7 months ago

Volume 26 Issue 6 - March and April 2021

  • Text
  • Contemporary
  • Orchestra
  • Album
  • Toronto
  • Quartet
  • Ensemble
  • Jazz
  • Composer
  • April
  • Musical
96 recordings (count’em) reviewed in this issue – the most ever – with 25 new titles added to the DISCoveries Online Listening Room (also a new high). And up front: Women From Space deliver a festival by holograph; Morgan Paige Melbourne’s one-take pianism; New Orleans’ Music Box Village as inspiration for musical playground building; the “from limbo to grey zone” inconsistencies of live arts lockdowns; all this and more here and in print commencing March 19 2021.


CLASSICAL AND BEYOND FROM LIMBO TO GREY ZONE Inconsistent lockdown protocols hamper the live performing arts On February 22, in response to the continuing uncertainty about when the Ontario government would ease the COVID-19 lockdown protocols disproportionately affecting the live performing arts, the Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts (TAPA), which represents 164 professional theatre, dance and opera companies, sent Lisa MacLeod, Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries “an urgent plea requesting regulatory fairness with the television and film industry.” The letter continues: “Restrictions preventing professional theatre, dance and opera companies from doing the same [as TV and film companies] threaten the survivability of our sector. We are planning to return to engaging our communities in our theatre venues when it is safe to do so. In the meantime the creation of digital content has become the only form of artistic practice for the professional theatre, dance and opera industry in Toronto, and our members have found new and creative ways to continue to operate and connect with our audiences.” Meanwhile, even though many TAPA member companies have temporarily shifted to hybrid theatre, dance and opera models that include livestreaming, pre-recorded film and digitization, “entertainment concert venues, theatres and cinemas (includes drivein or drive-through events) [are] closed for all purposes, including rehearsing or performing a recorded or broadcasted event, artistic event, theatrical performance or other performance.” However, the letter points out, the Businesses Permitted to Open and Sector Specific Restrictions (14) have allowed film and television to continue to operate: commercial film and television production, including all supporting activities such as hair, makeup and wardrobe.” Granted, there are conditions and restrictions, and the TAPA letter enumerates these: no studio audiences permitted to be on the film PAUL ENNIS or television set; no more than ten performers permitted on the film or television set; the set configured and operated in such a way as to enable persons on the set to maintain a physical distance of at least two metres from other persons except where necessary for filming; persons providing hair or makeup services must wear appropriate personal protective equipment; and singers and players of brass or wind instruments must be separated from any other performers by plexiglass or some other impermeable barrier. It’s a list familiar to many sectors of the economy. None of these items, however, prompted performing arts sector pushback as reflected in the TAPA letter. So what did? The following sentence: “The film or television set may be located in any business or place, including any business or place that is otherwise required to be closed.” On February 24, J. Kelly Nestruck, The Globe and Mail’s theatre critic, underscored “how infuriatingly illogical the continuing situation is,” in a quote by Chris Abraham, artistic director of Toronto’s Crow’s Theatre, which captured the unfairness and apparent arbitrariness of the situation: “A film company can come and rent our theatre and shoot a film in it – and we can’t do that ourselves,” said Abraham. The Globe and Mail published two letters to the editor in response to Nestruck’s story. A Toronto reader wrote: “Perhaps the quickest solution to this lack of logic would be for theatre companies to Chris Abraham DAHLIA KATZ DAHLIA KATZ 12 | March and April 2021

edefine themselves as film companies. It is, by definition, their current activity.” The second letter came from Karel Martin Ludvik, a Canadian operatic soloist living in Essen, Germany. “It is crucial that we all do our part to reduce the spread of COVID-19,” Ludvik wrote. “However, not allowing theatres to film or stream their work gravely endangers the fate of artistic institutions that are vital to our communities.” Last fall, Ludvik appeared in two productions at the Bavarian State Opera. One was performed in front of an audience; the second was reduced to a livestream because of COVID-19. “We took the exact same precautions in both productions (frequent testing etc.),” he wrote. “No one became ill. He added: “Although singing for a live audience is more pleasurable, the livestream nonetheless allowed the art to be brought to the audience.” Twists and Turns Since the TAPA letter and the Nestruck article, the situation has taken a couple of twists and turns. On March 2, 2021, TAPA executive director Jacoba Knaapen replied to a question from me: “FYI, to date, ZERO reply from the Province.” And then, on March 8, the current lockdown was lifted, with Toronto and Peel moving out of limbo into the incongruously named “Grey Zone”. It is better than it sounds, though. TAPA member companies (and other presenter/ performers) can, for now, return to the business of creating digital content, rehearsing and broadcasting, subject to conditions similar to those imposed on film and TV companies: no audiences allowed; rehearsing, recording or broadcasting an event or performance permitted (for example, streaming a performance to an online audience); two metre distancing except when essential for the performance; and a barrier between both singers and wind/brass players and all other performers. It’s good news, as far as it goes, but does nothing to address the inequity which prompted the February 22 TAPA letter. Simply put, without a change to Sector Specific regulation itself, if we go into lockdown again, the temporarily levelled playing field reverts to the regulatory unfairness challenged by TAPA and others. All of this prompted me to follow up, as I did in the February/March issue, with a range of performing arts presenters, to get their current thinking (cautiously optimistic, for the most part) on this thorny question. Toronto Symphony Orchestra Matthew Loden, CEO of the TSO, issued the following statement in response to my questions: “The TSO has been in close contact with our colleagues in government and conveyed our commitment to rigorous adherence to safety protocols and our desire to continue to record our concerts. We have also been part of a collaborative effort with other arts organizations in expressing our desire to safely continue. While we are disappointed to not be able to record during periods of lockdown and stay-at-home orders, we appreciate the difficult decisions our public health units have had to make to keep our city and province safe. We are grateful that the issue was brought to Public Health Ontario for consideration and will always accept the direction of scientists and medical experts about how to keep our orchestra, staff, patrons and community safe. Once the city goes back to the pandemic framework we will resume our recordings, sharing our music with our patrons and our city.” RCM The Royal Conservatory continues to do everything possible to reschedule upcoming concerts to new dates and, in the meantime, bring music online. “Despite the ever-changing pandemic chaos, including regulations from the province, the music is not stopping,” said Mervon Mehta, executive director of performing arts at RCM. “Artists are eager to play for you and we are thrilled to ... invite you to stream a dozen more concerts from our original season schedule.” Included among the free online concerts over the next several weeks are two by the ARC Ensemble. The first, on March 12, at 8pm, is a rescheduled item from RCM’s Beethoven 250 Festival: Beethoven’s Piano Trio in D Major, the composer’s own arrangement of his Symphony No.2 Op.36, and a selection of folk songs for voice and piano trio with Monica Whicher, soprano. On April 11 at 1pm, the Ensemble will play music by two little-known Jewish composers: the Sephardic works of Alberto Hemsi (1898-1975) and the elegant classical compositions of Vittorio Rieti (1898-1994). The ever-popular Glenn Gould School Piano Showcase, another free online concert, is available May 7 at 7:30pm, with GGS students displaying their talents in a French program that includes Debussy’s Preludes Book I and various works for two pianos and piano four hands. VIRTUAL CONCERT SERIES Tues. March 16, 2021, 7:30 pm Vadym Kholodenko Piano recital including Schubert and Rachmaninoff SPONSOR: NAE FUND Toronto Community Foundation Thur. April 15, 2021, 7:30 pm Castalian Quartet Haydn and Brahms quartets All concerts broadcast FREE online! Monica Whicher INNERchamber In a story in our February/ March issue, Wendalyn Bartley noted that INNERchamber’s Lost and Found concert on February 7 – which was to have been livestreamed from Revival House, the Stratford ensemble’s usual restaurant partner – had been forced by the new Andrew Chung protocols to move to Canterbury Music Company studios in Toronto. I contacted INNERchamber’s artistic director, violinist Andrew Chung, to ask what the change in venues was like. VISIT for more information on how to watch each concert. IRENE MILLER March and April 2021 | 13

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