Today was such a day. At noon, I joined several hundred people in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre (at the Four Seasons Centre) for a vocal recital. These aren’t uncommon on a weekday afternoon on the Canadian Opera Company’s home turf. But this short program marked the launch of a new initiative: the Canadian Art Song Project.
On this occasion, what Williford, Philcox and Co. did was present a short program of songs by Canadian composers. The late Srul Irving Glick’s Two Landscapes opened the program, performed with evocative finesse by Williford and pianist Christopher Mokrzewski. Next up was David Passmore’s Seven Dark Lady Sonnets, in a contrast-infused performance by mezzo Krisztina Szabó and Mokrzewski. And the recital concluded with Brian Harman’s Sewing the Earthworm, sung with determination by soprano Carla Huhtanen, accompanied by Philcox.
More words were spoken about the aims and objectives of CASP. Plans for the organization include commissions, music competitions and a database of Canadian song repertoire. As for future concerts, I was told we can expect annual events such as this one in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre for the next couple of years. But CASP isn’t ready to launch a recital series of its own just yet.
For an event dubbed a “celebration,” it was all rather earnest. Once again, Canadian music was cast as a lowly musical stepchild in need of special pleading and charitable support. But if Canadian song is a “cause,” it’s a cause Williford and Philcox clearly believe in. It will be interesting to see what they can accomplish.
It wasn’t far from the Four Seasons Centre to the University of Toronto’s Massey College. There, later in the afternoon, John Beckwith’s latest book, Unheard Of: Memoirs of a Canadian Composer, was launched in the company of a small crowd of well-wishers.
The outspoken octogenarian – composer, writer and teacher of many students (including me) – was on hand to autograph his new oeuvre. In his remarks, he said that only about half of the book is devoted to music. I’m curious to know what’s in the other half.
© Colin Eatock 2012