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Volume 23 Issue 8 - May 2018

  • Text
  • Choir
  • Toronto
  • Musical
  • Choral
  • Singers
  • Arts
  • Theatre
  • Concerts
  • Jazz
  • Festival
In this issue: our sixteenth annual Choral Canary Pages; coverage of 21C, Estonian Music Week and the 3rd Toronto Bach Festival (three festivals that aren’t waiting for summer!); and features galore: “Final Finales” for Larry Beckwith’s Toronto Masque Theatre and for David Fallis as artistic director of Toronto Consort; four conductors on the challenges of choral conducting; operatic Hockey Noir; violinist Stephen Sitarski’s perspective on addressing depression; remembering bandleader, composer and saxophonist Paul Cram. These and other stories, in our May 2018 edition of the magazine.

people together. I find

people together. I find that when I get into the rehearsal, and the rehearsal process, it’s transformative. I get an energy from the singers and we create something great.” Choral conducting success stories often feature conductors who have been successful in reaching out and building community, sometimes from scratch. “Those people who are thinking outside of the box about what choir can be. It doesn’t have to be just Bach chorales or Mozart’s Requiem or school choir. I think it’s up to us, who are teaching students, to remind them there is more to the world of community music-making than being a music teacher at a school board or a tenured professor at a university,” Burke says. “There’s such a broad array of positions, and a lot of time people just create their own space. They move into a neighbourhood that doesn’t have a community choir or organization and make it happen. If you have a passion and find the void, take your passion and fill the void.” That passion, when conveyed by a conductor, is what brings people back over and over again. And in a city like Toronto, the breadth and depth of choral music is astounding. (Take a look at the Canary Page listings just to get a small taste of the diversity of the Toronto choral scene.) “A good conductor is a teacher at heart,” says Burke. “If you don’t like people, you’ll be a terrible conductor. What I see, the people who are doing so well, the people who have built organizations – that comes from a love of people.” There are many people who can read music, can speak the language of music, but don’t know how to speak the language of people and relationship-building. Shawn Grenke gets this as well: “As a music educator, I [conduct] to keep music alive, and more importantly to keep people singing so the music stays alive.” It is about people, it’s about “enjoying the experience of giving, together,” says Burke. “If people are in that space, then great.” Success as a conductor requires success in all the people who make up a choir; Burke, as a conductor and as a teacher, looks for something more than just musicianship in potential conductors and musical colleagues alike. She’s looking for a spark, someone who can communicate beyond the page of the music. “There isn’t an ABC to being a choral conductor; you have to seek it out,” she says. There is no clear path to conducting and much trial and error involved. Cheryll Chung was the only choral candidate during her time completing a Masters degree at U of T. After she graduated, she had to figure out the path for herself. “What do you do?” she shares. “A lot of graduate students start their own ensemble or choir. At first, [with Cantabile], I thought I’d just do two benefit concerts a year. I did that for a while for organizations like the Regent Park School of Music, the Canadian Cancer Society and Literature for Life, for example. This was the premise: let’s do concerts for the causes. But then, it gives you the energy to keep doing what you’re doing, to make the connection with audiences and members and connect with different people.” Chung started Cantabile as a pilot in 2006 and she continues to lead the ensemble. The key part for her has always been community: “Community building is a hard thing, and you really need to want that, and have it inside of you.” The financial strain of the work can be challenging too. Music is expensive, rental of rehearsal space, paying guest musicians, and all the administrative and marketing costs are not insignificant; there isn’t always a lot left over to pay the conductor. “A lot of my musician friends, I think they feel financial stress and take the gigs as they come, no matter the scenario,” says Grenke. “It’s hard as a musician, as a freelance singer or conductor. It’s hard to find enough work to AMADEUS CHOIR Clockwise from top left: Jenna and Karen Burke of the Toronto Mass Choir; Cheryll Chung of the Cantabile Chamber Singers; Shawn Grenke of the Amadeus Choir with Mary Lou Fallis The epic premiere of a new Chinese-Canadian opera Sung in English & Mandarin with English & Mandarin SurtitlesTM 孫 悟 空 by and 淘 氣 小 猴 皇 Lyric Theatre - Toronto Centre for the Arts May 25 - 27, 2018 ; Senior; Student Ticketmaster: 1-855-985-2787 canadianchildrensopera.com RICHARD JONATHAN CHUNG 12 | May 2018 thewholenote.com

live.” I appreciate his candour, I tell him: I have some knowledge of that life first-hand. As audiences, we show up in the seats of a performance and criticize or enjoy the music. What we don’t see is the music teacher awake since 5:30am, teaching all day, then driving 90 minutes one way to rehearse for two and a half hours two or three times a week. Or the conductor that works seven or eight gigs a week to make ends meet. As Chung says: “The performance is just the icing on the cake.” Weeks before a performance, a choir gets the music and begins the process of rehearsing and refining. This is the hard work. This is where the relationships and community are built. This is where conductors shine. And only if it all goes well do you get a chance to taste the icing. “It’s what you bring to it that brings it alive.” – Karen Burke “There are moments,” says Crober, “when standing on the stage with 250 other people all responding to the music, and one person on the podium, you think – how lucky is that? To be able to do that – to sing in a group of people and make this exquisite music… and it is a moment of ‘Yeah, this is why you work so hard.’ For this.” Follow Brian on Twitter @bfchang Send info/media/tips to choralscene@thewholenote.com. thewholenote.com May 2018 | 13

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