Preview: Weekend of November 8th

A few events coming up this weekend. Saturday is a busy day.

Saturday November 9th:

3:00 PM: Rosedale Winds at the CMC. The Rosedale Winds, an exciting new quintet Formed at the National Academy Orchestra at the Brott Music Festival last year, takes on a program of contemporary works, which include music for quintet and narrator. It will be a good concert, and music with narrator is not heard often apart from the usual Stravinsky, Strauss, and Prokofiev.

8:00 PM: The Array Music ensemble puts on their yearly showing of miniatures. This year, the program includes works by Kurtag, Webern, Feldman, Carter, and more. This is always a popular event, so come out and see it. There are two performances: Saturday at 8 PM, and Sunday at 3 PM. This event is held at the Array Space.

8:00 PM: Also at 8 PM, over at the Glenn Gould Studio, is a celebration of Canadian Remembrance Day. The Canadian Men’s Chorus will be singing new works by Toronto-based composer Laura Silberberg on the theme of Honour.

8:00 PM: The final Saturday event takes place at Koerner Hall. The Kitchener-Waterloo Orchestra performs rock-inspired works by Nicole Lizée, Dan Deacon, and Bryce Dessner. The first time I heard the works of Nicole Lizée was at last year’s TSO New Music Festival and I was very impressed. I’m not a huge fan of electronics in music, but Lizée’s take on it is so well handled that it seems as if the orchestra and the electronics are one instrument.

Sunday November 10th:

2:00 PM: HarpFest at Koerner Hall. Working with the Toronto Harp Society, harpist Judy Loman performs alongside other Toronto harpists in a program of Canadian work. Pieces by R. Murray Schafer, Glenn Buhr, and Kevin Lau among others, with winners of the 2012’s composition competition – Daniel Brophy and Cecilia Livingston – having their works performed.

3:00 PM: A matinee showing of Array Music’s ‘Small Wonder’s. If you didn’t see Friday night’s concert, this is your chance.

Lots of music this weekend. Get on out there.

– Paolo Griffin

One Month

When I returned from Europe a month ago, I decided to start this blog both as a hobby, and as a way to keep those who love new music informed about the events happening around Toronto.

After a month, I can proudly say that my blog has achieved over 1000 hits. That’s an amazing number and it’s more than I thought I was going to get in many months, so thank you all. Thank you for reading my blog, and thank you for keeping me motivated to do this work.

While I was in Europe, I had the opportunity to sample the new music scenes of a few different cities, and what I found is that Toronto has far and away the richest and most active music and new music scene I’ve yet to encounter. We in Toronto have over ten different organizations dedicated to new music. We have an orchestra that holds a 3-concert new music festival every year and an orchestra dedicated to new music. We have a number of opera companies dedicated to both old and new music. We have organizations that have been around for over 40 years, and those that have been around for five. We’ve got seasoned professionals and newcomers advocating for new music and we have new music concerts that are sold out. Our community is active, energetic, and friendly, and I look forward to attending many more concerts in this and future seasons.

Thank you again.

– Paolo Griffin

Guest Review – We Will Be the Ones…

Sometimes It’s a Good Thing to Be a Fish Out of Water.

After a harrowing streetcar trip on a gridlocked Queen Street, I power-walked my way up to the Array Space for *We will be the ones*. The concert was organized largely by Sammy Bayefsky, a current member of the University of Toronto’s composition program who also played piano for the night, and friends: Bryanna Petrie on vocals, Kintaro Akiyama on bass, Rosy Zhang on cello, and Erick Oliver Wawrzkiewicz on violin.

The premise of the concert was a bouquet of popular songs arranged for this ensemble as sung by Petrie, interspersed with some original compositions by Bayefsky and Akiyama. They professed to draw inspiration from The Art of Time Ensemble, who also do effective infusions of the art music world and the popular music world, and much like that Ensemble the two aesthetics were well-balanced.

The concert opened with a short, invocative original composition by Bayefsky, aptly named The Invocation, for four hands piano with the third and fourth hands skillfully played by Zhang. It was a great opener, meditative and expressive. It also was a fantastic lead in to the next piece, also composed by Bayefsky, and the concert’s namesake, *We will be the ones*. It began with a soothing ostinato in a curious little instrument called the mbira, which , while known by many names, I knew by kalimba, and you may be most familiar with the term thumb piano. It’s a little wooden box with stiff wooden bars suspended over a little soundbox, and in this case, thankfully amplified. I suppose it makes a sound that is hard to describe, but it’s a cool sound. I suggest you look for the instrument on YouTube.

This was also our first listen to Petrie’s voice; again, this is showing some of the aforementioned popular music ignorance, but Petrie’s voice is through-and-through possessed of that sort of folk/indie nostalgic twang that lends her performances a lot of character. I’m sure it is very reminiscent of an artist you, dear reader, are familiar with. It remained effective and idiomatic throughout the evening.

The piece after this was, incredibly, an arrangement of a song I actually know! Unprecedented, it was Harvest Moon by Neil Young, and a pretty nice arrangement by Akiyama too, who also played a great improvised solo in the middle of the tune, showing off his McGill Jazz graduate chops. After this was Succexy by Metric arr. Bayefsky, and closing with an original composition by Akiyama. This piece had some great colour and showed his jazz chops off yet again, but I feel as if Petrie’s voice could have been handled a little more effectively here. Maybe she was getting tired by the end of the first half, but she seemed to have a bit of a hard time with notes that seemed a bit too low or high, although as she displayed later in the concert her range gets pretty far up and sounded great in Case of You, a Joni Mithcell song arranged by guest arranger Britta Johnson. Hard to say what happened, but regardless, it did not seem to be a permanent problem.

I won’t go into heavy detail for the also solid second half. It opened again with another original composition for violin, cello, and piano by Bayefsky, followed by an arrangement by Bayefsky of, apparently, Petrie’s favourite Hey Rosetta! song, Bandages. Petrie also played some guitar for this one, and there were some great colours as a result of this uncommon pairing on instruments. Another original composition after this by Bayefsky entitled Say Nothing, with lyrics by Petrie. Then came the aforementioned Joni Mitchell arrangement by Johnson. The quality of the arrangement, which was a more upbeat take on the melancholic original, came as no surprise considering she’s had her music played at festivals like Stratford, Blyth, and Shaw.

The highlight of the program was the closer, In The Bachseat (more on that in a second). This arrangement of the Arcade Fire song In The Backseat was the most effective use of this weird infusion of popular and art music, new and old, arrangement and composition as it where, as it more effectively displayed a higher involvement in the craft of these infusions and a greater balance between all these different elements. The piece opens with what seemingly is Prelude in C Major from Book 1 of the Well Tempered Clavier by Bach. It’s a direct transcription, but slowly, some new notes pop up. You might almost think Bayefsky played the wrong note. Different harmonies creep in, different melodies. Before you know it, you’re listening to an Arcade Fire song, with that great way-less-static-than-it-looks-on-paper figuration from the Bach prelude as it’s groundwork. And, as quickly or as slowly as it came in, the song sinks back into the background where it came from, and you’re hearing the end of the prelude. I even got a little uncomfortable when he didn’t play the fugue right after it. At any rate, there is something to the interaction between idioms and aesthetics done in this way that is very compelling. Mixing classical music and popular music has long been like mixing water and oil, and it is tricky to find a way to represent both simultaneously. While I’d hesitate to say this was the key to a long locked-up new idiom, considering I don’t know the Arcade Fire song (obviously) and was looking at the arrangement/composition from the perspective granted me from the Bach prelude, it was clear to me this was the entry in the program that most revealed a greater purpose in the program. Keep going with this idea, Sammy!

In closing, some more janitorial remarks. The ensemble played confidently and cleanly, they were all solid players, especially for current students and recent graduates, and although I’ll pretentiously claim the character of Petrie’s voice isn’t necessarily my cup of tea, it’s obvious she does the style well. The Array Space is a nice, live little room that fits about 50 quite comfortably with lots of Array’s toys in it to play with, including what I assume was their microphones and amplifiers. A place to consider hosting your next chamber music event at, most certainly.

Lastly, and perhaps the most shocking surprise for me, was the alarming quality of the brownies offered during intermission, which were almost unbelievably gluten free. Now, I have no need for gluten free baking, and nor do I have the desire to conform to a gluten free diet, but this recipe must acquire greater publicity. The moistness and flavour easily rivaled those of gluten abound brownies that I have consumed. I was completely taken aback. I have friends with gluten intolerances ranging from grossly inconvenient to debilitatingly severe who would clamour for this recipe. Bryanna Petrie, and so for this fact it must be mentioned she is also a friendly and patient individual, said that she would send it to me, and I intend to hold her to that.

If you liked this review and thought this concert sounded cool, and it is still before 7pm on Thursday October 24th, well you’re in luck; the collective will be repeating this concert tonight again at the Array Space, so get over there!

– Jay Caron

Preview: October 21st – 24th

This week is no different from most other weeks during the Toronto concert season. That is to say, there are a number of events for you to see and listen to. I’ll cover the weekend later on, but here’s what is going on this week.

Wednesday: Composer Sammy Bayefsky and vocalist Bryanna Petrie present “We Will Be the Ones”. A two day, independent concert series with a focus on crossing genre barriers. The program will consist of five original pieces Bayefsky and others, as well as five arrangements of popular songs by Arcade Fire, Joni Mitchell, Metric, Hey Rosetta, and Neil Young. Bayefsky is a talented young composer, and I encourage you to go and show your support for not only his work, but the independent concert scene across the city.

The concert is being held at Array Space at 7 PM.

Thursday: “We Will Be the Ones” presents the second of two concerts starting at 7 PM.

Also on the docket is Esprit Orchestra’s first concert of the season ‘New Era Launch’. I’m not quite sure what the new era is, but the programme for the night is impressive and bound to be entertaining.

Under the baton of conductor and founder Alex Pauk, Esprit will play Alfred Schnittke’s great Concerto for Viola and Orchestra (1985) with soloist Teng Li, as well as works by Claude Vivier, R. Murray Schafer, and a new work by Samy Moussa: Gegenschein and Zodiakallicht (2013). If you have the time, get out to Koerner Hall and enjoy Esprit’s new season.

You can find details at http://www.espritorchestra.com/index.html