6 years ago

Volume 22 Issue 5 - February 2017

  • Text
  • February
  • Toronto
  • Symphony
  • Arts
  • Jazz
  • Musical
  • Quartet
  • Orchestra
  • Performing
  • Theatre
In this issue: an interview with composer/vocalist Jeremy Dutcher, on his upcoming debut album and unique compositional voice; a conversation with Boston Symphony hornist James Sommerville, as as the BSO gets ready to come to his hometown; Stuart Hamilton, fondly remembered; and an inside look at Hugh’s Room, as it enters a complicated chapter in the story of its life in the complex fabric of our musical city. These and other stories, as we celebrate the past and look forward to the rest of 2016/17, the first glimpses of 2017/18, and beyond!


“Kanatha/Canada” program on February 3 and 4, seems to be doing some of that good work. Looking at the first meeting between French settlers and Indigenous members of the Wabanaki Confederacy, the show will be presenting the Consort in a performance of John Beckwith’s work Wendake/Huronia, as well as French-Canadian folk songs brought over with the early colonists. The members of the Consort will be joined onstage by Dutcher, First Nations singers Marilyn George and Shirley Hay, and Wendat Traditional Knowledge Keeper Georges Sioui, who collaborated with Beckwith on the composition of his piece when it was premiered in 2015. A big part of the concert, in a diversion from the Consort’s usual musical focus as early-music performers, will be to provoke discussion about new musical dialogue between European (Eurocentric) and Indigenous communities. Dutcher will be speaking onstage and sharing some of the pieces from his forthcoming album, using the material that he found in the archives to bring forth a current-day, Indigenous perspective. For Dutcher, it’s an opportunity to bring his own musical work into a wider discussion, with new audiences. “When [David Fallis, of the Toronto Consort] brought me this project,” he says, “we had long conversations about the implications and about how to take this on in a good way. I’m hopeful that those conversations will continue even on the nights of the show. “For me,” he continues, “it’s about reaching audiences that I otherwise couldn’t with what I do. My work speaks to certain audiences, but the Toronto Consort has their own set of people who attend their concerts and admire what they do. Those people might not have an entry point into conversations about Indigenous issues, or about Indigenous identity within the framework of a sesquicentennial. So for me, it’s about creating dialogue – and that’s what I hope it will do.” Following shows in Winnipeg and Kingston – the former a premiere of his new choral composition, and the latter a program of songs featuring Dutcher, mezzo-soprano Marion Newman and multidisciplinary artist Cheryl L’Hirondelle at the city’s new Isabel Bader Centre 20 TH ANNUAL FREE NOON HOUR CHOIR & ORGAN CONCERTS Enjoy an hour of beautiful music performed by outstanding Canadian choirs and organists, spotlighting Roy Thomson Hall’s magnificent Gabriel Kney pipe organ. VICTORIA SCHOLARS MEN’S CHORAL ENSEMBLE Bach, Beethoven, Brahms … & the Boys thu feb 2 12 noon ◆ Jerzy Cichocki, conductor | William O’Meara, organ MENDELSSOHN SINGERS Choral Gems through the Ages thu mar 2 12 noon ◆ Noel Edison, conductor | David Briggs, organ NATHANIEL DETT CHORALE Spirituals, Blues, Jazz & Classics fri apr 7 12 noon ◆ Brainerd Blyden-Taylor, conductor | Andrew Adair, organ FREE ADMISSION ROYTHOMSON.COM/CHOIRORGAN Suitable for ages 6 and up. For Elementary and Secondary school groups of 20 or more, contact: 416-872-4255 Made possible by the generous support of Edwards Charitable Foundation on March 28 – Dutcher will return to Toronto to host another discussion, this time at the Music Gallery. Co-produced by the Music Gallery and, the event is a panel titled “What Sovereignty Sounds Like: Towards a New Music in Indigenous Tkaronto.” The discussion will centre around contemporary Indigenous music in the local scene, and how settlers can best respect and support local spaces for Indigenous and transnational musical performance. Dutcher will host and moderate, and will be joined by Anishinaabe electronic musician Ziibiwan. “David Dacks [the Music Gallery’s artistic director] has been in conversation about these things for as long as I’ve known him,” says Dutcher. “In the past year and a half, I’ve known him to reach out and offer space – one of the big things that as Indigenous artists we lack access to. “I went to a gathering in Vancouver this year, where Indigenous scholars and Indigenous artists were able to join in conversation together,” Dutcher adds. “I realized there how little that actually happens: how infrequently we’re not just a token in a room, and how infrequently we’re able to sit down and have those dialogues between our practitioners and theorists. I think that gatherings like that are a good model for creating those spaces where Indigenous perspectives are centred, and where we’re not having to argue and fight and educate every time we walk into a room...because that’s often how it goes.” With an increasing awareness of Indigenous issues among non- Indigenous Canadians, it seems as though requests – both explicit and implied – for local Indigenous voices to speak for their communities and educate others are also inevitably on the rise. And while on the one hand Dutcher encourages the learning process, he also is articulate about the clear problems with this: first, that it is the responsibility of settlers to educate themselves instead of demanding lessons from their Indigenous peers; and second, that asking any single person – Indigenous or otherwise – to bear the responsibility of representing their entire community in the public eye is a big, and ignorant, ask. “I don’t begrudge people for it, because that’s a systematic thing,” he says. “That’s a lack of education, a lack of having relations with the first people in this land. It’s built into society…But it is exhausting to be an educator all the time. There are so many things that artists who are not in our community don’t even have to consider. “As a young person and someone who grew up mostly off-reserve, I struggle to speak to the breadth of things that our community has to say,” Dutcher continues. “I just try to centre [my work] on my own experience, and how I experience moving through different musical and political worlds.” Focusing on his music – and on what that means for his community – has been a learning curve for him, too. The album, and the other musical work that has come along with it, has proven an all-encompassing, but ultimately rewarding, task. “I can’t deny who I am as a person, and my positionality within this landscape of reclamation,” says Dutcher. “I’m a young Indigenous person, but I’m also a city dweller, I’m half-white, I’ve spoken English my whole life, I studied classical music…there are all of these things that have made me a bit of an outsider. But I’ve come to find beauty and strength in that. That’s one thing that this project has taught me.” What all of these projects seem to have in common is how they reveal the layers of complexity that musical identity can have – both in the physical space of this continent and within the rapidly expanding world of what we label as classical music. And what Dutcher’s own hard work shows is that, now more than ever, it is not the time to be complacent about the problematic ways that we as classical musicians represent our craft. Instead, as he suggests, it’s an apt moment to criticize, to complicate and to build a vocabulary for understanding the future of transcultural performance. Dutcher is one of the artists out there who is making musically powerful, relevant work, and who has the chops and conscientiousness to do it well. It’s a good time to listen. Sara Constant is a Toronto-based flutist and musicologist, and is digital media editor at The WholeNote. She can be contacted at 14 | February 1, 2017 - March 7, 2017

Hometown Hornist Q & A JAMES SOMMERVILLE PAUL ENNIS Toronto-born James Sommerville has been principal horn of the Boston Symphony since 1998. Formerly a member of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra and the TSO, he also spent seven years as music director of the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra beginning in 2007. He answered the following questions several weeks in advance of his upcoming return to his birthplace on March 5, when the Boston Symphony Orchestra (conducted by Andris Nelsons) makes its first appearance in Canada in 21 years. In your BSO video profile, you spoke of soaking up the orchestra’s tradition as it relates to sonority, attack and style. Could you please elaborate on the BSO’s brass sound in particular, the character of the orchestra’s overall sound since 1998 when you became principal horn, and how the BSO’s tradition is transmitted over the years? Any orchestra section’s sound is defined by several more or less equally important factors: the acoustics of the hall, the provenance and culture of the players, their individual genius and originality, the predilections of the music directors, and the overall tradition of the group. The BSO has a deserved reputation as the most “European” of American orchestras; meaning a clarity and flexibility of sound and expression, a lightness and transparency that was long unique – although it must be said that orchestras worldwide are more similar in approach than they used to be. The BSO brass section has always prided itself on its cosmopolitan style – not massive, but direct, clean rather than woody, brilliant rather than hard. There has been a great deal of change in the brass section’s personnel over the past 19 years, but without exception the newer players have been sincere and successful in adapting to the BSO sound, and using their talent to help us evolve and improve in this century. What are Andris Nelsons’ great strengths as a conductor? What particular skills do you think he has in interacting with the orchestra? I think Andris’ greatest skills are rooted in his personal warmth, empathy, and in the spontaneous energy and enthusiasm he brings to performances. He has always been amazingly collaborative and collegial on the podium, and very approachable and affable off it. He is a very intuitive and emotional musician. How would you characterize the kinds of skills of the other music directors you’ve played under, in Boston, Montreal and Toronto? Seiji Ozawa, my first boss at the BSO, was the most physically gifted conductor I have ever played for, as well as a deeply emotional musician. James Levine brought ebullient enthusiasm to all the repertoire he chose to perform, and exposed me to a lot of great repertoire I was unfamiliar with – Schoenberg, Carter, Wagner. I was a fan of Jukka- Pekka Saraste, who was MD when I was a member of the TSO; he was a very imaginative and creative conductor. I played in the MSO during the Dutoit years. As much as the relationship between him and the orchestra ended abruptly and awkwardly, there were many years of terrific music-making with him there. The MSO in the 80s and 90s was an orchestra that you could still always recognize instantly on the radio: that transparent, clean sound was so distinctive, and a source of pride to both maestro and players. Please describe your early music education. I grew up in Toronto, and had piano lessons early, but never excelled at that. I was lucky to have a terrific music teacher in high school (John Fautley, then at UTS), who really opened my ears to the whole range of world music. Most of my university education was at U of T, where I studied with the great Eugene Rittich. And as an orchestral player, my finishing school was the NYOC, where I learned what it James Sommerville really takes to win and keep a major orchestra position. Who were your musical heroes in your formative years? In no particular order: Glenn Gould, Robert Fripp, Hermann Baumann, Martha Argerich, Charles Mingus, Gordon Lightfoot, Jacqueline du Pré, Brian Eno. And many more. How did your interest in conducting develop? It’s something I began to some extent in high school, and studied intermittently after that. As an orchestral player, it gives a really amazing new and profound perspective to the great repertoire: as a conductor you of necessity need to know every detail of every note in the score, and as much of the historical, cultural, personal context of each work in as much depth as you are capable of. Now that your tenure with the Hamilton Philharmonic is over, how do you exercise your conducting muscles? I do a fair amount of guest conducting in Canada and the US, and am music director of the Canadian National Brass Project (, which brings many of Canada’s finest brass February 1, 2017 - March 7, 2017 | 15

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