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Volume 18 Issue 8 - May 2013

  • Text
  • Choir
  • Toronto
  • Theatre
  • Concerts
  • Musical
  • Jazz
  • Choral
  • Singers
  • Festival
  • Vocal
Includes the 2013 Canary Pages choral directory.

An A Cappella Q&A with

An A Cappella Q&A with Aaron JensenSo why is it that a cappella singing feelsless intimidating than singing in a choir?AARON JENSEN, artistic director of SING!: Whenmany people hear the phrase “a cappella” they thinkGlee — visions of spirited high school students recklesslybrandishing “jazz hands” (or the even more saccharine,“spirit fingers”) and belting out triadic auto-tunedharmonies with bravado — but the term has much olderroots. “A cappella,” literally meaning “in the manner of thechapel,” refers to all vocal music performed with no instrumentalaccompaniment. This umbrella term covers themusic of countless styles, genres and cultural backgrounds.Even though SING! is an a cappella festival, we’vebranded ourselves as a “vocal arts” festival to best representthis diversity. Under our roof, patrons can hear allmanner of a cappella including: classical choral groups,vocal jazzers, gospel choirs, world ensembles, live-loopingartists, pop vocal bands, barbershop quartets, collegiateglee-clubbers, vocal improv collectives and even a cappellacomedy troupes.So does a festival like SING! help to bridge the gulf(if there is one) between solo and choral singing?What’s in it for people coming from a more formal (ifthat’s the right word) choral background? And on theother hand, for bathtub divas what does it say aboutthe potential joys of showering with a few friends?Whether you get your vocal kicks in the confines of yourshower, or flanked by a legion of professionally trainedchoristers, the common ground is one and the same: thejoy of singing. I strongly believe that all people have theability —and every right — to express themselves as part of avocal community, regardless of their musical background.In addition to SING!’s eclectic performance mandateit is of utmost importance to us that we provide ourcommunity with the opportunity and permission to singin a safe and welcoming environment. The festival is dedicatedto exploring the possibilities of the human voice andtaking anyone along on the ride, from the most accomplishedvocal virtuosos to the humblest tavern bellowers.Say a bit about your From Sea to Sea song cycleproject: conception, hurdles along the wayand “final” shape (if anything ever is really final).From Sea to Sea has been in the works for close tofour years now. In 2008, I hatched the idea to composea major choral song cycle that featured a vocal setting ofone poem per province and territory of Canada — “Fromsea to sea” (Canada’s national motto). Ever since then, Ihave been pouring through countless volumes of Canadianpoetry (which has been a true pleasure), chasing downpublishers, lawyers and copyright holders (which hasbeen less so), and composing.Who are your poets?I finally settled on a mix ranging from such belovedhistoric figures as Robert Service and Lucy Maud Montgomery,to contemporary innovators such as GwendolynMacEwen, Christian Bök and Shane Koyczan. My goal hasbeen to compose a series of pieces every bit as diverse asthe country that inspired them. Composing it has takenme into a real hodgepodge of subjects: overtone singing,the braille alphabet, traditional bodhrán jig patternsand so forth. The final song cycle includes everythingfrom contemporary classical choral pieces to lively folkmelodies, from minimalistic soundscapes to rhythmic,jazz-informed harmonic works.When during SING! is the premiere?Sunday, May 12 at 2:30pm, proudly featuring the EloraFestival Singers, the Elmer Iseler Singers, Cawthra ParkChamber Choir, Countermeasure, the SING! Singersfeaturing Denzal Sinclaire, and our host, MarilynLightstone.How did the marriage with Harbourfrontcome about? What would you say arethe biggest pros and cons?Like so many marriages, our courtship was fast andfurious. The SING! board officially formed in the fall of2011, and we had the lofty ambition to put on a large-scalefestival by early spring (only six months later). We reallylucked into our partnership with Harbourfront Centre.Our mandate lined up beautifully with theirs, and ourartistic vision lent itself to the sort of programming thatthey’re renowned for. With us being the new kid on theblock, their stamp of approval gave our festival a certainlegitimacy from day one. Their team provided us (andcontinues to provide us) with an incredible amount ofbehind-the-scenes support.And the not so perfect, if there’s anything?Though laudable, Harbourfront Centre’s 80% freeprogramming mandate has proved an interesting challenge.To meet this 80% quota, and at the same timeprogram the number of ticketed concerts and workshopsnecessary to keep the festival afloat, has meant schedulingover 100 events over the festival’s four-day run. It’s a challengewe have gladly taken in stride.You were still with Cadence at the timeof the first SING!, right? What’s differentnow in terms of goals and pursuits?I had actually given my notice to Cadence around thetime that the SING! board was first forming. I wouldsay that my goals and pursuits have remained relativelyconsistent since then — I’ve just granted myself the timeand space to actualize a larger number of them. I tendto be happiest when I have several artistic pots in thefire ... several pots in the artistic fire?... At the moment Iam recording, gigging and touring with three vocal groups:Countermeasure, a 15-voice vocal band that I co-foundedthree years ago; Retrocity, a 1980s a cappella pop octet;and The Watch, a new quartet that will be representingCanada at Serenade! Washington, DC Choral Festival thiscoming July. I will be releasing a solo album in December,a project that’s been in the works for the past several years,and I continue to busy myself with ongoing new commissionsand musical director/clinician work.How much of your life does SING!consume and why is it worth it?Developing the SING! festival has been a full-time volunteerposition from the beginning. I truly believe in thisproject and am supported by a tireless board of directorswho share the same vision and drive. It has been a labourof love and I feel that I’ve every reason to feel optimisticabout our prospects. It is no small accomplishment fora large-scale festival to break even in its first year. We’vereceived tremendous support and investment from someof the foremost choirs and vocal groups (both locally andinternationally) and the message that keeps coming backis that there is huge (and ever-growing) interest in whatwe’re offering. SING! is working with a ten-year businessmodel and artistic vision. Vocal music is flourishing inToronto, and we plan on leading the singing revolution.—interview by David PerlmanThe SING! Toronto Vocal Arts Festival takes placeat Harbourfront Centre, May 9 to 12.8 | May 1 – June 7, 2013 thewholenote.comori dagan

DISCoveriesRichard Wagner {May 22, 1813–February 13, 1883}Wagner at 200A TributeBY Janos GardonyiIn the 1 9 th century when no TV, radio or celebrity-driven popmusic existed, musical theatre was the chief entertainment for thenewly formed middle classes and its creators became the celebrities.The greatest of these emerged simultaneously: Verdi and Wagner,both born in the same year, 1813. Verdi continued the tradition of writingoperas as musical entertainment, albeit raised to a level of perfection.But Wagner took it as his purpose in life to revolutionize the genre bythe infusion of his own ideas, ambitions, problems — all that occupiedhis thoughts — and turning the music and drama, with a new emphasison the orchestra, into one coherent unit. The end result was a distillationof his thought processes set to music that became a new entity,with words no longer depending on someone else but written by himself.So each of the works became autobiographical in a sense and dealt withuniversal issues giving them a timeless quality. There are dozens of finerecordings for every one of these operas, but in the following paragraphsI have selected just one CD set for each. Most of these are my favouritesor, if more recent, are considered the best by renowned authorities.Wagner was born in Leipzig into a poor family,no prodigy and with next to no musical education.Hearing Beethoven, however, triggered a magicchord to becoming a composer. His young yearswere a series of frustrating attempts to earn a livingmade more difficult by an early marriage to actressMinna Planer. Pursued by his creditors and drivenby ambition he took flight in 1840 and reachedParis. Here he wrote his first opera of consequence Der FliegendeHolländer (1841) inspired by a life-threatening sea voyage, but alreadyencapsulating his principles of music drama. With an overwhelmingpresence of stormy seas roaring in the orchestra the cursed Dutchmanis really searching for erlösung or redemption in the figure of a lovingwife who will be faithful and devoted. >>Der Fliegende Holländer:Simon Estes; Lisbeth Balslev; Matti Salminen; BayreutherFestspiele 1985; Woldemar Nelsson; Philips 434 599-2, 2 CDs,also on DVDBoth the themes of redemption and search foran ideal woman carry through in subsequentdramas. Written back home in Dresden, Tannhäuser(1844), is a more ambitious work in whichWagner explores man’s struggle between erotic(Venus) and spiritual (Elisabeth) love, the lattergiving him redemption with her self-sacrifice.>>Tannhäuser, Dresden version; Hans Hopf;Elizabeth Grümmer; Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau; Berlin State Opera;Franz Kontwitschny; EMI 7 63214-2, 3 CDsIn Lohengrin (1848), his first major breakthrough,the basic theme is loneliness but here thesearch for an ideal woman ends in tragedy becauseof her inherent weakness and betrayal. Apart fromall this, both of these “operas” also germinate hisother life-long interests: German mythology, thelegend of the Holy Grail (Lohengrin) and the roleof the artist in society represented by his fascinationwith the Sängerkrieg or singing contest in Tannhäuser, the lattercoming back much later in a different context in Die Meistersinger.>>Lohengrin: Jess Thomas, Elizabeth Grümmer, Dietrichcontinues on page 66thewholenote.com May 1 – June 7, 2013 | 9

Volume 26 (2020- )

Volume 26 Issue 1 - September 2020
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