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Volume 26 Issue 1 - September 2020

  • Text
  • Ensemble
  • Classical
  • Concerts
  • Singers
  • Choral
  • Jazz
  • Toronto
  • Musical
  • September
  • Choir
Choral Scene: Uncharted territory: three choirs finding paths forward; Music Theatre: Loose Tea on the boil with Alaina Viau’s Dead Reckoning; In with the New: what happens to soundart when climate change meets COVID-19; Call to action: diversity, accountability, and reform in post-secondary jazz studies; 9th Annual TIFF Tips: a filmfest like no other; Remembering: Leon Fleisher; DISCoveries: a NY state of mind; 25th anniversary stroll-through; and more. Online in flip through here, and on stands commencing Tues SEP 1.


ALAINA VIAU ALAINA VIAU Laura Larson as Amelia Kelsey Falconer as Betty make suggestions as we come to the final edit, with an overall view of the work,”. By the end of filming in mid- August, Viau said the whole team was excited by what they had created, that it wasn’t a “cop out” or “also-ran”, but felt instead “as if this weird situation had birthed a new thing.” The plan is to release the film online around mid- September, though no exact date has yet been set. It will be streamed for free, with donations suggested to help continue the development of the piece. A watch party will be announced on Loose Tea’s social media ahead of time (please see the info below). If the short film is well received the company may go on to film the whole musical. In the meantime, a full live version of Dead Reckoning is still planned to be part of the regular theatre season, once live performance is possible and safe again, perhaps in the 2021/22 season, after further workshopping. BIPOC composer/librettist development program Also in September, another Loose Tea initiative is being launched: a new BIPOC composer/librettist development program to be headed up by the company’s new artistic director Joanna Diindiisikwe Simmons, a Saugeen Ojibwe and professional opera singer originally from Lindsay Ontario, who has performed leads with the COC and Pacific Opera Victoria. Simmons was recruited by executive artistic director Viau to take on the leadership of this program as well as other Indigenous programming which has been in development for the past year as part of the company’s mandate to expand and change the face of opera. Another consequence of the enforced pandemic shutdown is that Viau has had much more time to devote to developing this and other innovative programming plans that she will be announcing later in the year. For more information about Loose Tea, the premiere of Dead Reckoning and the new BIPOC composer/librettist program please see: Facebook:; instagram: @looseteatheatre; twitter: @looseteatheatre; and Dead Reckoning: Video Adaptation Credits Lezlie Wade - Director, Book and Lyrics Scott Christian - Composer and Producer Alaina Viau - Creative Producer and Director of Photography John Chou - Technical Assistant Alicia Barban - Assistant Producer Austin Check - Editor Amelia Earhart - Laura Larson Betty Klenck - Kelsey Falconer American Trio - Alicia Barban, Aisha Jarvis, Sara Shanazarian Jennifer Parr is a Toronto-based director, dramaturge, fight director and acting coach, brought up at from young age on a rich mix of musicals, Shakespeare and new Canadian plays. FEATURE Back to the Future The Struggle for Equity in Jazz Studies programs COLIN STORY As a first-year undergraduate at Capilano University’s Jazz Studies program in 2005, I, like the rest of my cohort, was automatically enrolled in a mandatory jazz history course. It was a survey course, designed to teach us how to listen actively, to distinguish between Armstrong and Parker and Coltrane, and to develop a sense of the historical arc of jazz in the 20th century. Our very first listening example was Livery Stable Blues, by the Original Dixieland Jass Band. Something of a novelty song, its name derived from the horns’ imitation of animal sounds in stop-time sections, Livery Stable Blues has the distinction of being the very first jazz recording, released by New York’s Victor record label in 1917. It also holds a more dubious distinction: all five members of the ODJB, who billed themselves as the “creators of jazz,” were white. To his credit, our instructor mentioned this unexpected fact, though we, as a class, did not investigate it further. There was much we could have considered: the circumstances behind the recording, the tricky concept of artistic ownership, the way in which Black American Music gets repackaged by white performers – from the ODJB to Elvis Presley to Justin Bieber – and profitably sold to white audiences. But we didn’t; instead, we moved on to the next song, and focused on learning to correctly identify excerpts for our upcoming exam. This experience is indicative of what is still a defining characteristic of Canadian post-secondary jazz programs: namely, that they are primarily concerned with teaching students how to be competent professional performers, and that teaching students to engage with issues of race, gender and equity within their field is outside of a program’s purview. On the surface, there’s an undeniable logic to this: students come to learn performance skills, and that’s what programs deliver. One of the unintended consequences of this outlook, however, is an erasure of the lived experiences of jazz’s canonical figures, the vast majority of whom are Black. Rather than being examined as real people, these musicians tend to become avatars of the music they made. The present-day significance of Duke Ellington’s famous 1920s residency at the Cotton Club, 16 | September 2020

L to R: First pressing of "Livery Stable Blues" by ODJB, 1917; sheet music for the ODJB version under the alternate title "Barnyard Blues", from 1917, and a 1998 “Giants of Jazz” re-release of Ellington’s 1929 recording. Modibo Keita for example – a club which admitted a whites-only audience, was decorated in exotic jungle imagery, and was disdained by contemporary Black intellectuals like Langston Hughes – remains largely unexplored. Another unintended consequence of this colour-blind philosophy: faculty members and executive staff of Canadian jazz studies programs tend to be predominantly white men. Where greater diversity is visible, it tends to be in sessional faculty, hired on short contracts for relatively low pay. The Call for Change In the wake of the murder of George Floyd, weeks-long Black Lives Matter protests, and loud calls for changes to be made to major arts organizations, a concerted effort has been made by students, alumni, and faculty to address the inequities of Canadian jazz programs. On June 24, a call to action addressed to the Humber College School of Media and Performing Arts was posted on social media by the Humber Jazz POC Alumni Collective – Kyla Charter, Meagan De Lima, Claire Doyle and Lydia Persaud. The letter contains both questions (such as “How are you supporting your Black students?” and “How is the department addressing systemic racism?”) and demands (“conduct and publicly publish an equity audit at the end of each school year” and “hire more Black professors and pay them well”). By June 29, a response was issued by both senior dean Guillermo Acosta and the Humber music faculty, with a commitment to effecting systemic change. This change includes working with the college’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Taskforce, “recruiting, retaining and advancing more faculty and staff from Indigenous, Black and other racialized communities,” and developing and allocating “more scholarships for Black and Indigenous students.” #thisisartschool Near the beginning of July, a group of University of Toronto Jazz Studies alumni formed under the auspices of the hashtag #thisisartschool, which emerged as a way for social media users to share marginalizing experiences at post-secondary arts programs. By July 17, members of this coalition – Modibo Keita, Jacqueline Teh, Laura Swankey, Laura Yiu, RJ Satchithananthan, Belinda Corpuz, Sammy Jackson, Alexa Belgrave, Joëlle Turner and Tara Kannangara – posted a call to action addressed to U of T’s Jazz Studies department, partly inspired by the earlier call to action addressed to Humber. The U of T letter shares some similarities with the Humber letter, citing “the erasure of vital Black contributions to the arts” and “racism directed towards BIPOC students and faculty” as key issues. Unlike the Humber letter, however, which is primarily concerned with race, the U of T letter also highlights inequities related to gender and sexuality in jazz programs, including “discrimination directed towards LGBTQ+ students,” “the normalization of sexually inappropriate behaviour,” and the “lack of accountability for people who perpetrate these behaviours.” Keita describes #thisisartschool as a coalition, and characterizes the process of making “decisions and sharing ideas” as “very organic.” Despite the “amount of people involved and the difference of opinions,” and the “highly delicate and emotionally charged” topics While you’re waiting... Who said “I wonder what that person would have thought of the person who’s looking at the picture now.”? (Vol 19 no 3, page 64) Vol. 16 no. 9 Vol. 17 no. 3 Vol. 18 no. 3 Vol. 19 no. 3 Vol. 20 no. 1 BROWSE 25 YEARS AT KIOSK.THEWHOLENOTE.COM September 2020 | 27 September 2020 | 17

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