3 years ago

Volume 25 Issue 5 - February 2020

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Visions of 2020! Sampling from back to front for a change: in Rearview Mirror, Robert Harris on the Beethoven he loves (and loves to hate!); Errol Gay, a most musical life remembered; Luna Pearl Woolf in focus in recordings editor David Olds' "Editor's Corner" and in Jenny Parr's preview of "Jacqueline"; Speranza Scappucci explains how not to reinvent Rossini; The Indigo Project, where "each piece of cloth tells a story"; and, leading it all off, Jully Black makes a giant leap in "Caroline, or Change." And as always, much more. Now online in flip-through format here and on stands starting Thurs Jan 30.

fascinating to run the

fascinating to run the gamut in that way from deeply traditional, right from the roots, through to wherever it is all going now: whatever that key to the door to the future is.” Trichy-Sankaran instrument lending library, so that Europeans who were working in the textile trade or various aspects of his business or diplomacy could borrow instruments or editions of music.” “With the British Raj in India you would often have this kind of influence and confluence of cultures and traditions,” Sankaran continues. “So there are many stories of how the South Indian composers would hear the marching bands and be influenced in their writing. One example, that unfortunately is on the cutting room floor of our particular project, was quaintly titled “English Note” – where they purposefully decided to eliminate all of the microtonal inflections inherent in the South Indian music, in order to make it sound that much more Western. Very fascinating, and there are many stories like this.” Story follows story as our conversation unfolds: about forced conversion of subsistence economies to cash crop economic production of indigofera tinctoria – both in Tamil Nadu and Europe’s colonies; about how a six-foot length of dyed “guinea cloth,” sailing from Amsterdam to West Africa would buy, and sell, a man into slavery in the indigo and cotton plantations of the New World; about how the word “jeans” derives from the port of Genoa, and the word “denim” from “serge de Nimes”; about how Handel made his fortune through investments in the South Sea Company with its indigo connections... Mackay leafs through the binder of images on the table. “This is one of the women who helped to found the London Foundling Hospital that Handel was also so involved with; there she is, dressed in an incredible indigo outfit; and this is a statue outside the boys entrance of a so-called blue-coat school, where children of the ‘worthy poor’ wore blue coats and blue dresses which certainly by the time of Handel were dyed with indigo. So it was used to dye coronation robes, the clothing of the highest in society, and of the absolute poorest; such an interesting parallel that for the first time Tafelmusik is experimenting with some of the street-ballad music from England and France along with the court music.” “For me,” Suba Sankaran says, “there was this equivalent crystallizing moment soon after Alison and I talked. I was touring India with Autorickshaw and I remember seeing a concert of folk music, and as soon as I heard some of the sounds of particular sticks they were using (which are not used in classical Indian music), it made me think of the sounds of the loom and weave – I thought ‘ok I need to park this in my brain and do some further research.’ And then I brought that back to my father here in Toronto, and said ok so I heard this -- what can we do to find a piece that might harken to that time of that particular work period with those sounds that may have been heard in that environment. So in the South Indian thread we’re dealing with harvest music, agricultural music, and really folk music – the music of the people, from the people travelling from region to region, so more like work song, field songs that we had from this time...” The project, Sankaran says, has been “a huge learning curve, and a learning experience…The aspect of the collaboration that is quite beautiful from the South Indian perspective is that not only are we covering a lot of the very traditional classical music from various centuries, but also some of that folk music – music that was written specifically for dance in the Thanjavur court we were talking about, then slightly more contemporary works towards the end, and then of course one very specific example of how the English influence works its way back into the South Indian classical repertoire. It’s really Tafelmusik in Changing Times Going all the way back to Mackay’s The Four Seasons, a Cycle of the Sun in 2003, she has shown an uncanny knack for harnessing, to use her earlier phrase, “compelling topics”: with a geographical axis straddling continents, or societies, or musical solitudes; and a second axis that slices across centuries, joining then to now through the lens of the human condition. The current project does all that, but something else is also going on here, speaking to Tafelmusik’s awareness of their own changing role as an arts organization. One example small but significant example is the links they established in the context of this project, with MAIWA, a Vancouver-based company advocating for the continuation of traditional craft techniques and natural dye use: “The people at MAIWA,” Mackay says, “talk about every piece of cloth telling a story, the story of the people who make it, and – this is my next step, my take – the story of the taste and the aesthetics and the economic position and the values of the people who wear it. The more you know about these things the more you need to think about your choices.” A second thing: there will be 50 school students, from vocal programs at Earl Haig and Unionville Secondary Schools, singing with the orchestra in the mainstage concerts (a first for Tafelmusik), performing both European baroque works and South Indian classical music, joined by several members of the Tafelmusik Chamber Choir. Sankaran has worked with both groups, “giving them the South Indian Music 101, the whole Carnatic system – raga, melody; thala, rhythm; the codified hand gestures, getting them to sing the microtonal inflections. I absolutely love that. It goes hand in hand with the way we learn Indian music in the first place – children are strongly encouraged to just absorb, to immerse themselves in it. Whether you open your mouth to sing one note or not is inconsequential. It’s osmosis, you gather it.” The third new element is four daytime performances for a total of about 2000 TDSB students, planned for the week following the mainstage concerts – “a scaled down but not dumbed down” version of the mainstage show, with active participation, based on the history of denim. At time of writing, plans for this hang in the balance, pending settlement of the Ontario government’s dispute with our teachers. The final student-focused element of the project is, thankfully, not in doubt. In the fall, a Grade 10 art class at Marc Garneau High School in Thorncliffe Park created a indigo-dyed art work – a quilt made up of squares of organic cotton from India dyed, using various “resist” techniques, with natural indigo. This quilt will be installed at Jeanne Lamon Hall for the concerts, and has a powerful significance for Mackay and Sankaran. Mackay explains: “In the course of the project, students were told about the London Foundling Hospital I mentioned earlier, which is of course a story of family separation. Mothers stayed anonymous, so they wouldn’t be discouraged from coming, but they would cut pieces of fabric from the baby’s clothing (which was usually made from the mother’s clothing) and then the mother would take half, with the other half kept in a printed form that the hospital would keep, just in case – so if the mother fell on good times, there would be a record and she could reclaim her baby. The forms were kept sealed until sometime in the late 19th century at which time they were opened. And so now they have thousands –3,500 or something – almost unique examples of fabrics people wore. Women paying for the Foundling Hospital dressed in their indigo velvets and silks, and the poorest imaginable in London also being dressed in indigo. The students at Marc Garneau found this very, very touching. And in this project that they are doing, they’ve dyed their squares using indigo tie-dye techniques and are embroidering or appliqueing pieces of fabric that speak somehow to their own family or friendships; some even, apparently, inspired to talk to their parents about some of the pieces of clothing they brought with them. I think it’s amazing – another one of these stories that a piece of cloth will tell.” The Indigo Project runs February 27 to March 1 Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre. Consult for details. David Perlman can be reached at 12 | February 2020

WORLD VIEWS BEST OF BOTH WORLDS Composer-percussionist BOB BECKER ANDREW TIMAR With a career spanning half a century, renowned Toronto-based percussionist Bob Becker has garnered a global reputation for his instrumental mastery, interpretive skill and rigourous commitment to his art. Reading road kill on balding tires In the 1996 issue of Percussive Notes, veteran marimbist Leigh Howard Stevens summed up the prevailing opinion of Becker: “Everybody who knows anything about xylophone knows you are not only the greatest living xylophonist, but also the greatest xylophonist who has ever lived. Everybody who knows anything about … ‘world percussion’ knows you are a black belt on tabla and African hand drums. Anyone who has heard you perform the Toru Takemitsu From me flows what you call Time with Nexus knows you have a golden touch on steel drums. Anyone who is familiar with your performances with the Steve Reich Ensemble has to admit that you are a hot marimbist and vibe player, and anybody who knows you well, also knows that you are a superb all-around orchestral percussionist and timpanist who can read road kill on balding tires.” Having established Becker’s percussion street cred, Stevens cheekily continued, “[but] … how are your drum set chops?” Becker’s equally cheeky reply: “Well, the older I get, the better they used to be.” Ba dum tsh: truly a drum sting-worthy punchline. While internationally known as a brilliant percussionist, Becker’s two upcoming concerts in Toronto, early in February 2020, showcase his composer and music director chops – sides of his career becoming more prominent in the last two decades. February 4, the Bob Becker Ensemble presents “Clear Things May Not Be Seen” at the COC Free Concert Series, with the same program on February 6 on the U of T Faculty of Music free Thursdays at Noon Concert Series in Walter Hall. The four Becker compositions in the concerts all feature vocals by soprano Lindsay Kesselman and mezzosoprano Andrea Ludwig, as well as Becker on percussion, pianist Midori Koga, marimbist and conductor Christopher Norton, percussionist Louis Pino, plus clarinet and string quartet. Serious Smile Photo: Dahlia Katz THURSDAY FEBRUARY 13 @ 8 | INTRODUCTION @ 7:15 Harbourfront Centre Theatre, 231 Queen’s Quay W. Works by Alexander Schubert, Keiko Devaux, Corie Rose Soumah, Brandon Chow and György Ligeti NMC Ensemble | Eve Egoyan | Rolston String Quartet Brian Current, direction Advance tickets: or call NMC @ 416.961.9594 February 2020 | 13

Volumes 21-25 (2015-2020)

Volumes 16-20 (2010-2015)

Volumes 11-15 (2004-2010)

Volumes 6 - 10 (2000 - 2006)

Volumes 1-5 (1994-2000)