Rest in Peace, Shirley Verrett (May 31, 1931-November 4, 2010)

November 5th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

I met Shirley Verrett while I was a graduate student at the University of Michigan. Back then, we were assigned a certain number of hours in certain studios, and it was always reason for celebration any time I was fortunate enough to get some time with Miss Verrett. One of the great voices of her generation, but also such a classy lady, such a wise person, such a generous soul. And beautiful in every way. No one ever held their head as high as Miss Verrett, and no one had more right to. You can read about her amazing life here and here.

My favourite moment working with her was during a lesson of a young mezzo. The student was explaining how she was doing an audition, “for the experience”. Without the slightest trace of arrogance or ill-spirit, she gently replied to the student, “Back in my student days, I never once entered a competition or sang an audition unless I knew I was going to win. And you know what? I always did.”

So thankful for the lucky studio time I had with Miss Verrett. Going around in my head are the words that Stewart Goodyear set in his choral work, Go Down, Death by James Weldon Johnson:

Weep not, weep not,
She is not dead;
She’s resting in the bosom of Jesus.
Heart-broken husband–weep no more;
Grief-stricken son–weep no more;
Left-lonesome daughter –weep no more;
She only just gone home.

(If you’ve never heard the amazing voice of Shirley Verrett, do yourself a favour and watch this video.)

Conducting/Playing in World Premiere of Sean Griffin’s Cold Spring at EMPAC

November 4th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

Some of you may be familiar with Sean Griffin’s wonderful piece Pattycake. If not, check it out below, as played by Toca Loca percussionist Aiyun Huang! My U of T group, the Chainsaw Ensemble, is working on a group version of this piece right now.

I’m also going to be playing in and conducing the world premiere of his new show, Cold Spring, at the now legendary EMPAC in Troy, NY, with Aiyun Huang and the Jack Quartet. December 3 & 4. Hot!

X-Avant hangover

November 4th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

Thanks to everyone for a great x avant festival. I can’t describe the feeling of relief as Halo Ballet finished and the Halorinas shot their pistols into the air. For those who missed it or are mystified, check out the video below:

Also, nice interviews with the Torontoist and EYE WEEKLY. An interview in the Globe and Mail was print edition only, but you can read it below the fold:

» Read the rest of this entry «

Haydn Trios, X Avant, Syrinx

October 11th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

We just finished the 6th concert of our Haydn cycle at the Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber Music Society. 29 down, 14 to go. Our next show is July 14th. KWCMS website here

We got a nice review from the Kitchener-Waterloo record here

X Avant V is happening Oct 16-24. I curated this year’s festival and I’m pretty excited about the lineup. I highly recommend the Jeff Mills/Big Zang show on Oct 16 for anyone who is a techno fan, percussion aficionado or anyone with an interest in musique concrete. I heard Jeff do something wondrous strange in Berlin last year. Also, Donatienne Michel-Dansac is performing the complete Aperghis Recitations on the 17th. She is phenomenal. The shows on the 23rd (50-minute ring) and 24th (Halo Ballet) are co-productions with Toca Loca. Complete festival details at

Blurbs in pitchfork, the Globe and Mail and a strong Book it now! recommendation from NOW Magazine.

I’m playing with Quatuor Arthur-Leblanc in the Syrinx Salon Concerts on February 6th. Dvorak piano quintet, which should be serious fun. Details here.

Guelph Jazz Festival, X Avant V

September 10th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

Guelph has its own Nuit Blanche now, apparently, and I’ll be there with the Lollipops at 2:30 am on Saturday (technically Sunday morning) in the Guelph CIty Council Chambers.

The Music Gallery just announced the lineup for X Avant V, which I got to curate this year. Details at the Music Gallery website.

Finally, check out this photo I dug up from a Toronto Symphony concert. Hint: one is a hologram, one is a harpist and one is omnipotent.

Sacred Prune of Remembrance CD released, plus another review for P*P

August 5th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

We just released our new CD, Sacred Prune of Remembrance. It is pretty fun, with a harder edged sound – Nichol plays electric guitar and I’m on farfisa for this one.

Listen here. Buy here. Read about it here and here

Also, some more reviews for Toca Loca’s P*P. EYE Weekly and Johnson’s Rambler.

Playing Toronto Summer Music Festival on Aug 7th.

August 5th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

Playing the harmonium and celesta in the chamber arrangement of Mahler’s Lied von der Erde. It’s on August 7th at MacMillan Theatre at the University of Toronto, as a part of the Toronto Summer Music Festival. Some great players, including one of my favourite violinists, Erika Raum.

There’s also the world premiere of a TSMF commission by Glenn Buhr.

More info here