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Volume 26 Issue 7 - May and June 2021

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  • Musical
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  • Toronto
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  • Classical
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Meet some makers (of musical things) - a live filmed operatic premiere of a Handel oratorio?; 20 years of Summer Music in the Garden, short documentary film A Concerto is a Conversation; choirs Zooming in to keep connection live; a watershed moment for bridging the opera/musical theatre divide; and more than 100 recordings listened to and reviewed since the last time.

cultures

cultures and lots of female performers, long before it was mandated or popular,” said Eric Stein. The all-woman Cecilia String Quartet is a prime example. The group played at the Music Garden every year from 2006 until they disbanded at the end of the 2017/2018 season. Violist Caitlin Boyle recalls that it was her first paying gig with the quartet. “As a young musician just graduating, there aren’t tons of opportunities to get paid and recognized,” said Boyle. “And I know within Toronto, Tamara has given chances to many young artists, plus the freedom to choose their repertoire, which isn’t always the case.” TAMARA BERNSTEIN Min Jeong Koh and Sarah Nematallah of Cecilia String Quartet in the Music Garden, August 13 2009 much more these days, in those early days of Summer Music in the Garden, it wasn’t so usual. Eric Stein has performed at the Garden for many years both as leader of the Brazilian choro group Tio Chorinho and as the artistic director of the Ashkenaz Festival. “I’ve always admired the eclecticism of the programming,” said Stein. “And I especially appreciate how, although she maintained classical music as the core genre, she was clever about how she expanded it to other styles of music. Choro is a good example of that as the chamber music of Brazil.” Classical Persian music, Taiko drumming, traditional Chinese stringed instruments and Indigenous music all had prominent places on the roster next to the Baroque and classical works. “In 2000, I was totally new to the Toronto music scene,” said tabla player Subhajyoti Guha. “And the performance at the Music Garden gave me immediate access to a mainstream audience which later helped me to build up my career there and also to get students for teaching tabla. “Tamara always made it a point to present the best of the diverse cultures in her festival and it was a sheer joy for me when she included my band in her festival in 2011.” The Future of Music in the Garden So the big question now is “what’s next?” In these pandemic times, uncertainty is the word of the day, especially when it comes to the performing arts. “We believe that this summer we will not be able to properly gather in large numbers in public places,” said Iris Nemani, chief programming officer for Harbourfront Centre. “So we’ve decided to put our efforts into commissioning new works that we hope will be performed in person in the Music Garden in 2022. “Tamara has left a legacy of exemplary programming, created opportunities for hundreds of artists and presented beautiful music and dance performances for thousands of patrons,” said Nemani. “Summer Music in the Garden is a beloved, free program and we are looking forward to welcoming audiences back to the Garden next summer.” Last words go to another contemporary composer whose work has shown up often across the life of the series, Quebec-based Michael Oesterle (although he characterizes his involvement as being more by chance than by design). “It’s not so much that I was specifically commissioned for the series but because musicians invited to perform there already had works by me in their proposed repertoire, and as luck would have it Tamara found the pieces interesting as well. And the feedback I got from those musicians after their performances there was always joyous and positive. “Some of what Tamara brought to her 20-year tenure,” he continues, “is that she’s intelligent and knows music, but beyond that she is extremely curious, and has found courageous and wonderful ways of drawing audiences into music you might think wouldn’t have a hope in a challenging acoustic environment -- ranging far, but never losing touch with the solo cello intimacy which inspired the place and the series all along.” “I am sad to hear her time there is at an end.” Cathy Riches is a self-described Toronto-based recovering singer and ink slinger. Women Rule Looking back over the rosters of performers during the 20-year history of the music series, it’s striking how many women appeared – not only as performers, but as leaders and composers. From musicians presenting more traditional repertoire such as violinist Erika Raum – who played on the very first evening of the series in 2001 – and cellist Winona Zelenka, to improvisers like pianist Marilyn Lerner and clarinetist Lori Freedman, to Sarangi virtuosa Aruna Saroyan performing North Indian ragas. “There was an obvious depth of thought Tamara put into the choice of acts and the balance she would strike by including many Terry McKenna shows off his lute. TAMARA BERNSTEIN 10 | May and June 2021 thewholenote.com

CLASSICAL AND BEYOND Surfing the Third Wave PAUL ENNIS Eugene Levy FAY FOX As I write this while an early spring blooms beyond my locked-down window, music presenters are trying their best to surf COVID-19’s Third Wave. The venerable Women’s Musical Club of Toronto – founded in 1898 – calmly announces on its website, “We’ve been here before… and we’ve survived.” After all, they have been holding Music in the Afternoon concerts since well before the flu pandemic of 1918/1919, enduring two World Wars, depressions and recessions, and our current devastating virus. “We will survive this one too.” Serouj Kradjian (above), Joyce El -Khoury Their 2020/21 season has pivoted to live streaming and video on demand. 2019 Banff International String Quartet Competition winner, Viano String Quartet, has just concluded an on-demand run from April 1 to 25. May is devoted to Lebanese-Canadian soprano, Joyce El-Khoury, and Armenian- Canadian pianist, Serouj Kradjian, in an on-demand recital that mixes songs by Bizet, Fauré, Chausson, Ravel and Saint-Saëns with 20th-century Lebanese songs in Arabic. El-Khoury and Kradjian are preparing an extensive project involving music and instrumental artists from their home countries culminating in a CD that will include these Lebanese songs. The Royal Conservatory of Music (RCM) “If I’m walking down the street, the rhythm of my walk will set off a tune in my head,” Eugene Levy said during an entertaining conversation on April 22 with RCM president and CEO, Peter Simon. “I’m always humming something – a lot of time I’m making things up.” The multi-talented comic actor – known worldwide for Schitt’s Creek – was helping to launch the new online RCM series Music of My Life, a free continuing event featuring well-known performers in conversation illustrated with musical excerpts. The series is accessible at RoyalConservatory.Live, the new digital channel of the Royal Conservatory. At the time of writing, four more episodes have been confirmed: celebrated pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim (April 29); Steven Page, founding member of the Barenaked Ladies (May 6); Cynthia Dale, star of music theatre (May 13); and Paul Shaffer, best known as David Letterman’s musical collaborator for more than three decades (May 20). Surprisingly – considering Levy’s memorable musical roles in Waiting for Guffman and A Mighty Wind as well as his accordionplaying Shmenge brother duo with John Candy on clarinet – there was no music played in his house until he was 12, which he attributed to the busy lives of his parents. Eventually, his brother took piano lessons and he dabbled in the accordion; in high school he took music as an option for five years, choosing tenor saxophone. He played in a full orchestra (“Wow! This is a whole new world here,” he thought) and also a 12-piece dance band (“You gotta do the standing-up thing”). During the 48-minute conversation, Levy spoke about the origin Cidel Bank Canada PRESENTS On Northern Shores music by Grieg, Röntgen and Walker Marie Bérard, violin Winona Zelenka, cello And guests; Emily Kruspe; violin Rémi Pelletier; viola Virtual Concert Release on Sunday, May 30 th , 2021, 3 p.m. est trioarkel-onnorthernshores.eventbrite.ca thewholenote.com May and June 2021 | 11

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