Monday, August 10, 2015

Glorious Amateurs

If you read this post, you may have noted that I hoped to make it to the Sunday morning concert that wrapped up the Toronto Summer Music Festival at UT.  I did make it, biking furiously, though only with 5 minutes to spare.  I don't know that I would have made such an effort had I realized that the concert was to show off adult amateurs (in the MC's words) who had take a week off to study with the professionals at the UT Music School.  (Sort of like fantasy baseball camp, but for musicians.)  Is it really that different from paying to see music students perform?  Aside from the fact that the students are (mostly) growing into professionals, and the adult amateurs know that this is not a viable career path for them?  The main reason I probably would have skipped it, is that in order to fit everyone onto the stage, most of the time they put on a single movement from each piece, and I really don't care much for that approach.  Nonetheless, I was there and decided to stick it out through a Shostakovich piece about 2/3rds down the program.

The choral piece was surprisingly good.  This was followed by an amusing piece for tuba and bass clarinet.  Things were starting to look up until it came to a Mozart piece for strings where the lead violin was quite out of tune and the piece kind of dragged on.  On the whole, I thought the performers did quite well, and probably half of the time, I would have been very willing to hear the entire piece.  In the case of one amateur quintet, I might even be willing to pay a small fee to see them elsewhere.

Every now and then I get the crazy idea of advertising on Craigslist (or the bulletin board at the music school) to put together a quartet to play Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time.  It is such a silly idea, not least because I don't know of any small theatres that have pianos, even upright ones.  Well, I probably won't completely give up on the dream, but it is a much lower priority than getting my various theatre writings up on the stage.  I guess it doesn't change my opinion of the piece, but it seems that Messiaen was a real pill when it came to anything involving the Quartet.  If this book is to be believed, Messiaen, just back from the internment camp where he wrote the Quartet, refused to intervene on behalf of the father of one of his fellow inmates (who played the clarinet part incidentally). This man ultimately died in Auschwitz.  I guess I can sort of understand Messiaen's paranoia that speaking out would lead him right back to the camps, but it is a shame he did not act more nobly.  Certainly my mental picture of Messiaen is stained now.

Sadly, someone either pulled out or got unbelievable stage fright and they did not perform the Shostakovich Concertino for 2 pianos.  Somewhat surprisingly I do not appear to have this on any of my CDs, so I'll have to track it down through Naxos or something.  I stuck it out for one more movement of a Poulenc chamber piece and then went back home.

I'd kind of thought that I would be going to the Taste of the Danforth, but ultimately changed my plans.  I actually don't like crowds all that much, and the last time I was there, the menu was heavily slanted towards beef and chicken...

I got a haircut at the mall and then went back out to Theatre Passe Muraille to see The Hum, which was part of Summer Works.  I have to say that this is a show that is almost review-proof.  Who wants to write a negative review and directly or indirectly attack a 10 year old girl?  The concept is basically that they have a number of artworks produced by the girl, and then they (the mother and father) wrote a show around it with some discussion of the glory of camping and canoeing, and some dancing and so on.  I guess the parents are local artists, though this reminded me very much of the movement to democratize the arts so that anyone can call themselves an artist.  But they had plenty of supporters and friends of the family in the audience, so I guess that is fine.  I knew more or less what this was going into it, but I still thought it would be a bit more polished.  I would recommend it if you want to be inspired by children's creativity and have children of your own, but would probably pass otherwise.  I do think my kids would have liked it, though I am sure my son would be asking why don't I write a play for him to perform...

I suppose the answer is it is a fine idea if one has the right connections or can understand how the lottery system works for the Fringe.  

Anyway, I stayed downtown and did a bit of work, then came back for the 7:30 show The Tall Building, which I will comment on elsewhere, as it was not amateurish at all.

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