More tubes

Here’s a round up of the latest on-line material to come my way:

  • From the Kingston Symphony, Opera 5 and all things Krehm/Mitchell plus assorted animated animals… the concluding episodes of Harmon in Space (available now) and a new project, premiering April 7th; Threepenny Submarine featuring puppets from Gazelle Automation, sopranos Rachel Krehm and Caitlin Wood and a chamber ensemble led by Evan Mitchell.
  • From Against the Grain… a continuation of the run of Messiah/Complex and a live chat “Making of” at 7pm tonight.
  • From Soundstreams… Electric Messiah is available again until April 11th.
  • From Calgary Opera… Opera Labs, a series devoted to innovation in opera. The first film is about Namwayut; a collaborative composition featuring, among others, Marion Newman, Yvette Nolan, Ian Cusson and Asitha Tennekoon.

Everything is on Youtube except the Calgary project.


Where Do I Go?

Where Do I Go? is the latest on-line offering from Tapestry Opera.  It’s an eight minute film followed by ten minutes or so of cast interviews.  The concept originates with the multi-talented Morgan Paige-Melbourne who wrote the music and words, plays piano, sings, speaks and dances on the film. She’s supported by dancer Natasha Poon-Woo and percussionist Adam Kaleta. Michael Mori directs.


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Up and tubing

This will be a bit of an “odds and sods” round up.  First off, check out Natalya Gennadi and Catherine Carew’s latest offering on Natalya’s Youtube channel.  The music is very good but the animated effects are amazing.  Over at Against the Grain you can see Joel Ivany interviewing HE Adrienne Clarkson who is always interesting to talk to.


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To the Distant Beloved

I’m late to the party on this one.  I had set aside time on Sunday to watch Russell Braun, Carolyn Maule and Miriam Khalil’s recital from Koerner Hall (one of the Mazzoleni Songmasters series) when first broadcast.  For whatever reason I couldn’t get it to mirror onto the big screen in a watchable way so I ended up watching it on my laptop yesterday.  So it goes.


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Get your TOT fix

Like pretty much everybody else Toronto Operetta Theatre has chosen to go virtual for their latest offering.  It’s a production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Gondoliers filmed at the Edward Jackman Centre.  It’s very much a “bare bones” production.  The cast is reduced to nine roles and the chorus is gone.  Accompaniment is piano and accordion.  The Jackman Centre is a rehearsal space and looks like one.  The film appears to havebeen filmed with a single camera, in one take with minimal post processing though, despite which the audio and video quality is excellent.


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gondoliersThere a couple more on-line events coming up.

  • Tafelmusik have a moderated panel discussion on the mental, physical and spiritual benefits of choral singing.  That’s on March 18th at 7pm.  It’s a ticketed event ($5).  Tickets are available from
  • Toronto Operetta Theatre is doing Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Gondoliers.  It will be available from March 19th at 7pm until April 5th.  This one is also ticketed ($20) plus there are dinner delivery packages available for March 19th and 20th.  Full cast and other details at

Beckwith at 94

Canadian composer John Beckwith will be 94 tomorrow.  His son, Larry, under the auspices of Confluence Concerts webcast a trio of concert’s of Beckwith’s extensive song output yesterday on their Youtube channel.  There’s four and a half hours of music and interviews!  It’s extremely varied.  Composition dates range from 1947 to 2014 and the diversity of the music is equally broad though with a distinct personality.  The pieces range from a set of etudes for cello and voice written for his grand-daughter when she was nine years old to the the crazy Avowals which requires a gifted and slightly mad tenor and a keyboardist who can play piano, celeste and harpsichord; sometimes simultaneously!


It’s very Canadian.  There are a lot of settings of traditional songs and still more setting poetry and prose by various Canadian luminaries.  It’s not just the usual East coast Scots or Irish material either.  Besides, unsurprisingly, traditional Québecois rep there are Dukhobor and Mennonite songs and other surprises.  There’s also a strong internationalism with texts drawn from Chinese, Polish, Welsh and US sources among others.  I think we hear songs in English, French, German, Russian, Lithuanian and Hungarian, maybe more.  What could be more Canadian than a humanistic internationalism firmly rooted in Canada’s various and varying cultures?  Beckwith deserves a blue beret to go with his numerous other honours.

It’s such a distinctive voice too,  A comparison with Britten as a song composer seems not inapposite.  He shares the fondness for setting traditional songs and is distinctly modern without taking on some of the more extreme experiments of the 1950s through 1980s.  Bur there I think the comparison ends.  Britten’s style of piano accompaniment tends to look back to the days when the piano supported the vocal line.  Even Beckwith’s earliest songs seem to lean more to the accompanist as collaborator and commentator on the vocal line.  And if Britten is a bit prone to histrionics (Our Hunting Fathers, Les Illuminations), Beckwith is all ironic humour.  It’s good stuff and I look forward to spending more time with it.  I’ll pass on further musicological ramblings and leave the field clear for Bradley Christensen!

The recordings are (mostly) typical covid era vignettes recorded in peoples’ front rooms and empty university halls.  The quality is good to very good with just a few sound glitches.  There’s even some highly creative videography from Natalya Gennadi.  The whole thing has been very competently stitched together by Ryan Harper.

And what a cast of collaborators Larry Beckwith assembled for this celebration.  They range in age from 8 to 94 and contributions came in from Victoria to Vienna and all parts in between.  There are “big names”; Barbara Hannigan, Russell Braun, Benjamin Butterfield and Krisztina Szabó plus an astonishing array of (mostly) UoT trained professional singers.  What a pleasure to see so many much missed friends.  There are grad students, undergrads and school children too.  There are interviews with many of John’s collaborators including the equally young and lively Mary Morrison.  Larry’s interview with his father displays the latter’s subtle wit and undiminished insight.

Larry Beckwith has conjured up something rather special here and I strongly encourage people to explore the three recordings on Youtube that will be available until March 21st.

And finally, Happy 94th Professor Beckwith!

Coming up at UoT

Alex-Hetherington-Mezzo-Soprano-Headshot-scaledIt’s Norcop Prize time. On March 11th at 1.10pm there will be a pre-recorded recital by mezzo-soprano Alex Hetherington and pianist Dakota Scott-Digout, this year’s recipients of the Jim and Charlotte Norcop Prize in Song and Gwendolyn Williams Koldofsky Prize in Accompanying. Free on the UoT Music Youtube channel. I shall miss watching it with Jim N!
It should also be time for UoT Opera’s spring performance. Last year, their Mansfield Park (March 13th) was my last pre-plague live show. This years festival of one act operas has been postponed and will now be streamed on April 22nd to 25th.

Defrocking the canon

There have been a lot of discussions lately about diversity in opera and how, particularly, race and gender are represented in very limited and problematic ways, especially in the canonical operas of the long 19th century.  The latest to come my way is a very good panel discussion hosted by the COC (on their Youtube channel) and moderated by Aria Umezawa.  This one tackled gender issues but, inevitably broader questions came up and that’s what I want to explore here.  You might want to watch it either before or after reading the rest of this piece.


The only revolution to ever start in an opera house….

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