethnomusicologist Maisie Sum in Smartphone Serendipity Not The Only Way. Andrew Timar is a Toronto musician and music writer. He can be contacted at worldmusic@thewholenote.com. Toronto musical theatre fans have been eagerly waiting for the advent of Benj Pasek and Justin Paul’s 2017 Tony Award-winning musical Dear Evan Hansen, and now the waiting is almost over. Previews begin at the Royal Alexandra Theatre on March 5, with the official opening later this month. Not only is this the very first international production of the massive hit, but following an eightmonth casting tour across the country, the cast led by Robert Markus is almost entirely Canadian (with almost every province represented) making this a great showcase for Canadian musical theatre talent. On top of that, this is a “sit down” production that can run as long as there is a demand for tickets; and there is a great demand, the run having already been extended to June 30. There is something about this show that connects with audiences as well as critics in such a strong way that Dear Evan Hansen won the top musical theatre Tony Awards in 2017 (Best Book, Best Score, and Best Musical), over the gloriously life-affirming Come From Away. Why has there been such a strong reaction? Perhaps it is because it is so unexpected that a musical could be written about bullying, loneliness, and suicide and yet, with its unique groundbreaking recipe of authentic characters, popular score and uncannily modern use of social media, also manage to be upbeat and positive, taking the audience through a sometimes painful, cathartic journey to a place of hope and human connection. Pasek and Paul are now famous for their award-winning lyrics for the movie La La Land and songs for The Greatest Showman, but when they were still young students in college (University of Michigan) they started talking about something that had happened at Pasek’s high school that, as they discussed it, would turn into the unlikely inspiration for musical creation. Over one summer a student had passed away, and although he had been almost anonymous at the school, because of his death, became a celebrated figure with everyone looking for a way to be connected to him. Talking about how this need to be part of a collective mourning process seemed to be something that wasn’t exclusive to that event but also belonged to other tragic events as well, such as school shootings, or 9/11, they decided to create a musical around a similar event, not ever expecting it to be a hit. Even without the infectious pop-musical score at hand, the book and lyrics are interwoven seamlessly and pull the reader into the world of Evan Hansen, a lonely, high school senior, bullied for his shyness and extreme anxiety, who, through the mistaken attribution of a letter, finds himself a hero on social media, thereby changing not only his own life but those of many others. In song after song, even the lyrics alone go beyond the spoken thought, reaching for the feelings hidden behind, without sentimentality, and with an almost uncannily recognizable rightness. The musical’s creators have talked in interviews about how audience members approach the actors saying that they “are, or know Evan Hansen” or the other characters, and are grateful for this chance to be able to talk about difficult social and personal issues with their friends and families. While there are cynical and mocking elements to the story, for example, looking at how quickly people can jump onto the bandwagon of popularity, the composer/lyricists credit working with book-writer Steven Levenson with the emerging discovery of how to make the show both funny and uplifting as well. Dear Evan Hansen doesn’t stand alone in its ambitious 28 | March 2019 thewholenote.com

contemporary storytelling. Looking at the current music theatre landscape there seems to be an increasing appetite for musicals with stories about today, about complex, dark issues that are difficult to talk about otherwise. Pasek and Paul credit this at least in part to their generation growing up during the renaissance of the movie musical (Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, etc.) and the resulting expectation that characters in movies or onstage will express themselves and their emotions through music. The expected music then becomes a way to go beyond the spoken word to what lies beneath, and so to create a deeper more profound experience for the audience. In Toronto last month, Tapestry New Opera premiered Hook Up, a new musical/opera hybrid about campus rape by Julie Tepperman and Chris Thornborrow. It struck a profound chord with audiences, combining the authenticity of a very real contemporary setting and characters with humour and compassion to bring a discussion of a very sensitive topic into the shared space of the theatre. Sting’s The Last Ship, which is making its North American debut of a revised script, at the Princess of Wales Theatre until March 24, does something similar, though on a different scale, using wonderful pop- and folk-inspired music to explore the darker side of government interference and industrial privatization, giving life to a community’s desperation at the threatened closure of its shipyard, and also to the resurgent strength of that community as hope is found in banding together against the threat. Dear Evan Hansen with difficult topics; the world we are living in now is fraught with political and social extremes, and we need a way to comprehend and find a way to deal with those issues. As Wilson says about this show: “Though Parade is set in 1913, a (post-Civil War) era fraught with immense racial tension and religious intolerance, it is both shocking and disconcerting how prevalent that same systemic antisemitism, divisiveness and violence exists in our world’s current political and MATTHEW MURPHY Toronto Musical Concerts Parade Both recent and older musicals that deal with difficult issues are also being revived more and more frequently, in full productions and in concert format. One of the darker shows inspired by real-life events, Jason Robert Brown and Alfred Uhry’s 1998 Tony Award-winning musical, Parade, is one of these, although the true story can be difficult to handle, even filtered through the medium of the stage. Based on the real false arrest, 1913 trial and eventual lynching of Jewish factory manager Leo Frank in Atlanta, Georgia. Parade was revived here in 2011 by The Musical Stage Company and is being performed again this month as a professional staged concert reading by Toronto Musical Concerts on March 21 and 22. Speaking to TMC’s artistic producer, Christopher Wilson, about why he feels this is an important show to revive, I couldn’t help but see another reason why there is a resurgent hunger for musicals that deal thewholenote.com March 2019 | 29

Volumes 21-24 (2015-2018)

Volume 24 Issue 8 - May 2019
Volume 24 Issue 7 - April 2019
Volume 24 Issue 6 - March 2019
Volume 24 Issue 5 - February 2019
Volume 24 Issue 4 - December 2018 / January 2019
Volume 24 Issue 3 - November 2018
Volume 24 Issue 2 - October 2018
Volume 24 Issue 1 - September 2018
Volume 23 Issue 9 - June / July / August 2018
Volume 23 Issue 8 - May 2018
Volume 23 Issue 7 - April 2018
Volume 23 Issue 6 - March 2018
Volume 23 Issue 4 - December 2017 / January 2018
Volume 23 Issue 3 - November 2017
Volume 23 Issue 2 - October 2017
Volume 23 Issue 1 - September 2017
Volume 22 Issue 9 - Summer 2017
Volume 22 Issue 8 - May 2017
Volume 22 Issue 7 - April 2017
Volume 22 Issue 6 - March 2017
Volume 22 Issue 5 - February 2017
Volume 22 Issue 4 - December 2016/January 2017
Volume 22 Issue 2 - October 2016
Volume 22 Issue 1 - September 2016
Volume 21 Issue 9 - Summer 2016
Volume 21 Issue 8 - May 2016
Volume 21 Issue 6 - March 2016
Volume 21 Issue 5 - February 2016
Volume 21 Issue 4 - December 2015/January 2016
Volume 21 Issue 3 - November 2015
Volume 21 Issue 2 - October 2015
Volume 21 Issue 1 - September 2015

Volumes 16-20 (2010-2015)

Volumes 11-15 (2004-2010)

Volumes 6 - 10 (2000 - 2006)

Volumes 1-5 (1994-2000)