La Scena Musicale

Saturday, 23 June 2012

A spectacular swan song for Riverdance in Montreal

By Naomi Gold 
Photos by Jack Hartin
There's an oft-repeated phrase in the world of competitive sports: "The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat".  Applied to the iconic Irish production known as RIVERDANCE, the thrill of victory essentially serves to affirm its colossal success.  The latter part however, might be restated as 'ecstasy of de feet', to reflect the exquisite footwork of its protagonists. When RIVERDANCE announced its North American farewell tour, Evenko and Broadway Across Canada teamed up to produce two shows at Place des Arts' Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier.  

Although the production incorporates extensive vocal, fiddle, percussion and other musical solos, the predominant element is of course, dance. In fact a dizzying plethora of genres is performed, from traditional Irish stepdance to folk, jazz, flamenco, soft-shoe cum moonwalk-esque maneouvres and more. After much tapping, swiveling, spinning, sashaying, and soaring it was time to bid 'Riverdancers' adieu. The delighted crowd, which comprised a cross section of cultures, generations and tastes, erupted in a cacophony of bravos.   Principal dancers Callum Spencer & Chloey Turner, along with ensembles and chorus, brought the house UP, during a boisterous, extended curtain call.

The global phenomenon that celebrates Irish culture, RIVERDANCE premiered at Dublin's Point Theatre in 1995 and made its American debut in New York City in 1996. It garnered stellar reviews and was an immediate hit.  

Composed by Bill Whelan, produced by Moya Doherty and directed by John McColgan, RIVERDANCE has been performed 10,000 times for some  22 million people in 40 countries, with a worldwide broadcast viewing audience of  2 billion. Although this is North America's finale, RIVERDANCE will continue to tour other parts of the world.   Slán libh Riverdance, and until we meet again.....!

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Monday, 18 June 2012

TSO Announces Resident Conductor and Affiliate Composer



June 18, 2012 – TSO Music Director Peter Oundjian proudly announces Canadian artists, conductor Shalom Bard as the TSO’s RBC Resident Conductor and composer Kevin Lau as the TSO’s RBC Affiliate Composer. In their roles, Shalom and Kevin will be fully integrated into all areas of the organization, with full access to the inner workings of a major symphony orchestra. Earlier this year, the TSO had an open call for applications which was met with an overwhelming response. Both highly sought-after positions, these two-year residencies represent an important investment in the Canadian arts community by fostering the development of artists and leaders. This investment is supported by special project grants from the Canada Council for the Arts, and a multi-year commitment from the RBC Foundation totalling $400,000, establishing the TSO’s first RBC Emerging Artists Programme.
“RBC is committed to supporting emerging talent in Canada and we are thrilled to establish the new RBC Emerging Artists Programme at the TSO to help foster the careers of up and coming artists. In addition, RBC will also support various public performances where these artists will be involved, including the TSO’s New Creations Festival” said Shari Austin, Vice President, Corporate Citizenship, RBC and Executive Director of the RBC Foundation.
“We are delighted to welcome Shalom and Kevin as part of the TSO’s artistic team starting in September 2012,” said TSO Music Director Peter Oundjian. “I look forward to working with them both as they continue to build their careers here with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.”
As the TSO’s RBC Resident Conductor, Shalom Bard will work closely with Music Director Peter Oundjian and the Artistic Staff of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra with complete access to all TSO rehearsals and performances. He will also work with TSO guest conductors for consultation, coaching, and discussion. In the 2012-2013 season, Shalom will conduct as many as 20 concerts throughout the TSO season, making his Toronto TSO conducting début at a special concert featuring violinist Maxim Vengerov (October 20, 2012). His other conducting dates include the Audience Choice Light Classics concert (January 26 & 27, 2013), Student Concerts on the Northern Residency tour (September, 2012), and a variety of TSO Education and Outreach concerts. Shalom Bard also takes on the important role of the new Conductor of the renowned and talented Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra (TSYO), of which he himself is an alumnus. As TSYO Conductor, Shalom Bard will lead the TSYO in each of their three concerts, direct an intensive rehearsal weekend, and lead all rehearsals, mentoring the musicians of the TSYO.

Prior to his position with the TSO, Israeli-born Canadian Shalom Bard was Resident Conductor of Symphony Nova Scotia during the 2011–2012 season under the mentorship of Maestro Bernhard Gueller. Previous appointments include Assistant Conductor for Educational Concerts with the Herbert Zipper Orchestra of Los Angeles, and Conductor of the Mooredale Youth Orchestra in Toronto. Shalom holds Masters degrees in orchestral conducting and clarinet performance from McGill University and the University of Southern California, respectively.
As the TSO’s RBC Affiliate Composer, Kevin Lau will work closely with Music Director Peter Oundjian, Composer Advisor Gary Kulesha, and the Artistic Staff of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. During his two-year term with the TSO, Kevin will compose at least two works for the Orchestra. Kevin’s first work will premiere in June 2013 in concerts also featuring Chinese pianist Yuja Wang. He will also participate in educational work with young audiences in the TSO’s community outreach programmes.

A Hong Kong-born Canadian, Kevin Lau is an active composer of contemporary orchestral and film music. His music has been commissioned and performed by numerous ensembles including orchestras in Hamilton and Mississauga, Orchestre de la Francophonie, the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra, and the Esprit Orchestra. His orchestral composition Fountain of Dreams was awarded winner of both the 2005 Mississauga Young Composers' Competition and the 2008–2009 University of Toronto Composer's Competition. In 2010, he was awarded the Karen Kieser Prize in Canadian Music for his composition Starsail. His composition Joy, for solo violin and strings, will be featured in a soon to be released CD by Canadian violinist Conrad Chow.

RBC Resident Conductor and RBC Affiliate Composer are part of the RBC Emerging Artists Programme, supported by the RBC Foundation. These positions are also supported in part by theCanada Council for the Arts.

RBC Wealth Management is the Presenting Sponsor of the Maxim Vengerov performance in October 2012 and the Prokofiev Piano Concerto No. 2 performance in June 2013.

TSO 90th Season Sponsor is BMO Financial Group.

About the TSO: Founded in 1922, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra is one of Canada’s major cultural institutions and is internationally recognized as a leading orchestra. Under the leadership of Music Director Peter Oundjian, the TSO is committed to innovative programming and showcases a roster of distinguished guest artists and conductors. In addition to performances, the TSO serves the community with one of the largest music education outreach programmes in Canada, connecting students throughout Ontario with acclaimed curriculum-based programming.


Sunday, 17 June 2012

This Week in Toronto (June 18 - 24)

With summer just around the corner, we are in a transition period musically.  The regular season is now at an end, and the summer programs are just gearing up.  This marks the last week of the season of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and true to tradition, it's presenting its annual Last Night at the Proms.  British-Canadian conductor Bramwell Tovey leads the TSO forces in a calvacade of beloved British patriotic pieces the likes of Land of Hope and Glory, Pomp and Circumstance, Rule Britannia, and others.  Trumpeter Alison Balsom is the soloist in Carnival of Venice.  Also featured are two of Canada's finest voices - soprano Laura Whalen and baritone James Westman.  We don't get to hear these two artists in town very often, so this is a good opportunity to catch them in Toronto. Three performances at Roy Thomson Hall, one on Tuesday June 19 at 8 pm, repeated on Wednesday June 20 at 2 pm and again 8 pm.   The very last show of the 2011-12 TSO season takes place on Sunday June 24 3 pm, not at Roy Thomson Hall but at the acoustically wonderful if under-used George Weston Hall, Toronto Centre for the Arts, a short subway ride north on the Yonge line.  Bramwell Tovey conducts a mixed program with Mendelssohn's tuneful Symphony No. 4 "Italian" as the centerpiece. Alison Balsom returns for the Concerto for Trumpet and Orchestra by Armenian composer Alexander Arutiunian, who passed away earlier this year. In keeping with the festive spirit, the third piece is Berlioz's Roman Carnival Overture.

Another interesting event for opera fans is Voices of Summer, a gala fund-raising concert of the Toronto Operetta Theatre, featuring works by Lehar, Sigmund Romberg, Gilbert and Sullivan, Bernstein, Kalman, and others. The cast includes sopranos Leslie Ann Bradley and Miriam Khalil, mezzo Gabrielle Prata, tenor Michael Barrett, baritones Robert Longo and Andrew Tees, under the direction of Guillermo Silva-Marin. The performance takes place in TOT's regular venue, the Jane Mallett Theatre at 3 p.m., and there is a pre-concert reception at 2:30 pm and a silent auction to benefit the Company.

(Photo - Pianist Ricker Choi at the Berliner Philharmonie)

Canadian amateur pianist Ricker Choi is giving a recital, Music Heals, a Benefit Concert for the United Way, at the Glenn Gould Studio on June 23 at 7:30 pm. Choi is both a pianist and a full-time financial risk consultant. Piano aficionados sometimes turn their noses up at the word "amateur", but I can honestly say that Mr. Choi can really play, and beautifully!  He was the second prize winner of the Berlin International Amateur Piano Competition, and recently he won both the third prize at the Paris International Competition for Outstanding Piano Amateurs and the grand prize of the competition sponsored by the Chinese Cultural Centre in Toronto. He studied with Boris Zarankin, and received his A.R.C.T. Piano Performance Diploma in just five years.  The program of this concert includes works by Liszt, Brahms and Bartok.  Join him on stage will be winners of the 2012 North York Music Festival grand prize winners. For more information about Ricker Choi, go to his website at

The TD Toronto Jazz Festival starts on June 22 and continues to July 1.  Unlike last year when the great Jessye Norman showed up to give a Koerner Hall Jazz concert, there aren't any classical musicians participating this year that I've been able to find. But this is a major event of the summer and there are bound to be things of interest. For more details, go to