Music Connects Us.
Notes from our Artistic Director
The Musical Month of May
Some Merriment, Some Seriousness

May… has the feeling that Spring is indeed in the air, even with the cooler temperatures we’ve lately been experiencing. Each morning, out the kitchen window I’m enjoying an unusually abundant supply of flowers that have been blooming for several weeks. Is it just at our house or have you noticed that there seem to be more tulips than ever in the gardens this year…perhaps as nature’s antidote to the pandemic ennui we’re enduring?

Flowers and Music… All the blooms have prompted me to have fun with an online hunt for musical highlights inspired by flowers. Perhaps you’d like to join me. Yesterday, I enjoyed Tchaikovsky’s Waltz of the Flowers which you’ll recognise from The Nutcracker ballet. Listen here. Today, I’m listening to Aleksander Glazunov’s Waltz of the Cornflowers and Poppies, which you can listen to here. And I’ve already picked out tomorrow’s song praising Le Violette (The Violet) in two short versions by Pavarotti and by the great Canadian soprano, Lois Marshall. Listen to Pavarotti here and Lois Marshall here. I’ll leave the most famous of modern songs for next week, if you can guess it…(Hint: Listen here). Apologies for any ads you might see, but isn’t YouTube wonderful!
Four-legged Friends deserve Music, too…Last month the New York Times reported on five cellists from the Scandinavian Cello School who played a dinner concert for a seemingly appreciative Danish audience, though the guests kept eating while the instrumentalists played Tchaikovsky’s Pezzo Capriccioso for them. A few civilians attended the presentation where the Danish Minister of Culture said, “I hope it’s one of the lessons we take from corona, how much we all — even cows — miss being together.” The hosting farmer said, “Classical music is very good for humans. It helps us relax, and cows can tell whether we’re relaxed or not. It makes sense that it would make them feel good too.”
Here’s the story and the special audience.Sharing music with our four-legged friends reminded me of the famous scene in the documentary, Glenn Gould’s Toronto, where the pianist visited the Metro Toronto Zoo. (G.G., by the way, had a special concern for animals; he had a dream of his own animal sanctuary in northern Ontario, and he left a considerable portion of his estate to the Toronto Humane Society.) But back to the Zoo…because what happened there has become a classic Gould moment, enjoyed internationally thanks to the film’s director, John McGreevy. All Canadians must know about this!  Watch here.
Highly Recommended …  This week sees the finals of the important Montreal International Music Competition which changes its focus from year-to-year and this year focuses on emerging young pianists from around the world.  26 pianists from 14 cities began the competition, virtually, from 14 cities and now it’s down to the eight finalists (from Canada, China, France, Italy, Japan and South Korea) who will perform from Monday (May 10) to Thursday (May 13), two per day beginning at 10am. Friday morning (May 14), the judges announce the winners. I’m rooting for Alice Burla who was born in Toronto and who currently studies in Basel, Switzerland. This is always an exciting program to watch, especially this year when it’s all virtual and free. The CMIM website opens on May 10 at 10am at this site.

Opera Atelier is also celebrated world-wide for its unique interpretations and productions of Baroque operas in Toronto but when health and safety regulations in April made rehearsing the next production almost – but not fully – impossible, the company decided to make a film about how Handel’s The Resurrection was mounted under the restrictions even though the opera never did receive a live premiere. The documentary, The Making of the Resurrection, is a fascinating look as the company creatively struggles to complete rehearsals and present the opera within Covic-19 protocols. Watch The Making here, free.
Here’s how Opera Atelier describes the opera itself: The Resurrection details the events between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, with the timeless forces of darkness and light operating in the earthly and celestial spheres.
The finished production, an operatic tour-de-force with a stellar cast of Canadian singers, dancers and musicians from Tafelmusik, premieres online at 7pm, Thursday, May 27, with tickets and all details available on the O.A. website.

Did they mention the music?.. Is there a chorister anywhere who does not recognise the name of the greatest living British composer, John Rutter? His music, especially his sacred choral music, has moved me for many years so when he writes on his blog about an event as significant as the funeral of Prince Philip, I’m immediately drawn to what he says. Two important segments of his essay rather sum up his perspective on the music at the funeral:

“…Amid all the torrents of expert or would–be expert verbiage about the service and all those attending it, I heard not one word of comment about the music which had formed such a crucial part of the funeral service, much less any commendation of the musicians who had planned and executed it with such flawless professionalism and unstinting commitment….  Was I surprised?  Not really.”

Dr. Rutter’s comments are not a negative reaction to the Prince’s ceremony, but rather a statement of how important music is to create the atmosphere of reverence and occasion in this case, and generally to set the tone for most celebrations and ceremonies. He laments, however, just how little attention is paid to music and musicians. And if you agree, please do read the full text which I’m honoured to include for you here.

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

John A. Miller, Artistic Director                                                                             May, 2021

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