1 year ago

Volume 27 Issue 4 - February 2022

Gould's Wall -- Philip Akin's "breadcrumb trail; orchestras buying into hope; silver linings to the music theatre lockdown blues; Charlotte Siegel's watershed moments; Deep Wireless at 20; and guess who is Back in Focus. All this and more, now online for your reading pleasure.


LAUREN VOGEL WEISS Mustafa Said Russell Hartenberger Mustafa Said, culminating once more in an LE May 6 concert, again at the Aga Khan Museum. Cross-Border Music-Making with NEXUS at 50 Having participated in dozens of international festivals for half a century, they’ve been tagged “one of the world’s most influential percussion ensembles.” They’ve also mentored and inspired several generations of Canadian and American percussionists (some of whom I’ve shared the stage with). But many more readers will recognize renowned percussion ensemble NEXUS from their music on radio, or from a TV or film soundtrack, even if they’ve not seen them in concert. NEXUS gave its first, entirely improvised, concert in 1971. Percussion Hall of Famers today, they continue to celebrate their 50th concert season this year despite the impediments imposed by the pandemic. Being a cross-border, American-Canadian group, has given NEXUS an additional handicap during the period under discussion here: in-person rehearsals have for the most part been stymied by group assembly and border restrictions. Now that lifting those is on the horizon, they’re once again planning for resumption of in-person rehearsals in April. Even before that, though, on March 15 their music will be front and centre, when the percussion duo Escape Ten premieres NEXUS’ Russell Hartenberger’s score Magic Time at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY. Hartenberger is staying busy. In June he is scheduled to be a featured artist at the Tócalo Tucson Festival in Arizona – an appearance already frustratingly postponed twice. He is also writing book chapters sharing his career in percussion performance and teaching. One, with the catchy title Learning Time, sounds bang-on for a lifelong percussion educator. NEXUS’ 50th anniversary live events resume full force this summer, kicked off in a July 2 concert headlined by American saxophonist and world music pioneer Paul Winter in Woodstock NY, and followed by a residency at the St. John’s NL Sound Symposium XX later that month, where the ensemble will premiere Hartenberger’s multi-movement work, Red River. Finally, veteran Toronto-based contemporary music presenter Soundstreams is programming a concert, also postponed for the last two years, featuring works of American composer Steve Reich, with NEXUS among the featured performers. I’m sure NEXUS is looking forward to being able to honour Reich, their longtime friend and music colleague, on this side of the border. My First Gigs in Two Years! Here’s where it gets personal. It’s not a secret to dedicated WholeNote readers that I’ve long been an active participant with Toronto’s Evergreen Club Contemporary Gamelan: as a musician since its 1983 founding; serving as its artistic director for five years; and running its community and educational music groups. The ensemble has been my primary musical home and extended family all this time – also offering priceless opportunities to share the stage with a range of other musicians and ensembles. For all those reasons and more, ECCG’s two-year lockdown has been personally rough. I particularly missed playing suling (bamboo ring flute) with my ECCG friends, collaboratively making some of the best music of our lives on our beautiful bespoke bronze, bamboo, wood and string gamelan degung. The long lockdown months have felt like I was doing physical and emotional hard time. Imagine the relief and exhilaration in the room when late in November 2021 we stumbled on what now seems to have been an alltoo-short sweet spot between the decline of Delta and the onset of Omicron. Finally, an opportunity to roll up our sleeves to rehearse, albeit mostly masked. Good planning meets sheer luck! For several days we worked intensively interpreting four newly commissioned compositions in our downtown Array Studio space. We then travelled across provincial lines to Montreal to rehearse with the virtuoso six-person Sixtrum Percussion Ensemble, finally realizing a collaborative project four years in the making! On November 24, the two ensembles gave a passionate performance at the salle Claude- Champagne, Université de Montréal, then together crossed the provincial border in the other direction, repeating the program in Toronto to appreciative, physically distanced and masked audiences at the Music Gallery on November 27 and 28. Within the limits of current January and February Ontario restrictions on larger group rehearsals, public workshops and concerts, ECCG remains hard: reactivating our community music workshop series Gamelan Meetup; collaborating with Indonesian collective Jatiwangi Art Factory for the upcoming Toronto Biennial of Art in late March; and actively planning a month-long June composer gamelan workshop with partners Array Music and Canadian Music Centre. Picanto, CMC’s Canadian Music Online Video Portal Last October 14, the Canadian Music Centre launched, a digital platform aiming to become a hub for the Canadian music community and music lovers alike by providing an online platform for “uncommon music from diverse genres through music videos, documentaries, educational videos and live-streaming events.” With the world of conventional broadcasting and recording in decline (especially in the CMC’s wheelhouse genres of classical, jazz and contemporary music), and at a time when the pandemic impacts across all musical genres, the time was right, according to Glenn 22 | February 2022

Some of the musicians in the Fusion Point concert at salle Claude-Champagne, Université de Montréal,, November 2021 7x Picanto Festival: Trichy Sankaran, Robin Layne and Curtis Andrews, in The Offering of Curtis Andrews Hodgins, CMC president, “for a cohesive digital dissemination strategy for Canadian music.” For the CMC’s wheelhouse genres, yes, but for all music with discovery at its heart in the way that discovery has always been at the heart of the Canadian Music Centre.” So enter Picanto. With a mandate that dovetails neatly with the CMC’s role as a publisher, record label, and champion of Canadian music, it (so far) showcases nine music categories: jazz/improvised; Indigenous; inter-cultural; sonic exploration/musique actuelle; electroacoustic; vocal/choral; chamber music; opera; and orchestral music. Lots of doors marked push, I’d say! What’s in the name? According to its media release, Picanto is a crafty blend of the words “piquant” (having a pleasantly sharp taste or appetizing flavour) and “canto” (“sing” in Italian), with an additional emphasis on the “can” for Canada. The service intends to provide a place for enthusiasts who seek musical experiences beyond the shortform and song-based music already available everywhere else. At the fall virtual launch, the show hosts sampled some of Picanto’s diverse musical content: drumming from Uzume Taiko; music for three trumpets and orchestra by Vancouver composer Anna Pidgorna; and Soundstreams’ All Could Change composed and performed by Montreal-based jazz vocalist Sarah Rossy. A new work by Indigenous composer Raven Chacon performed by Vancouver’s Black Dog String Quartet segued to a vibrantly coloured video serving as the visual foil to composer Frank Horvat’s A Little Loopy performed by harpist Sharlene Wallace. Then, literally the day of this story deadline I received an update from the CMC – announcing its 7X Picanto Festival running February 4 to 11, 2022. Sometimes life just works that way. The Festival will showcase seven newly produced Canadian music videos – which two of their nine Picanto music categories are missing, I wonder? – the production of each sponsored by the CMC. This pilot new music video creation project is promised to be the first of “many such projects to support artists on the new platform,” including exploration of future initiatives such as pay-per-view video and livestream performances. Meantime, in the digital media, eyeballs are currency, so take yours to the Picanto website. There’s more about 7X Picanto there, along with a slowly but steadily expanding universe of Canadian music videos with discovery at their heart. Andrew Timar is a Toronto musician and music writer. Piano, Voice, Guitar, Harp Strings, Woodwinds, Brass Conducting, Composition Awards, Prizes and Scholarships Recitals, Concerts, Workshops Career advancement Marketing and promotions | 905.604.8854 | Choose between in-person or via recorded performance. February 2022 | 23

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