7 years ago

Volume 21 Issue 3 - November 2015

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"Come" seems to be the verb that knits this month's issue together. Sondra Radvanovsky comes to Koerner, William Norris comes to Tafel as their new GM, opera comes to Canadian Stage; and (a long time coming!) Jane Bunnett's musicianship and mentorship are honoured with the Premier's award for excellence; plus David Jaeger's ongoing series on the golden years of CBC Radio Two, Andrew Timar on hybridity, a bumper crop of record reviews and much much more. Come on in!

The idea was to appeal

The idea was to appeal to new audiences and audiences aged under 35, not by changing the music we play but by changing how we were presenting it, giving it a different surround. So by putting music in other genres before and after it, and having the classical music presented from the stage, by changing the lighting, by having people bring drinks in, encouraging social media, photography, that kind of thing. And it’s been a huge success. From a one-off event it’s now a real part of what the orchestra does, usually between four and ten events a year – four William Norris large-scale and chamber events, say, plus chamber events in pubs as part of the London season. Is there also a strategy at OAE of using, say, orchestra section leads for chamber concerts, for outreach into schools, for example? They do a lot of education work. In fact it’s quite interesting because the education work is led by Cherry [Forbes] who used to play in the orchestra as well, so she had a dual role, something like Charlotte [Nediger] at Tafelmusik, bridging the orchestra/office’s two different worlds. But they do a huge amount of work in schools with children of all ages, and all sorts of public education. One of the real successes of recent years has been what they call OAE Tots, concerts for children under under five years old. Its amazing the kind of rapt attention you can get from children under five if you’ve got the right material. Brought by grandparents? Grandparents or parents, yeah, or ... The grandparent/grandchild dynamic particularly interests me – bypassing the generation between. If you can set it up so you take away the stress for the adults in question of worrying that the children have to behave in a particular way. Yes. And it’s amazing because we’re still using core bits of the baroque repertoire but we might put words to them or actions to them that engage children and at the end there’s a good chance for the children to come right up close to the instruments. I want to go back for a second to something you said earlier about OAE as a player-driven ensemble. It put me in mind of the Vienna Philharmonic which is a player-run association – I don’t think it’s even incorporated. But they decide which conductors to invite, as guests, to lead them. In their case, though, they are also all employees of the Vienna State Opera Orchestra on negotiated leave. So there isn’t the worry of “who’s going to pay the bills?” So in the case of OAE, who does pay the bills? That’s interesting because the other unique thing about OAE is that it was founded with no government money, no public money; it was all individual donors. Obviously in the U.K. there are lots of ensembles funded at arms length by the Arts Council, and now the OAE does get money from the government, but it was a difficult decision to take at the time because they prided themselves on their independence and not being answerable to a government body. Even so, it’s still a very small part of it, less than ten percent. The rest is individual donors, ticket income; but also lots of it – it’s a different model to here – lots of the income comes from touring; touring in Europe is a major part of an orchestra’s income. And recordings? Less so these days because, sadly, now recordings are more things you invest in. In terms of arts council funding, a lot of what happens around here is that, until you are well established, you’re compelled to undertake new projects to apply for funding, so new funds entail taking on new work that overextends the same little band of workers. Yes, that’s a familiar problem. In a way OAE has been quite lucky. In terms of core funding from the arts council we’ve been able able to demonstrate the quality of what we do, and that’s been fine. Certainly if you want to go to trusts and foundations, they want something new, so when the Night Shift was started ... I wouldn’t say it was easy but certainly it was slightly easier to find money, and now that it’s a core part of what the orchestra does it’s less easy to find money for something that is just continuing, although actually what made that project successful was keeping at it and developing it, refining it, and building that brand with the right audience. How does the fact that the orchestra performs exclusively on period instruments affect how the orchestra can collaborate with other musicians, in something like Night Shift, for example? They can’t really, in fact. So what usually happens is the OAE orchestral bit of the evening is usually a stand-alone thing and the music, say, in the bar happens separately to that so we don’t have problems with things like pitch. Having said that, we have done collaborations, say with London Sinfonietta, which is contemporary music; we’ve recently had a new commission written for both orchestras which actually used the difference in pitch as something within the composition. So we have done collaborations like that, and that’s something I would be interested to do here as well I think. One of the interesting things about Tafelmusik, in the same way as a symphony orchestra in town does, is that it helps stabilize the life of the core players. So they are able engage in all kinds of interesting other musical stuff at times the orchestra isn’t playing. Does OAE have enough critical mass to enable its players to do the same kind of thing? I think it’s slightly different. It does a degree – I mean there are 100 concerts a year - but membership is more fluid than Tafelmusik is; that’s also just how the European music scene is – everyone has portfolio careers, and plays in other orchestras in London, or teaches, or even plays with other orchestras outside London or even Europe, a lot of the time, so it’s a slightly different environment. But one of the great things, or possibly unique, about Tafelmusik in terms of period instrument orchestras is to have such a stable core of musicians. It’s really unusual and I think a great bonus. And of course it develops into a two-way street; for example, [Tafelmusik violinists] Aisslinn Nosky and Julia Wedman came to Tafelmusik from I Furiosi; I think I was there the first time that Jeanne Lamon and Christina Mahler came to hear I Furiosi on their home turf, and things went from there, evidently to mutual advantage. In London I guess it’s just that there are so many ensembles there is no one ensemble which is that binding element, because there’re just too many. But it’s interesting what a musician was saying to me earlier about Tafelmusik and that having that stability is that it encourages risk in a way because the musicians are secure in their position and there’s not the feeling with each job that you’re being assessed and might not get booked again. You have that security that allows you to try things out which you might not have the opportunity to do otherwise. And does OAE also have an associated choir? Yes we do – the Choir of the Enlightenment, you’ll be surprised to hear it’s called! A fantastic choir and they do seven projects a year with the orchestra. It’s on somewhat more of a loose basis than the choir here which is much more part of the core of what the orchestra is all about. I also wanted to ask you a bit about audiences. Tafelmusik has always had a hardcore band of purists in its Birkenstock brigade, I guess you could once have called them – you know, people who emphatically draw “thus far but no further” lines in terms of musical taste. “Early Mozart is fine,” for example. Has OAE gone through a similar kind of challenge in terms of audience horizons? I guess I would have had to be with them ten years before I arrived to know that; interestingly, these days it’s actually the earlier boundary that 12 | Nov 1 - Dec 7, 2015

has been the debate. It was only quite recently that we did Monteverdi for the first time, five years ago was our Vespers. My understanding though has been that it has been quite an organic process, trying new things. Obviously there’s a point at which you can go no further or there would be no point in playing a period instrument, but there are huge amounts of repertoire to explore. And in terms of pushback on changes in concert etiquette? Well I think the point is we haven’t stopped doing anything, we have just added to what we are doing. We still do concerts that start at seven o’clock and last two hours with an interval, as you would expect. There might be one or two things about it you might find a bit different, but it’s still a standard concert, maybe with talks before or after. But then, the same evening there might be a Night Shift concert at 10pm for a completely different audience and a couple of days afterward a toddlers concert, and there might also be a study day taking up a Sunday. We try to tailor things for different audiences so even the aficionados can come to study events and really get in depth with things. With concerts do you live with the late-19th-century ethos of not applauding during works even though the custom postdates most of the music? You can’t regulate the audience. But do you try? And do people try to glare others into silence? Well, personally I really like it if the audience claps between movements because a) it means we’ve got a different audience in and b) it means there’s been a spontaneous enjoyment of something and people have shown that. There was a really nice instance of that recently at the Night Shift. We were playing in a night club so it was great for the setting. We were doing some Purcell and there was a particularly elaborate passage for the violins and people kind of clapped over like they would in a jazz bar and that was a lovely moment because it was a completely spontaneous moment. It was great. And probably closer to the original effect. Exactly. I am sure it would have happened back in the day when the music was played. And so I am all for spontaneous shows of appreciation. I am all for it being the responsibility of the host to tell the guests out loud what the house rules are. Indeed. Yes. And, really, often the composer gets what they want. I mean it’s a much later example but in the Tchaikovsky Sixth I am pretty sure Tchaikovsky expected people to applaud at the end of the penultimate movement because it’s such an explosive ending. Funny you should mention that. We had a fantastic Tchaikovsky Sixth here a season or so ago at the TSO, with a lot of young people in the audience. [Conductor] Peter Oundjian came onstage and talked about the structure of the work - the thing you just mentioned - that after the third movement you are probably going to want to break out in applause at that point as if it were the end. So go right ahead and applaud when you feel like it, because the rule about not doing so came a decade or so after this symphony was written. And of course the payoff was absolutely magical, including silence at the end of the work. Yes indeed! And to have the last movement, the despair of it, emerge from applause is way more effective than if everyone was sitting in “Gosh, I can’t clap now” silence. I never quite understand that thing where clapping is frowned upon but coughing and sneezing is absolutely fine. So I’d rather have people evidently enjoying themselves than awkward silence. So how did you find Tafelmusik, or how did they find you? Was there some kind of Aha! moment for you at some point? Or did you know the orchestra already? I knew the orchestra a little bit because in the last few years it’s really raised its profile in the industry because of things like the Galileo Project which was such a different thing for an orchestra to be doing. And actually two people sent me the job listing, two friends of mine, and said, you should look at this. And after the second person said it and someone posted it on Facebook, so it was clearly very social media-age-related, I thought okay I’ll look at it. And I was looking for a new challenge; so it was a chance, really, a lovely chance. I said I wouldn’t pin you down to sweeping generalizations about Toronto so early in your stay, but that was 15 minutes ago. So generalize! I’m enjoying it so far. I’ve seen it in all seasons. I was here for job interviews in January and February which was my first experience of sub-minus 20 weather; I was here in the summer which was much more pleasant. And I enjoyed the fantastic weather over the Thanksgiving weekend. (It’s very British of me to talk about the weather, all the time.) But I’m enjoying getting to know it. I have been surprised at how much is happening musically. One of the things about London is you can feel overwhelmed by how much is going on and you end up seeing nothing. Actually I think I could end up feeling the same in Toronto because there is so much happening – conflicting events I want to go and see. I want to dip my toe into the musical scene as much as possible, and also musical theatre and so on. And everyone has talked about Toronto being a city of neighbourhoods so I am enjoying getting to know those as well. So I’m enjoying it so far, apart from the streetcar system which almost made me late for work this morning. We look forward to working lots with you, keeping the scene looking as overwhelming as possible. Well, your listings certainly do that! Tafelmusik has been part of what we cover since our very first issue 20 years ago and it’s been absolutely fascinating to watch the organization maintain itself and thrive by the way it manages change. We look forward to the next chapter. As do I. Nov 1 - Dec 7, 2015 | 13

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