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Volume 19 Issue 3 - November 2013

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  • November
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SUZIE LEBLANC: Pockets

SUZIE LEBLANC: Pockets of Time | continued from page 8For me, the piece on the CD that grabbed me by the heart was EmilyDoolittle’s setting of the shortest poem of the ten — “A Short Slow Life.”“That is a lovely, lovely poem,” LeBlanc agrees and quotes the very linesI am thinking of: “We lived in a pocket of time ... until time’s rough handreached in and tumbled us out.”“So was this project a ‘pocket of time’ for you?” I ask, “at a momentwhere you maybe needed that for a lot of reasons?”“I realize that now,” she says. “In retrospect I realize how much I waslooking for, maybe, I don’t know, amentor, a role model, but Bishopdefinitely served as this kind ofmodel at a time when I was wantingto change things artistically in mylife, and even personally ... It’samazing what [Doolittle] did withthat poem. I mean, because it was ashort poem I was kind of imagininga short little piece, and it’s not thatat all. Somehow she rhythmicallydid very interesting things, andwith repetition. There is melodyas well, but it’s somehow a poemthat is like nature or something, it’sjust — a little leaf here, a little fluff ofsomething there — and not unlike,actually Bishop was a painter aswell, and not unlike the way shemay have painted nature herself.”Despite the range of activity ofthe Nova Scotia-based ElizabethBishop centenary project, wereone to use the internet as a sourceof information about Bishop, onewould find it hard to get the senseFrom left: Mélisande Corriveau, Margaret Little,Felix Deak, Suzie LeBlanc and Susie Napper.“I think you fityour voice to whatyou love …”of the Nova Scotia “motherland” that LeBlanc ascribes to Bishop. Bishophas been vigorously reclaimed by the U.S. as their own, as a sense ofher place in 20th century poetry grows. “And who can blame them?”LeBlanc says. “I mean it was in 2004 that I needed to reconnect withmy motherland Acadia and did the first CD La Mer Jolie and then in2008 did [Chants d’Acadie:] Tout Passe. I’m not saying I’m done withmy motherland, I may be doing another one, actually we’re recordingit in January 2014, but yes, it’s interesting that I’ve managed to connectBishop to her motherland as well. Yes.”And what of musical “motherlands” rather than geographic ones?Toronto audiences have two opportunities to hear LeBlanc on familiarground, first with Tafelmusik from November 6 to 10, singing a programof Purcell and Carissimi “with Charles Daniels, tenor, who is lovely.”And then November 21 she is back in town for Women’s Musical Clubof Toronto, with Montreal-based viol consort Les Voix Humaines (whohave been some of her closest musical connections, since soon after shearrived in that city to study). “Absolutely, absolutely, a group I’ve workedwith a lot,” she says. But the repertoire November 21 is not entirely whatone might expect. “It’s varied, actually, it goes from about Purcell toGershwin. Which is an interesting thing. And the Voix Humaines love tohave music arranged for the four gambas; it’s a quartet of gambas [SusieNapper, Margaret Little, Felix Deak and Mélisande Corriveau]. And so, it’sfun — we are doing some French songs like Autumn Leaves — Les feuillesmortes — very eclectic and lovely. It’s called “Summertime,” becausewe’re also doing Summertime, of course — and spans all sorts of erasbut throughout there’s the Vivaldi Four Seasons played by the gambas.”I ask if baroque repertoire became her original “home turf” becauseit was the “right size” for her voice. “I think it was more that it wasthe music I was passionate about, and my voice happened to fit it verywell” she replies. “But I think you fit your voice to what you love aswell in a way. Because now things are changing, because my love hasbecome lieder, a lot, and Richard Strauss is now something I’m reallyspending a lot of time [with], Schumann, Schubert — French mélodie,with Fauré, Reynaldo Hahn and Debussy. And it just happened, youknow — I didn’t call on that, but the passion suddenly came for thatmusic and the passion also for contemporary settings, contemporarymusic — and maybe the desire to work with [composers] who are alive,you know.”LeBlanc is not the first early and baroque vocalist to find herself drawnto contemporary repertoire; after all, both call for interpretive cohones;an ability to infer intention on the part of composers whose work haseither not been heard for centuries or not yet heard at all.“That’s right,” she says. “And these composers were amazinglyopen to suggestions, and that waswonderful.”Listening to I Am in Need ofMusic I had found myself struckby the extent to which each of thecomposers, while so different inapproach and attack, had layeredinto the work all those lovely top Gsand As and Bs that LeBlanc sendssoaring over the liquid gold of herlower register. “Is it something thatyou talked about ahead, or did theyjust listen and instinctively tuneinto that?” I asked.“No — I mean John Plant andAlasdair and Christos I think knewmy singing, knew my voice, andthey went and listened to things,and we never talked about anythinglike that. Emily was the one I knew the least and interestinglyenough, when the piece first came there were bits that were notquite fitting — so we talked about it, and we changed some notes.”“Just a few?”“Oh, yes, but they were necessary to change.”With Bishop’s poetry fresh in mind, redolent as it is withimages of soaring and birds, I find myself asking her if perhapsMessiaen’s music is part of the future picture somewhere too.“Well, I have recorded Messiaen,” she says. “Yes, I recorded piecesthat are not often done. Chantes de terre et du ciel, which is a cycle forpiano and voice, a bit like Poèmes pour Mi but a much less well-knownone. That came out on ATMA in 2009, and a lot of early songs, and alovely piece La mort du nombre, which I did with Lawrence Williford,and it’s a beautiful tenor and soprano piece. So I love Messiaen as well,so there you go.”Our time winds down — after all there is still tonight’s Massey CollegeBishop CD launch to prepare for: the seven years of this particularimmersion are clearly drawing to a close. “So now that you’ve beentumbled out of this particular pocket of time, where do you find yourself?”I ask.“It’s an amazing feeling, to finally tumble out of it. I’m actuallyworking on a new project — well, a few of them actually. I’m workingon a project which is going to be honouring my mother, who was asinger, which I’ll do in the summer of 2014 and subsequently, whichwill be with film, with visuals. She passed away in 2003, she was anopera singer. She sang the music that I am now singing, that I neverthought I would sing. And so we now sing the same songs and I findit very interesting. We have recordings of her she had actually won theSinging Stars of Tomorrow in 1948 and so she was actually really wellknown to Toronto audiences then. I have lots of letters. And I want totell her story because she left home when she was 12. She already hadan operatic voice. She went on to study and give concerts at the age of 15.She came from a tiny village, and if I can inspire any young person whothinks, ‘I have dreams but I come from this tiny place and there’s justno hope,’ that you can always do something, there’s always a way. Andshe kept on singing and teaching all her life and I think it’s a wonderfulproject to do.”You can find this story on our website with several interestinghyperlinks added; and you can also view a video of the entireconversation or listen to a podcast of it by visiting the website:thewholenote.com.78 | Novemberr 1 – December 7, 2013 thewholenote.comMARIO GROLEAU

HANNAFORD STREETSILVER BANDWELCOMECHRISTMAS7:30 p.m. Tuesday, December 17, 2013Yorkminster Park Baptist Church, 1585 Yonge StreetCollaborating for the first time in more than 15 years, Robert Cooperand the Orpheus Choir join the renowned Hannaford Street SilverBand, along with YOUR uplifted voices for an entertaining andinspirational evening of seasonal music in the warm splendour of YorkminsterPark Baptist Church. A sparkling seasonal gift of big brass and song!Tickets: ; senior; studentorpheuschoirtoronto.com/buy-ticketshssb.ca/eventsBMOFinancial GroupFinancial GroupBMOFinancial GroupThe Jackman Foundation The Vern and Frieda Heinrichs Foundation The Michael and Sonja Koerner Charitable Foundation The Mary-Margaret Webb FoundationNªVIDªD:Christmas Music from LatinAmerica and SpainThis is the liveliest Christmas concert in town,a fiesta of early music from the Spanish-speakingnations on both sides of the Atlantic.Friday, dec. 13 & Saturday, dec. 14, 8pmSunday, dec. 15, 3:30pmTrinity-St. Paul’s Centre,Jeanne Lamon Hall, 427 Bloor St. WestticketS - • caLL 416-964-6337OnLine at tOrOntOcOnSOrt.Org

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