3 years ago

Volume 26 Issue 3 - November 2020

  • Text
  • Recording
  • Artists
  • Concerts
  • Musicians
  • Choir
  • Orchestra
  • Jazz
  • Toronto
  • Musical
  • November
Alanis Obomsawin's art of life; fifteen Exquisite Departures; UnCovered re(dis)covered; jazz in the kitchen; three takes on managing record releases in times of plague; baroque for babies; presenter directory (blue pages) part two; and, here at the WholeNote, work in progress on four brick walls (or is it five?). All this and more available in flipthrough HERE, and in print Tuesday Nov 3.

Mallory Chipman & the

Mallory Chipman & the Mystics (COJF) loading in all our equipment and instruments. The second day was just for recording. Each artist had one hour to film their 20-minute set, with 30 minutes in between shows so that we could sanitize absolutely everything.” Though the heightened vigilance and cleaning protocols made everyone “hyper-aware of one another,” Johnson characterizes the proceedings as safe and enjoyable, giving all involved the satisfaction of returning to the stage after months away. The streaming format offers unique opportunities, as well as unique challenges. Monetizing one-off events is tricky; divorced from the immersive spectacle of a venue, events such as the KMJF are in competition with Netflix, Spotify and all of the other services to which the vast majority of people have access, and for which they already pay. Rather than charging a per-set cover charge, as in the past, the KMJF presentations will be free. So to bolster returns for performers, the festival has launched the KMJF Music Store on their website, with 100 percent of proceeds going to artists. They will also be including a Make a Gift button, which will allow viewers to pay a virtual cover charge to a particular performance. While money matters may be more complicated than usual, the virtual format has allowed the KMJF to reach out to international artists who wouldn’t otherwise be likely to perform at the festival, including pianist/vocalist Champian Fulton, saxophonist Nick Hempton, and vocalist Samara Joy McLendon. Canadian Online Jazz Festival The KMJF, five years in, is still a relative newcomer in the broader community of Canadian jazz festivals. The Canadian Online Jazz Festival, however, is newer still – and not really a jazz festival in the traditional sense of the term. Organized by Kodi Hutchinson, artistic producer of JazzYYC in Calgary, the COJF is something of a celebratory banner under which a coalition of Canadian jazz festivals, each operating autonomously, will be presenting content, with participating organizations that include both large and small festivals, from Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver to Fort Langley, Victoria, and Niagara. Taking place over a week, from November 8 to 15, individual festivals will present artists who are, in one way or another, representative of the cities in which the festivals take place. Individual festivals make their own selections regarding content and are responsible for the production and for the choice of streaming mechanism, be it YouTube, Facebook or Instagram live. The COJF, meanwhile, is providing logistical and marketing support, with their website acting as the festival’s virtual hub. While some festivals will be livestreaming shows, most will be presenting a live performance that has previously been recorded, either specifically for the COJF (in the same fashion as the KMJF) or for another event. Participating artists include Jerry Granelli, for the Halifax festival, Alain Caron, for Montreal, Mallory Chipman & the Mystics, for The Yardbird Suite, and Kelly Bado, for Winnipeg. In the continued fallout of the pandemic, Hutchinson told me over the phone, “It’s been heartbreaking seeing how artists are suffering.” But Hutchinson – a working jazz bassist with a business degree and a consistent sense of optimism – was eager to find ways to engage and build within the Canadian jazz community. Bringing the COJF project to the board at JazzYYC, he found support, both logistically and financially; when he then presented the idea to festivals across Canada, the response was overwhelmingly positive. Beyond presenting quality, Canadian-focused jazz, one of the long-term goals of the COJF is to generate helpful data that will allow festivals to better plan for the future. A series of surveys will be going out to audience members; all festivals will be sending the same survey, the results of which will be shared amongst all participating organizations. Right now, Hutchinson says, “All organizations want to find out more information,” want to know “how to be better online.” Increasingly, Hutchinson suspects, it will be a norm to have livestreaming options for major jazz festival presentations, pandemic or not. As jazz festivals look towards next year, and grapple with the strong possibility that physical-distancing guidelines will not be lifted for the summer festival season, the necessity of robust, accessible streaming options is becoming clear. Both the KMJF and COJF present excellent opportunities to better understand the possibilities (and limitations) of festival streaming, and will help to set the standard for production values, artist support and audience experience for streaming events to come, including, it is to be hoped, ways to preserve traditional year-round jazz live venues as an essential part of the musical ecosystem. Colin Story is a jazz guitarist, writer and teacher based in Toronto. He can be reached at, on Instagram and on Twitter. Kelly Bado (COJF) 52 | November 2020

EARLY MUSIC Testing the Waters: Tafelmusik’s Baroque for Baby MATTHEW WHITFIELD T he cognitive benefits of musical studies are well-documented and often repeated – used to attract and draw in prospective students to music schools and studios across the world. For many parents, music lessons for their children is as much an investment in their future as the pursuit of cultural understanding and artistic accomplishment – a résumé-building, college-application-enhancing tool in some future well beyond the horizon. But while the decision to undertake musical studies is often pragmatic, even when it is not it should be initiated as early as possible, exposing even babies’ ears to the widest possible range of symphonies, songs and sounds and encouraging our little geniuses to connect with as much aural diversity as possible. As a parent, it can be challenging to consider such things, especially when entering one’s fourth Baby Shark marathon of the day, but Tafelmusik is helping make the introduction of classical music to our youngest family members slightly easier with their latest album, Baroque for Baby. Curated by Tafelmusik violinist and mother of two, Cristina Zacharias, Baroque for Baby was released digitally on major streaming and digital music services on October 16 and features repertoire by a wide range of early music composers including Telemann, Purcell, Lully, Vivaldi, Handel, Monteverdi, Rameau, Merula, Sweelink and Marais. With Tafelmusik’s entire discography to choose from, achieving a balance of enlivening music with calming, quieter pieces for relaxation and sleep, would be a challenge to almost anyone, but not so for Zacharias, who comments in the Baroque for Baby release: “There is nothing more magical than watching a baby or young child respond to music – the immediate natural and instinctive response to melody and rhythm is a reminder of just how fundamental music is in our lives …. Improvements are evident in selfregulation, spatial awareness, memory, language development, self-expression, motor skills, just to name a few. As a musician and a parent, the importance of music for babies is no surprise to me. With the notable exception of Johann Sebastian Bach (and some of the more complex works by Handel and Zelenka), much of the Baroque-era repertoire here is relatively straightforward and accessible, using driving rhythmic figures, simple melodic and harmonic devices, and repetition-based forms, all of which make this style of classical music perfectly suited to younger listeners. Within this general framework, however, there were many decisions to be made: “I looked for music that I thought was particularly engaging for kids and I wanted to present a wide range of styles and moods[…] I tried to feature all of the instruments that make up Tafelmusik’s core group (strings, winds and harpsichord), and looked for a variety of Cristina Zacharias rhythmically or lyrically catchy pieces, and lots of different versions of what Baroque music could be.” This daunting challenge of surveying the 17th and 18th centuries through 35 unique tracks is remarkably successful, with juxtaposition and contrast keeping the listener’s attention and interest throughout. Whether the percussion-heavy Moresca from Monteverdi’s Orfeo, Handel’s virtuosic Trio Sonata in G Minor with magnificent woodwinds, or the string-forward Ouverture-Suite by Telemann, this superb album contains something for everyone, aficionado or neophyte, old or young. As successful a collection as this may be for your early music columnist, the fundamental question pertains to its titled purpose: how well does Baroque for Babies test with actual babies? To help answer this, I recruited my son (B, who will be two in February) to listen to as much of Baroque for Babies as possible, both while moving around and playing, and also while seated at mealtime. The first, most easily noticed aspect of B’s listening adventure was the way in which he physically, viscerally, manifested the sounds he was hearing through physical gesture. With a conductor father, it is no surprise that he has absorbed some association between arm-waving and aural input, but the energy and range of his full-body movements were even more impressive, knees bouncing and arms waving like some sort of juvenile Mahlerian caricature. It should be noted that such jubilant output was in response to the equally jubilant musical selections playing at the time. More so than any key signature, time signature, or instrumental timbre, it was the tempo and rhythm together that appeared to drive these reactions; more introspective works were met with a trance-like silence punctuated by the occasional transfer of food from the high-chair tray to B’s mouth – perhaps in an attempt to refuel before the next barn burner. While B was unable to listen to all three-dozen tracks over our two allotted listening days, unlike a symphony or song cycle, Baroque for Babies allows us to absorb its material in smaller segments, repeat favourites and find those tracks that hold special meaning for both B and me. (As previously mentioned, air-conducting Telemann quickly became our Saturday afternoon activity.) With expertly curated selections showcasing a tremendous range of musical variety, Tafelmusik’s newest digital release has something of interest for everyone, big and small. As pandemic restrictions continue to wreak havoc on the performing arts, being able to share musical moments with the ones we love should be savoured more than ever. By supporting Tafelmusik and other arts organizations through streaming, donating, and purchasing merchandise, you are playing a role in the increasingly precarious future of these groups. So I encourage you to try Baroque for Babies, whether you have a child or not – because, as the saying goes, “There’s a child in each of us.” Matthew Whitfield is a Toronto-based harpsichordist and organist. SIAN RICHARDS November 2020 | 53

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