Yesterday’s free concert in the RBA featured mezzo Marion Newman with pianist Adam Sherkin and violinist Kathleen Kajioka in a programme of contemporary Canadian works (all the composers were in the room!) mostly connected in some way with Canada’s First Nations and Inuit peoples. First up was Ian Cusson’s setting of E. Pauline Johnson‘s A Cry from an Indian Wife. It’s a long, highly emotional but not, I think, especially well crafted, text about an Indian woman sending her husband off to war (the language reflects the usage of its day) and the words are not easy to set or sing. Cusson’s setting is appropriately intense with a blistering piano part and a tough vocal line. It’s deeply affecting but hardly comfortable especially when sung in a manner that clearly (and rightly) privileged text and emotion over beauty of sound.
Well the holidays are over and the music scene is coming back to life from its seasonal diet of musical plum pudding. There’s not a lot on this week but there is the first vocal concert of the year in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre. Mezzo-soprano Marion Newman will be joined by Kathleen Kajioka (violin) and Adam Sherkin (piano)in a programme of Canadian works exploring First Nations themes. It includes Dustin Peters’ song cycle, Echo|Sap’a, which explores the journey of The Echo (or Sap’a in Kwakwala), a para-natural entity that mimics the sounds and movements she encounters throughout the woods and waters, as well as Kinanu, a lullaby composed by Newman for her baby sister. Noon, of course, and free.
Later on Thursday, at 9pm to be precise, there’s AtG’s first Opera Pub Night of the year featuring beer, singers and a Craig’s list piano. It’s at the Amsterdam Bicycle Club on the Esplanade and I strongly recommend arriving early.
Last night’s Soundstreams Koerner Hall presentation; Magic Flutes was an interesting experience. Aside from interesting (mostly) contemporary flute pieces it was very much an experiment in different ways of staging a concert. I’m all for breaking down the conventions of Mahlerian solemnity and I think experimentation is great. It’s in the nature of taking risks though that some things don’t quite work.
The AGO has a new initiative; AGO Friday Nights. For the price of admission to the gallery one also gets to hear a one hour concert of music programmed by Tapestry’s Michael Mori to reflect something going on at the the gallery. Right now the big exhibition is JMW Turner: Painting Set Free. It’s a decent sized exhibition of works mainly drawn from the later stages of Turner’s career and it’s well worth seeing. The music; half piano, half works for mezzo and piano reflects aspects of the exhibition.
The Art Gallery of Ontario is starting a new Friday night music initiative. Each Friday night in November (6th, 13th, 20th, 27th), the inaugural month of AGO Friday Nights, will celebrate the opening of J.M.W. Turner: Painting Set Free, a major exhibition featuring the works of Joseph Mallord William Turner. The AGO is partnering with Tapestry to present Music Set Free, a special performance featuring pianist/composer Adam Sherkinand mezzo-soprano Marion Newman. Capturing a selection of music from Turner’s time in addition to pieces inspired by his influences, subjects and artistic practice, the concert will feature works ranging from Beethoven to Britten, as well as a special world premiere of an original work by Adam Sherkin, commissioned by Tapestry for the occasion. Music Set Free is curated by Michael Mori, Artistic Director of Tapestry Opera. The performances will be from 7.30pm to 8.30 pm and are included in the admission price to the exhibition. There will be a bar and food and stuff too.
Last night Toronto Masque Theatre presented a double bill entitled The Lessons of Love. First up was John Blow’s 1683 masque Venus and Adonis and it was followed by the premier of The Lesson of Da Ji; a fusion of Western and traditional Chinese elements by composer Alice Ping Yee Ho and librettist Marjorie Chan.
Chris Paul Harman’s La selva de los relojes (The Forest of Clocks) had its premier at the Four Seasons Centre at lunchtime today. It’s a setting of some very beautiful texts from Lorca’s Suites scored for mezzo, harp, piano/celeste, flute, clarinet, cello, percussion and tape. The tape consists of sections of the texts read by Martha de Francisco. Sometimes the text comes from the tape, sometimes it’s sung by mezzo, sometimes it’s spoken by the mezzo and at other times they overlap. The accompaniment is mostly very spare but occasionally becomes surprisingly dense with lots of work for tuned percussion. There are also some unconventional roles for the instruments, especially the flute, and there is a whistled passage for the singer near the end. All in all it’s very 21st century; decidedly modern but quite approachable. And did I say the texts are gorgeous? Continue reading →