Mark your calendars, last week the The Ladies Morning Music Club announced their 2013 – 2014 season. They were gracious enough to invite me (again) to their press conference, so the least I can do is help disseminate the information. I wrote about the launch last year, and discussed it on the radio two years ago. There wasn’t much change in format this year.
In a nutshell, it is a very subdued affair, subtle, tasteful and tempered. Quite different from the other press conferences I’ve attended. A refreshing change and a throwback to an earlier time in comparison. As far as I could tell (introductions aren’t standard operating practice at a press conference) I represented one of three media outlets. The other two being La Presse (Claude Gingras) and La Scena Musicale (Wah Keung Chan) although Kelly Rice was there as well, he was identified as representing Pollock Hall and not the CBC. Most of the members of the Committee were there (although now that I think of it, I do not remember seeing Louise Robertson. If my memory is correct, I don’t know the reason for her absence).
Now to get to the meat and potatoes. Unlike this season, The Ladies Morning Music Club decided to schedule concerts at the same time as Super Bowl XLVIII and the 56th Daytona 500. As a consequence, I might miss as many as two concerts, which is unfortunate. I think I’ve been a subscriber for the past five years and while I don’t accept it sitting down, I have come to expect that on the first and third Fridays in February I will have decisions to make. The performances are as follows: on September 8, the Pacifica Quartet, a string quartet. On September 29, Alina Pogostkina, a violinist. On October 20, Garrick Ohlsson, a pianist. On November 10, Christoph Genz, a tenor. On December 1, The American String Quartet with Roberto Díaz on viola and Andrés Díaz on Cello (in effect making them the American/Diaz Sextet – and someone needs to take the person who made Andrés Díaz’s website out back and give them a serious paddling, the music is enough to drive you crazy and make me not want to go see him play). On February 2, the Trio Jean Paul, a piano trio goes up against Super Bowl XLVIII and on February 23 the Quatuor Ebène, a string quartet goes up against the 56th Daytona 500. Life then returns to normal on March 16 with a performance by Angela Hewitt on piano, followed by the Doric String Quartet on April 6 and Daniel Müller-Schott a cellist on April 27. Regular subscription prices went up by 6%, to $250. Student subscription prices went up by 7% to $80 (the biggest bargain in town!). Individual ticket prices remained the same at $40 and $20, which means that by subscribing you save 60% (or 150% if you’re a student).
One of the advantages of being a subscriber is that I always get the same seats (currently T18 & T19). One of the advantages of being a subscriber at the press conference to announce the new season is that I can give them my renewal check at the same time. And as upgrades are dealt with on a first come first served basis, when N18 & N19 become available I will be able to purchase them (presuming I am still invited to the press conferences). I do not understand people who like to sit on the right hand side of a concert hall. They never get to see the pianist’s hands. Then due to the acoustics in Pollock Hall, I only sit towards the back, and finally since I invariably fidget anytime I have to sit in one place for an extended time, an aisle seat that juts into the aisle is a necessity so I don’t get whacked (or glared at) by the person sitting in front of me. As a consequence there are a limited number of seats in Pollock Hall where I will be comfortable. T18 & T19, P18 & P19 (I’d sooner have a chance of being hired to perform for The Ladies Morning Music Club than get P18 & P19) and N18 & N19 are pretty much it.
Last year I asked if it would be alright to video tape the proceedings, and was politely refused. So this year I did not bother asking. Although one thing I am going to try to remember is to get permission to record the turning of pages during the Christoph Genz concert. each year there is one singer on the schedule, alternating between guys and gals. Each year during the singer’s concert everyone in the audience is given a photocopied hand out with the lyrics to whatever they are singing and translations into English and French (since more often than not they’re singing in German). One of the most glorious sounds I’ve heard recently is the simultaneous turning of pages by 600 people. It’s not quite like a flock of birds taking off, nor is it exactly like a pile of leaves make after being raked into a pile and then being blown by the wind, and it isn’t quite like the sound the unmotivated teacher makes when they have a pile of exams to grade and they throw them down the stairs, giving higher grades to those exams that travel further.
But more like something in between and around all those sounds. Singular to itself, but somewhat recognizable. Personally my preference is for double-sided 8½ x 11 inch paper, printed horizontally with a staple in the upper left hand corner. Given the standard recital that’ll give at least two page turns with a possibility of a third depending on the musical selection.
I also look forward to discovering who the page turner for the year is. Although that seemed to be the case when I first got my subscription, now it seems that every pianist brings there own page turner with them – or possibly the experience has become so traumatic that recently no page turner has been able to (or wanted to) do it a second time. I don’t know if today’s piano players know how lucky they are.
All joking aside, from the very first concert I saw to one this year, I get asked fairly frequently why I have a subscription to what is just about the most conservative and tradition-bound chamber music series here in town, and there are a bunch of them. My answer is in two parts; a) because of the consistently high quality of the musicianship. And b) because when I was growing up I did not have the benefit of learning “The Cannon.”
There are numerous ways to do a chamber music series on the cheap. In the same way that you can buy a
used previously owned Rolls Royce if you want a cheaper, yet still fancy car. You can wait until schedules and itineraries are made and then cherry pick from those artists that are traveling from Boston to Toronto. You can favor artists whose countries still subsidize foreign promotion and then soak request funding from the embassy and/or consulate. You can listen to the record companies’ priorities and schedule artists who they are currently promoting (albeit not as a lucrative means as it was in the 1980s and 1990s). You can schedule local artists. You can do any number of things. Fortunately, The Ladies Morning Music Club doesn’t do any of them.
And while there have been a couple of times this year when the Emerson String Quartet and Pieter Wispelwey tried to sneak in some some music that while not radical isn’t exactly the kind of music you would hear on CJPX. I am certain that the Committee will be able to nip this sort of behavior in the bud, and prevent it from spreading further next year.
Finally, as for the actual concerts next year, I think I’m looking most forward to Garrick Ohlsson. Mostly by process of elimination. As I said, I am not a chamber music groupie, so I am not all that familiar with most of the bands playing and trust The Committee implicitly in their selections. But Pacifica Quartet played here last year, to quote Dan Hicks “How can I miss you? When you won’t go away?” Then while I am certain that Alina Pogostkina is going to be a great show, I always feel a tad off when any performer makes me feel like a dirty old man. Christoph Genz, despite the possibility of a mass page turning, has a ponytail. Boy singers with ponytails went out of style last century. The whole American String Quartet/Diaz bothers gig became something to endure rather than look forward to when it took me 15 minutes to discover that it was Andrés’ website that was making all the goshdarn racket. (For those in the audience that do not open 15 tabs at the same time, apologies, you have no idea what I am talking about). The Trio Jean Paul suffers from a case of Dan Hick-itis as well, seeing as how I saw them in 2010. Ibid. for the Quatuor Ebène, but in 2011, Angela Hewitt in 2009 and Daniel Müller-Schott in 2010.
Which leaves the Doric String Quartet. When push comes to shove, I always go for the person who won their first major award 42years ago as opposed to the group whose members look like they could have been born this century. But please don’t take this to mean that I am not looking forward to the other concerts, quite the contrary. I said “I’m looking most forward to Garrick Ohlsson.” I am merely looking forward to all the others.
If you want/need any more information on any of the artists, click on the links (except for Andrés Díaz) they and a judicious use of Google and YouTube will do a far better job of explaining how phenomenal and amazing they all are than I ever could. Finally, once you’ve been convinced of how spectacular The Ladies Morning Music Club 2013 – 2014 season is going to be, run don’t walk to 1410 Guy Street, Suite 12 in between 10 o’clock and 1 o’clock weekdays and give Rosemary Neville your money. Tell her I sent you.