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Volume 19 Issue 3 - November 2013

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CONVERSATIONS @ THE

CONVERSATIONS @ THE WHOLENOTEIgota sense of how far ahead Suzie LeBlanc dreams and plans very early inmy conversation with her the morning of October 22, 2013. We were sittingin a book-lined seminar room at Massey College in the University of Toronto,talking about the reason for her 24-hour in-and-out flying visit — an event atMassey College that same evening to celebrate the launch of I Am in Need ofMusic, songs on poems by Elizabeth Bishop, a CentreDiscs CD that not onlyshowcases LeBlanc’s soaring soprano but also testifies to her tenacity andvision as a questing collaborative artist with considerable staying power.“I lovethis poet’swords,I love hervision,I love hervoice”Elizabeth Bishop.DAVID PERLMANThe poet Elizabeth Bishop of the CD’s title was born inDorchester, Massachusetts in 1911; so 2011, her centenary,was the raison d’être for this particular project. But asLeBlanc explains, “It started even sooner than that withme finding out about Elizabeth Bishop in 2007 ... In 2007I found this leaflet [about Bishop] in Great Village,and soon after I met Sandra Berry, an independentscholar who knows everything there is to know aboutBishop ... She’d had a dream. Elizabeth Bishop was bornin Massachusetts so she was American by birth. She spenta lot of time in Great Village, Nova Scotia as a child, andthree of her grandparents were Canadian — were actuallyMaritimers — and she always wanted to be Canadian. Shewrote, ‘I’m three quarters Canadian and one quarter NewEnglander.’ And she stuck to that story. She was veryattached to this land, which was like her motherland.”Here’s the thing: at the time she found the Bishopleaflet in 2007, LeBlanc was already looking for a “specialproject to celebrate my [2011] 50th birthday, and I didn’tknow what it was going to be, but I was on the lookoutfor something and finally I came across this leaflet aboutBishop, and got interested and went and researchedand found a poem. Just one thing led to another and Isuddenly thought, ‘I love this poet’s words, I love hervision, I love her voice.’ These would be words I wouldlove to sing.”Bishop’s ability to re-vision the ordinary, like a kindof latter-day Robert Frost, has grabbed many a reader’simagination, myself included, from the first poem of hersthey’ve read. (In my own case it was a poem called “TheFish” which hit me between the eyes while working as aschool textbook editor compiling literature anthologieson the west coast of Newfoundland in the late ’70s.) InLeBlanc’s case that first poem was one called “The Map.”“There’s one line in there. It says ‘Or does the land leanin to support the water from underneath’ or somethinglike that, talking about the shoreline — ‘to lift the waterPocketsof TimeSuzieLeBlancfrom underneath,’ that’s it. And I’ve watched shorelinesmy whole life, and never had I thought to look at it asthe land lifting the water from underneath, and I justthought what a wonderful vision ... to look at the worldthrough inverted eyes.”Nova Scotian composer Alasdair MacLean was thefirst of the four featured on the CD whom LeBlancapproached. “He led me to Sandra Berry, because he wasalready a Bishop fan and so he knew about this woman.And so, when Sandra and I met, both our dreams kindof connected and we said, we could do something veryspecial for the centenary.”The scope of that centenary celebration was astonishing:“Not only did we do this recording but a literarysymposium, a film competition, a literary competition,many, many concerts, visual arts exhibitions.”And at every turn the sense of fated connection withthe project grew for LeBlanc. “One concert we did wasbaroque music, because Bishop loved baroque music.She played the clavichord and carried one all her life.Wherever she moved she lugged along this clavichordand she studied in England with Ralph Kirkpatrick. It’san amazing connection.”Listening to LeBlanc describe the project, it’s a bitlike the way she sings: commitment, passion, interconnectedness,one thing always leading to another:how the involvement of the other three composers onthe CD (John Plant, Emily Doolittle and Christos Hatzis)came about; her meeting up with filmmaker Linda RaeDornan, who along with LeBlanc was celebrating a 50thbirthday in 2011; how together they retraced the pathof a memorable Newfoundland pilgrimage undertakenby Bishop and a companion in 1932, minutely documentedin Bishop’s journals; the Newfoundland peoplewho knew people who had known Bishop that they metalong the way.Dornan filmed the journey as she and LeBlanc walked.The resulting DVD Walking with EB makes a moving andfitting companion disc in this Centrediscs release.As for the CD itself, it has 11 pieces: ten settings ofBishop poems, preceded fittingly by an instrumentalsuite by MacLean, inspired, he says, by one line in thefirst poem he turned to, after sitting down to work onthe project. “It’s true,” says LeBlanc. “It’s one line of‘Cape Breton,’ which is ‘This silken water is weaving andweaving.’”| continued on page 78BERNARD FOUGÈRES8 | Novemberr 1 – December 7, 2013 thewholenote.com

HaydnIn the Narvesons’ChamberPAUL ENNISBeat by Beat | Classical & BeyondHaydn was a composer known for surprises but it’s likely thateven he would have been amazed to find a complete cycle of his68 string quartets being undertaken in Waterloo over the nextthree and a half years. Anyone familiar with the breadth and enterprisingprogramming of the Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber Music Society(KWCMS), however, won’t be so surprised.If someone were to quiz you on the three leading concert presentersin the greater Torontoregion, the TSO and RCM’sKoerner Hall, would cometo mind immediately. Yet theKWCMS, with more than 70concerts this season is barelybehind The Royal Conservatory’s80+ and the TSO’s109. It’s incredible really,that one dedicated couple’slove affair with music wouldrival the accomplishments oftwo such prestigious institutions.At The WholeNotewe’ve been well aware of thebountifulness of the KWCMSprogramming since theirconcerts have been fillingJan Narveson as Haydn with theMercer-Oh Trio (Akemi Mercer, violin,Gregory Oh, piano, Rachel Mercer,cello) at the conclusion of the finalconcert of the 49 Haydn piano trios.our listings pages (and the85-seat Music Room in Janand Jean Narveson’s home)for as long as we’ve been inexistence.Over the years the cumulativevolume of talented performers who made their way to theNarvesons is astonishing enough, but it is the KWCMS’ penchant forprogramming complete cycle concerts that really made one sit up andtake notice. Over the years, they’ve presented all the Bartók, Beethoven,Shostakovitch and even the second Viennese School quartets, threecycles of the Beethoven piano sonatas, four of the Beethoven sonatasfor violin and piano, three of the Beethoven cello and piano sonatas,the complete Ravel piano works and all 49 of the Haydn piano trios.The Attacca Quartet began performing “The 68” in Holy TrinityLutheran Church on 65th Street and Central Park West near LincolnCenter in New York City three years ago. Their decision to chooseWaterloo to begin their second foray through the quartets, beginningwith four concerts on November 16 and 17 prompted the following Q& A with Jean Narveson (who is editor of The Music Times) and JanNarveson (president and founder of the KWCMS, professor of philosophyemeritus at University of Waterloo).When did your love of music begin?Jean: Jan’s love of music began when he was a child (the youngestof five children, he heard at least some of his older siblings practisingpiano) — and when he was 13, he was too advanced in math to benefitfrom staying in class during math lessons, so his teacher sent him offto the school’s library, and there he entertained himself by listening toLPs of classical music. (That’s how I remember the story.)I also connected to music as a child — first by hearing it at home, thenthewholenote.com November 1 – December 7, 2013 | 9

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