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Volume 28 Issue 6 | Summer 2023

  • Text
  • Festival
  • Toronto
  • Jazz
  • Quartet
  • Musical
  • Orchestra
  • Theatre
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  • Choir
  • August
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Fast start to the summer and it just keeps going: Luminato walks with Little Amal; the Historical Organ Society comes to town; composer Carmen Braden is keeping busy; Phil Nimmons turns 100; TSM's metamorphosis; and check out live links in ads, listings and our easy surfing directory of summer festivals. See you August 30 for Volume 29 no.1


KING OF INSTRUMENTS The Karl Wilhelm organ, St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Toronto A FESTIVAL OF PIPES (Re)discovering Toronto’s Oldest Instruments MATTHEW WHITFIELD PAUL BICA The pipe organ is a unique musical instrument, each one composed of thousands of pipes ranging from the size of a pencil to the height of a three-story building, tens of thousands of mechanical and electrical components, and infinite sound combinations, all controlled by a single player. At once simple and complex, the organ operates by pushing wind through pipes; this wind is now generated by motor-driven air blowers, but was once operated by one or more people working the bellows, manually driving wind through the instrument. Typically housed in churches and large concert halls, pipe organs are less easily found than pianos and much less portable than violins and oboes. Because of this the organ is often (mistakenly) considered a small, niche component of the larger classical music world, though this is far from the truth. In fact, the pipe organ continues to be a vital and consistent attraction for many musicophiles around the globe, its place in the musical lexicon continuing unbroken since the third century BC. Considered the “King of Instruments’’ by none other than Mozart himself, the pipe organ provides a range of dynamic and timbral variety that is unmatched by any other instrument, apart from a full symphony orchestra. A Festival of Pipes Three years ago, before the COVID-19 pandemic wrought havoc across the globe, members of the Royal Canadian College of Organists(RCCO) in Toronto were crafting a festival dedicated to all things pipe organ: its performers, builders, and, of course, the instruments themselves. This summer, the Festival of Pipes will at last be realized through a collaboration with the Organ Historical Society, welcoming participants from all over North America to celebrate Toronto’s rich heritage of the pipe organ, featuring world-class Canadian musicians in historical venues. Taking place between July 2 and 6, over 25 events are planned for the Festival of Pipes, including concerts and workshops at some of the city’s finest churches. Notable highlights include: a tribute to Healey Willan on July 2, at the Church of St. Mary Magdalene where Willan crafted some of his most enduring and endearing compositions; a special tour of the Gabriel Kney organ at Roy Thomson Hall on July 4; Montreal organist Jean-Willy Kunz at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian on July 5; and superstar Canadian organist Ken Cowan performing at Yorkminster Park Baptist Church on July 6. A launching pad for young organists across the country, the RCCO National Organ Competition finals take place at Lawrence Park Community Church on July 5. The National Organ Competition was established to encourage and reward a high standard of organ playing and is open to Canadian organists, permanent residents and non- Canadian organists studying toward a degree or diploma in Canada, who are under the age of 30. Previous winners include Ryan Jackson, David Simon and RCCO Toronto President Aaron James. 24 | Summer 2023

JOSEPH ROUTON MINA Featured instruments Featured instruments include the majestic Casavant organs in St. Paul’s Anglican Church and Metropolitan United Church, which houses the largest pipe organ in Canada. “The Metropolitan instrument is one I know well after 36 years!” former Metropolitan United Minister of Music Patricia Wright says. “An event that I wouldn’t miss, and urge delegates and the Toronto public to attend, is Nathan Laube’s recital at Metropolitan United Church” on July 2. In addition to these main festival dates and programming, there are a number of other events available before and after the primary sessions, including a trip to the South Simcoe Railway and a celebration at Steam Whistle Brewery, providing locals and tourists alike with both social and educational opportunities. For those who are unable to make the full week-long commitment, there are day passes available to the Festival of Pipes, as well as individual concert tickets, so that everyone is able to attend the events that appeal most to them. With music ranging from Bach’s inimitable organ masterpieces to Louis Vierne’s astounding and grandiose Messe Solennelle for choir and two organs, there is something for everyone in this festival, its programming encompassing a tremendous range and variety of personal musical preferences. A Festival of History While pipe organs continue to be built regularly, The Festival of Pipes is a five-day festival specifically celebrating historic pipe organs of Toronto – instruments of great cultural and musical value. The city of Toronto boasts a wealth of extraordinary pipe organs which showcase the talents of Canadian pipe organ builders, whose works span the centuries, each with a sound palette unique to its design, construction and acoustic space. Names such as Casavant, Létourneau, Kney, Wolff and Wilhelm might not mean much to some, but to organists these names are as vital as Bechstein, Fazioli and Steinway are to pianists. What, then, makes an organ historic? According to the Royal Canadian College of Organists, the instrument in question should be at least 100 years old and contain over 80% of its original materials and mechanics. The Organ Historical Society is less specific, though a strong emphasis on an original-condition instrument is a fundamental principle of its conservation efforts. According to the Historical Society, “Pipe organs that have been attributed with extraordinary aesthetic, artistic, documentary, historic, scientific, or social significance are a cultural inheritance to be passed onto future generations. Regardless of their age, it is the nature of such instruments to be both historic and artistic.” With an abundance of such instruments to choose from, the Festival of Pipes organizing committee needed to narrow down the list of organs available to them. Organ Historical Society president Edward McCall, a University of Toronto graduate and former executive director of St. Michael’s Choir School, outlines the process: “We started with a very long list of instruments in centre city and environs. Ed McCall Nathan Laube’s recital at Metropolitan United Church is July 2. Attention was paid to providing festival attendees with as much variety as possible.” Attendees can expect to hear a plethora of different instruments built by a range of builders in different time periods, and a variety of instrumental styles including mechanical-action and electro-pneumatic. (In the former, the keys are directly connected to the pipes, while in the latter, the pipes and keyboards “communicate” through electronic relays.) A Festival for Everyone Unlike conventions that are designed for a narrow segment of the population, the Festival of Pipes is designed with a broad audience in mind, offering a series of events that cater to the amateur and professional organist, as well as those who are completely unfamiliar with the organ and its music. Workshops are available for church musicians and performing organists who are looking to improve their skills, while concerts and competitions provide opportunities for everyone to bask in some of history’s most magnificent music performed by today’s finest organists. For Wright, the chance to “see colleagues from across Canada and the US, to share ideas, offer support for challenges, and to enjoy socializing with those for whom the organ profession can be so isolating” is something to celebrate and look forward to. In addition to this inclusively designed programming, McCall spoke to the organizers’ decision to make the Festival a low-carbon, broadly accessible event. “We realized that [chartered] bus transportation within the city was problematic, so our focus was on selecting instruments that were easily accessible by foot and by TTC. Fortunately, many of the recitals will take place at venues that are within a 20-minute walk from the Chelsea Hotel [the Festival accommodation], and the remainder are just a TTC ride away.” As the Festival press release states, “by using Toronto’s state-of-the-art transit system, this promises to be an environmentally friendly, low carbon emission event as we move from venue to venue.” With a wealth of superb venues and a roster of spectacular performers, the Festival of Pipes is a wonderful opportunity for all who are interested in the pipe organ and its musical legacy. Featuring some of Toronto’s most treasured and historical instruments, this event will illuminate the vast variety of builders and styles that have existed in Canada throughout the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries. For more information on this year’s Festival of Pipes and to register, visit the Royal Canadian College of Organists website ( Organ-Festival-Canada) before June 15. continues on next page Summer 2023 | 25

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