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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.

in a very instantaneous

in a very instantaneous way, so we’ve tried different things with that movement. I might suddenly change something I’m doing and they have to respond to it without having a plan, so it’s much more improvisatory. That kind of thing is very hard to do with a larger orchestra and a conductor, but with them, it’s really possible.” Dinnerstein went on to describe the commonalities between the music of Glass and Bach. “Both of their writing deals a lot with sequences of patterns and they have a common interest in the larger architecture of a piece. As well, they have written relatively very little regarding the interpretation of a performance. Their use of tempo, articulation and dynamic markings is quite bare, so that leaves a great deal up to the interpreter to try and delve into the music and see what the music is saying to them. I love that about those composers. As a result, when you hear different people play their music, it can sound wildly different.” As for commonalities between Baroque and contemporary music, Dinnerstein commented: “I’ve always thought there’s a stronger connection there than between Romantic music and contemporary music. There’s a kind of abstraction to both Baroque and contemporary, and if you listen to Chopin for example, it feels very much of its time. You’re very aware of Chopin the artist. With Bach and Glass, the expression is less tied to the composers themselves – I don’t feel a sense of them as people. Rather, I feel that whoever is playing their music can bring out something quite different. The personality of the composer feels less dominant and there is a wider spectrum that lies within the music itself.” What is striking about both these concerts I’ve highlighted here is the way contemporary music is linked with the sensibilities of both medieval Gregorian chant and Baroque music. It will definitely make for some fascinating listening – and an opportunity to experience music in all its timelessness. Wendalyn Bartley is a Toronto-based composer and electrovocal sound artist. sounddreaming@gmail.com. Beat by Beat | Classical & Beyond Liaisons: Re-Imagining Sondheim from the Piano Q&A with Anthony de Mare PAUL ENNIS Aprotégé of legendary lyricist Oscar Hammerstein and student of serialist composer and electronic music trailblazer Milton Babbitt, Stephen Sondheim is equally famous as a lyricist and tunesmith. Midway through the first decade of the 21st century, American pianist Anthony de Mare acted on his lifelong immersion in Sondheim’s work and commissioned a wide net of composers from multiple genres to create their own “re-imaginings” of a favourite Sondheim song for solo piano. By the time the Liaisons project was completed in 2014, 36 composers (31 men and five women; 32 of whom were American-born) had contributed and de Mare’s love affair with Sondheim’s music had borne a bountiful harvest. Drawn from 12 shows – A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1962) to Passion (1994) – Liaisons explores the sound world of the foremost creator of American musical theatre in the last half of the 20th century through the singular lenses of composers from Steve Reich to Gabriel Kahane. “Each of the composers is having a conversation with Mr. Sondheim,” de Mare told The New York Times, “with his material but also his influence, his musical wit and his craft.” The lone Canadian contribution, Rodney Sharman’s Notes on “Beautiful,” written in the Valentine Studio, Leighton Arts Colony, Banff, Alberta, “is a transformation of the duet between mother and son, Beautiful, from Sunday in the Park with George, and dedicated to Anthony de Mare and the memory of my mother.” Sharman’s piece is one of 14 de Mare will be performing in Mazzoleni Hall on May 24 as part of the 21C Music Festival. A second concert, the following evening in Temerty Theatre, contains ten additional works concluding with a reprise of Reich’s Finishing the Hat. WN: How does it feel, as a lifelong fan of Stephen Sondheim’s music, to play a dozen or two of the Liaisons transcriptions in an evening? AdM: It is always an exhilarating experience for me to perform these works, no matter how many are included on each program. And because I’m so enamoured with the entire canon of Sondheim’s work, there are just so many of his shows in addition to dozens and dozens of his songs that I love so much. He has often said that Sunday in the Park with George is the show “closest to his heart” and I would say that has [also] always been one of my favourites. And I would just add that for myself, the more I work and live with this material, the more I learn – it has become a body of work that I hold very close to my own heart and it is an honour to be able to share it with the world now. The flexibility of the project allows me to create programs based on what each individual presenter desires coupled with my own instincts and choices. Some presenters have had me perform two to three concerts as a series covering a vast portion of the collection. However, selecting the program content is very important to me, as is its shape. I actually consider the entire program (and its sequencing) to be its own “piece,” carefully assembled to guide the listener on a journey through these fascinating works. Each piece is very much a marriage between the composer’s individual style and Sondheim’s original material. Add to this the inclusion often of audio and video clips of the composers speaking about their relationship to Mr. 24 | May 2018 thewholenote.com

Sondheim and his work, in addition to the short film of Sondheim himself speaking (extracted from the interviews that were part of the Liaisons premiere concerts at Symphony Space here in NYC). Audiences have often commented favourably on how satisfying the entire experience is for them. Anthony de Mare What was the first Sondheim song you fell in love with? What did it mean to you? The first Sondheim song I encountered was the iconic Send in the Clowns from A Little Night Music. The first recording I heard of it was Judy Collins’ classic version back when I was in high school in the 1970s. I was so enamored with the shape of the melody, the beautiful sequence of harmonies, the eloquent lyrics, and of course her gentle interpretation, which made it memorable. What is the first Sondheim song you remember hearing? How old were you? Along with Send in the Clowns, there was Comedy Tonight from A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. Shortly thereafter, I began listening over and over to the original cast recording of Company – the opening song of which became an immediate favourite, along with Another Hundred People. Again, this was around junior high and high school. What prompted you to embark on such an ambitious project of commissioning piano re-imaginings of Sondheim songs? What was the genesis of the project? This massive project was the culmination of a series of musical endeavours that I had created in years past. I have long been referred to as one of the leading exponents of contemporary music and my love of musical theatre has played a distinctive role in establishing myself as the “pioneer” of the speaking/singing pianist genre which I created in the late 1980s, commissioning a variety of composers to create specific theatrical works that I would perform solo at the piano. This in turn led to a large multimedia concert project I created titled “Playing with MySelf” – which involved a wide variety of contemporary works, video, projections, lighting, set design, costumes, etc. – which had a successful run here in NYC and abroad. My love for Stephen Sondheim’s work dates back to my teenage years, having discovered such shows as A Little Night Music, Company, Follies and Pacific Overtures – which led to an obsessive immersion into his work, especially each time one of his new shows appeared on the theatre scene. I had always wondered what his amazing songs would sound like transcribed as legitimate piano works, much in the same vein as what pianists like Earl Wild had accomplished with Gershwin’s songs, and what Art Tatum did for so many his contemporaries. This tradition goes back as far as Franz Liszt, but no one had ever approached Sondheim’s work like this for the piano, so I thought it was about time. In the late 1980s, I was invited to create a transcription of one of St. JameS Cathedral’S The Last Night of The Proms Friday May 11, 2018 | 7:30pM This highly anticipated annual tradition features The Choirs oF sT. JaMes CaThedral in concert with BBC Proms and Radio Presenter Hannah French (MC), and The Band oF The royal regiMenT oF Canada. Conducted by Robert Busiakiewicz and Kevin Anderson. Tickets: /20 (adults/students) at the door, or in advance at stjamescathedral.ca/proms, or 416-364-7865. 65 ChurCh STreeT, ToronTo 416.364.7865 www.sTJaMesCaThedral.Ca thewholenote.com May 2018 | 25

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