Listening Party Podcast Episode 6
May 01, 2020 1:00pm
Rebecca interviews three artists who are staying boldly creative in these strange times … all while really missing their audiences. It’s not the applause they miss, so much as the energy in the room, the sense of conversation. But this intrepid group, like many artists, are carrying on, doing their art, navigating the technology, singing and playing to unheard, invisible, distant audiences.These artists are also realizing that technology will never replace being in the room together. We can’t live without one another. But we can share these artists’ chosen musical musical moments in the latest Listening Party Playlist.
Renaissance Man Doug MacNaughton (he’s an operatic baritone, multi-instrumentalist, teacher, songwriter, ex-TTC-Subway musician) speaks to Rebecca from his 2010 Mazda 5, which goes by the name of Rocinante (after Don Quixote’s horse). These days Doug is tilting at the windmill of social distancing by holding Car Concerts, using his voice, guitar, his own compositions, and his quixotic venue. It takes Carpool Karaoke to a whole new level.
Doug has performed numerous times with Pacific Opera, beginning as Taddeo in L’Italiana in Algeri in 1997. He subsequently returned as Dr. Downie in Erewhon, Hortensio in The Taming of the Shrew, Trinculo in The Tempest, and Benjamin Hubbard in the Canadian première of Marc Blitzstein’s Regina. In 2010 he made his role debut as the Major Domo in Pacific Opera’s Canadian stage premiére of Richard Strauss’s Capriccio, returning as Alfonso in Così fan tutte, Benoit and Alcindoro in La bohème, and Donner in Das Rheingold.
Doug sent us a short video of one of his Car Concerts. Here he is singing “Take a Chance.”
Doug also sent us a link to a video in which alumni of productions of Les Miserables from 1987 to the present share an anthem of hope. Among them is Doug, who played Enjolras in the Canadian company of Les Miz. He pops onto the screen at 1:18. Watch on Youtube.
Pianist and coach Kinza Tyrrell speaks about navigating the perils of online technology with her new offering, Karaoke with Kinza.
How can you be a collaborative pianist when you can’t collaborate in the same room? Instead Kinza pre-records the piano part for a singer to later add the vocals. But she definitely misses that electric, improvisatory communication between singer and pianist that makes live performance so invigorating.
Victoria native Kinza Tyrrell is the Principle Répétiteur and Music Director of Vancouver Opera in Schools at Vancouver Opera.
Kinza is also Music Director for The Flight of the Hummingbird, a new 45-minute opera for young audiences, which will be broadcast in its entirety on May 19, 2020.
Here’s a lovely selection of Karaoke with Kinza, featuring tenor Joé Lampron-Dandonneau, who has sung with the Pacific Opera Chorus and played Parpignol in our 2018 La bohème
Victoria born singer-pianist Rachel Fenlon speaks to Rebecca from a farmhouse outside Berlin. Rachel is taking requests from the public and learning, performing, and posting a new song every day on her Instagram account! It’s an amazing way to force herself to use this unplanned and scary downtime to learn new repertoire while connecting with others!
Rachel debuted with Pacific Opera Victoria in 2013 as Nannetta in Falstaff, and the following year returned as Queen Guenevere in Camelot in concert. She is a rising operatic soloist and chamber musician and is committed to performing, curating, and commissioning contemporary music. Rachel performed in concert at Pacific Opera’s Bauman Centre in January, and she will be the first artist in our new online version of Lunchbox Opera, launching May 22 at 1 pm.
Rachel Fenlon on Instagram
Below, Rachel performs “Laue Sommernacht” by Alma Mahler
Knowing Doug and his eclectic music-making palate and ears, I have been really looking forward to his list. He was crestfallen when I told him he was allowed only ten songs. But I think he chose ten great ones with lots of ear candy. There is a bonus track: in the podcast, Doug tries to sing part of a Stephen Fearing song as we discussed creativity in these times. That song, called “Carousel” is also in the playlist.Here are Doug’s notes:
- Flower Arranger, Leslie Uyeda, composer, Joy Kogawa, poet Doug MacNaughton, voice and guitar. From my 2014 album Guitarias. I chose this because it epitomised what I was after with the first version of this project – classical music for voice and guitar from Canadian composers setting Canadian poetry.
- Paris, Jaypaul Project – Jay Turvey and Paul Sportelli, songwriters. From the album J-Paul. I worked with both Jay and Paul doing Les Miz. Jay and I started at the same time in 1990; Paul was conducting when I did the show for a month in Regina in December of 1992 (Jay was Marius in that cast). I missed the album launch concert an 1999 by about 20 minutes, but they were still there. I got the album, and I’ve followed their writing ever since. I’m a sucker for really clever lyrics; wish I could write some!
- Doublecross, Jay Leonhart, songwriter, bass and voice. From the album Salamander Pie, 1987. I was working in A & A Records while singing in the COC chorus. This was retail, in all its glory! One of my fellow cashiers from the classical floor loaned this album to me, and I was hooked. I’ve since met Jay a couple of times.
- The Letter, Jessica Stuart, songwriter, koto, and voice, with Liam Smith, bass and backing voice, Stephan Hegerat, drums. From the album The Passage. Jessica Stuart and I first met doing a Tim Brady piece for 100 guitars in June of 2018. I admire so much about this person – her eclectic influences, her desire to write tunes simple enough that the audience can sing along on the first listen while simultaneously writing complex harmonies and rhythms, her commitment to the community as reflected in her two monthly residencies in Toronto. She’s a multi-instrumentalist (like me, only better), and I’ve enjoyed following her live performances for a couple of years now. I started studying songwriting with her in January of 2019.
- We Were Born, Delta Will, from the album Weathering. I first heard Delta Will at the Dakota Tavern, and I loved their work! I particularly appreciate their approach to electronica – it’s a central part of their work and their sound, but it’s still humans making all the decisions.
- Anna, Charles Spearin, from the album The Happiness Project. Charles is a neighbour of mine from the old ‘hood. He’s better known as a guitarist with artists like Feist, Broken Social Scene, Do Make Say Think; this was a solo project in 2009: he asked various people to define happiness, and then directly transformed their speech patterns into music. The album won a Juno in 2010. I still run into Charles, and we have long rambling conversations about our influences and what projects we have on the go.
- New Rules, Fonfur, from the album New Rules for Classic Games. I just love this band’s joyful exuberance!!
- Lady Cop Seeks Revenge for a Family Done Wrong, Katey Morley, from the album Now. I’m also a sucker for songs that tell a story. I first heard Katey Morley at the Dakota in Toronto, and bought the vinyl of Now/Then on the spot. Love her writing, love her voice. She’s a fellow dulcimer player – I haven’t worked up the nerve to write us a duet yet.
- Dreams are Bigger, Ron Sexsmith, from the album The Last Rider. Ron is one of my favourite modern singer/songwriters, and I was totally charmed by the old fashioned music hall singalong sound of this particular song. There are at least two dozen other songs of his that could just as easily have made this list.
- Talk to Me, Joni Mitchell, from the album Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter. Joni needs no introduction, and her harmonic and rhythmic sophistication also don’t need me to dwell on them. So why this one? Well, it’s not as well known as it deserves to be – everybody knows “Big Yellow Taxi”, “River”, “Help Me”, “Free Man in Paris”, “Carey”, but this is Joni being playful, being self-satirizing. And the moment when she starts ‘chicken-squawking’ is just magnificent!
Kinza has a binder called “Songs I want to sing and play”. It’s filled with songs she has discovered while playing for others and that she wants to sing and play for her own pleasure. This illustrates again to me that Kinza is a music maker, more than a music listener.
When I asked her about her Spotify picks, she told me that my email request for this had caused her to panic. Music doesn’t exist in the background for her. When she hears music, she automatically analyses it. She explained that she immediately thinks about the key it is in. Then she wonders if it is a key she likes. The dialogue goes like this Oh, that’s in F major…I love F major…yeah…. if it was in E it would be too bright. I don’t know about you, but this isn’t what I think about when I hear a piece of music.
It makes sense, that as a musician, Kinza listens to music in a different way than most. To enjoy music as background, she tends to turn to music that her classical musician ear isn’t tempted to assess or pick apart. Because she works with singers, she finds that music without a vocal line is best for pleasure listening. She turns to Bach, particularly contrapuntal work, and jazz. For the playlist, she shared music that she’d loved when she was younger. Her list includes music from her very early childhood up into her teenage years.
These notes are my transcriptions of our conversation.
- Rachmaninoff’s Piano concerto no.2 second movement: Kinza loves the music of the Romantic era and is a particular fan of Rachmaninoff. She finds his harmonies are heart wrenching in a good way. He was also a composer she yearned to play as a young piano student, but he wrote for pianists with large hands who could play tenths. She longed for the day when her hands could play those chords. This second movement is a particular favorite and she tells us to listen to the serene, beautiful melody. She was particularly excited that Spotify had the record jacket she remembers from her childhood, featuring the big long hands of Arthur Rubinstein.
- Barber’s Adagio for Strings: Many of us will recognize this piece from the film Platoon. Kinza chose the full orchestral version, rather than the quartet and this piece. In her words , this piece ‘wrenches at her heart strings” and she wants it played at her funeral.
- Vaughan-Williams Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis: When she got her first CD player from her parents, they provided her with classical music to play. This CD became a favorite. It reminds her of The Princess Bride, one of her all -time favorite films. Kinza feels this music could be part of the soundtrack of that film and whenever she listens to it she envisions castles and handsome princes. Recently she found out using an ancestry service that she is 80% British, which she says also might explain her feeling this piece so deeply.
- Sibelius’ violin concerto in D minor: Kinza told me about a violinist boyfriend from her teenage years. They spent hours listening to music which resulted in her knowing violin repertoire intimately. She also has memories of being 14, and hearing Patty Shih, now a member of the Borealis String Quartet, playing this piece in the old auditorium at the University of British Columbia. She encourages us to listen to the way the violin enters of the top of this piece as a particularly exquisite moment.
- Dvorak’s complete 9th symphony (New World): Kinza remembers listening to this every day, before she went to afternoon kindergarten. In the mornings she had to clean her room, but she also had what she called ‘record playing time’, and clearly remembers sitting in her family dining room, the sun streaming in, and listening to this work over and over again. In her words, ‘Such programmatic music, such vivid motifs’ . She told me that she knows every bar of this piece still and even recalls doing interpretive dances to it. With that in mind, she chose the whole symphony for us to listen to.
As I was transcribing these notes from our conversation, it became so clear to me why Kinza doesn’t listen to classical music in the background. Music imprints deeply for Kinza and carries so many images, memories and feelings. No wonder she is such a wonderful musician to work with, and to experience in performance.
Rachel sent me her Spotify list and it was HUGE! Too much for me to share, and she kindly trimmed it down and provided these notes about her choices.
- Keith Jarrett is a core source of inspiration to me, simply because he crosses the genres of classical and jazz so fluidly, and with such bold repertoire, from Shostakovich and Bach to hour-long improvisations. He is a premier example of a modern day artist who sees the grand scope of music from the 21st century perspective.
- Marcelle Meyer, Yvonne Loriod, Monique Haas, Monique de la Bruchollerie, and Jacqueline Eymar are a generation of French female pianists, which, with the exception of Loriod, I’ve only discovered during quarantine. The pianism and colours are unparalleled in so many ways.
- Glenn Gould is a personal hero (like so many!) I’m including the Goldberg Aria, because it’s just the beginning of the Gould/Bach journey, and somehow this encapsulates the adventure that awaits. I also admire his Hindemith, Brahms Intermezzi, and all of his Beethoven recordings!
- I’ve included two pieces of Grieg: both for sentimental reasons; Solveig’s Song is my Mother’s favourite song, and the lyric pieces are some of the first classical music I ever heard as a 5 year old. I visited Grieg’s hut as a child and it left a huge impression on me.
- Maria Callas is/was/will always be my favourite soprano. What else is there to say?! Choosing favourite sopranos is like choosing a favourite tree in the forest – at the end, it’s just a feeling!
- Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony always carries me through uncertainty.
- I’ve included what might seem an obscure song of Messiaen, considering his huge vocal masterpieces, but I urge you to listen to it. The second half of the piece has some of the most beautiful bars in all music!
- I wanted to include all the Mahler symphonies but I’ve settled for the first. Need I say more?
- Brad Meldau, the Kronos quartet and Olivia Chaney are all inspirations for boundary pushing as they dive into multi genre with total sensitivity and command.
- I’m lucky to call Francesco Piemontesi a friend of mine; he is one of the finest pianists of our generation. Listen to his Schubert, also!
- John Luther Adams somehow embodies the Pacific Northwest, in my ears. Listening to him is like swallowing an iceberg (in a good way).</li
- The recording of Gyorgi and Martha Kurtag recording his transcriptions of Bach is so loving.
- Radiohead is a band which feels incredibly challenging, accessible, rule breaking, heart breaking – it’s a band that I never, ever tire of. They are some of the greatest musicians of today, no question.</li.
- Last but not least, George Crumb has become the closest composer to me in recent years. I delved into his world with such abandon, I actually used to dream about him all the time! (we’ve never met!) His sound world is a world unto its own.
Another great week of music selections. Listen and enjoy!
Note: If you don’t already have a Spotify account, you will need to sign up for a free account and either download the app or listen on the web.
Physically Distant | Socially Connected
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