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Volume 24 Issue 8 - May 2019

  • Text
  • Theatre
  • Symphony
  • Concerts
  • Singers
  • Arts
  • Jazz
  • Choral
  • Musical
  • Toronto
  • Choir
What a range of stuff! A profile of Liz Upchurch, the COC ensemble studio's vocal mentor extraordinaire; a backgrounder on win-win faith/arts centre partnerships and ways of exploring the possibilities; an interview with St. Petersburg-based Eifman Ballet's Boris Eifman; Ana Sokolovic's violin concert Evta finally coming to town; a Love Letter to YouTube, and much more. Plus our 17th annual Canary Pages Choral directory if all you want to do is sing! sing! sing!

They also know the

They also know the time-honoured Syrinx concert formula: main works drawn from the standard classical chamber repertoire; always a piece by a Canadian composer; and, as often as not, an opportunity, in at least one work on the program, to collaborate with another musician from Sandler-Glick’s always renewing circle of musical associates. For their April 2014 visit it was Dohnányi’s Piano Quintet with one of Sandler Glick’s favourite Toronto-based collaborative pianists, Gregory Oh. This time it is Schumann’s Piano Quintet in E-flat, Op.44 with rising Israeli pianist, Ishay Shaer. And it is with the introduction of Shaer to this story that an explanation of Sandler-Glick’s state of mind starts to become clear, because hard on the heels of Shaer’s May 26 guest appearance with the LeBlancs, his June 6 solo piano recital will take Syrinx, for the first time in their history, out of the cosy confines of their Heliconian Hall home into unfamiliar surroundings – Mazzoleni Concert Hall at the Royal Conservatory of Music. It’s a short journey – just a few blocks – but it’s a major departure. It’s also, Sandler-Glick says, a risk worth taking. “We’ve promoted or presented Ishay a few times already,” she says, “and I’ve just seen his evolution. You could say I’ve become somewhat of a groupie. I’ve gone to Holland to hear him, this last time was a Brahms festival in the Hague. And I also went to Paris to hear him do a solo concert. Over the years I’ve kept track of him and been in touch, and have read reviews that have been just superb. Last year I heard him at Bristol and it was just top of the mark. So I thought ‘I have to do something more for him.’ And this is the best thing I can do. I can’t get him into Koerner Hall. I don’t have the wherewithal for that, either the money or, as important, the audience.” Even Mazzoleni, at double the capacity of Heliconian, is no cinch, in terms of drawing an audience. Does double the capacity mean double the cost? I ask. “I wish!” she says, ruefully, and itemizes all the areas where the increases are exponential. So she will invite people, vigorously, beyond her faithful subscriber base and, with luck and good management, draw on the relationships she has started building with two other salon series, both home-based, one, with a following of 80 to 100, the other with 40 or 45. “I used to worry about the question of having our own audience cannibalized,” she says. “But not any more. The reward is in both directions. We are all happy about it.” Ishay’s June 6 concert program is a hefty one: Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No.32 (his last); selected Debussy Etudes (which the composer warned pianists not to attempt “unless they have remarkable hands”); and Chopin’s Piano Sonata No.3 in B Minor, Op.58, considered to be one of Chopin’s most difficult compositions, both technically and musically. And, yes, telltale Syrinx fingerprint, there will be a Canadian work on this program too – Image Astrale by pioneering composer Jean Coulthard, one of three Western Canadian women (the others were Violet Archer and Barbara Pentland) who left their formative mark on the 20th century Canadian musical landscape. “It was on his 2017 program for us too,” Sandler Glick says. “There is something about her music that I think he really gets.” “So is the Canadian work on the program ever the starting point for building a program.” I ask. A quick shake of the head. “This is the part of it that makes me a dictator, and I love it. I have a lot of say. I get to suggest repertoire, and I suggest what I want to hear; and a lot of what I want to hear is the familiar, the music I love. It’s a lot of what the audience wants to hear too. So if there’s enough of what’s familiar on either side, at least they are not going to complain. And at best they are going to be receptive.” Out of context, one could take the comment as dismissive of Syrinx’s bedrock commitment to Canadian work. But to do so would be to miss a fundamental point. Chrylark/Syrinx was founded in 2003, one year after the death of Sandler Glick’s former husband, composer Srul Irving Glick, with the express mission of creating an artistic context in which his music would be kept alive. Over time the mandate spread to include other composers, notably in the early years, Oskar Morawetz and Walter Buczynski who were part of Srul Irving Glick’s own circle. “At first we tried programming one composer for a whole season,” she says. “But life is not long enough for that! So it became one composer per concert, and we have heard some wonderful pieces over the years.” Srul Irving Glick’s own work has not been neglected over This part of the work is what makes me a dictator, and I love it. And many of the artists who come to us appreciate it too. the passing years. But neither has it been thrust forward, although with the coming season being the 85th anniversary of his birth, there might be a case for doing so again in the near future. “It’s a balance you have to find,” she says. April 23, 2017, 15 years after Srul Irving Glick’s death almost to the day, was one such beautifully balanced moment: both in terms of his legacy and, as important in terms of defining the complex skill set that Sandler-Glick brings to keeping Syrinx a significant part of Toronto’s musical life. The concert that night was a live CD recording of all six of Glick’s Suites Hébraïques, the first time that all six suites had been performed together. The roster of musicians assembled for the event reflects Sandler-Glick’s priorities: Susan Hoeppner, flute; James Campbell, clarinet; Wallace Halladay, saxophone; Elissa Lee, violin; Barry Shiffman, violin; Sharon Wei, viola; Cameron Crozman, cello; and Angela Park, piano – established, mid-career and emerging artists, a testament to her commitment, above all else to putting the interests of the musicians ahead of everything else. Easy to lose sight of in talking about her curatorial role, is Sandler- Glick’s own lifelong passion for the piano, starting at age four, studying under Alberto Guerrero at the RCM, continuing in Paris where she gave recitals and taught while studying herself, then upon her return performing professionally with orchestras and in solo and chamber music recitals, live and for CBC radio, premiering many new works by Canadian composers along the way. And, from the latter half of the 1990s, maintaining a vigorous teaching career, both at the RCM and privately. “I had to get a real job after Srul and I separated,” she says. “Now I only teach my grandchildren, which is a bit of a mixed thing. I can’t make them practise. But they are all musical and all interesting people to know.” You won’t ever find her name among the pianists in her own series though: “I was never a very happy performer” she says. “Not as a soloist nor even as a chamber player.” One could surmise that part of what she brings to her relationship with musicians, and to forwarding the musical aspirations of “top of the mark” performers like Ishay Shaer, stems from her own understanding of just what it takes to get, and stay there. As for her own musical and pianistic journey, it has taken a recent and happy turn. “It was after I turned 80, I told myself I wanted to do a concert again,” she says. And did, late last year. At the Schubert House in Vienna, no less, after a trial run at home salon in Toronto. I wasn’t there, but if the concert went as planned it included a Mozart sonata, three Schubert Impromptus a Brahms Capriccio and Ballade and Schubert’s Sonata in A Minor for Arpeggione and Piano. And, of course, a Canadian work: Sonata for flute and piano by, who else, Srul Irving Glick. David Perlman can be reached at publisher@thewholenote.com Schubert House in Vienna 20 | May 2019 thewholenote.com

Beat by Beat | In with the New Conflagration: Improvisation, Radio and Gwendolyn MacEwen WENDALYN BARTLEY The dictionary defines a conflagration as an extensive fire that destroys a great deal of land or property. (The recent Notre Dame fire in Paris on April 15 can be considered such an event.) It is also the very word that the beloved Toronto-born poet and novelist Gwendolyn MacEwen (1941-1987) used, metaphorically, to describe Nikola Tesla, the Serbian-American inventor and electrical engineer who brought us alternating current (AC) – the electricity system we use every day. In the last paragraph of the opening section of Tesla, MacEwen’s verse-play for radio, she states: “He set the entire earth in electrical vibration with a generator that spouted lightning that rivalled the fiery artillery of the heavens….Tesla was a conflagration.” Tesla was one of two MacEwen verse-plays that were commissioned by and broadcast on CBC’s Anthology program in the early to mid-1960s. The Tesla piece explores Tesla’s achievements and his AC current that was used in the hydroelectric plant at Niagara Falls, the first of its kind. It also covers the highly controversial “War of Currents” he was engaged in with Edison and his direct-current (DC) system to determine which system would power the world. Tesla won. The second was Terror and Erebus, the names of the two ships used in the Franklin expedition to discover the Northwest Passage. Franklin’s Arctic expedition, had a less auspicious outcome: the two ships became icebound for three years, and despite several attempts to find them, the entire crew eventually died. Only the Inuit knew where they were. TIO at Array: May 26 at the Array Space, the Toronto Improvisers Orchestra (TIO) will present a performance of both of these radio verse-plays, featuring actors Rod Campbell and Randi Helmers with an original score by composer Eugene Martynec for the Tesla piece, in an event that promises to be something of a conflagration of mixed art forms. Using the wireless technology that Tesla himself foresaw, I had a Skype conversation with TIO members Martynec and Campbell to hear more about the TIO in general and about this upcoming performance which is part of a series of events that the TIO has initiated to celebrate great artists and improvisers from Toronto. The orchestra itself is the inspiration of Martynec who started it up about seven years ago after returning from a three-year stay in London UK where he played several times with the well-seasoned London Improvisers Orchestra. One of the hallmarks of that ensemble is the use of conduction cues, a series of hand signals used by a conductor to guide the musicians through an improvisational performance. These were originally designed by American cornet player and composer Butch Morris and have become a standard system used by many improvising ensembles in Europe and North America. Currently, the TIO performs twice a month – at the Tranzac Club and the Array Space – and is a very musician-centric ensemble. These gatherings consist of a one-hour rehearsal beforehand to warm up and go over the cues, and then the Gwendolyn MacEwen actual improvisational performance begins. “The hand signals are there to help us out, not to tell people what to do” Martynec explains. The basic guidelines are that players are asked not to play in their usual genre (jazz, classical, blues, etc), melodies are to be atonal only and extended techniques on one’s instrument are highly encouraged. NEW MUSIC CONCERTS | ROBERT AITKEN ARTISTIC DIRECTOR| WWW.NEWMUSICCONCERTS.COM | RESERVATIONS 416.961.9594 Matthias McIntire Cathedral Grove (and the Gray Jay) Matthias McIntire violin Ana Sokolovic Evta (Seven) Andréa Tyniec violin Samuel Andreyev Iridescent Notation Maeve Palmer soprano New Music Concerts Ensemble | Robert Aitken direction IRIDESCENCE | SUNDAY MAY 26 | BETTY OLIPHANT THEATRE | 404 JARVIS STREET | INTRO 7 15 | CONCERT 8 00 thewholenote.com May 2019 | 21

Volumes 21-24 (2015-2018)

Volume 24 Issue 8 - May 2019
Volume 24 Issue 7 - April 2019
Volume 24 Issue 6 - March 2019
Volume 24 Issue 5 - February 2019
Volume 24 Issue 4 - December 2018 / January 2019
Volume 24 Issue 3 - November 2018
Volume 24 Issue 2 - October 2018
Volume 24 Issue 1 - September 2018
Volume 23 Issue 9 - June / July / August 2018
Volume 23 Issue 8 - May 2018
Volume 23 Issue 7 - April 2018
Volume 23 Issue 6 - March 2018
Volume 23 Issue 4 - December 2017 / January 2018
Volume 23 Issue 3 - November 2017
Volume 23 Issue 2 - October 2017
Volume 23 Issue 1 - September 2017
Volume 22 Issue 9 - Summer 2017
Volume 22 Issue 8 - May 2017
Volume 22 Issue 7 - April 2017
Volume 22 Issue 6 - March 2017
Volume 22 Issue 5 - February 2017
Volume 22 Issue 4 - December 2016/January 2017
Volume 22 Issue 2 - October 2016
Volume 22 Issue 1 - September 2016
Volume 21 Issue 9 - Summer 2016
Volume 21 Issue 8 - May 2016
Volume 21 Issue 6 - March 2016
Volume 21 Issue 5 - February 2016
Volume 21 Issue 4 - December 2015/January 2016
Volume 21 Issue 3 - November 2015
Volume 21 Issue 2 - October 2015
Volume 21 Issue 1 - September 2015

Volumes 16-20 (2010-2015)

Volumes 11-15 (2004-2010)

Volumes 6 - 10 (2000 - 2006)

Volumes 1-5 (1994-2000)