LSM Newswire

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Plain Sense of Things

Toronto, September 24, 2009: Torontos inventive Talisker Players launch their tenth anniversary season at Trinity St. Pauls Centre with The Plain Sense of Things, a program that explores the revolutionary cadences of American poets from the last century. Soprano Marion Samuel-Stevens, mezzo soprano Jennifer Enns Modolo, baritone Doug MacNaughton and actor Stewart Arnott join the Talisker Players for two evenings of words and music: Tuesday, October 27 and Wednesday, October 28, at 8PM.

American poets like Toni Morrison, Carl Sandburg and Emily Dickinson, despite the great diversity of their styles, share an idiom grounded in the language of common speech and the realistic depiction of the world. They also made it their mission to redefine the place of the individual in the world, free from the comforts and the restrictions of Old-World thinking. The rhythms and imagery of their poetry have proved irresistible to many composers.

The concert title is taken from a poem by Wallace Stevens, whose most famous poem Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird is featured on the programme, in a magical setting by the great American composer Lukas Foss, for voice with flute, piano and percussion.

Fittingly, The Plain Sense of Things features music by several other American composers. The iconoclastic Morton Feldman is represented with O'Hara Songs (poetry by Frank O'Hara) for voice with string trio, piano and chimes. Andr Previn is included with Four Songs of Toni Morrison for voice with cello and piano. And Libby Larson, a young composer renowned for her vocal music, appears with Saints Without Tears (poetry by Phyllis McGinley) for voice with flute and bassoon.

The programme also features How Slow the Wind, a setting of Emily Dickinson by the acclaimed Argentinian-American composer Osvaldo Golijov, and is rounded out with a long-overdue revival of Chicago Portraits by Toronto composer Alexander Rapoport. Commissioned by Talisker Players in 2001, this is a wonderfully idiomatic setting of Carl Sandburg poems for voice with strings and percussion.

Talisker Players concerts always include words as well as music. Readings for The Plain Sense of Things will be from First Loves, a collection of essays by contemporary poets about the poems that first inspired them. Many of them write movingly about the poets on the programme, and refer in various ways to the revelation of poetry in plain English, with a deeply humane spirit.

An adventurous proponent of new music, soprano Marion Samuel-Stevens was a finalist in the 2008 Eckhardt-Gramatt Competition. With her sweet, clear voice and committed performances, this young soprano is developing a growing reputation in opera, oratorio and recital. This marks her debut with Talisker Players. Mezzo-soprano Jennifer Enns Modolo is also debuting with Talisker Player. She has delighted audiences across the country with her clear, unaffected voice and expressive singing. Acclaimed as "a great singing actor", Doug MacNaughton is equally at home in standard repertoire and contemporary music, in opera, oratorio, chamber music and musical theatre. He has appeared with Talisker Players on several occasions.

Talisker Players welcome back actor Stewart Arnott, a much respected theatre artist for almost 30 years, who has acted and directed across the country.

The Plain Sense of Things
The revolutionary rhythms and imagery of American poetry
Featuring Marion Samuel-Stevens, soprano, Jennifer Enns Modolo, mezzo soprano,
Doug MacNaughton, baritone and Stewart Arnott, actor/reader
Tuesday, October 27, 2009 at 8 PM and Wednesday, October 28, 2009 at 8 PM
Trinity St. Pauls Centre: 427 Bloor Street West

Individual tickets: $30 / $20 (seniors) / $10 (students)
Box office: 416-978-8849
Information: 416-466-1800

Talisker Players Chamber Music offers one of the most imaginative and exciting concert series in Toronto. In collaboration with some of Canadas finest young singers, Talisker Players present the rarely-heard repertoire for voice and chamber ensemble. Their unique programming includes readings that illuminate the music and delight audiences with a stimulating, theatrical concert experience. The music, engaging and varied, includes both celebrated works and unknown gems from all styles and periods, with a strong presence of Canadian compositions.

Talisker gathers a sterling corps of musicians, composers, and writers into an intelligent space, full of invention, and is willing to risk experimenting with their resources. The Live Music Report, November 2005

Talisker Players Upcoming Events at Trinity St. Pauls Centre: 427 Bloor Street West:

To the Sea in Ships: Tuesday, February 9, 2010 & Wednesday, February 10, 2010 8 pm
Tales of sailors, adventurers and fishers the world over
Featuring Vicki St. Pierre, mezzo soprano; Keith Klassen, tenor; Alexander Dobson, baritone

Illuminations: Tuesday, May 11, 2010 & Wednesday, May 12, 2010 8 pm
A window on the world of mystics, visionaries and seers
Featuring Meredith Hall, soprano; Lawrence Wiliford, tenor


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Carmina Nova: ancient times, modern ears

Carmina Nova

Folk songs and ballads from ancient times, heard through modern ears

Tuesday & Wednesday, May 5 & 6, 2009 at 8 pm

Trinity St. Pauls Centre

Torontos Talisker Players conclude their 2008/09 season with Carmina Nova, a fascinating programme featuring Luciano Berios stunning Folk Songs, R. Murray Schafers captivating Minnelieder and the world premiere of The Song of Henry Pyne by Alexander Rapoport. The Talisker Players share the stage with mezzo-soprano Norine Burgess, who brings her unique flair and ease in countless styles and languages to these outstanding works. Delving into ballads, folk songs and stories from ancient times in many cultures as heard through the ears of some of the greatest composers of the modern age, Carmina Nova is presented at Trinity St. Pauls Centre on May 5 and 6.

Luciano Berio's Folk Songs is a pioneering work from 1964 that draws on traditional melodies from America, Armenia, Sicily, Genoa, Sardinia, the Auvergne and Azerbaijan. The composer honours the original melodies while creating a highly inventive and personal framework for the ensemble mezzo soprano with viola, cello, flute, clarinet, harp and percussion. His muse was his wife, the great mezzo soprano Cathy Berberian, who established the work's popularity through many performances and an acclaimed first recording.

Minnelieder, by Canada's R. Murray Schafer, is an early work, written in 1956 when he was studying and working in Vienna. The composer, who at 75 has recently received the Governor General's Lifetime Achievement Award, has stated that it is "the first work I would regard as a useful contribution to music." It is indeed a beautiful piece, for mezzo-soprano with woodwind quintet. The texts are in medieval German, by Minnesinger (the name derives from the word minne, Middle High German for love) from the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries, and they speak mostly of passionate but unfulfilled love.

As a companion to these two compelling works, Talisker Players have commissioned a new work from the well-known Toronto composer Alexander Rapoport. The Song of Henry Pyne is a retelling of an ancient middle-European ballad, for mezzo-soprano, viola, flute, bassoon and harp. The libretto, written by the composer, follows the young protagonist through various trials of love, with the instruments of the ensemble taking on the voices of the different characters in the story, in the style of medieval madrigal comedy. One of Toronto's most distinguished composers, Alexander Rapoport has had numerous commissions for orchestral and solo works, and for vocal works of all types, as well as music for film and theatre. An accomplished librettist, he also co-wrote the libretto for his acclaimed one-act opera, The Dragon in the Rocks, commissioned by the Canadian Children's Opera Chorus in 2007/08. His clever and light-hearted Music Theory Song, commissioned by the Riverdale Youth Singers in 2006, has already become a staple of the repertoire.

The evening includes readings from some of the most famous literature of medieval and Renaissance Europe, which describe the period in lusty detail. Excerpts from Don Quixote, The Canterbury Tales and The Decameron will be delivered by the well-known Toronto actor and director Stewart Arnott.

Photo of Norine Burgess.Norine Burgesss compelling stage presence and beauty of tone have brought her renown in opera houses and on concert stages around the world. She has appeared in opera production in Canada and abroad. Equally acclaimed on the concert stage, the Canadian singer performs regularly with The Aldeburgh Connection and with leading orchestras such as the Montreal Symphony, the Toronto Symphony, the National Arts Centre Orchestra, and many other ensembles across Canada, the U.S. and in Europe.

Carmina Nova

Tuesday, May 5 & Wednesday, May 6, 2009 at 8 PM

Ballads and folk songs from ancient times, heard through modern ears

Trinity St. Pauls Centre, 427 Bloor Street West

Norine Burgess, mezzo soprano

The Talisker Players

Stewart Arnott, actor

R. Murray Schafer: Minnelieder, for voice and woodwind quintet

Luciano Berio: Folk Songs, for voice, flute, clarinet, viola, cello, harp and percussion

Alexander Rapoport: The Song of Henry Pyne, for voice, viola, flute, bassoon and harp

*world premiere*


Individual tickets: $30 / $20 (seniors) / $10 (students)

Box office: 416-504-7529

General information: 416-466-1800


Labels: , ,

Monday, January 12, 2009

For the Young at Heart: Talisker Players

When We Were Young

Stories, rhymes and word-play for the young at heart

Tuesday, February 10, 2009, at 8 pm

Wednesday, February 11, 2009, at 8 pm

Trinity St. Pauls Centre

For Immediate Release Toronto, January 12, 2009: Torontos Talisker Players return to Trinity St. Pauls Centre on Tuesday & Wednesday, February 10 and 11 with When We Were Young. A sure cure for the February blues, this is an evening of rhymes and word-play for the young at heart, set to music by composers with a sense of humour... Soprano Xin Wang and tenor James McLennan, both rising stars on the vocal scene, are the guest artists joining the instrumentalists of Talisker Players.

The programme features the magical setting of seven fantastical poems by Federico Garca Lorca, Federico's Little Songs for Children by George Crumb. This tour de force for soprano, accompanied by harp, and every member of the flute family (flute, piccolo, alto flute, and bass flute) is one of the great works of the 20th-century vocal repertoire.

Talisker Players always take pride in featuring Canadian composers. When We Were Young includes Palm Court Songs of the Bubble Ring by John Greer. This setting of Dennis Lee poems for tenor with cello, clarinet and piano was commissioned by the late Greta Kraus as part of her Toronto Arts Award in 1991. Where the Geese Go Barefoot by Stephen Brown is a set of humourous rhymes and tongue twisters, for soprano with clarinet, viola and guitar. And Renovated Rhymes by Elizabeth Raum is a setting of nursery rhymes, all 'renovated' by the poet John Hicks to end in an ironic twist, for tenor with violin and piano.

What's for Supper? by the inventive American composer Zae Munn rounds out the entertaining programme. The piece is a set of four songs, for soprano with clarinet and piano, originally written for children (text by Peg Lauber, with references to Winnie the Pooh, the Cat in the Hat and other characters in children's literature) to teach them about contemporary art music. But its wit and charm have made it equally popular with adult audiences.

As always, this Talisker Players production includes the spoken word. Readings will be from The World of Pooh by A.A. Milne, offering gentle comments on the foibles of humanity, with the wisdom of innocence and simplicity.

A native of China, Canadian soprano Xin Wang studied music in Winnipeg and Toronto where she is now based. She has distinguished herself as an acclaimed performer of contemporary music, having worked with Canadian and international composers. Most recently she won rave reviews for her performance as the lead (an aged elephant) in the premiere of Sanctuary Song by Abigail Richardson (as part Torontos Luminato Festival) and appeared as soloist in the world premiere of Pimooteewin, the first Cree opera by composer Melissa Hui. Xin Wang made her Covent Garden debut (London, U.K.) with the role of Sally in the European premiere of the Queen of Puddings production of Ana Sokolovic's The Midnight Court. She also recently premiered works by Christopher Butterfield and Jacques Bank at Toronto's Music Gallery.

Acclaimed for his "sweet lyric voice" (Opera Canada) and his "emotional intensity" (Opera News), James McLennan is winning praise for his compelling performances in repertoire ranging from Bach to contemporary works. He is recognized on opera stages across the country as a performer of great range and diversity. Hailed as the "ideal Candide" in the title role of Candide with Toronto Operetta Theatre, McLennan appeared in the premiere production of Filumena at the Banff Centre, and in R. Murray Schafer's monumental outdoor opera The Palace of the Cinnabar Phoenix. He has appeared in several productions with Calgary Opera, as well as with Vancouver Opera, Pacific Opera Victoria, Saskatoon Opera, Tapestry New Opera, and Opera Atelier. Engagements this season include the complex role of Antoine Tassy in Opera in Concert's world premiere of Kamouraska by Charles Wilson, Triquet in Eugene Onegin and the Fourth Jew in Salome with Vancouver Opera, as well as Adam in The Bird Seller with Toronto Operetta Theatre.

When We Were Young

Tuesday & Wednesday, February 10 & 11, 2009, 8 PM

Trinity St. Paul's Centre, 427 Bloor Street West

Xin Wang, soprano; James McLennan, tenor

The Talisker Players with Peter Longworth, piano

Stories, rhymes and word-play for the young at heart

Music for voice with strings, winds and piano

by George Crumb, Elizabeth Raum, Stephen Brown, John Greet and Zae Munn


Individual tickets: $30 / $20 (seniors) / $10 (students)

Tel: 416-504-7529


Labels: , ,