6 years ago

Volume 22 Issue 3 - November 2016

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STEPHEN DOMINICK WE ARE ALL MUSIC’S CHILDREN November’s Child Robert Cooper MJ BUELL For more than 30 years Robert Cooper brought a wealth of music to listeners across the country as CBC Radio’s executive producer of opera and choral music and as producer of the program Choral Concert from 1980 to 2008. This is one shining thread in the extraordinarily rich fabric of an active career which continues to include conducting, teaching and mentoring. Cooper is currently artistic director of the Orpheus Choir of Toronto, and the Ontario Male Chorus. As conductor of Chorus Niagara for 27 years, he’ll conduct his fourth Elijah with them on November 5, followed by Messiah in December. His association with VOICEBOX/Opera in Concert goes back almost 40 years. He created the OIC chorus alongside founding producer/artistic director Stuart Hamilton and continues to prepare the chorus and conduct every opera since then, other than when a guest orchestra and conductor are involved. In addition to leading the National Youth Choir of Canada, the Ontario Youth Choir, and numerous prize-winning choirs at competitions and festivals, Cooper is frequently engaged as guest conductor of choirs and operas and leader of choral clinics across the country. He has taught at the U of T Faculty of Music and has mentored music-loving young people in the Toronto Mendelssohn Youth Choir, Orpheus Choir Sidgwick Scholars Program and Chorus Niagara’s Choral Scholars program. A regular member of the jury for the international choral competition Let the Peoples Sing he has also adjudicated the World Choral Games in Shaoxing, China, Cincinnati and most recently in Sochi, Russia. Cooper is a recipient of several distinguished awards and honours, including the Order of Canada. Robert Cooper lives in Toronto’s Bloor West Village with his wife Megan – a school principal and singer – along with an effervescent Brittany Spaniel, Sadie. Beyond music… “what little time I have after score study, rehearsals and seemingly endless governance administrivia with choir boards, my down time seems to be filled with reading historical fiction, the loathsome but necessary gym time, walking Sadie and catching up on mindless PVR’d series of PBS dramas.” Your thoughts about that childhood photo? I vaguely recall it was in grade one when our Ottawa public school rhythm band brought home the coveted first prize in the Ottawa Kiwanis Music Festival. Life has an uncanny way of fulfilling destinies you never even imagined as a possibility at the time. Not that I am a percussionist…but my path found its way to a life in music. Where were you born? I am a “herring choker”…born in Fredericton, New Brunswick. My father was in the RCMP and my mother a nurse…disciplined professions and disciplined people. My brother Roger also went on to a career in the RCMP. While my father was frequently transferred from one city to another, I was lucky that I landed in Ottawa for the majority of my schooling. In those days Ottawa had an active community music scene and I was so fortunate to be involved in superb school music programs. What wonderful musical experiences and education…free! In fact I even received a monthly honorarium. There were no musicians in my family, but my creative urges were tolerated and eventually encouraged. Your absolute earliest memories of hearing music? Oh gosh…was it the Reader’s Digest box set of Great Orchestral Favorites? I think it was Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March…it stirred my young soul with such enthusiasm. But curiously I was always singing and that ephemeral quality of massed voices just hooked me. Ottawa was a hotbed of singing. The high schools every year mounted a magnificent Thousand Voice Choir with special guest conductors “from Toronto.” Of course there were also all the special carol services and state occasions at which I sang as a member of the Christ Church Cathedral Choir. Then, to top it all off, the many celebrations in Ottawa to herald in Centennial Year (1967) produced so many exciting performance opportunities…gala concerts on Parliament Hill, amateur musical theatre shows and fledgling opera productions. Heady times! And of making music? Well, putting my tambourine debut aside in the rhythm band, I recall being trotted about from one classroom to another to sing duets with a pupil friend. Not sure why…but I guess we must have been ok. Do you remember your early experiences of making music with other people? Too many to mention! Without a doubt it was that collaborative and collegial experience of making music with others, of being part of that total immersive and rich musical encounter with others. This was my safe harbour! And a first important music teacher? My high school music teacher, Mrs. Bernice Oak…a force of nature! Ebullient, vibrant, supportive, encouraging. Her passion and zeal were palpable. She was my sole inspiration to pursue this odd and uncontrollable yearning I had in me to somehow live a life in music. Please read Robert Cooper’s full-length interview online at CONGRATULATIONS TO OUR WINNERS! HERE’S WHAT THEY WON Robert Cooper conducts … The Orpheus Choir’s “Stories: Myths & Mysteries” (Nov 19) will feature the music of Mealor, Esenvalds, Khvoshchinsky and Halley. The program includes Mäntyjärvi’s Canticum Calamitatis Maritimae – an eight-part a cappella composition remembering the 1994 wreck of the cruise ferry MS Estonia which cost 852 lives. The text combines excerpts from the Catholic Requiem Mass and the weekly Latin-language Finnish radio news service, Nuntii Latini. A pair of tickets for LILLIAN MERSHEIN. Opera in Concert presents I Capuleti e i Montecchi (Nov 20) No spoiler alert necessary, but Bellini’s masterful melody-making adds irresistibly to the timeless appeal of this story that will never end well. Featuring Caitlin Wood, Tonatiuh Abrego and Anita Krause and the OIC Chorus. Raisa Nakhmanovich directs. A pair of tickets for TERRI ROTHMAN The Orpheus Choir’s “Traditions: Welcome Christmas!” with guests Jackie Richardson and the Hannaford Street Silver Band will be a fine way to get into a tuneful holiday mood (Dec 13). A pair of tickets for LIDA H. 64 | November 1, 2016 - December 7, 2016

NEW CONTEST ! Who is December’s Child? MUSIC AND HEALTH Musician, Heal Thyself! SARA CONSTANT That “Music heals” – if not the body then at least the soul – is one of the most popular sayings about the power of music; its benefits oft-touted to prove the good that it can do for its listeners and practitioners. But it doesn’t though – at least, not always. Like any physically and emotionally demanding experience, music can put an enormous strain on the bodies and minds of the people who make it. For many, a career in music can lead to serious stresses – stresses that often don’t get talked about. It’s time, for performers and listeners alike, to begin a dedicated conversation about how music can heal and help people – and on the other end, how people doing musical work can exercise the self-care necessary for keeping a life in music from becoming harmful. 1985, near Skeena River, in her native British Columbia Here’s someone who can really play a costume! Good thing – a soprano’s life is so full of contradictions! Sometimes the maid: ~ ~ Io son fedel, nè mai crudel, e sempre a lui sarà il cor costante. (I am faithful, never cruel, and my heart will always be loyal.) ~ ~ October/November 2016, with the Canadian Opera Company. Sometimes the queen: ~ ~ Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen, Tod und Verzweiflung flammet um mich her! (The vengeance of Hell boils in my heart; death and despair flame about me!) ~ ~ January/February 2017, also with the COC. ~ ~ Feeling pretty, full of fun and poised for a grand entrance. Know our Mystery Child’s name? WIN PRIZES! Send your best guess by November 25 to Robert Cooper: UPCOMING !! October 29 and 30, with the Orpheus Choir and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra: “Danny Elfman’s Music from the Films of Tim Burton;” !! October 30, with the Opera in Concert Chorus: “Shakespeare 400;” !! November 5, with Chorus Niagara: Elijah (Mendelssohn); !! November 19, with the Orpheus Choir: “Stories: Myths and Mysteries” – music of Paul Mealor, Eriks Eśenvalds, Jakko Mantyjärvi, Sergey Khvoshchinsky, Paul Halley; !! November 20, with Opera in Concert: I Capuleti e i Montecchi (Bellini); !! December 10 with Chorus Niagara: Messiah (Handel); !! December 13 with the Orpheus Choir: “Traditions: Welcome Christmas!” – seasonal music with guests Jackie Richardson and the Hannaford Street Silver Band. Ensemble Vivant: Catherine Wilson (centre) Ensemble Vivant is one group that makes the connection between music and health an intimate and integral part of its work. Founded and headed by pianist Catherine Wilson, the group is a pioneer on the piano-chamber music scene, culling its repertoire from both classical and jazz worlds. It’s also the flagship ensemble for Wilson’s not-forprofit Euterpe – an organization that conducts research on the healing effects of exposure to live concert performances, and provides musical opportunities based on that research for children and communities in need. Ensemble Vivant’s current project is “Christmas Tidings,” a monthlong tour from November 27 to December 23, to ten cities across Southern Ontario. The music itself is a variety of seasonal repertoire, much of it adapted from the ensemble’s 1992 album of the same name. What makes this particular tour stand out from other holiday shows, however, is its incorporation of Euterpe initiatives. At each concert, the ensemble will be collaborating side by side with a different children’s choir, providing guidance as well as professional performance and rehearsal opportunities for local students. Wilson is the driving force behind this initiative, and with good reason. “Playing in a community band in junior high school provided a safe haven, allowing me to escape from an extremely strife-ridden background,” she says. “The band was family for me and planted the seeds for my love of chamber music.” Wilson goes on to explain that DENISE GRANT November 1, 2016 - December 7, 2016 | 65

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