2 years ago

Volume 26 Issue 1 - September 2020

  • Text
  • Ensemble
  • Classical
  • Concerts
  • Singers
  • Choral
  • Jazz
  • Toronto
  • Musical
  • September
  • Choir
Choral Scene: Uncharted territory: three choirs finding paths forward; Music Theatre: Loose Tea on the boil with Alaina Viau’s Dead Reckoning; In with the New: what happens to soundart when climate change meets COVID-19; Call to action: diversity, accountability, and reform in post-secondary jazz studies; 9th Annual TIFF Tips: a filmfest like no other; Remembering: Leon Fleisher; DISCoveries: a NY state of mind; 25th anniversary stroll-through; and more. Online in flip through here, and on stands commencing Tues SEP 1.

Mark Micklethwaite,

Mark Micklethwaite, Steve Wallace and Mark(Merv) Eisenman, shaking out the covid cobwebs at John and Patti Loach’s home. Hear Body and Soul from that session at Getting Back On the Horse With even more free time I grew determined to be more active and was itching to play. As if reading my mind, drummer Mark Micklethwaite, who has taken John Sumner’s place in Mark Eisenman’s trio, emailed Merv (Eisenman) and me with a loose plan for doing some recording and maybe trying to drum up some work and touring in the future once it was safe. He had some good ideas and we all agreed that in the meantime we should get together to play and shake the cobwebs off at Merv’s house the following week. I looked forward to it, but with no small trepidation: I’d done some practising but hadn’t played with anybody for real since early March. Would I be up to it? Would my softer hands do what I wanted them to? Would my back hold up? The morning of, putting the cover on the bass, carrying it out of the house and loading it in the car – which I’ve done countless times – seemed weirdly foreign, like I was sleepwalking. After exchanging greetings and some jazz banter, the music began without any planning or so much as a word. Mark Micklethwaite simply started playing time with brushes at a medium tempo and I fell in, walking a blues in – what else? – B-flat. Eisenman was nowhere near the piano so the two of us just continued swinging until Mark joined us at the top of a chorus; then off we sailed. We must have played that blues for 10 or 11 minutes, but nobody was counting. In fact, as is always the case when jazz players are really locked in and concentrating, really listening to one another and building, the notion of a clock simply disappeared. It felt just great to be playing with these two again; there’s an unspoken musical consensus amongst us, a trust which I had deeply missed. And even without any people listening, there was sweat and intensity, everyone was playing their best because we hadn’t done it for so long, we were almost afraid of failing. It was as if someone had flipped a switch or plugged the jazz intravenous into our veins after months off; it was the most satisfying musical experience I’d had in a long time. Mind you, a medium blues in B-flat is relatively simple, but on the other hand its starkness means there’s nowhere to hide, especially in a trio, and I felt like we passed the test. Perhaps more importantly, it was fun, a lot more fun than practising. It wasn’t all smooth sailing for me, though, I noticed definite signs of rust and fatigue as we played faster tempos and tunes with more complex harmonies. I’d lost some speed and dexterity and sometimes I stumbled on solos when my fingers couldn’t quite catch up to my ideas, or vice versa. I realized I needed to practise more and with greater intensity, but now I had the motivation to do so. We’ve played once a week ever since but switched locales when John and Patti Loach generously offered their house as a venue. It’s a great place to play with a terrific piano and good acoustics, plus John wanted to experiment with recording the drums, as most of the recording he’s done hasn’t involved drummers. It helps a lot that Micklethwaite is such a sensitive player with good dynamic control. John also had some video cameras set up and has posted some of the videos on YouTube. Here’s one of our earlier efforts, Cherokee, which has the advantage of no camera coverage of the bassist, who has a face made for radio and a rear end made for a wide-angle lens: Returning to the coming end of summer … it used to mean going back to school and still does, sort of. And there’s the rub. With everything still up in the air and the real possibility of a surge in the virus coming with flu season; and with cooler weather on top of a bunch of people suddenly in close proximity again, the return to school is fraught with anxiety and uncertainty, to say the least. I’ll be teaching an ensemble and some private lessons again at U of T, which, at least in the jazz department has left the choice of in-person or virtual teaching up to individuals. Most of the classes will be taught online, but it’s trickier with private lessons and especially ensembles. I’m grappling with the decision and for now have opted for teaching my ensemble and the two private students who aren’t bassists in person, and the two bass students online. This could all change suddenly if things get worse so I’m negotiating the never-ending technological learning curve as a back-up plan. Old dog, new tricks. Pandamit The title for this article came about as follows: Back in late May there was a knock on my door and when I opened it I was very pleasantly surprised to see Pat Williams, a staunch jazz fan and friend for many years. It was great to see her and I asked her in but she demurred, saying “I’m parked illegally across the street and I have a lot more of these to deliver,” handing me a black T-shirt with PANDAMIT written in big block letters. It broke me up and she said “Georgia Ambros had them made up and we’re giving them to our musician friends.” And I thought, with humour and people like this, maybe, just maybe, we’ll be okay after all. Toronto bassist Steve Wallace writes a blog called “Steve Wallace jazz, baseball, life and other ephemera” which can be accessed at Aside from the topics mentioned, he sometimes writes about movies and food. JOHN LOACH ANNA MALANDRINO 24 | September 2020

Early Music How to Get Back to the Concert Hall? Adapt. Adapt. Adapt. MATTHEW WHITFIELD If the past seven months have taught us anything, it might be that the post-COVID world will move at a different pace than that which came before. Everyday decisions previously motivated by personal, social, and economic factors are now tempered by input from public health officials and other medical professionals attempting to contain and control the transmission of this new and deadly pathogen, resulting in exceedingly cautious and temporally conservative steps forward that have made dining at a restaurant feel like a momentous occasion. While social interactions and public spaces continue to reopen, at least for the time being, those things that were previously taken for granted and assumed to be perpetual have been reframed by the pandemic and forced to undergo a societal reevaluation through a new kind of cost-benefit analysis. For public performers and those who make their living within arts organizations, these public health interventions have appeared as doomsday prophecies, requiring unprecedented quick action and the changing of entire business models in mere weeks or months. Although soloists and smaller groups are able to pivot relatively quickly and efficiently, larger organizations – such as orchestras – face a more daunting challenge, having to implement novel guidelines and codes of conduct that ensure the safety of their performers and prospective audiences as the possibility of reopening draws closer. As September approaches and new seasons launch, how are arts organizations grappling with, and managing, these new and essential factors? Tracking Tafelmusik’s Turnaround Tafelmusik is the go-to ensemble for many early music fans in Toronto, combining scholarly research and historically informed knowledge with cutting-edge programming and decidedly modern presentations. When the world shut down in March, the orchestra quickly downsized and modified its programming by cancelling the remainder of its in-person season and starting Tafelmusik@Home, a set of concerts performed by core members of the orchestra and hosted virtually from their salons and living rooms. Since then, a number of other programs have been put in place and are ready to launch this fall, including digital concerts and in-depth panel discussions. According to a recent media release, the 2020/2021 season, “headlined by a combination of pre-recorded and livestreamed programs that will be rehearsed and performed according to current public health guidelines, offers the beauty of Tafelmusik concerts while ensuring the health and safety of musicians and audiences.” By now, much of this vernacular and many of these concepts will seem unnervingly normal – the digitization of a formerly communal medium has, for our own safety, become commonplace, despite its limitations and inherently impersonal nature. Carol Kehoe, Tafelmusik’s executive director, shared her thoughts on what the short-term future might look like for large cultural organizations: “Until there is a vaccine and the dire consequences of COVID-19 are diminished, public activity will always be subject to risk. Performing arts organizations like ours – that have depended on large numbers of people to gather in a confined space to watch a live performance – are directly threatened if people see the risk as too high and choose not to attend. How we adapt to this new reality is the challenge, but at Elisa Citterio, David Costello, and Marco Cera in Jeanne Lamon Hall at work on Elisa's Midsummer Night's Dream, a short film by Marco Cera, which conjures an imaginary return to the stage. It was filmed June 1-4, 2020 at Trinity-St. Paul's Centre observing physical distancing requirements with all musicians filmed individually, but the full orchestra brought together by movie magic. Tafelmusik, I’m confident we’ll be around to find new ways to engage the public in our wonderful music.” Part of this process of adaptation involves that skill for which Tafelmusik has become renowned: finding innovative and original ways of moving ahead by looking back in time. In the same media release quoted above, the orchestra announces that they will consider returning to live-audience concerts in January 2021, a huge step forward and a significant move towards the old normal that requires immense flexibility from the entire organization. A significant part of this flexibility is thorough, multifaceted preparation, which the orchestra is currently undertaking through the purchasing of PPE, communicating with its musicians, and creating a series of TAFELMUSIK September 2020 | 25

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