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Volume 27 Issue 2 - November 2021

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Live events on the up and up while creative live-and livestreamed hybrids continue to shine. October All-star Sondheim's Follies at Koerner Hall headlines the resurgence; Zoprana Sadiq brings MixTape to Crow's Theatre; Stewart Goodyear and Jan Lisiecki bring piano virtuosity back indoors; Toronto Mendelssohn Choir's J-S Vallee in action; TSO finds itself looking at 60 percent capacities ahead of schedule. All this and more as we we complete our COVID-13 -- a baker's dozen of issues since March 2020. Available here in flipthrough, and on stands commencing this weekend.

with the listening

with the listening community in order to keep live music alive. That’s what the book was going to be for: sharing methods for fostering community, especially among independent musicians whose circumstances have been most severely impacted by the pandemic. Mind Music: Out of this came “Mind Music” – an idea they got when they took part in a voluntary initiative set up by their friend and colleague Dominique Laplante: she began by asking musicians to take part in interactive zoom meetings, as an outreach project for care home residents who were cut off from so much during the worst days of the lockdown. McLeod and Rho pursued the idea the way they did their live porch concerts, focusing on getting work for freelance musicians who haven’t the benefit of a contracted position with one of the larger, better-funded performance companies. Initially, Mind Music was intended to be a one-on-one format: a performer and a listener; part demonstration or recital; part conversation or demonstration. As such, it’s a format suited to, and even designed for remote performance. But the idea grew, with some careful cultivation. The turning point was when they reached out to businesses, pitching the idea as a perk that might be offered as employee appreciation. TD Bank bought in, and more recently they approached Google’s head office in San Francisco. Google has booked them for a monthly program for this year, creating pocketsized concert encounters online for Googlers. (Unless you work for Google, you aren’t a Googler, which was among the things I learned in our more recent conversation.) The first Mind Music for Googlers featured Toronto flutist Anh Fung who gave a solo performance with electronics and a beat machine, and followed up with a question-and-answer session. It seems like an idea that will take hold: in Rho’s estimation, “workplaces are not going back to in-person ever, possibly, so it’s an option to engage with the virtual community in workplaces…” Based on their track record, they are well positioned to offer more as the market for online musical encounters grows. They aren’t in a hurry, though, feeling their way, gauging demand and honing the productions. “One at a time” for a company the size of Google may seem counterintuitive, but it’s how these two work, and it seems to work well. Scale: The concept of scalability is what most start-ups look to as the holy grail, and sometimes go astray seeking. Get something going, the conventional wisdom says, say like a food delivery app, see if it gets off the ground with a small user base, and then spread the reach. But as Rho and McLeod explained to me back in the spring (and I assume the same is true now), the “products” of their musical entrepreneurship are by definition neither intended nor designed to scale up. It’s like “slow food,” as Rory put it. Absolutely not UberEats, in other words. And they aren’t into hurrying anything, especially not when it comes to building community among audience and performers. So for both of them, connecting with one of the big banks in Canada or a Goliath like Google in the U.S, still comes down to smallscale concerts, interaction at the personal level, and community. Mind Music is now simply offered under the Pocket Concerts brand – a variation of the original idea tailored to online interaction, perfect for small audiences still; featuring primarily solo performers, but going up to small ensembles if buyers want to add to their cost. McLeod and Rho don’t seem to feel pressure to expand the scope or reach of the product. Google has expressed interest in Mind Music for their Toronto RORY MCLEOD RORY MCLEOD Googlers, because the first one was a huge success in San Francisco; the format and scope will remain the same. The Pocket Concerts story is an ever-unfolding journey with lots of twists and turns. Around the time we first spoke, for example, McLeod was taking courses in editing, which, given their intention to write a book, made perfect sense. Then along came an offer to take the reins as executive artistic director at Xenia concerts. Xenia’s mandate is the elimination of the barriers to musical experience too often encountered by members of the autistic community, and others marginalized by disability. Xenia and McLeod seem made for one another – now, on his current to-do list you’ll also find the completion of a master’s degree in Inclusive Design. Meanwhile, for her part, Rho is simultaneously pursuing a master’s degree in Strategic Foresight and Innovation, and working with education bodies as a consultant in the same discipline. Even with their adaptability, it’s not all plain sailing. In our first conversation I recall both expressing the intention to increase access to concert productions for marginalized groups, to improve equity in presenting more BIPOC and LGBTQ artists, and to vary the products they offer to include a wider diversity of musical styles and origins. The stumbling block, ironically, is that the Pocket Concerts model is consumer driven; the hosts determine what sort of repertoire they want presented. PC can’t insist on presenting musicians and styles beyond the norms of Western Classical Chamber Music, given the baked-in homogeneity of what much of the classical music niche market they serve demands. It’s a problem they are well aware of – till now a fairly silent elephant in the room, a fact that goes from invisible to inescapable, once you admit to it. Regarding Pocket Concerts’ undertaking “to include more BIPOC musicians, more artists from diverse backgrounds” McLeod simply says, “It’s difficult.” But not impossible. They point to larger Top: Flutist Anh Phung performs for Googlers, September 2021, Kristen Graves performs Mind Music musical organizations who are engaged in outreach now: the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre Symphonique de Québec, and Toronto’s Tafelmusik, who, McLeod says, are “reaching new audiences in remote places and from demographics that wouldn’t normally have come to their concerts. That’s exciting to see.” Will the underprivileged, whether by economic or societal forces, physical or mental disability, or simply by geography, ever be given the kind of access to musical experiences taken for granted by the privileged? Let’s hope so. One bet you can make is that it will come about through the efforts and ideas of people like Rho and McLeod, with their commitment to community, sustainability, and something more valuable than a scalable app. As for me, I’m still sad about the book being delayed: I was looking forward to writing an article built around clever quotes from the jazz standard “I Could Write a Book” by Rodgers and Hart. That said, it’s been heartening to check in with Rho and McLeod again, to see how much further they’ve gotten along the path toward fostering, by their own actions, a more inclusive, equitable and accessible arts industry. If I ask Rho to consult her strategic foresight crystal ball, I wonder what she’ll see. Foresight and innovation are what this dynamic duo continue to excel in, if I read the evidence right. Max Christie is a Toronto-based musician and writer. He performs as principal clarinet of the the National Ballet Orchestra when restrictions allow, and otherwise spends too much time on Twitter, @chxamaxhc 20 | November and December 2021

MAINLY CLUBS, MOSTLY JAZZ Fall with a spring in its step COLIN STORY The crunch of a crisp brown leaf underneath one’s foot; the chill of the wind as it comes off the lake; a Conservative premier embroiled in a minor controversy about his comments regarding immigration and labour. Though the pandemic is far from over, it certainly seems as though Southern Ontario is getting back to its typical autumn rhythm. Things are much different, however, than they were at this time last year: with a proof-of-vaccination system in place, steadily declining case numbers, and capacity limits gradually being lifted for a variety of indoor business spaces, we may be forgiven for permitting ourselves a sense of cautious optimism. It is a great relief to be able to contemplate the idea of meeting friends for a drink and a show without feeling an immediate sense of imminent dread (although I suppose this is somewhat dependent on the show and the friends in question). Jazz Bistro: Luckily, there’s no scarcity of excellent gigs in the books for the coming months. On October 30, guitarist Ted Quinlan brings his quartet to Jazz Bistro. Quinlan is a fluid, technically accomplished guitarist whose dense linear flourishes are always deployed in the service of tasteful melodicism. His latest release, Absolutely Dreaming, was nominated for a 2020 Juno Award for Jazz Album of the Year, in the Solo category. His show at the Bistro features the same rhythm section as the album: pianist Brian Dickinson, bassist Kieran Overs and drummer Ted Warren. The band members are all amongst Toronto’s first-call players in their peer group; behind Quinlan, they play with an emphasis on harmonic integrity and propulsive time feel. Jazz Room: The Jazz Room, in Waterloo, has long been an important home for music in Southern Ontario, typically presenting shows twice a week, on Fridays and Saturdays. Within this regular programming, they host a series called Women in Jazz, sponsored by Diva International. On November 27, saxophonist and vocalist Elena Kapeleris plays the Jazz Room as part of the series, with drummer Mark Micklethwaite, bassist Lauren Falls, trumpeter Kevin Turcotte and pianist Stacie McGregor. Whether she’s singing a melody or playing it on the saxophone, Kapeleris has a confident sense Elena Kapeleris of phrasing, commanding tone and a strong sense of tuning. The following weekend, on December 4, the series continues with Rebecca MICHAEL ZENDER Ted Quinlan Hennessy’s Makeshift Island project. Like Kapeleris, Hennessy does double duty, both singing and playing trumpet, though Makeshift Island has a different aesthetic bent. Driven by Hennessy’s original compositions, the group puts an emphasis on communicative, melodic music, with touches of folk, pop and other styles influencing the intimate, acoustic jazz vibe. The Rex (1): the Juno Series continues, with weekly four-night engagements by a variety of excellent Juno-winning and -nominated acts. Throughout November, these include bassist Roberto Occhipinti, who celebrates the release of his new album, The Next Step, from November 3 to 6. Joining him are pianist Adrean Farrugia and drummer ECCG, present and Fusion Point Sixtrum and Evergreen Club Contemporary Gamelan Percussion for a new era Continues on page 29 27 nov. 2021 - 8:00 pm | 28 nov. 2021 - 5:00pm The Music Gallery - 918 Bathurst St, Toronto 30$ / 20$ - - 416.204.1080 BILL BEARD November 2021 | 21

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