February 27, 2015

Music Notes: TSO's New Creations Festival 2015

Time to look forward to Spring! This March, the TSO presents fresh new sounds and international stars as its 11th annual New Creations Festival. The Festival is one of the most successful celebration of musical creativity in Canada. Curator George Benjamin joins Festival conductor and host Peter Oundjian to present state-of-the-art repertoire.

New Creations begins on Saturday, February 28, with A Mind Of Winter, George Benjamin’s evocative setting for soprano of the poem The Snowman by Wallace Stevens; a new Violin Concerto by Vivian Fung that the TSO commissioned for Concertmaster Jonathan Crow; and a dynamic work by Japanese composer Dai Fujikura that was inspired by the celebrated music education programme, El Sistema.

The second concert is Let Me Tell You, which features the fascinating equal partnership of piano and orchestra in George Benjamin’s Duet, and Danish composer Hans Abrahamsen’s song cycle that treats the words of Ophelia in Shakespeare’s Hamlet in new ways. This concert takes place on Wednesday, March 4.

New Creations culminates on Saturday, March 7, with the Canadian première of George Benjamin’s critically acclaimed Written on Skin, starring Canadian soprano Barbara Hannigan. Superstar conductor and TSO favourite Gianandrea Noseda returns to Roy Thomson Hall to lead the Orchestra in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7, sharing the stage with beloved Canadian soprano Adrianne Pieczonka.

The month of March also marks TSO débuts for Argentine cellist Sol Gabetta and Polish conductor Krzysztof Urbański, who team up in a programme featuring Dvořák’s Cello Concerto and Stravinsky’s exhilarating piece, The Rite of Spring.

Beethoven Symphony 7
March 11, 12, and 14 at 8:00pm – Masterworks Series
Gianandrea Noseda, conductor
Adrianne Pieczonka, soprano
Casella: Italia 
R. Strauss: Vier letzte Lieder (Four Last Songs)
Wagner: Liebestod ("Mild und leise") from Tristan und Isolde  
Beethoven: Symphony No. 7
Tickets: $33 - $145

Noseda focuses his trademark intensity on Beethoven’s gloriously energizing Symphony No. 7, and Canadian soprano Adrianne Pieczonka lends her remarkable voice to works by Wagner and R. Strauss. You’ll also enjoy an attractive rarity in Casella’s lavish rhapsody on popular Italian themes.

Stravinsky The Rite of Spring
March 27 at 7:30pm – Masterworks Series
March 28 at 7:30pm – Casual Concert Series
Kilar: Orawa (Mar 27 only)
Dvořák: Cello Concerto
Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring (1947)
Krzysztof Urbański, conductor
Sol Gabetta, cello
TIickets:  March 27  $33 – $145
March 28  $33 – $105

Everything about this superlative programme is grand: the emotional depth and broad outline of the all-time great cello concerto, and the earth-shaking power of Stravinsky’s stunning evocation of a prehistoric society.

Attending one of the TSO's concerts is always a treat. For those of you under between the ages of 15 to 35, I highly recommend joining TSOUNDCHECK. This great program allows you to buy tickets to TSO concerts at just $16 per ticket. Regular ticket pricing still includes some affordable tickets, as well. For details about the New Creations Festival, please visit: NewCreationsFestival.com. For full details on the TSO's concert calendar, ticketing and box office information, go to tso.ca.

February 26, 2015

Canadian Screen Awards 2015: TV Shows Nomination Hightlights

The Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television will also highlights the best in television at its Red Carpet Gala, next Sunday March 1, and I will be there to support and join in the celebration.

Here are five of the television shows which have garnered several Canadian Screen Awards nominations, as well as, a great fan-base in Canada and beyond.

Orphan Black (Bell Media) 
This excellent science-fiction show has 13 nominations including, Award for Best Dramatic Series, Best Direction in a Dramatic Series, Best Picture Editing in a Dramatic Program or Series, and Best Writing in a Dramatic Series. As well, Tatiana Maslany has also been shortlisted for the Shaw Media Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Continuing Leading Dramatic Role. There is no doubt Orphan Black has established itself as a favourite.

Mr. D (CBC)
Canada has great talent when it comes to comedy. There is no surprsise Mr. D has 10 Nominations, as it also did great at last year's Canadian Screen Awards. This year, its nominations include Bell Media Award for Best Comedy Series, Best Direction in a Comedy Program or Series, and Best Writing in a Comedy Program or Series. Creator, writer, executive producer and star Gerry Dee is also up for the Bell Media Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Continuing Leading Comedic Role.

Motive (Bell Media)
This crime drama, now on its second season, has also built a committed fan-base. With 8 Nominations, Motive may give other shows a run for their money... The nominations include Shaw Media Award for Best Dramatic Series, Best Photography in a Dramatic Program or Series, Best Production Design or Art Direction in a Fiction Program or Series, and Best Sound in a Dramatic Program or Series.

The Ghosts in Our Machine (CBC)
Always a fan of documentary programs, I am glad to see this one receive 4 Nominations, which include the Donald Brittain Award for Best Social/Political Documentary Program, Best Direction in a Documentary Program, Best Photography in a Documentary Program or Factual Series, and Best Sound in a Documentary, Factual or Lifestyle Program or Series. I did an interview with director Liz Marshall a while back, which I encourage you to read here.

Vikings (Shaw Media)
This historical-drama series, an Irish-Canadian co-production, has also been doing very well. Now in its third season, the fan-base continues to expand. The show has garnered 4 Nominations including,
Best International Drama, Best Direction in a Dramatic Series, Best Sound in a Dramatic Program or Series, and Best Visual Effects.

As some of the awards were handed out early this week, I can share with you that Orphan Black has won for Best Direction in a Dramatic Series, Best Original Music Score for a Series, Best Photography in a Dramatic Program or Series, and Best Writing in a Dramatic Series. Also Vikings has won for Best Sound in a Dramatic Program or Series. But there will be more awards handed out on Sunday night. Do come back to this page, or follow me via Facebook and Twitter for updates the night of.

February 24, 2015

NXNE 2015: First Round of Music Programming

North By NorthEast (NXNE), one of Toronto's biggest festivals, will be taking place between June 17-21, 2015. This year's festival will feature hip hop's rising stars, an arsenal of the strongest female performers around, and the best breaking bands in North America.

NXNE Music has confirmed performances by "Mr. Wonderful" himself, Action Bronson; indie rock supergroup The New Pornographers; rising hip hop duo Rae Sremmurd; sun-drenched Best Coast, described by Noisey as “Californian badasses, plain and simple”; Real Estate, whose recent album Atlas landed on Stereogum’s 50 Best Albums of 2014 list; Kanye collaborator Ty Dolla $ign; Angel Olsen, who has earned comparisons to Leonard Cohen by NME and Consequence of Sound; Vince Staples, who XXL says is "beyond his years"; Glass Animals, who were recently named Band of the Year by the BBC; Blonde Redhead, after releasing their much lauded ninth album Barragán last fall; rapper Tink, crowned "a no-bullshit teenage feminist" by FADER; Deafheaven, whose music was characterized by Pitchfork as "dire black metal to triumphant post-rock "; and Baths, called the "romantic black sheep" of electronic music by Drowned in Sound.

Also announced: Pentagram, the legendary doom metal band; fierce Vancouver punk quartet White Lung; OM, who The Quietus say "know their shit"; Liturgy, following the March release of their much-anticipated album The Art of Work; Ibeyi, praised by NPR for their “sonically stunning, wildly inventive work”; as well, Betty Who, whose album Take Me When You Go was named Best Pop Album in 2014 by SPIN.

And the list is not done! Also confirmed for the NXNE Music lineup: A Place To Bury Strangers, Odonis Odonis, San Fermin, No Joy, Lower Dens, The Gories, Lydia Ainsworth, Bishop Nehru, Aidan Knight, Son Lux, Cathedrals, Heems, Coliseum, Ryley Walker, Kate Tempest, Jacco Gardner, UNiiQU3, Dilly Dally, Amen Dunes, Obliterations, K.Flay, and plenty of more to be announced.

This year, NXNE has made it easier for fans to get in to see their favourite bands. NXNE will offer festivalgoers a chance to purchase advanced tickets for select shows. Tickets for Northby Advanced shows are $20-$35, and are on sale now at nxne.com.

Also, if you are one of the ones who purchases three Northby Advanced tickets, you can upgrade to a full-festival platinum badge for an additional $60. As usual, that platinum badge will grant access (19+ and subject to capacity) to every NXNE show. Four-day ($49) and single day ($30) wristbands will also return for NXNE 2015, providing festivalgoers access to premium Clubland shows at venues including: Adelaide Hall, The Legendary Horseshoe Tavern, Lee’s Palace, The Garrison, The Silver Dollar, and many more.

For additional information and to see more of the artists playing NXNE 2015, visit nxne.com. More programming announcements will be released in the coming weeks. Come back to this site or follow me via Facebook and Twitter for updates! For now, I leave you with this playlist.