COVER STORY Niki's Joy Third Toronto International Choral Festival has the Goldschmidt touch by Dawn Lyons Nicholas "Niki" Goldschmidt was born in then Austro-Hungarian Tavikovice in 1908, studied music iri Vienna, graduated as a conductor in 1932, and emigrated to the USA in 1937. When he stepped off the plane in Toronto in 1946, he was very fur from the musical riches of his upbringing. "There was the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir and that was it." His eyes get big, "It was a ... well, no, I shouldn't Covrn Snmv really SilY it was a desert. There were travelling companies. I remember a Lohengrin, it was at Walter "is·a festive occasion." Maple Leaf Gar4_ens, they had only one chorus The mark of a Goldschmidt festival is its instead of the two, so the chorus would sing, then rootedne~s. Many of the performing companies they would go out and come back in on the other we know today were created or strengthened in side. And the Met would bring operas." response to Niki's "festive occasions". He has He'd come at the invitation of Arnold Walter been artistic director or equivalent of the to head the University of Toronto's new opera Vancouverlnternationa1Festival(l957-1962), The school, the first in Canada. Like other pioneers Guelph Spring Festival (1968-1987), TheAl~oma he found good soil in this new land. "When I went Fall Festival (since 1973), International Bach to the conservatory the first day, I couldn't believe Piano Competition (1985), International Mozart it! It was jammed with students and there were Festival (1991), and the National Arts Centre's about 25 students already prepared tci start working Festival Canada (1997-98). If the word "festival" on the opera excerpts! And the talent! I wrote is in the title, and the programme bulges with home 'I did not expect to find such an abundance acknowledgments of partnerships, look for Niki of talent in this country!' I did not believe how in the credits. He has made enduring funding uninhibited the singers were going on the stage. partnerships with government agencies at every When we did Boheme at the Royal Alex, Mary level. Arts organizations, education programs Morrison sang Mimi, and oh! the snuffling! the and audiences have been ci:eated, performance hankies!" spaces built, new works commissioned. "I am Soon he needed a marketplace to display his most proud of Music 2000 Musique, the fine crop of young Canadian singers, and more millennium celebration" he says. "We than that, he needed a place for them to see, hear, commissioned 63 new works, 63 ! " work with and take their measure against singers He recalls also crossing the country seventeen from around the world. So he founded the . times making preparations for Canada's Canadian Opera Company. centennial celebrations in 1967. , That was the beginning of fifty years of creating "I was in Cornerbrook, to tell them what they what we would now call cultural infrastructure, could have if they want it, for the Centennial. I while continuing to conduct extensively here and told them (thinking, what kind of a present would abroad, intheprocessmakingcontacts, cementing that be for Cornerbrook!) 'We could make relationships and putting Canada on the map of available to you Lawrence Olivier in Henry V'. international opera. "I brought Joan Sutherland And they said to me, 'Mr. Goldschmidt, why don't to Vancouver, that was her North American you give us the money and we will do our own debut, Bruno Walter conducted. JoQ Vickers show. We can guarantee .to have a sold-out learned with me his Wagner." house!"' · Niki has always liked his music in huge drafts. His hallmark is the-festival - Jots of concerts of Jots of kinds, crowded into a short space of time, more than you can possibly go to, people from everywhere, Jots of new experiences, new compositions, lots of money flowing, Jots of excitement. "A festival," he says, quoting Bruno Not one to let the grass grow under him, Niki is now organizing The Toronto International Choral Festival, titled The Joy of Singing (in the Noise of the World), which will fill May 31 to June 22 with choral music from across Canada and around the wodd. I interviewed him, between phonecalls, in his festival office at Metro Hall. Me: I've been looking at the brochure for the choral festival; you've got 32 international conductors coming, 26 choirs and orchestras from across Canada, 11 choirs from oulside Canada, - 1 see one of the sponsors is Austrian Airlines. This is over a thousand people. The airfare, the hotels, the meals., how much is this going to cost? Niki smiles contentedly: I have a 1.8 million dollar budget. I have support from the private sector, from the government, all levels, very strong support. · Me: How do you keep going at this pace? Niki: Because I am passionate about this country. As I say to the MPs in Ottawa, "For God's sake, don't be so modest and genteel about blowing your horn." We have the National Ballet", we have the Canadian Opera Company, we have these incredible singers, in Salzburg every year there are two or three Canadian singers in the front ranks." He shrugs. "But without contact we are still colonial." · Me: lWzat is the point, what does a festival like this accomplish? Niki: For me, the bringing of foreign people is exactly what our people need, they have not.the time, not the money. So this is our education, to hear: contrasts. We are too far away not only in kilometers but in dollars. Instead of flying to St. Petersburg for how many dollars they can hear the Russian choir here for or . It isn't just our people that are wonderful, that is why we spend so much money on the incoming choirs. Ten nations from abroad., we have Russians from St. Petersburg singillg the Rachmaninov Vespers, we have The Tokyo Philharmonic Choir, they will be singing two pieces by R. Murray Schafer, one world premiere, here is the score ... He hands me a sheaf of paper covered wit}J Murray's exquisitely neat hpndwriting; The title is lnqense. I recognize some of the words, kodo (drum) and suzu (bell). . ' .Niki continues: ... and one Canadian premiere, we also have a Cuban choir, Exaudi, they've never been here before. I check my brochure. None of the choirs have been here before. Me: You've made quiie a habit of organizing international choral festivals. Niki chuckles: I did one in 89, and another in 93, this is number three. The first one I did because it had never been done before. It. was so successful that we had a substantial surplus, six figures. The question was what to do with the money? Give it back to the sponsors, to the government? How to begin? So much for this CONTINUES 6 www.thewholenote.com May 1 - June 7 2002
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