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Volume 18 Issue 9 - June/July/August 2013

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Beat by Beat | Choral

Beat by Beat | Choral SceneSinging the WorldBenjamin SteinIn my last column I promised to address the reluctance of audiencesto attend performances of new music, even to the pointof vetting concerts over the phone to make sure nothing on theprogram is too modern.One reader wrote in to observe that time often sifts through anddiscards the inferior music of past eras, leaving a core of provenmasterworks that form the basis of performers’ standard repertoire;with a finite amount of time and resources for concert-going,it is reasonable to concentrate on works that have some guarantee ofquality and durability.I wrote back and pointed out that timewas actually an unreliable source andjudge of quality. Many composers whosework was neglected to various degrees aftertheir deaths were revived by later musicians,found an audience, and now areconsidered important. Into this category fallBach, Mahler, Vivaldi, Monteverdi, as well ascomposers popular with early music audiencessuch as Dowland, Gesualdo and Biber.Hearing well-known works repeatedlycan be both pleasurable and a way to adeeper understanding of these compositions.But there is great fun, satisfaction and realexcitement in feeling that you are singing (orlistening to) something new and unusual.The reader and I agreed in a pleasant emailexchange that an active, engaged audience was needed, to be receptiveto musicians who champion both new and neglected works. Onlywith these kind of listeners can time and successive audiences findwhich composers speak to them most deeply.For those interested in being part of a vanguard of new, varied andinteresting choral projects, there are fascinating opportunities this Julyand August at Stratford Summer Music.The festival, somewhat overshadowed in the past by the town’srenowned Shakespeare festival season, has in recent years emerged asa hub of innovative summer programming. This year, their focus is onchoral music.This year Stratford Summer Music is inviting interested choralsingers of all ages, abilities and experience to participate in a seriesof events titled “We Sing the World – a Choral Symposium,” over thecourse of four days, July 18 to 21. The musicians leading rehearsals,panel discussions, concerts, workshops and lectures are a mixtureof Canadian and international choral music experts. The festival’stwo themes are the environment and world culture; the workshopsand discussions will address how world culture and environmentalconcerns are influencing and shaping choral music in the new century.Participants will form a chorus that will rehearse during thesymposium and perform a concert at the end of the weekend.Registration information can be found at stratfordsummermusic.ca.The festival’s programming is stylistically diverse, situating classicalchoral singing within the larger context of world music and modernvocal techniques. Concerts will include appearances by the famousVienna Boys’ Choir (July 26 to 28); Johannesburg’s Mzansi Youth Choir(August 22 to 24); Anúna, the Irish national choir (as part of the choralsymposium); and an August 4 concert by the Toronto Mass Choir, oneof the city’s best gospel music ensembles.The festival is also devoting a substantial part of the summer to anexploration of the work of legendary Canadian composer R. MurraySchafer, perhaps the most internationally renowned Canadiancomposer alive. On July 18, the opening day of the choral symposium,Schafer celebrates his 80th birthday.Schafer has been an iconoclast from the beginning, rebelling againstthe stultifying conventions of the classical concert paradigm fromthe 1960s onward, setting his music dramas in lakes and woodlandlocales. Schafer’s innovations seem prescient now, as young classicalmusicians are venturing away from the concert hall with increasingfrequency and looking to bars, clubs and other non-traditional spacesto try to connect with audiences. (His Music for Wilderness Lake willbe performed along the Avon River at 7am from July 19 to 21).At the same time, there are strongly traditional elements inSchafer’s work that connect him to European Romantic strains inmyth, opera and literature. His work often depicts metaphysicalstruggles between good and evil, light and dark. Sexuality, particularlyfemale sexuality, is sometimes presented as a destabilizing,threatening force.Activities focusing on Schafer’s work include an 80th birthdaydinner July 18, an exhibition ofhand-drawn scores opening July 17(Schafer’s scores are notable for theirunusual artistry and draftsmanship,incorporating visual imagery aswell as traditional music notation),lectures, symposia and concerts.Other concerts and festivalsof note:At the Elora Festival, there aremany opportunities to see theElora Festival Chorus, whichis appearing in at least eightseparate shows. Notable concertsTorontoMass Choir.with an anniversary theme are“Coronation: Crowning Glory” onJuly 20, which is a celebration ofQueen Elizabeth’s 1953 coronation,and a centenary celebrationof the birth of Benjamin Britten on July 28.The Tafelmusik choir and orchestra take part in a very intriguingblend of dance and music on June 21 and 22, as part of the LuminatoFestival. The ensembles accompany choreographer Mark Morris’ interpretationof Handel’s L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato.Handel’s setting combines John Milton’s two poems, L’Allegroand Il Penseroso, in a metaphysical dialogue. L’Allegro (roughly,the lively one) is happy, active — something of a party animal,actually — and Il Penseroso (the introspective one) is pensive, ruminative,even a bit gloomy. The two poems are companion pieces thatexplore opposite approaches to life, spirituality and sensation.Handel and his librettist interspersed the two poems, creating adramatic tension between the classic Eros and Thanatos principles.Recognizing that whichever text came last would get the final word onthe argument, they added new text and a third character, il Moderato,that attempts to mediate and find a middle path between thetwo extremes.Whether this succeeds as a dialectical synthesis is a matter ofopinion. The new text comes down rather on the side of il Penseroso,and l’Allegro — whose approach strikes me as more fun — is treated asa bit of an unruly teenager in need of curbing. But this was very muchPETER MAHONSales Representative416-322-8000pmahon@trebnet.comwww.petermahon.com22 | June 7 – September 7, 2013 thewholenote.com

in harmony with the aesthetic of the time, which was ultimately aboutbalance, grace and proportion in all things. Handel’s music mines thetext and finds many opportunities for word painting and expressiveness.The show also incorporates the images of poet/draftsman/painterWilliam Blake and has been a hit since its premiere in 1988.The Kokoro Singers, based in the southern Ontario region, perform“Earth, Air, Fire, Water” on June 9 in Guelph and on June 15 inDundas. The concerts feature works by Hatfield, Whitacre, Ticheliand Thompson.On June 15 the Cabbagetown Classical Youth Choir performs itsannual spring concert, which features excerpts from Mozart operasand other works. The choir’s mandate is to give singing opportunitiesto children of families in difficult economic circumstances, and theyare soliciting funding to help with this worthy goal. Please visit theirwebsite at indiegogo.com/projects/ccyc-annual-spring-concert. Theconcert is the finale of an operatic workshop for youth, and features aspecial appearance by legendary Canadian bass-baritone Gary Relyea.From England, the Bradfield College Tour Choir is visiting Canada.This youth choir has performed all over Europe, and in the US as well.Their musical director, Anne Wright, is originally from Toronto. Theyare singing in Niagara Falls on July 4, and in Toronto on July 3 and 6.The July 3 concert takes place at Casa Loma.Hamilton’s Arcady Singers sing several concerts as part of the BrottMusic Festival, which takes place in venues in Burlington, Hamiltonand Ancaster. On June 20 they will be featured in a performanceof Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony; on August 1 they take part in aElmerIselerSingersLydia Adams, ConductorJoin us for the2013~2014Concert SeriesSaint Cecilia SingsA Tribute to Benjamin BrittenSunday, October 20, 2013 at 4:00 pmAll Saints Kingsway Anglican ChurchHandel’s MessiahFriday, December 6, 2013 at 8:00 pmMetropolitan United Churchwith the Amadeus Choir,distinguished soloists and orchestraCanadian Choral CelebrationCelebrating 6 decades of professionalchoral singing in CanadaSunday, February 2, 2014 at 3:00 pmKoerner Hall, Telus CentreElmer Iseler Singers, Vancouver Chamber Choirand Alberta’s Pro Coro CanadaKaspars Putnins, guest conductorHenryk Górecki’s monumental Miserere anda world premier by R. Murray SchaferBach’s B Minor MassSaturday, April 12, 2014 at 7:30 pmMetropolitan United Churchwith the Amadeus Choir,distinguished soloists and orchestraEncore!Encore!35th Anniversary ConcertA Salute to the Ontario Arts Council’s 50th AnniversarySaturday, May 3 at 7:30 pmChrist Church Deer ParkDerek Holman, Healey Willan,Harry Somers, Harry Freedman, Paul Halley416-217-0537www.elmeriselersingers.comPresentedbyONTARIO ARTS COUNCILCONSEIL DES ARTS DE L’ONTARIO50 YEARS OF ONTARIO GOVERNMENT SUPPORT OF THE ARTS50 ANS DE SOUTIEN DU GOUVERNEMENT DE L’ONTARIO AUX ARTSCanada Council for the ArtsConseil des Arts du CanadaDrama,& InspIratIon…Experience it all during theToronto Mendelssohn Choir’s13/14 season with Noel Edison,Artistic Director.BriTTEN AT 100Nov 20, 2013 at Yorkminster Park Baptist ChurchEnjoy two rarely performed dramatic cantatasby Benjamin Britten: The Company of Heavenand St. Nicolas.FEsTivAl oF CArols with Ben HeppnerDec 11, 2013 at Yorkminster Park Baptist Churchstart the Christmas season with a concertof festive music and stories, featuring tenorBen Heppner. Choose viP tickets for premiumseating and a post-concert reception with Ben.MeSSiaH with the tSODec 18, 2013 at roy Thomson HallTMC and Tso perform Handel’s immortaloratorio under the direction of conductorChristopher Warren-Green.MaSS iN B MiNorMar 26, 2014 at Koerner Hall,TElUs Centre for Performance and learningBe emotionally uplifted and intellectuallychallenged by Bach’s musical imagination inthis monumental work.sACrED MUsiC For A sACrED sPACEGood Friday, Apr 18, 2014 at st. Paul’s BasilicaEnjoy magnificent music for chorus andorgan: Duruflé’s requiem and vierne’s MesseSolennelle.Subscriptions start at 3 forall five concerts or 0 for three.www.tmchoir.org416-598-0422 x221SubScribe now toour 13/14 SeaSonLiSten tothe tMcthewholenote.com June 7 – September 7, 2013 | 23

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