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Volume 17 Issue 5 - February 2012

  • Text
  • February
  • Toronto
  • Jazz
  • Theatre
  • Symphony
  • Arts
  • Musical
  • Orchestra
  • Bloor
  • Quartet

wove with the audience

wove with the audience in his solo spot.The RC’s Middle Eastern Music Series resumes the next day,(February 12), 3pm, at the Mazzoleni Concert Hall, with composerand pianist Malek Jandali in a programme inspired by the folk andancient music of Syria, incorporating both Arabic and Westernmusical elements. The music on his new CD Echoes from Ugarit,featured on this concert, is arguably the most ancient “world music”in my column this month. It is inspired by the oldest known musicnotation in the world, dating to the fourth century BCE, discoveredin the ancient Syrian city of Ugarit.BATUKI: On Saturday February 11, the Batuki Music Societycontinues this month’s Black History theme with its “Ethiopia: AMusical Perspective” at the CBC’s Glenn Gould Studio, an ambitiousexpedition into Ethiopia’s musical culture starting from the music ofthe Azmaris, professional bards who recite stories and comment onsocial issues through song, moving on to varied pentatonic regionalmusical genres, and ending with Ethio-jazz, an exciting modern hybrid.Ethiopia, the only country on the African continent never colonizedby Europeans, has a long and illustrious history. What betterplace than Toronto, with the largest Ethiopian population in Canada,to showcase the various musical instruments and wealth of Ethiopianexpression? The musicians taking the audience on this deep journeyinclude Girma Wolde Michael, Fantahun Shewankochew, HenokAbebe, Martha Ashagari and Gezahegn Mamo.CONVERGENCE: Setting our sights beyond the GTA, onFebruary 16 the University of Guelph presents the culturally diverseConvergence Ensemble with Gerard Yun playing shakuhachi,didgeridoo, and native flute, Kathryn Ladano on bass clarinet, andpianist Sandro Manzon.SOWETO GOSPEL: Back downtown at the Sony Centre for thePerforming Arts, the inspirational two-time Grammy and EmmyAward-winning Soweto Gospel Choir returns on February 24 and25. With a new show titled “African Grace,” the Choir’s 24 singers,dancers and musicians will heat up the dreariness of late Februarywith their joy-filled repertoire.PAVLO: Also on February 24, multi-award winning Greek-Canadianmusician and composer Pavlo performs at Roy Thomson Hall.Billed as the local stop on the Six String Blvd World Tour, the eveningwill appeal to the legions of fans who have made Pavlo the“most successful independent artist to come out of Canada, performing150+ shows per year,” according to his website. On his ninth album,Six String Blvd, Pavlo has gone global inviting “the world’smost exotic instruments into his classic Mediterranean sound.” Presumablythe ney, erhu, bouzouki and sitar on his CD will be there.SEPHARDIC DIASPORA: March 1 the York University Departmentof Music’s World at Noon concert series features “Songs and balladsof the Sephardic Diaspora” by a leading specialist in that repertoire,singer Judith Cohen. It’s at the casual Martin Family Lounge,219 Accolade East Building.MUSIDEUM: The new Coffeehouse Concert Series at the lowkeyedand intimate downtown venue/retail store Musideum keepssurprising us. Its delightfully eclectic programming continues witha world music spin on March 3 with the group Medicine Wheel,“bringing together a world fusion of music for the soul.” LeaderDavid R. Maracle on native flutes and hang drum is joined byDonald Quan on guzheng, keyboards and tabla, and guitarist RonBankley. Percussionists Richard Best and Rakesh Tewari add themetric frame, propulsive energy and accents.Andrew Timar is a Toronto musician and music writer. Hecan be contacted at worldmusic@thewholenote.com.Vocal Music Academy @Heather Heights Junior Public School& Ryerson Community SchoolThe Vocal Music Academy will engage students with a passionfor singing, creating and performing. Through a variety ofvocal performance opportunities, students will experience,learn and perform music from around the world. Students willdevelop musicianship, artistry, self-esteem and confidence asthey create and perform their own music and learn to thinkcritically about the music they produce.www.tdsb.on.ca/academiesWhere Amazing Happens24 thewholenote.comFebruary 1 – March 7, 2012

Let It ShineBENJAMIN STEINIf i had to pick one musical scale to take with me to a desertisland, and the only choice was between an elegantly craftedSchoenbergian twelve-tone row and a plain old blues scale, I’dquickly grab the blues scale before they tossed me off the ship.The noble musical experiments of Schoenberg and other modernistcomposers were enormously influential within academic and concertcircles. But while these august types were busy out-moderning eachother, blues and other African-derived musical styles — jazz, rhythmand blues, and hiphop, to name only several — colonized the world,holding sway in a manner akin to the complete cultural dominanceof Italian music in Europe from the 16th to the 18th centuries.February is Black History Month, and this column is going todepart from its usual listings format to explore this phenomenonin some depth. Black History Month was originally conceived asa week-long celebration encompassing the February birth dates ofAmerican abolitionist Frederick Douglass and president AbrahamLincoln. In modern times it has become an occasion for the peopleof the African diaspora to celebrate their history of struggle andtriumph, and their formidable achievements.One of these achievements is the degree to which African-derivedtechniques are part of the DNA of popular music. When yet anotherwell-scrubbed American Idol contestant launches into a showyfusillade of vocal melismas, they are echoing (but rarely surpassing)the vocal work of Stevie Wonder. (Also a notable composer,Wonder’s work is so innovative that it has barely been picked up byanyone, but that is another story). Any good professional bass playerbuilds on the nimble, inventive lines of genius Motown bassist JamesJamerson. Fletcher Henderson’s swing orchestra arrangements arethe Well-Tempered Clavier of jazz orchestra studies. In a musicalsense, every month is Black History Month, whether we consciouslyperceive it or not.Classical musical studies largely continue to ignore Africanderivedmusical techniques, leaving graduating students unequippedto deal with large areas of musical endeavor and employment. Itis as if drama students were taughtto execute Shakespeare, Racine andclassical Greek drama, but weresheltered from Beckett, television andfilm. Classical vocal students grapplewith the demands of 20th centuryvocal writing — often absurdly illwroughtfor the voice — but are givenno thorough stylistic understanding ofjazz or blues.It is in this area that choirs havebeen something of a vanguard. Choralgroups often have to be stylisticallydiverse, and classical choirs have beenexecuting choral arrangements ofspirituals since the beginning of thelast century. Singing African-derivedmusic with European technique and aesthetic remains a trap, butchoral directors are increasingly applying performance practicetechniques to this music, doing the listening, research and technicalpractice that leads to more authentic and appropriate performances.Toronto’s Nathaniel Dett Chorale, founded in 1998 by BrainerdBlyden-Taylor, has provided strong leadership in this area. Namedfor an African-Canadian, Drummondville composer who made hiscareer in the USA, the NDC has consistently programmed interestingand unusual works. On February 14 they team up with writerPETER MAHONSales Representative416-322-8000pmahon@trebnet.comwww.petermahon.comFebruary 1 – March 7, 2012thewholenote.com 25

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