Songs From the House of Death is a new song cycle for mezzo-soprano and orchestra by Ian Cusson. It was premiered in April by Krisztina Szabó and the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. It’s a setting of three texts from Joy Harjo‘s How We Became Human. Ian has a knack of finding really strong texts by Indigenous poets and these are no exception. The longest (13 minutes of the 23 minute work) is “Songs From the House of Death; Or How to Make it Through the End of a Relationship”. This is an evocation of death and impermanence and memory. The setting is very varied. The opening pizzicato strings are barely audible but it rapidly builds to blend densely orchestrated (it’s a big orchestra) and very high energy music with much gentler and more lyrical passages; sometimes using the concert master as a soloist. This fits the changing moods of the text and, as I’ve come to expect with Ian, the music is always rooted in the text.
Found Frozen is a new CD from Centrediscs featuring songs by Jeffrey Ryan. The centrepiece of the disc is his Miss Carr in Seven Scenes. It’s a setting of extracts from Emily Carr’s notebooks for mezzo-soprano and piano performed here by Krisztina Szabó and Steven Philcox. I’ve heard them do the piece twice live, including the premier, and I really don’t have much to add to what I wrote then. It’s a terrific piece.
The first set on the disc though is Found Frozen. It’s a setting of three poems by Helen Hunt Jackson about Death and Remembrance. It’s scored for soprano and piano and sits quite high much of the time. The piano part is busy and somewhat minimalistic. It’s sung by Danika Lorèn with Steven Philcox again at the piano. It’s very good singing indeed. There are long sustained notes that are navigated with aplomb and her diction is excellent, even in the very high passages.
John Beckwith turned 95 a little while ago and there’s some good celebratory material up on Youtube. Confluence Concerts are rereleasing their three concerts from last year. The first one is here. Plus, Canadian Art Song project have a really lovely film of Krisztinaa Szabó and Steven Philcox performing The Four Short Songs to texts by Kandinsky. The location filming is the work of Jenn Nicholls and Patrick Hagerty and it’s gorgeous. The performance is rather good too.
The third SOS – Sketch Opera Singers from Tapestry Opera is now up on Youtube. It’s quite similar to the previous episodes with inspired lunacy from KrossØver (Teiya Kasahara, Keith Klassen, Krisztina Szabó, Korin Thomas-Smith and a snail but definitely not Simone McIntosh). I think it’s a bit darker and a bit weirder than earlier episodes, even a bit surreal in places. The sketch where people are helped through break-ups by soft toys singing well known arias comes to mind. Still, it’s half an hour of (mostly) harmless fun. Definitely worth a watch.
SOS2 was at least as good as the first instalment. Krisztina Szabó came in as replacement for Simone McIntosh who is back on the west coast and showed that she’s at least as crazy as anyone else involved in this show (even Keith Klassen and that’s saying something). Highlights include Korin Thomas-Smith auditioning for Papageno and being asked to sing everything from Sarastro to the Queen of the Night, Krisztina as a manic photographer, the previously mentioned ABBA-nera, Teiya Kasahara breathing COVID on Keith Klassen and lots more rather dark virus humour. All sorts of people chipped in with cameos and/or music, Michael Mori and Keith Klassen directed with Jennifer Tung and Juliane Gallant providing music direction. Technical quality is excellent and it’s free. It’s only 30 minutes long so there’s no excuse for not watching. It’s available here.
The line up for next season’s Songmasters series in Mazzoleni Hall has been announced.
November 22nd 2020 sees baritone Elliot Madore and pianist Rachel Andrist in a program called Troubled Times with music by Adams, Britten, Higdon and Musto. It really is about time Mississauga boy Elliot was heard in Toronto. he must have sung just about everywhere else by now!
If you missed the livestream of Tapestry Songbook X it’s on again tonight. And it appears there is going to be a virtual party. Here’s what’s up…. (according to Tapestry):
Two weeks ago, we livestreamed Songbook X, a concert featuring Krisztina Szabó, mezzo-soprano, and Chris Foley, collaborative pianist. This reimagined concert united us in community at a time when we needed it most. We heard from folks who had a candle-light dinner as they watched and others who recognized friends in the livechat who they hadn’t heard from in a while. Join us for the show and get social! Invite a friend, plan your snacks and drinks, and join us for a night of beautiful piano and vocal music.
To attend, click here and select ‘Get Reminder’ – the streaming party will start on Facebook this Saturday at 8PM EST/5PM PST.
Be well, and see you online!
Concert Programme – Songbook X Livestream
7:00pm – Chill your refreshments
7:15pm – Break out the snacks
7:30pm – Home system sound check (make sure your speakers work!)
7:45pm – Start your video chat party
7:50pm – Pour libations
7:55pm – Pre-show toast with Artistic Director Michael Mori…everybody raise your glasses!
8:00pm – Concert time!
If you want to know what to expect you could always read my review.
Tongue in Cheek’s latest show, Democracy in Action, took place at the Lula Lounge last night. The concept was pretty straightforward. There were eight (almost) singers and a pianist. Each singer offered up five numbers ranging from opera through art song to musical theatre and pop. Advanced on-line polling had selected one song per singer. Polling of the audience in the house produced the other two. The in house polling was supported by really rather well done videos in which the “composers” tried to persuade the audience to vote for their stuff.