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.
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.
Soundstreams’ on-line concert, Lovesongs, recorded in Koerner Hall and streamed (access codes are PWYC, min $7) features three works; two by and one “in homage” to Claude Vivier with an intro by Lawrence Cherney and David Fallis who conducts on the first and third pieces.
As the rest of the world moves to live in-person performance Toronto is still mostly stuck in Covidland. My calendar for the month currently has two in-person shows (both courtesy of the RCM) and three streams. So:
November 6th at 7.30pm in Mazzoleni Hall. The GGS Opera programme is presenting Ana Sokolovic’s Svadba. It seems hard to believe that the premiere was over ten years ago!
November 27th at 8pm in Koerner Hall. Stewart Goodyear, soloists, the Penderecki Quartet and the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir present the premiere of Goodyear’s Piano Quintet plus Beethoven’s 9th symphony in piano reduction. This one is also livestreamed.
And so to streams:
November 19th at 8pm. Soundstreams presents Love Songs; a 45 minute programme of music by Claude Vivier and Christopher Mayo. (ticketed)
November 25th at 7.30 pm (and the following three days). UoT Opera is performing Rossini’s The Barber of Seville. (free)
November 26th at 7.30pm. The COC and Against the Grain are collaborating on a staged Mozart Requiem. (free)
Soundstreams have announced their 2020/21 season and hopefully we will get to see some of it! As ever there’s loads of good stuff starting with Steve Reich being in Toronto for his 85th birthday in April 2021. Other stuff that gets me excited includes:
Huang Ruo’s The Book of Mountain and Seas as part of 21C at Koerner in January 2021. This features the vocal ensemble Ars Nova Copenhagen and puppets!
Chan Ka Nin’s A Dragon’s Tale. It’s a co-pro with Tapestry and promises a waterfront extravaganza of western and eastern musical traditions. That’s coming in June next year.
May 2021 sees a line up of Toronto’s finest performing works by Claude Vivier plus a new commission from Christopher Mayo. That’s going to be in the very intimate Temerty Theatre at the RCM
Plus Electric Messiah, Encounters and more. Full details here.
Last night marked the last performance I plan on seeing before the holidays so it’s time for the annual “best of” posting. So what did your scribe enjoy or admire the most in 2019? Let’s look at it by categories.
Fully staged opera with orchestra
The COC had a decent year but two of their shows stood out for me. David McVicar’s production of Rusalka in October was perhaps all round the best thing the COC have done in years. The production was clever in that interrogated the material enough to ask lots of questions for those willing to think about them without doing anything to upset those not so interested. Musically one really can’t imagine hearing Rusalka sung or played better anywhere in the world. The other winner was Elektra in January. The orchestra and the singing was the winner here, especially Christine Goerke, but the production was better than average and we don’t see enough of the great modern classics in the Four Seasons stage.
I sat down yesterday with Danielle MacMillan who will sing Agni in Against the Grain’s upcoming production of Claude Vivier’s Kopernikus. Kopernikus is subtitled A Ritual Opera for the Dead and concerns the experience of transitioning from life to death as experienced by Agni. I had many questions:
What was the music like? After all Vivier is not your “typical” composer.
What’s the nature of the production?
What does it feel like to play a dead person?
And a few more things that bubbled up as we talked. So here’s a summary.
Against the Grain Theatre have announced an ambitious 2018/19 season. There are two main stage shows. The first is Bound, which had a first workshop outing in December 2017. It’s still a work-in-progress but there have been significant developments. Kevin Lau has been commissioned to inject his contemporary themes, music and ideas into the original music by Handel. Instead of piano there will be a chamber orchestra led by AtG Music Director Topher Mokrzewski with digital sound artist Acote. The cast will include soprano Miriam Khalil, countertenor David Trudgen, tenor Andrew Haji, and baritone Justin Welsh. This workshop will be presented in Longboat Hall at The Great Hall (1087 Queen Street West) on November 19th, 20th and 21st, 2018. For me, the acid test will be whether the dramaturgy and the text has been tightened up.