Toronto’s Musical Diversity
There is nothing a music lover cannot find in Toronto. It does not matter how obscure the taste or preference is our metropolis is able to deliver. Often this occurs not via large professional and commercial enterprises, but through community based initiatives. Orchestra Toronto is such an organisation, home-grown with the sole purpose to enrich the lives of others with music.
Fifty years ago someone had a bright idea, others agreed and today we have a fully-fledged orchestra with a pretty full annual program. Most of the orchestra’s musicians volunteer their talents, only very few key positions in the orchestra are paid positions. This is a concept that other orchestras and choirs also subscribe to.
On February 20th, a cold and wintry Sunday afternoon, the Centre for the Arts on Yonge Street, also the orchestra’s rehearsal home, Ragtime fans filled a big concert hall to listen to the orchestra and a very special soloist, namely John Arpin. From what could be read in the previews I expected to see dancing in the isles, and indeed I would have, especially when Mr. Arpin performed his ragtime magic on the ivories. Instead I witnessed an extremely conservative audience, which barely managed 2 curtain calls of applause for the really fabulous orchestra and the guest soloist. Conductor Errol Gay had a very good time with his musicians and brought out the best in all of them.
All offerings were performed with all necessary gusto and brilliance to move even a stone to life. Bernstein’s West Side Story was never so alive, so immediate, and that without dancing and singing on stage. The storyline became vividly apparent through the music like I have rarely heard or seen. My inner eye was busy creating the pictures of the story throughout.
When Mr. Arpin performed with the orchestra or solo, other times and places, other flavours and colours became apparent. The anecdotes and stories he told explained a lot about the period of ragtime, which arrived just in time when people really needed cheering up after the long and hard depression. In Germany, were the depression also could be felt, this would have been the change from the famously sad "Kuechenlieder" to the up-tempo sounds of this genre.
John Arpin holds a national treasure of knowledge on the ‘who is who’ of music, especially on his specialty and special love of Ragtime and should publish a book on the subject. It would make for smashing reading!
After the lively concert some friends and
members of the Orchestra gathered for a reception in the centre’s gallery
space and reminisced about the early beginnings. One can only hope that the
orchestra continues to serve its community far into the future. More
information and on upcoming events April 1o and May 29 go to
learn more about this community based organisation and the many volunteers
that make it possible.
Music from an entirely different part of the world also finds it way into our fair city. Flamenco anyone? Certainly! The world’s only professor of Flamenco Paco Paña came with his group of talented performers to Massey Hall and filled it with the seductive and haunting sounds of his guitar. The staccato of the dancers feet reverberated from the rafters and caused the audience to rave with enthusiasm.
How different this audience was from the one uptown in North York. And it cannot be said that is was a Latin audience at all. As a matter of fact the audience was extremely mixed. Next to us we had folks from Chile, in the row behind us I spied a lovely young East Indian couple, who told me that flamenco originated in the north of India and was brought to Andalusia by Indian Gypsies after the Moors had left there. Mingling with the local sounds and traditions it took on new life and is still a unique form of cultural expression.
The lamenting singing is certainly not for everyone, yet it is a very strong emotional communication, somewhat foreign to northern Europeans, who do their lamenting much more quietly and in private.
The evening was exhilarating and exciting because it was so different from what we usually get to hear. Massey Hall is a great source of diverse performances. Check out the program at www.masseyhall.com throughout the year and be surprised and amazed.
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