The Toronto Consort has recently announced leadership changes concomitant on David Fallis stepping back his involvement as Artistic Director. I have to admit that although I’ve attended and enjoyed Toronto Consort shows from time to time I’ve been a bit hazy about what they were about so it seemed like a good time to put that right. Yesterday I set down with David Fallis and Laura Pudwell to talk about the Toronto Consort; past, present and, especially, future.
The Consort was formed as a group to perform medieval music in 1972 which puts it right at the dawn of the interest in pre 18th century music, HIP, unusual old instruments and the like. It’s right around the time, in fact, that David Munrow was bringing this rep to public attention on the other side of the Atlantic. Since then it’s been a solid story of growth and some interesting ventures beyond the original repertoire without ever abandoning or straying too far from it. 17th century opera has been something of a constant theme with performances of all the extant Monteverdi operas and multiple excursions into Cavalli. There have also been collaborations with contemporary composers interested in the sound world of the Consort. These include working with R. Murray Shafer on The Children’s Crusade and John Beckwith on a piece about Champlain’s expedition to Ontario, which also involved working with indigenous artists. There was the intriguing Play of Daniel; a 13th century proto-opera. All the while, concert performances of medieval and renaissance music have formed a stable thread through the more experimental areas.
Going forward, the decision has been made to go with a more collective style of artistic leadership where different individuals will curate programs and lead the associated rehearsals. This is not exactly new territory for the group, hence the post title. It has alternated over the years between a collective approach and having an individual “in charge” so there doesn’t seem to be a huge risk. After all, an ensemble with eight or so core members doesn’t have the leadership challenges of a large symphony orchestra. It helps that the group is financially stable and has a loyal and even growing subscriber base.
So what does the future hold artistically? More of the same for sure. It’s a successful formula. Maybe more of the work that the group does with contemporary composers and for TV and film could be brought to the Consort’s own main stage series? There will surely be more forays into unfamiliar rep but likely not straying far from the core interest/competency. Don’t expect Handel from the group!
This season perhaps provides a pretty good picture of what to expect. The season kicks off with a concert of songs, dances, fantasias and madrigals from renaissance Europe with a guest appearance by the Opera Atelier’s School of Atelier Ballet. There’s the traditional Christmas themed show, this year with a Spanish spin. In March there’s a multimedia show on the theme of illuminated manuscripts and in April there’s a guest appearance from US early baroque group Quicksilver. The season closes out with Monteverdi’s Orfeo starring the highly idiosyncratic English tenor Charles Daniels.
On other fronts the group has been expanding its work with young audiences most recently with elementary and middle schools in the Maritimes; a successful experiment in introducing unusual rep to kids before they are old enough to realise they are not supposed to like it!
I’m eager to see what the next 45 years hold.