Saturday, June 6, 2015

Free concerts in Toronto

I got this reminder in my email earlier in the week that Tafelmusik was having a free concert at Trinity-St. Paul's on Bloor on Friday at 8 pm.  I decided that I could justify staying late at work and then heading over to see if I could get in.  I ended up working a bit later than I expected, but I did get one thing out which was good (the other thing I'll work on tonight).  I grabbed a slice of pizza and then walked over to Spadina to catch a streetcar up (rather than walking over to the subway, which is what I normally do).  I got there right at 7:45, whereas I was hoping to get there at 7:30.  The line was very, very long and I was kind of upset at myself and nearly turned around and got back into the subway.  (I'll try to post a photo, though I seem to have lost the cord that allows me to retrieve photos off my phone.) However, I decided since the line was just starting to move, at worst I would lose 10 minutes of my time if I didn't make it inside.

Well, as it happens, I did make it inside.  Even better, they opened up some reserved seating, and I ended up with a very good seat.

It was quite a nice concert.  The did part of Telemann's Water Music Suite.  (I enjoy Handel's Water Music very much as well, but Telemann's is a relatively obscure pleasure.)  They did Handel later, as well as a short piece by Bach, followed by Bach's Brandenburg Concerto #3.  They did both Bach pieces completely from memory (aside from the harpsichordist), which is incredibly impressive, but apparently, it is something that Tafelmusik does in many of its concerts.  What might have been even more impressive is that one of the strings on a violin broke and the player swapped with a player who was sitting that section out and started right back up.  It was very enjoyable evening, and they did it in about 75 minutes with no intermission.

Obviously, that one is over, but there are 3 more free concerts over the next two weeks, though getting tickets to the final one seems kind of laborious to me.  I think I'll just enjoy what I experienced.  Here is the link with more info.  So this makes twice I've seen Tafelmusik in action, and I am leaning towards getting a few tickets to see them next season.

I know there are a few free shows at NXNE (including the somewhat notorious cancellation of an outdoor concert by the rapper Action Bronson).  Lots of info here.  While I would love to see The New Pornographers at Yonge Dundas Square on June 20th at 9pm, I really need to be getting ready for the move the following day.  Well, if all is completely under control, I will sneak out, but I don't expect that to happen.

I'm more likely to catch a few of the free shows at Nathan Phillips Square like the Flaming Lips on July 19, though I imagine it is going to be a complete madhouse.  Anyway, more information here.

I should add that there are a reasonable number of free shows at Luminato, which runs the second half of June.  The schedule is here.  Now I have to admit, I am kind of turned off by the mainstage events at Luminato.  I think it is simply absurd and even wasteful (almost in a potlatch kind of way) to come up with an event that requires 1000 actors/dancer/singers.  I'm talking about Apocalpysis, which I am avoiding for esthetic and ethical reasons.  I probably would have gone to see Contemporary Colors, which is David Byrne's hybrid event where he takes contemporary musicians to play live in front of a bunch of top-line color guards.  It turns out that color guard (or really winter guard) has a very slim toehold in Montreal and no presence at all in Ontario.  That's too bad.  Every now and then I consider going to see a color guard competition, and there aren't any in Toronto.  What I don't appreciate is that the ticket prices for Contemporary Colors are so absurdly high, and that they did not open up the upper seating area.  That is actually how color guard routines are best viewed to see the whole design of the show. Instead, due to the high prices, most people will be squeezed into seeing the show from the sides, which is absolutely the worst.  It simply isn't at all acceptable to try to watch these routines from the sides.  So I can't tell if no one could tell Byrne that this was not ideal (and quite counter to the spirit of color guard) or if the venues were just so outrageously greedy that they refused to open up cheaper seating with a frontal view.  In any case, this is another event that I am avoiding on esthetic and practical reasons.  Those are the two main headliners for Luminato, so you can kind of see why I am kind of down on it.

Well, anyway, the Toronto Symphony is performing some free concert focused on animal-related compositions (on the 28th), but even here most of the pieces are short excerpts from full symphonic pieces (like one movement from Elgar's Enigma Variations).  I generally hate the Readers' Digest version of classical music, so probably I'll give this a pass as well.  I guess I really am down on Luminato this year (just like I am such a grump about the actual TIFF festival, though not the TIFF Lightbox).

I'm sure there is plenty else to do in Toronto this summer, but these are a few of the best free concerts I'm aware of.

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