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Volume 25 Issue 8 - May / June 2020

  • Text
  • Choir
  • Performing
  • Performances
  • Orchestra
  • Musicians
  • Jazz
  • Recording
  • Toronto
  • Musical
  • Concerts
"COVID's Metamorphoses"? "There's Always Time (Until Suddenly There Isn't)"? "The Writing on the Wall"? It's hard to know WHAT to call this latest chapter in the extraordinary story we are all of a sudden characters in. By whatever name we call it, the MAY/JUNE combined issue of The WholeNote is now available, HERE in flip through format, in print commencing Wednesday May 6, and, in fully interactive form, online at Our 18th Annual Choral Canary Pages, scheduled for publication in print and flip through in September is already well underway with the first 50 choirs home to roost and more being added every week online. Community Voices, our cover story, brings to you the thoughts of 30 musical community members, all going through what we are going through (and with many more to come as the feature gets amplified online over the course of the coming months). And our regular writers bring their personal thoughts to the mix. Finally, a full-fledged DISCoveries review section offers cues and clues to recorded music for your solitary solace!

Beat by Beat | Art of

Beat by Beat | Art of Song Lydia Perović Sojourn in the Deep Shade The Only Way Is Through LYDIA PEROVIĆ I stay sane these days by walking industrial wastelands, edges of construction fields, less travelled ravine trails and the dead-quiet side streets of Toronto’s east and north. Last time I clocked in just over 9.5km – it was raining, then overcast with nasty winds – while listening to This Jungian Life, a podcast in which three Jungian psychoanalysts talk amongst themselves. The recent shows have been all been about the current situation, with titles like Facing the Fear, and When Everything Changes: Is There Opportunity in Crisis, and Nigredo: Finding Light Out of Darkness. As I was rounding the final stretch of Rosedale Valley Road where it joins Bayview Avenue, past the outlier graves on the slopes of the St James Cemetery, I could hear the analysts in my earphones saying THAT When the darkness descends, when the Nigredo is upon us, we will have to sit in it for a time. We can’t deny it away. We will have to stay in it, and then survive it. But the only way is through. It’s been impossible to read fiction these last few weeks. I’ve been searching for something escapist and plotted, precisely the books I don’t enjoy in ordinary circumstances. My own library doesn’t contain anything carefully plotted and neatly resolved, so I call Book City on the Danforth and bike over for a curbside pickup. I’m now nursing what turned out to be the least-plotted thing Patricia Highsmith ever wrote, Found in the Street. Jenny Offill’s Weather was pointless; Jean Frémon’s Now, Now, Louison non-immersive and even self-indulgent. It’s been impossible to listen to recorded music too because you can’t give over to it. Seconds in, you’re besieged by thoughts about the future of live performance. I’m not a techno-optimist on the topic of performing arts. Every now and then a few singers start the conversation online with “how we can change and improve our profession for the future,” presumably by adding an aspect of digital distancing to it. You can’t. We can’t. Things are either live, or they’re not performing arts. Anything consumed on a screen at home is a different shebang. We’d already begun self-isolating too much before the pandemic lockdown forced us to go full hermit. We as a society have already started preferring screens to live performance, digital communication to people in the flesh. Maintaining friendships outside the family unit was already made hard. Ticket sales for opera and song recitals have already been slowly but steadily declining in Toronto. We’ve already been living as citizens weary of other fellow citizens, not bothering to abstract out of our own condition to the life of the commons, in the public square. The end of the lockdown won’t reverse this trend. Despite the cheerful mantra that “we’re all in this together,” the pandemic has exacerbated the effects of the difference in income and property ownership, and has brought open authoritarianism to many countries in the world. To ours it has brought snitch lines, closed borders, and corona-shaming on social media. (What business do you have passing through this park today, citizen?) It has strengthened nationalism just about everywhere, and pride in narrow, visible, concrete belonging. There are already thinkers welcoming this new development, like the always globalization-suspicious John Gray in his compelling recent essay in the New Statesman where he wonders with crossed fingers if we’re nearing the end of over-optimistic internationalism. But hold on a moment. My life, that of a fairly integrated immigrant to Canada, has been made possible by that very same over-optimistic internationalism. As have the lives of many musicians whose careers are made possible by the existence of unfettered travel and open and curious (and solvent) audiences. How do our migrant narratives fit in? At the moment – the moment of closed borders, two million unemployment claims in Canada alone, a halted airline industry, newspapers shedding thousands of staff and the entirely disappeared performing arts – they don’t. Our narratives are currently impossible, I’m afraid. This is our Nigredo – our sojourn in the deep shade. To borrow from another writer’s recent lockdown essay (Stephen Marche in the Los Angeles Review of Books), everything I usually do involves me going somewhere, seeing something, then writing about it. Moreover, maintaining family connections for me always involved cross-Atlantic travel. This coming June, I was supposed to visit two very aged aunts who live in two different cities in the Balkans so I could see them one last time before they are gone. That will not happen. Nor will my stop in London, UK for a sisterly visit: my sister’s husband is just about to start chemotherapy and I, the traveller and potential corona-carrier, could literally kill him with my visit. Those of us who survive (and survive sane), will meet again and work again, after a period of mending. As the three Jungians point out in one of their episodes, this crisis has sharpened the lingering questions each one of us has avoided dealing with – or thought would solve themselves – during normal times full of distractions and complacency. Questions like, where am I really at home? Why am I in this relationship or marriage? Who are my real friends? Why do I do what I do for a living? Is it meaningful to me, to the world? How would I live the rest of my life if death is nearer than I thought? The Nigredo, say the Jungians, is the first phase of an alchemic process: it is the burning away of the dross. And the only way, as the darkness deepens, the blackening begins, is through. Not over, not around it. Right through. Lydia Perović is a writer in Toronto. Send her your artof-song news to VERONIKA ROUX 20 | May and June 2020

Beat by Beat | Classical & Beyond Virtual Concerts Offer Some Consolation PAUL ENNIS they realized that simply being together could be a risk. A quartet is, by its nature, an intimate gathering. Players “Soon can’t sit more than six feet apart and still hear each other, breathe together or respond to what are often subtle visual cues.” - James B. Stewart writing on April 19 about the Tesla Quartet’s coping with the coronavirus in The New York Times The New York Philharmonic had already cancelled its live performances through early June, but social distancing couldn’t stop more than 80 of its musicians from dedicating a special performance of Ravel’s Boléro to healthcare workers fighting the coronavirus pandemic. Orchestra members recorded their parts in their own homes for a virtual performance posted April 3 on YouTube. TSO: Less than ten days after cancelling their March concerts, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra posted a virtual performance of the final three sections of Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring Suite on their Instagram page and YouTube on March 22. A month later almost 420,000 viewers had seen it on YouTube. TSO principal bassist Jeff Beecher, who organized and edited the crisp, four-minute-plus performance by 29 of the orchestra’s players, got the idea on the first day of spring. CEO Matthew Loden, concertmaster Jonathan Crow, principal oboist Sarah Jeffrey and Beecher, talked about the experience recently on the TSO’s Facebook page. Beecher said that he sat on his couch and used the Sibelius program to produce all 29 parts, since the TSO library was closed and even the librarian had no access. The key to the enterprise was the click track, which, acting like an enlightened metronome, enabled each player to hear the “full voice of the score.” It was tricky since each participant was separate in their own home. But as Crow said: “The speed-ups and slow-downs [of the click track] made it feel like live music.” “The singular difference was the missing live audience,” Jeffrey said. “Without the live audience you hear everything you’re doing.” The music was recorded on 27 iPhones and two Androids and edited on Final Cut 2. Jeffrey did her part in four takes; it took time to adjust to playing naturally since the musicians didn’t have the unified character that the conductor brings. Some interesting balance issues did not detract from the exuberant playing and emotional appropriateness of Copland’s use of the uplifting Shaker hymn, Simple Gifts. Hope: Dazzling as these virtual acts of wizardry are, they lack the extraordinary intimacy of the music salon violinist/conductor Daniel Hope (@hopeviolin) has created in his living room, in the middle of Berlin, with the backing of the French broadcaster Arte (, who are making the concerts available at no charge for the next three months. “We’re coming to you live,” the personable Hope began on March 25. “[This is] a series to share music with you. Nothing brings things into perspective better than music.” With his collaborative pianist, Christoph Israel, at least six feet away, Hope dedicated the first episode to Johann Sebastian Bach and brought his singing violin tone along for support, ending the 32-minute concert with an arrangement of Schubert’s An die Musik. He called the Schubert an ode to music celebrating its power to take you to a different place and unite people – for which we should be extremely grateful. The daily alchemy needed to sustain 26 episodes (as of April 23 On my way to a concert, one day last summer. and ongoing) is considerable, but the results – and over one million streams – speak for themselves. Whether it’s Hope (who plays everything from memory) opening cold with a mesmerizing arrangement of Kurt Weill’s Youkali in Episode 2, turning over segments to in-house guests like Simon Rattle and his wife, soprano Magdalena Kožená, In Episode 20, or showing videos sent in by other musicians (like Lynn Harrell and seven other cellists’ virtual playing of Saint-Saëns’ The Swan in Episode 19), Hope’s living room is such a welcoming environment, it feels live. Rattle’s warmth at the piano was coupled with his immense musical insights into the repertoire he’s performing -- “The ethos of Debussy is the idea that suggestion is always more powerful LAURA ROEBUCK May and June 2020 | 21

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