Toronto Operetta Theatre opened a run of Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld at the St. Lawrence Centre last night. Guillermo Silva-Marin gives it a pretty conventional treatment with minimal scenery, “Greek” costumes and no big surprises. It’s sung in English which has pros and cons for while the dialogue is intelligible enough the comprehensibility of the sung part is a bit variable.
Confluence Concerts opened their season yesterday at 918 Bathurst with a concert featuring a new work by Ian Cusson and André Alexis. We’ll come to that because before it there was about 45 minutes of music doing what Confluence does; the relatively unexpected. There were arrangements for various combinations of voices and instruments of songs by the likes of Kate Bush, Coldplay and Neil Young. There was an instrumental version of Bruce Cockburn’s Pacing the Cage (Larry Beckwith – violin, Andrew Downing – bass) and a Mozart violin sonata (Beckwith and Cusson) plus an intriguing percussion solo by Bevis Ng and more. It featured the usual suspects; Larry Beckwith, Andrew Downing, Suba Sankaran, Dylan Bell and Patricia O’Callaghan plus Messrs Cusson and Ng and it was fun.
Confluence Concerts returned to live performance last night at Heliconian Hall. The concert, curated by Patricia O’Callaghan, was titled A Simple Twist of Fate and featured an eclectic mix of music either on the topic of Fate or that was entwined with the fates of the performers.
John Beckwith turned 95 a little while ago and there’s some good celebratory material up on Youtube. Confluence Concerts are rereleasing their three concerts from last year. The first one is here. Plus, Canadian Art Song project have a really lovely film of Krisztinaa Szabó and Steven Philcox performing The Four Short Songs to texts by Kandinsky. The location filming is the work of Jenn Nicholls and Patrick Hagerty and it’s gorgeous. The performance is rather good too.
The third and final concert in Confluence Concerts and the Toronto Bach Festival’s presentation of the Bach cello suites is now on line. It features Andrew Downing playing the Suite No.2 in D minor BWV1008 on double bass and Ryan Davis playing the Suite No.5 in C minor BWV1011 on viola. Both pieces were recorded in front of a live audience at Heliconian Hall.
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!
There are three new Youtube videos that aren’t performances but may be of interest. On the Confluence Concerts channel there’s the John Beckwith Songbook Lecture. I was expecting the usual sort of pre-show thing ahead of this weekend’s concert but it wasn’t that at all. What we get is Bradley Christensen explaining his doctoral thesis research on developing an interpretive and pedagogical guide to Beckwith’s songs. One might expect this to be rather dry and in a way it is but dry like a certain kind of British (or I guess Kiwi) humour. It’s a sort of “Note the sheep do not so much fly as plummet” performance. No sheep though. One would have thought a Kiwi could have fixed that. I shouldn’t joke really. It’s a perfectly serious and valuable project but the deadpan delivery is curiously compelling.
Mandala – the Beauty of Impermanence is the latest on-line offering from Confluence Concerts. It’s curated by Suba Sankaran and should have seen the light as a live show last May. The programme is as eclectic as one has come to expect from Confluence and lots of fun. In the spirit of impermanence it will be available on the Confluence channel on Youtube only until February 10th.
Does creativity follow an arc with age? Is a period of peak creativity followed by inevitable decline or is there, perhaps, a qualitatively different, kind of creativity in the later years of life? Linda and Michael Hutcheon; literary scholar and physician, explored this in their book Four Last Songs, which looked at the later works of Verdi, Strauss, Messiaen, and Britten. Last night they appeared in the Confluence Concerts Salon series to provide further thoughts with reference to the works of Messiaen and Leonard Cohen. Their thoughts were interwoven with performances of works by Messiaen and Cohen performed by Robert Kortgaard, Patricia O’Callaghan and Larry Beckwith. There’s no need to read my description of the show. It’s freely available on Youtube.
Last night Confluence Concerts streamed their latest offering; a tribute to Henry Purcell, preceded by a pre-show interview between Larry Beckwith and Andrew Parrott. There was beautifully played instrumental music from Victoria Baroque, songs from Lawrence Williford and Lucas Harris recorded at the Elora Festival and a couple of interesting takes on If Music Be the Food of Love plus Two Daughters of this Aged Stream featuring Daniel Taylor, Rebecca Genge and Sinéad White plus instrumentalists from the UoT Faculty of Music Historical Performance Department. I was less taken with Duo Serenissima (Elizabeth Hetherington, soprano and David Mackor, theorbo). I can’t tell whether it was the recording acoustic or a diction issue but the words were pretty much unintelligible which is a big problem with Purcell!.