This was the seventh time I’ve seen Soundstream’s Electric Messiah. It’s different every time of course but some things stay, more or less, as features. The biggest change this year is the shift from the Drake Underground to Crow’s Theatre. It’s staged as a conventional proscenium arch type show with the audience sitting in tiered rows facing the stage rather than being set up night club style. There’s no bar in the actual performance space but you can still take a drink to your seat. The drinks are cheaper than at the Drake too!
Closing out November there’s Opera Revue at Castro’s this afternoon at 3pm and a couple of concerts on Wednesday. At lunchtime Wirth Prize winner Elisabeth Saint-Gelais and collaborative pianist Louise Pelletier present an intriguing looking programme in the RBA then at 7.30pm at Mazzoleni Hall the RCM’s Rebanks fellows are performing. Both are free but the Mazzoleni concert is ticketed and may be sold out.
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.
September 21st at 8pm Soundstreams have a choral concert at Koerner Hall. It’s called Choral Splendour and features Soundstreams’ Choir 21 with Meghan Lindsey, Rebecca Cuddy, Owen McCausland and Alain Coulombe in a programme of music by Frehner, Pärt and Vivier. Vivier’s Zipangu will be accompanied by a live dancer and a film created by Michael Greyeyes.
September 30th also at Koerner Hall at 8pm there’s a free concert to commemorate National Truth and Reconciliation Day. Sarain Fox MCs a mixture of the solemn (testimony from a residential school survivor) and the less solemn (Tomson Highway with excerpts from Songs in the Key of Cree), drumming, dancing and the piano quintet version of Ian Cusson’s Marilyn Dumont songs sung by Rebecca Cuddy with the New Orford Quartet and philip Chiu. If you haven’t heard these songs you should and if you have, but haven’t heard this arrangement, see them anyway because this is the best version! This show is free but ticketed and tickets are going superfast.
Sunday, at Grace Church on the Hill, Soundstreams presented Celebrating R. Murray Schafer. It felt like a cross between a concert and a memorial service. There were no prayers but there were eulogies and Eleanor James drew the parallel between Schafer’s sources of inspiration and Pentecost; that feast of the Church having been chosen deliberately for the event.
There was lots of music of course. The afternoon was bookended by two of Schafer’s ceremonial wilderness pieces for voice and trumpet. Meghan Lindsay and Michael Fedyshyn welcomed us with the Aubade for Two Voices and bid us farewell with Departure. Both were made the more haunting from the performers being out of sight. Choir 21 with conductor David Fallis sang two sets. First came the three hymns from The Fall into Light which appropriately set texts drawn from the Manichaean tradition. There was some wonderfully precise singing here. The second set was perhaps more light hearted with Epitaph for Moonlight which was written for amateur performance and the playful Fire which, besides singing, involves banging rocks together.
As we head into summer, as usual, things start to quieten down. I only have five shows in my schedule for the month of June:
June 2nd, 4th and 5th Toronto City Opera are presenting Cavalleria Rusticana at the Fleck Dance Theatre. It’s the usual TCO format; piano accompaniment, amateur chorus, young professional soloists. Jennifer Tung conducts.
June 2nd, 3rd, 4th at &.30pm at the Canadian Opera Company Theatre it’s the latest iteration of Teiya Kasahara’s The Queen in Me. It looks like this time it may be with small ensemble rather than just piano. There’s a promo video on the COC’s Youtube channel.
June 3rd to 10th (preview June 2nd) at Crow’s Theatre it’s Maxime Beauregard-Martin’s Singulières; a play about “single ladies” in Quebec. It’s in French with English surtitles (and/or 3D glasses).
June 5t at 4pm at Grace Church on the Hill, Soundstreams are presenting a homage to the late R. Murray Schaefer. This one is free but registration is required.
June 15th, 16th, 18th and 19th at 8pm at Roy Thomson Hall the TSO are presenting Beethoven’s ninth symphony with an impressive line up of soloists including Rihab Chaieb. It’s coupled with three short premiers including a piece by Adam Scime.
That’s about it until Toronto Summer Music opens on July 7th.
Soundstreams is the latest local organisation to make the return to live performance with an audience with a concert Thursday night at St. Andrew’s Church titled A Love Song to Toronto. Three of the works on the program; Vivier’s Hymnen an dir Nacht and Lovesongs plus Christopher Mayo’s Oceana Nox, appeared in a streamed concert in November and I described them in some detail in reviewing that show. The performers were the same as well bar one. Pianist Serouj Kradjian replaced Gregory Oh . I don’t think my impressions of the pieces have changed much but I really appreciated the greater immediacy of a genuinely live performance.
There’s a fair number of shows appearing at fairly short notice as people scramble to adapt to relaxing regulations so this post will contain events for April not previously noted plus a look forward to May.
April 26th at 7.30 pm Likht Ensemble have a free Holocaust Remembrance Day concert at Mazzoleni Hall.
April 28th at 8pm at St. Andrews on King St. Soundstreams are reprising the Vivier Lovesongs concert that was done as a stream last fall.
April 29th at 7.30pm at 918 Bathurst The Happenstancers have a concert featuring music by Julia Wolfe, Nahre Sol, Kaija Saariaho, Gyorgy Kurtag, Oliver Knussen, and WA Mozart.
Here’s a quick round up of recent webstreams. The main event is the concert streamed by the COC over the weekend featuring Jane Archibald with the COC Orchestra and Johannes Debus. There’s about forty five minutes of music and it’s predictably classy music making though it’s emotionally taxing to look at an empty Four Seasons centre again. The program includes Mozart. Handel, Strauss, Massenet, Gounod and Bernstein. Arguably it’s a bit predictable but both musical and technical values are high. It’s avaiable free until August 27th via registration at the COC website.
2021 was another year of parts. Pretty much no live indoor performances before September then a few chances to get to the theatre and now, well who knows? So what stood out for me in 2021? Here’s a round up by category.
Not much of course but there were some good shows, though opera didn’t really figure. The Home Project from Native Earth and Soulpepper was a thought provoking look at the the idea of “home”. MixTape at Crow’s Theatre explored the variegated nature of relationships through the medium of the once ubiquitous mix tape. And on a more conventional note there was a rearranged at short notice recital at Koerner hall that showcased the extremely talented Davóne Tines. Continue reading →