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Volume 28 Issue 4 | February - March 2023

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Volume 28 no.4, covering Feb, March and into early April '23! David Olds remembers composer John Beckwith; Andrew Timar reflects on the life and times of artistic polymath Michael Snow; Mezzo Emily Fons, in town for Figaro, on trouser roles, the life of a mezzo-soprano on the road and more; Colin Story on the Soft-Seat beat; tracks from 22 new recordings added to our Listening Room. All this and more.


MUSIC THEATRE Canadian Stage’s Fall On Your Knees ensemble members with Janelle Cooper at left. Canadian Identity Celebrated and Explored JENNIFER PARR DAHLIA KATZ New Canadian plays, musicals and music theatre works are popping up everywhere across the country this season. Three shows coming up this spring caught my eye in particular for how they are using music to explore and highlight various facets of our multicultural Canadian identity. of such World War One-era songs as Mademoiselle from Armentières and My Heart Belongs to Daddy sung by younger sister Frances in her Lebanese uncle’s speakeasy. Finally and notably in the second half of the six-hour show is the wonderfully smoky and contrasting exotic sound of the blues, sung by Janelle Cooper as Harlem star Sweet Jessie Hogan. In Part Two where the story focuses primarily on Kathleen’s sojourn studying opera in New York, the Harlem music scene is contrasted Fall On Your Knees In Toronto the world premiere of the theatrical adaptation of Fall on Your Knees, the internationally acclaimed 1996 novel by Canadian author and playwright Ann-Marie MacDonald, which I previewed in my previous column, has just opened to standing ovations at the Bluma Appel Theatre and will travel after an all-too-short Toronto run to Neptune Theatre in Halifax, the National Arts Centre in Ottawa and the Grand Theatre in London. One of the most exciting things about this new adaptation is how it uses music not just as an element of the production, nor even just as a character in the story, but as the essential material weaving together the many disparate elements of a multigenerational tale, compared by some watchers to the House of Atreus plays in classic Greek drama. Beginning in the early 20th century and ending in the 1960s, FoYK traces the emotional saga of the Piper family in Cape Breton Island, a location famously characterized by its Celtic heritage and lilting folk music. This is just the first note, as it were, in a kaleidoscope of musical styles. One of the first characters we meet, the eventual patriarch of the Piper clan, James Piper, is a young piano tuner whom we know from the novel has been taught piano by his mother as part of a strategy to keep him out of the coal mine. As he tunes the piano in the home of the Mahmoud family in Sydney, he meets and soon falls in love with their 13-year-old daughter, Materia. His musical theme will be early piano exercise phrases marked by the single plangent note of tuning, while hers will develop from traditional Lebanese vocals and dance music to the rollicking sound of the music hall where she will work later to help support the family. When their first daughter, Kathleen, shows an early aptitude for singing and is encouraged to study seriously, opera is introduced as a significant leitmotif that will grow in importance as the play progresses. Interwoven is a minor theme of religious music, the leitmotif for the middle sister, Mercedes, whose twisted religiosity is symbolically caught at one point by a disturbing plot placement of Ave Maria. An even more rebellious strand in the weave is made up 16 | February & March, 2023

illiantly with the strictly classical arias she sings in the studio – and yet, the richness of the interwoven opera and blues also comes to symbolise Kathleen’s growing artistry as her friendship with her accompanist Rose ripens into a deeper relationship. Samantha Hill as Kathleen has a clear classically trained voice which is a joy to listen to and a wonderful contrast to the jazzy richness of Janelle Cooper’s club turns. All the musicians, though usually hidden away upstage, do a superb job, easily trading instruments and contributing vocals – Maryem Toller’s vocals were a standout in Part One. One thing that I had expected from early rehearsal photos of the production and missed seeing onstage was a more experimental or expressionistic movement style – except in one instance when a line of uniformed soldiers tumbles up to, over and around the upright piano as Materia plays a song of the period, giving us an unforgettable image of James at war in the trenches of World War One. Under the symbolic giant piano strings strung above the stage from the flies to the wings like the sails of a ship, and under the careful music direction of Sean Mayes, music weaves together the acting and physical elements of this production making a whole that is deeper, richer, more evocative of the colours, depths, dark secrets and eventual redemption within the story of this family and all those who touch their lives. In Toronto until Feb 5, Halifax Feb. 10-March 5, Ottawa March 8-25, and London March 29-April 2. RUBABOO A second world premiere at the Grand Theatre in London, with the intriguing name of Rubaboo, explores and celebrates another facet of our Canadian mosaic, the Métis heritage of the prairies. Commissioned by the Grand from the well-known Métis actor, singer and activist, Andrea Menard, Rubaboo promises to be a delightful evening of song and story combined, according to the Manitobaborn Menard, into a truly theatrical whole that she prefers to term a “cabaret,” but a cabaret with a purpose. In a promotional video Menard says that when the Grand’s artistic director, Dennis Garnhum, asked her about possibly creating a show, she was not interested “unless I was using the platform to further reconciliation,” and that she “wanted to be somebody who was furthering education [about Indigenous people and their history] and expanding compassion.” While this sounds very serious the name of the cabaret indicates that the evening will also be a lot of fun. Derived from the Michif word for “leftovers stew” or “big pot” Rubaboo promises to be a feast of Andrea Menard music and masterful storytelling with the sound of drums and guitar adding grace notes to stories and songs of reconciliation, unity, love, frustration and resilience, to “help people fall in love with the Métis people.” At the Grand Theatre from March 7-25. Catch a glimpse of show and creator in a video here: https://grand RETOLD From the East Coast to the Prairies and back east to Quebec: Back in Toronto, also in March, the Musical Stage Company and Yonge Street Theatricals are joining forces for the second edition of Retold via Launch Pad, their musical development program that gives three THE ROSE ORCHESTRA OPENING NIGHT AT THE OPERA Be transported to the excitement of opening night at the opera! The curtain rises on the drama of operatic overtures and the passion of arias sung for you by astounding soloists. Featuring four incredible GTA and Brampton based singers who trained with the Canadian Opera Company: Soprano, Lindsey Duggan; Mezzo- Soprano, Danielle MacMillan; Tenor, Adam Luther; and Baritone, Alexander Hajek. MARCH 25, 2023 7:30PM OAKLAND STROKE JAZZ @ LBP HOSTED BY JAYMZ BEE Get ready for the Greatest Horn Hits of the 70s! Featuring music by Tower of Power, Earth Wind & Fire, Blood Sweat & Tears, Chicago, and more! Oakland Stroke is a 10-piece juggernaut of soul and good vibes, featuring a 5 piece horn section. Led by Toronto native Lou Pomanti, experience them live. BOOK TICKETS THEROSEBRAMPTON.CA APRIL 11, 2023 February & March, 2023 | 17

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