7 years ago

Volume 14 - Issue 4 - December 2008

Quoolibetby Allan

Quoolibetby Allan FulkerRoyal home-coming!For three long years the Royal Conservatory of Music has been inmakeshift temporary quarters in a Toronto Board of Education schoolbuilding on Croatia Street near Bloor and Dufferin Streets. During thattime, its building at 273 Bloor Street West has undergone extensive renovationand reconstruction, with a price tag near 0 million, coveredmainly by generous gifts from private and corporate donors as wellas some federal and provincial government support. This summer,with most of the work complete ( except for the interior of the 1100-seat Koerner Concert Hall), the school moved into its new home.Have the work, money and inconvenience been worth it? Will the new"bricks and mortar" make things better? What difference will all thismake to students and faculty now and in the future? What will be possiblethat wasn 't possible before? With these questions in mind, Ispoke to two very different people from the RCM: "LearningThrough the Arts" manager Jeff Embleton, who gave me a tour ofthe building; and violin teacher and ARC(Artists of the Royal Conservatory) performerMarie Berard.It became clear over the course of JeffEmbleton's tour that there were two equallyimportant dimensions to the project - thetangible and the intangible. The tangible iseasy to see and talk about. In addition to theconcert hall , which I will write about nextyear, there are many new spaces and facilities. The new L-shaped building, whichwraps around McMaster Hall, adds 130,000sq. ft . to the original 60,000. The five-storeyhigh atrium between the old and new buildingsbrilliantly bridges the old and the new:on the right, the cleaned up old south wall with cafe tables along it as youenter from Philosopher's Walk; on the left, the new structure, with receptiondesk and glass display areas where historical instruments will behoused when not in use. It is almost a metaphor for Canada - humanactivity thriving in a vast empty space. Another impressive newspace is the 900 square foot rehearsal room (large enough for a largechoir and orchestra together), acoustically engineered to resemblethe stage of the concert hall and completely separated acousticallyfrom Bloor Street. It is also beautifully finished and will be equally effectiveas a performance space, a dual function that makes good sense.There are also many new practice studios with one and sometimes twogrand pianos, and all wired for internet access. The old building has beencompletely renovated to the same standard of finish and acoustical separationas the new. It retains the character of the old building and at thesame time feels new.The intangible aspect of the project, while somewhat more subjective,is equally real. Writing about it, architect Marianne McKenna ofKuwabaraPayne McKenna Blumberg Architects stated that "Our ambitionfor The Royal Conservatory was to create an environment that notonly supports [the RCM' s] mission, but also motivates - throughbeautiful spaces and superior acoustics - the students and the musiciansto aspire to greater heights of performance." The variety ofspaces , ceiling heights , the striking choices of materials, especiallywood, are indeed memorable. Bold repetitive grains in the veneerson doors, the subtly variegated pattern of the parquet floors, the darkstained, almost three dimensional wood throughout the large rehearsalroom, and the completely refinished floors of the original buildingall work together to create an atmosphere that is beautiful, comfortableand at the same time dignified. Large windows provide an abundanceof natural light and vistas of the city in all directions.Everything is simply done but with a care and quality that one canfeel. Even the one thing that might be accused of being gimmicky isn't,because it is so whimsical and so organic: the incorporation of part ofthe west roof of the old building, including a dormer, into the interiorof the northwest corner of the new building. While it is fun it is alsoinstructive to be able to see up close something that could otherwise beseen only from the street, five stories below . The combined effect ofthese factors and many others is a place that people will enjoy, andwhich offers a variety of spaces and atmospheres to accommodate avariety of uses, from practising and rehearsal to large formal gatheringsto spontaneous tete-a-tetes.As a teacher and a member of the ARCEnsemble, Marie Berard is at the centre ofthe activities that the new facility exists tosupport. She commented on the exhilarationshe felt looking out the window as shewas teaching, seeing the Royal OntarioMuseum's Michael Chin Lee Crystal, andfeeling herself in the midst of a culturallydynamic metropolis. How, I asked, hasthe move to the new building affected her?In addition to her mention of the greatview from her studio window, she commentedthat the atmosphere in the building,even the old building, is completelydifferent from before the move to CroatiaStreet three years ago. The impact of the new environment is evidentlymaking itself felt. The ARC Ensemble of which she is a member, hasjust returned from a tour to New York and Washington, acting as ambassadorsfor and promoters of the Conservatory. ARC' s performancein Toronto on November 7 kicked off an expanded performance program,which will continue at full throttle to the end of the second weekof December, with master classes by Leon Fleisher, a lecture serieson Beethoven by Anton Kuerti, performances by the Academy SymphonyOrchestra on December 6, a new opera, "Pandora's Locker,"on December 5, 11 and 13, the Quebec group, Genticorum, on December11, and the RCM's new "all-star" violin teacher Paul Kantorwith pianist Virginia Weckstrom on December 12. This flurry of activityputs the renovation in its true context: not as an end in itself, but asa means to the RCM's true purpose - great music making .The new Royal Conservatory' s home is the product of a lot of effortby many people over a long period of time (planning began backin 1991) but the result is, in the words of the RCM 's own publicity,"a new vibrant cultural destination and ... resource," which will benefitgenerations to come. Kudos to the vision and tenacity of those behindthis great gift to Canada's cultural heritage!Where theMusic BeginsThisHoliday Season.Geo~ ,& Co. LimitedCONSERVATORS & PURVEYORS201 Church St., Toronto, ON. M5B IY7 Email: ghcl@idirect.comTel: 416·363·0093, Fax: 416·363-0053www.georgeheinl.comCanada·s foremost violin experts.Proud of our heritage. Exc:ited ;1bout the future .WWW. THEWHOLENOTE.CO M D ECEMBER 1 2008 - F EBRUARY 7 2009

World ViewSoul-full worldby Karen AgesIt's that time of year when you flip through the listings and find umpteenperformances of Handel's famous Messiah. Well, here's one with atwist: Ballet Creole presents Soulful Messiah, December 5, 6 and 7 atthe Fleck Dance Theatre (207 Queens Quay West). Set to a rhythm andblues version of Handel's work, Aretha Franklin, The Boys Choir ofHarlem, Patti Austin and Gladys Knight lend their voices to the music,while the movement melds classical ballet, tap, jazz, African and Caribbeandance. Featured is tap dancer David Cox.Best known for its biennial end-of-summer Festival of Jewish Culture,the Ashkenaz Foundation presents "Judea-Spanish Songs fromBosnia", a concert featuring octogenarian Flory Jagoda, who will sing avariety of songs in Ladino (historically the language of many SephardicJews), December 6 at Glenn Gould Studio. Born in Sarajevo, shemoved to the US in 1946, having survived the obliteration of her birthplace's Jewish community. Known as "Keeper of the Flame" she hasmade it her mission to preserve the rich musical heritage of Bosnia'sJews. She'll be accompanied by members of Toronto's Jewish/Balkanfusion group Beyond the Pale, and others.December 11, the RCM hosts Genticorum, one of Quebec's bestknown folk music ensembles. Recently back from touring the UK (andearlier this year a tour of Australia), their latest CD, La Bibournoisewas nominated for Traditional Album of the Year by the Canadian FolkMusic Awards. This trio combines fiddle, wooden flute, vocal harmonies,foot percussion, guitar and bass in repertoire ranging from traditionalvocal tunes to original instrumental compositions. Pascal Gemme,Alexandre de Grosbois-Garand and Yann Falquet, performers.Another, very different folk ensemble, Sisters of Sheynville holdstheir 3rd annual "Chanukah Extravaganza", Dec 14 at the Rex. Thisall-girl band was also nominated by the Canadian Folk Music Awardsfor their latest album. Describing themselves as a "vintage Yiddishswing-klez, jazz/original music" ensemble, they were originally inspiredby the Barry Sisters who performed extensively from the 30s tothe 60s. Band members are: Lenka Lichtenberg, Isabel Fryszberg (vocals),Fern Lindzon (piano/vocals), Rachel Melas (string bass), KinneretSagee (clarinet) and Lorie Wolf (drums). Check them out atwww.sistersofsheynville. ea and www.myspace. comlsistersofsheynville.From South Africa, the Soweto Gospel Choir comes to MasseyHall, December 17 and 18. Formed in 2002, the choir has achieved internationalrecognition and has toured the globe to critical acclaim. Richharmonies characterize both a cappella and accompanied numbers, withdancing and colourful costumes. They perform traditional and contemporarymusic, in six of South Africa's official languages.Also on December 17 and 18, co-organizers Justin Gray, Jon Kayand Andrew Kay once again present the Toronto Indo-Jazz Festival, tobe held at the Trane Studio. Proceeds from last year's as well as thisyear's festival will be hand-delivered to underprivileged music studentsin India. The ensembles performing include Monsoon, Saawun, andTasa, which combine Indian classical music with jazz. Musicians arethe aforementioned organizers (saxophones, winds, bass, percussion),tabla player Ravi Naimpally, Adam Teixeira and Alex Goodman(drums, percussion, guitars, piano, keyboards) and Alan Hetherington,Ernie Tollar, Chris Gartner and John Gzowski (percussion, winds, electricbass, electric guitar). See ahead, Malian kora master Ballake Sissoko performs February5 at York University's Tribute Communities Recital Hall, AccoladeEast Building. The kora is a 21-stringed west African harp. With numerousinternational tours and recordings to his credit, Sissoko willgive a free talk and Q&A February 4. "Sissoko's visit to York kicks offa new performance series being launched by the Tubman Institute's PerformingDiaspora program, which will bring several internationally renownedAfrican and Afro-Diasporic performance artists to York everyyear for public concerts as well as talks and workshops with studentsand the wider community", says Amy Stewart of York's Faculty ofFine Arts. Stay tuned for more info on this series in February.Karen Ages is a freelance oboist who has also been a member of severalworld music ensembles. She can be reached atworldmusic@thewholenote. cornm£infqnia1oronLoNURHAN ARMANMUSIC DIRECTORToronto·s Chamber OrchestraFriday, Dec 12, 8 pmRISTA SAVIC ConductorDARKO BRLEK ClarinetistROYER MisticoWEBER Clarinet QuintetHOLST St. Paul's SuiteGRIEG Selections from Peer GyntMENDELSSOHN Sinfonia No. 10Grace Church on-the-Hill300 Lonsdale RdFriday, Feb 6, 8 pmTHE GLORY OF BAROQUEBACH Concerto for Two ViolinsROYER Viola ConcertoVITALI/RESPIGHI ChaconneTARTINI Cello Concerto in ABACH Violin Concerto in 905 825 9477 , , - off onlineTORONTO PHILHAR)fONIAThurs Dec. 4@ 7 pmA Joyous holiday concert of favorites with Kerry and theorchestra joined by the Toronto Philharmonia chorusThurs Feb. 5 @ 8 pmToronto Centre for the ArtsWeston Recital Hall5040 Yonge StreetKerry Stratton, ConductorLance Elbeck, ViolinGlazunov: Violin ConcertoKodaly: Hary Janos SuiteBurry: Suite from "The Hobbit"Truly a night to remember with a programinspired by legend.DECEMBER 1 2008 - FEBRUARY 7 2009 WWW. THEWHOLENOTE.COM 21

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