3 months ago

Volume 26 Issue 4 - December 2020 / January 2021

  • Text
  • Choir
  • Composer
  • Jazz
  • Symphony
  • Recording
  • Toronto
  • Orchestra
  • Musical
  • January
  • December
In this issue: Beautiful Exceptions, Sing-Alone Messiahs, Livingston’s Vocal Pleasures, Chamber Beethoven, Online Opera (Plexiglass & All), Playlist for the Winter of our Discontent, The Oud & the Fuzz, Who is Alex Trebek? All this and more available in flipthrough HERE, and in print Friday December 4.


Tafelmusik’s Sing-Along Messiah, 2017 IN WITH THE NEW Cecilia Livingston’s JEFF HIGGINS months than immersing oneself in some of the best music from the medieval, Renaissance and Baroque eras? Sing-Along Messiah – The 2020 Edition A Sing-Along Messiah addict can be identified in one or more of the following ways: multiple dog-eared Watkins-Shaw scores, with the orange covers dyed brown through time and repeated use; multiple recordings of said work, from barn-burning massed-choir singspiels to lean-and-mean, historically informed interpretations; and one or more special outfits, worn once a year, specifically designated for maskless communal singing Messiah.) For all such addicts, this December will be a time of painful withdrawal, as public health restrictions continue to prohibit large gatherings, particularly those involving singing. While in-person sing-alongs will be verboten for the foreseeable future, Tafelmusik releases their Sing-Along Messiah on Screen this December, directed by the inimitable Herr Handel himself. As Tafelmusik Chamber Choir conductor (and Handel doppelgänger) Ivars Taurins writes, “for over three decades, George Frideric Handel has stepped onto the stage to lead Tafelmusik and an audience chorus of thousands through his timeless masterpiece, Messiah, in a singalong version. This year we must come together in spirit rather than in person. So, until we can join our voices once again to ‘raise the roof,’ I sincerely hope that our Messiah sing-along film presentation, and Handel’s music, will rekindle the flame of all that is best within us, bringing joy, peace, and hope to your homes.” Captured live at Massey Hall in 2010, this video of Messiah excerpts features soprano Suzie LeBlanc, countertenor Daniel Taylor, tenor Rufus Müller, baritone Locky Chung, the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Choir, and a chorus of 1000 enthusiastic audience members. This video will be released on YouTube on December 17 at 7pm, and available until December 27. For those without multiple scores on their bookshelves, choruses will be available to download directly from the Tafelmusik website in the days prior to the video launch. While there is nothing that can compare with an authentically interpersonal singing experience, this is a wonderful opportunity to bridge the gap between our annual traditions and what is currently permitted; with such resources available to help us through what will undoubtedly be a strange and unfamiliar holiday season, we wait with anticipation for the joy of coming together, live and in-person, next year. It is encouraging to see the development of such high-quality online content as a way of combating the widespread isolation imposed by the pandemic. If you come across a technological marvel produced by one of Toronto’s early music performers that you think deserves a place in this column, let me know at “See” you next year! Matthew Whitfield is a Toronto-based harpsichordist and organist. Vocal Pleasures WENDALYN BARTLEY I’m always curious to see what the Royal Conservatory of Music’s 21C Festival will be offering each season; this year being unlike every other performance season, I was even more curious as to what we could expect from this annual offering of new sounds and the latest in contemporary music creation. I was pleased to see that the festival will be moving ahead despite the complexities of producing concerts for limited and virtual audiences. Running from January 15 to 29, this year’s offerings will be a scaled-down version of previous years, but still filled with premieres and outstanding performers, both local and from further afield. We will hear concerts by two Toronto-based pianists: Eve Egoyan will perform pieces written for her imagined piano that combines original piano sounds with an extended software-based piano; and Royal Conservatory alumna Morgan-Paige Melbourne will perform two of her own compositions along with pieces by several other composers, including one by Brian Current, the director of The Glenn Gould School New Music Ensemble. The GGS New Music Ensemble will also have a concert of their own with several works combined with projected images. The well-loved Kronos Quartet will make a return visit with three different events to choose from. Their multimedia performance piece, A Thousand Thoughts, blends live music by Kronos, narration, as well as archival footage and filmed interviews. Kronos’ Fifty for the Future initiative, designed to create a repertoire of contemporary works for young string quartets they introduced to 21C audiences in 2016, will be the focus of a concert featuring four quartets from the Glenn Gould School after a two-day mentorship with Kronos. JAY BLAKESBERG 14 | December 2020 - January 2021

Cecilia Livingston The highlight of the Kronos visit will be a concert of music from seven countries banned from entering the USA along with protest music inspired by Pete Seeger. It will be a tribute to the tumultuous and freespirited 1960s that eventually led to the formation of Kronos in 1973. A highlight of the festival for me will be a unique work, Garden of Vanished Pleasures, a co-production by Soundstreams and Pinkhouse Productions, currently scheduled to be performed on January 22 via livestreaming and with possible limited audience. (However, readers are advised to check ahead regarding the hoped-for live component of anything these days.) This semi-staged work will combine compositions by Canadian composer Cecilia Livingston and English composer Donna McKevitt into a new creation, conceived and directed by opera and theatre director, Tim Albery. Speaking recently with Livingston, I was able to learn more about what to expect with this new production, as well as find out more about her current projects. To create Garden of Vanished Pleasures, Albery has interwoven a selection of songs from McKevitt’s larger work Translucence: A Song Cycle, based on the poetry of Derek Jarman, with Livingston’s DANIEL ALEXANDER DENINO arrangements of seven different pieces of her own that range from art songs to chamber music. Together, these separate pieces by both composers have been uniquely interleaved to create an original dreamy sequence, all scored for two sopranos, mezzo, countertenor, viola, cello and piano, which is the instrumentation McKevitt used in Translucence. Since most of Livingston’s pieces that were selected were scored differently, she was asked to create arrangements so that both composers’ works could share the same instrumentation. Her Kiss Goodnight, originally for men’s choir, and Snow, originally for marimba and voice, for example, will now be heard arranged for this new combination of instruments. How did this all work out? I asked in our conversation about the production. “I’m really quite struck by the mesh of our two voices,” she answered “It’s really interesting to experience your own work being seen by someone else in a different way than how you had understood it. I’m finding that what they have created rings very true to what’s in the pieces themselves.” Since her works were originally created without any dramatic context, she has found it particularly fascinating to see them now being drawn into this larger dramatic whole. She spoke about how both composers have a similar interest in the themes of intimacy and loss and use similar imagery in their pieces: bodies of water and night-time, for example. The overall impact will be the creation of a fluid dreamscape world, and even though the two composer’s pieces may sound different, she was confident that there would be an organic realism to the whole. Albery will also be adding video projections to make a full artistic rendering that is also very suitable for online performance. Writing for voice has developed into one of Livingston’s big passions, and she is currently enjoying her role as composer-in-residence at Glyndebourne Festival Opera, located just outside of London, England, in what was originally conceived as a two-year residency that has now been expanded into three, thanks to COVID. For her, this NEW DIRECTIONS IN MUSIC Kronos Quartet NEW DIRECTIONS IN MUSIC ELECTRIC MESSIAH A full-length music video that reimagines Handel’s classic for today’s world. FREE BROADCAST DEC 17 Visit to register today! December 2020 - January 2021 | 15

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