Toronto, Nov. 15 2022 – The tenth edition of the 21C Music Festival will include 11 concerts and 1 film, and span over two months – starting in December 2022 and continuing into January 2023. The cornerstone of the Festival will be a spotlight on the Kronos Quartet, who will participate in three events, and feature a special performance by Tanya Tagaq.
In total, the Festival will include more than 18 premieres: 6+ world (James O’Callaghan’s Overbound, Ian Cusson’s The Cure of Madness, a new work by Stewart Goodyear, Alice Ho’s Ice Woman, Andrew McAnsh’s Music of The Great Lakes (The Great Lakes Suite: A Songbook for the Canadian Indigenous), and a number of premieres as part of Alisa Weilerstein’s Fragments), 9 Canadian (Lembit Beecher & Liza Balkan’s After the Fires; Stacy Garrop’s Glorious Mahalia; Fred Hersch’s The Sati Suite, “Pastorale (homáge á Robert Schumann),” “Valentine,” and “Heartsong;” Aruna Narayan’s “Mishra Pilu;” Steve Reich’s “Pendulum Music;” and Zachary James Watkins’s “Peace Be Till”), 2 Ontario (Antonio Haskell’s “God Shall Wipe All Tears Away” and Abel Meeropol’s “Strange Fruit”), and 1 Toronto (Matthew Ricketts & Mark Campbell’s Unruly Sun).
Mervon Mehta, Executive Director of Performing Arts at The Royal Conservatory, said: “It is overwhelming to imagine that this is our 10th 21C Music Festival. Of course, two of those festivals were affected by the pandemic so it almost feels as if we are starting anew. Michael and Sonja Koerner have been the inspiration, the constant cheerleaders, and the financial angels of the festival since its inception. With their steadfast support, over 40 works have been commissioned by The Royal Conservatory for Toronto audiences and over 90 works have had their world premieres. The works have run the gamut from contemporary classical to jazz to hip hop with one common goal, to present newly minted, fully composed music of the 21st century by its most vibrant artists regardless of genre. We invite audiences once again to come in from the cold of winter into our warm performance spaces to stretch their musical ears.”
21C Music Festival commences with A Thousand Thoughts, a live documentary with the Kronos Quartet,
written and directed by Sam Green and Joe Bini on December 6, 2022 in Koerner Hall. This multimedia performance piece blends live music by Kronos and narration as well as archival footage and filmed interviews with artists like Philip Glass, Tanya Tagaq (who joins as a special guest on Kronos’ Music for Change concert on December 9), Steve Reich, Wu Man, and Terry Riley. As the Los Angles Times stated, “It’s as magical an amalgamation as you can imagine.”
Presented in partnership with the Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema
Kronos Quartet with students from The Royal Conservatory present Fifty Forward on December 8, 2022. Built around Kronos’s Fifty for the Future initiative (a free library of 50 contemporary works designed to guide string quartets in developing and honing the skills required for the performance of 21st-century repertoire) the Conservatory’s Dior Quartet, Taylor Academy Quartet, and Glenn Gould School Quartet will perform works by Soo Yeon Lyuh, Yotam Haber, Aleksandra Vrebalov, Peni Candra Rini, Missy Mazzoli, inti figgis-vizueta, Jlin, and Paul Wiancko after participating in a two-day mentorship with Kronos. The evening will culminate in all three quartets joined by Kronos in Philip Glass’s Quartet Satz.
In a concert titled Music for Change on December 9, 2022, Kronos Quartet is joined by very special guest Tanya Tagaq performing her “Colonizer” (Remix). Polaris and Juno Award winner Tagaq, who performed with Kronos during the 21C Music Festival in 2016 in Koerner Hall, is an Inuk throat singer, songwriter, novelist, and visual artist known internationally for her collaborations with Björk. The evening’s program explores the ways in which music can increase our understanding of our times and our connection to people around the world. “Everything we do as citizens, as human beings, is a statement about how we want the world to be,” says David Harrington, Kronos’ artistic director, founder, and violinist. “Increasingly, I feel my role as musician is to point in constructive musical and cultural directions as we attempt to help repair the torn fabric of our society.” This Music for Change concert features a new work composed and performed by special guest Aruna Narayan (sarangi), and also highlights the social, political, and cultural upheavals of civil rights movements through works such as Peace Be Till, Zachary J. Watkins’s exploration of the moment just before Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech, Abe Meeropol’s Strange Fruit inspired by Billie Holiday, and Glorious Mahalia, Stacy Garrop’s work honoring the life and times of gospel singer Mahalia Jackson. Other works included are by Steve Reich, Armenia’s Komitas, and an adaptation of Jimi Hendrix’s arrangement of Star-Spangled Banner.
Montreal’s post-classical pianist, Jean-Michel Blais, whose compositions have earned him two Polaris Music Prize nominations, a #1 on the Billboard Classical chart, and a Time magazine top 10 album of the year, takes the Koerner Hall stage with a full band on January 20, 2023. He will present music from aubades, his new album which marks Blais’s transition from pianist to composer, as he writes for an ensemble for the first time in his career. Written during the pandemic and following a breakup, Blais has used his distinctive musical voice to create a defiantly uplifting record with glistening instrumental textures and warm major tonalities. The album’s title refers to the aubade, a Middle Ages morning love song about lovers separating at daybreak, a dawn serenade. Despite the difficult global and personal backdrop, Blais described the time writing this album as a “fruitful moment of creativity … It was a time of lots of blossoming, and also a moment when I blossomed from being a pianist into a composer.” Musical ideas captured in over 500 recorded piano improvisations were transformed by Blais into 11 compositions performed by a 12-person ensemble.
The annual 21C Cinq à Sept concert is a double bill of chamber works. A new song cycle by composer Lembit Beecher and Gould’s Wall librettist Liza Balkan, After the Fires explores the devastation wrought by a natural disaster, and features soprano Xin Wang, mezzo-soprano Andrea Ludwig, and baritone Korin Thomas-Smith. During the second half of the afternoon on January 21, 2023, flutist Susan Hoeppner plays Septentrion for flute and electronics by Métis composer Eliot Britton and is then joined by percussionist Beverley Johnston to perform Christos Hatzis’s Arctic Dreams for flute, vibraphone, and electronics, along with the world premiere of Alice Ho’s Ice Woman. The story is inspired by Inuit woman Ada Blackjack’s incredible story of survival.
Iconic jazz pianist, educator, and HIV/AIDS activist Fred Hersch and his trio are joined by RCM Quartet-in-Residence, Dior Quartet, to perform new works from Hersch’s new album, Breath by Breath on January 21, 2023. On the same evening, Toronto-based trumpeter Andrew McAnsh performs the world premiere of his Music of The Great Lakes (The Great Lakes Suite: A Songbook for the Canadian Indigenous). Hersch is a pervasively influential creative force who has shaped the music’s course over more than three decades as an improviser, composer, educator, bandleader, collaborator, and recording artist. He has been proclaimed “the most arrestingly innovative pianist in jazz over the last decade” by Vanity Fair, “an elegant force of musical invention” by the Los Angeles Times, and “a living legend” by The New Yorker. Award-winning trumpeter, composer, educator, and recent graduate of the Berklee Global Jazz Institute, Andrew McAnsh, who has roots in Wikwemikong First Nation, was born and raised in Cambridge, Ontario. He has performed and studied with notable artists including Esperanza Spalding, Barry Harris, Danilo Pérez, John Patitucci, and Brian Blade. He is joined on stage by Larnell Lewis (drums), Rob Christian (reeds), Andrew Marzotto (guitar), Johnathan Chapman (bass), with special guests Rich Brown (bass) and fancy shawl dancer Cotee Harper.
Generously supported by Dr. David Goldbloom & Dr. Nancy Epstein
January 22, 2023 brings a spectacular night of new Canadian works. The evening opens with three pieces by Ian Cusson: The Garden of Earthly Delights, Sonata for Oboe and Piano – The Haywain, and The Cure of Madness, played by Duo Concertante, Charles Hamann and Frédéric Lacroix, and Trio Arkel, respectively. These three works all find as their inspiration paintings by the late Medieval painter, Hieronymus Bosch. Cusson conceived of these works as a triptych, three works that can be performed separately and also as a cycle. This will be the first time all three works are performed together, and it is the world premiere of the third work, The Cure of Madness. The second part of the evening will consist of the world premiere of an RCM commission by Stewart Goodyear for piano and jazz musicians Michael Occhipinti (guitar), Joy Lapps-Lewis (steel pan), Roberto Occhipinti (bass), and Larnell Lewis (drums). Cusson is a composer of art song, opera, and orchestral works. Of Métis (Georgian Bay Métis Community) and French-Canadian descent, his work explores Canadian Indigenous experience, including the history of the Métis people, the hybridity of mixed-racial identity, and the intersection of western and Indigenous cultures. Proclaimed “a phenomenon” by the Los Angeles Times and “one of the best pianists of his generation” by the Philadelphia Inquirer, Stewart Goodyear is an accomplished concert pianist, improviser, and composer, whose recent commissions include a piano quintet for the Penderecki String Quartet and a piano work for the Honens Piano Competition. His suite for piano and orchestra, Callaloo, and his Piano Sonata, were released by Orchid Classics. In 2021, The Royal Conservatory of Music appointed the RCM alumnus to a three-year term as its inaugural Artist-in-Residence.
The Cure of Madness commissioned with the assistance of the Canada Council
Goodyear composition commissioned by the Esther Gelber Fund administered by the Canadian Music Centre
On January 25, 2023, Esprit Orchestra, conducted by Music Director Alex Pauk, will premiere James O’Callaghan’s Overbound for virtuoso cello soloist Cameron Crozman, orchestra, and surround sound electronics. Koerner Hall will resound at its fullest in an immersive extended spatial experience ranging from the intimacy of the solo cello to the sound of a larger than life electronically augmented orchestra. Providing an explosive, enthralling dimension to the concert, Esprit Orchestra has invited Japanese taiko drumming group Nagata Shachu for a performance of Japanese composer Maki Ishii’s Mono-Prism. Blending Asian and Western musical traditions, Ishii’s work demands physical power, delicate precision, emotional strength, and willpower from Nagata Shachu in an experience counterbalancing the colours and forces of a large orchestra.
With Fragments, cellist Alisa Weilerstein creates a space for performer, composer, and listener that is at once physically intimate and philosophically expansive. This groundbreaking project for solo cello that weaves together the 36 movements of Bach’s solo cello suites and 27 newly commissioned works, dividing the whole into six hour-long Chapters, is to be released over several seasons and commences on January 28, 2023 in Koerner Hall with Chapters One and Two. Within each Chapter, individual movements from a single suite and a selection of new works are mindfully arranged into a new emotional arc, set within an atmosphere of responsive lighting and scenic architecture. The music is performed without pause and without a program, creating a wholly original experience that empowers audiences to surrender to their senses. Weilerstein, who “inhabits a piece fully and turns it to her own ends” according to The New York Times, was recognized with a MacArthur “genius grant” Fellowship in 2011.
Curated and conducted by Brian Current, the Conservatory’s own Glenn Gould School New Music Ensemble performs an immersive afterhours celebration of the mysteries of the night, including Bekah Simms’s Foreverdark and R. Murray Schafer’s iconic Hymn to Night. Experience these inspiring works bathed in a candlelit listening wonderland on January 28, 2023.
The Festival concludes on January 29, 2023 with a new song cycle titled Unruly Sun, composed by Matthew Ricketts, with libretto by Mark Campbell, starring tenor Karim Sulayman. Unruly Sun is inspired by the life of filmmaker and queer activist Derek Jarman and his popular memoir, Modern Nature. Across 18 songs, the work celebrates Jarman as an artist and a person living with AIDS – and his efforts to create a garden at Prospect Cottage, a fisherman’s cabin on the unforgiving southern coast of England. This world premiere project is a co-commission with the 21C Music Festival, L’Orchestre classique de Montréal, and Brott Opera (Hamilton). Canadian composer Ricketts, a 2020 Gaudeamus Finalist and a 2019 Guggenheim Fellow, is noted for his “effervescent and at times prickly sounds … hypnotically churning exploration of melody” (ICareIfYouListen) as well as “tart harmonies and perky sputterings” (The New York Times). A native of Chicago, Lebanese-American tenor Karim Sulayman has garnered international attention for his sensitive and intelligent musicianship, riveting stage presence, and beautiful voice. Named Critic’s Choice by Opera News, and praised for his “lucid, velvety tenor and pop-star charisma” by BBC Music magazine, he won the 2019 Grammy Award for Best Classical Solo Vocal Album.
Presented in association with Pride Toronto.