8 years ago

Volume 17 Issue 8 - May 2012

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Jim LynchBeat by Beat |

Jim LynchBeat by Beat | Early MusicMan Behindthe MasquesimoNE desiletsIf you have a passion to do something, there seem to be no limitsto what you can accomplish. When musician Larry Beckwithconceived Toronto Masque Theatre in 2003, he had avision of reviving an art form that arose probably duringthe Renaissance with masked processions visiting noblehouses. It was developed substantially in Europe during the16th to 18th centuries, evolving into anelaborate performance with scripted plotand combining elements of music, theatreand dance. To undertake the revival ofthis form and also to expand the repertoireby commissioning new works in thespirit of the masque, Beckwith invitedsome talented people to work with him:choreographer Marie-Nathalie Lacoursièreis a specialist in historical dance who hasa magical touch for staging; actor andco-director Derek Boyes has an extensivebackground in stage, radio and TV dramaas well as film.This pursuit has taken them very far,leading them to mount performancesof wide-ranging scope: everything fromShakespeare/Blow’s Venus and Adonisto the five major music theatre worksAbove, LarryBeckwith. Right,Renaissancedance troupeLes JardinsChoréographiques.of Purcell to Stravinsky’s A Soldier’s Tale to newly commissionedworks by James Rolfe, Omar Daniel, Abigail Richardson and DeanBurry, to plays by Molière, Reaney and others, to “variety” or“cabaret” evenings — some 25 productions in all.This month, the company presents a masque on a theme that mightbe expressed (at least in my words) as “Woman: Proud, Beautifuland Decidedly Unattainable.”Three 17th-century depictions are interwoven:There’s the play: The Convent of Pleasure by English playwrightMargaret Cavendish, in which the main character, a beautifulwoman, turns her back on the company of men and establishes aconvent open only to like-minded maids and widows, in which theycreate their own world of pleasure and where men are excluded fromall access to their beauty and their worldly possessions. There’s theballo, or semi-dramatic ballet: Monteverdi’s Ballo delle ingrate inwhich Venus and Cupid visit Pluto, King of the Underworld, to complainthat the arrows from Cupid’s bow are no longer effective onthe ladies of Mantua who are scorning their lovers. And there’s thecomical cantata for a trio of women singers: Luigi Rossi’s Noi siamtre donzelette semplicette, in which the three little innocent maidsmock men’s “empty babbling” about their love for women.Ah, but will “Unattainable Woman” prevail, or be thwarted inthe end? This is for you to find out, when you go to see thisproduction, taking place at Hart House Theatre on May 11 and12. If you attend the pre-show chat, you have the added treat of aconversation between Beckwith and professor Katie Larson, whoseresearch area includes 16th- and 17th-century English literaturewith a focus on women’s writing and issues of gender and language,and who has made a special study of the writings of playwrightMargaret Cavendish.I’ll tempt you with Beckwith’s comments about the cast: “I’mvery excited to be working with the brilliant young singers VirginiaHatfield, Dawn Bailey, Michele DeBoer and Benjamin Covey. I’mdelighted that four dancers from Marie-Nathalie’s Montreal troupe(the renaissance dance troupe Les Jardins Choréographiques) willjoin us, and that the play will be realized by an abundantly talentedgroup of young actors, directed by Derek Boyes. There are sometop-notch players in the band (including harpsichordist NoamKrieger from Holland, and gamba player Justin Haynes). All in all itshould be a glorious show!”Other concerts this month have to do, in part, with transitions,and with the spirit of giving:●●May 11: In Kingston, the Melos Choir and Chamber Orchestraexplore the progression of musical style from the birth of Monteverdito the death of Schütz — the transition from the Renaissance to theBaroque — in their concert “The Age of Change: Monteverdi, Schützand Gibbons.”●●May 13: “Bach Meets Frederick the Great” is the title of the nextconcert of Waterloo Region’s Nota Bene Baroque, and it’s inspiredby an event in May, 1747, when the two actually did meet: Bachvisited Frederick’s residence in Potsdam, where the king gave him acunning theme upon which to construct a fugue on the spot (whichof course he did). Further developments led to the creation of oneof Bach’s most famous compositions, the collection of pieces knownas The Musical Offering, entirely based on this theme. As for NotaBene’s concert which takes place at Kitchener’s Registry Theatre,it presents music by Bach, by Frederick himself and by his courtcomposers, as well as readings that explore the titanic aesthetic and22 May 1 – June 7, 2012

NOTA BENEcultural shifts taking place at that time. And, it features two veryinteresting guest artists: baroque flutist Emma Elkinson, and narratorColin Fox.●●May 13: The Toronto Chamber Choir’s afternoon “Kaffeemusiks”are a mix of expert and entertaining commentary from music directorMark Vuorinen with music sung by the choir. In this, the last ofthem this season, choir and soloists perform Bach’s cantata Brichdem Hungrigen dein Brot (Break Your Bread For the Hungry). Theirpress release offers this invitation: “In the spirit of the cantata’sreflections on the transformative power of charity, we encourage youto contribute to our food drive for the needy who live in our richlyblessed city.”●●May 20 & 21: Among the diverse groups who choose to focuson a particular aspect of the vast musical universe is the TorontoContinuo Collective, whose aim is to explore the art of baroqueaccompaniment and all that it entails: figured bass harmony, supportingtext inflection, ornamentation, word painting, improvisation,and everything else that makes the music speak and come alive.Nota Bene Baroque.In this pair ofconcerts, entitled“L’Authentiqueamour français,”they’ll show offtheir skills in aprogram of rarely-heardgems ofthe 17th-centuryFrench Baroque,by composerssuch as PierreGuedron andMarc-AntoineCharpentier.With their lutes,violins, viols andkeyboards, they’llbe joined byguest soloists, soprano Emily Klassen and tenor Bud Roach.●●May 24 to 27: Tafelmusik’s music director, Jeanne Lamon, hasobserved that for them, playing Beethoven feels like playing “newmusic that’s exploding” because they come to it from the perspectiveof the music that has gone before, rather than approaching itfrom a 21st-century perspective. Conductor Bruno Weil has calledTafelmusik “a great Beethoven orchestra, because Beethoven needsthe passion of every individual player.” You can experience thispassion for yourself in this month’s group of concerts, when theyplay the mighty “Eroica” Symphony, paired with an even later work:Mendelssohn’s Symphony No.4, the “Italian.”●●And immediately afterwards, Tafelmusik embarks on an OntarioTour: You can catch them May 29 in Owen Sound (presented by theSweetwater Music Festival); May 30 on Manitoulin Island; May 31in Parry Sound (presented by Festival of the Sound); June 1 in PortHope (presented by Port Hope Friends of Music).●●May 27: How wonderful to be able to contribute to the welfareof our fellow creatures on the earth, and to that of their habitat,through music. Soprano Ariel Harwood-Jones is well known from herperformances with Tafelmusik (as soloist and within the ChamberChoir), with Opera Atelier, Sine Nomine ensemble and many othergroups. She has gathered together a formidable group of fellowmusicians — among them, harpsichordist Sara-Anne Churchill,gambist Justin Haynes, violinist Larry Beckwith —who all contributetheir artistry in a “Friends & Family Concert,” with music byPurcell, Handel and Bach. Admission is pay-what-you-can andproceeds will go to the Canadian Wildlife Federation.For details on all these and more, please see The WholeNote’sdaily listings.Simone Desilets is a long-time contributor to The WholeNotein several capacities who plays the viola da gamba.She can be contacted atétis Fiddler QuartetPresentsA live performance of theirdebut albumThursday May 10, 20126:00 pm reception, 7:00 pm performanceLakeside Terrace, Harbourfront Centre235 Queens Quay West, Toronto, ON M5J 2G8Part of PLANET INDIGENUS co-produced by HARBOURFRONT CENTRE and WOODLAND CULTURAL CENTREPantone versionCMYK versionBlack & White versionFree admissionrsvp@metisfiddlerquartet.comCD available 1 – June 7, 23

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