Yesterday was the second National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. The Royal Conservatory and Koerner Hall marked it with a free concert curated by Denise Bolduc, Mervon Mehta and Sarain Fox who doubled up as an extremely engaging host for the evening.
Soundstreams opened their season on Wednesday night at Koerner Hall with a concert of modern music for string orchestra, electronics, percussion and chorus. The first, and most substantial work, was Paul Frehner’s LEX, being given its world premiere. It sets diverse texts; quotes from Einstein, Newton’s laws of motion in the original Latin[1}, fragments of the Old testament in Hebrew, extensive passages from Michael Symmons Roberts’ Corpus etc.
Yesterday’s concert in the Music Garden at Harbourfront was a celebration of Métis resilience featuring works by three Métis composers performed by the Wood and Wire Quartet with mezzo-soprano Rebecca Cuddy. The full program is here.
Medusa’s Children is a location shot opera film recently released by Opera Q; a Toronto based collective “dedicated to amplifying queer and trans voices”. I think this is the company’s second production following the live staged Dido and Belinda in 2019. This new piece; music by Colin McMahon, text by Charlie Petch, is also on a classical theme. In fact it follows Ovid pretty closely (at least for the back story) and of course there’s a queer twist.
The COC’s latest on-line offering is now available on-line. It’s called Voices of Mountains and the video is just shy of an hour long. Only about half of that is music though. The rest is introductions, artist statements and a 10 minute piece about the Land Acknowledgement installation created for the lobby of the Four Season Centre by Rebecca Cuddy and Julie McIsaac. It looks very interesting but, of course, one can’t visit it.
In streaming news Soundstreams has added a lovely concert of Ian Cusson’s Five Songs on Poems of Marilyn Dumont and Raven Chacon’s Ella Llora. The performers are mezzo Rebecca Cuddy and pianist Gregory Oh. I really urge people, Canadian or otherwise, to take a look at this. The news, as it pertains to Indigenous people in Canada, has been really grim in recent weeks and I don’t know anything quite like Dumont’s verse for conveying certain aspects of the Indigenous experience. She combines, sadness, anger and disarming humour in a way that touches me deeply and Ian’s settings intensify that. I’ve written about these songs before but never at such a moment.
The latest Arts Anyway webstream is up on Youtube. This edition features two varry varry posh dinosaurs introducing Alexander Hajek singing Fauré and Rebecca Cuddy singing two of Ian Cusson’s settings of texts by Marilyn Dumont. I think this is the kind of music and the kind of engagement that I miss most hunkered down here in the KittenKondo. I can live without Mozart or Wagner (just about) but artsong, especially artsong that speaks to what matters to us most today… not having that hurts. Keith Lam’s interviewee is also Rebecca Cuddy.
The latest concert in the Confluence series featured Marion Newman and friends addressing the question “What is Indigenous classical music?” through a carefully curated programme of works; all of which featured words by Indigenous women. We began with Marion singing Barbara Kroall’s Zasakwaa (There is a Heavy Frost) with words in Odawa describing the earth going to sleep for the winter with flute accompaniment by Stephen Tam. It was followed by Rebecca Cuddy singing three of the Five Songs on Poems by Marilyn Dumont by Ian Cusson. These are really fine settings of interesting, pithy, angry texts that have a wicked humour to them. I particularly like Letter to Sir John A. Macdonald which I’ve written about before.
Voice of a Nation is a Métis inspired collection of works that has been touring Ontario as part of the Canada 150 thing. Last night the Toronto leg of the tour happened at Grace Toronto Church. There are three pieces in the program. Different Perspectives is a setting by Ian Cusson of a text synthesized from the sometimes surprising reactions of a group of young people asked “what Canada meant to them”. It was designed to be sung by community choirs on the tour and last night was given by three (uncredited) female singers accompanied by the thirteen player Toronto Concert Orchestra under Kerry Stratton.