Udo Kasemets: 1919 – 2014

Some sad news from the world of new music.

Estonian-Canadian composer Udo Kasemets passed away yesterday at the age of 94. Kasemets, whose work has been played by all over Canada and Estonia, was a quiet, yet immensly influential figure in the world of sonic art – particularly, his work influencing young artists from the Ontario College of Art and Design.

He will be missed.


– Paolo Griffin

Preview: Week of January 13th

Once again, not much happening in the city this week as the new music machine slowly gets itself warmed up. Look forward to plenty of great music this weekend and next week, but for now, we have this:

Monday January 13th

5:30 PM: Composer and pianist Chris Donnelly presents a concert of his own work Metamorphosis. Donnelly, a Juno-nominated performer, has experience in the jazz and classical worlds and from what I’ve heard, seems to be at home in the world of improvisation. Get out to the Canadian Music Centre (20 St. Joseph St. Toronto) on Monday and find out.


Until Thursday,

– Paolo Griffin

Preview: Week of December 9th

Three concerts this week! Here they are.

Tuesday December 10th:

8:00 PM: Bespoken releases their new tape ‘plays Nick Storring and Daniel Brandes’. Both Storring and Brandes are quite talented composers, and this show will combine live performances, some wild visuals, and a tape launch.

Thursday December 12th:

8:00 PM: The Music Gallery presents the first Emergents concert of the year (Emergents I: Strange Strings). Works by Canadian composers Margaret Ashburner and Anthony Wallace are on tap, as are two works by Mike Smith, formerly of Muskox (and other local bands)

8:00 PM: Spectrum Music puts on another show at the Annex Theatre. A long list of Canadian composers will be performed, along with the talents of the Spectrum ensemble. This isn’t a normal venue for these types of concerts, so if you’re curious, visit their site: http://spectrummusic.ca/.

I’ll see you all out there this week.

– Paolo Griffin

The Coming Month

As most people know, mid-December to mid-January is a time of rest and relaxation, when people go on vacations, celebrate their respective holidays, and generally have a good time. It’s also a time when the number of concerts drops considerably (there aren’t any new music concerts happening in Toronto after the week of the 20th of December leading right up until mid-January).

So, in the interm, I will be presenting you with new music CD reviews, and short pieces from a number of guest writers on any number of topics that I think apply broadly to the idea of new music in our city (and in general). Keep your eyes open for the next month to see opinion pieces, reviews, and maybe some history lessons on new music in Toronto and in Canada.


– Paolo Griffin

COC’s New Opera: Hadrian, Coming in 2018/2019.

The official announcement is tomorrow, but today, there was a generous amount of news spilling forth about the Canadian Opera Company’s first new opera commission in years. Canadian-American singer, songwriter, and composer Rufus Wainwright, along with Canadian playwright Daniel MacIvor, have been commissioned to a new opera for the COC’s 2018/2019 season titled ‘Hadrian’.

I’m going to hold any judgement until I’ve heard more about the venture, however it will be interesting to see if Wainwright (who is known more for his pop and songwriting than his composing) and MacIvor can breathe some life into the new opera scene in Toronto. Yes, we have Tapestry Opera, a group that does brilliant work involving emerging and established Canadian composers. We also had, until August 31st of this year, the Queen of Pudding Music Theatre. However main stage opera in Canada seems to be a rarity. The COC’s last production was James Rolfe’s Swoon (2006).

So, as I said, I’m withholding judgement until I hear more about the project, but in the meantime, let’s sit and watch what happens.

– Paolo Griffin

Preview: Week of November 25th

There are three events happening this week. All are worthwhile viewings.

Tuseday November 26th:

7:30 PM: The Toronto Arts & Letter’s Club will be holding a memorial concert for American-born, Canadian composer Larry Lake, who passed away earlier this year. Larry founded Canadian Electronics Ensemble, and worked with the CBC for almost 30 years.

8:00 PM: Music Toronto and Eve Egoyan put on a concert at the Jane Mallet Theatre at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts. The program contains music by Americans James Tenney, Piers Hellawell, and Linda C. Smith (who is based out of Toronto), as well as a work by English composer Michael Finnissy.

Thursday November 28th:

7:00 PM: The Canadian Music Centre’s yearly project ‘New Music for Young Musicians’  comes to a head with this concert; Featuring works by Canadian composers chosen to write educational new works for young musicians. Also sharing the stage for this concert is Toronto-based composer/pianist Heather Schmidt and cellist Shauna Rolston who will be launching their new Centrediscs CD ‘Icicles of Fire’. Works by Schmidt, Nick Storring, Patrick Horn, Darlene Chepil Reid, and Monica Pierce will be played.

– Paolo Griffin

The New Music Passport

A new and very inviting opportunity to see new music in our city has presented itself:

The New Music Passport is a one time purchase document which grants its holders discounts to one concert from each of the eleven participating music organizations in Toronto, as well as receiving a free copy of Musicworks Magazine.

You can visit the site for more details on purchases and organizations involved: http://newmusicpassport.ca/


– Paolo Griffin