Silent Tears CD release

I went to the Toronto release concert for Payadora Tango Ensemble’s Silent Tears: The Last Yiddish Tango last night at Heliconian Hall.  Nearly all the music played was on the CD which I described in some detail here. There were a few “extras”.  There was a song from Lenka Lichtenberg’s new Album Thieves of Dreams.  There was also an upbeat Argentinian tango to finish which I was rather in need of.

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After the Fires

Lembit BeecherSaturday evening’s Cinq à SeptLiza Balkan for program book concert in the 21C Festival at the Royal Conservatory was intriguing.  The first half of the programme was a new song cycle, After the Fires, with words by Liza Balkan and music by Lembit Beecher.  It set seven pieces about the 2020 fires on the central California coast and their aftermath based on interviews with local residents.  It’s a really interesting piece scored for piano, clarinet, soprano, mezzo-soprano and baritone.  It’s very “text first”.  Although the accompaniment is often intricate it never overpowers the words and there’s a real harmony between words and music.  The mood varies but, given it’s about really awful events, it’s more elegiac and lyrical and even funny than angry or sad.  It got a fine, nuanced performance from Henry From (piano), Zachary Gassenheimer (clarinet), Xin Wang (soprano), Andrea Ludwig (mezzo-soprano) and Korin Thomas-Smith (baritone). Continue reading

Die Fledermaus revived at TOT

Toronto Operetta Theatre opened a run of Johann Strauss’ Die Fledermaus at the St. Lawrence Centre yesterday.  It’s a revival of their 2018 production and I don’t think my opinion of the production has really changed.  The jokes have been updated a bit; mostly to reflect the anticipated imprisonment of a certain former US president (I wish!).  But basically the schtick is the same.

Scott Rumble as Alfred, Kirsten LeBlanc as Rosalinda

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Electric Messiah – 2022 edition

This was the seventh time I’ve seen Soundstream’s Electric Messiah.  It’s different every time of course but some things stay, more or less, as features.  The biggest change this year is the shift from the Drake Underground to Crow’s Theatre.  It’s staged as a conventional proscenium arch type show with the audience sitting in tiered rows facing the stage rather than being set up night club style.  There’s no bar in the actual performance space but you can still take a drink to your seat.  The drinks are cheaper than at the Drake too!

Electric Messiah

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Ryan Davis and friends

To another excellent Confluence Concerts production last night at Heliconian Hall.  This one was curated by Confluence’s Young Artistic Associate Ryan Davis; composer, violist and electronic Wunderkind.  He was joined by a very talented group of young musicians; Kevin Ahfat (piano), Bora Kim (violin), Daniel Hamin Go (cello) and Jonelle Sills (soprano) plus the vocal talents of Confluence stalwart Suba Sankaran.  The programme was built around English and French romantic music plus Ryan’s own compositions influenced by that tradition.

ryandavisandfriends

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Taraf Syriana at the Lula Lounge

Taraf Syriana are an interesting collection of musicians.  They are all conservatory trained but in different genres from western classical to Syrian classical to Romani (and probably more) and they play a variety of instruments from different traditions.  They combine all this to create a kind of fusion folk/rock inspired by the music(s) of the lands from the Balkans through Syria to Kurdistan.  They use quite a bit of amplification and the overall effect is like a sort of eastern Mediterranean Fairport Convention although there’s more composed music and less traditional stuff in the Taraf Syriana rep.

3. Taraf Syriana Photo courtesy of Antonia Gueorguiva

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Paper V2

wemmfbananaLast night saw the final concert in this year’s West End Micro Music Festival.  Once more the venue was the intimate and acoustically very good Redeemer Lutheran on Bloor West.  The first half of the programme was the latest iteration of Nahre Sol (keyboards) and Brad Cherwin’s (clarinets) PAPER.  Joined by Louis Pino on electronics, they improved on what paper is, sounds like, looks like and can be used for.  There were electronic paper noises, crumpled paper, torn paper, piano prepared with paper and Brad creating a painting on paper and using it as an instrument.  I suppose this is more “performance art” than music but it was pretty interesting.

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ALTROCK

Saturday night’s show in the West End Micro Music Festival continued the theme of combining chamber music with other influences.  This time it was rock; specifically NYC 80’s rock.  It was really varied, stimulating and, at times, bordering on sensory overload.  Brad Cherwin riffed with pre-recorded clarinet and electronics on a version of Steve Reich’s New York Counterpoint to open the show.  Then came what might have been my favourite bit.  It was a version of Julia Wolfe’s East Broadway for electronics and toy piano.  Watching the usually soft spoken, even demure, Nahre Sol go completely manic and beat the crap out of a toy piano was a blast.

Altrock

There was more Julia Wolfe (Blue Dress for drums and cello?) and a David Lang arrangement of Lou Reed’s Heroin with Cormac Culkeen on vocals and a fairly large ensemble and more vocals with a version of Laurie Anderson’s Let X=X and It Tango.  The final number was a killer version of David Lang’s Killer with Hee-Soo Yoon playing mad distorted violin while kicking a bass drum.

So, again, WEMMF hit the spot with an intriguing and (over) stimulating blend of rock, classical technique, minimalism and, frankly, sheer lunacy of a kind surely not heard before at Redeemer Lutheran!  Great fun much enhanced by Billy Wong’s evocative lighting and Dave Grenon’s sound work.

The final concert is next Friday, also at Redeemer Lutheran, QUARTET PLUS PAPER V2 will feature, inter alia, a new multimedia work for pianist, clarinetist/visual artist, video projection and electronics composed and performed by Nahre Sol and Brad Cherwin.

One + 2

The second concert in the West End Micro Music Festival took place at Redeemer Lutheran last night.  Continuing the idea of “concept” concerts of chamber music this one teamed up composer and keyboardist Nahre Sol with jazz bassist Ben Finley and John Lee on Korean percussion and flute.  Violinist Amy Hillis also appeared on one number called, if I recall correctly, “Mountain Goat”.

2+1

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Trilogy

This year’s fall offering from UoT Opera is three short comic operas presented at the MacMillan Theatre in productions by Michael Patrick Albano.  The first is Paul Hindemith’s Hin und Züruck; a twelve minute musical joke which manages to send up a lot of operatic conventions in a very short time.  It’s a musical and dramatic palindrome.  A man discovers his wife has a lover and shoots her.  The paramedics arrive and attempt to revive her.  In this staging this includes a giant syringe and no prizes for guessing where that goes. The remorseful husband shoots himself.  An angel (Ben Done) appears and explains that the usual laws of physics don’t apply in opera and the entire plot and score is replayed backwards.  It was played effectively deadpan by Cassandra Amorim and Lyndon Ladeur while Jordana Goddard, as the elderly deaf aunt, sat through the whole thing entirely oblivious.  Good fun.

1.angel

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