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Volume 20 Issue 6 - March 2015

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PASY(from left) Sylvain

PASY(from left) Sylvain Bergeron, Michael Slattery, Grégoire Jeay, Seán Dagher, Alex Kehler, Amanda Keesmaata folk song,” Dagher explains. “I re-harmonized a lot of the tunes,I wrote new instrumental parts and got rid of Dowland’s originalcounterpoint. I just wanted to treat Dowland’s songs like I had justfound them in a book of Irish tunes as opposed to fully worked-outcompositions with all the parts written out for me.”So how much of the album is Dowland and how much is Dagher?Well, let’s just say artistic licence is involved. “In one tune, I deliberatelytried to contradict everything Dowland had done, just as anarranging exercise,” Dagher says. “That actually worked out reallywell! In another arrangement, when I went back to see what Dowlandhad done I found that he had actually done something quite similar.So sometimes we get very far away from what Dowland did, andothers still show the listener the original material we’re comingfrom artistically.”The group was prepared (and unafraid) to give any song of Dowlandany kind of treatment they could in both the folk and the Irish veinas long as the finished product was a song they could play well. Ifyou know the original tune, the results are surprising. “‘If ever thoudidst find’ became a straight up folk song after we were finished withit,” Dagher says, “but then we took ‘His Golden Locks’ and paredthat down to just a lament sung over a drone accompaniment, while‘Sleep, Wayward Thoughts’ became a rousing bawdy song, so there’s alot of variety.”Artistic licence, Irish instruments and a free hand at arranging wenta long way toward creating an Irish Dowland. But there was one morepiece of the puzzle that had to fall in place. There’s one other musicianon the Dowland in Dublin CD, who has the unique ability to makethis group sound like an Irish band – tenor Michael Slattery.Slattery, himself of Irish descent, has a proven ability to bring adistinctly Irish sound to his songs when he wants to – studying Irishmusic in Ireland and making a disc called The Irish Heart definitelycount towards a superior understanding of Irish music. Slatteryjumped at the chance to collaborate with the group. “When I waslooking for an Irish project to work on, La Nef seemed like the obviouschoice for a group to work with because their music has such acreative spark to it,” Slattery says. “When we decided to collaborate,we all came to the project with a really strong creative vision andbecause of that, the end result is powerful music that really speaks topeople.”Slattery especially likes the way that La Nef and Dagher’s creativeapproach opened the door to a greater range of musical expression.“A lot of what goes into making music now involves these very strict,controlled decisions,” he explains. “Musicians will be very specificand spend all this energy on how long a particular crescendo is goingto last or how loud or soft every single person in the group is going toget until the music becomes very regimented. What I like in La Nef’sapproach is that it actually sounds like how people would want toexpress themselves. Each song we do together becomes a tiny universethat begins and ends with a poem.”Dagher and Slattery are both passionate defenders of their approachto the music and are quite able to articulate why they made thedecisions they did. When I ask them if they considered that an IrishDowland might offend more conservative – or just hibernophobic –listeners, the two are completely unapologetic. “There’s no shortage ofhistorically informed recordings of Dowland,” Dagher counters, whenI ask whether listeners would take offence. “If our disc was the firstrecording ever of his music, for sure I would want it to be a historicallyaccurate recording, but there are already hundreds of others. Thisversion is a chance for the audience to hear the music in a differentway.”Slattery agrees that the project was more about pushing musicalboundaries than reclaiming Dowland in the traditional canonic sense.“Whether Dowland was actually Irish or not, we’ll never know forcertain,” he explains. “The point of the disc was that there was justenough musicological evidence for us to give ourselves an excuse togive ourselves completely to the project. Once we had that idea, thatshared creative vision, to run with, we were ready at that point to takecontrol of the music and see what other life there might be in it.”Dagher is also quick to point out that criticism of the group’sDowland cuts both ways. “Most of the audience really likes it. Somepeople do find it a desecration of Dowland, but then again, otherpeople don’t like it because our interpretations don’t sound Irishenough.” It seems there’s no point trying to please everyone.So is there any truth to Dowland’s lost Irish heritage, and if so,does that give an artist – any artist – the artistic licence to rework acomposer’s music in a completely different style? The implicit answerthat La Nef gives is that asking such questions about authenticity andhistorical interpretation is to miss the point entirely. What makestheir interpretation of Dowland a rarity in the early music world is thefact that this group is using their own historical research as a sourceof artistic inspiration rather selling the result as the recreation of an“authentic” sound.For decades, historically informed artists have proffered the notionthat their versions of the great composers were the correct ones –more historically accurate, more genuine. When the TSO plays Mozartor Beethoven, the early music movement says, they’re doing it withthe wrong instruments and gear – the composers in question wouldhave used older violins, wooden flutes, and completely differentbows than the relatively new instruments that we’ve become accustomedto today. Interpretation too, is a matter of looking at the historicalevidence on hand, determining how the composer would haveperformed his own music, and playing it accordingly.What La Nef argues, with Dowland in Dublin, is that serious artistsare free to imagine a complete historical recreation of a composer’smusic – as if any early musician ever actually achieved that – but areequally free to use history for their own ends. La Nef’s Dowland inDublin then, is Dowland as he might have been in a different history,in another reality; their Dowland challenges us to imagine a newmusic along with them. Let imagination take flight.David Podgorski is a Toronto-based harpsichordist and musicteacher. His regular Early Music column can be found on page 23.10 | March 1 - April 7, 2015

CONVERSATIONS@THEWHOLENOTE.COM#32 - Jamie ParkerPAUL ENNISThe Gryphon Trio’s ebullient pianist, Jamie Parker, is the mostrecent addition to the Conversations@The WholeNote video series.Publisher David Perlman continued his casual encounters withToronto’s musical players in a wide-ranging interview that tookplace shortly before Parker and his chamber music partners, violinistAnnalee Patipatanakoon and cellist Roman Borys, gave their annualMusic Toronto concert at the St. Lawrence Centre February 26.Props master Perlman had an informal questionnaire in the form ofa deck of WholeNote cards with a topical allusion written on the backof each. The cards moved the chat in unexpected but entertainingand edifying directions. In response to “Music I Like,” for example,Parker spoke about one of the things that gives him and his wife (whohave two boys, seven and nine) great pleasure. “To see the boys able toidentify and sing along some Beatles tunes and also some Beethovensymphonies makes me very proud as a parent,” he revealed.He also revealed that he doesn’t do much recreational listeningsince his “Day Job” teaching at U of T, followed by family time andhours of practising, makes that impossible.The card “Professer Parker” followed close after and since he hadalready touched on his day job he segued to the summer program atStanford where the Gryphon Trio and the St. Lawrence String Quartethave worked with up-and-coming groups as well as gifted amateurswho were Stanford alumni. He spoke about one “terrific amateurcellist” who was recently flying drones through volcanoes in Iceland.In addition to his musical and engineering skills, he was a world-classunderwater scuba photographer. “Working with adult amateurs issomething I really enjoy,” Parker said.“Hopeless” and “Hopeful” spurred a serious statement about thefuture of classical music in the light of CBC budget cuts that havelimited the ability of young musicians to “capture the ear of thenation.” On the other hand, Parker was hopeful that the Internet andYouTube have great potential for musical exposure. “You have to beflexible and fluid; the ones who adapt best will be the ones who willmake a go of it.”“High schools now, high schools then” prompted Parker to speak ofthe enormous benefit the Trio feels from their association with EarlHaig Secondary School and its Claude Watson Arts Program. He toldan anecdote about the pride The Gryphons experienced while playinga short trio that one Haig alumna had written for them which theyperformed at one of her doctoral recitals.“Listen Up” is a “great fun project” with Rob Kapilow, the pianist/conductor/composer, who does the “What Makes It Great?” serieswith the TSO. But “his amazing gift,” according to Parker, “is educationand the way he can bring audiences into our world.” Listen Up isan outgrowth of the Gryphon Trio’s desire to cast a wider net than themaster classes they often do with students built around their concerttouring. “Roman [Borys] put a lot of thought into this,” Parker said ofthe project that’s aimed at elementary schools in communities in theNorthwest Territories. It will culminate in a “really fun” May weekendin Yellowknife that he calls “a real celebration of art.” The kids willwrite musical snippets which composer Jeffrey Ryan will stitchtogether to be performed by the Trio amidst an environment bubblingwith poetry, singing and videos.For the complete interview, including a story about the “bloodcurdlingupright piano” in Parry Sound, the “normalcy of pianomusic” while growing up in a family of pianists and the “spectacularcornucopia of musicand chamber music” thatis the two-week OttawaChamberfest – of whichBorys is artistic director andthe Gryphons the de factoensemble-in-residence – go HanniganThe u of T voice alum hosts aworkshop for singers, composersand librettists with hansabrahamsen and paul griffiths.U of T Operaleslie dala conducts fourperformances of dominick argento’smasterpiece. directed by MichaelCavanagh, with set design by fredperruzza.Wind & Brassu of T Wind enseMble (Mar 21)Jeffrey reynolds, conductoru of T Wind syMphony (Mar 28)Tony gomes, conductorCanadian Art SongMary lou fallis, geoffrey sirett andsteven philcox explore humour andplay in contemporary Canadianvocal repertoire2014-15 presenting sponsorsmar 2 mar 3mar 12-15 mar 19Paul GriffithsThe Wilma and Clifford smithvisitor in Music delivers a lectureentitled “Contemporary Music:a plurality of Worlds?”Jerry BergonziThe jazz professor at the newengland Conservatory performswith the 11 o’clock Jazz orchestraand the u of T Jazz orchestra.mar 21 & 28 mar 22 & 29U of T ChoirsTradiTions (Mar 22)Women’s Chorus & MacMillan singersTravels Through TiMe (Mar 29)Men’s Chorus & Women’s ChamberChoirmar 23 mar 24 & 26Schola Cantorumdaniel Taylor, conductorpurcell: dido & aeneas (Mar 24)purcell ode (Mar 26)Michael Chance, countertenorCharles Daniels, March 1 - April 7, 2015 | 11

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