Music Connects Us.
Notes from our Artistic Director
~ August 1, 2021 ~

Canada has a new Governor General, Rt. Hon. Mary Simon

We wish her well as she assumes her duties, especially with her challenge to, as she has said, “…bridge cultures and communities”. How wonderful it is to have indigeneity at home in Rideau Hall!

This appointment brings back two personal memories. Some years ago, I was part of a Toronto team leading an International Circumpolar Festival. While building connections and seeking ideas for participants from the northern regions of Canada, Russia, Denmark/Greenland, USA/Alaska and other nations at the top of the globe, I remember hearing about, and I think even meeting, a dynamic Inuk woman who was emerging as a forceful leader for her people. That Inuk was Mary Simon before she became President of the Inuit Tapirit Kanatami, the national Inuit organisation. Now she is the symbol of our entire Canadian nation to the world.

My other personal thought comes from my humble experiences working on arts programming for Rideau Hall, also several years ago. I was moved by the participation of Inuit artists during last week’s Installation Ceremony and I hope Her Excellency will once again shine a national spotlight on Canadian culture by presenting concerts and mounting art exhibitions in the official residence. It seems to me that it’s been many years since musical events (including the accordion, Your Excellency) have distinguished the grand salon of 1 Sussex Drive and it’s time the highest office in Canada focused more on our cultural figures, perhaps even in a video series that CBC/Radio Canada could present to the full nation (if CBC dared to return to significant cultural programming).

And who better to ignite such a Qulliq for culture than our 30th Governor General! After all, one of Glenn Gould’s personal pianos sits in Rideau Hall, seldom used for concerts as it should be. An important Canadian instrument is right there, just waiting for performances.

Speaking of Canadian pianists…  The world overflows with piano competitions but a particularly prestigious event, the 18th Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition, is currently underway in Warsaw with a notable Canadian contingent chosen from among the 500+ international applicants. When I saw the names of the young pianists whose national designation is Canada, I was struck by what fun it would be to bring all five of these young pianists together in one concert…perhaps that can be a future special event for our Huron Waves Music Festival or perhaps even at Rideau Hall. But for now, if you can find the time, here are links to short videos featuring these five pianists. Can you spot a future keyboard star for Canada, perhaps the world?

J J Jun Li Bui, 17, Toronto.

Eric Guo, 18, Toronto.

Bruce (Xiaoyu) Liu, 24, Montreal.

Victoria Wong, Canada, 23, Toronto.

Music Around Us…The sounds of summer are filling my August calendar – virtually – thanks to three music festivals in southwest Ontario. May I summarize them here for you in the hope that you, too, can enjoy some of the performances. My participation this year will mostly be online, and that’s what I personally recommend for you. But let’s hope it won’t be too long before we can meet again in person to delight in the joys of music.

Goderich Celtic Virtual Festival (August 6 & 7)
This is the most diversified of the three summer festivals, 100% virtual this year, with musicians beaming in from Ireland and Scotland as well as from five Canadian provinces. Artistic Director Cheryl Prashsker has brought together a stellar group of musicians and artisans for two days of uplifting music, workshops, conversations, arts and crafts. This year includes the first Robinson Emerging Artist Showcase, named for the festival’s founders and designed to identify and encourage the next generation of Celtic musicians. Full details including tickets for virtual concerts are on the website.

Stratford Summer Music (August 5-20)
This is the largest of the summer festivals, with a combination of live, online and outdoor free events in its 21st season. My personal highlights among 21 notable concerts will be Isabel Bayrakdarian with the Gryphon Trio and Artistic Director Mark Fewer; pianist Stewart Goodyear playing an all-Beethoven recital; Heather Bambrick, an inimitable cabaret artist; the celebrated trumpeter, Jens Lindemann; and two shows featuring TorQ Percussion Quartet. On weekends in the park, the SSM MusicBarge will sail along the mighty Avon River with its own cornucopia of artists and sounds. And around your musical events you might even find time to take in a performance at Summer Music’s older colleague, the Stratford Festival, which is presenting its programming in two open-sided tents beside its main and its Tom Patterson theatres. Full details including tickets to enjoy Summer Music concerts virtually are on the website.

2021 Elora Festival Online  (August 5-28)
This is Canada’s outstanding vocal and choral summer festival. For its 42nd season Artistic Director Mark Vuorinen continues to build this festival’s reputation with a highlight visit by the renowneEstonian Philharmonic Choir. Among several concerts by The Elora Singers (which are always superb) comes a unique music and poetry presentation with Colm Feore reading works by Robert Frost plus the premiere of a new composition by the Canadian composer, Stephanie Martin. Also on my ‘must’ list for Elora is a program, Out to Sea, by our great baritone, Russell Braun, accompanied by his wife, pianist Carolyn Maule, and including tenors and basses of The Elora Singers. Full details including tickets for all virtual concerts are on the website.

Now you have no excuse to miss great music by Canada’s finest musicians whether you choose to stay at home by your virtual screen or to venture out to nearby Stratford. I hope that great music will help you to make August one of your best months of this unique year.

Till we’re together again, stay safe and healthy.  And remember that Music Connects Us.

John A. Miller, Artistic Director                                                                         August 1, 2021