2 years 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.

Strong protocols in

Strong protocols in place: Hong Kong Ballet orchestra rehearsal and Maestro Runnicles. And I mean, with Ballet, they primarily care that you give them the right tempo and the right phrasing. Sure, some people will use that excuse, we’d hire more women if they were more competent, and I kind of laugh because they hire incompetent men all the time. You have to hire people when they are incompetent because otherwise how else will they become competent? That’s exactly the step that’s harder to cross for women and minorities. Young unprepared men are hired all the time because somebody has understood their potential. Often we look at incompetence as “growing pains,” but for women, people are less forgiving. To women conductors I say: if it doesn’t work in one place, and you really want to do it, get on an airplane and fly somewhere else. There’s always going to be someone who’s going to open the door for you, you just have to work hard enough. The events like this pandemic will certainly test you; you’ll see how many risks you’re willing to take, how far you’re willing to go. You hear a lot about conductor stamina. How physical is the job? I expect you have to be pretty fit. You get there step by step and as needed. In my 30s I transitioned from pianist to conductor, but I was a rehearsal conductor and worked for hours on end. I must have injured every part of my back, to a point now where there is no feeling left. So it was gradual, and yes you start with the smaller pieces. For example, Sleeping Beauty is three and a half hours long and it gets harder and harder. When I was in Hong Kong, I would do five of them on a weekend. One on Friday, two on Saturday, two on Sunday. That’s seven hours of conducting a day, with intermissions. Don Quixote is not that long, but strenuous – mentally. About two and a half hours – I did a single and a double-double. You don’t stop moving and you don’t stop thinking. But you have to build up to it. In Australia, the run is 15 shows. I premiered Dracula there – which is the most amazing music by Wojciech Kilar. It’s difficult and long, and you do 15 of them over two weeks. In Seoul, in Korea, beautiful company, orchestra to die for – we had four readings, one tech with orchestra, three dress rehearsals and five performances; 13 work sessions with the orchestra in the span of week and a half. It’s go-go-go. Classical music in East Asia is seeing some extraordinary growth? Yes! In Seoul, the performances are always full. When we come out through the stage door, it’s filled with people who’ve come to thank us. There are pictures, there are flowers, there’s always big support. And in the house, there are seats specifically for children, because there’s demand – they’re like boosters, a child seat on top of the regular seat. The same level of enthusiasm as in Hong Kong. Renée Fleming was saying in an interview after her East Asia tour that the lineups after the show are incredible. And it’s mostly young people. Part of it too is that in Asian cultures, schooling is important, education is important, the arts are revered. Highly respected. Your academic success is incomplete without ballet, piano or violin. Most of the kids do everything. I was born in Hong Kong and that is how it worked: I had ballet and piano; it’s part of growing up. I started ballet at four, piano at six. This kind of information starts coming at you at the age of four and six and it doesn’t stop until you finish your high school. You can’t help it, you know? And being at a live orchestra performance… it’s like opening up an iPod and seeing how everything is made. Oh it’s the horns, that’s what makes that sound! Seventy people in the pit, a hundred people on the stage, without anything being amplified, and it’s all happening before you. How exciting is that. And before I let you go: what’s next on the horizon? The symphony concert in Saskatoon has been postponed to the spring, and then the Adès with OOTA that’s scheduled to go in 2021. In 2022, things are starting to come back. Orfeo in Kentucky is rebooked, and we’re waiting to see what’s going to happen with Hong Kong ballet… It really comes down to the leadership of individual companies. The companies that are very positive are already talking about it and I don’t think they’re being foolhardy, I think they’re being ready. That’s the way one has to look at it. Before each of the performances of Don Q in Hong Kong, Septime Webre the artistic director, who’s also a fabulous choreographer, went on stage and welcomed the audience. He was so gracious and positive and we really needed it, since all of us had not performed in ten months. When I first emailed the company to inquire about the distancing rules and health regulations for the pit, the entire plan was in my inbox, with pictures, within 24 hours. So that’s the desire, right? They are ready. This is what we’re going to do, and it’s important to us. Companies in Australia that are still going strong, the Finnish National Ballet, the OOTA, which is commissioning works, the Saskatoon Symphony – it’s companies like these that will show us the way. The positive, don’t-stop-moving attitude, that is the way to go. Lydia Perović is an arts journalist in Toronto. Send her your art-of-song news to 8 | December 2020 - January 2021

CHORAL SCENE A Messiah for our Complex Times BRIAN CHANG No performing arts organizations can pretend they don’t exist in a specific time and place – responding to cultural and political moments of the right now, even when the music they perform comes from very different times. Choirs are grappling with the loss of rehearsals and live performances, but they are also grappling with the overlapping realities of fighting for justice and emancipation in a very complex world. Against the Grain’s Elliot Madore Messiah/Complex is an upcoming new digital performance from Against the Grain Theatre (AtG). Artistic director Joel Ivany and his innovative team are taking the Handel and Jennens masterwork and breathing it alive with diverse voices, languages and cultural inspiration of people across Canada. Ivany has been joined by Reneltta Arluk, director of Indigenous arts at the Banff Centre. Together they have assembled a vast collection of performers representing every province and territory. The WholeNote had a chance to connect with artistic director Joel Ivany to share just what a complex Messiah looks like in our times. “There are complex layers to this work,” AtG’s Ivany shares. “Handel, himself, had investments in the Royal African Company. This means that he profited off of slave trade during the 1720s and 30s.” ATG THEATRE Concerts and Special Services Saturday Dec. 5 at 7pm And He Shall Come: Music & Poetry for Advent Comfort Ye My People Sunday Dec. 13 at 1pm Deck The Halls! Carol Sing with Silver Band Friday Dec. 18 at 12pm Noon at Met Concert: David Simon, organ Sunday Dec. 20 at 7pm Candlelight Lessons and Carols Thursday Dec. 24, Christmas Eve Family Service at 5pm Candlelight Communion at 11pm December 2020 - January 2021 | 9

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