6 years ago

Volume 21 Issue 8 - May 2016

  • Text
  • Toronto
  • Jazz
  • Festival
  • Arts
  • Symphony
  • Quartet
  • Choir
  • Theatre
  • Musical
  • Bach
INSIDE: The Canaries Are Here! 116 choirs to choose from, so take the plunge! The Nylons hit the road after one last SING! Fling. Jazz writer Steve Wallace wonders "Watts Goode" rather than "what's new?" Paul Ennis has the musical picks of the HotDocs crop. David Jaeger's CBC Radio continues golden for a little while yet. Douglas McNabney is Music's Child. Leipzig meets Damascus in Alison Mackay's fertile imagination. And "C" is for KRONOS in Wende Bartley's koverage of the third annual 21C Festival. All this and as usual much much more. Enjoy.

the 10:30pm concert sold

the 10:30pm concert sold out as of mid-April, so an additional concert is being planned starting at 8pm. Performers will be spatially distributed throughout the room, intermingled with the audience. The piece is scored for up to 50 musicians, including members of Radiant Brass, the Element Choir, a percussion quartet, piano, electroacousmatic elements and three secret singers, all interwoven over the hour. The identities of the singers will be secret in order to create the surprise element of “what is that that I am (above) John Oswald hearing? Since there will be a (right) Ryan Scott celebrity element, people will be surprised at WHO they are hearing,” Oswald said. Creating a work where all the performers will be in the dark requires different compositional strategies, as there will be no scores. Oswald selected musicians who are used to improvisation “as they know how to navigate through unknown musical territory by listening rather than staring at a score. Simple procedures will be used, so that once you know the seed idea, you just need to listen your way through it.” Even the Element Choir, who are used to performing with visual cues coming from conductor Christine Duncan, will have to rely exclusively on listening. Duncan already uses some sonic cues in the choir’s regular performances, such as singing specific musical gestures or notes to different sections of the choir and her voice is often part of the overall choral soundscape. These features will be the starting place for their role in “Blackout.” Creating pieces to be heard in a completely dark environment is not new to Oswald. Back in 1976, he spent a summer working with R. Murray Schafer and the World Soundscape Project at Simon Fraser University in BC. Out of that context he began thinking about the best way to listen to something, and how a concert could be set up so that the attention is focused on sound. His first darkness concert was performed at the Western Front that summer in collaboration with Marvin Green, and from there, the two created other events in Toronto at the Music Gallery, the Mirvish Gallery and at Comox Theatre. Oswald adds: “Marvin and I called that field of inquiry and those concerts PITCH, a reference to pitch, but also to the idea of pitch black.” Oswald admits that a concert in the dark may not be for everyone, but it will be made clear beforehand what to expect. His goal though is for it to be a wonderful and joyful listening experience. Towards the end of our conversation I asked him whether he thought we listen differently when we are not visually stimulated. To answer, he relayed the experience in one of his earlier darkness concerts when photographer Vid Ingelevics came in with an infrared camera to take photos. What the pictures revealed was that many people had their eyes open and were staring off in all directions, especially looking upwards. People were cuddled together and the various poses were unlike any audience Oswald has seen. I guess the best answer is to come and experience for yourself. KOTO & SHO: Imagine a sound palette with no boundaries between Eastern and Western instruments, where the traditional Japanese koto (a zither-like instrument) and the sho (a mouth organ) blend seamlessly with an oboe, viola and clarinet. Welcome to the world of the UK-based Okeanos ensemble. Known for their fascinating mix of Japanese and Western instruments, they are actively engaged in commissioning and interacting with the Japanese contemporary music world. Two members of Okeanos will join Continuum Contemporary Music for a May 26 21C concert titled “Japan: NEXT.” The idea for the concert began when Continuum artistic director Ryan Scott travelled to Japan in 2014. There he was introduced to the music of the younger generation of Japanese composers, and was inspired to put together a program of their music. One of the younger composers Scott researched was Dai Fujikura, currently living in the UK. It was through Fujikura’s five-piece Okeanos Cycle, written between 2001 and 2010 that Scott discovered Okeanos; three of the five pieces will be heard at 21C. Interestingly, even though Fujikura lived in Japan for the first 15 years of his life, he had never heard nor been in contact with traditional Japanese instruments (a curious parallel with Tagaq never having heard throat singing until she moved to Nova Scotia). When Okeanos approached Fujikura to write music for their ensemble, he had to learn about the instruments from the British players. However, wanting to avoid exoticism, Fujikura brought his own energetic and distinctly European style to this hybrid of sound worlds. Another composer Scott came into contact with while in Japan was Misato Mochizuki, whose piece, Silent Circle, written for a 21-string koto will be performed at the festival, but not without a few snags along the way. Because the koto player from Okeanos had to cancel her appearance, Scott reached out to Mitsuki Dazai, the leading koto player in North America, to perform the piece. But Dazai travels with a 13-string koto, a problem for the proper performance of Silent Circle. The solution? Dazai has developed a way of getting the 21 different pitches on the 13-string koto by splitting the strings on the harmonic points. (Apparently this has caused quite a stir in the koto community.) The program will also include two world premieres by Canadian composers Hiroki Tsurumoto and Michael Oesterle. Oesterle’s work is a new arrangement of a piece he originally wrote in 2010 for marimba and the virtuoso koto player Kazue Sawai, and for which Oesterle has subsequently made other arrangements for Continuum’s instrumentation. However, for this event, he has pulled out all the stops: another arrangement which takes advantage of all the available instruments. Look on Glass, scored for two shos, koto, harp, guitar and marimba as well as Continuum’s regular sextet, gives Oesterle the opportunity to combine western and eastern instruments in his own unique way. This portrait of three 21C concerts is just the tip of the iceberg, with so much more to explore. The festival continues to be a unique opportunity to take in the diversity and genre-bending trends of how music is currently being created and conceived. Similar to the mosaic of music that will eventually end up in Kronos’ Fifty for the Future project, the 21C festival series, spread out over its five years, will be creating its own unique tapestry of collaborations, creative exchanges, and experimentations. It’s too early at this stage to see what its longterm effects will be, but hopefully the festival will stand as a significant venture in creating the attention that contemporary music deserves. Wendalyn Bartley is a Toronto-based composer and electro-vocal sound artist. 10 | May 1, 2016 - June 7, 2016

SING! At Five; Nylons’ Final Run The fact that festivals are becoming as ubiquitous in Toronto as ways of collecting, and spending, frequent flyer miles, shouldn’t deter one from paying attention when really good ones come along. Over the past few years, SING! – the Toronto Vocal Arts Festival – has stuck to the task of shining the spotlight on the diverse world of a cappella music – including great visitors and top talents who grace the scene year-round. This year the fest will illuminate some of the best, including an appearance by veterans of the scene, the Nylons, as part of their Farewell Tour. Founded in 1978 by Paul Cooper, Mark Connors, Denis Simpson and Claude Morrison, the Nylons became one of the most prolific collectives in the a cappella world. After 37 years, the only surviving original Nylon is Morrison, now 63 and ready to embark on semi-retirement, but not before an extended farewell tour that includes a SING! concert May 14 at the Jane Mallett theatre. “When we began I was the youngest, now I’m the oldest – the mileage is beginning to catch up with my body. I find that the less I do, the more I enjoy it, and sometimes the less I do, the better I do it. That said, it won’t be over until about a year from now. We are taking the show across Canada and into the United States, so it’s a bit of an extended farewell, kinda like “I can’t miss you if you don’t leave!” (chuckles) It’s been a good long run. I can’t even think of many groups who have been around for this long. It’s been a great life – more than a living, more than a lifestyle, it’s been a life.” It has been said that a cappella found the Nylons and not the other way around; but Morrison, who was working as a professional dancer at the time, recalls it thus: “I remember Mark [Connors] saying to me, we’re going to form this a cappella group, we want you to be in it, and we’re going to go all over the world and be really famous. So Mark seemed to have an idea that this was going to take off, and we just kind of stumbled head over heels into this and never looked back. For some reason, at the time four guys singing a cappella was considered to be outrageous. We played fashion shows, parties, benefits, and word of mouth took off very quickly. We became media darlings here in Toronto. Fast forward to a couple of years later, we self-financed our first album which was self-titled. That went Gold in about a month and Platinum in about two months, so there was a market out there.” Is there a particular recording you’re proud of? “Our version of This Boy by the Beatles has got this breathtaking key change, and I remember the night we recorded it, thinking, I’m going to remember this night forever because I was dealing with an ORI DAGAN The Nylons: (left to right) Gavin Hope, Tyrone Gabriel, Claude Morrison, Garth Mosburgh unrequited love, and all my pain went into that key change. Of course, The Lion Sleeps Tonight has been really good to us. One arrangement I’m personally proud of is O Canada which they still play in the schools! I remember we did a show on Canada Day on Parliament Hill, and at the end of it everybody joins hands and sings O Canada and it was like Kumbaya. I remember thinking, where is the energy here? Who died? So I thought, let’s do a version where there’s a beat to it. People seemed to love it. We did it at Game 6 of the Blue Jays World Series in 92, down in Atlanta, which was very exciting. We did a show recently where someone yelled out, ‘Do O Canada!’ and I said, ‘Well that’s a cheap way of getting a standing ovation!’” Your reaction to the thriving a cappella scene? “I’d like to think that we contributed to it somehow. So many people from that world come up to us and say, we owe this to you, because we probably wouldn’t have done it unless we had seen that you were able to do it, and it gave us the boldness to go for it. So that’s really gratifying to know that you’ve made a difference in people’s lives, that you inspired them.” FreePlay: One such talent is Dylan Bell, who went on to produce and arrange for The Nylons. As Claude Morrison puts it, this man is “a bundle of talent, wonderful to work with and all over the place! Performing with four or five different groups, he’s like a moving target that’s hard to hit.” Bell first heard the Nylons at age ten, then went on to become a JUNE 1 TO 11 AT LULA LOUNGE AND DUNDAS WEST FEST LULAWORLD 2016 Salsa, Jazz and Samba direct from Montreal, Havana, Caracas, Vancouver & Rio! LULA.CA 1585 DUNDAS ST WEST, TORONTO 416-588-0307 May 1, 2016 - June 7, 2016 | 11

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