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.
The Gryphon Trio pulled out of Wednesday night’s Toronto Summer Music concert for, one supposes, the usual reason. This forced a reorganisation of the concert. Elliot Britton’s new piece was cut and instead we got an extended set from the Nordic Voices as the first part of the concert. Actually the first piece was for a very extended Nordic Voices. Andrew Balfour’s Omaa Bindig supplemented the vocal sextet with Marion Newman and Jamie Parker (piano) plus a number of string players and voices lined up down the sides of Walter Hall. It’s one of those soundscape works that envelops you in a variety of sounds and techniques. I wish I could find the text but I can’t (surtitles used last night as they have been all through TSM… yay!)
Last night’s Toronto Summer Music offering in Walter Hall was American themed in the broadest sense. The New Orford Quartet kicked things off with three pieces for string quartet. The first was Piazzolla’s Tango Ballet in Bragato’s arrangement for string quartet. It’s kind of tango/jazz fusion and great fun. Jessie Montgomery’s Strum is a sort of homage to the southern American tradition of a different kind of string instrument. Lots of complex pizzicato and other effects. Carmen Braden’s Raven Conspiracy is a three movement work for spoken voice and quartet dealing with both the mythical and biological raven. It’s playful and extremely virtuosic. I was struck by the fact that the New Orfords are not just a very fine ensemble but a very flexible one. Nothing seems to faze them!
I am really intrigued by how Amplified Opera’s shows this week at the Museum of Contemporary Art are going to work and so I spoke to both Marion Newman and Topher Mokrzewski about them and what the audience might expect. Despite several hours on the phone I’m still not sure I know and that’s probably a good thing. It’s pretty fluid and experimental and I don’t think we’ll know exactly what we are getting until we get it. I do know that we can expect music and talk and discussion with the audience around the themes being explored in each half of the double header.
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.
The COC/AtG film of Mozart’s Requiem is now available for viewing. It’s free but requires either registration with AtG or a (free) COC digital membership. Directed by Joel Ivany, it’s essentially cast as a reflection on what we lost during the pandemic and as a statement of hope as, maybe, we reach the end.
Here are a few things I’ve noticed on the web recently:
There’s a workshop from the Isabel Bader Centre at Queens called Echo:Memories of the World which looks at cultural memory and cultural transmission from both a Western and an Indigenous perspective. It features Marion Newman and the Gryphon Trio among others. It’s fascinating but I found parts of it quite triggering. I don’t know how ong this is going to be available. For now it’s free. Note that while the Vimeo version of the performance works the Youtube doesn’t.
The Domoney Artists Youtube channel has new Opera Breaks from Natalya Gennadi and Asitha Tennekoon.
Also on Youtube there’s a new piece from Opera Revue which may be even dafter than their previous efforts, which set a pretty high bar for daftness.
There’s an interesting new project on Youtube from Natalya Gennadi and Catherine Carew. It’s called HBD! Project and the idea is to produce a short themed video each month featuring composers whose birthdays fall in that month. The February pilot is online and it’s a bit different from other “shows” in similar vein that I’ve come across. This one features a song by Alban Berg sung by Natalya with a fluffy puppy, music for cello and piano by Jean Coulthard played by Alice Kim and Hye Won Cecilia Lee and Rodney Sharman’s Tobacco Road sung by Catherine. So what’s new you ask (apart from the puppy)? It’s the graphics with Mozart in a party hat, animated Emily Carr paintings and a look for the Sharman that could double as the witches’ scene in Macbeth. Yes it’s a bit weird but oddly 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.
There was a really interesting announcement from the COC earlier today. To cut a long story short it announced that the four principals of Amplified Opera; Teiya Kasahara, Marion Newman, Asitha Tennekoon and Aria Umezawa, would become “Disruptors in Residence”. I think this is a very positive move. Many of us have been following the various conversations about evolving opera beyond being the preserve of (almost) dead white people to being an art form that more fully reflects the diversity of our communities. I have to admit to being somewhat sceptical about how much of the energy and goodwill that has been generated will survive the return to some sort of post-covid normality. It.’s surprisingly hard to make change in large, hierarchical organisations go viral.