A Billy Strayhorn Celebration

Last night the first concert in Confluence’s virtual season went live.  It features the music of Billy Strayhorn curated by Andrew Downing.  Now jazz is not usually my thing but I found this concert interesting in many ways.  Strayhorn was unusual.  He was a poor African American who aspired to be a classical composer and pianist.  Realising the virtual impossibility of that in post WW2 America he took to jazz and dance band music and formed a very productive relationship with Duke Ellington.  He was also gay and that, rather courageously for the time, comes out in his music.  You can find out much more about Strayhorn in the most erudite chat between Andrew Downing and Professor Walter Vandeleur that precedes the music.

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Confluence announces virtual 2020/21 season

Confluence Concerts have announced a five concert and two special event virtual 2020/21 season with their usual eclectic and enticing mix of repertoire.

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September 23rd 2020 – Something to Live for; A Billy Strayhorn Celebration

A detailed look at the story of the great 20th century classical and jazz pianist and composer. Best known for his long-time collaboration with Duke Ellington, Strayhorn composed Take the A Train, Lush Life, Something to Live For, Chelsea Bridge, and A Flower is a Lovesome Thing.

Curated and arranged by Andrew Downing

Featuring Larry Beckwith, Alexa Belgrave, Leighton Harrell, Aline Honzy, Drew Jurecka, Marion Newman, Patricia O’Callaghan, Alex Samaras, Suba Sankaran and more.

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reGENERATION week 2

The second set of reGENERATION concerts of the Topronto Summer Music Festival took place yesterday at Walter Hall.  The song portion, unusually, consisted of 100% English language rep, mirroring the Griffey/Jones recital earlier in the wee.  The first concert kicked off with tenor Eric Laine and pianist Scott Downing with five songs from Finzi’s setting of Thomas Hardy; A Young Man’s Exhortation.  It was good.  Laine has a nice sense of style and very good diction.  The high notes are there though sometimes, especially at the end of a line, they don’t sound 100% secure.  There was some quite delicate accompaniment from Downing too.

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reGENERATION week 1

There were three reGENERATION concerts in Walter Hall yesterday at 1pm, 4pm and 7.30pm.  It made for a long but interesting day.  As last year, each concert was a mix of vocal and chamber music.  The vocal program was not announced in advance so I’m working from notes and there could be the odd error.  Pleasingly, there were surtitles for the songs.  This is a huge improvement on a sheet of tiny print to be read in the dark! Continue reading

Innocent revels

purcellWhat do you get when you take nine multi-talented musicians from a variety of musical backgrounds and give them a Purcell toy box to play in?  You get the latest concert in the Confluence series; ‘Tis Nature’s Voice: Henry Purcell Reimagined.  It’s an amazingly fun evening that completely blows the cobwebs off the often stuffy Toronto baroque music scene.  I can’t do a number by number account because I completely lost track.  I was having way too much fun.

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Blitzkrieg Cabaret

What better way to celebrate Kurt Weill’s birthday than listening to his songs, cabaret style, with a beer or three.  Well that’s what we did on Saturday as Blitzkrieg Cabaret opened a new run of Saturday afternoon shows at the Dakota Tavern.

We got three singers; Danie Friesen, Hilary June Hart, Jackson Welchner supported by Nick Donovan (drums), Colin Frotten (piano), and Andrew Downing (bass) with Hilary also chipping in on the accordion on occasion.  While Danie is a classically trained singer, Hilary and Jackson sound more comfortable in a jazzier idiom.  That, plus the make up of the band meant that the show tended to the “Sinatraesque” version of Weill rather than, say, the grittiness of Pabst’s Dreigroschenoper movie.  This was reflected in both choice of translation and performing style.  I think this works for some of Weill’s stuff but it doesn’t work for me so well with the Brecht lyrics.  I’ll go for Marx over McCarthy anytime!  Other people may feel differently.

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