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Volume 14 - Issue 3 - November 2008

worth. McGeer plays

worth. McGeer plays viola - and many othermusicians have also performed.Of course, singers are also needed. But, accordingto McGeer, that's the least of her worries."In Toronto that'snot a problem," shestates. "We've got someabsolutely amazing singers.Not all of them wantto do this kind of repertoire,but the people whora and Ottawa, and at FestivalVancouver. As well ,the group has been appointedartists-in-residence atthe University of Toronwantto do it really love it-and don't get much opportunity todo it." Some of the finest singers inToronto have graced the series, includingsopranos Krisztina Szabo,Teri Dunn and Jennie Such, mezzosVilma Vitols and Norine Burgess,and tenor Colin Ainsworth.Also intergral to the Talisker Playerschamber series is the idea of thematicprogramming: concerts arebuilt around a unifying idea, such asNight Songs, A Medieval Tapestry, orRumours of Peace, among many others."It's just obvious," remarks Mc­Geer. "With vocal music, you'redealing with text-and this led to findinga common link in the repertoire."Sometimes specific poets have served asthemes: programmes of various composers'settings of texts by William Blake or RabindranathTagore, for example. But more frequently,the theme is a central concept: Perfect Proprietywas a lighthearted look at modern etiquette,and Spirit Dreaming was inspired by indigenouspeoples from around the world.To underscore the focus of Talisker's concerts,performances always include a narratorwho reads texts related to the subject at hand."For the first concert," says McGeer, "weasked the singers to do some readings. We veryquickly discovered that singers are not trainedreaders- it's a whole different art. So we startedto use actors instead." The narrator also hasa second purpose: with so many changes to thestage set-up during concerts (often a new configurationis needed for every piece), he or shereads while the stage is quietly rearranged.Although the theme acts as a unifying forceon each program, the content can be remarkablydiverse. Schubert, Beethoven, and Faurehave been heard on Talisker programmes - butso also have Harry Somers, John Burge, andDaniel Foley. In the last nine seasons, Taliskerhas commissioned fifteen new works fromCanadian composers, all of which have beenperformed alongside works from other localesand eras. (English music seems to hold a specialplace in McGeer's heart: Britten, Bax,Vaughan Williams et al. have often been presented.)"We started commissioning Canadian composersfrom day one," says McGeer, "whenwe had a gap in a programme, or if we hadsome poetry that seemed perfect, but I couldn'tfind a setting of it. Now it's just as likely thatcomposers will come to us with ideas."McGeer is quick to point out that TaliskerPlayers Chamber Music isn't a contemporary"We do performances in shelters and drop-in centres for homelesspeople-places that are way below the radar of most arts groups.".f -Mary McGeer of Talisker Playersence. People come to our concerts and are surprisedwhen they liked something that theywouldn't have expected to-and it's partly be-music ensemble. "New works are presentedin a context that's not about new music per se,"she says, "and I think that's a very effectiveway to introduce new music to a general audicauseof the way they're drawn into the programme."In the last few years, Talisker PlayersChamber Music has started touring, playing atsummer festivals in Elo­to's Massey College.They can also be heard ona recently released CD (Naxos8.559371), performing Americancomposer Gloria Coates' Cantata daRequiem.As well, McGeer mentions thegroup's outreach performances."We present smaller versions of ourconcerts at Regent's Park. We doperformances in shelters and dropincentres for homeless people -places that are way below the radarof most arts groups. We're oftenstunned by the response we get,because there are so many peoplethere who understand and respondto music."Talisker's next concert (the firstin the 2008-09 season) is The Lost Generation,on November 11 and 12, and will include theworld premiere of Juliet Hess's The Poplars,8WWW. THEWHOLENOTE.COMNOVEMBER 1 - DECEMBER 7 2008

for voice and piano quartet. Looking to future seasons, McGeer hopesto expand the number of performances per year. To be sure, she's notrunning out of ideas, commitment or repertoire."One of my favourite things about the series," she explains, "istracking down music. The more research we do, the more music weuncover. It's a treasure trove - almost all of it written since the latenineteenth century. We've had many adventures contacting librariesand publishers around the world. And we've done a lot of music that'sunpublished or out of print. "Colin Eatock is a Toronto-based composer and writer.GREAT CHAMBER MUSIC DOWNTOWNTHE GRYPHON TRIOPictured on our coverTa/isker Players:Mary McGeer, viola;Alexander Dobson, baritone;Kathryn Sudgen, violin;Sanya Eng, harp; MarionNewman, mezzo-soprano;and Mary Katherine Finch,cello.Toronto's beloved trio plays works old and newHaydn, Heather Schmidt, MendelssohnThursday Nov. 6 at 8 pmMARC-ANDRE HAMELINVirtuoso pianist plays sonatas from Haydn to jazzTuesday Nov. 11 at 8 pmChristmasAroundthe WorldFRIDAY, DECEMBER 12, 2008 AT 8 :00 PMSt. T h omos ' s Anglic::on Churc::h383 Huron Street, TorontoMIAMI STRING QUARTETTICKETS Regular , Senior , Student $ 15To order or for more information: 416.971 .9229www.exultote.net exultote@exultate.netHCA Piano Concert SeriesHamilton Conservatory for the ArtsTill FellnerStmday, November 30, 2008@ 2pm ~/ ,V alerie Tryon:f:~~9~)-5~8-;itO}OSunday. Janua1y 25, 2009 @ 2pm ~w ~-·~(\vw:hGart.S-.(>3Janina Fialk owska (.'~ ~ 6 _:",..,., ,. St = ""fbFriday, February 13th 2009 @ Spm'.1~ -~;f;~J,!,!~"'. --~ ~,JI1• '\ H3miltonMichael L enin ~ ,'.1) I 1 [!1Satmday. April 25, 2009 @ Spm -~~, lcelebrates its 20th anniversary with its Toronto debutThursday Dec. 4 at 8 pmtorontda rts bou n cil#.o auo·, 1engthbody ol1he C,ty of Toro n10l ~iTdii6N~www.music-toronto.comatJane Mallett TheatreSt. LAWRENCE CENTRE~~~ ARTS416-366-7723 • 1-800-708-6754order online at www.stlc.comN OVEMBER 1 - D EC EMBER 7 2008 W WW. THEW HOLENOTE.COM 9

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