2 years ago

Volume 25 Issue 7 - April 2020

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  • Violin
  • Musical
  • Performing
  • Concerto
  • Jazz
  • Theatre
  • Symphony
  • Arts
  • Toronto
  • April
After some doubt that we would be allowed to go to press, in respect to wide-ranging Ontario business closures relating to COVID-19, The WholeNote magazine for April 2020 is now on press, and print distribution – modified to respect community-wide closures and the need for appropriate distancing – starts Monday March 30. Meanwhile the full magazine is right here, digitally, so if you value us PLEASE SHARE THIS LINK AS WIDELY AS YOU CAN. It's the safest way for us to reach the widest possible audience at this time!


JEREMY BENNING unQuartet: After my exchange with Sara Constant, I also had an engaging three-way conversation with two members from unQuartet, violinist Meghan Cheng and cellist Cheryl O. The unQuartet ensemble began in 2017 originally as an improvising string quartet, they explained, but when their violist had to move back to Los Angeles, Nelson Moneo took over the violist role, and they decided to remain as a trio rather than find a new member. (Moneo was self-isolating in a remote region of British Columbia and unable to join us for the chat.). We began by talking about the impact that social distancing was having on them as performing musicians, beyond the gig cancellations. Cheng began by quoting the phrase, “there’s no art without an audience.” As a performer, she said, “you need someone there to witness and experience everything that a live concert has to offer – the connection and the energy. I wonder if doing online concerts has the same impact as a live event.” Cheryl O. picked up on this, speaking about how important live performing is for her own growth and how she is changed by the interaction with her colleagues. “Not having an audience changes how we hear and how we return the energy to each other.” During the rehearsal process, she said, the other group POSTPONED When the old traditions fail us, the only way forward is to create your own. MUSIK FÜR DAS ENDE The immersive theatrical journey returns! MAY 6–9, 2020 BUDDIES IN BAD TIMES THEATRE Call (416) 975-8555 or visit unQuartet members push her to practise different things in order to be able “to meet them individually. You get qualities from each other that drive me to heights.” Not being able to be together has heightened their awareness of how much they miss each other, Meghan Cheng said, going on to muse that this time may even turn out to be a great thing for the arts. “Maybe we will have a new appreciation for coming together and experiencing music and art.” Cheryl O. gave the example of how her own brother was beginning to see the value of the arts in a new way, especially now that it’s all currently gone. “Tell us what we can do to help,” he offered. “Once this is over I think there will be a treasuring of artistic life,” she said. As an ensemble, unQuartet takes improvisation very seriously, and as trained musicians their classical technique serves them well. And it’s more than just technique, O. said. “We’re really talking about listening. Inter-listening, which you don’t have a lot of opportunities to do when you’re playing someone else’s music, where you’re listening for perfection, entries, blending and colour, but not listening for personalities. “That’s what I love about this,” she continued. “There are three generations in the group at different stages of life. It’s amazing to come together with our diversities. We’re not one homogenous personality at all.” Cheng described the group’s approach to improvisation as being very spontaneous. At times they have used graphic and open scores, even played using a painting as inspiration. But generally their improvisations are unplanned, without preset parameters or themes. “Because we are all classically trained and have this classical form ingrained into us, we often have form to our improvisations with different movements and themes that grow throughout the improv. Our pieces often sound as if they have been composed.” For their scheduled concert at the Music Gallery on April 25, they were planning to perform an improvisational set along with visuals, and a collaborative set, possibly using an open score, with the Vaso String Quartet (Aysel Taghi-Zada (violin), Hua-Chu Huang (violin), Peter Ayuso (viola), and India Yeshe Gailey (cello), a Toronto based ensemble striving for innovative programming that juxtaposes the standard string quartet literature with the equally valuable works of underrepresented composers, and “seeking out working relationships with artists and composers of different mediums to further expand the definition of contemporary music.” As O. said, as we ended our conversation, performing and improvising gives her and unQuartet “the opportunity to learn patience, grace and compassion,” qualities we are all having to call on right now. “Having creative compassion for each other is what makes us a group,” she says. For now this planned encounter between the two ensembles will have to wait for some socially distant future moment. (And I look forward to being able to tell you when that moment comes.) Compared to the connection and energy of live performance, waiting for this alienating moment we are living through to run its course is about as exciting as watching grass grow. Perhaps best to think of it instead as new tendrils arising, pointing beyond the immediate crisis towards new values, for the world of musical performance and creative engagement with sound. Wendalyn Bartley is a Toronto-based composer and electrovocal sound artist. 16 | April 2020

Beat by Beat | Music Theatre Triple Threat, Double Whammy JENNIFER PARR What strange days we are living in. As I have been preparing and researching to write this column over the last week or so, the true scope of the COVID-19 pandemic has become increasingly clear. Ontario’s provincial government has declared a state of emergency and theatres of every size have first postponed or cancelled spring performances, then followed that by closing down rehearsals and production altogether for an unspecified length of time, at least until the pandemic should be under control. For theatre artists this is a double whammy. Not only are our livelihoods suddenly up in the air but our world is abruptly taken away. Even the smallest one-person show is created by a group of people, and one of the great joys of being part of this industry is that of working with other artists onstage, backstage, in preparation and rehearsal; experimenting with words, music, design and movement to craft our storytelling to the best of our abilities, then looking forward to the fulfillment of sharing our creations with a live audience. All of that is now on hold. Many companies and individuals are looking for ways to move some of our work online at least temporarily, which is wonderful, but it is not and cannot ever be the same as sharing a live theatrical experience. As fight director for Opera Atelier’s just cancelled production of Handel’s Resurrection, I am in mourning for a show that was just approaching that exciting moment of the rehearsal period when the dancers would have been joining the singers in the studio. My last rehearsal was teaching wonderful actor/singer Carla Huhtanen her portion of the fight choreography as the Archangel. She would have been joined in the last week of March by her nine Warrior Angels, including five of our female dancers wielding swords for the first time. Now all of that wonderful work, that human contact and collaboration, has been put in wraps until the – hoped-for – opportunity comes to bring it back. The same thing is happening to shows around the country and the world. The chance to be in the audience of other artists’ shows is also something I am going to miss, the longer the need to keep up social distancing continues, particularly given the rich variety of live music theatre I have witnessed over the last month or so. Carly Street’s onewoman tour-de-force performance in Grounded for Theatre Six at Streetcar Crowsnest, refuses to leave my head. Her searingly real yet funny, moving, portrayal of a woman pilot pulled against her will into the world of waging war by drone, was a devastating portrait of Artist of Atelier Ballet, Dominic Who, in Handel’s Resurrection a buoyant human spirit trying to make sense of the ugliness of an increasingly dystopian modern world. (While not really music theatre, a custom-made mix tape played a critical plot role.) Necessary Angel’s production of David Greig’s two-actor’play The Events followed the same theme, with a gay female priest trying to understand the motivation behind a devastating random attack on her choir, backed up by the presence and singing of an actual community choir on stage with her at each performance. At the other end of the emotional spectrum was the magical experience of feeling inside the creation of George Seurat’s famous painting, A Sunday on the Island of La Grande Jatte, in Eclipse Theatre Company’s large cast musical-event staging of Sondheim and Lapine’s Sunday in the Park with George at the Jam Factory; and the sweet pleasure of a musical evening with Jane Austen, thanks to U of T Opera at the Faculty of Music’s production of Jonathan Dove’s Mansfield Park, directed with a light and clever hand by Tim Albery. BRUCE ZINGER CANCELLED DANCE TO THE ABYSS MAY 7, 8, & 9 AT 8PM HARBOURFRONT CENTRE THEATRE Experience the decadent cabaret and jazz-inspired music of the 1920’s that captured the zeitgeist of a culture on a path to catastrophe. Music by Kurt Weill, Erwin Schulhoff, Mischa Spoliansky & others. artists Andrew Burashko, Torquil Campbell, Sarah Slean, Wallace Halladay, Al Kay and others TICKETS $25 – 416 973 4000 ARTOFTIMEENSEMBLE.COM April 2020 | 17

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Volumes 16-20 (2010-2015)

Volumes 11-15 (2004-2010)

Volumes 6 - 10 (2000 - 2006)

Volumes 1-5 (1994-2000)