3 years ago

Volume 25 Issue 6 - March 2020

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FEATURED: Music & Health writer Vivien Fellegi explores music, blindness & the plasticity of perception; David Jaeger digs into Gustavo Gimeno's plans for new music in his upcoming first season as music director at TSO; pianist James Rhodes, here for an early March recital, speaks his mind in a Q&A with Paul Ennis; and Lydia Perovic talks music and more with rising Turkish-Canadian mezzo Beste Kalender. Also, among our columns, Peggy Baker Dance Projects headlines Wende Bartley's In with the New; Steve Wallace's Jazz Notes rushes in definitionally where many fear to tread; ... and more.


NICK MERZETTI TIM BLONK BO HUANG L to R: Adam Scime, Bekah Simms, Roydon Tse Planets. Kuzmenko told me, “I am honoured that maestro Gimeno chose to feature my music in his first season. It is clear from the season that he has a strong commitment to new Canadian music. I believe he will be a great advocate for Canadian composers.” Montreal-based Nicole Lizée’s Zeiss After Dark is a TSO co-commission with the National Arts Centre Orchestra (NACO) and will be presented when the NACO visits in the spring of 2021. Commenting on the program, which includes the Shostakovitch Ninth Symphony and a new work by Philip Glass, Lizée told me, “I’m excited to be included as part of NACO’s program as the invited orchestra as well as being a part of Gustavo Gimeno’s inaugural season with the TSO. I appreciate that my work is being performed alongside that of two important composers by an orchestra that has also made Canadian music a large part of their initiatives.” Emilie LeBel has been the TSO affiliate composer since September 2018. “During the first week of my new position, I met Gustavo as he was announced as the incoming music director,” she says. “I am thrilled that my contract as affiliate composer has been extended to a third year. As Gustavo steps into his new role, I have the opportunity to see all the excitement and hard work that has gone on behind the scenes take fruition! My role as affiliate composer encompasses a new orchestral commission each year, plus I have an active role in the artistic administration team, and as a mentor in specific education and outreach projects. “I am currently working on a new 15-minute work, which is my third TSO commission. It will be conducted on the Masterworks Series by John Storgårds in January 2021. I am blessed to have benefited from learning under Sir Andrew Davis, and several guest conductors these past two years. It has been a time of immense learning and artistic growth. I am excited to broaden my horizons under Gustavo this year, as I observe rehearsals and study scores. I look forward to learning from a new perspective, and to exploring how this will support me while immersed in the creation of this new piece.” It is important that the affiliate composer position play an active role in nurturing and supporting new Canadian work, Lebel says. “I am looking forward to our third year of ‘Explore the Score’, offering the opportunity for composers to hear their orchestral works be read by a professional orchestra, and also receive mentorship on the many facets of a career in composition. Expanding on this opportunity, we have created a new program this year, NextGen, to support emerging talent, bridging the gap between attending a score-reading session and a professional commission.” SCIME, SIMMS, AND TSE The NextGen program invites three composers each year to receive mentorship from the affiliate composer, and write a fiveminute work for the orchestra that will be premiered on the TSO’s Masterworks Series. “After two years of planning, I am thrilled to see this program come together” LeBel says, “and to be supporting the work of three Canadian composers selected by Gustavo: Adam Scime, Bekah Simms and Roydon Tse. These two annual programs will offer support to promising composers, and ensure a strong future for Canadian music.” The commissions for Scime, Simms and Tse are included in three Remembrance Day concerts, early in November. “It is definitely a huge honour to be named one of the first composers for Gustavo to commission for the TSO,” Tse told me. “Not only is it a tremendous privilege to write for the players, I am pretty excited for the opportunity to get to know Gustavo more through this opportunity. I know that Gustavo is very serious about the next generation of Canadian composers, and I feel honoured that he has taken the time to listen to my music and chosen me for this commission. Artistically speaking, there is a lot that I want to do and try for the TSO. This being Gustavo’s first season at the TSO, there is a certain weight of responsibility that is unlike other commissions. I have written quite a few works for orchestra before but there’s always something else I would like to try like new timbres, textures and harmonies. There is a new sound that I want to achieve from the orchestra which I am still working on, so I think this commission has been instrumental in helping me think deeper about orchestration and sound. The piece will be rooted in the theme of Remembrance which I am excited to be tackling in the coming months.” Tse’s sentiments were echoed by the other NextGen composers. “Since a young age I have attended TSO concerts, Scime wrote, “and remember wondering what it would be like to be a part of such an incredible collection of musicians and artists who get to make wonderful music of the highest quality for a living. I am very proud and excited to now be a part of this music-making process with the orchestra as a composer. It will be an honour to work with the new director, Gustavo Gimeno, and the TSO musicians in a professional artistic capacity and to hear these world-class musicians interpret my music. Working with an orchestra of this calibre is a hallmark of any composer’s career – and I am especially thrilled that this project also happens to be with my hometown band.” Simms enthusiastically agreed: “I’m excited by Maestro Gimeno’s intensity and his excitement for new music; my music is often roiling and full of details, so I think he can really bring out the important features of my work. He has an edge and flair to his conducting that I’m really looking forward to see. I’m extremely delighted and honoured to work with my ‘home’ orchestra! My musical language is often most effective with large, expansive instrumental forces, so I’m delighted to be working with as fine an ensemble as the Toronto Symphony.” David Jaeger is a composer, producer and broadcaster based in Toronto. 18 | March 2020

MUSIC AND HEALTH BALANCE IN BLINDNESS THE PLASTICITY OF PERCEPTION VIVIEN FELLEGI Susanna McCleary PHOTO COURTESY AMI Violinist Susanna McCleary shimmers in a silver top as she strides over the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre stage, one hand balanced lightly on the back of her mother, Dorothy de Val. McCleary leads the pair in a rousing rendition of the klezmer piece Hora Marasinei, her brow furrowed in concentration as her bow darts and dances over her violin. De Val replicates her rhythms on the piano, and mother and daughter sway in synchrony. After their opening act, pianist Michael Arnowitt grabs his white cane and heads into the spotlight. As his nimble fingers plunge into a series of Bach selections, Arnowitt is mesmerized by the music, punctuating the accents with sharp tosses of his head. The final, plaintive note quivers for an eternity in the hush of the room. This performance on October 15 last year, “An Evening in the Key of B: A Benefit Concert,” was a fundraiser for the non-profit organization BALANCE for Blind Adults (, which helps visually impaired clients regain their independence. The two musicians resonate with the relevance of this mission – both are blind, and both have had to overcome challenges springing from this state. But their loss of eyesight has also garnered them gifts, sharpening their other senses to make up for this deficit. And these finely tuned faculties of hearing and touch have, in turn, moulded their artistry. McCleary and Arnowitt join the ranks of a long line of blind and brilliant musicians, including soul music pioneer Ray Charles, rocker Stevie Wonder and opera singer Andrea Bocelli. The sheer number of such performers has long caused music connoisseurs to wonder if there is a special relationship between vision loss and musicality. FREE NOON HOUR CHOIR & ORGAN CONCERTS Enjoy an hour of beautiful music performed by outstanding Canadian choirs and organists, spotlighting Roy Thomson Hall’s magnificent Gabriel Kney pipe organ. VOCA CHORUS OF TORONTO Star Songs THU APR 9 ◆ 12 PM CANTALA WOMEN’S CHOIR The Infinite Beauty of Sound FRI MAY 1 ◆ 12 PM VOICES Poetry in Songs THU JUNE 11 ◆ 12 PM FREE ADMISSION FOR TICKETS VISIT ROYTHOMSONHALL.COM/CHOIRORGAN OR CALL 416-872-4255 Suitable for ages 6 and up. For groups of 15 or more, contact For more information call the box office at 416-872-4255. Made possible by the generous support of Edwards Charitable Foundation. March 2020 | 19

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