After the usual summer hiatus the Toronto music scene starts to get back into gear in the coming week. Tonight there’s the final concert of the Fall Baroque Academy at Trinity College Chapel. It features excerpts from Handel’s Giulio Cesare. It’s at 7.30pm and it’s free.
There are two Ensemble Studio lunchtime concerts in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre. Tuesday is the traditional “Meet the Artists” gig where everyone gets to do an opera aria and Wednesday celebrates the Invictus Games. It’s a predictably war themed program with the expected like Butterworth (good) and Ives (the appalling He is there) and the less expected with works by Somers and Argento among others. Both concerts are at noon and free.
The Free Concert Series in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre has now been unveiled, as has the UoT’s concert programme for 2017/18. As usual the RBA programme is a treasure trove with a great deal of interest in the vocal series and beyond. The season brochure is here. Highlights include:
Multiple appearances by members of the Ensemble Studio
Krisztina Szabó with the Esprit Orchestra singing the Berio Folksongs on October 3rd
Various returning former members of the Ensemble Studio including Mr. and Mrs. Bintner with Liz Upchurch on October 19th, Claire de Sévigné with Rachel Andrist on February 14th and Owen McCausland with Stephen Hargreaves on April 17th
Lauren Eberwein with String Quartet on October 31st
Other singers in town for main stage shows also appearing in the RBA include Erin Wall (Oct 24th), Joshua Guerrero (Jan 23rd), Jane Archibald (Feb 20th), Meredith Arwady (Apr 19th), Sondra Radvanovsky (May 1st) and Keri Alkema (May 22nd)
There are previews from UoT Opera’s The Golden Age of Opera (Oct 10th), Against the Grain with Bound (Dec 13th), CCOC with The Monkiest King (Mar 8th), and Opera Atelier with The Return of Ulysses (Mar 29th)
Jeremy Dutcher with Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa (Our Maliseet Songs) on April 10th
There’s lots more! All the concerts mentioned above are at noon and are free. Generally one needs to be there early to get a decent seat.
Today we said goodbye to Charles Sy and Hyejin Kwon as members of the Ensemble Studio. They went out on a high note (indeed quite a few high notes….) with a very fine performance of Schubert’s epic cycle Die schöne Müllerin. Charles was in fine voice for the whole 65 minutes or so. He was delicate and floaty where he needed to be and fierce when warranted. It was lovely and text sensitive and proof, if anyone still needed it, of what a fine singer he has become in the last couple of years. Hyejin was equally accomplished. The limpid delicacy of the intro to Wohin was just gorgeous but she also summoned up real power and volume when needed. She was, as always, tremendous fun to watch. We writers tend to focus on the singer and not give due weight to the pianist’s contribution. Today we were reminded of how wrong that is.
I hope both of them stick around the Toronto scene and I look forward to seeing them in future endeavours. Thanks guys!
The Canadian Art Song Projects sesqui commission premiered today in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre. It’s a piece by Ana Sokolović for soprano, mezzo, tenor, baritone and pianist and today, as was always intended, it got its first outing from members of the COC Ensemble Studio. It was billed as a “song cycle” and, while it’s certainly a setting of poems to music, that description really doesn’t do it justice. Sokolović’s music always seems to have dramatic potential and here that was realised extremely effectively by Anna Theodosakis to create a piece of performance art with many dimensions.
May continues to be a busy month. There are a couple of interesting concerts at noon in the RBA next week. On Wednesday 17th there is the unveiling of the annual Canadian Art Song project commission. This year it’s extremely ambitious. It’s a cycle of sixteen songs by Ana Sokolović setting texts drawn from right across Canada. It’s called dawn always begins in the bones and will be performed by Danika Lorèn, Emily D’Angelo, Bruno Roy and Aaron Sheppard with Liz Upchurch at the piano. (You can also hear this work in the Temerty Theatre at the Conservatory at 7.30pm on Thursday May 25th along with Andrew Staniland’s Peter Quince at the Clavier and Lloyd Burritt’s Moth Poem). On Thursday 18th tenor Charles Sy and pianist Hyejin Kwon bid farewell to the COC Ensemble Studio with a performance of Schubert’s Die schöne Müllerin. It should be a real treat.
Not a relation of JS, CPE or PDQ but the venue for today’s lunchtime presentation of two JS Bach cantatas by mezzo Lauren Eberwein and organist Hyejin Kwon with violinists Liz Johnston and Rezan Onen-Lapointe, violist Keith Hamm, cellist Paul Widner, bassist Robert Speer and oboeist Mark Rogers. The two pieces were Ich habe genug, BWV 82 and Vergnügte Ruh, beliebte Seelenlust BWV 170; both works about the approach of death and the soul’s yearning for rest and salvation.
Yesterday’s lunchtime recital in the RBA featured three current members of the COC Ensemble Studio. First up was tenor Aaron Sheppard making his adieux with Finzi’s A Young Man’s Exhortation; a setting of texts by Thomas Hardy. It’s an interesting cycle; quite spare with, despite its lack of density, an intricate piano part that reveals some interesting chromaticism. The vocal line calls for great delicacy and control with occasionally injections of power. We got all that in a very fine performance by Aaron, and by Stéphane Mayer at the piano. It was probably the best performance I’ve heard from Aaron. He’s always had a rather beautiful, but perhaps too delicate voice. Here the control, phrasing and emphasis was all there but so was some oomph when needed. His performance was very true to the texts which have that same quality that Houseman exudes; Merry England with Death just peeking in from around the corner when one least expects it. Good stuff.