6 years ago

Volume 21 Issue 7 - April 2016

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WE ARE ALL MUSIC’S CHILDREN April’s Child Mireille Asselin MJ BUELL Mireille Asselin was born in Ottawa, and grew up in St. John, New Brunswick, and the Ottawa Valley. She attended école secondaire publique De La Salle, Ottawa, and moved to Toronto to begin her bachelor of music at the Glenn Gould School. Now in her third season with the Metropolitan Opera, Asselin made her Met debut in the 2014/15 season in Manon, in the role of Pousette. This season, as cover for the role of Adele in Die Fledermaus, conducted by James Levine, she was called upon to perform when soprano Lucy Crow became ill. Asselin sang the role on opening night (last December 4) – by all accounts to the delight of those who attended. (There’s a great interview with Asselin at about how the Met’s understudies prepare.) “…Possessed of a beautiful crystalline voice with a cool, bright middle register and clear-as-a-bell top, Asselin has a natural charm in her voice and in her bearing.…“(Eric C. Simpson. New York Classical Review, December 5, 2015) Last October in Toronto you may have heard her in Mahler’s Symphony No.4 with the Royal Conservatory Orchestra, or more recently in a Songmasters Series recital at Mazzoleni Hall called “Le travail du peintre,” with baritone Brett Polegato. April 7 to 16 Asselin will sing the role of Celia in Opera Atelier’s much-anticipated production of Lucio Silla. In May she will sing the title role in Handel’s Berenice with La Nuova Musica (London, UK) at the Göttingen International Handel Festival, and in June she’ll sing Mahler’s Symphony No.8 with the Calgary Philharmonic, followed by Cosi Fan Tutte at Ashlawn Opera (Charlottesville VA). Asselin earned her master’s from Yale University’s opera program. She was a member of the Canadian Opera Company’s Ensemble Studio (2011 to 2013), and a Toronto Summer Music Academy Fellow (Art of Song) in 2012. Prior to her studies at Yale, she completed a B.Mus. at the RCM Glenn Gould School in Toronto. Tell us about your childhood photo. It was the dress rehearsal for our ballet school’s year-end show. My mom and I had put great care into making my cardboard tin-foil star and I was quite proud of it. We always performed our shows in the local high school auditorium. I remember my classmates, and the test of my patience having to wait for (what seemed like) hours in my costume until it was our turn to practise our scene on the stage. I was fascinated with the older ballerinas who seemed so graceful and talented. Mireille Asselin lives in Riverdale with her partner Chris Enns. Some of her other pastimes include fawning over cute dogs in the park, taking math classes for fun, baking unnecessary treats and passionately advocating for Toronto’s east end. Anything you would like to tell young Mireille? I don’t think I would give young me any special advice, because every hurdle I encountered growing up taught me a hard lesson that I am grateful for today. I think kids have a beautiful curiosity and lack of selfconsciousness that should be left alone for as long as possible. I would, however, love to have a casual chat with her…I think it would be hilarious! I was a precocious, headstrong kid, and I’m sure I’d profess opinions and make categorical statements that would give me quite a chuckle now. But you know, come to think of it, I’d probably just tell her that she was a lucky kid to have such a great family and that she should give her mom an extra kiss for bringing her to ballet classes. What’s your absolute earliest memory of hearing music? My mom says I first kicked in her tummy during the Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy at a performance of The Nutcracker! My own strongest memory is my father picking me up and dancing me around our living room to The Temptations: I’ve got sunshine on a cloudy day. When it’s cold outside I’ve got the month of May. I guess you’d say – what can make me feel this way? My girl (my girl, my girl) Talkin’ ’bout my girl… Where did hearing music fit into your childhood? Growing up in a small-town I heard music mostly at home (CBC was always on in our kitchen), and in my community at church, camps and in my school choir. A first memory of making music? Endlessly singing Disney songs into a little tape recorder which I’m sure my parents regretted giving me immediately. I was also very gifted at my little xylophone! CONGRATULATIONS TO OUR WINNERS! Love conquers all, including (eventually) ancient Rome’s most infamous dictator, but the road to freedom and democracy is paved with passion and plotting in Mozart’s first masterpiece, Lucio Silla. Presented by Opera Atelier (April 7 to 16), at the Elgin Theatre, this new Canadian production features Kresimir Spicer in the title role of Lucio Silla with Inga Kalna as Cinna. Mireille Asselin sings the role of Celia (Silla’s sister), with Peggy Kriha Dye as Cecillio and Meghan Lindsay as Giunia. A pair of tickets each for Veronica Clarke-Hanik and Joe Orlando. AND…for those who guessed correctly, but whose names were not drawn, Opera Atelier has created a special discount code just for you – we’ll be in touch soon to provide it! Ash Roses (Centrediscs 2014) is The Canadian Art Song Project celebration of Canadian composer Derek Holman and his 20-year prolific period of writing art songs. The featured artists are Mireille Asselin and Lawrence Wiliford, known for their dedication to song and chamber repertoire, with Liz Upchurch (piano) and Sanya Eng (harp). All works previously unrecorded! A copy for Otto Rath. 66 | April 1, 2016 - May 7, 2016

Making music with others? I joined choir in first grade because I was new at school and wanted to make friends. I remember our choir director telling us to feel like Chia Pets, with grass growing out of our heads in order to get us to sing with more head voice and a nice straight posture. A first music teacher? Mrs. Goud was the most special of my early piano instructors. She had a beautiful house in the country, she was glamorous and kind, and encouraged me to compose. She made playing piano about making music, not just getting all the right notes. The origins of your appetite for staged works? I was always a theatrical kid, putting on little pageants for my family and performing in lots of different capacities. I was also quite terrified of playing piano and singing in front of people but I think that my stubborn nature ensured that I couldn’t quit just because it made me uncomfortable. Ironically, I feel that it was precisely because performing in public was such a challenge for me that I took to it and ultimately made it my career… For a longer version of this interview please visit NEW CONTEST Who is May’s Child? Toronto, circa 1961 ~ ~ Artistic director, impresario, teacher, chamber musician. ~ ~ This warm smile has welcomed summer music audiences in hometown Toronto since 2010, at Domaine Forget from 2001 to 2005. ~ ~ He can still play some serious strings. (See our concert listings, May 1.) Know our Mystery Child’s name? WIN PRIZES! Send your best guess by midnight on April 25. REMEMBERING Robin Engelman (1937 – 2016) Intersecting with His Percussive Life ANDREW TIMAR As I write this, Robin Engelman’s website is filling up with dozens of tributes, both moving and humorous, from around the world. CBC Radio broadcaster Tom Allen, on his show Shift, eulogized Robin for his “voracious love of life and pursuit of knowledge,” for his “integrity and passion for getting things right.” Percussionist, music teacher, composer, oenophile and amateur golfer Robin Engelman had an active musical career ranging over half a century conducted at the highest This photo, ca. 1972-73, captures York University instructors Trichy Sankaran and Robin Engelman in the latter’s York percussion studio in alert, active percussive dialogue. It’s how I remember both men when I first met them. artistic level, so perspectives on his life and work will be many, varied and likely, as often as not, focused as much on the individuals he influenced as on Robin himself. He enlivened many lives, mine included. Here is my take on it. His musical path began in the US, but his distinguished contribution to Toronto’s musical life was wide and deep. As a percussionist he had extended engagements with our symphony orchestra under the eminent conductors Seiji Ozawa and Karel Ančerl, our opera company, and for more than 15 years with New Music Concerts. It was, however, his nearly four decades performing with Nexus that most keenly defined his career as a musician. Being an avid Toronto concertgoer and an active contemporary music student, then musician and composer, I witnessed and savoured Robin’s work in each of his roles from the 1960s on. Witnessing him among his varied colleagues in the act of musicking proved to be defining musical moments, keys of inspiration. They helped to unlock the doors of my own musical journey. He was also a passionately critical teacher and musical mentor to generations of percussionists. Though I was never formally his student, our paths first crossed at York University in the early 1970s. I was already an undergrad there, focused on the bassoon, composition and ethnomusicology, when Robin made his presence known, and felt, as an instructor of percussion there. His studio at Founders College, chock-a-block with orchestral and non-Western percussion instruments, was heady turf for young musical keeners like me. In this early 1970s photo, Engelman is playing the standard drum practice pad with an intense musical focus, not on his instrument his hands or thoughts, but rather on his musical partner of the moment. With drumsticks in hand, he’s tackling “Three Camps” (according to his own caption to the photo) with his illustrious York University colleague, my teacher and later fellow performer, Trichy Sankaran, here playing the kanjira. They’re surrounded by the tools of Robin’s trade. Looking closer, we see they’re poised like two dancers, the tension and excitement of their musical dialogue palpable in their body language and gaze. With minimalism in the York air – and Nexus right in the thick of it (more on that later) – I started a student percussion-centric group which made its own music cheekily tagged R[hythm] Pals. Robin encouraged me and permitted us to rehearse at his studio. He also generously allowed us to use his instruments, including the kulintang, a gongchime from the Southern Philippines, which I played extensively in the ensemble in concerts at York, A Space, The Music Gallery and at the University of Western Ontario, London. That kulintang, the gong ensemble in which it is featured, R-Pals, as well as the numerous performances of Nexus I attended at the time, were all determining factors in setting the tone for my lifelong taste for the sounds of percussion, and more specifically, gong ensembles. That specific sonic taste for gongs has morphed into a career-long deep and abiding affection, exemplified most enduringly in my 33 years with Toronto’s Evergreen Club Contemporary Gamelan, Canada’s pioneering ensemble of its kind. Robin had, over the decades, attended a number of ECCG concerts, partly because he was genuinely passionate about avant-garde music, but in large part I think, in order to support – and sometimes challenge – the local community of percussionists, many of whom considered him a mentor. As more of his former University of Toronto students began to perform with the group, Robin COLLECTION OF ROBIN ENGELMAN April 1, 2016 - May 7, 2016 | 67

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