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.

Framing image design:

Framing image design: Raja Javanfar, using images of the Dresden Damascus Room kindly provided by Museum für Völkerkunde Dresden, Staatliche Ethnographische Sammlungen Sachsen, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden; painting of Ottoman women drinking coffee, c. 1730 by Jean-Baptiste Vanmour, used with permission of the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. Leipzig-Damascus: So here we are, half an hour in, finally starting to talk about the current project, “Tales of Two Cities.” We have reached the Leipzig-Damascus Coffee House. As always it’s finding the similarities in different places at the same moment in time that is her creative spark. “It’s very interesting. They were both entrepôt cities, at the crossroads of ancient, often Roman, roads - ancient trade or caravan routes. Leipzig was a small city but it lay at the crossroads of the east-west road that went from Santiagio de Compostela right to Kiev and Moscow, and goods and ideas flowed gradually along that route. And then there was a north-south route that ran from Venice and Rome to the Baltic Sea. Those two roads crossed right in the middle of Leipzig and because of that the Holy Roman Emperors declared it a trade fair centre with tax incentives and a protected place, so it meant for centuries traders from all over Europe and as far away as London and Siberia and Constantinople converged in this little crossroad town of about 30,000 - the size of Toronto’s Annex. “The city of Damascus was a much more ancient city - some people think it is the oldest continually inhabited city in the world, and it lay at the crossroads of routes from the Mediterranean, from Tyre and Sidon through Syria to Baghdad, through Iran to the Silk Road and the Far East. And the north-south route that went from Yemen up to Mecca and Medina, Damascus, Aleppo, Anatolia and finally Istambul.” Damascus became the place where travellers on the pilgrims’ road to the hajj provisioned for the very dangerous journey. And they would come back to Damascus with coffee which was grown in Yemen, first known place of cultivation of what we know as the arabica coffee bean. The parallels go on and on. Both cities at the axis of a trade route and a pilgrims’ road; both cities famous centres for scholarship and learning; Leipzig hugely important for book publishing and dissemination, poetry, literature, plays, philosophy; the same true of Damascus, renowned for science, theology, law, poetry and travel writers. From there the stories start to actually intersect in extraordinary and tangible ways – an important family library of secular and religious 18th-century works of Damascene scribes being sold to the Prussian ambassador and finding its way to the University of Leipzig; the Ottoman ambassador to Louis XV bringing 10,000 pounds of coffee to France. And the emergence in both cities of lively coffee house cultures, Zimmermann’s in Leipzig being the one most notably associated with Bach and Telemann. In the German city of Leipzig, Johann Sebastian Bach directed an ensemble which gave Friday-night concerts between the hours of eight and ten at Zimmerman’s Coffee houses on the Katharinenstrasse. In the coffee houses of Damascus, singers and performers on the oud, kanun, ney, and daf played classical Arabic taqsims and muwashshahs, and used their instruments to accompany famous storytellers reciting from the rich tradition of adventure stories and Sufi tales found in Syrian manuscript sources. The Leipzig-Damascus Coffee House of the show’s title promises to be resplendent visually, revolving around a set piece with a large imbedded projection screen which will evoke in turn two 18th-century interiors – a Damascus ajami room and a Saxon woodpanelled interior, prepared under the guidance and supervision of Dr. Anke Scharrahs, a conservator who specializes in the research and restoration of polychrome wooden surfaces and who is one of the most highly respected international experts on the conservation of Syrian-Ottoman interiors. But true to Mackay’s credo, the music will be, as always, at the heart of things. Tafelmusik will perform, from memory, music plausibly connected with Zimmerman’s; Arabic music, appropriate to the Damascene coffee house,will be rendered by Trio Arabica, an ensemble consisting of Toronto-based, Egyptian-born, and Syriantrained Maryem Tollar (narrator & vocalist), Naghmeh Farahmand (percussion) and Demetri Petsalakis (oud), with narration/context provided in English and in Arabic by both Tollar and by actor Alon Nashman, blending storytelling and documentary roles as required. And naturally, at appropriate and carefully chosen moments, the work of the two ensembles will combine and intersect because such hard-earned coincidences have been in one respect or another the lifeblood of the magic she weaves for Tafelmusik. They are, in a way, the continuo of her imagination. Mackay’s work is not overtly political, but one can detect a quiet satisfaction in her at the timing of this particular tale. In a time of geopolitical ferment when traffic on the road from Damascus to Leipzig appears to be going only in one direction, it does no harm, and may even do some good, to reflect on the extent to which, in terms of history and culture, this is is very much a two-way street. David Perlman is the publisher of The WholeNote. Trio Arabica This Conversation can be listened to in its entirety alongside this story at LIZ FLOYD 18 | May 1, 2016 - June 7, 2016

Program features Estonian Composers Program features Estonian Composers and and classical masterworks KATHLEEN BATTLE Underground Railroad: A Spiritual Journey Sun May 29 ◆ 3PM Sponsored by FOR TICKETS CALL 416-872-4255 OR VISIT ROYTHOMSON.COM May 1, 2016 - June 7, 2016 | 19

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