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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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  • Jazz
  • 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.

pandemic. Zoom rehearsals “proved to be quite frustrating for a certain portion of the choir that was unable to access reliable WiFi.” So right from the onset they “formed a recovery task force that set up the guidelines and safety objectives for small in-person rehearsals. Just over half of [their] members were able to attend a series of weekly in-person rehearsals lasting one hour each. Strict protocols were set up in order to ensure everyone’s safety. These sessions concluded at Christmas as the COVID situation worsened.” Moving Forward While some choirs simply decided against putting on concerts entirely until given permission to perform live again, others dug deep into the virtual world and produced online concerts and other productions online, learning along the way. Tedious and extensive as the process might have been, it’s a true testament to the tenacity of these choral communities, and the strength of their support for one another, that they were able to accomplish as much as they did. We’ll dig deeper into progress being made in regard to this aspect of things as 2021/22 takes clearer shape. It was certainly very unbecoming of March 2020 to have all of us strap ourselves into a rickety, year-long roller coaster ride, including loops we really did not want to go through. But, a year later, nauseated, and with our knuckles turned white, we have at least figured out the mechanics. Safe to say, however the coming year unfolds, we will all be better equipped to enjoy the ride. Menaka Swaminathan is a chorister and soloist on hiatus, eager to get back to a singing groove. She is currently a writer and student of Vision Therapy, based in Toronto. For current profiles of the choirs mentioned in this article, and all the others in the process of joining The WholeNote 2021/22 Canary Pages Choral Directory, please visit thewholenote.com/canary. A warm welcome, so far, to the following: • Achill Choral Society • Bel Canto Singers • Cantabile Chamber Singers • Chorus Niagara • Chorus York • Ensemble vocal Les voix du coeur • Georgetown Choral Society • Harbourfront Chorus • Jubilate Singers • Pax Christi Chorale • The Peterborough Singers • Serenata Singers • Tempus Choral Society • Toronto Chamber Choir • Toronto Children's Chorus • Toronto Welsh Male Voice Choir • Village Voices Community choir • VOCA Chorus of Toronto • West Toronto Community Choir Choirs ready to join or re-join, contact karen@thewholenote.com MEET THE MAKERS Michael Sankey and Linda Manzer Master Builders COLIN STORY While the focus in this magazine is typically on the musicians, venues, and institutions that comprise our shared musical community, it seemed like the time was ripe to focus on something a bit different: master builders who create exceptional instruments, beloved by players and audiences alike. This month, I interviewed two notable Ontario guitar luthiers: Michael Sankey and Linda Manzer. Sankey – whose business, Sankey Guitars, is based in Ottawa – builds forward-thinking instruments, with an emphasis on ergonomic shapes, unique wood, and cuttingedge design. Manzer, based in Toronto, has long been a worldrenowned guitar maker; her instruments can be heard in the hands of luminaries such as Pat Metheny, Julian Lage and Bruce Cockburn. In my interview with Manzer and Sankey below, we discuss the effects of the pandemic on their practices, their exciting upcoming projects (including a new Manzer guitar for Metheny), and their hopes for the post-pandemic future. WN: In March of last year, when the pandemic first broke and quarantine protocols began, how were your operations affected? How have the ongoing workplace COVID protocols affected the way that you do business? LM: When the pandemic broke last March, I was actually visiting a guitar-maker friend (Steve Grimes) in Hawaii to celebrate his 1000th guitar. I returned about a week before Canadian travel restrictions were being seriously put in place. The reality of what was happening in the world was just settling in. Travelling was pretty wild. The morning I arrived home I had what I thought was a really bad cold, so in an abundance of caution I put myself in a self-imposed quarantine for about a month and a half while I recovered. I’ll never know for sure if it was COVID or not. I tested negative but it was early testing days and I had all the signs. I have a shop in Toronto but also in Almonte, Ontario, which is where I do the bulk of my work these days. I completely stopped working for about two-plus months. Every working musician I know suddenly lost their jobs and suddenly stopped touring, and it was pretty shocking and devastating for them. There was no end in sight and as time marched on it became obvious things weren’t going to change anytime soon and they had to make huge adjustments. I was quite sure I would never get an order for another guitar. Then, about four months in, that flipped on its head and I suddenly got a flurry of guitar orders. MS: COVID hit me personally and professionally at the same time. 20 | May and June 2021 thewholenote.com

MARGO SANKEY NORM BETTS One of the main avenues for marketing and selling my instruments is to display and present them at musical-instrument trade shows around the world. And one of my favourite things to do is travel to interesting cities and connect with the people there who love the art of the guitar. I had a few of those planned, and of course with the travel bans (not to mention bans on gatherings) those shows had to be cancelled, perhaps never to return. It could have been worse, though. My workshop is in my home, so with nowhere to go I could devote extra time to building guitars. I did run into a few issues with suppliers having difficulty fulfilling my orders for parts and sometimes shipping instruments internationally took a lot longer than expected. But overwhelmingly, my clients have accepted and understood when my delivery timelines had to be extended. Contrary to initial expectations at the outset of quarantine in March 2020, large instrument companies such as Fender, Taylor, Martin and others experienced a major boom in sales during much of last year. This boom, however, is largely attributed to a surge in casual hobbyist musicians buying low- and mid-price instruments. As a luthier who makes specialized, pro-level instruments, how has the pandemic affected your sales? MS: I don’t have the volume or the consistency of output to be able to draw such precise conclusions as the big companies, but I also felt a substantial boost in demand at the beginning of the pandemic. It may have tapered down to “business as usual” by now, but, given the rather long lead time it takes for me to build guitars, I get to keep riding this wave longer than them. Many of the guitar makers I chat with have noticed the same thing. I suppose a lot of folks have found that working from home gives them more free time to do the things they want to do, like play guitar! LM: The first few months I got no inquiries at all, and then suddenly I was flooded with orders. I’m now booked a full year in advance. I’ll be 100% honest: I was actually starting to think of other projects I’ve been putting off for years and looking forward to having the time to work on them, but that evaporated. How would you describe the target market for your instruments? LM: I build for guitar players who know what they want in an instrument and feel an affinity to my building style. If someone comes to me for a guitar they usually know about my work and have a pretty good idea of what they will be getting acoustically. I try to That’s the funny thing about guitars: they are not just a means of making music; they are expressions of identity, vessels for sonic exploration, visual inspiration and tactile satisfaction. make the best instrument I can to suit their playing style and their needs. MS: Typically, people who are interested in my guitars are not just musicians, they are connoisseurs of the art of fine guitars. That’s the funny thing about guitars: they are not just a means of making thewholenote.com May and June 2021 | 21

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