3 years ago

Volume 25 Issue 9 - July / August 2020

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  • August
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July/August issue is now available in flipthrough HERE, bringing to a close 25 seasons of doing what we do (and plan to continue doing), and on stands early in the week of July 5. Not the usual bucolic parade of music in the summer sun, but lots, we hope, to pass the time: links to online and virtual music; a full slate of record reviews; plenty new in the Listening Room; and a full slate of stories – the future of opera, the plight of small venues, the challenge facing orchestras, the barriers to resumption of choral life, the challenges of isolation for real-time music; the steps some festivals are taking to keep the spirit and substance of what they do alive. And intersecting with all of it, responses to the urgent call for anti-racist action and systemic change.


STUCK ON SAFETY GO SMALL OR STAY HOME? The Orchestral Dilemma A conversation with Katherine Carleton ESTHER VINCENT LYDIA PEROVIĆ Katherine Carleton, C.M. is the executive director of Orchestras Canada. We talked over Zoom in June. LP: What are you hearing from the orchestras these days? KC: I’m hearing several things. They’re looking back on the season that was and endeavouring to see from a financial perspective where Katherine Carleton they’re going to be at the end of the fiscal year. Some have fiscal years that end in May, some in June, some in July and all are trying to sort through financial impact of the forced closures in mid-March. At the same time, they’re each working on a range of scenarios around what the coming season will look like, potentially. I don’t think there’s a single orchestra that has a complete picture of what next year’s going to look like. Reopening and the speed with which that can happen, the size of groups that can convene, is all decided at the provincial level. It’s different picture in each part of the country. Simon Rattle and several other musicians in the UK recently published an impassioned letter to their government that says, among other things, “Our entire industry is united, ready, prepared, and desperate to get back to doing what we do best.” They’re eager to cooperate with public health, and are asking for timelines. Do Canadian orchestras need a timeline? What do we need from the government? I did read an earlier letter by Sir Simon Rattle and Sir Mark Elder which asks for bridge funding so UK orchestras can survive. I don’t think anyone is pushing the government for a hard and fast date to reopen until it is safe to reopen. Nobody wants to put their audiences, artists and cultural workers at risk. There are too many things that we do not know about the progress of the virus. To push the government to set the date by which we would open again is not a good idea because we don’t know how the situation will change by that date. A premature date may put people at risk. If I’m understanding where my people are standing, nobody wants to do that; of Bach to the Barre! A charming and funny view of what #StayingHome looks like for dancers and musicians, created by Timothy Dawson (TSO double bass) and friends with Guillaume Côté and Heather Ogden, principal dancers at the National Ballet of Canada. course everyone wants to get back to playing, but nobody wants to get sick and no one wants to be the convenor of an event that causes the people to get sick. I think that the request to government – all levels of government, principally federal and provincial here in Canada - is: help us keep doing what we can do through this period of time until it is safe to gather again. Have you been following the reopenings across Europe? Rattle himself recently conducted the Czech Philharmonic which did not arrange any social distancing on stage but all the players had been pre-tested. Norway, Austria, Germany, Czech Republic have all had concerts – to a much smaller audiences, it must be said. There have been similar experiments going on in Asia too. Because we’ve been in Stage 1 in Toronto up until this week, we couldn’t have started experimenting ourselves, I take it? That’s right. We did see for example pictures of the Orchestre Métropolitain recording Beethoven symphonies last week at the Salle Bourgie in Montreal and they were all socially distanced. The issue is the very different funding models between continental Europe and Canada. The level of government subsidy that those orchestras are receiving is typically between 80 and 90 percent. So it may be feasible to bring an orchestra together to work with little or no audience and no revenue. We do not have that luxury here in Canada. Yes, I wondered whether the level of subsidy affects how nimble an orchestra can get these days? It certainly affects the extent to which orchestras can afford to perform without revenue from ticket sales. How will orchestra musicians in Canada survive this period? Do most orchestras employ fulltime or do they employ musicians as freelancers? Some orchestras with collective bargaining agreements treat their musicians as independent contractors. Some of our largest orchestras with collective FRANCOIS GOUPIL / ORCHESTRE METROPOLITAIN DE MONTREAL 12 | July and August 2020

argaining agreements treat their musicians as employees. There’s a wide array of types of contracts. For example, the OSM, NACO and TSO treat their musicians as independent contractors; the Vancouver Symphony, the Calgary Philharmonic, the Winnipeg Symphony, the Orchestre Symphonique de Québec treat their musicians as employees. Because of the way the government has started the programs of support for workers, some of the orchestras were able to benefit from the wage subsidy, and some of them had to decide whether to lay their musicians off and encourage them to apply for the Emergency Response Benefit. I think all of the large orchestras kept paying their musicians through this period of time because of the importance they placed on honouring their commitment and keeping their band together. It’s different with small and mid-size groups where there are relatively few employee orchestras and where those groups simply did not have the resources to continue to pay their musicians past the mandatory notice period in their agreements. So it’s a very different experience from orchestra to orchestra – and not just a matter of large and small but also a matter of the history, of what the contracts stipulate. Have there been attempts to perform in groups of four or five, perform in open spaces, parking lots, do guerrilla concerts – have you been hearing from musicians who wanted to do that? I think a lot of that is happening. But again one of the obstacles was the limit on the number of people that can gather in one place. Our limit until just days ago was five, and is up to ten now. So yes there’s a certain amount of that happening, but everybody’s been very very careful about what the social distancing needs to be and the max number of people in the group, and they do not want to be in a situation where by the simple act of playing they’re encouraging people to gather in close proximity. Instead, what we’re seeing more of is digital activity, and the virtual orchestras and virtual ensemble projects. Pop concerts and unamplified music will probably require two different reopening approaches… Do you think? The crowds are bigger and sweatier in pop music, usually. I think we do share a fair amount with folks in the pop field. It’s not a complete overlap, but if we’re talking about a possibility of 1500 or more people gathering for an unamplified music performance, we are starting to talk about similar things as in commercial music. Orchestre Métropolitain de Montréal, with Yannick Nézet-Séguin, in a socially distanced rehearsal for their June and July Beethoven symphonies recording project, at Montreal’s Bourgie Hall, in June 2020. Michael Bridge, accordion Kornel Wolak, clarinet; Joseph Johnson, cello; with special guest Joseph Macerollo, accordion Joyce El-Khoury, soprano Serouj Kradjian, piano piano SIMON FRYER, ARTISTIC DIRECTOR NOVEMBER 12, 2020 | 1.30 PM MICHAEL BRIDGE & FRIENDS MARCH 4, 2021 | 1.30 PM JOYCE EL-KHOURY APRIL 1, 2021 | 1.30 PM ERIC LU MAY 6, 2021 | 1.30 PM MARMEN QUARTET Johannes Marmen, violin; Ricky Gore, violin Bryony Gibson-Cornish, viola Steffan Morris, cello AND VIANO STRING QUARTET Lucy Wang, violin; Hao Zhou, violin; Aiden Kane, viola; Tate Zawadiuk, cello 2020 2021 PREMIÈRE OF WMCT COMMISSIONED WORK BY ANNA PIDGORNA JUNE 24, 2021 | 1.30 PM RAMÓN ORTEGAQUERO Ramón Ortega Quero, oboe Annika Treutler, piano TORONTO DEBUT 123 RD Season Subscribe to Five Thursday Afternoon Concerts for 0 (Early Bird price extended to August 31) Walter Hall, Faculty of Music, 80 Queen’s Park (Museum Subway) 416-923-7052 July and August 2020 | 13

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