8 years ago

Volume 11 Issue 7 - April 2006

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  • April
  • Toronto
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Wormwood, the death

Wormwood, the death star: Chornobyl 20 years later by Jason van Eyk Moved by the ongoing social and environmental devastation caused by the 1986 Chornobyl nuclear disaster, more than 250 Canadian choristers and musicians will take to the stage of Roy Thomson Hall on April 9 for Chornobyl 20, a memorial fundraising concert. Presented by Children Of Chornobyl Canadian Fund (CCCF), the concert will feature performances by acclaimed bass-baritone Pavlo Hunka , the Gryphon Trio, The Amadeus Choir, The Orpheus Choir, The Elmer Iseler Singers, Vesnivka Choir, and Toronto Ukrainian Male Chamber Choir. A highlight of the evening will be the world premiere of Wormwood, a cantata by acclaimed Canadian composer Christos Hatzis. Wormwood has been commissioned by the Gryphon Trio, and will be performed by them, along with bassbaritone Pavlo Hunka, child soprano, rap singer, and all five choirs. Pavlo Hunka as Hunding in the COC's Die Walkure, April 2004. He is here again with the COC as Wozzeck. As is usual with Hatzis' music, many forces came together to shape the inspiration for Wormwood. The starting point was a conversation nearly twenty years ago with a young monk in northern Greece. "Chernobyl was predicted in The Book of Revelation" Hatzis was told. It made no sense at the time. One day, shortly before starting the composition, he saw the apocalyptic import of it. He had discussed with Gryphon Trio cellist Roman Borys whether the word 'Chornobyl' (the Ukrainian spelling) had any particular Ukrainian meaning. "Wormwood" Borys said. Hatzis then took the word Wormwood into Greek, and there it was -- Apsinthos, the 'death star' in the Book of Revelation: hurled to the earth, poisoning the planet's waters, causing a great many people to die. Right then he knew that the passages from Revelation cited by that young monk in northern Greece would provide the core text for this work. The eerie coincidence between a two thousand-year-old book and a contemporary catastrophic event was clearly enough to stimulate his musical motivation. In developing the nine movement, 45-minute composition, Hatzis was also very conscious of other "apocalyptic" disasters happening around the world, from New Orleans to Pakistan and Northern India. If this work was to alert us all to an apocalyptic 'here & now' , Hatzis realized that his music would have to urgently invoke not only music of the past, but also the 'here & now' of our current culture. Thus, the various popular music idioms explored in Wormwood, from Gospel to pop and rap, stem from this desire to come to grips with our contemporary situation, and our need for imminent human transformation. For tickets to Chornobyl 20, call the Roy Thomson Hall Box Office at 416-872-4255 or Ticketmaster at 416-870-8000, or go online at or . Tickets to the post-performance reception are only available by calling CCCF at 416-604-4611 . SOME THING New by Jason van Eyk As I browsed through this month's listings - a staggering roster of some 400 concerts - I was astounded by the amount of new music taking place throughout the GT A and surrounding areas. Even within the concert music community we all too often think of new music as a specialist niche that appeals to a select group. Yet opera companies, choirs, orchestras, ensembles and soloists of both professional and amateur status are discovering, commissioning, rehearsing and performing a wide range of work by Canadian and international composers, and to a broad range of audiences. I wish I could highlight every concert, to emphasize the breadth & depth of impact that new music is making every month. But that would require at least sevenand-a-half times more space than I already have. So, instead, I'll let that image speak for itself - a 7 ,500 word column every month to highlight the range of new music activity happening in the GT A and surroundings. That would generate 90,000 words per year, or roughly 82 pages of full text in this magazine - a complete issue of WholeNote without a spot of advertising in it. It really is quite astounding. But that is not my duty to you, the reader. Rather, it's my responsibility to delve into those hundreds of listings, to search through what's on offer, to identify continuing and developing trends, and then offer you a glimpse at these trends that bind the community together. And hopefully this is all done in a way that offers you insights to enhance your concert-going experience. In my delving this month, and early May, a trend I noticed last October has resurfaced, but in a new variation. I'm referring to what seems to be a rising interest in presenting concerts that celebrate an individual creator. (In October we experienced concerts devoted to the work of Steve Reich and Jorg Widman.) Over the next four weeks, I see the same thing happening, with wide variations in focus and scale. = -r• ,.1_•-' Ottawa-based composer Steven Gellman -- two concerts to go in Syrinx 's five concert nod. April starts out with the frame set widely , as Syrinx Concerts presents their penultimate event of the season showcasing the work of Canadian composer Steven Gellman. Each of Syrinx's first three concerts has called on different ensembles to interpret Gellman' s music among selections from the classical repertoire. On April 2 at Heliconian Hall, flautist Susan Hoeppner and guitarist Daniel Bolshoy will perform Gellman's work alongside music by Piazzolla and Takemitsu. Based in Ottawa, Gellman is one composer from whom we hear very little these days, despite strong credentials. At age 15 he premiered his first Piano Concerto with the CBC Symphony. Studies at the Juilliard School with Luciano Berio, and at the Paris Conservatoire with Olivier Messiaen, solidified his compositional training. In 1970 Gellman won the UNESCO prize for " best work by a composer under the age of 25"; and in 1987 was named Canadian Composer of the Year. So, he's certainly nounderachiever. Our thanks to Syrinx for bringing back to light the work of this "forgotten" Canadian music talent. For more info call 416- 654-0877. In the middle of the month our "trend lens" narrows. On April 18 at the Glenn Gould Studio, Soundstreams Canada offers "Sonic Poetry" as part of its continuing Encounters series. These concerts provide well-curated juxtapositions, exposing new voices in a 28 WWW , TH EWHOLENOTE,COM A PRI L 1 - M AY 7 2006

format that stimulates musical dialogue between Canadian composers and our circumpolar neighbours. The concert title is taken from a media quote describing the music of emerging Canadian composer Abigail Richardson, which will make up half the programme. Richardson, who will turn 30 this year, already has an impressive roster of awards to her credit. The greatest of these is first prize in the Under-30 category at the International Rostrum of Composers, which resulted in broadcasts of her music all over the world. The other half of the evening's music comes from the Russian-born, Swedish-based Victoria Borisova­ Ollas, who delivers a similarly impressive package. She received second place in the prestigious 2002 Masterprize, resulting in her music being broadcast in 32 countries. Violinist Michael Schulte, pianist Andrew Burashko, the Accordes String Quartet, and clarinettist Joaquin Valdepenas interpret the works, including two premieres. For more info visit www For tickets call 416-205-5555. On April 22, Toronto's champions of contemporary Italian music narrow our focus on the individual creator even more tightly with a concert dedicated to the works of Franco Donatoni. With the soldout success of last year's Scelsi Centenary Project, Artistic Director Wallace Halladay has been inspired to continue his goal of presenting rarely-performed 20th-century Italian masters. Donatoni - like Scelsi-suffered from depression. Yet we don't hear this in his music, which has been described as compulsively witty and delicately virtuosic. For this concert at the Music Gallery, Halladay' s ensemble will perform Donatoni 's later solo and chamber works. Juan Trigos, a past student of Donatoni, will conduct. For more info, visit www For tickets call 416-204-1080. Our metaphorical lens pulls in even tighter still, as the inaugural OR­ GANIX festival pays tribute to the organ work of local composer Ruth Watson Henderson. Henderson is one of Canada' s leading composers, church musicians, and choral accompanists, for which she has received international recognition and numerous awards, including an Honorary Fellowship from the Royal Canadian College of Organists. On May 3 at St. Basil ' s Church, festival Co-Artistic Director William O'Meara will be joined by guest soloists in an all-Henderson programme of works for solo organ, organ & trumpet, and a world premiere for organ & violin. While this particular concert may seem like a very narrowly framed celebration, the landscape opens up when viewed in light of the 12-concert ORGANIX festival , which ranges in music from the Renaissance to works by Canadian contemporaries like John Burge and Rachel Laurin. For info & tickets visit www Finally, I want to mention the Elmer Iseler Singer's Celebration: Harry Freedman & Mary Morrison concert on May 5 at the Glenn Organist Gillian Weir will open the ORGANIX 06 Festival with a benefit recital at St. Paul's Anglican Church on April 28 at 7:30 pm, with proceeds going to the RCCO 's Muriel Stafford Fund. Gould Studio. Freedman, one of Canada's pioneering, most performed and most "Canadian" composers, passed away in September 2005. The music community gave him a beautiful celebration concert this past January in this very same hall. But as Walter Pitman, the author of Music Makers: The Lives of Harry Freedman and Mary Morrison, has put it, there was no Harry without Mary, a highly accomplished vocalist and interpreter of Canadian music. So it is fitting that a concert of Freedman's vocal music should focus its frame on celebrating them both. As part of the evening, the Canadian Music Centre's Centrediscs label will release Harry's last completed project, The Tokaido, a CD of his choral music . For more info & tickets visit www So take this month to explore musical landscapes. Celebrate creativity through some thing new. (Jason van Eyk is the Canadian Music Centre 's Ontario Regional Director. He can be reached at 416-961-6601 x. 207 or BALTIC CURRENTS Radio Without Bou ndaries P·~rform?inc;;e-$ & installation$ @ the Drake & Ryerson broadcasts, Conference workshops ft artist talks E~ Wt, I'~ Ct1l1.d, d.e:pth,. --j~ g-ccd, fwr,, (t~ tehp te1p) TJwm.tH r -Gregory Vllhiteheod, USt1 Trevor Wishart, Tetsuo Kogawa J'ohn Osw~ ld 1 K~thy Kennedy+ mQre , v~~ (.n,t,il'1"~v;v,f". r~w~- r wait,: ct, h,e.a..d, f«U of ~ . . ...,..ww. dei:>p~"'ir elecl'.&. co. -Linda OG

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