Talisker news

Monica PearceComposer spotlight: Three questions for Monica Pearce
5 May 2015

The Talisker Players will end the concert season with a bang next week. Heroes, Gods & Mortals (May12 & 13, 8PM at Trinity St. Paul's Centre) features many mystical interpretations of Greco-Roman tales as well as the premier performance of a special commissioned work from Toronto-based composer Monica Pearce.

Monica's works have been performed by Array Ensemble, eklektikos ensemble and TorQ percussion quartet, just to name a few. She is also co-founder and artistic director of the Toy Piano Composers. 

In Leda Songs, Monica combines three poems which have slightly different takes on the encounter between Spartan queen Leda and the god Zeus in the form of a swan. This evocative piece features mezzo-soprano Andrea Ludwig with clarinet and string trio.

Since the story of Leda and Zeus has remained popular in western literature throughout the centuries, we thought we would ask Monica why she chose to set this multi-layered tale to music.

What inspired you to tell the story of Leda over all the Greco-Roman mythical figures when you were presented with this commission?
Finding the subject matter for this piece was an interesting challenge, with such a plethora of fascinating narratives to choose from. Originally, I was attracted to the idea of telling a woman`s story within the mythical figures, but I wanted to choose a character which was slightly less well known than Venus or Helen of Troy or Eurydice. I bought a book last summer called Gods and Mortals which was all poetry based on myths. I found a section about Leda and the Swan, and the imagery was so beautiful and striking that I thought it would be very interesting to set.

The story of Leda and Zeus in the form of a swan is a familiar one to most poetry lovers. Why did you choose to base your composition on these three poems (Rilke, H.D. and D.H. Lawrence) over so many others?
The poems I chose show three different views on Leda, and together they form a bit of an arc. The first poem, by Rilke, is from the viewpoint of Zeus and his overwhelming desire and his transformation into a swan. In this poem, Leda begins as a kind of object, but becomes part of a transcendental experience. The second poem, by H.D., is pastoral, natural, gentle. It paints the picture of Leda and the Swan coming together as if drawn together naturally and of necessity. The third poem, by Lawrence, is from Leda`s point of view, with her beckoning Zeus as a lover. The three poems show three perspectives on the story and carve a narrative on Leda`s role - as first passive, then equal, then calling in the experience.

I've chosen poetry which is more seductive and sensual, as I like the complexity it brings out in Leda`s character. Other interpretations, such as Yeats and Ronsard, focus more on Zeus and his overtaking of Leda.  

How does the music in your work interact with the poetry? Does it change the meaning of the words or does it further illustrate each poet's take on the story?
I like to work with the meaning of the words and amplify them, while trying to capture the overall tone of the poem through the accompaniment. Sometimes, such in the case of the H.D. version, it means I`ve tried to keep the text setting very still at times to call up the pastoral atmosphere. Or mid-way through, the ensemble almost completely drops out so it is only the singer alone – which impacts the intimacy of the text. I also like to use a lot of ornamentation in my vocal lines, so certain words that repeat might have a similar ornamentation each time. The most difficult one to set was the Rilke, because the emotional tone of the poem is quite complex; it has desire, transformation, wonder, desperation - a lot to capture in one song.

Joel AlisonGuest Musician Spotlight:
Six Questions for Joel Allison

It's hard to believe that Talisker Players are already rehearsing for our third concert of the 2014-15 season. On A Darkling Plain, to be performed on March 10 and 11 at Trinity St. Paul's Centre, is a musically rich programme filled with gorgeous music inspired by some of the greatest poets of our time.

We're thrilled to welcome brilliant young bass-baritone Joel Allison to the stage in entrancing works by Samuel Barber, Walford Davies and Juliet Hess. In preparation for our upcoming concert, we thought we'd get to know a bit more about Joel, his thoughts about On A Darkling Plain and his musical beginnings.

What piece are you most looking forward to performing in On A Darkling Plain?
This is a hard question for me. I have really been taken by all the music that I am a part of in this programme. I think the set of songs by Juliet Hess [The Cloths of Heaven] will be a lot of fun to perform due to the larger ensemble required for that piece. But I think the piece I am most looking forward to is Dover Beach. This song has been on my "to sing" list for a few years and I am very excited to give my first performance of it in this programme.

When you think of the title of our programme, On A Darkling Plain, what thoughts spring to mind?
Two images come to my mind. The first is that of a large plain that I grew up seeing in the Alberta Prairies with the sky changing from a bright clear day to an intense rain or hail storm. The second image that comes to my mind is from the ever so familiar footage from the various parts of the Middle East where there is so much conflict and turmoil…with all the smoke and dust of debris in the evening with dusk approaching. It really brings the last lines of Matthew Arnold's poem close to home and shows that throughout time some things unfortunately don't change.  
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

If you could spend an hour singing with a bass-baritone, from past or present, who would it be?
I would have to say I would love to spend an hour or more singing with Gerald Finley. He is my all-time favorite bass-baritone. He has a nicely balanced schedule of opera and concert singing which I hope I will one day be able to have. I would love to sing the role of Lepporello with him as Don Giovanni in Mozart's Don Giovanni.

Not many people can say they made their solo debut in the National Arts Centre performing Howard Shore's Lord of the Rings Symphony...are/were you a die-hard Tolkien fan? Who's your favourite hobbit?
This is a bit of funny story. I had just turned 12 at the time. So my mother had not allowed me to watch any of the movies as I was too young for them and I was not really into movies as a kid. I also hadn't read the books at that time – so I think I was the only person performing the symphony who had no idea what the plot was. I just learned the music and thought it sounded cool.

I have since read all the books, and have watched all the movies, and I would have to say that I don't really have a favourite hobbit. In fact my favourite character is Gandalf because I was always intrigued by wizardry. I'm not a die-hard Tolkien fan, but I love the mastery of language that he has in his writing and his creative mind that provided me with great reading.

What city/town are you from?
I was born in Belleville, Ontario, just up the 401. However, my early childhood was in Calgary. I lived there for about six years where I began my musical studies. When I was eight, my family moved back to Ontario and settled in a log house just outside of Carleton Place which is near Ottawa. The rest of my training has been based in Ottawa.

When will you complete your degree in vocal performance from the University of Ottawa? Any plans for the future? Grad school, travel, choir tours?
I will be graduating from the University of Ottawa this coming spring. As for the future, the only thing for certain at this moment is that I will be taking a year or two off from school to figure out where I want pursue my studies.  I have been considering different possibilities for the next year such as moving to Toronto or some other city where I can work and possibly pursue graduate studies.

VirginiaFive Questions for Virginia Hatfield

23 October, 2014

Soprano Virginia Hatfield joins Talisker Players next week as we kick off our concert season with Songs of Travel on October 28 and 29 at Trinity St. Paul's Centre. Virginia's sparking voice is featured in Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre's Le Sommeil d'Ulisse, the rarely performed Algoma Central by Louis Applebaum and Four Strong Winds – an arrangement of iconic Canadian travel songs from Ian Tyson, Joni Mitchell and Gordon Lightfoot.

This is Virginia's first time performing with Talisker Players, so we thought we would get to know her better and ask a few questions about the concert and her own travel experiences.

Which piece are you most looking forward to performing and why?
I suppose I'm most looking forward to performing the Joni Mitchell song [Blue Motel Room], if only because audiences have not heard me sing her music before. So that's something new!

Given that Louis Applebaum's Algoma Central has been rarely performed since its premiere in 1976, what do you think audiences will take away from hearing it performed live after almost 40 years?
 Algoma Central is a hidden gem! There is so much in this piece - humour, wistfulness and a great deal of Canadiana. I mean, it's a contemporary music piece about trains in Northern Ontario. That's like the Canadian trifecta! Also, any piece of music that makes music of the words Sault Ste Marie must be quirky and beautiful. And it is. But what I think they'll take from it: "this composer truly respected these performers" because there is wonderful writing for all three players - harp, flute and soprano - within the piece.

Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre's "Le Sommeil d'Ulisse" seems like such a difficult trial for Ulysses upon his final stretch toward home. What are your thoughts on this piece?
...It's so beautiful! Her recitatives are incredibly expressive and the arias and scenas move the story along too! Not to give anything away, but her rendering of a tempest is up there with Britten and Verdi. It is a cumbersome journey...-but what seems to remain is hope - and calling on the goddess Minerva brings respite from the fury that we shall endeavour to express. Really, so much is in this lovely score - it's my job to use my voice to communicate what's she's written for the audience of today - and with a score so full of musical delights, that's (relatively) easy!

Is there a particular part in Laura Jones' arrangement of "Four Strong Winds" that sticks out to you?
 It's a song I wasn't familiar with before (I know, the only Canadian who doesn't know it!) but now that we've rehearsed it I really like it, and I think the oboe makes a wonderful colour choice in Laura's arrangement.

What has been the most meaningful/memorable travel experience you've had so far and why?
 Oh, this is a hard one. But I will accept the cries of 'Oh, how cliché' when I respond: Paris. Two years ago I travelled there from London and splurged on the Eurostar. It was fantastic (oh, and I love trains!). I am in awe of Paris. I have been there alone but never felt lonely. It's like a book you haven't read yet but you just know it'll be wonderful. Down the street from a café or a chain store selling cosmetics is the oldest church in Paris - parts of it dating from the 6th century! (And, yes, if I wasn't a singer I would probably be a history student) I will never, ever tire of a city that has old churches. And most of the time I can resist the temptation to test the acoustics, ha!

The romance of the poetic imagination

15 May 2014

A Poet's Love – coming soon!

We all agree that A Poet's Love is one of the loveliest programmes we've played. Harold Birston's new arrangement of Schumann's Dichterliebe for string quartet opens wonderful new perspectives on this beautiful song cycle. Fauré's La bonne chanson is a great favourite, which we could never tire of playing. And the two short pieces by John Beckwith and Alexander Rapoport are real gems.

We are looking forward to sharing all this with you. Performances are Tuesday and Wednesday, May 27 and 28, 8PM at Trinity St. Paul's. Tickets are still available through U of T tix: Call 416-978-8849 or click here.

Sneak preview

A Poet's Love brings together four song cycles that explore the experience of love – in all its ecstasy and anguish – through a poetic imagination.

Schumann's Dichterliebe and Fauré's La bonne chanson are well-known and much-loved standards of vocal repertoire. The Schumann is a string of gorgeous little vignettes, depicting the progress (or lack thereof) of an unrequited love, whereas the Fauré is intensely rapturous. La bonne chanson was written for the singer Emma Bardac, with whom Fauré was madly in love, even though both were married to others.

Rapoport's short but haunting Fragments of Verlaine perfectly captures the yearning for an unkown, and unknowable, woman – the femme inconnue. It was originally the score for a film version of Dostoyevky's The Eternal Husband. The concert piece was written especially for us.

Love Lines is actually a set of arrangements. Beckwith has taken a handful of well-known love songs – among them 'Where'er you walk' by Handel, 'Silent Noon' by Vaughan Williams, and 'In the Heart of the Dark' by Jerome Kern – and given them a simple, lovely setting that is both familiar and refreshing.

Readings on this programme are from the letters and journals of great literary lovers – Robert Browning to Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Percy Bysshe Shelley to Mary Shelley, Vita Sackville-West to Harold Nicholson, and Elizabeth Smart to George Barker.

Alexander Dobson is our baritone, and Stewart Arnott is our reader. Both are captivating performers, and among our very favourite collaborators.

You can play a part!

A Poet's Love brings another successful season to an end. It has been a banner year, and we feel we have much to be proud of.

To support our continued success, we rely more than ever on the generosity of our patrons, people like you who share our passion for words and music. Many of you have already made your annual donation, and for this we are very grateful. If you have not, please consider making one now. It's easy! – click here for details.

Also, please consider introducing Talisker Players to a friend, colleague or relative. Building an audience is one of the keys to our success, and word of mouth is invaluable!

Creature to Creature – animals galore!

25 February, 2014

We're into rehearsals for Creature to Creature, and we're having a wonderful time with this programme. There is a tremendous variety of music, all of it interesting, amusing, even enchanting! We are looking forward to sharing it with you.

Performances are Sunday, March 16 at 3:30PM and Tuesday, March 18 at 8PM, both at Trinity St. Paul's. Tickets are still available through U of T tix: Call 416-978-8849 or click here.

A preview

The medieval Bestiary, or "book of beasts" was a compendium in which the traits of animals (real or imagined) offered examples for proper human conduct. Our 21st-century version turns the tables, offering words and music about creatures with all-too-human traits that (gently!) lampoon our foibles.

Creature to Creature features the premiere of archy and mehitabel, a witty, gritty new piece by our Composer in Residence, Alexander Rapoport based on episodes in the life of Don Marquis's iconic creations, the poet-philosopher-cockroach Archy and his sometime friend Mehitabel the alleycat.

It also features a selection from Flanders and Swann's beloved animal songs – including The Sloth, and of course The Hippopotamus (mud, mud …) – in new arrangements by Laura Jones for strings and horn.

There is much else of course – from Poulenc's charming and epigrammatic Le Bestiaire to Rossini's hilarious little Duetto buffo di due gatti (the Cat Duet). You can check out a sampling of soundclips on our website (click here).

We pair the musical selections with readings from a captivating collection by Caspar Henderson called The Book of Barely Imagined Beings.

We are joined by three wonderful guest artists for this show: Mezzo soprano Norine Burgess and actor/reader Ross Manson are returning favourites. Baritone Geoffrey Sirett is a rising star, and we're delighted to have a chance to work with him.

Italian villa vacation for two

There are still tickets available for our exclusive fund-raising raffle – but they are selling fast, so don't delay! Two lucky people will win round-trip airfare and a five-night stay at the idyllic Villa La Favorita in Italy. Just 1.5k outside the medieval town of Alba, the villa is an historic country home, recently restored with six beautifully appointed guest rooms, and set amidst a hillside estate of vineyards and fruit orchards.

The winning ticket will be drawn on March 18, 2014, at the reception following the last performance of Creature to Creature. The total prize value is $6,440, and may be claimed up to March 18, 2015 (some date restrictions may apply). Lottery license no. 736112. Tickets are $50. Only 350 are for sale. Click here for more information, or call 416-466-1800 to order.

Holiday gift ideas from Talisker Players

13 December, 2013

The holidays are fast approaching, and we have two great gift suggestions for you!

Anything Goes, our high-spirited version of the Cole Porter Songbook is just the thing to kick off the New Year in style. Performances are January 12 and 14. Subscribers are entitled to half-price tickets – and it's not too late to subscribe to the remainder of the season, and take advantage of this deal!

And tickets are now on sale for our exclusive fund-raising raffle. Two lucky people will win round-trip airfare and a five-night stay at the idyllic Villa La Favorita in Alba, Italy – the perfect gift for someone you love!

Anything Goes

The songs and musicals of Cole Porter defined sophistication in the 1930s and 40s. Anything Goes celebrates both his dazzling lyrics and his unforgettable melodies, in brand-new versions by our acclaimed arranger Laura Jones. Soprano Jennifer Enns Modolo and tenor Bud Roach are our charismatic soloists, along with the core Talisker Players quartet.

Performances are Sunday, January 12 at 3:30pm and Tuesday, January 14 at 8:00pm. The programme includes such enduring classics as I Get a Kick Out of You, Let's Do It, Night and Day, Easy to Love, It's De-Lovely – and of course the title song. The complete songlist is on our website now. Programme notes and audio links will be posted soon.

Tickets are still available. Subscribers are entitled buy additional tickets at half-price. Call 416-978-8849 or click here.

Italian villa vacation for two

Our exclusive raffle offers an Italian villa vacation for two, with round-trip airfare from Toronto, and five nights at the idyllic Villa La Favorita. Just 1.5k outside the medieval town of Alba, the villa is an historic country home, recently restored with six beautifully appointed guest rooms, and set amidst a hillside estate of vineyards and fruit orchards. For more information, click here.

The winning ticket will be drawn on March 18, 2014, at the reception following our concert on that evening. The total prize value is $6,440, and may be claimed up to March 18, 2015 (some date restricutions may apply). Lottery license no. 736112. Tickets are $50. Only 350 are for sale. Call 416-466-1800 to order.

Season opener! – City of the Mind

16 October 2013

The magic and the mystery of cities, October 29 & 30

Rehearsals for City of the Mind are underway and we're very excited about our season opener! The sheer variety of the music is unusual, even for us – everything from 16th-century consort music to Leonard Bernstein's celebration of New York in On the Town, to Erik Ross's ultra-cool Concrete Toronto – and much else in between.

Check out our website for more information. Programme notes are now up, audio links will be posted this week.

Performances are Tuesday, October 29 and Wednesday, October 30 at the newly (and beautifully) renovated Trinity St. Paul's. Call 416-978-8849 or click here for tickets.

Season at a glance

City of the Mind is only the start of what promises to be a memorable season. To celebrate our refurbished hall, for the first time we are presenting four full productions, with two performances each.

Subscriptions are still available! You'll save 25% over the price of individual tickets, and enjoy preferred seating and unlimited ticket exchange privileges. Plus, our subscribers are entitled to bring a guest to any concert for half price. Buy tickets either online (click here) or by calling the UofTtix Box office: 416-978-8849.

Trinity St. Paul's – sneak preview

Join us on Saturday, October 26 as we participate in an Open House at Trinity St. Paul's, to officially open the renovated sanctuary and performance space, and to celebrate the community and the amazing variety of organizations that call the TSP Centre home.
The event runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. We'll be performing at 11:30 a.m., a short concert of excerpts from Ellis Portal, Andrew Ager's engaging and colourful take on Toronto – a chance get an advance look at the new hall, and also a small taste of what's in store in City of the Mind. For more information, click here.

On the Wing - the magic and the mystery of birds

22 April, 2013

On the Wing - May 7 and 8

Rehearsals for On the Wing are well underway, and we are looking forward to sharing this terrific programme with you. An evening of words and music about the birds and the bees – what better way to welcome spring!

Performances are Tuesday and Wednesday, May 7 and 8, at Trinity St. Paul's. Tickets are still available through U of T tix: Call 416-978-8849 or click here. 

A preview

On the Wing  is an exploration of the mystery and the magic of birds (and a few of their insect companions, the butterflies and the bees). From earliest human history, winged creatures have stirred our imagination, and inspired great artists. Because they can escape gravity, and view the world from above, we have attributed to them all sorts of power, knowledge and insight.

Our programme samples some of the many musical evocations of birds, from Telemann's charming Canary Cantata, to Arvo Pärt's haunting The Nightingale, to Lukas Foss's gorgeous and brilliant setting of Wallace Stevens's famous poem Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.

We pair the music with readings from Alberto Manguel, Annie Dillard, Peter Matthiessen and other great contemporary writers pondering the wonder of these creatures of the air.

Programme notes are now up on our website (click here) – as are a sampling of soundclips to whet your appetite (click here).

We hope you will join us on May 7 or 8 for this delightful evening of words and music.  Plan to come early for Alexander Rapoport's entertaining and illiminating Pre-Concert Chat at 7:15 – free with your ticket to the concert!

Our guest artists

Vicki St. Pierre is a favourite with Talisker audiences, and we are very pleased to welcome her back. Her lush voice is both dark and brilliant – an unusual combination – and her beauty of tone, intelligent musicianship and compelling stage presence have won praise on stages across the country. She is an acclaimed interpreter of early music, at ease on both opera and concert stages (we are especially pleased to be performing Telemann's Canary Cantata with her!) but she is also celebrated as an interpreter of contemporary music, and has given premiere performances of many important pieces.

Erin Bardua is appearing with us for the first time, and we are looking forward to introducing her to our audience. Still at the beginning of her career, she has already distinguished herself in a wide variety of stages across Canada. She has been praised for her "brilliant-toned voice, agile and strong, yet warm and relaxed," and for her vivid and intelligent performances, both in opera and on the concert stage.

We are honored to have R.H. Thomson join us as reader. One of Canada's leading actors, he has performed on stage, television and film in Canada, Europe and the US. His award-winning work has encompassed a wide range of roles as an actor and as well a career as a director, narrator and television host. He is an arts advocate and activist. He has recently completed an international project of remembrance called Vigile 1914-1918 Vigil.

Time and Tide - exploring memory and history

15 February, 2013

Time and Tide - March 5 and 6

We are well into rehearsals for Time and Tide, and we are very excited about this programme! Our guest artists – soprano Carla Huhtanen and baritone Peter McGillivray – are wonderful, and the repertoire is some of the loveliest we've ever played. You may not be familiar with most of the composers, but we recommend that you come and make their acquaintance!

 Performances are Tuesday and Wednesday, March 5 and 6, at Trinity St. Paul's. Tickets are still available through U of T tix: Call 416-978-8849 or click here. 

The backstory

Time and Tide explores the way memory and history enrich our lives, despite the inevitable losses that time and change will bring. Musically, it's a bit of a departure for us – an entire programme of music for voice and string quartet. We are relishing the rich yet intimate sound of this iconic combination of instruments.

Soundclips of the music are now up on our website (click here). Programme notes will be up soon, but in the meantime, here's some advance information to whet your appetite.

Gerald Finzi's By Footpath and Stile is an early work by one of the great masters of English song-writing. It's a lovely and lyrical setting of poems by Thomas Hardy, Finzi's favourite poet, to whom he turned over and over again in his music.

Ernst Toch's Poems to Martha is another great gem from the early 20th century. Toch was arguably among the greatest and most original composers of that century. Forced into exile from Nazi Germany in the 1930s, he settled in California. He never entirely adjusted to North American culture, or received the recognition he deserved – although his music is now finally enjoying a revival. Poems to Martha is a setting of simple and touching verses by Joseph Haft, a close friend of Toch's, in memory of his beloved wife.

Toronto composer Scott Good, also confronts the loss of a loved one. The text is by  Christine de Pisan, a 14th century writer -  the earliest professional woman writer whose name has come down to us - after the death of her beloved husband. Good's setting is a brilliant and beautiful modern take on baroque style.

Walther Buczynski's Three Songs looks at the passage of time from an entirely different perspective. Based on poems by Dorothy Glick, it is a lyrical and light-hearted reflection on watching her teenaged children grow up and become independent.

Last but not least, we present a lovely old favourite – Solveig's Song, from Edvard Grieg's incidental music for Ibsen's "Peer Gynt", in an arrangement for soprano and string quartet by our cellist, Laura Jones.

Acclaim for our guest artists

Soprano Carla Huhtanen is the star of The Tapestry Songbook this Saturday, February 16, at the Ernest Balmer Studio in the Distillery District (more information here). This is a busy month for Carla! Earlier in February she gave a brilliant premiere performance of In the Earth and Air by the young Toronto composer Adam Scime, for New Music Concerts.

Peter McGillivray is currently in Victoria, for Pacific Opera Victoria's Britten Festival. The ever-popular baritone is appearing as Vicar Gedge in Albert Herring and as Noah in Noye's Fludde. He'll be rejoining us next week, as soon as he recovers from the jet lag!

Con Brio! - Hold the date

Con Brio, our spirited wine-tasting and silent auction, will be held on Wednesday April 3, 2013, 5PM at Massey College. Featuring fine wines and fabulous food pairings, it will be hoted by sommelier and wine educator Lesley Provost. It will also feature live music (of course!) and a host of unique auction items, including exciting vacations, original work by Canadian artists, vintage wine and craft-brewed beer, books, CDs and much more!
This event was a huge success last year. You won't want to miss it! Call 416-466-1800 for more information, and watch for details in future mailings.

Mad Dogs ... coming soon!

2 January, 2013

Mad Dogs and Englishmen - January 13

We are kicking off the New Year in style, with Mad Dogs and Englishmen: The Noël Coward Songbook. This concert was a sell-out at the Elora Festival last summer, and we are thrilled to be bringing it to Toronto for one performance only, Sunday January 13, 3PM at Innis College Town Hall Theatre.

Noel Coward was one of the 20th century's most brilliant songwriters, celebrated worldwide for his grace, his style, and his extraordinary "talent to amuse". Guest artists Melanie Conly and Bud Roach join the Talisker Players Quartet for a sampling of his witty word play, wistful waltzes, biting humour and wry observations of the world. And in the spirit of his time, the entire audience is invited to an elegant English afternoon tea after the concert, in the Atrium at Innis College.

Tickets are still available, though they are going fast. Call 416-978-8849 or click here.

Check out our website for programme notes and other information, including audio samples.

Talisker at Christmas

December is always a time of glorious music-making, and 2012 was a particularly busy year for us. As always, we had a number of engagements with choirs, both in Toronto and farther afield - most often playing Messiah, but also some less-familiar gems of the choral repertoire, like the Saint-Saëns Christmas Oratorio . We also performed at the Massey College Christmas Gaudy Night, which closes the fall term and is an annual highlight of our residency there.

We also continued a more recent tradition of playing carol concerts at shelters and community centres in the inner city. This is an outgrowth of our regular outreach concert series. It started three years ago with a request from the staff at the Maxwell Meighen Centre. Core players from the ensemble have been quick to volunteer their services, so we have been able to expand it a bit each year. Our season finished on December 21, with concerts at the Maxwell Meighen Centre and the Fred Victor Centre.

Con Brio! - Hold the date

Con Brio, our spirited wine-tasting and silent auction, will be held on Wednesday April 3, 2013, 5PM at Massey College. An evening of fine wine, fabulous food pairings, unique auction items and live music, it was a huge success last year, and promises to be even better this year. You won't want to miss it! Watch for more details on the website, and in upcoming mailings (if you are not already on our e-news list, you can subscribe here).

Rehearsals underway for The Constant Lover

2 October, 2012

Constant Lover - the backstory

We've just started rehearsals for The Constant Lover – the opening concert of the new season – and already we're very excited!  The production is a feast of passion and intrigue, flirtation and seduction, and the music is just as lush and gorgeous as you'd expect it to be, given the topic!

Performances are Tuesday, October 30 and Thursday, November 1 at Trinity St. Paul's. And it's only the start of what promises to be a wonderful season. Subscriptions are on sale now! Call UofT tix at 416-978-8849, or click here. 

Programme notes will be up about a week before the performances. In the meantime, here's some advance information to whet your appetite.

Many of you loved John Plant's La notte bella, which Alex Dobson sang with us last February. Sonetto, which he wrote especially for this show, is if possible even more beautiful. It's a setting of an impassioned sonnet by the 16th-century Venetian poet Gaspara Stampa, after the betrayal of her lover – ravishing stuff!

Amoretti, by Edmund Rubbra, is quieter and more contemplative. It was written as an expression of the composer's deep love for his wife. The text is by another great 16th-century poet, Edmund Spenser, and the music is lush, lyrical, and just as ardent as the poetry (click here for a short soundclip).

Seymour Barab's Lovers is sheer fun. It's a set of short songs, on rather saucy poems by a 17th-century writer with the wonderful name, Sir John Suckling, describing various amorous states – Careless Lover, Perplexed Lover, False Lover, and the lover of our title, Constant Lover (click here for a soundclip).

Handel's Sono liete is a sweet love duet, and one of the composer's rare concert arias. It's very short, but we couldn't resist the opportunity to hear our two wonderful guest artists on stage together.

One of the most intriguing pieces on the programme is Cantiunculae Amoris. The text is ancient Latin (Ovid), and it's highly erotic. The music is modern Austrian (Karl Heinz Füssl),  and it's spare and cool – but its rhythmic drive perfectly matches the humour, bawdiness and zest of the poetry. And, in the small-world department, we have just discovered that Füssl was a mentor and personal friend of our Composer in Residence, Alexander Rapoport, from his student days in Vienna.

Kurt Weill's One Touch of Venus is also full of humour – but there is heart-felt yearning as well.  One of the musical theatre pieces from his Broadway period of the 1940s, with lyrics by Ogden Nash, it includes such memorable songs as 'I'm a Stranger Here Myself' and 'Speak Low' (click here for a soundclip).

More news from the violin section

As we mentioned in an earlier news bulletin, Rona Goldensher is returning to the series in excellent health after a year of treatment for cancer. However - alas! - she will not be playing The Constant Lover, due to a conflict with Opera Atlier's run of Der Freischutz. And Kathryn Sugden is still on maternity leave, enjoying precious tim with Leo, who will be two months old next week.

We'll miss them both. But we're happy to welcome back Emma Banfield (herself a new mother - Isaac was born last April) and Elyssa Lefurgey-Smith. Both of them appeared on the series last season, and we're thrilled to be working with them again. 


Summer news from Talisker Players

31 August, 2012

A sell-out concert at Elora Festival

Mad Dogs and Englishmen: The Noël Coward Songbook was a huge hit for a sell-out crowd in Elora on July 29. Created and arranged by our cellist, Laura Jones, it featured a selection of Coward's witty word play, wistful waltzes, and wry observations about the world, performed with panache by soprano Shannon Mercer, tenor Lawrence Wiliford, and the core string quartet of Talisker Players. It was such a success that we've already been invited back next year, for a concert of Cole Porter songs.

Best of all, we're thrilled to report that we'll be bringing Mad Dogs and Englishmen to Toronto, as a special bonus concert on January 13 2013!

Other news from Talisker's players

Cellist Laura Jones has just returned from performances at Augustfest 2012 in her hometown of Brandon MB. The festival is a week-long series of concerts featuring musicians from all over the world who are alumni of Brandon University's renowned faculty of music – an illustrious list, which also includes Talisker favourites Doug MacNaughton, baritone and James McLennan, tenor.

Flutist Anne Thompson was featured along with her colleagues in Continuum Contemporary Music (www.continuummusic.org) earlier in August at Chamberfest Ottawa 2012. Continuum was the "house band" for Chamberfest's New Music Now series, performing three concerts at the National Gallery of Canada.

Tenor Lawrence Wiliford (who will be featured this season in The Constant Lover) had a very busy summer: In addition to his brilliant performance at the Elora Festival in Talisker's Mad Dogs and Englishmen, he was featured at both Music Niagara and Chamberfest Ottawa in Music for a While, an English song recital accompanied by Robert Kortgaard; and he appeared twice at Ottawa's Music and Beyond festival, as part of a complete cycle of works by composer Alec Roth and librettist Vikram Seth.

Mezzo soprano Anita Krause (who will join Lawrence in The Constant Lover) gave acclaimed performances of Debussy's Chansons de Bilitis and Michael Tippett's A Child of Our Time at the Oregon Bach Festival in July.

Mezzo soprano Vicki St. Pierre, a Talisker favourite who returns to the series in On the Wing in May 2013, has just been appointed the new Conductor of London Pro Musica.

Lastly, on a personal note, two items of good news from Talisker violinists! Kathryn Sugden and her husband Simon are celebrating the arrival of their first child, a bouncing baby boy born August 10. And Rona Goldensher returns to the series after a year of treatment for cancer. Rona is in excellent health and spirits, and we are thrilled to have her back!

contact: words.music@taliskerplayers.ca, 416-466-6546