3 years ago

Volume 23 Issue 7 - April 2018

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  • April
  • Toronto
  • Jazz
  • Musical
  • Symphony
  • Arts
  • Performing
  • Choir
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  • Orchestra
In this issue: we talk with jazz pianist Thompson Egbo-Egbo about growing up in Toronto, building a musical career, and being adaptive to change; pianist Eve Egoyan prepares for her upcoming Luminato project and for the next stage in her long-term collaborative relationship with Spanish-German composer Maria de Alvear; jazz violinist Aline Homzy, halfway through preparing for a concert featuring standout women bandleaders, talks about social equity in the world of improvised music; and the local choral community celebrates the life and work of choral conductor Elmer Iseler, 20 years after his passing.

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I remind myself that I have always had a community. If you don’t have one, you’d better figure it out, for music or anything else.” For Egbo-Egbo, “anything else” now includes a recent decision to add a career in commercial real estate to his toolkit. “It was an interesting choice” he says. “I had no background or knowledge in real estate. But I asked myself ‘Do I go back and do an MBA or go into law?’ I’d done eight years of school, didn’t want to remove myself from the workforce. I’d met people in that sector through my music so at the minimum I would have people who care about what I do to answer questions for me.” “What’s ironic and beautiful over the last year and a half since I started out,” he tells me, “is that the music has been subsidizing my real estate career. The income I used to look down on has actually helped me survive the transition. My first deals have come directly from my music network. I tell myself I am going into real estate to help me take care of music and monetarily it’s been the other way around. It’s so interesting how it all connects. No matter what I have done so far, music always takes care of me. Financially, emotionally, mentally. One way or another.” “So how do you think you can find a balance?” I ask. “Not so much a question of balance as alternating binges,” he says. “When I first started I was so busy I was not really practising. So I worried about making sure the music was continuing. I look at it this way. If you’re doing things musically that you don’t want to be doing, in order to do the things that you do want to be doing musically, then do something else with the time you spent on the musical part you don’t like. I am a performer, not into teaching, and it’s getting to where I don’t have to worry only about taking care of myself. My parents are getting older; as immigrants they don’t have the work history, pensions, and whatnot; at some point you have the responsibility to help out. They made the sacrifices for you. Roles switch as life changes. “It’s like starting a new conversation with myself,” he says. “I still want to do music, still want to write, never have done anything other than music. Maybe real estate will help inform the musical choices I get to make in ways I can’t imagine. Maybe it will give me the resources to make music a ‘best choice’ for other people the way it has been for me.” We look out the window at the heavy machinery sitting silent on the Honest Ed’s site, a small oasis of possibility in an impossibly overheated downtown real estate market. “Life in the inner city can be isolating, but it’s not actually isolated,” he says, as if in conversation with himself. “Downtown there is always somewhere close by you can go. Where you can be with people. We have to find ways to build that closeness in parts of our city where isolation is the fact.” David Perlman can be reached at IN WITH THE NEW Taking Up Musical Space: EVE EGOYAN WENDALYN BARTLEY Over 20 years ago, the Toronto-based pianist and extraordinary interpreter of contemporary music Eve Egoyan was introduced to the music of the Spanish-German composer Maria de Alvear through a recording given to her by composer Martin Arnold, the current artistic director of Array Music. After talking recently with Egoyan about her upcoming performance of de Alvear’s monumental diptych De Puro Amor and En Amor Duro, I think it’s fair to say that that moment in time was a meeting with destiny for Egoyan. Some other time AN EVENING WITH JOHN McDERMOTT GUIDO BASSO AND FRIENDS FRIDAY, MAY 11 | 7:30PM YORKMINSTER PARK BAPTIST CHURCH | 1585 Yonge Street | Tickets: .00 per person | .42 if purchased on Tickets can also be purchased at the church office, call 416-922-1167 10 | April 2018

I jumped into the performance with a lot of trepidation as I thought everyone would leave after the first half.” What surprised her was not only did people stay, but she had an experience of feeling the presence of the audience in a totally new way. “I found it extremely moving to be with my audience for that long in that sound language. I felt people listening, and was very excited by that – that feeling of shared listening. Of course the experience of shared listening is always happening when you are performing, but because of the level of comfort everyone was feeling within the language over that period of time, I was aware of their presence in a new way. I felt so transported by that and honoured that they were with me. It felt really unique, expansive, and quite extraordinary. We were all being transported at the same time.” She went on to explain how works with a long duration create a welcoming space for such listening. “When you are playing standard repertoire, people have a sense of history with that work. They are already prepared to hear a certain language. But when you’re playing a piece by a contemporary composer whose language is unknown, there is a certain adjustment period for the listener. The longer duration pieces allow time for that adjustment period. The listener can then be more present and go deeper into the sound language. It’s also a more profound experience for me as a performer, to feel people experiencing the art in a totally different way rather than having a more surface experience.” After listening to the recording, she contacted the composer and in return received two scores in the mail. Those scores were De Puro Amor and Amor Duro, composed in 1991, which Egoyan proceeded to learn and subsequently perform at the Music Gallery in 1996, while the Music Gallery was still located at 179 Richmond St. W. Events will have come full circle with the upcoming performance of these two pieces on April 14, also with the Music Gallery, but this time at the St. George-the-Martyr location that was the Music Gallery’s home performing base for the past 16 years. The current performance is also the launch of Egoyan’s CD recordings of these works, adding to her extensive list of album releases. Earlier in the evening, writer Mary Dickie will be interviewing former Music Gallery artistic director Jim Montgomery about the years (1991-2000) at the 179 Richmond St. W. venue, during which time Egoyan initially performed these works. That initial performance of de Alvear’s music was “a seminal moment,” Egoyan told me in our interview. The unique feature of both these works is their long duration: De Puro Amor being one hour in length and Amor Duro 50 minutes. “This was early in my performing career, and I had never performed anything before of that duration. When people write for me, it’s like having them dress me ... I slip into that world and there is a sense of trust and openness. Both of de Alvear’s pieces on the program are composed using a type of loose proportional notation. The pitches are pre-determined by the composer, but the durations are approximate and time is determined by the distance between the notes on the printed page. There are very few markings of dynamics or phrasing. This approach allows the performer to be very present in real time. “It gives me space to listen and make decisions based on how the piano sounds in the space and I can adjust the dynamics and pedalling in real time based on what I’m hearing,” said Egoyan. “The rules are more open and generous, so everyone can create. It’s not improvisation though, because the inherent structure and form is already there, but the composer is trusting her interpreter to draw the audience into real time. Both harmony and register are of the utmost importance, and through that window everyone is guided into an experience of the piece.” NMC String Orchestra | Iris Ensemble | Accordes | Robert Aitken flute and direction music by Roger Reynolds*, Claude Vivier and Brian Harman* (*world premieres) Royal Conservatory of Music 21C Festival Mazzoleni Hall | 273 Bloor Street West Sunday May 27, 2018 | Intro 5:15 | Concert 6:00 April 2018 | 11

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