4 years ago

Volume 24 Issue 8 - May 2019

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  • 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!


ART OF SONG KEVIN LLOYD THE RIGHT KIND OF CRAZY LIZ UPCHURCH’S FAVOURITE THINGS CHRIS HUTCHESON Liz Upchurch accompanies Jane Archibald in the COC’s Free Concert Series in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre, 2018 LYDIA PEROVIĆ Not a lot of people know that Liz Upchurch, the head of the COC Ensemble Studio and a key figure in operatic training in our country, started her career as an art song buff. The Royal Academy of Music graduate Liz Upchurch and London-born pianist who studied with Roger Vignoles first came to Canada for a lieder course led by Martin Isepp in Banff, where she met Mary Morrison, Michael McMahon and John Hess, who all had extensive opera experience. “At the time I had just started to lose my sight,” she remembers. “I have a retinal disease which started to manifest seriously around that time… it had been a difficult year. I’d just been given an okay by the specialist to go for the summer.” 8 | May 2019

After the course, Isepp asked her to come with him to Italy, to an opera summer program he was running. “I wasn’t in love with opera then,” she admits. “I was in love with singers and art song. When I asked what we’d be working on, and was told a Mozart opera, I thought, hmm. But I’m so glad I went: it changed the course of my life. He became a mentor. I wanted to have that kind of artistic sensibility where I can be in both worlds, opera and art song.” Upchurch is celebrating her 20 years with the COC with a noon concert, “Some of My Favourite Things,” on May 7 at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre (RBA), and the program will be back-toback-to-back art song. “I did a double first at the RAM in solo and chamber music, but I always played for singers, for their classes and recitals, and was kind of crazy for singers. There’s nothing as amazing as the written words set to music – the human voice. Human voices send me.” Back in Banff, John Hess, in particular, became a fast friend, and opened further doors into opera – and hiking. “John would always lead these hikes. I couldn’t do the hikes with other singers and pianists – when you start to lose your vision, you’re seeing in two dimensions, the whole up-down thing is confusing. He said, ‘I’ll take you on walks at the end of the course.’ And he got me over a couple of fears that I had.” Banff was also the place where Upchurch met her future wife, theatre director Jennifer Tarver, who was then assisting Rhoda Levine. But that was to come later. “Then John on that hike said, ‘Look, I do this course in the winter, it’s called Dramatic Integration, for Canadian singers doing contemporary music. I can’t really explain the course, it’s a bit crazy, but I think you might be the right kind of crazy to do it.’” Two things were immediately evident, Hess tells me when I ask him about the experience. “Liz was a beautiful pianist. Superb sound, great fingers, deeply musical and a superb ensemble player. The other thing was a wicked sense of humour.” She was also, he writes, a dramatic sight to see while playing. “She was already beginning to have vision issues and she would often play with a tissue draped over one side of her glasses.” She accepted this unknown disease in stride, almost in an off-hand manner. “This was vintage Liz. She had an unabated appetite for the beauty of the Rockies and even with her physical challenges she was undaunted in getting to the top of whatever mountain she could.” Young pianist Jennifer Szeto, now Montreal-based former Ensemble Studio member and Adler Fellow, also remembers that sense of humour and the cheek. They met by accident, when Szeto played an audition for a friend whose regular pianist cancelled. “It’s a story which Liz likes to tell in a completely different way. But we met at that COSI audition. I walked in, played the audition, the singer left and Liz looked at me at the piano and went Who are you?! Um, I’m Jenn Szeto. I was a second-year student at that point. She asked me if I’ve ever seen an opera before. Which is a funny thing to ask someone. And thankfully I had seen an opera, as I was dating a young baritone. Liz invited me to the COSI program on the spot, and I spent the summer immersing myself in opera. Martin Isepp was coaching Cosi fan tutte, conducted by Stephen Philcox and featuring all the ensemble members at the COC. Sam Chan was there. Kinza Tyrrell conducted a Haydn opera, Aviva Fortunata was singing. I had an amazing introduction to the world of opera. That’s how Liz found me and I joined the Ensemble eight years after that. I’ve been learning and working in opera for about ten years since that first encounter. If I hadn’t agreed to play that audition, I’d never have met her; if she hadn’t asked who I was, I wouldn’t have the career that I’m building right now. It’s really because of her. And I’m sure I’m not the only person.” The two kept in touch over the years, but when Szeto inquired too early about trying out for the Ensemble Studio, she got an honest answer. “Jenny, she said. You’re not ready. I needed to wait a few more years. She is always honest with her advice. And I auditioned when I was ready.” Upchurch is known for keeping an eye on young musical talent across the country, and Szeto confirms it. “She likes to keep tabs. She likes to keep a good pulse on everything. I think that’s what makes her so good at her job: she has a remarkable eye for talent. She is a fabulous teacher and mentor, but really has an eye for spotting that thing that makes you different.” SIMON FRYER, ARTISTIC DIRECTOR OCTOBER 3, 2019 | 1.30 PM TRIO FIBONACCI Julie-Anne Derome, violin; Gabriel Prynn, cello; Steven Massicotte, piano NOVEMBER 14, 2019 | 1.30 PM JANE ARCHIBALD Jane Archibald, soprano pianist TBA FEBRUARY 27, 2020 | 1.30 PM DIOTIMA QUARTET Yun-Peng Zhao, violin; Constance Ronzatti, violin; Franck Chevalier, viola; Pierre Morlet, cello APRIL 2, 2020 | 1.30 PM BEVERLEY JOHNSTON & FRIENDS Beverley Johnston, percussion Aiyun Huang, and Russell Hartenberger, percussion Susan Hoeppner, flutes Marc Djokic, violin MAY 7, 2020 | 1.30 PM BLAKE POULIOT Blake Pouliot, violin pianist TBA 2019 2020 PREMIÈRE OF WMCT COMMISSIONED WORK BY RUSSELL HARTENBERGER 122 ND Season Subscribe to Five Thursday Afternoon Concerts for 0 (special price until May 31) Walter Hall, Faculty of Music, 80 Queen’s Park (Museum Subway) 416-923-7052 May 2019 | 9

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