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Volume 26 Issue 7 - May and June 2021

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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.

FEATURE Summer Music in

FEATURE Summer Music in the Garden Bids Farewell to Founding Artistic Director TAMARA BERNSTEIN CATHY RICHES BC folk fusion duo Qristina & Quinn Bachand TAMARA BERNSTEIN Anyone who witnessed the first concert in June 2001 – a miserable rainy evening with only a handful of people in the audience – might have been forgiven for thinking the Summer Music in the Garden series was doomed to failure. But that first concert didn’t daunt Tamara Bernstein, the founding artistic director of the series. Nor were the audiences deterred. In its 20-year history, the free concert series grew to become one of the most popular on the Toronto summer festival roster. By its name, you would think that a venue called the Toronto Music Garden was made for live music, but that wasn’t the case. Perched on the inner harbour of Lake Ontario near the foot of Spadina Avenue, and designed in consultation with famed cellist Yo-Yo Ma, the Toronto Music Garden interprets, through the landscape of its six different garden sections, the six movements of J.S. Bach’s Suite No. 1 in G Major for Solo Cello. It’s an idyllic natural setting with the breezes off the lake and the rustling of the trees, or so it seems, but for some of the performers it could be both a blessing and a curse. Flamenco dancer Esmeralda Enrique, who has been a regular performer there from the early days of Summer Music in the Garden, remembers how challenging those first performances were. “At first, it was quite difficult technically. Outdoors, the sound dissipates and it’s difficult for musicians and dancers to hear each other, which is vital in live flamenco performances,” said Enrique. “The mist coming in later in the afternoon muffled the sound quite a lot and at times there were a lot of bugs flying around. I remember one flew into my mouth once! Ugh! “As we came to know the physical limitations and sound level limits, we programmed performances more suited to the environment and temperature,” Enrique explained. “Despite some challenges, I have always loved performing outdoors. In the Music Garden we were inspired by the trees and the wind and felt like they were part of our set.” 8 | May and June 2021 thewholenote.com

The Festival That Almost Wasn’t Don Shipley was the creative director for performing arts at Harbourfront from 1988 to 2001 and was responsible for starting up the Summer Music in the Garden series and bringing Tamara Bernstein on board to program it. “I was familiar with Tamara through her writing for The Globe and Mail and I was very impressed by her breadth of knowledge and musical intelligence,” said Shipley. “Her pure love for music was apparent and her interests stretched beyond classical and included contemporary genres. I felt she was the right person at the right time.” Bernstein recalls how completely out of the blue the call was from Shipley to take on the programming; and how she immediately agreed despite never having done work of that nature or having even gone to the Music Garden. “Once or twice in your life you just say yes to something, and this was one of those times,” she said. Bernstein cites the way she herself was recruited as an object lesson for how to develop a diverse program and how to find interesting underexposed talent. “It was always in the back of my mind as a programmer that, yes there’ll be pitches from performers, but you always have to look for people who might not contact you,” said Bernstein. “Younger artists and people who might not think of playing at the Garden or who had never even heard of it.” However, Summer Music in the Garden almost didn’t come to be. Shipley recounts how there was major opposition to having live music in the garden from a condo building nearby, due to noise concerns, and from one condo owner in particular who was very vocal. “Jim Fleck, who was a major benefactor and fundraiser for the Garden, had the brilliant idea of asking Yo-Yo Ma himself to meet with the condo owner,” recalled Shipley. “So when Yo-Yo Ma was in town to play a concert, arrangements for a meeting and private concert at the condo were made. After that, the opposition magically melted away and the music series went ahead.” Development of New Works One of the key contributions Bernstein made to the cultural landscape during her tenure was the commissioning of new works. This enabled artists to explore ideas in a safe and unique space. Composer and performer Barbara Croall recalls being invited by Bernstein to compose a new work back in 2008. Titled Calling from Different Directions, it was planned as a commemoration of the 9/11 attack in New York City and the loved ones of those lost. It was a short, arresting piece invoking the four sacred directions, featuring Croall (cedar flutes and First Nation drum) and Anita McAlister (trumpet and conch shell), and bringing together instruments from different cultural “directions”: trumpet, conch shell, traditional cedar flutes and First Nations hand drum. “Thinking of the trumpet and its ancestry, I immediately thought of how the conch shell goes back very far in many cultures globally,” said Croall. “Many Indigenous cultures for thousands of years have used it as an instrument of healing through sound. I mentioned this idea to Anita and by a really neat coincidence it turned out that her husband owned a conch shell that was playable and that I could use as one of the instruments in the piece.” “Tamara was so excited by this idea, and the location of the TMG worked perfectly for Calling From Different Directions, as the sound really carried across the water,” explained Croall. “Tamara takes great care, sensitivity and detailed planning with everything she does,” Croall continued. “She truly supports the artists that she invites, treating them with respect and kindness.” Tamara Bernstein Barbara Croall All Were Welcome Another feature of Bernstein’s tenure was the ahead-of-the-curve programming of a range of musical cultures and genres. Although multiculturalism and Indigenous and women artists are featured TAMARA BERNSTEIN RICHARD MOORE thewholenote.com May and June 2021 | 9

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