4 years ago

Volume 25 Issue 2 - October 2019

  • Text
  • Performing
  • Orchestra
  • Symphony
  • Musical
  • Concerts
  • Arts
  • Jazz
  • Choir
  • October
  • Toronto
Long promised, Vivian Fellegi takes a look at Relaxed Performance practice and how it is bringing concert-going barriers down across the spectrum; Andrew Timar looks at curatorial changes afoot at the Music Gallery; David Jaeger investigates the trumpets of October; the 30th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution (and the 20th Anniversary of our October Blue Pages Presenter profiles) in our Editor's Opener; the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir at 125; Tapestry at 40 and Against the Grain at 10; ringing in the changing season across our features and columns; all this and more, now available in Flip Through format here, and on the stands commencing this coming Friday September 27, 2019. Enjoy.


SPOTLIGHT The Toronto TORONTO ARCHIVES Mendelssohn Choir at 125 DAVID PERLMAN Clockwise L to R: Toronto Mendelssohn Choir at Massey Hall, 1911; Elmer Iseler rehearsal at Massey Hall; Singsation Saturdays Remarkably, the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir has had only eight conductors in the course of its 125-year history that will be celebrated in an anniversary gala concert at Koerner Hall this coming October 20. Even more remarkable, five of those – Augustus Stephen Vogt (1894-1917); Herbert A. Fricker 1917-1942; Sir Ernest MacMillan (1942-57); Elmer Iseler (1964-1998); and Noel Edison (1997 to 2018) – account for almost 120 years of the 125. This is not to say, however, that the length of an individual’s tenure is the sole indicator of its importance. There’s an old saying that if you want something done well, give it to a busy person. David Fallis, who took up the reins as the TMC’s interim artistic director in 2018 after the abrupt departure of Noel Edison, and will step down at the end of the coming season, is a case in point. By TMC standards it will have been a very brief tenure, but he will have made his mark at a pivotal moment for the choir. David Fallis By the time this issue of the magazine has been published, he will have led the Choir’s September 28 Singsation workshop, and the TMC will be at work preparing for the October 20 anniversary concert, which Fallis will conduct, and beyond that, their annual Festival of Carols (December 3 and 4) at Yorkminster Park Baptist Church, with the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra as their guests. There are also the TMC’s own upcoming guest appearances to prepare: Beethoven’s Ninth, with Orchestra Toronto, in an October 27 concert titled “Freude,” commemorating the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall; and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s November 7 and 9 opera-in-concert performances of Massenet’s Thaïs. Oh, and then (for Fallis not the TMC) there’s the small matter of conducting Tafelmusik for Opera Atelier’s Don Giovanni at the Ed Mirvish Theatre, in a fiveperformance run, commencing October 31. Fallis dropped by the WholeNote office for a flying visit en route to rehearsing the University of Toronto MacMillan Singers (who are also between conductors), and we tried to touch on one topic at a time, more or less in order of appearance. DEAN ARTIST MANAGEMENT 12 | October 2019

The TMC’s “Singsation Saturdays” is an ongoing series of workshops that are generally very well attended by a wide range of participants, from across the GTA, who are united by a love of choral singing. There will be five this season, each led by a different eminent conductor and organized around a particular topic or theme. The theme for Fallis’ September 28 session is music composed for the TMC over its 125-year history. “For this Singsation,” Fallis says, “we’re doing How They So Softly Rest by Healey Willan. Interestingly, the Healey Willan Society website says it was written for the Mendelssohn Choir, but I once saw a Hyperion recording of it (can’t remember the choir) that said it was written for the choir at St. Paul’s. We’ll claim it anyway! Also commissions we’ve had with Peter Tiefenbach and Tim Corlis, and one piece commissioned by the Mendelssohn Youth Choir when it existed, from Derek Holman.” That Fallis would choose to focus on commissioned works for his workshop should come as no surprise, given his work as longtime artistic director of Toronto Consort, and given the TMC’s own track record: “The Mendelssohn has a long history of commissioning new Canadian music, although sometimes irregularly,” he says. “I’ve certainly encouraged them to keep doing it, especially if they want to maintain their leadership in choral music.” “Singing through the Centuries” is the title of the October 20 Koerner Hall anniversary gala concert, the idea being to include repertoire spanning the three centuries in which the choir has sung. It won’t be a “Mendelssohn light” concert though, with three substantive works on the program: Gabriel Fauré’s Requiem representing the 19th century; Igor Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms the 20th; and Andrew Balfour’s Mamihcimowin (The act of singing praises) a new TMC commission from a composer with a distinctive and powerful musical voice, who, as Carol Toller wrote, for The Globe and Mail earlier this year, is “drawing on his First Nations identity to nudge the the Canadian classical-music scene out of its stodgy Eurocentric traditions.” “I just received the full score,” Fallis says, with a gleam in his eye that speaks volumes. (It is Thursday September 19 as we sit chatting, Andrew Balfour which means only four Monday rehearsals before the concert.) “It’s not much more difficult than the Stravinsky.” As for the Stravinsky Symphony of Psalms, it speaks, by association, to a time in the history of the choir spanning all the way from the 1930s and Sir Ernest MacMillan’s early interest in Stravinsky, to a CBC Symphony Orchestra recording of the work in 1962-3, with Stravinsky himself conducting, and featuring Elmer Iseler’s Festival Singers. A year later Iseler began his unmatched 36-year conductorship of the TMC, bringing the Festival Singers with him as a professional core ensemble within the choir, much as later on Noel Edison would do with the Elora Festival Singers. In 1965, at the sesquicentennial of the Handel and Haydn Society of Boston, the TMC under Iseler, according to the Canadian Encyclopedia of Music, “presented a program that included, among other works, Godfrey Ridout’s The Dance; [Sir Ernest] MacMillan’s arrangement of the French Canadian folk song Blanche comme la neige; and Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms ...”. On October 31 1965, the Boston Globe reported, “There is something fresh, stimulating, vital, about the Iseler-Mendelssohn combination, MOZART DON GIOVANNI OCT 31–NOV 9, 2019 ED MIRVISH THEATRE, 244 Victoria St, Toronto Starring Colin Ainsworth, Gustav Andreassen, Mireille Asselin, Stephen Hegedus, Carla Huhtanen, Olivier Laquerre, Meghan Lindsay, Douglas Williams. With Artists of Atelier Ballet, Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra, and the Chorus of the University of Toronto Schola Cantorum. TICKETS START AT “…a feast for lovers of great music, great theatre and great entertainment.” —TORONTO STAR Season Presenting Sponsor Season Underwriter Radio Sponsor PHOTO BY BRUCE ZINGER SUBSCRIBE & SAVE UP TO 30%! OPERAATELIER.COM October 2019| 13

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