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Volume 17 Issue 10 - July/August 2012

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  • August
  • Jazz
  • Festival
  • Toronto
  • September
  • Festivals
  • Theatre
  • Quartet
  • Concerts
  • Musical

Beat by Beat | Jazz

Beat by Beat | Jazz NotesOld King ColeJIM GALLOWAYWell, the TD Toronto Jazz Festival has come and gone for anotheryear and musicians have had a chance to “strut theirstuff” and demonstrate their onstage personas. But one of thisyear’s daytime features was a series of interviews with some of thefeatured performers held on the main outdoor stage under the aegis ofthe Ken Page Memorial Trust.This column is being written before the fact, but Ihope these were well attended becausethey were an opportunity tolearn some things about what makesthe musicians tick, something aboutindividual philosophies, likes anddislikes, and get a glimpse into, as theseries’ title suggests, The Inside Track.I shared the hosting of the serieswith artistic director Josh Grossmanand one of my interviews was with veterantenor player Houston Person.Less known to the younger generationthan say, Joshua Redman, Houstonbrings a wealth of experience to his musicand the same sort of approach as bigtonedtenor players like Gene Ammons,Arnett Cobb and Buddy Tate. He has carved a special niche for himselfwith his distinctive sassy sound and his expressive style. But to hearhim put into words the same sort of things he says through his playingis an entertaining education.I mentioned Arnett Cobb and Buddy Tate as being two of the greatbig-toned tenor players. They were also visitors to Toronto and bothplayed at Bourbon Street, the Queen St. club, and one of four clubsoperated by Doug Cole, who passed away in June at the age of 87.Doug was an ex-policeman whose love of jazz was one of the bestthings that ever happened for the jazz community in Toronto. Hisfirst foray into the world of the jazz impresario was in 1956 whenhe opened George’s Spaghetti House in downtown Toronto. WhyGeorge’s Spaghetti House? Simple. That was the name of the businessoperating there before Doug took it over and he didn’t have enoughready cash to change the sign! It wasn’t an immediate roaring successbut Doug kept the faith and eventually it paid off and George’s becamea showplace for a Who’s Who of Toronto talent and, on occasion, avisiting out-of-towner. On weekends the music ran an hour later thanother clubs in town so musicians could catch the last set on a Fridayor Saturday. Regulars would phone in their orders, and their drinkswould be waiting for them when they arrived at the club.Doug opened another room, Castle George, on the floor above, witha house trio, then in 1971 he opened Bourbon Street which presented asteady flow of American artists usually fronting a local rhythm section.The booking policy at Bourbon Street helped, I believe, to create anawareness of just how good were many of our own Toronto players.A second floor club called Basin Street also showcased jazz on a lessregular basis and it is no understatement to say that Doug Cole’s loveof jazz helped greatly to maintain Toronto as a leading jazz city afterthe demise of the Colonial and Town Taverns.We could certainly use another Doug Cole today.There may not be a lot going on jazz-wise in Toronto but August is abusy month for out of town festivals.August 16 to 19 are the dates of the 14th annual MarkhamJazz Festival.Among the featured musicians are pianistBill Charlap and vocalist Gretchen Parlato, TaraDavidson, Samba Squad, Three Metre Day withHugh Marsh, Michelle Willis and Don Rooke, JeffCoffin and The Mu’tet, and Kellylee Evans.Entering its 18th year is the Oakville Jazz Festival,August 10 to 12, and the program will includePeter Appleyard, Joey DeFrancesco, Holly Cole andTierney Sutton.August 15 to 19 are the dates for the PrinceEdward County Jazz Festival with Emilie-ClaireBarlow, the Louis Hayes “Cannonball” LegacyBand, Tribute to George Shearing with DonThompson, Reg Schwager, Neil Swainson,Don Francks withDon Cole in 2011.Bernie Senensky and Terry Clarke, and a BossBrass Reunion concert.I’ll close out with one of my favourite anecdotesfrom George’s.The story isn’t really meant as a reflection on thechef. He may not have been an escoffier, who would have been out ofplace anyway in an Italian restaurant, but generally speaking the foodwasn’t bad and sometimes it did hit the spot, as the saying goes. Butculinary mishaps can happen and this story does revolve around asteak dinner.I was playing the club one week and two friends, Alastair andVivien Lawrie, came in. Alastair’s name will be familiar to those of youwho remember his jazz reviews in the Globe and Mail. Anyway, Viv ordereda steak. Now, granted the knives and forks weren’t exactly sterlingsilver, but her fork actually bent on the steak. So, Alastair calledthe waiter over and politely explained what had happened. The waiterapologized profusely, left the table and came back with another fork!And no, we did not play All That Meat And No Potatoes.This being a two-month issue, I’ll wish you an august summer andsee you in September.Happy Listening!Jim Galloway is a saxophonist, band leader and formerartistic director of Toronto Downtown Jazz.He can be contacted at LORING20 July 1 – September 7, 2012

Beat by Beat | Choral SceneIn Tune with CentsBEN STEINMany choirs are typically on hiatus during the summer. Beloware some choral concerts taking place in July and August.The Elora Festival, built around the Elora Festival Singers,is always a rich source of choral music in the summer. Taking placeJuly 13 to August 5, choralhighlights includeMendelssohn’s Elijah,Britten’s rare 1937 operacomposed for radio performance,The Company ofHeaven, Paul Halley’s celebratedMissa Gaia, and aconcert devoted to the musicof American composerEric Whitacre.The Nathaniel Dett Choraleperforms at the WestbenArts Festival Theatre — theBarn — on July 15.The Toronto Jewish FolkChoir sings at the AshkenazFestival, which takes placeAugust 28 to September 3.The Ontario Youth Choir,a group that has fostered excellent singersover many years, performs in Kingston onAugust 24 and in Toronto, August 26.In May, I wrote about a colleaguewho passed away suddenly, and aboutthe bonds, loyalties and joys of singingthat draw the choral community together.This month, I address an aspectof choirs that can be awkward, contentious,even divisive —the issue ofsinging choral music for money.As a young singer who fell in lovewith choral music, I was in awe of theThe music of EricWhitacre: August 2 atthe Elora Festival.musicians who were part of professional choral ensembles. To getpaid to do something that was so much fun seemed astonishing to me.When I began singing for these groups myself, I was gratified to be paid,but I quickly learned that this could not be my only source of income,and that I would have to find other work to put food on the table.Looking back, what I find odd is that this simple truth — choralsinging won’t pay the bills, and you will need more than classical vocaltraining to generate income through music — was never openlydiscussed, not by singers, conductors, arts administrators or vocalteachers. The subject remains a delicate one. Why is this the case?Perhaps in a well-meaning attempt to encourage and foster passionfor and commitment to the arts, or perhaps because open discussionabout money is often considered taboo, musicians avoid informingtheir students about the often difficult economic realities of a careerin music. Myself, I would never have become anything but a musician— the ability to count to four and a vague awareness of pitch areabout the only skills that I possess — but being armed with the somehard economic facts about the musician’s life might have led me tomake more strategic, or at least more informed, choices.My own experience has made me stubbornly determined to be openwith younger musicians regarding money issues — not to stomp ontheir dreams, but to help them go into their chosen profession armedwith some practical knowledge about the different elements at play.In the specific case of choral pay, one of the likely reasons for thelack of discussion may be the awkward fact that it lags behind pay forother musicians. The choral ensembles, churches and synagogues inthe Southern Ontario region that pay choral singers generally do so atthe rate of –/hr. Most professional ensembles are in the –/hr range. By contrast, unionized opera choruses pays between–/hr. The minimum rate of pay for instrumentalists of all kinds,according the Toronto Musicians’ Association, is /hr for a minimumtwo-hour rehearsal call, and /hr for a minimum three-hourperformance call.Whether instrumentalists always get this minimum rate is anotherquestion entirely. The point for this discussion is that our most accomplishedchoral ensembles often pay a significant amount less perhour than the minimum rate of pay for an orchestral instrumentalistor unionized opera chorus singer.An experienced choral singer performinga two hours-plus Messiahconcert filled with grueling choruseswill get paid half of what thetrumpeter and percussionist, freshout of school, get paid for playing inthree or four movements comprising12 to 14 minutes of music.Still, is this discrepancy trulya problem? With so many singersready, willing and eager to singfor free, shouldn’t hired singers begrateful for whatever they can get?There are parts of the world in whichthe idea of a paid choral singer isThe OntarioYouth Choir.unheard of.My own opinion in this matter— tiresomely obvious to anyonewho spends more than ten minutesin my presence — matters less than yours, and anyone else’s involved orinterested in choral singing. But since you ask, my belief is that choralJuly 1 – September 7, 21

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