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.
Our Song d’Hiver is Tapestry Opera’s latest on-line offering. It’s a little over an hour long and features Mireille Asselin exploring French-English bilingualism and biculturalism as it manifests itself from l’Acadie to the Ottawa valley with a bit of Provence thrown in for good measure. It’s very cleverly done and the production values are high. In places it’s very funny and in others impossibly sad. There are lovely performances by Mimi and pianist Frédéric and guest appearances from guitarists Maxim and Gervais Cormier, poet Élise Gauthier and composers Ian Cusson and Marie-Claire Saindon.
The sixth iteration of Soundstreams’ Electric Messiah unsurprisingly morphed from a live show in the intimate setting of the Drake Underground to a streamed video recorded on location in various places in Toronto. There is much that was the same as previously and some interesting differences. The selection of arias and choruses is very similar to previous years starting with “Comfort Ye”; arranged for all four singers and finishing up with “Hallelujah”.
There are a couple of new streams coming up today. At 3pm EST Opera North is releasing a recording of Bernstein’s Trouble in Tahiti from a couple of years ago. The main local attraction is that Dinah is played by Wallis Giunta. That one is on Youtube. At 5pm husband and wife Alexander and Jimin Dobson are performing in the NAC’s Canada Performs series. This link should get you there.
There were a couple of fun things posted yesterday too. Ian Cusson performed in the NAC series playing 10 of the Shostakovich Preludes and Fugues. It’s still up on Facebook. Also the Kingston Symphony produced a very clever video of the finale of Beethoven’s Eroica with each musician performing their part at home and Evan Mitchell editing to create a complete video. It’s very clever and it’s up on Youtube.
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.
My predictions were rubbish but we’ll come back to that. There are two new productions in the upcoming season; Parsifal, which had already been announced and Janáček’s Káťa Kabanová in a David Alden production with Amanda Majeski in the title role. This is great. It’s been far too long since Janáček featured at the COC.
Explore the score is an initiative from the TSO. It’s a session where we, the audience, get to see Gary Kulesha rehearsing the orchestra in four new short pieces selected for the occasion. Each piece gets about half an hour of work with an opportunity for the composer to have his/her input.
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.
Tapestry and the COC collaborated for yesterday’s concert in the RBA. The performers were members of the Ensemble Studio. The material was a mix of numbers from the Tapestry back catalogue plus a couple of songs by COC composer in residence Ian Cusson.
Two years ago when Harry Somers’ Louis Riel was revived in Toronto, Ottawa and Quebec there was considerable debate about the appropriation of a traditional Nsga’a morning song; the Kuyas. Basically in the culture the song comes from transmission and use of songs are regulated by the traditional owners. This particular music had been used to set the text of a lullabye that Riel’s wife sings to their child, originally without attribution. In 2017 the decision was made to use it again though not without consultation, debate and acknowledgement. See my comments about the issue on opening night here.
It’s fair to say that I don’t think anybody thought the status quo was really acceptable and a great deal of discussion has gone on leading to an announcement this morning that the music will be replaced in the opera by new music composed by Ian Cusson, who is of Métis and French-Canadian descent. The whole story; whats, whys and wherefores, is contained in the linked COC press release. It’s the right thing to do and it’s the right composer.