So Much Wonderful Music To Explore

This coming Wednesday we will start rehearsing our second show for Lula Lounge, a programme of music by Latin American composers.

It's so exciting to be finally making euphonia happen. I've talked about it for so long! And the group of musicians who are creating this ensemble with me are phenomenal. I am now certain that Toronto was the right choice.

We launched our residency at Lula on April 15th with a programme that included Philip Glass' Symphony no.3;  5 songs from Beck's 'Song Reader' (orchestrated by Jordan O'Connor) and Shostakovich's Chamber Symphony 110a.

The night was a great success. Musically we acheived our goal. We showed how classical music, however 'serious' can easily adapt to non-traditional settings like a night club. In fact the most successful piece of the night was not the popularist contemporary classical symphony by Glass or the orchestrated pop tunes of Beck but the intense, complex, attention demanding Chamber Symphony by Soviet composer Dmitri Shostakovich.

People chatted through the Glass and the Beck. This was okay, we anticipated this. The whole point of the evening was to present a formal performance in an informal setting. We didn't mind a little bit of chatter in the background. However, when it came to the Shostakovich we hoped that this chatter would be minimal. In reality, the audience and staff of Lula Lounge were absolutely silent during the 25 minute work!

From the moment the cellos whispered the opening D,Eb,C,B motif until Shostakovich's same four note musical signature closed the work, after five emotionally intense movements,  you could have heard a pin drop. It was wonderful. As one audience member, a man in his twenties who had never been to a classical concert, said to me, "my mind didn't wander for a moment!"

Of course it is Shostakovich's genius that held everyone spellbound, but I do believe that performing his Chamber Symphony at Lula Lounge where the experience was unexpected and the environment intimate amplified the drama of the work.

After our first show at Lula I'm itching to explore more repertoire. This month we will be performing music by Latin American composers including a stunningly beautiful piece by Manuel Ponce "Estampas Nocturnas". In June our programme will centre on the original 13 instrument version of Aaron Copland’s "Appalachian Spring" and July's show will grow from Bach's 3rd Brandenburg Concerto. So much wonderful music to explore, I hope you can join us.


Fortune Cookie

How much rarer that a four leaf clover must a three layer Bourbon Cream be? I take this to be a very good omen!!


Chatting with Mike and Jean on Good Day GTA

On Tuesday I went on Good Day GTA to chat with Mike Duncan and Jean Stilwell about Classical Social. Here is the full interview:



The internet is presently out across Toronto! It’s weird to be in a web-out! I had planned to spend a bunch of time today on the internet emailing and Facebooking friends and colleagues about the inaugural Classical Social taking place at Fionn MacCool’s on Sunday January, 20th. Well I can’t, the internet is broke and I don’t have the power to fix it.

This web-outage has made me realize the number of people I connect with via the internet and for whom I have no telephone number or home address! I’m a little concerned now about how much I rely upon the web for my social interaction.

Oh well, I’m sure it’ll be up again soon.


Full Disclosure

Monday was largely taken up by a meeting with Don Shipley, Creative Director, Arts and Culture for the 2015 Pan Am Games. I was pitching Don an idea that indirectly has something to do with Conducted Tours; more on this in a moment. It was a fascinating meeting. I’m very excited that the plans Don and his team have for Pan Am 2015 include a lot of music.

The outcome of the meeting is that I have spent today with my eyes nailed to my laptop screen. Don asked me to submit a one page proposal and budget. You might wonder why I didn’t have one to give him at the meeting. Well, I stopped going to pitch meetings with proposals in-hand a while back. I find that it’s much better to verbally pitch an idea, hear the response, discuss the idea for what time is left in the meeting then write the proposal over the next few days. Having said that I always go to a meeting having written a pitch and prepared a budget for myself, this way I speak more clearly about the idea and can answer general questions about how much my idea is likely to cost.

As I promised yesterday, I am going to journal throughout 2013 about my musical exploits. Today I thought, what the hell let’s go the whole hog and share the whole process. It will be an experiment in openness for me, maybe of interest to some of you and any feedback that I get is likely to be very helpful. So today, I’m going to share with you my proposal for Pan Am 2015. I would be very grateful for any productive feedback.



Keep your eyes and ears open this summer for some extraordinary symphony orchestra experiences that will "pop-up" around the GTA. Taking over and transforming public spaces, these 12 free, surprising and delighting secret performances will be Toronto’s ‘wow’ moments of 2013.

The 75-piece popUP symphony orchestra will be comprised of 15 professional musicians, 29 conservatory students and at least 31 amateur musicians who will gather during June, July and August to perform music that celebrates the spirit of the Pan Am Games.

“Have you ever chanced upon an impromptu street performance or flash mob?” asks popUp Symphony creator and conductor, Simon Capet. “They’re gripping experiences because they are unexpected. There’s the sparkling energy of a group of musicians who have just met, and the thrill of knowing that you are amongst the audience of a performance that will never happen again. Well, imagine how exhilarating it would be to stumble upon a 75-piece symphony orchestra where you least expect it.”

The popUP symphony orchestra will celebrate the spirit of the Pan American Games by celebrating the diversity, humanity, culture and passion of the participating nations. The performances will be free, popular and accessible, appearing unexpectedly around the GTA in outdoor public spaces like Trinity Bellwoods Park, Evergreen Brickworks, Centennial Park, David Pecaut Square or Nathan Phillips Square.

Running throughout the repertoire will be pieces by composers from Pan American countries alongside great masterworks and pieces by exciting contemporary Canadian composers such as John Estacio, Glenn Buhr, Gary Kulesha, Emily Doolitle and Jocelyn Morlock. “The Symphony Orchestra is a wonderful example of the power of human collaboration,” enthuses Simon. “A diverse group of people coming together, perhaps sharing no language, traditions, place of origin or any other connection, to achieve the common goal of creating music. It’s a connection that can supersede all boundaries.”

We envisage a pilot series of concerts in the GTA during the summer of 2013, then in the summer of 2014, as well as our Toronto popUP Symphony, we propose setting up popUP orchestras in cities throughout the pan-American countries. It is our hope that when people come to Toronto for the Pan Am Games that some will bring their instruments with them so that our popUP Symphony performances in 2015 will include musicians from all over the world. “Music is a language we all share”, says Simon “playing and listening to music can bring us together when words can too often push us apart.” 

The popUP symphony has the potential to be a community engaging spectacle in the lead up to 2015 but there is also the potential for the popUP Symphony to become an annual event and therefore a legacy of the Pan Am Games.


If you have thoughts about this proposal I would be very grateful if you would share them with me.