La Scena Musicale

Friday, 27 February 2009

Le Conseil des Arts du Canada ne soutient plus les périodiques à diffusion contrôlée

by Wah Keung Chan
Le Conseil des Arts du Canada a discrètement abandonné le soutien qu’il accordait aux périodiques à diffusion contrôlée dans le cadre de son programme d’aide aux périodiques d’art et de littérature pour 2010, dont la date d’échéance est le 1er mars 2009. Dans un courriel, l’agent de programme Peter Schneider décrit ainsi comment on en est venu à cette décision : « Après cette période de six ans (NDLR : sept en réalité), et compte tenu de son expérience et des recommandations émises par des comités d’évaluation de pairs au cours de cette période, en 2008, le Conseil a remis en vigueur les lignes directrices précédentes. » M. Schneider n’a toujours pas expliqué pourquoi elles avaient été rétablies, ni par qui.
L’enjeu tourne autour de la disposition dite « Lola » (d’après le nom d’un magazine torontois sur les arts visuels qui n’existe plus), stipulant qu'un périodique admissible doit tirer au moins 25 % de son revenu des recettes de la diffusion payée ou de la publicité. En 2002, quand ce critère avait été instauré, l’agente de programme de l’époque, Joanne Laroque-Poirier, avait expliqué que la règle des 25 % de recettes autonomes avait pour but de vérifier si un périodique avait un lectorat. Selon ses dires, à l’origine, le critère selon lequel 50 % des exemplaires doivent être vendus permettait d’assurer l’existence d’un lectorat minimum. Les recettes publicitaires ont été rajoutées à cette formule, puisque les annonceurs ne seraient pas intéressés par un périodique sans lecteurs. Cette proposition est aussi valide aujourd’hui qu’elle l’était alors.
En plus de représenter un recul, le retour aux lignes directrices précédentes est en retard par rapport aux tendances dans le monde de la publication de périodiques. Le Conseil des arts de l’Ontario, par exemple, après une étude approfondie de l’industrie des périodiques, l’été dernier, a modifié ses critères d’admissibilité relativement aux magazines d’art afin de rendre admissibles les périodiques à diffusion contrôlée. Par ailleurs, cet organisme a mis en place des critères très progressistes (pas plus de 40 % de recettes publicitaires, plafond de 30 000 exemplaires par numéro). Récemment, le nouveau Fonds du Canada pour les périodiques, dont la création a été annoncée le 17 février dernier, a suggéré que l’on instaure des critères d’admissibilité fondés sur une diffusion annuelle payée ou demandée. La limite de 5 000 exemplaires est trop élevée pour la plupart des magazines d’art et il faudrait rendre les critères conformes à ceux d’autres secteurs du ministère du Patrimoine canadien.
Un magazine directement touché par cette décision est La Scena Musicale (LSM), une publication bilingue montréalaise consacrée à la musique classique, qui existe depuis treize ans. C’est l’un des périodiques d’art les plus respectés du Canada. La rédaction a pris connaissance de la modification en lisant le site Web du Conseil au moment de préparer la demande de subvention pour cette année. Déjà récipiendaire d’un financement du Conseil pour sa version électronique, LSM espérait récemment encore obtenir une subvention pour sa version imprimée. À Vancouver, la rédaction du périodique FRONT, peut-être le seul, après Lola, à recevoir une subvention en vertu de cette clause, ne connaissait pas le changement lorsque nous lui en avons fait part, le 23 février. Toutefois, d’après son rédacteur en chef, Andreas Kahre, M. Schneider lui aurait affirmé que son périodique continuerait d’être admissible en vertu d’une clause de droits acquis qui ne figure pas dans les directives de 2010.
Pour La Scena Musicale, c’est une question de principe et de transparence. Les magazines d’art à diffusion contrôlée représentent une minorité, mais ils sont depuis toujours le moteur de la diffusion des arts et devraient être admissibles au financement. Par exemple, La Scena Musicale publie dix numéros par année tirant en moyenne à 25 000 exemplaires par numéro et rejoignant 500 000 lecteurs canadiens par année, en plus d’un auditoire mondial sur Internet. En 2007-08, le Conseil des Arts du Canada a subventionné 106 magazines d’art et littéraires pour un total de 2 661 900 $.
Le fait que le changement a été effectué sans consultation et que les intéressés n’en ont pas été avisés montre à quel point le processus manque de transparence.
La Scena Musicale mène présentement une campagne pour faire annuler ce changement de politique. Nous avons lancé une pétition en ligne et un groupe sur Facebook. Information : info@scena.org.

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Cecilia, they're breaking your heart

Let me share with you a memo from a Promotions Executive at Universal Music Group:



Hi

I have had a request from Int Tune (Radio 3) to have Tutula Bartley on the show today to discuss Christopher Ravens sad departure and to speak of her memories of him. I don't suppose she is around and in the UK

x



I have withheld the names of the parties to this correspondence and reprinted the document verbatim. At first sight, I thought it must be someone on the pop side of Universal who had never heard of Ms Bartoli and Mr Raeburn. But no: the person who wrote this missive actually works as an executive for the classical side of Universal.

She knows not Cecilia Bartoli, fancy that. What of Luciano Epiglottis, Joan Scuttlebutt and George Shorty?  Are there no limits to Universal ignorance?

Chris Roberts, head of the UCJ division, insists that Decca is still functioning and that its artists are valued assets. This memo, and much else, gives the lie to that. I must get some of those Tutula Bartley records.

Today is the funeral of Jimmy Lock, the last defender of the Decca Sound. May he rest with the immortals.

Source: Artsjournal



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This Week in Toronto (Feb. 28 - Mar. 5)


Photo of Cecilia Bartoli from Maria the Album (courtesy of http://www.ceciliabartolionline.com/ )
The biggest news this week is the appearance of superstar Italian mezzo Cecilia Bartoli at Roy Thomson Hall. Her frequent visits to Toronto have always been eagerly anticipated, and this time is no exception. Her concert, scheduled for Sunday March 1, 2 pm, is totally sold out. Amazingly, La Bartoli agreed to second concert, on the same day (!) at 7 pm. As of today, tickets to the secondconcert are still available. I admit to being a big fan of Bartoli - there isn't anyone today with her combination of technical brilliance (with its incredible agility), exceptional musicality (her penchant of unearthing forgotten repertoire) and charismatic stage presence. There may be some singers today with remarkable technique - Vivica Genaux comes to mind, and perhaps even Simon Kermes whom I have only heard on disc - but none can approach Bartoli in her felicitous combination of voice, looks, musicianship and personality. If you don't have a ticket, by all means get one! The tariff to a Bartoli event is no small sum but it is worth it.
I attended the first of two concert performances of Berlioz's Damnation of Faust last evening at Roy Thomson Hall, featuring the return of French conductor Charles Dutoit. It was an overwhelming experience. In this repertoire, Dutoit can hardly be bettered. He led the TSO in a dramatically taut, powerful, yet delicate performance that kept everyone in rapt attention throughout its 2 hour 10 minute duration (without intermission). It was one of the most enjoyable concerts in recent memory. The quartet of principals were exceptional, led by tenor Gregory Kunde, who was in wonderful voice. He has previously sung this piece with Dutoit in San Francisco . Kunde has been in front of the public for well over 20 years, yet the voice remains fresh and appealing. Hard to believe he actually sang Camille in Merry Widow for the COC back in the 1980s! His instrument has changed a lot since then, gained in size and power, yet still capable of hitting those requisite high notes, and god knows Faust is high! In the duet with Marguerite, he had to hit two high Ds which he switched to head voice, an acceptable solution. Willard White was a fabulous Mefistopheles, singing and acting with great initensity. Both of these artists sang their respective roles with Dutoit and the San Francisco Symphony in 2007, and their experience of having collaborated previously was all to the good. The mezzo at the time, Ruxandra Donose, is replaced here by American Susanne Mentzer. It was great to have Mentzer back in a lead role. Her voice has taken on a bit of fluttery quality of late, but it remains an attractive instrument and she was a most creditable Marguerite. She sang an affecting "D'amour l'ardente flamme". I was really impressed that all the principals sang without music - the way it should be in a concert performance! In the small role of Brander was New Zealand bass baritone Jonathan Lemalu, who impressed with his powerful voice and youthful timbre. Everytime I hear the Mendelssohn Choir, I never failed to be moved, and their performance was sensational last evening. There is another performance on Saturday Feb. 28 - not to be missed!
Finally, I want to draw your attention to Opera York's production of Puccini's Tosca, to take place at the spanking new Richmond Hill Performing Arts Centre, located north of Toronto at Yonge Street north of Major McKenzie. This new theatre is designed by Jack Diamond who also designed COC's Four Seasons Centre. This Tosca stars Albanian-Canadian soprano Mirela Tafaj as Tosca. Tafaj moved to Canada about 10 years ago and has sung for Opera Ontario (Musetta), Toronto Opera Repertoire (Tosca, Violetta), Opera York (Micaela, Mimi), the Montreal Opera Gala, plus many concerts and recitals. Hers is an interesting soprano with a rich, dark timbre, just right for Tosca. Partnering her as Cavaradossi is young tenor James Ciantar, who has a very good, Italianate sound. He studies voice with retired Canadian tenor Ermanno Mauro, who also coaches tenor David Pomeroy and soprano Sinead Sugrue, among others. Rounding out the trio is baritone Nicolae Raiciu as Scarpia. Sabatino Vacca conducts the Opera York Orchestra and Chorus. Three performances (two in Richmond Hill Performing Arts Centre March 5, 7) and one at the Markham Theatre (March 13). For tickets call (905) 787-8811 for Richmond Hill and (905) 305-7469 for Markham.

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Life beyond the Fringe: Jonathan, Dudley, Alan and Peter

By Paul E. Robinson

Classical Travels
THIS WEEK IN TEXAS
Beyond the Fringe, Dudley Moore, Jonathan Miller, Alan Bennett, Peter Cook
Jonathan Miller, Dudley Moore, Alan Bennett and Peter Cook: are the names familiar? They should be. These four remarkable young men were the creators in the 1960s of the wildly popular comedy show, Beyond the Fringe.
While still students at Oxford and Cambridge, Dudley, Alan, Jonathan, and Peter put together a comedy revue that first saw the light of day as an adjunct to the Edinburgh Festival. The festival had a “fringe” beyond the big-name events, but this little production went “beyond” that – hence, its title.
I remember hearing Beyond the Fringe for the first time on an LP in the early 1960s. Hysterically funny – especially to those of us who, like the characters in the show, were undergraduates at the time.
Recently, upon reading that Jonathan Miller is currently directing a new production of La Bohème at the English National Opera, I was inspired to investigate what, if anything, had survived of the early work of these four multi-talented performers who eventually went their separate ways to make their marks in Hollywood, television, literature and opera.
Beyond the Fringe was so successful, that it quickly moved from Edinburgh to London and then to New York. The last performance, recorded live by Thames Television, is now available on DVD.
I found the comedy still engaging, but it has lost its edge, dulled by the even more pointed satire that followed it. The DVD does serve as a valuable record, however, of how these quintessential comedians began their careers.
Many of the classic bits are there: Alan Bennett doing his Anglican minister send-up – “My brother Esau is an hairy man and I am a smooth man”; Miller and Cook doing their philosophy professor reductio ad absurdum; and most memorable of all, the brilliant musical takeoffs by Dudley Moore.
In one of these, Moore improvises a Beethoven-like sonata that can’t seem to find an ending. In another he adopts a falsetto to mimic Peter Pears performing some sort of ludicrous Britten folk-song arrangement. In still another, he gives us the little-known German lied Die Flabbergast which comes across as Fischer-Dieskau on LSD singing Schubert’s Erlkönig.
Beyond the Fringe managed to be sophisticated, intellectual, and slap-stick - all at once.
Jonathan Miller had trained as a medical doctor. He went on to produce and host numerous documentaries on medicine and to direct opera. His remarkably innovative production of Rigoletto remains a classic of its kind. In moving the setting of the opera from Mantua in the 1500s to 'Little Italy' in 20th century New York, Miller made the work fresh and powerful all over again. In replacing a cast of courtiers with Mafia figures, he created an operatic counterpart to The Godfather. Fortunately, Miller’s production has been preserved on a film from 1983, now available on DVD.
Alan Bennett became a successful playwright, most recently with The History Boys, which was seen on both stage and screen.
Peter Cook was generally acknowledged to be a comic genius and starred in numerous British television series. Cook and Dudley Moore made several LPs as Derek and Clive that contained skits of such foul-mouthed absurdity they can only be described as being “beyond the pale.” X-rated Harold Pinter, perhaps. It is a wonder that their careers survived these performances.
The biggest commercial success was achieved by Dudley Moore. Very early on, he made a name for himself as a jazz pianist and for being able to parody all manner of classical performers and styles.
Peter Cook was renowned and feared for his put-downs, and once said of his friend ‘Dud’: “He’s a club-footed dwarf whose only talent is being able to play 'Chopsticks' in the style of Debussy.” Dudley moved on to flourish in a BBC television series with Cook – Not Only…But Also - but his big break came in 1978, when he starred in the film Foul Play with Goldie Hawn and Chevy Chase, and the following year with Bo Derek in 10. He was now a Hollywood star and soon rose even higher with the film Arthur, playing alongside Liza Minnelli and John Gielgud. For the next ten years he went from one film success to another.
The piano, however, remained Moore’s first love; he ultimately returned to it, playing jazz, and performing concertos with symphony orchestras. One of his most important projects was Orchestra!, a collaboration with Sir Georg Solti. This was a 1991 television series designed to introduce general audiences to the symphony orchestra.
In Orchestra!, Solti conducted the Schleswig-Holstein Festival Orchestra and Moore appeared as piano soloist and harpsichordist. The two even played some four-hand music together.
The glue that held the show together was the repartee between Solti and Moore. As a big Hollywood star, Dudley Moore captured the audience and kept it entertained while enabling the celebrated maestro Solti to bring the great symphonic classics into focus.
Moore returned to this format in 1993 – this time with conductor Michael Tilson Thomas – in a highly-regarded series called Concerto!
Dudley Moore’s career began to fade in the early 1990s, and it only became apparent later that he had begun to be incapacitated by the disease that ultimately killed him. He was suffering from the terminal degenerative brain disorder, Progressive Supranuclear Palsy. In its early stages the disease made it difficult for him to remember lines or music, and later, he could neither play the piano nor speak with his accustomed fluency.
People who didn’t know Moore attributed his problems to alcohol abuse, but the fact is he didn’t drink at all, except in the movies. His last years were rendered more tolerable through his association with pianist and music critic, Rena Fruchter. Fruchter was married, but she invited the ailing Moore to move in with her family in New Jersey. When that arrangement became too difficult, she set him up in a house next door. He died at the age of 66 (March 27, 2002), holding Fruchter’s hand.
Fruchter’s book, Dudley Moore (Ebury Press, 2004) remains the definitive biography on this gifted pianist/comedian.
THE CLASSIC DVDS:
Beyond the Fringe
Peter Cook/Jonathan Miller/Alan Bennett/Dudley Moore
Acorn Media (2005)
The Best Of…What’s Left Of…Not Only…But Also…
Peter Cook & Dudley Moore
BBC Video (2008)
Arthur
Dudley Moore/Liza Minnelli/John Gielgud
Dir: Steve Gordon
Warner Home Video (1997)
Jonathan Miller’s Rigoletto
English National Opera production
John Rawnsley/Marie McLaughlin
Kultur Video (2007)
The History Boys
Based on the play by Alan Bennett
Dir: Nicholas Hytner
Twentieth Century Fox (2007)
Orchestra!
Sir Georg Solti/Dudley Moore
Dir: Declan Lowney
Decca (2007)
Paul E. Robinson is the author of Herbert von Karajan: the Maestro as Superstar and Sir Georg Solti: his Life and Music, both available at http://www.amazon.com.
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Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Canada Council Drops Support for Controlled-Circulation Magazines

by Wah Keung Chan
The Canada Council for the Arts has quietly dropped support for controlled-circulation print magazines in the Support for Arts and Literary Magazines component of its 2010 application process due on March 1, 2009. In an email, program officer Peter Schneider explained how the decision was reached, "Following this six-year period [actually 7 years –Ed], Council acted in 2008 to restore the previous guidelines, based upon its experience and the advice of peer assessment committees over the time period." Schneider has yet to explain the reasons for restoring the previous guidelines, or say who was responsible for making the decision.
At issue is the “Lola” clause (after the now-defunct Toronto visual arts magazine) in the application guidelines, which stated that an eligible magazine must “maintain at least a 25 percent ratio of revenues earned from paid circulation or advertising.” In 2002, when the program was modified, the reason given by the then-program officer Joanne Laroque-Poirier was that the 25% autonomous revenues rule was adopted to ensure that a publication had readership. She said that the 50% paid circulation rule was instituted to ensure that a publication had a minimum readership. The reason advertising revenues were added to eligibility was the understanding that advertisers would not support a magazine if it did not have an established readership. This reason is as valid today as it was then.
Furthermore, as the restoration to previous guidelines is a step backwards, it seems to be behind the times in magazine publishing. For instance, after an extensive study of the magazine industry, last summer, the Ontario Arts Council revised its eligibility criteria for arts magazines rending controlled-circulation magazines eligible. Moreover, it established groundbreaking criteria (no more than 40% advertising, and a cap at 30,000 copies per issue). Recently, the new Canada Periodical Fund, announced on February 17, 2009, has suggested that the eligibility criteria of a minimum annual paid/requested circulation be instituted. Although the suggested 5000-copy limit is too high for most arts magazine, a variation should be considered to bring eligibility in line with other Canadian Heritage departments.
One of the magazines most directly affected by this decision is the 13-year-old Montreal-based bilingual non-profit classical music publication La Scena Musicale (LSM), one of Canada’s most respected arts periodicals, which discovered the change from the Council’s website only as it was preparing this year’s application. Previously a recipient of Canada Council funding as an electronic magazine, LSM has recently been attempting to obtain funding to the print component. Vancouver-based FRONT Magazine, perhaps the only publication besides Lola to have received funding under this clause, was unaware of the rule’s change when we first contacted them on February 23. However, according to FRONT editor Andreas Kahre, Schneider assured the publication it would continue to be eligible under a grandfather clause absent from the published 2010 guidelines.
For La Scena Musicale, the issue is a matter of principle and transparency. Although controlled-circulation arts magazines represent a minority, they have been innovators in outreach for the arts and should be eligible for funding. For instance, La Scena Musicale publishes 10 issues per year averaging 25,000 copies per issue reaching 500,000 Canadian readers, plus a world-wide audience on the internet. In 2007-08, the Canada Council funded 106 arts & literary magazines for a total of $2,661,900.

The fact that the change was made without consultation and that concerned parties were not notified also indicates a lack of transparency in the process.
La Scena Musicale has launched a campaign to reverse this policy change, including an online petition and a Facebook group. See link below. Contact: info@scena.org.
[Update] Since our post, the story has been picked up by two of the most important sites on Canadian magazine:
The Canadian Magazine Blog acquire the following comments from the Canada Council:

The Canada Council says that the changes to the eligibility rules were published on the website in December, a paper package went to all CC clients in January and in an electronic version 2 weeks later. It is not the practice to send out notifications to previously unsuccesful applicants or to people not considered clients. (Another rule change made program guides were excluded.)

The change was recommended by peer juries who did not feel the provision was a good fit and felt that they did not want to frustrate applicants who had little chance of being successful.

The new rule affects, at most, 1 to 3 existing clients and, in those cases the peer juries have the ability to recommend an exception be made.

The so-called Lola clause was brought in internally, without public consultation, and didn't even result in a grant being given (see comment below)since the publication that sparked it felt four times as much was what was needed. (Note: the average beginning grant for most CC clients is about $7,000.) Ultimately the magazine went out of business.

[Update 2] Here is my response to comments made by the Canada Council to the Canadian Magazines Blog:

Thanks for writing the story and procuring the comments from the Canada Council. Although many government departments make internal decisions without consultation, however, it is surprising that the Canada Council would make internal decisions without consultation given the following statement found on the Council's website, "the Canada Council is committed to the principles of transparency and accountability." This principle of transparency is also hollow given the quote "It is not the practice to send out notifications to previously unsuccessful applicants or to people not considered clients." Is that a new policy for government to ONLY serve those groups that receive existing grants?

I found it refreshing when I received the email notice of the next grant from the Canada Magazine Fund even when LSM was not a recent client. Also, why is it that the Canada Periodical Fund, also in the Department of Canadian Heritage, is seeking open consultations?

It sounds quite considerate of the Canada Council when they state that "The change was recommended by peer juries who did not feel the provision was a good fit and felt that they did not want to frustrate applicants who had little chance of being successful." However, it seems to me that this decision just makes it easier for Council personnel and jury members, as they would have fewer applicants to deal with.

The above quote also gives the implication that the Canada Council considers that controlled circulation magazines are necessarily inferior to "regular" arts magazines. Technically speaking, Lola WAS given a grant by the Canada Council jury at the time, but they closed down and did not use the money. FRONT, another controlled-circulation magazine is also a regular grant recipient. In our 13 years of publishing, La Scena Musicale has always striven for editorial and graphical excellence. We were awarded grants for five years to the electronic magazine component, but recently, we chose to lower our print run to meet the Canada Council print eligibility criteria in order to apply in this component. The main issue is the principle that all arts print publications should be treated in an equal and fair manner, and that includes being evaluated by the peer jury.

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