Whispers of Heavenly Death is a new CD of song settings by Scott Perkins. It’s a generously filled disk with nine works amounting to some 33 tracks. First up are five Walt Whitman poems from the eponymous collection. The settings are sparse but quite varied with legato vocal lines handled nicely by the dark toned mezzo Julia Mintzner. Accompaniment, as on the rest of the disk, is by Eric Trudel.
Six settings from the Holy Sonnets of John Donne follow sung by soprano Jamie Jordan. The music here is spikier and set much higher. It suits Jordan’s light, bright soprano. My favourite tracks are next; four settings of riddles from the Exeter codex sung by baritone Dashon Burton. They are very varied. Ic eom ƿunderlicu ƿiht is jerky and set very high for baritone with arpeggio accompaniment. Moððe ƿord fræt is very rhythmic while Ic ᵹefræᵹn for hæleþum is in a very beautiful, liturgical, vein sounding more medieval than the rest. Ƿrætlic honᵹað gets perhaps the only blues setting an Old English text has ever got! The very short Ƿundor ƿearð on ƿeᵹe is just plain weird. Plenty here for any Old English geek.
I was fortunate, back in November 2016, to be at the Aga Khan Museum when Miriam Khalil gave an extraordinary performance of Osvaldo Golijov’s Ayre. Good news! It was recorded and it will soon be available as the inaugural release on the new Against the Grain label. It loses little in its translation to disk. I think the power, beyond the work itself, comes from Miriam’s intensity and grasp of the various idioms involved. As the man himself says “No own owns this piece in the way that Miriam Khalil does. It is as if she was born to sing it”. Certainly it sounds quite different from the original recording with Dawn Upshaw. The recording itself is clean and clear and does the performance justice. Osvaldo’s introductory speech is included as a bonus. The only criticism I have is that the texts don’t appear to be included in the booklet.
ETA: The release date is December 7th and Ayre will be available digitally on iTunes and Google Play, and physical CDs will be sold in retail shops in Toronto, online via the AtG website, and at all upcoming 18/19 season performances by Against the Grain Theatre.
AtG is also planning to make a digital booklet (including texts and translations) available on their website for launch. For now, those can be accessed by clicking on “texts” on the composer’s website here.
My first chance to take a look at this year’s UoT Opera Program came up on Sunday night in a concert staged jointly with the UoT Symphony and the MacMillan Singers. It was a series of opera orchestral pieces and ensembles kicking off with the overture from Die Zauberflöte, where the orchestra was Klemperer sized but the tempo distinctly quicker. The evening proceeded via more Zauberflöte, Don Pasquale, Cavelleria Rusticana, Die Meistersinger and Carmen to the party scene in La Traviata.
On October 14th at 7.30pm in the MacMillan Theatre, the UoT Symphony, UoT Opera and the MacMillan singers are joining forces for a programme of opera ensemble numbers.
October 20th at 8pm in the Ernest Balmer Studio sees the first show in the new Confluence series; Sovereignty Voiced. Actor Cole Alvis, mezzo soprano Marion Newman, composer/pianist Ian Cusson, poet/filmmaker Armand Garnet Ruffo and singer/songwiter Aqua Nibii Waawaaskone and others share poems, songs and stories in an intimate cabaret.
Today saw a dawn to dusk livestream of concerts from St. John’s to Victoria; presented as Mysterious Barricades, aimed at raising awareness about suicide, suicide prevention and mental health generally. I doubt there’s anybody whose life has not been touched by this issue, certainly not mine. Anyway I made it out to Walter Hall for Toronto’s sixty minute contribution organized by Monica Whicher. It was heartening to see so many artists of the highest calibre making their talents available for the cause. So, not a review but heartfelt thanks to John Gregg, Russell Braun, Carolyn Maule, Nathalie Paulin, Norine Burgess, Judy Loman, Marie Bédard, Steven Philcox, Turkwaz, Andrea Levinson and the Mysterious Barricades Toronto Chorale and, of course, Monica for organizing. One day perhaps…
Jani Lauzon’s I Call myself Princess which opened Thursday night at the Aki Studio is a really good show and an important addition to the dramaturgy around Reconciliation and Cultural Appropriation. I was reviewing for Opera Canada where I trust the review will appear in due course but don’t wait… go see it.