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Volume 18 Issue 6 - March 2013

  • Text
  • Toronto
  • Jazz
  • April
  • Arts
  • Theatre
  • Quartet
  • Musical
  • Ensemble
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  • Concerts

“theme” programs.

“theme” programs. The first is that of Henry Meredith’s PlumbingFactory Brass Band in London, Ontario, which always has imaginativeprograms. Titled “Our Home and Native Land – A Celebration ofCanada,” the April 17 program will open and close with two differentmarches both called Bravura, a word which conjures up our nationalspirit of energy, pride and glory. Included will be Handel’s CoronationAnthem “Zadok the Priest” which was performed 60 years ago at ourQueen’s coronation in 1953. The band will then take the audience ona musical tour of Canada with such numbers as Howard Cable’s TheBanks of Newfoundland, an arrangement of several folk songs fromour oldest, yet newest, province. Canada’s waterways will be portrayedby Herbert L. Clarke’s cornet solo The Maid of the Mist, named for thefamous Niagara Falls tour boat.The Uxbridge Community Concert Band has taken a differentapproach to its theme programming. Last year band members wereasked to vote on a single number from previous years that they wouldlike to perform again. Their choice of previously performed musicwas a suite from The Firebird. From that evolved the theme of “TheElements” for an upcoming concert. It will all be music about earth,wind, air and fire. From the fast-moving Dancing in the Wind, thepower of the sacred volcano Mazama and the gospel stylings of Wadein the Water, through the tumultuous Ritual Fire Dance to the grandfinale of The Firebird, it should be quite a musical journey.Down the road: The University of Toronto, Scarborough (UTSC) andthe Ontario Band Association (OBA), are inviting interested groups toparticipate in the 2013 UTSC & OBA Chamber Music Festival. This is athree-day music festival that will take place from April 16 to 18, 2013,at the UTSC campus. Further information will soon be available atonband.ca/cmf.We have not heard any more on the York University band workshopin May, mentioned in last month’s column, but expect to have moredetails well before the date.Jack MacQuarrie plays several brass instruments andhas performed in many community ensembles. He canbe contacted at bandstand@thewholenote.com.Retraction: In the March 2010 issue of this publication I referred to acollection of early wax cylinder recordings in my possession (pickedup at a sale in a barn in Prince Edward County, by the way). Amongstthem, I said, there was, to the best of my recollection, a conversationreputed to be between Thomas Edison and Johannes Brahms.Challenged repeatedly by a reader to substantiate my claim or retractit (since there is no evidence that Brahms and Edison ever met), I havestalled on doing so, in the hope that I’d get round to rummagingthrough more than half a century of “stuff.” Since, three years later,I seem to be no closer to getting around to doing so, I hereby retractany claims made in this column as to the existence of such a cylinder.CANADIAN VIEW POINTSWest Coast NotesIan AlexANDERThose who think that Victoria, BC, is still the land of “the newlywed and the nearly dead” need to update their impressions — atleast where the local music scene is concerned. Better yet,they might like to plan a late winter/early spring getaway from thefrigid, grey-toned rigours of Toronto to sample the mild, evergreendelights of the West Coast — including some remarkably adventurousconcert programming.The Victoria Symphony: An institution not always renowned forbreaking new musical ground — now does so regularly under theinspired and visionary leadership of Tania Miller. Currently celebratingher tenth anniversary as music director — the first Canadianwoman to hold such a position —“Maestra” Miller (as she is knownhere) challenges and rewards orchestra members and audiencesalike with fresh, revelatory readings of standard works, thematicmini-festivals and frequent forays into new and unusual repertoire.Already this season, Miller and the VS have teamed up withthe University of Victoria and the Victoria Art Gallery to celebrateJohn Cage’s 100th birthday, and presented the world premiere ofa major new orchestral work, Figures in the Night Passing, by thedean of Canadian composers, R. Murray Schafer. Coming up onMarch 15: a very special concert designed to climax a two-month,city-wide celebration of Victoria’s Chinatown, the oldest in Canadaand second-oldest in North America (after San Francisco’s). Theproject epitomizes the VS’s commitment both to new music and toconnecting classical music with the broader context of communitylife — particularly its multicultural dimensions.The highlight of the program is undoubtedly the world premiere ofa 45-minute “symphonic theatre” creation, by Toronto-based composerChan Ka Nin, called Harmonious Interest. The title is a referenceto a striking and colourful structure called The Gate of HarmoniousInterest that marks the entrance to Victoria’s Chinatown; the concertwill take place just a few steps from that spot, in the McPhersonPlayhouse. A former Pantages vaudeville house, The Mac is about tocelebrate its own centenary, along with its sister theatre, the Royal,which is the Symphony’s usual home base.The seven-movement work is scored for orchestra, percussion soloist,hulusi (a Chinese reed instrument with drone pipes), plus twosinger/actors and a dancer. Like Chan’s earlier opera, Iron Road, thisnew piece is a collaboration with librettist Mark Brownell and dramatizesthe Chinese immigrant experience on the West Coast — and byextension across Canada. We follow a recently arrived labourer as heINDEX OF ADVERtisersAldeburgh Connection 36All Saints Kingsway 42Amadeus Choir 46Amadeus Choir / Elmer Iseler Singers40, 88Aradia Ensemble 18, 45Associates of the TSO 34ATMA 5Aurora Cultural Centre 35Canadian Opera Company 17Canadian Sinfonietta 41Cantabile Chamber Singers 40Cathedral Bluffs Symphony Orchestra38Christ Church Deer Park Jazz Vespers28Church of the Ascension 41Classical 96.3fm 79Cosmo Music 29Diana McIntosh 45Esprit Orchestra 4Essential Opera 38Exultate Chamber Singers 40Flato Markham Theatre 44Gallery 345 32, 36Geoff Chapman Celebration 49Heliconian Hall 54I Furiosi 44Jubilate Singers 54Junction Trio 43Kindred Spirits Orchestra 44, 57Liz Parker 55Long & McQuade 53Lula Lounge 39, 51Matthew Kelly 55Mississauga Festival Choir 46Mississuaga Symphony 41Mr. Tuner 52Music at Metropolitan 35, 36, 44Music Toronto 9, 35, 37, 39, 45Musicians in Ordinary 39Nathaniel Dett Chorale 34NAXOS 85New Music Concerts 7, 47Nine Sparrows 43No Strings Theatre 54Norm Pulker 55NYCO 23Organix 13 20Orpheus Choir 25Pasquale Bros 54Pattie Kelly 55Pax Christi 26, 53Peter Mahon 24RCCO 54Rea Beaumont 37Remenyi House of Music 86Royal Conservatory 11, 18Scarborough Philharmonic Orchestra46Sheila McCoy 55Sinfonia Toronto 15Soundstreams 35St. Philip's Anglican Church 28Steinway Piano Gallery 7Steve Jackson Pianos 27Sue Crowe Connolly 55Syrinx Concerts Toronto 37Tafelmusik 3, 39Talisker Players 35The Sound Post 20Toronto Consort 19, 46Toronto Downtown Jazz 51Toronto Jazz Orchestra 35Toronto Latvian Concert Asociation45Toronto Mendelssohn Choir 44Toronto Summer Music 41Toronto Symphony 2U of T Faculty of Music13, 21, 22, 53Univox Choir 42Urban Flute 33Vic Chorus 40Voicebox / Opera in Concert 42Voices of Colour Music – DeniseWilliams 55Windermere String Quartet 34Women's Musical Club 43Yorkminster Park Baptist Church 42You and Media 5530 thewholenote.com March 1 – April 7, 2013

Tania Miller.explores the city’s narrow, twisting Fan Tan Alleywith its gambling rooms and opium dens, strugglesto learn to be a Chinese cook, and dictates aletter home to his beloved wife.The final movement of the work has alreadybeen heard once, at last summer’s VictoriaSymphony Splash concert, where it was wellreceived. Splash is an iconic annual outdoorevent that attracts some 40,000 spectatorsto the Inner Harbour, where the orchestraperforms on a barge, surrounded byenthusiastic listeners in kayaks. (Theequivalent in terms of public impact wouldbe if a quarter of a million people cameto Harbourfront to hear the TSO.) Splashalways takes place on the Sunday of BC DayBrian Wismath.weekend; next year will mark its 25th anniversary, and the year afterthat, the Victoria Symphony will celebrate its 75th anniversary.But back to the March 15 concert: in addition to the world premiereof Chan’s Harmonious Interest, the program will also includeStrange Air, by Dorothy Chang, a UBC associate professor. This piecewas the inaugural commission from the Women’s PhilharmonicCommissioning Project of Meet the Composer (now part of New MusicUSA), and was premiered at the Cabrillo Festival of ContemporaryMusic in Santa Cruz, CA, under the baton of the festival’s music director,Marin Alsop, herself a trailblazer for women in leadership rolesin classical music. As well, VS concertmaster Terence Tam will be featuredas soloist in the Butterfly Lovers’ Concerto, the well-known andaccessible work written in 1959 by Chinese composers Chen Gang andHe Zhanhao.Vox Humana: The mid-March weekend in Victoria that startswith Friday evening’s VS “Chinatown” concert continues with atrue embarrassment of riches, musically speaking. On Saturday andSunday, the focus shifts to choral music — a genre with which this cityis particularly well blessed. Easter comes early this year, and March 17is Passion Sunday, a fact which one of our pre-eminent chamberchoirs, Vox Humana, is acknowledging with back-to-back offerings:an ambitious doubleheader on the subject of the Passion.On Saturday evening, under the ethereal dome of St. Andrew’sRoman Catholic Cathedral, Vox Humana will present a program thatincludes Arvo Pärt’s Passio for chorus, soloists and chamber orchestra.The piece represents the culmination of the composer’s tintinnabulistyle. On Sunday afternoon, at St. Barnabas Church, the featured workwill be the British Columbia premiere of The Little Match Girl Passion,by the hot New York-based composer (and co-founder of the Bang ona Can collective) David Lang. Synthesized out of influences that rangefrom Hans Christian Andersen to Johann Sebastian Bach, the workwon the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Music. It has received a wide varietyof innovative stagings in productions around the world — includingone in London for shadow puppets, no less! The Victoria version willincorporate original choreography for three dancers.Both the Saturday and Sunday Vox Humana shows will also provideopportunities to hear the first performances of a short work bythe young Victoria composer David Archer. Titled Compassio, it isdescribed by its creator as a choral prelude; as its name suggests, itis a meditation on the theme of compassion, intended as a compan-ion piece to Pärt’s Passio, and complementing the latter’s musicalexploration of the theme of suffering. Archer works in fields rangingfrom church music to film scores, and also plays lounge piano ata local hotel–a not-atypical life for an aspiring young musician thesedays. One of his orchestral works was read during one of the VictoriaSymphony’s annual composers’ workshops.Vox Humana is a 24-voice ensemble led by Brian Wismath, a formerToronto Mendelssohn Youth Choir chorister and conducting protégé ofRobert Cooper. Since moving to Victoria just three years ago, Wismathhas made himself both indispensable and omnipresent on the city’sand the province’s choral scene. Among other things, he directs theVictoria Choral Society, a large choir that appears regularly with theVictoria Symphony, most recently in the Mozart Requiem, on thesame bill as the Schafer premiere mentioned earlier. They will offerHaydn’s Nelson Mass on May 6. As for Vox Humana,on May 25, 26 and 27 they will appear on two differentprograms with the Victoria Children’s Choir,who took first place at the 2011 Summa Cum LaudeInternational Youth Music Festival in Vienna.The “Big Three” music-presenting institutionsin this city (apart from the University) are theSymphony, the Victoria Conservatory ofMusic and Pacific Opera Victoria. VCMappointed a new dean this year; he’sStephen Green, formerly of the RoyalStephen Green.Conservatory in Toronto. POV has justcelebrated yet another composer’s centenary— that of Benjamin Britten — withyet another mini-festival, anchored by an excellent mainstage productionof Albert Herring with a fine young Canadian cast, includingthe likes of Lawrence Wiliford, Sally Dibblee, Phillip Addis and GilesTomkins, among others. Surprisingly, it’s Pacific Opera’s first-everco-production with Vancouver Opera, which will remount it, withmany of the same performers, this fall. The punningly named Festivalof Britten also presented Noye’s Fludde with the aforementionedVictoria Children’s Choir and a double bill of Let’s Make an Operaand The Little Sweep, co-produced with the Conservatory and theBelfry Theatre respectively — typical of the kind of partnerships thatare becoming increasingly common and necessary to make things likethis happen.Pacific Opera Victoria rounds out its current season in April withfive performances of Tosca, starring Joni Henson, Luc Robert andDavid John Pike.As for the Victoria Symphony, with which this whirlwind overviewbegan, its main season runs through May 11 and 12 when Millerconducts a program marking the centenary of The Rite of Spring. Theprogram includes the premiere of the second of four movements ina “new” New World Symphony (being created over two years by VScomposer-in-residence Michael Oesterle) and welcomes, as soloistin the Sibelius Violin Concerto, Canadian fiddle superstar JamesEhnes. The Brandon native, now Florida resident, recently took overas artistic director of the Seattle Chamber Music Festival, and there’stalk of future collaboration between him and pianist Arthur Rowe,who helms the Victoria Summer Music Festival. But we’re gettingahead of ourselves!A single column can only hint at the richness of musical life outhere on the Pacific Rim. As I write in late February, the ninth annualPacific Baroque Festival is in full swing, with five concerts focusingon the music of Henry Purcell’s London. On March 12, BenjaminButterfield will sing the Evangelist when the Victoria Baroque Playerspresents Bach’s Saint John Passion under the baton of POV artisticdirector Timothy Vernon. On June 8, Butterfield’s brother, Peter,leads his Victoria Philharmonic Choir in the Monteverdi Vespers. Andso it goes. Hopefully, future missives from the West Coast can roundout the picture, and — who knows? — we may even find space to talkabout musical life in that “other” BC city on the eastern edge of theSalish Sea.Ian Alexander is a former CBC on-air host and executive,now a Victoria-based independent consultant, teacher and writer.March 1 – April 7, 2013 thewholenote.com 31

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