AMANDA FORSYTHE: CELEBRATED SOPRANO WHO JOINS “THE FABULOUS BAROQUE BAND” TAFELMUSIK FOR HANDEL’S ALEXANDER’S FEAST (FEBRUARY 22-25) DISCOVERS “MY KIDS MAKE ME LAUGH LIKE CRAZY, AND THE JOY THEY BRING ME CARRIES OVER TO MY PERFORMANCES.” …A REVIEWER’S INTERVIEW WITH PEOPLE IN THE ARTS

Concert info at http://www.tafelmusik.org/concert-calendar/concert/handel-alexanders-feast

JAMES STRECKER: What important beliefs do you express in or through your work?

AMANDA FORSYTHE: I believe that as performers, our most important job is to share our love of the music and create a type of bond with the audience. I try so hard to communicate with the public, and there are incredibly beautiful moments when you can feel energy radiating back at you from an involved audience. It nurtures and buoys our performances, and I think it is this collective spirit that really brings music to life.

JS: How have you changed since you began to do creative work?

AF: I think that in the beginning of my career, I was trying to sing everything “correctly”, with the notes and rhythms sung exactly as they appear on the page. With experience, of course, comes the confidence that you can expressively stretch a note, or dot a rhythm, or take a breath without embarrassment, if it serves to make the music more beautiful, or dramatic, or tragic, or haunting. Of course, you can take these liberties with a fabulous baroque band like Tafelmusik, who are accustomed to collaborating with the singer, and who are flexible and open-eared!

JS: What are the hardest things for an outsider to understand about what you do?

AF: I think many non-musicians imagine that we have wholly glamorous lives, when the reality is that much of our job is writing emails, updating websites, fundraising, and schlepping our gowns, tuxedos, and instruments through airport security. If all we had to do was make music, it would be incredible! It’s true that performing is exhilarating, but most of us have to travel to make a living, and being on the road for a long time can be exhausting and very lonely.

JS: Of what value are critics?

AF: I’m one of those singers who likes to read reviews. Of course, for every 99 good things you hear, it’s the 1 negative comment that you remember! But good or bad, without a review, I almost feel like the performance didn’t happen (If a tree falls in the woods, etc). I think a lot of the most honest reviews come from bloggers, who provide the so-called person on the street opinion. It’s good to know what the public likes, because at the end of the day, they are the ones buying tickets and CDs. We need the critics, to spread the word, to fill the seats, to keep the arts in the thoughts and minds of our potential audiences.

JS: What specifically would you change about what goes on in the world and the arts?

AF: I recently sang with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, and my driver from the airport was talking about the new stadium for the Minnesota Vikings, which cost over a billion dollars to build. A billion dollars, and most of it came from the taxpayers! Can you imagine if the arts were given such consideration in our society? Despite numerous studies showing that the arts, and music in particular, provide more learning benefits to children than any other subject, these programs are always the first to be cut in times of financial crisis. I hope that future administrations will place more value on the necessity of the arts in our schools.

JS: Please describe at least one major turning point in your life.

AF: Having kids was a huge turning point for me, and I think it actually helped, rather than hindered, my career. I stopped saying “yes” to the jobs that didn’t pay enough to cover child care, and with less work, had the time to rest and practice between the bigger jobs. But more importantly, I stopped taking myself so seriously. Before kids, I had a whole performance day routine, and now I’m likely to be digging in the garden for worms 3 hours before I walk on stage. My kids make me laugh like crazy, and the joy they bring me carries over to my performances.

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DIANA COFINI: ACTRESS, PRODUCER EXPLAINS “IN ‘NOBODY’S ANGEL’ AND TWO OTHER PROJECTS I AM LOOKING AT, THE COMMON THREAD, OR WHAT I WANT TO REPRESENT, IS THE DIVINE FEMININE AND THE WOMAN’S POINT OF VIEW.”… A REVIEWER’S INTERVIEW WITH PEOPLE IN THE ARTS

JAMES STRECKER: If you were asked for 50 words for an encyclopedia to summarize what you do, or have done, in the arts, what would you say?

DIANA COFINI: Award-winning Actress of Stage and Screen, classically trained in Theatre, Music and Dance, with Honours Degrees from the University of Toronto, Sheridan College and Royal Conservatory of Music. She wore many hats, behind the camera, on multi-award-winning projects ‘The Camps’ and ‘That Never Happened’, and is producing feature films.

JS: What important beliefs do you express in or through your work?

DC: I love untold stories of Human history that deal with the clashing of cultures, War and that we ultimately need Peace for survival. There is a reason Jews say “Shalom” and that Roman Catholics say “Peace be with you” during Mass. Peace is the easiest thing to take for granted and Peace is truly the best thing we can get. ‘Enemy Aliens’ and ‘Nobody’s Angel’, two of the films I am currently producing, both deal with this.

In ‘Nobody’s Angel’ and two other projects I am looking at, the common thread, or what I want to represent, is the divine feminine and the woman’s point of view.

‘Nobody’s Angel’ is a feature film based on the stage play by Douglas Beattie about a woman who refuses to be just another casualty of war and sets out on a journey, amid danger and deprivation, to become mistress of her own destiny. It takes place 120 km south of Rome, near the end of WWII, when martial law has been imposed and Italy is occupied by both the Germans and Allied Forces.

JS: Name two people, living or dead, whom you admire a great deal and tell us why for each one.

DC: Sophia Loren is one of Italy’s most beloved Actresses. Sophia’s outer beauty is surpassed only by her legendary performances in films including ‘La Ciociara’ (Two Women) and ‘Matrimonio all’italiana’ among many others. Unlike many of her peers and fellow Icons of Cinema, Sophia has been married to one man her entire life and has raised two sons and a beautiful extended family.
Leonardo Da Vinci, My favourite Artist of all time and a great thinker, innovator and the quintessential Renaissance man.

JS: How have you changed since you began to do creative work?

DC: I’ve been creative as far back as I can remember, with a thirst to not only express myself creatively, but to constantly learn and grow. I’ve changed as a person continuously as we all do through Life. I’ve just never not been immersed in one Art form or another, and as Life has changed me, my Mediums have changed. And vice versa.

JS: What are your biggest challenges as a creative person?

DC: Creating a life and environment from which to create.

Never enough creative time.

Rebuilding/restoring the Life (relationships) and environment from which to create, which suffers while creating.

JS: Please describe at least one major turning point in your life.

DC: There were a number of really big turning points in my Life from age 18 – 20 or so. One was when I was in a very dark place during a tumultuous time in my Family and couldn’t really dance or sing or play piano like I used to. I had difficulty accessing those worlds and expressing myself there. And suddenly one day, it was as if a door opened, to a room I never knew existed. I entered the Realm of Acting for the first time and Life has never been the same since…

JS: What are the hardest things for an outsider to understand about what you do?

DC: That they have no idea about what I do, or what the industry is, but they think they know!

JC: How and why did you begin to do creative work in the first place?

DC: That’s impossible for me to answer, as I liken that question to asking me how and why I was born…. It would be very fun to discuss all the possibilities as to how and why one is born, though. And why one was born with certain gifts, abilities, born into a particular family and culture, etc. Who knows!

JS: What haven’t you attempted as yet that you would like to do and please tell us why?

DC: Every Artist wants to do something they have not done before. I’ve Acted and I’ve produced. For me, what’s next is starring in films that I produce and/or have a hand in creating.
And some day, I would love to appear on a show like “Nashville” in which I can both Act and Sing.

JS: Of what value are critics?

DC: I’ve always liked the quote from Jean Sibelius: “…A statue has never been erected in honor of a critic.”

In this business, you need articles, reviews and publicity. And, of course, I don’t mean to disrespect those who choose to be Critics as a profession. But in general, you know, in Life, I prefer to be on the Field playing the game than sitting in the stands critiquing. And (this is distinct from the profession of being a Critic, but another form of criticism in the vein of “everyone’s a critic!”), I detest Gossip of every kind. I detest the part of Celebrity Culture that has most people speculating about people’s personal lives and critiquing them, waiting for them to slip up. This vicious jealousy, and scrutiny. For example, I don’t like that in my doing this Interview I am opening myself up to scrutiny and gossip, but I do it because it may help spread the word about my projects and I believe my projects have important messages.

JS: What do you ask of your audience?

DC: NOTHING. If I have an audience, I tell the story, then I say “Thank you”. I know many of the Greats ask for the audience to actively take part in the storytelling, I’ve heard things like “each word I send them is a pearl and I hold one end of the string and the audience holds the other end, and if they pull their end tightly the pearl will reach them…” something to that effect. But not me. If they’ve shown up, the rest is my job. I mean, maybe the obvious thing, like, don’t have your phone on, or disturb those around you etc. but again, that’s not my job to ask, someone else always asks that.

JS: What specifically would you change about what goes on in the world and the arts?

DC: Artists all over the world have always and will always seek to change the world and make some kind of an important impact. I personally have a stand for women and children, and for Peace. The World needs more of the feminine, and more of the female gaze. It needs more of the female way of considering all facets of complicated issues, our way of being able to hold many ideas at once and negotiate between all of those many, sometimes conflicting ideas and needs. In other words, we can multi-task in every way, even in terms of weighing and understanding the emotions of many different parties. We rarely take a position or direction that doesn’t account for and value more than just our own needs and wants. Unfortunately, women and children have had a bad deal for millennia, and I think a good place to start is to show that through Film. This was a major driving force for me in making the feature documentary ‘That Never Happened’ and it’s what I am up to with the feature film ‘Nobody’s Angel’. Through my films I would like to hold up the lens to real events, real man-made, human history with a focus on women.

JS: Tell us what it feels like to be a figure who is presented somehow in the media. What effect does this presence have on you?

DC: A lot of pressure. Especially in terms of my appearance. The good news is that I am now at once, both more fearful and less fearful. In other words, I’m less confident in my appearance (less to my own standard of beauty), while being less inhibited and more willing to show my flaws.

JS: Name two places you would like to visit, one you haven’t been to and one to experience again and briefly tell us why.

DC: I’ve travelled A LOT and love to travel. There are many wonderful places I have been, but not one of them stands out as a desire even half as much as going home to Italy, especially to Rome. I’d like to return and spend time in Italy, every year.

I’ve never had the chance to go to Switzerland, and we are currently in talks with the Mission of Canada to the UN to discuss the possibility of bringing ‘That Never Happened’ to Geneva for the 70th Anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights. If this happens, it will certainly be a dream come true in many ways…

JS: Please tell us about one or more projects that you have been working on, are preparing, or have recently completed. Why do they matter to you and why should they matter to us?

DC: ‘That Never Happened: Canada’s First National Internment Operations’ is a documentary film that sheds light on a dark chapter of Canadian History which was nearly lost forever. It shows the hard work, organization and grit of the few good men and women who worked for over 25 years to get it acknowledged by the Government and finally put back into the Education system. It is at once both a story of triumph (theirs) and a story of tragedy, that innocent people were wrongfully imprisoned and how the internment operations affected men, women and children and future generations. ‘That Never Happened’ shows the multi-generational impact of injustice and why this story from 100 years ago is relevant today.

JS: Let’s talk about the state of the arts in today’s society, including the forms in which you work. What specifically gives you hope and what specifically do you find depressing?

DC: What gives me great encouragement is the push for female-driven stories and the push for women to tell more stories.

Depressing? Hm… As an Actor, there are so many gatekeepers, and everyone is doing the best job they can, but sometimes it feels, that you are very much an outsider. If you are not on the Casting director’s short list of favourites and go-to actors that they bring in again and again, it feels like “will I ever break through?” and you may never… but then again you may. So, I find the best balance is to be creating and making my own work, while collaborating with an Acting Agent who can send me opportunities I wouldn’t otherwise see or know about. My agent is Jana Abrams (Jana Abrams Talent Agency) and I love working with her; she totally has my back and I feel like I could tell her anything.

JS: Finally, what do you yourself find to be the most intriguing and/or surprising thing about you?

DC: As an Actor, part of my job is to know myself. A process that continues with each and every character I inhabit who inevitably inhabits me, whether that is for a single day or for many months, and sometimes she stays with me for years, in that she remains accessible to me any time. I don’t really find anything about myself intriguing at this point. In fact, the best I can do to answer this question now, is that I’ve recently realized there is absolutely nothing “special” about me; we are all so similar (human beings), my need to be or prove that I am special is just a survival mechanism and an illusion. What’s intriguing about me is what is intriguing about every single human being. We’re all wired for survival, we each have a brain whose function is to predict the future so that we can try to survive it, and the mind uses past experiences as a way to predict, prevent, avoid, dominate, survive the future. Every time I remind myself about this nonsense and become present to it, I remember that none of it matters and I am able to find the present moment. In the present moment, which is the only place Being (good Acting is Being) can live, I can listen to what my heart, passion and intuition all tell me and take actions from there. I guess I also find it intriguing how there are always blind spots, and when you are able to turn and look at the blind spot, it disappears. Then in no-time there will be another blind spot. It can be really funny…

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TARA ROSLING: SHAW FESTIVAL, FILM, AND TELEVISION ACTRESS DECLARES “OFTEN IT OCCURS TO ME – AFTER DEDICATING HOURS OF REHEARSAL AND THOUGHT AND CARE, AND GIVING ALL OF ONESELF OVER TO A PIECE OF THEATRE, ONLY TO HAVE IT SUBJECTIVELY SHREDDED TO PIECES BY ONE PERSON ON OPENING NIGHT – THAT THE CURRENT & TRADITIONAL ROLE OF CRITICS IS A SYSTEMIC ABSURDITY. IT FEELS LIKE THE TIME IS RIPE TO RE-EVALUATE THE ROLE OF THEATRE CRITICS.” … A REVIEWER’S INTERVIEW WITH PEOPLE IN THE ARTS


JAMES STRECKER: 1 If you were asked for 50 words for an encyclopedia to summarize what you do, or have done, in the arts, what would you say?

TARA ROSLING: As an actress, I attempt to offer the fullest life possible to the characters I am gifted to play upon the stage. Imagistically, I would describe my work as, “climbing into my character’s skin and tethering myself – my heart, my mind, my anatomy – to theirs” – thereby illuminating their story – their wants/needs/hopes/dreams/struggles via the action of the play.

JS: What important beliefs do you express in or through your work?

TR: Ultimately, I believe that my job is to explore & bring to light the complexly woven fabric of the human condition. I believe the theatre has tremendous power – it has the potential to provoke, challenge, inspire, transport, illuminate, and move. I believe theatre, at its most profound, offers a kind of communion. I give myself over to my craft with the faith that if I and all my colleagues do their jobs well, the audience will be impacted/altered in some way – in essence, reminded and reassured that we are all one.

JS: Name two people, living or dead, whom you admire a great deal and tell us why for each one.

TR: I admire my Great Aunt Joyce tremendously. She is a force of nature whose joyous, curious, and mischievous spirit always makes my heart swell. She has an insatiable appetite for life and learning, and always sees the glass half full. She is an indomitable spirit with a huge heart and a tremendous sense of humor. I want to be just like her when I grow up!!

I have contemplated ‘the 2nd’ & am at a loss … so I shall say “Martha Graham, Peggy Baker, Frida Kahlo, Chopin, Andrea Bird, Cate Blanchett, Daniel Day Lewis, Peter Hinton to name a few … because they all were/are incredible artists marching to the beat of their own drum!!

JS: How have you changed since you began to do creative work?

TR: Oh, my goodness! Well, to begin with … I’m decades older (&, if I may say so myself – wiser!) I’m now a mother & a wife … coming from a severely dysfunctional family, having a family of my own has deeply shifted who I am, my relationships (to myself & others) & how I engage with the world around me.

Initially my work was pure conviction … now there’s room for breath, thought & compassion. I think that I am now more grounded, and am able to bring more of myself to my work with a greater sense of humor than ever before.

JS: What are your biggest challenges as a creative person?

TR: Without a doubt my own insecurity is my greatest obstacle – but is this not true of us all? I think many artists question if what they have to offer is of value … this is certainly true of me.

JS: Please describe at least one major turning point in your life.

TR: Becoming a parent was a major turning point – my perspective/priorities have certainly shifted since the birth of my daughter Eliana. When I was younger ‘the work’ was all I saw & all that mattered to me. I still love what I do for a living tremendously, but my family now takes priority.

Meeting and working with Peter Hinton in 2011 on ‘When the Rain Stops Falling’ was another turning point. It came at a time in my life when I was considering walking away from acting … but working with him reminded me WHY I do WHAT I do: he is a remarkable and deeply inspiring artist/director/human whose presence in my life I will always be grateful for.

JS: What are the hardest things for an outsider to understand about what you do?

TR: Such an interesting question! As actors we often receive questions like “How do you remember all those lines”. Or the romanticized, “It must be so amazing to do something you love for a living”. And don’t get me wrong – it is!!! That being said, not every show is a labor of love … some shows are gifts to play every performance and others are paying gigs that we do our best to commit to every evening. I think what maybe most people are unaware of is that our work is not confined to rehearsal and performance; i.e. we don’t punch the clock and leave our work in the rehearsal hall until the next day – rather, ‘the work’ always bleeds into our daily lives. Actors are ALWAYS working/thinking/processing/obsessing … about their characters, this moment or that, this beat, this relationship, this direction, this accent. And we arrive on the stage we are not just playing a part … but opening ourselves, with great vulnerability, to share all the work, thought, care, and preparation that has come before.

JS: How and why did you begin to do creative work in the first place?

TR: My mother is an artist – a visual artist first, who became a music therapist later in life. Hence, art was a very present influence during my upbringing. When I turned 13, at my request, I was given the gift of acting classes. I had an amazing teacher who had a profound influence on me; she assigned me a monologue from Antigone and worked with me in such a way that I became forever hooked – & the rest is herstory … at 13 I devoted my life to acting!

JS: What haven’t you attempted as yet that you would like to do and please tell us why?

TR: I’m a pretty impulsive person. In 2011 I decided I wanted to do my Yoga Teacher Training – I did & have taught here in Niagara for many years. Two years ago, I decided I wanted to take piano lessons – I just took my Grade 3 piano exam!!! I’ve also embarked on the path of teaching Drama over the past 4 years and have enjoyed that tremendously. I guess next on the docket is something inspired by an incredible friend of mine, Marinda de Beer – she has been a devoted meditator for some years now & recently did a 4-day (silent) meditation retreat … I would like to attempt THAT!!

JS: What are your most meaningful achievements?

TR: If a child can be categorized as an ‘achievement’ – my daughter. Or perhaps I should rephrase that as ‘being a mother’.

Moving beyond dysfunction and fear to find/create wholeness, stability, & love in my life … greatly assisted by my husband & co-parent Patrick McManus.

Learning to play the piano.

JS: What advice would you give a young person who would like to do what you do?

TR: Aside from parenting, it’s the most challenging and rewarding journey you’ll ever embark on.

JS: Of what value are critics?

TR: Interesting question. Sometimes I ask myself the same thing. If a critic’s heart is in the right place and they truly believe in the value of theatre (I think of Jon Kaplan) I think they can be of tremendous value; to bring upcoming talent into the spotlight, to offer a critical eye with a loving hand, to keep the bar high whilst also keeping their own agendas/egos in check. But often it occurs to me – after dedicating hours of rehearsal and thought and care, and giving all of oneself over to a piece of theatre, only to have it subjectively shredded to pieces by one person on opening night – that the current & traditional role of critics is a systemic absurdity. If feels like the time is ripe to re-evaluate the role of theatre critics.

JS: What do you ask of your audience?

TR: That they turn off their phones, meet us half way, and listen.

JS: What specifically would you change about what goes on in the world and the arts?

TR: More rehearsal time – for life and art. More roles for women – for life and art.

JS: If you could relive one experience from your creative life, what would it be and why would you do so?

TR: There are, of course, very special experiences which perhaps one would wish to ‘relive’ because there were so special – i.e. I wish ‘When the Rain Stops Falling’ had another life because it was such an extra-ordinary production. That being said, one can never be certain that if given the opportunity to ‘relive’ an experience it will be the same, or even similar. So, if given the opportunity, I would perhaps choose to relive a creative experience that I felt I missed – i.e. could be improved upon now that I have more life experience and know more about my creative process. For example, I never felt that I fully ‘got’ Viola in Twelfth Night … I was too impulsive and impatient at 29 to understand “Time thou must untangle this not I …”. That is only one example of many. But I certainly don’t regret any of the choices I have made during my creative life … for they have informed who I am today.

S: Tell us what it feels like to be a figure who is presented somehow in the media. What effect does this presence have on you?

TR: Again, an interesting question. It really depends on the project. I have done a fair bit of self-producing – in these instances I rely heavily on the media to transmit information out into the public eye. Certainly, when I was younger, and embarking on my career as an actress, media attention meant a lot and it was tremendously exciting to receive any coverage! Now, aside from when a show that I am in is reviewed or when I am asked to engage in promotional material for a project I am working on, I don’t really think of myself as a figure who is presented in the media. I feel it is my place to commit to the project I am working on as fully as possible & if anyone has questions about it, my place is to speak about the work as candidly as possible.

JS: Name two places you would like to visit, one you haven’t been to and one to experience again and briefly tell us why

TR: I’m dying to go to Iceland … to sit in a hot spring & watch the northern lights. Call me crazy, but does that not sound AMAZING!!

Two winters ago, we went on a family trip to Costa Rica – we spent a month tooling around the country. Along the way we discovered ‘Samara’ – a family friendly town on the Nicoya Peninsula. It was pretty special – the ocean was beautiful & calm enough to spend hours in, in the evening there were all sorts of beachfront eateries to choose from, craft beer down the street, & coconut popsicles – what more could you ask for? I would go back there in a heartbeat.

JS: Please tell us about one or more projects that you have been working on, are preparing, or have recently completed. Why do they matter to you and why should they matter to us?

TR: I just finished working on the World Premiere of a new Canadian play called SILENCE by Trina Davies at the Grand Theatre in London, ON. A beautiful love story/ghost story/memory play about Mabel & Alexander Graham Bell, exquisitely directed by Peter Hinton.

Mabel Hubbard became deaf at the age of five due to a life-threatening bout of scarlet fever. Her parents ensured she had the finest education as it was their desire to equip Mabel to ‘enter society’. She was a very proficient lip reader and speaker, and was initially introduced to Alexander Graham Bell as his student. Over time they fell in love and SILENCE charts their turbulent relationship over the course of 50 years.

The play is very unique in that it tells Mabel’s life story from her perspective – i.e. when she engages (lip reads & talks) the audience hears the world & words of the play; BUT when Mabel disengages (turns away physically or emotionally) the world on stage become silent. It was an extra-ordinary experience! One of those plays where all the elements seemingly fused in a cohesive whole and it was truly a gift to perform each show. I feel deeply indebted to my cast mates: Graham Cuthbertson, Suzanne Bennet, Catherine Mackinnon, Madelyn Narod, & Michael Spencer Davis.

JS: Let’s talk about the state of the arts in today’s society, including the forms in which you work. What specifically gives you hope and what specifically do you find depressing?

TR: I find it hopeful that, despite the onslaught of technology & iPhone & I this & I that – people still come to see/hear plays, art, dance, and music. I find it hopeful that diversity in the arts is being addressed. I find hope in the #metoo movement – that women’s’ rights & human rights’ issues are beginning to be recognized & addressed.

I find it depressing that theatre/art is having such a rough go of it at present – that in our current world of increasing technology & immediate gratification somehow the value of theatre/art has taken a bit of a back seat. I find it depressing that the old cliché is true, “once a woman hits 40 there are fewer & fewer opportunities/roles available to her”. I find it depressing that there are seemingly very few resources available for those who are creating art; i.e. for SILENCE – the NEW CANADIAN play that I just finished performing – we had 2 1/2 weeks of rehearsal/tech before we met an audience!!!

JS: Finally, what do you yourself find to be the most intriguing and/or surprising thing about you?

TR: I’m a Grade A goofball with a lipstick fetish.

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ANDREA MENARD: METIS SINGER, PLAYWRIGHT, SONGWRITER, ACTRESS – SET TO DO A TEDX STANLEY PARK ON MARCH 3RD, 2018 – DECLARES: “SINCE MOST CRITICS ARE EUROCENTRIC, AND ILL-INFORMED TO INDIGENOUS AND OTHER CULTURAL AND SPIRITUAL STANDARDS, THEIR ‘EXPERTISE’ IS DREADFULLY UNEDUCATED AND DAMAGING TO THE SUCCESS OF NON-EUROCENTRIC PROJECTS.”…A REVIEWER’S INTERVIEW WITH PEOPLE IN THE ARTS

JAMES STRECKER: If you were asked for 50 words for an encyclopedia to summarize what you do, or have done, in the arts, what would you say?

ANDREA MENARD: Métis performer, Andrea Menard has used theatre, film/tv, music, public speaking, and writing to find her loving, authentic, Indigenous, Feminine voice.
In this time of great upheaval, where the old patriarchal systems are crumbling, Andrea has given her voice, her body, and her heart to help revive Love on this planet, and to rebirth the Sacred Feminine.

JS: What important beliefs do you express in or through your work?

AM: We are a Human Family.

There is no “us vs. them”.

That we are Spiritual Beings having a Human Experience.

That all Beings on and of the Earth are interconnected.

Indigenous people and teachings are Sacred.

Mother Earth is a living Being, who is our Mother.

Women are Sacred.

JS: Name two people, living or dead, whom you admire a great deal and tell us why for each one.

AM: Jennifer Podemski:
• Beloved friend, actress, film & tv producer, director, artistic producer of Indspire Awards
• First Nations & Israeli heritage
• Gemini Award winner, multiple Canadian Screen Award nominee (winner?)
• International film festivals: TIFF, etc.
• Kick ass actress! – worked with Sarah Polley, Benicio Tel Toro
• Producer of Empire of Dirt, Moccasin Flats, Rabbit Fall, The Other Side, Seventh Generation
• Huge supporter for Indigenous youth and ground breaker for Indigenous people of all kind. Opened doorways in the film and television industry. First All-Native production team (producer, actors, writers) in Canadian Television.
• visionary, do-er, fearless
• Her superpower: connecting people and seeing the best in everyone
• http://www.jenniferpodemski.com/

Shannon Loutitt:
• Beloved friend, honour runner, writer, co-founder and CEO of International Indigenous Speakers Bureau
• Métis & First Nations heritage
• Wanting to raise up her fellow Indigenous brothers and sisters, and create lasting bridges between Indigenous and non-indigenous communities, she co-founded the first ever Indigenous Speakers Bureau
• Ran 100 miles in 24 hours to honour her great grandfather Billy Loutitt, and retrace his heroic journey from Athabasca to Edmonton in 1904 (?) to get help for a flood threatening the HBC post of Athabasca.
• Ran 100 km from Saskatoon to Batoche with a young group of Honour Runners she trained as part of the Commemoration and Reconciliation Ceremony at Batoche in 2010. They delivered a message in the way of the runners of old.
• google Shannon Loutitt!
• http://kickasscanadians.ca/shannon-loutitt/
• https://www.iispeakersbureau.com/

JS: How have you changed since you began to do creative work?

AM: I now recognize that this innate creative ability needed nourishment in, not only my life, but in this world where creative arts are less valued. Now that I have honed my creative talents, they flow more easily. I trust them so implicitly now, that I can’t imagine operating solely from that logical brain. To tell you the truth, I don’t really remember what I was like BEFORE accessing this part of me.

JS: What are your biggest challenges as a creative person?

AM: Financially supporting my big ideas. Since I moved away from my home in Saskatchewan, and fell under new granting systems in the new province of BC, I realized how tenuous an artist’s life really can be. If you get a NO for a project that costs $35,000, but you have already committed your heart and your community to moving forward, you cannot turn around.

My projects MUST move forward. I think in visionary ways. When I “see” something, I “expect” the world to get on board. When it doesn’t, either financially or otherwise, it confuses and even shocks me. Is that arrogance? Or vision? haha

JS: Please describe at least one major turning point in your life.

AM: Moving away from the Métis homeland was a huge change that I didn’t know would affect me so deeply. When you move to another people’s territory, you are not the “Host” anymore. I took it for granted. Now I am a guest as the Coast Salish take over this role.

Another major event was when I really “accepted” my Cree Name, Notigwew Yutin – Grandmother Wind, that was given to me in ceremony. I literally kept it on the back burner for 4 years, before I understood that this little old wise woman inside of me has been there all along. It’s like I came out of the spiritual closet and started teaching healing methodologies through voice. Totally didn’t see that coming!! (join my newsletter, Grandmother Wind’s Tribe, to understand what I mean!!)

JS: What are the hardest things for an outsider to understand about what you do?

AM: Getting people of privilege to not only empathize but to actually “see” the struggle of those who are not privileged is very challenging. The blinders that enfold many Canadians are still pretty firmly entrenched.

And I’ve come to realize that my creative gifts are enhanced by my empathy. I take these two parts of me so for granted that I forget that not everyone FEELs the world around them so intensely.

It is hard to understand empathic abilities if one does not live from one’s heart. For example, when something painful happens to my fellow human Relatives or my animal Relatives, I feel it as if it were my own trauma. This is not the case for others.

Maybe outsiders don’t understand why “bringing communities together in peace” or ‘ending violence against women” means so much to me. It hurts one’s SELF too much to allow violence to be perpetrated upon OTHERS.

JS: How and why did you begin to do creative work in the first place?

AM: I am a Creative being. As are all human beings. There was never a time, when I didn’t create. I simply did what I was called to do.

JS: What haven’t you attempted as yet that you would like to do and please tell us why?

AM: Hmm. I don’t know.

I wanted to take my one woman show, The Velvet Devil, across Canada and make it into a film…and I did both.

I wanted to record uplifting music that offered well-being to humanity…my album Lift was released two years ago.

I wanted to do a symphony show…I debuted my show, I Am Andrea Menard, at the Regina Symphony Orchestra in 2014.

I wanted to do a TED talk…so I worked my butt off all year and am about to speak at the prestigious TEDx Stanley Park this March 3rd, 2018.

JS: What are your most meaningful achievements?

AM: Everything I have done that helped me overcome tremendous fear or obstacles.

The Velvet Devil – this bush girl was forced to learn 3 industries I knew nothing about: theatre, music and television.

Lift – this cd was a positive message for the world. Nowadays, I want my listeners to be uplifted and filled with hope about their own life. See my Music Messenger website for more info on this change of heart:

http://themusicmessengers.com

Finding the courage to speak about Violence Against Women in my TEDx talk. It was the last topic I wanted to talk about, because I was scared and ashamed, but the times is now. And the beauty that has come out of this endeavor has been amazing: a new song, a new video, and a movement to end violence against women.

JS: What advice would you give a young person who would like to do what you do?

AM: Never give up on your dreams or your calling. There is a ton of rejection in life, especially in the entertainment industry, and you can’t take NO for an answer.

If you listen to the call of your heart, no one will ever succeed in throwing you permanently off your course. Others may try to interfere, but only you can rise up in self-protection. Creator gave us humans our gifts and our callings. It’s up to us to answer and honour them.

JS: Of what value are critics?

AM: In my mind, there is no reason whatsoever for non-constructive criticism. Never will an outsider know the full story and should never have the right to make-or-break an artists’ vision. Since most critics are Eurocentric, and ill-informed to Indigenous and other cultural and spiritual standards, their “expertise” is dreadfully uneducated and damaging to the success of non-Eurocentric projects.

JS: What do you ask of your audience?

AM: To open their hearts and FEEL. I realize that this is one of the main roles I have taken on. To help people feel. I like to think that I help those with closed hearts find a safe place to flower and share love. We are not going to get anywhere in this world without love. And the only way to feel love is to feel. Period.

JS: What specifically would you change about what goes on in the world and the arts?

AM: I would change the way we treat Mother Earth and the terrible cruelty we inflict on each other. Human beings are so traumatized by millennia of violence that we have almost forgotten how to “love our brother.” As a Metis woman, who honours the mixed heritage I hold in my blood, bringing people together matters to me very much.

JS: If you could relive one experience from your creative life, what would it be and why would you do so?

AM: I have lived such a full life that I couldn’t possibly think of reliving just one Then I wouldn’t be open to the outrageous adventures that are still to come!

JS: Tell us what it feels like to be a figure who is presented somehow in the media. What effect does this presence have on you?

AM: I’m not sure your meaning on this one. Do you mean being stereotyped in the media as an Indigenous person? Or as a celebrity in the media?

It is very disconcerting to be one of the misrepresented minorities on television or in the media. When you are one of the people that is being stereotyped right before your eyes, and you can’t do anything to change it, its infuriating. They say that it’s not that stereotypes aren’t true, it’s that they tell only one side of the story. I can’t stand not having the whole picture revealed truthfully.

JS: Name two places you would like to visit, one you haven’t been to and one to experience again and briefly tell us why

AM: Egypt. Need I explain?

The South of France. – I went on a Mary Magdalene Camino and was profoundly changed by the landscape and hidden history of the place.

JS: Please tell us about one or more projects that you have been working on, are preparing, or have recently completed. Why do they matter to you and why should they matter to us?

AM: I just finished recording a song that is very close to my heart right now, called Silent No More.

It came as a result of needing a song to illuminate my TEDx Stanley Park topic: Violence Against Women Silences Far Too Many Voices in our Society.

When I finally had the courage to talk about this publicly, in other words, cracked my own silence, I knew that the only way I could speak up was to use all my talents to share the message. And that meant through song.

The song and topic are going to be released in March. We have plans to fill the streets of Vancouver’s downtown eastside with Indigenous women and allies in a March with t-shirts saying #SilentNoMore and #WeAreSacred.

I’ve also developed and am in the final stages of recording the teachings/music for my “Honouring Your Four Sacred Bodies” workshop.

JS: Let’s talk about the state of the arts in today’s society, including the forms in which you work. What specifically gives you hope and what specifically do you find depressing?

AM: The dramatic change in all my industries was incredibly challenging for me and my co-writers. It’s like we wanted to be riding on the coattails of our success a bit, but instead had to reinvent ourselves like we were beginners. Ouch.

I like to think that regardless what is happening “out there” in any industry, the real valuable work is in the quiet creative space.

As always, I re-invented myself to stay creative and stay active. You may not have seen me touring the country with tons of music releases, but you would have seen me on Netflix series, Blackstone. Or when all the industries seemed to reject me for a time, I was in my little office writing and creating healing modalities!!

I refuse to get depressed about all this change. It’s good to adapt.

JS: Finally, what do you yourself find to be the most intriguing and/or surprising thing about you?

AM: I am quite resilient. I used to hate that word when it came to Indigenous people or artists, but the truth is when I look back over my career I have had tremendous challenges and let-downs. I got through each one. I rose to the top every time. So, I am going to actually honour myself for that skill. Haha.

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ALISON MELVILLE: CELEBRATED RECORDER PLAYER, WHO JOINS TAFELMUSIK FOR ‘A RECORDER ROMP,’ FEBRUARY 8 TO 11, STATES: “SPEED AND GLITTER ARE FUN AND DEFINITELY A PART OF THE CREATIVE PACKAGE, BUT MAKING GOOD MUSIC, OR ART OF ANY KIND, REQUIRES REFLECTION AS WELL AS ACTION, CONTEMPLATION AS WELL AS PRODUCTION…OUR CULTURE IS VERY ‘YANG’ ORIENTED AND COULD REALLY USE A GREATER DOSE OF ‘YIN.’…. A REVIEWER’S INTERVIEW WITH PEOPLE IN THE ARTS

photo by Colin Savage

Concert info: http://www.tafelmusik.org/concert-calendar/concert/recorder-romp

JAMES STRECKER: If you were asked for 50 words for an encyclopedia to summarize what you do, or have done, in the arts, what would you say?

ALISON MELVILLE: player and teacher of recorders and historical flutes, whose performing career spans music from the 11th to 21st centuries, and includes orchestral work, opera, musicals, operetta, theatre and dance productions, new music, chamber music of all kinds from woodwind quintets to Renaissance consorts, solo recitals and concerto appearances, improvisation, and studio work for radio, television, film soundtracks and CDs, in Canada and abroad.

JS: What important beliefs do you express in or through your work?

AM: Music like all the arts is one of life’s great gifts. It inspires, unifies, heals, and communicates in ways words cannot. It’s also a great gift to be able to spend one’s life as a musician.

JS: Name two people, living or dead, whom you admire a great deal and tell us why for each one.

AM: It’s hard to choose just two!

1)      Frans Brüggen, the leading figure in the recorder ‘revival’ of the later 20th century. He was an expressive and persuasive musician whose best-suited medium just happened to be the recorder. As a kid I found both his playing and his attitude very inspiring.

2)      Rebecca Solnit, for her brilliant mind and her writing. I’m currently reading her ‘Hope in the Dark,’ a timely read these days.

JS: How have you changed since you began to do creative work?

AM: Creative occupations can be very instructive, especially when pursued in depth over a long period of time. I used to be very concerned about getting things exactly right, and playing well enough, whatever that means; after many years I’m in a more experimental and playful place. My curiosity reaches much further.

I began printmaking about three years ago and it’s been very interesting to experience how that informs and influences my musical work.

JS: What are your biggest challenges as a creative person?

AM: Allowing for quiet/fallow time; considering well without over-thinking; and finding the right balance between artistic and administrative work, something that goes along with being a freelance musician; getting enough sleep.

JS: Please describe at least one major turning point in your life.

AM: My post-graduate study at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis in Basel, Switzerland was a major turning point of three years duration, and the Canada Council audition I did to get there stands out for me as a significant moment.

I’d been in Basel for a brief time on a Short Term Grant and desperately wanted to go back for further study – it was as though I’d just scratched the surface of something so important that if I couldn’t go back, I didn’t know what I’d do. So, I applied for an Arts Award, which required several steps culminating in a competitive audition round. I made it through and at the audition the jury’s final musical request was the hardest section of a very difficult contemporary solo piece. I remember thinking that if I aced it, it would make the difference, and so I somehow managed to bid fear goodbye, and nailed it. The successful grant notification arrived about three weeks later. I’ll never forget that experience of courage overcoming anxiety, and I’ll always be grateful to the Canada Council!

JS: What are the hardest things for an outsider to understand about what you do?

AM: Many people have a hard time understanding why some musicians keep playing the recorder past grade 4. Let’s face it – beginner Suzuki class doesn’t sound so great either, but nobody blames the violin or cello for that. Like every other musical instrument, much depends on who’s playing it, and how.

JS: How and why did you begin to do creative work in the first place?

AM: I’m told I wanted to play the recorder when I was told that it was the flute-like thing my Uncle Bill played. Uncle Bill was much loved in our family, he was a great guy, and I think I wanted to be like him. But that aside, from the get-go I just loved to play music, and that feeling has never left me.

JS: What are your most meaningful achievements?

AM: Many of the Toronto Consort’s programs have been so inspiring to be a part of, particularly our recent Kanatha project with indigenous musicians from Ontario, Québec and New Brunswick.

Other highlights are the mixed media programs I designed as Artistic Director of the Bird Project, for which other colleagues such as Ben Grossman, Linda C. Smith, Debashis Sinha, Malcolm Sutherland and Stephen Dirkes have contributed wonderful audio and/or visual work; and the repertoire created for and with Ensemble Polaris, which is a mix of world/traditional/new/composed/improvised music, played with a bunch of great people.

This Recorder Romp program with Tafelmusik has also provided me with an opportunity to re-vision pieces I’ve known for a long time, even before we rehearse it. Vivaldi’s Concerto RV443 is well known amongst recorder players and the most publically familiar of our concertos, so it’s easy to get into a rut with it. But new ideas and approaches have been popping up in my preparation this time, and I’m looking forward to exploring them!

JS: What advice would you give a young person who would like to do what you do?

AM: Can you imagine being happy doing anything other than music? If the answer’s ‘No,’ then commit fully to music. Work hard while remaining kind to yourself, listen to lots of players and lots of music, study the scores, manuscripts, primary sources, and if possible spend some time in at least one geographical fishbowl other than your own.

Orchestral jobs don’t exist for recorder players, and the freelance world is quite tough. It requires that you devote some time to administration, promotion, marketing of your self or your group, etc., but make sure to use the majority of your energy and time on your musical work. Always remember why you chose music, and don’t let the grunt work extinguish your light.

Also: GET ENOUGH SLEEP.

And if a few years down the road you find the lifestyle’s not for you, then move on and be glad you gave yourself the chance to find this out.

JS: Of what value are critics?

AM: Useful things can often be learned from a critic who listens, observes, and writes from a knowledgeable and thoughtful standpoint.

JS: What do you ask of your audience?

AM: They’ve already given of themselves in numerous ways by attending. I just try to offer my best and hope they receive what they hope or need.

JS: What specifically would you change about what goes on in the world and the arts?

AM: I would love to see a slowing down of the warp speed at which much of our constructed world seems to operate. There’s such an emphasis on hype, speed, glitter. Speed and glitter are fun and definitely a part of the creative package, but making good music, or art of any kind, requires reflection as well as action, contemplation as well as production. It takes time, it does not have to produce immediate results, and that’s often overlooked. Our culture is very ‘yang’ oriented and could really use a greater dose of ‘yin.’

JS: If you could relive one experience from your creative life, what would it be and why would you do so?

AM: At the turn of this century I contributed a piece to 999 Years of Music, a millennium project by my friend, composer Peter Hannan. My piece was partly composed, partly structured improvisation from the performers. It was very touching to hear it performed, and it’d be special to experience that kind of revelation anew.

JS: Name two places you would like to visit, one you haven’t been to and one to experience again and briefly tell us why.

AM: I spent three weeks in Iceland in the last century and would love to go there again. I was working on that first trip and it’d be great to have more time to explore that fantastic geography.

I’d love to go to northern Scotland, particularly its islands. The landscape, the sea, and the mix of Gaelic and Norse influences there all beckon. Oh, and my roots too.

JS: Let’s talk about the state of the arts in today’s society, including the forms in which you work. What specifically gives you hope and what specifically do you find depressing?

AM: A previous response partially answers this. I’d also be delighted to see a greater recognition of the time, energy and cost of making recordings, and more willingness to compensate musicians for this from the people who run and use services like Spotify, etc. No musician makes recordings to get rich, but the compensation from these services to their ‘content providers’ is pathetic.

JS: Finally, what do you yourself find to be the most intriguing and/or surprising thing about you?

AM: I’m not sure I’m the right person to ask, but people are often surprised that I earned a diploma in Zen Shiatsu many years ago, at a time when I thought I might step away from music. As it turned out, that didn’t happen, but I learned a lot from that training!

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FIONA BYRNE: ACTRESS UPCOMING IN 2018 SHAW FESTIVAL’S “STAGE KISS” AND “MAN OF DESTINY” DECLARES “I FIND IT DEPRESSING HOW COMMONLY POWER IS MISUSED AND ABUSED IN MANY REHEARSAL HALLS AND THEATRES AROUND THE COUNTRY. I AM REALLY FED UP. AND I FEEL LUCKY TO HAVE WORKED IN GENERALLY HEALTHY SPACES THROUGHOUT MY CAREER, WHERE I FELT RESPECTED AND SAFE. AND ABLE TO DO MY JOB. BECAUSE I KNOW THAT’S NOT THE CASE FOR SO MANY.” …A REVIEWER’S INTERVIEW WITH PEOPLE IN THE ARTS

JAMES STRECKER: If you were asked for 50 words for an encyclopedia to summarize what you do, or have done, in the arts, what would you say?

FIONA BYRNE: Fiona discovered her love for acting while studying English and Drama at the University of Toronto.  She graduated from the National Theatre School and since then has been working as an actress, mostly on stage, sometimes on television and in film.

JS: What important beliefs do you express in or through your work?

FB: I believe deeply in the power and gift of collaboration.  I think that belief grew from my time as a dancer – the beautiful necessity of the other, the endless possibilities of truly working together to tell a story. I believe that theatre can be life changing, for both the makers and the watchers.  It certainly has been for me, in both capacities.  I believe that generosity is key – with each other, with ourselves, and with the work.

JS: Name two people, living or dead, whom you admire a great deal and tell us why for each one.

FB: I met the brilliant actress Goldie Semple when I first started at the Shaw Festival.  I had admired her from afar and was lucky enough to work with her several times. Onstage, she was regal, beautiful, but her deep humanity shone through, and her kindness.  I suppose the big gift she gave me was her friendship.  We shared dressing rooms together over the years and she was so funny and self-deprecating.  And yet she knew how to take care of herself and stand up for herself and her character, in rehearsal and in performance.  She took her space.  Goldie was very much a mentor to me, and I feel her absence deeply.

And my Dad, John Byrne.  He possesses an optimism and a curiosity about the world like I’ve never seen.  He’s not always had it easy but he has never, ever, ever given up his belief in the goodness of people and in better days ahead.  He doesn’t believe in the importance of material things at all – he knows very little is needed to live a happy life.  He has an easygoing, gentle tenacity that beats all the tough stuff to the ground. No doubt, he’s the biggest inspiration in my life.  (My Mom is pretty awesome too – I better include that or she’ll be put out!)

JS: How have you changed since you began to do creative work?

FB: Being immersed in the work that I do has made me notice the theatre in the everyday.  I will be at a restaurant, in a store, or on an airplane, and I will see the nerves of the people who work there, the backstage versus the performance area, all of it.  It’s obvious I suppose but for me it makes me see how we are all interconnected and how the theatre of life is around us all.  I love it.  It fuels my imagination and comforts me somehow in this crazy, sometimes lonely world.

All of my report cards as a child commented on my shyness and quietness, which are still present, but because of my work, and feeling more confident in my own artistic voice, I’ve become more gregarious.  I trust my own opinions more and more.

JS: What are your biggest challenges as a creative person?

FB: Oh, I would say fearing failure.  I wouldn’t say I’m a perfectionist, but I am very hard on myself, and overly sensitive, and I think caring so much about what “others” will think of me as a person and as an artist really blocks me sometimes.  There are moments, though, when I am onstage and I forget about everything except my character’s thoughts and the faces and energies of those on stage with me, that’s when I feel free.  I stop judging myself and I sort of disappear into it all.  And I stop caring about result, about effect, about criticism.  I wish I could carry that with me all the time, because I know that’s where true creative power lies.  I know I judge myself more harshly than any critic ever could.

JS: Please describe at least one major turning point in your life.

FB: I was an Irish dancer for 17 years, and I remember competing at the North American Championships as a teenager.  I was doing well and then half way into my final dance, I slipped and fell.  Everything went into slow motion for me.  I heard the audience gasp, and become quiet.  I immediately got up and kept dancing.  It was surreal.  I ended up winning the championship, and I remember one of the judges commenting on my ability to recover.  Looking back, that was a big moment for me in connection to my own ability to handle adversity onstage and to be present – to recover when things go awry.  I was surprised by my courage onstage.

JS: What are the hardest things for an outsider to understand about what you do?

FB: I think people are surprised to hear that it can be a grind – that there is slow, methodical work involved in the creation of a piece of theatre.  My friends who don’t work in the arts think of my job as really glamorous, and there are times when I would agree, but not often.   And I’ve had many conversations trying to explain how I don’t get unemployment, or maternity leave.  That’s always a shocker.

JS: How and why did you begin to do creative work in the first place?

FB: Well I danced from a very young age, and that no doubt planted the seed, but in university I started to do community theatre and to take drama classes, with every intention of being an English professor.  And then, I just wanted to act…I abandoned the idea of being a professor and auditioned for the National Theatre School and after I was accepted, I considered it fate, and an affirmation that it wasn’t a crazy idea, and I kept going.  I actually didn’t fully articulate to myself that wanted to do this as a career until well into my second year of theatre school.  I just couldn’t believe I could do it for a living. But it made me feel complete, and I think it gave me, as a shy, under the radar kind of person, a place to feel like I could expand the possibilities of who I was. I remember, at theatre school, my first-year voice teacher, the wonderful Sheila Langston, asking me why I loved acting, and it was the first time anyone had ever asked me, and I remember saying that I felt like I was ready to burst with colour every time I got to perform.  And, bless her, she said she understood.

JS: What haven’t you attempted as yet that you would like to do and please tell us why?

FB: I would like to do a one woman show.  That terrifies me enough to think it might be a really good thing for me to do.  And to do some more Shakespeare. I saw Groundling Theatre’s brilliant production of Lear recently…it was so clear, sharp and deeply felt.  I felt very inspired leaving the theatre.

And I’d like to become a decent potter. I’m a big lover of the ceramic arts, but it’s all from afar… but to make something passable, that I could actually put on a shelf and be able to look at without cringing, that would be great.

JS: What are your most meaningful achievements?

FB: Well, I have two beautiful daughters, and I feel proud to be their Mom.  And I am also proud to love the amazing David Jansen, who is among the greatest of men and a true, brilliant artist.

JS: What advice would you give a young person who would like to do what you do?

FB: Well, as difficult as this choice of career can be, I know how fulfilling and life affirming it can be, so I would always encourage them to follow their ambition.  But I would also advise that they ask as many questions as they can of artists about what it is really like, day to day.  Ask other young people who are starting out, ask older people what their lives are like…really investigate… and then go for it if it’s still their heart’s dream.

JS: Of what value are critics?

FB: They are necessary as part of the creative machine, and serve the public who, more and more, are tentative about spending their hard-earned cash on often expensive tickets.  If I am curious about a play here in Canada or elsewhere in the world that I know I won’t see, I read the reviews, but if I see a play after reading a review I become too influenced and distracted.  The experience becomes comparative instead of allowing me to fully concentrate.  People love to tell me about my reviews, though, and boy do they love to post them, which I find curious.  I have no doubt that critics are often excellent writers and observant thinkers…I am just too easily swayed and this skin of mine is just too thin.  I will fully admit to peeking very occasionally at my own reviews after a run is finished.  So hard not to, as they are online forever…and ever…

JS: What do you ask of your audience?

FB: To listen.  To be open to having their minds and hearts changed.  To try to leave any agendas at home and come to experience something fully, by just being present.  And also, no candies.

JS: What specifically would you change about what goes on in the world and the arts?

FB: I am reading a lot these days about how we are not doing ourselves, or our kids, any favours, by introducing them to technology and allowing it to become a replacement for real communication, for real life.  I admit to being a part of the problem and often getting swept up in technology with the cost, I fear, being high, for myself and those close to me.  Kid’s attention spans are now shorter than fish’s, or some such odd statistic. How can we expect them to be interested in seeing a full-length play, or reading a book not laden with distracting illustrations?  How can we expect the next generation to know how to look at each other, to honestly look at themselves and to like or even accept what they see?

To me, what I worry about is that no one is daydreaming anymore.  I have to say I spent a lot of my childhood lying in my backyard imagining stuff.  I feel like it helped me figure out what I really thought, and gave my brain space to be creative.  Oh, how I miss those days.  And of course, I am not saying it’s all bad now, and it was all perfect then.  Of course not.  But I would wish for us all to put our phones down sometimes and start daydreaming again.  I was eating at a restaurant alone recently and I didn’t have my phone with me.  I just sat and ate, so happy, having a rare moment of peace, and I caught the eye of a woman in a group across the restaurant, looking at me with confusion and a bit of pity.  I think she was tempted to bring her phone over so I would have something to do.

As far as the arts go, I want to see a time when fairness, decency, respect, and diversity in casting, would be a given.  That all artists, no matter their gender, colour or age, would be given an equal voice.

JS: If you could relive one experience from your creative life, what would it be and why would you do so?

FB: The opening night of ‘Belle Moral – A Natural History’ at the Shaw.  It was at the Court House, which is still in use but not in the same way anymore.  It was an intimate space and I could feel the audience really living and breathing the play with us.  The feeling at the end was one of unity and pure joy.  I will never forget it.    Oh, and Top Girls.  Also, in the Court House.  That scene with Marlene, Joyce and Angie at the end of the play is a masterclass in writing and getting to perform it with two of my favourite actors and people, Tara Rosling and Julia Course, was beyond my wildest dreams.  I used to walk home after every performance of Top Girls on a giddy high.

JS: Tell us what it feels like to be a figure who is presented somehow in the media. What effect does this presence have on you?

FB: To be honest, I don’t think of myself that way at all. Working in Canadian theatre gives me a nice anonymity where I can do my work and get on with it.

JS: Name two places you would like to visit, one you haven’t been to and one to experience again and briefly tell us why

FB: I would love to go back to Galway, Ireland.  I lived there after theatre school, interning with a theatre company, and it’s also where I have some family based (the rest are in Dublin).  It is one of the most gorgeous places, looking out onto the sea, and the city itself is bursting with music, theatre, art of every kind – and incredible, daring artists. I found inspiration everywhere in Galway and the surrounding towns.  I want to bring David and the girls and to experience it with them.  I want to sit in the pub while the rain comes down and hear a session of musicians play.

And I’ve always wanted to visit Japan.  To spend a good amount of time there exploring it fully…it strikes me as a place of exquisite beauty and art.

JS: Please tell us about one or more projects that you have been working on, are preparing, or have recently completed. Why do they matter to you and why should they matter to us?

FB: I have been teaching and coaching at the National Theatre School this winter.  I haven’t spent much of my career teaching, and to get to work with these students at my alma mater has been incredible.  It has been inspiring and humbling to revisit my old school in this capacity.  And it has given me the chance to re-examine my own process in a very real way.  I like to imagine it will feed into my work as a performer.  Speaking of which, I am pretty chuffed to be working on Sarah Ruhl’s “Stage Kiss”, starting rehearsals pretty soon.  It’s a play I’ve loved for a few years, packed with both wit and heart, and I am both thrilled and terrified to be playing ‘She’…and then the ‘Strange Lady’ in Shaw’s really funny “Man of Destiny”.  Neither of my upcoming characters have been given proper names, which I love.  So much mystery.  These projects matter to me because they are awesomely challenging and will test me in new ways…I feel grateful for that.

JS: Let’s talk about the state of the arts in today’s society, including the forms in which you work. What specifically gives you hope and what specifically do you find depressing?

FB: I got this questionnaire to fill out in the midst of such a difficult and important time, and it all still feels so new and raw.  First, I will say that the arts are more vital as ever as we push back hard against a world that can be filled with hate and abuse and suffering.  What gives me hope is the bravery I see all around me. Bravery to make art that explores and lives inside unspeakable pain, like Betroffenheit.

And also, the bravery of women to come forward whose personal lives and artistic paths have been compromised by sexual harassment and horrible mistreatment.  I find it depressing how commonly power is misused and abused, not only in the situation coming to light now, but in many rehearsal halls and theatres around the country.  I am really fed up.  And I feel lucky to have worked in generally healthy spaces throughout my career, where I felt respected and safe. And able to do my job.  Because I know that’s not the case for so many.

What gives me hope are those same brave women, who have spoken up for so many who felt they couldn’t, and have made change possible.  Enough is enough.  There is change afoot, and I am eager to see what art is possible when every person feels heard and empowered, where no one feels stifled or alone.

I want theatre that takes great risks, but where the artist feels utterly safe.  I do feel it’s possible.

JS: Finally, what do you yourself find to be the most intriguing and/or surprising thing about you?

FB: Oh, let’s see…well, I think this might not be either intriguing or surprising, but I do know that when I meet people through my work, they seem to get an impression of me (not their fault, it’s what I present) of being a somewhat together person.    In truth I am often so scatterbrained, and I can talk a mile a minute often in constant non-sequiturs to the confusion of my patient friends and family.  I like to delude myself that it’s a Virginia Woolf-like stream of consciousness, but ultimately, I know it’s just my mile-a-minute thoughts running away from me.  I am trying to rein it in as I get older. In vain.

And also, I adore hawks.  I even belong to a hawk watching society.  I can be seen walking around my neighbourhood, always looking up at the trees…just in case I see one.

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GLENN ANDERSON: THE TORONTO DRUMMER FOR FORTY YEARS TALKS REALITY: “MUSICIANS REGULARLY WORK IN A ‘PAY WHAT YOU CAN’ SCENARIO, BUT THIS IS HARDLY A LIVING WAGE; WE ARE NOT EVEN COVERED BY THE LATEST MINIMUM WAGE STANDARDS. THAT IS THE INHERENT RISK OF BEING INVOLVED IN THE ARTS.” …A REVIEWER’S INTERVIEW WITH PEOPLE IN THE ARTS

JAMES STRECKER: If you were asked for 50 words for an encyclopedia to summarize what you do, or have done in the arts, what would you say?

GLENN ANDERSON: I have been a musician and specifically a drummer for the past 40 years performing extensively in several genres of jazz as well as a myriad of different styles of music. I suppose I have a bit of a reputation in providing solid, sensitive rhythm section support for many vocalists.

JS: What important beliefs do you express through your work?

GA: That’s a big question! I think first and foremost, the belief in the concept of cooperation and working together, i.e., working together for a common goal of making great music and having a great time doing it in an environment whereby the artists feel “safe” to take a leap of faith to be their creative best during every performance.

JS: Name two people, living or dead, whom you admire a great deal and tell us why for each one.

GA: I’ll pick one living and one dead…first, musician/songwriter Steve Earle. I’m not a Steve Earle fanatic, however, I admire Steve the person as well as musician. He’s a person who’s experienced it all, to hell and back again with addiction issues, a stint in prison and yet he’s grown stronger and stronger as a person and as a songwriter. Earle is a person who has been and continues to be an activist, through his music and otherwise, on many social issues affecting the U.S. and the world despite criticisms from some and despite the fact his career could potentially be negatively affected by those in power.

The second person is no longer with us. That’s my father. He passed away nearly 30 years ago and yet continues to have a profound effect on my life as a musician, as a person and most importantly as a parent. He was an artist in his own way. He was a typesetter for 30 years, which is an almost obsolete form of printing rarely used today. He loved his gig and despite suffering with cancer continued to work until he simply couldn’t stand up any longer. The irony was that his cancer was a direct result of his printing artistry, namely benzene in the inks and working with molten lead every day. He introduced me to two of my passions, namely jazz music and the game of hockey.

JS: How have you changed since you began to do creative work?

GA: I was bitten by the creative “bug” back in elementary school and that’s a long time ago now. I started playing drums and taking lessons when I was 8 years old. I’m turning 58 this year so that’s 50 years of hopefully being creative in some way every day of my life. Fifty years is a long time, forty years of it working as a professional musician. We all change more than we probably know over the course of that length of time.

JS: What are your biggest challenges as a creative person?

GA: I think one of the biggest challenges as a musician in Toronto, Canada or anywhere for that matter is how to make a living doing what you love and continue to do that for a lifetime. Simply put, it isn’t easy and it isn’t getting easier for a variety of reasons. There’s been a profound change in the music “industry” and especially for the working musician. That’s what I am when it comes down to it … a working musician.

There are other challenges such as maintaining the physical conditioning to play an instrument as physical and sometimes challenging as the drums. That includes performance and lugging gear and equipment around as you get a little older.

Staying relevant and well known in the music scene can be another challenge for musicians or any creative person on the scene today.

JS: Please describe one turning point in your life.

GA: When I was in elementary school, a big band from Wexford Collegiate (now Wexford Collegiate School for the Arts) in Scarborough performed at my school one day and I was simply blown away hearing a big band live after hearing so many of them on the “stereo” as a kid at home. Long story shorter, I ended up attending Wexford as a result of that day and meeting musical director J. Ross Folkes who had a profound effect on me becoming a musician as a career choice and my development as a professional.

JS: What are the hardest things for an outsider to understand what you do?

GA: I think one of the hardest things is for folks to understand is the time and effort it takes for any artist to begin to achieve the skills and wherewithal to achieve some “success” and standing in the community, both artistic and otherwise.

JS: How and why did you begin to do creative work in the first place?

GA: As I mentioned, it was a combination of a number of people and circumstances which lead me to a career in music. My interest in music started with my elementary school teacher Mrs. Downs introducing me to vocal music and musical theatre, resulting in friends and I forming a “bad” band and my first performance playing just a snare drum in a school talent show. One of those persons responsible for me drumming was my drum teacher, Mr. Kelly Ross. He set me on the right path by insisting I become fluent in the basics of playing the drums. Besides that, I thought it was kind of cool that he not only taught but played in jazz groups when they were used in “strip joints” … I mean I was only a kid and that sounded pretty successful to me!

Why creative work? I’m sure how to answer that other than suggesting that, for me, it was something I innately knew I wanted to do from the time I was just a kid. I mean, I turned down accordion lessons because I wanted to play drums so badly! No disrespect to my friend and star accordionist Denis Keldie.

JS: What haven’t you attempted as yet, that you would like to do and please tell us why?

GA: Two of my musical drumming idols that had a profound effect on my playing style were none other than Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich, two of the greatest drummers to drive a big band that ever lived. The concept of a “big band” or “stage band” appealed to me immediately as a kid and continues to do so. I’ve played in big bands all my life, but have never had the opportunity to lead and/or record a big band of my own. I suppose the facts that I’ve always been kept fairly busy with other folk’s projects and the incredibly high financial cost of a big band, have kept this a bit of a musical/professional dream.

JS: What are your most meaningful achievements?

GA: I’m going to assume you mean as a musician. Off the top, I’d say the fact that I’ve continued to work as musician in a city like Toronto for forty years now is an achievement. I suppose that says a lot in some ways…most folks don’t see the act of simply working as an achievement per se. It’s what we all have to do to live and thrive; however, when you’re “only as good as your last gig” you have to work hard, have an open mind and be young at heart in order to continue to be in demand by your peers all these years. I’m very blessed indeed. Poor, mind you, but blessed! Haha!

JS: What advice would give a young person who wants to do what you do?

GA: They call it the “music business” for a reason. There’s the music side of it, and then there’s the dreaded business side of it. I think the music side of it is obvious to younger musicians. They’ve already been bitten by the music bug so to speak and understand they are going to have to practice and work diligently on their craft and do so willingly every day. That being said, there’s many, many great musicians out there trying to make a living. Different musicians have different notions of success; however, I think it’s imperative that all musicians have an understanding of basic business skills and for those of us who do gigs of all descriptions, a sense of professionalism when working. Being a working musician is no different than running a small business and with that comes certain responsibilities to make that business viable in an incredibly competitive and changing music business.

On a less practical note, I would say surround yourself with positive influences, musical and otherwise. Of course, there will always be those who will be discouraging and some of those folks are doing so with what they feel are your best interests at heart. Follow your heart but don’t ignore your head either.

JS: Of what value are critics?

GA: I think that depends on whether the critic is evaluating “you” or someone else. What I mean by that is, we’re all human beings and I don’t know too many people who actually enjoy having their work criticized for all to read/see, but I have to admit that I’ve many a record review or critique of a performance in my lifetime. A positive aspect to critics is that they are bringing one’s work forward to the general public. The artist, though, has to keep criticism in perspective. I can remember reading two newspaper reviews of a performance I was involved with many years ago. While both were relatively positive, they had very different views of my performance within the group in question, as well as the group’s performance in general. Two critics. Two opinions.

Of course, with social media playing such a huge role in our lives, everyone is a critic!

JS: What do you ask of your audience?

GA: Show up!! Please show up!! For many reasons, the live music scene in Toronto has changed in many ways. People are busier than ever and in a city like Toronto have a multitude of choices when deciding how to spend their entertainment dollars and where to spend them. Folks don’t have to leave their living rooms to be entertained. Toronto is becoming increasingly affordable for only the “rich” and many people are simply trying to survive the cost of housing and transportation. I’m eternally grateful for the folks who continue to head out and choose live music as their choice of entertainment. We take a back seat to no other city in the world when it comes to the level of musicianship in the clubs and concert halls and I wish more people would get out and hear and see a live band because those of us over the age of 45 remember the joys of live music and a full venue.

JS: What specifically would you change about what goes on in the world and the arts?

GA: I would love to change the priority that live and recorded music and the arts has within our governments at all levels. Without getting into the gory details of the positive effects of music and the arts on a culture, not to mention the economy of a country or even a city, the arts and music need far more funding at every level, but especially within our educational systems from daycare through university and college.

JS: If you could relive one experience from your creative life, what would it be and why would you do so?

GA: In 2003 I recorded the first and only CD under my name called Glenn Anderson ‘Swingin’ the Blues’. I was very lucky to have some great players on it, some from as far away as New Orleans.

The recording venue had a beautiful grand piano that had just had a major overhaul and, unfortunately for our host, not to mention the session, the piano’s action did not take kindly to the work done on it, and our friend and a wonderful musician, pianist Bob George smiled and simply played on. We went ahead with the session and CD because, unfortunately, Bob passed away shortly after the session and there was no chance to head back into the studio. I would love to be able to do that session over for Bob’s sake. It was his last recording and I would have liked to have provided a better vehicle for his incredible playing. We all miss him.

JS: Tell us what it is like to be a figure, who is presented somehow in the media. What effect does this presence have on you?

GA: The role I play as a musician/drummer is, more often than not, a supportive one. For that reason, it is generally the person I am working for that is the focus of the media’s interest or criticism. In that circumstance, if I’m doing my job, I suppose I’m not drawing too much attention.

JS: Name two places you would like to visit, one you haven’t been to and one to experience again and briefly tell us why?

GA: Well, I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve been all over the world, but I’ve never been to New York City. There, I said it!! Haha! I know it’s sacrilege for anyone playing any kind of jazz not to have visited and/or studied in New York, but I haven’t. So, for obvious reasons, New York is on the list.
I visited and performed in Paris in 1977 with several bands while in high school and have never returned. Considering the history of the city, both musical and otherwise, I’d like to return for a visit and hopefully performance in Paris.

JS: Please tell us about one or more projects you have been working on, are preparing or recently completed. Why do they matter to you and why should they matter to us?

GA: One of the first genres of jazz I was exposed to was that of traditional or New Orleans jazz. I try not to use the word ‘Dixieland’ as it has a somewhat stereotyped connotation of loud music in striped vests and straw hats. Having played in many, many traditional jazz bands of note in Toronto I wanted to create a musical vehicle by which I could present traditional jazz alongside other musical traditions of New Orleans. In 2011, Toronto bassist Jack Zorawski and I invited singer/pianist Roberta Hunt (14 years with legendary trad jazz band Happy Pals) and acclaimed saxophonist Alison Young to form a band we called Red Hot Ramble. Trombonist Jamie Stager joined the band shortly thereafter. We’ve recorded two CDs, ‘Red Hot Ramble’ and ‘Some Swamp Stomp’ and are just now planning our third! We’re friends and musical colleagues and we’ve managed to weave the music of New Orleans through a Canadian musical perspective. It’s been a wonderful experience together that’s been evolving for over seven years now with no end in sight. There’s something still to be said for group of musicians getting together to create music live and doing so without reservation. I think there’s still some value in that.

JS: Let’s talk about the state of the arts in today’s society, including the forms in which you work. What specifically gives you hope and what specifically do you find depressing?

GA: Let’s start with the positive. There will always been a place in society for the arts. What role that plays often depends on where you’re talking about. When you live and perform the majority of your art in a major city like Toronto, one can often feel like the arts are being relegated to being a cultural afterthought. There is simply so much to do that a relatively unheralded club performance that’s happening might not necessarily be on everyone’s radars. Now take that performance to a smaller centre and it could be an extremely well-attended cultural event with a completely different significance to that immediate community. The value placed on the arts seems to vary from community to community throughout the country, but generally speaking if you’re willing to travel, there is still a real thirst for live music and the arts throughout Canada and I believe there always will be.

It gives me a great deal of hope to see the young and new musicians and artists that spring forth every year. While I have concerns about where all these amazing musicians are going to work and earn an actually living, all musicians and artists have this intangible tenacity for continuing to want to present meaningful art and music and somehow surviving.

On the not so positive side, I have a great deal of concern for what is happening to a city like Toronto in terms of uncontrollable growth that includes the endless destruction of neighbourhoods and communities where music was once heard in venue after venue. I’m concerned for the gentrification of the downtown core that once hosted the best and the brightest from the arts and music, but now presents endless rows of shoe stores, coffee shops and clothing stores that come and go with regularity, combined with rents so outrageously high that very few can afford the risk and finances of running a club that presents live music. Artists are being forced out of our cities to seek living space in communities where there is more affordable housing. While this creates new centres of artistic and musical expression, it is having a profound effect on the lives of musicians and artists. We live in a city that so desperately wants to be “world class” full of world class musicians yet those same musicians cannot park and unload their vehicles without getting a ticket. Musicians regularly work in a “pay what you can” scenario but this is hardly a living wage; we are not even covered by the latest minimum wage standards. That is the inherent risk of being involved in the arts. It is always a struggle for the vast majority of artists and it’s likely to continue on that way.

JS: Finally, what do you yourself find to be the most intriguing and/or surprising thing about you?

GA: I think the most surprising thing is that I’m still involved in playing music professionally. Despite having those moments of self-doubt and an everlasting love/hate relationship with the performing arts and the music world, I’m still here forty years later; playing drums and making great music with some of the most incredible musicians you’ll hear anywhere. Who’da thought?

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INGRID FLITER: ACCLAIMED ARGENTINIAN PIANIST, WHO JOINS TORONTO SYMPHONY JANUARY 31 & FEBRUARY 2 FOR FALLA’S NIGHTS IN THE GARDENS OF SPAIN, EXPLAINS “I’VE RECENTLY DISCOVERED THE LOVE OF PAINTING AND I NEVER EXPECTED IT COULD UNFOLD SUCH A WONDERFUL WORLD IN FRONT OF ME” …. A REVIEWER’S INTERVIEW WITH PEOPLE IN THE ARTS

Construction 1: Painting by Ingrid Fliter

JAMES STRECKER: If you were asked for 50 words for an encyclopedia to summarize what you do, or have done, in the arts, what would you say?

INGRID FLITER: That thanks to art I am dedicated to deal with beauty every day of my life. That I expanded my horizons by experiencing different spiritual journeys. That I explored freedom of thought by searching for my inner voice. That I had the opportunity to experience to be different characters: a poet, a philosopher, a singer, an entertainer, a painter, a religious being, and more. That I had the huge privilege to bring back to life the miraculous work of my musical heroes. That I had a chance to relate to people at a deeper level of human communication.

JS: What important beliefs do you express in or through your work?

IF: That music is a mysterious powerful tool of human expression and that it makes one feel belong to something bigger than oneself.

JS: Name two people, living or dead, whom you admire a great deal and tell us why for each one.

IF: Zoltán Kocsis, one of the most brilliant people I’ve ever encountered. He believed in me in the moment I needed it the most.
Arthur Rubinstein, thanks to whom I discovered my love my Chopin’s music.

JS: How have you changed since you began to do creative work?

IF: I don’t recall exactly when I actually “began” as I was a child and took the process in a very natural way. For sure it helped me focus and have a strong desire for excellence and creativity.

JS: What are your biggest challenges as a creative person?

IF: To keep the freshness of a child and have the wisdom of an old master.

JS: Please describe at least one major turning point in your life.

IF: When I got the Gilmore Award in 2006. It completely changed my life and opened for me the doors of the world.

JS: What are the hardest things for an outsider to understand about what you do?

IF: The complete dedication it demands and the loneliness it brings.

JS: How and why did you begin to do creative work in the first place?

IF: My parents, both music lovers, decided to take me to piano lessons. As soon as I started, I loved it right away! At that time, I actually enjoyed practicing a lot!

JS: What haven’t you attempted as yet that you would like to do and please tell us why?

IF: Travelling to remote places in the world and playing for people who haven’t heard classical music never before.

JS: What are your most meaningful achievements?

IF: The Silver medal in the Chopin competition 2000.
The Gilmore Award 2006.
Teaching at the Imola Academy where I myself studied.
Having played all the Beethoven piano concertos live.
Having played the Bartok Sonata with Zoltán Kocsis.

JS: What advice would you give a young person who would like to do what you do?

IF: To ask him/herself how strong his/her passion is because that’s the only thing that would keep one going despite all the difficulties.

JS: Of what value are critics?

IF: Some critics can be quite constructive, so it’s important to learn to discern which one deserves your attention and which one not.

JS: What do you ask of your audience?

IF: That they come to enjoy and forget about their daily worries. Also, I appreciate when the public listens with no preconceptions of how some piece of music should sound because of recordings they heard in the past.

JS: What specifically would you change about what goes on in the world and the arts?

IF: The injustice. In arts there’s plenty of talented people who don’t or will not have the opportunities/recognition they deserve.

JS: If you could relive one experience from your creative life, what would it be and why would you do so?

IF: When I was 16 years old and played with the orchestra for the first time, Beethoven concerto n. 3 in the Teatro Colón, Buenos Aires. I was simply in paradise.

JS: Name two places you would like to visit, one you haven’t been to and one to experience again and briefly tell us why

IF: Northern Europe to see the Aurora borealis, never been.
Israel because I have a strong spiritual connection to this country.

JS: Please tell us about one or more projects that you have been working on, are preparing, or have recently completed. Why do they matter to you and why should they matter to us?

IF: I have recently finished the recording of all the Chopin Nocturnes. It has been an amazingly enriching and satisfying process

JS: Finally, what do you yourself find to be the most intriguing and/or surprising thing about you?

IF: That I’ve recently discovered the love of painting and that I never expected it could unfold such a wonderful world in front of me.

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ELIZABETH RUMSEY ON TREBLE VIOL JOINS SCARAMELLA JANUARY 27 IN TORONTO AND HERE EXPLAINS “TO HAVE MUSIC AS A PROFESSION MEANS THAT IT BECOMES A LENS THROUGH WHICH YOU SEE EVERYTHING ELSE…. AND BY TRAINING YOURSELF TO LISTEN, YOU ENSURE THAT YOU CAN ONLY SHUT IT OFF WITH DIFFICULTY. BACKGROUND MUSIC IN A RESTAURANT IS SOMETHING THAT YOU HAVE TO LISTEN TO, HOWEVER BAD IT IS.” …A REVIEWER’S INTERVIEW WITH PEOPLE IN THE ARTS

JAMES STRECKER: If you were asked for 50 words for an encyclopedia to summarize what you do, or have done, in the arts, what would you say?

ELIZABETH RUMSEY: Ensemble musician; my instrument is the Viola da Gamba in all its various forms. I play music of the last seven centuries (mostly 16th and 17th), and together with my colleagues use the different voices of the instruments of those times to bring clarity to the music and make it more approachable for modern audiences.

JS: What important beliefs do you express in or through your work?

ER: Playing music that has no audio-recorded history throws up some challenges, and all of us who play this music have slightly different reasons for using the historically-informed-performance approach. Mine is that I love this type of music, and I personally get more out of it the better I understand it. I also enjoy the way things like reading from original notation or playing instruments with technical and tonal constraints provide a method of communication that is absent when these small paths of resistance are not there, and add colour which can be woven into the performance. Playing with this philosophy inevitably involves compromise – none of us has been trained in the way that a 17th-century musician was, or has the capability or even opportunity to think like them, since we must always switch between styles and eras. What defines our personal approach is where we choose to put those compromises, and I do believe that any approach is valid as long as it has a reason; this is what will make it convincing.

JS: Name two people, living or dead, whom you admire a great deal and tell us why for each one.

ER: My husband David Rumsey, who died a year ago. He was an incredible musician in every way – a performer, teacher, researcher, consultant, conductor and composer. Uncompromising in expectations and yet with a great depth of humour (he had a lot of affection for Percy Grainger, if only for the piece that obliged David in his capacity as organist to play the ukulele with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra), he was also very generous with his time and knowledge, and many of the messages or letters I received after he died were reminiscences in that vein. He had a great knack for connecting different aspects of life, and many of his ex-students will remember his insisting, when they were travelling through Europe to hear and play different organs, that they also experience things like the local cuisine, architecture and language, to better appreciate the instruments and associated music. I especially admired that he was constantly open to new ideas, never dogmatic or snobbish about his research, and ferocious in pursuit of knowledge, whether it be the interpretation of a hundred-year-old recording or the best way to get a good espresso out of our coffee machine.

The second is my mother, Sue Jones. As new immigrants to Australia with two small unwilling children in tow, my parents had to start again from almost nothing, and even through what must have been extremely difficult times she maintained an atmosphere of great creativity at home, and encouraged me and my sister to do everything in that line that we could think of. She is a pianist and cellist, teaching the piano to children and adults and playing a very active role as a cellist in the amateur chamber music and orchestral world, so that I grew up playing in all sorts of different ensembles and with many different types of musicians.

JS: How have you changed since you began to do creative work?

ER: I realised relatively recently that a worthwhile performance will only come from my believing what I am doing at that moment.

JS: What are your biggest challenges as a creative person?

ER: Keeping sight of the fact that what we do is indeed important; it sometimes seems, when looking at what is happening outside this little bubble of art music, that it’s immoral to spend so much time and energy on something which isn’t actively helping to fix at least one of the innumerable serious problems faced by pretty much everyone else.

JS: Please describe at least one major turning point in your life.

ER: I travelled with my husband to Portugal in 1999, and we visited my godfather there. He took us to a little basilica near his village, and in this intricately decorated church – not a single bit of the wall inside was not gilded, painted or tiled – were two very small 17th century organs. One was completely unplayable, but David was able to play the other one for a few minutes, and it was the first time I’d knowingly heard a historic instrument of any sort. Since then I have heard and even played many more historical instruments of various types, and it’s always enlightening in some way or other.

JS: What are the hardest things for an outsider to understand about what you do?

ER: Perhaps that it never stops? To have music as a profession means that it becomes a lens through which you see everything else. I look at a 17th century painting of the Nativity in which there are angels around the crib, and think “Why are you all just standing there? Where are your instruments?” (so that I can count the strings, of course). And by training yourself to listen, you ensure that you can only shut it off with difficulty. Background music in a restaurant is something that you have to listen to, however bad it is. If you are sailing, the rigging sings at different pitches when the wind changes; a German train plays a scale as it accelerates; a church bell chimes the quarter hour in an uncomfortable tuning. And in another sense, it never stops because there is always more work to be done, something to read or a piece to learn more thoroughly, preferably yesterday.

Another thing that has come up occasionally is that some people think the scope of my repertoire is limited. They see what I do as only a small part of “classical music” (which in itself is a small type of music, right?), so how much time can that take up, really? I don’t think I can even begin to answer that.

JS: How and why did you begin to do creative work in the first place?

ER: I don’t think it was ever really a choice. Because I played various instruments as far back as I remember – apparently when my sister started learning the violin, I pestered my parents until I was also allowed to play, and a thousand thanks to them for putting up with a 3-year-old hacking away at a tin violin – it’s always been a background to my life. Even though I went through stages of wanting to do various other things, when I went to university there was no question of doing anything other than music as a main study, and of aiming to be a professional musician. If things ever get a bit difficult, I can remind myself that I’m pretty lucky to be paid for doing something that I would do anyway.

JS: What haven’t you attempted as yet that you would like to do and please tell us why?

ER: There is an infinite number of things I would still like to do! I haven’t attempted them yet because I was doing something else, and I will get to as many of them as possible before I die.

JS: What are your most meaningful achievements?

ER: I can’t point to anything specific, but to be a part of a musical ensemble, however big or small, is something very special.

JS: What advice would you give a young person who would like to do what you do?

ER: As hypocritical as it may sound, given that being a musician is the only thing I do, I would say: make sure you can do something else as well. A parallel strand of interest and income is something that many musicians opt for later in their careers, and if you can train for another profession simultaneously, it will probably save a lot of effort later on. Even if you don’t use it, no outside knowledge is wasted.

JS: Of what value are critics?

ER: Any musical circle has a tendency to be rather self-referencing, so it’s good to get an outside perspective. We might not agree with the review – I think everyone knows whether or not they have played or sung well – but it’s very important to know how it reaches the audience.

JS: What do you ask of your audience?

ER: Don’t throw tomatoes? If I’m doing my job properly, nobody should need to ask anything!

JS: What specifically would you change about what goes on in the world and the arts?

ER: Difficult to say how it could realistically be changed … what would benefit the arts is effectively the same as what would benefit many other things in society; less focus on making things cost-effective, more on rewarding excellence (even if it is not necessarily obvious), avoiding the idea that elitism is necessarily bad (snobbishness, yes; pursuit of the best possible result, no), put money into the small things that need help rather than the big things which basically fund themselves.

JS: If you could relive one experience from your creative life, what would it be and why would you do so?

ER: I registered for my husband David when he played the Trois Danses by Jehan Alain in Trondheim, many years ago. Normally I avoid doing that because for a non-organist it’s incredibly stressful, but in that case, we had enough time to rehearse, and the music is so complex that you almost need to be involved to understand it. I don’t think there is a recording of him playing that set of pieces, and I would like to hear it again.

JS: Tell us what it feels like to be a figure who is presented somehow in the media. What effect does this presence have on you?

ER: I’m probably cheating with this question, since I avoid most social media. I do appreciate that it’s important for a lot of people, but I would dearly love for music to be a medium that is only, ever, live. There has been some interesting research into the effect of recording on performance practice in the last hundred years, and it’s pretty clear that live music is very different to recorded music, and the recording industry has substantially changed audience expectations and the way that musicians present any sort of performance.

JS: Name two places you would like to visit, one you haven’t been to and one to experience again and briefly tell us why

ER: A place to visit again would be the Whitsunday Islands on the Great Barrier reef, because it’s a beautiful place and quite possibly doomed by government greed and ineptitude. Somewhere I haven’t been yet but always wanted to is the island of Flores in the Azores. There is something very appealing about that group of islands in their splendid isolation, in the middle of the ocean and yet directly in the path of so much travel over so many centuries.

JS: Please tell us about one or more projects that you have been working on, are preparing, or have recently completed. Why do they matter to you and why should they matter to us?

ER: One of my instruments is the Lira da Gamba, or Lirone. This is an instrument which was used mostly in Italy and southern Germany in the 16th and 17th centuries, to accompany laments and melancholy texts, and invocations to the gods. It probably originated in Italy as a larger version of the Lira da Braccia, but what we have now are mostly reconstructions of later instruments (c.1600) and I am working on finding that earliest incarnation of the instrument, with its particular tunings and way of accompanying singers. It’s a very small corner of historical performance practice, but does contain some extraordinarily beautiful music which I think is worth opening up to the particular colour of the early lira da gamba.

JS: Let’s talk about the state of the arts in today’s society, including the forms in which you work. What specifically gives you hope and what specifically do you find depressing?

ER: There seems to be a significant diminishing in public support of the arts, which is rather depressing, but there is also more widespread grassroots support through crowdfunding sources and the like. So, the old system of patronage is being revived in a very democratic way! It would be much better for us to be able to rely on government funding, but this harks back to an earlier question – without significant political change in other areas it seems unlikely that the arts will be given much priority in the near future.

JS: Finally, what do you yourself find to be the most intriguing and/or surprising thing about you?

ER: How do you answer that when it’s not about someone else? I rather hope that by now there are no more surprises …

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JOHN ESTACIO: “WHAT IS IT ABOUT A NEW PIECE THAT WILL SPEAK TO HUMANITY TODAY AND TOMORROW?” ASKS COMPOSER OF NEW TRUMPET CONCERTO TO BE FEATURED BY TORONTO SYMPHONY, WITH SOLOIST ANDREW MCCANDLESS, ON JANUARY 25, 26, 27…. A REVIEWER’S INTERVIEW WITH PEOPLE IN THE ARTS

Composer John Estacio   – Concert tickets for his new concerto available at https://www.tso.ca/concert/holst-planets#performance-1546

JAMES STRECKER: What are your biggest challenges as a creative person?

JOHN ESTACIO: Challenges vary from project to project. At times the challenge is to find a sense of relevance for the composition – what is it about a new piece that will speak to humanity today and tomorrow? With larger and lengthier projects that take a year or two to complete, such as an opera or a ballet score, the challenge might be endurance and motivation and maintaining clarity. Other times, the challenge might be simply to get out of the kitchen and back up to the office.

JS: Please describe at least one major turning point in your life.

JE: The biggest turning point in my career happened in 1992 at the Winnipeg Symphony’s first iteration of its New Music Festival. A composition of mine had been selected for their competition for new Canadian orchestral works. It was my first performance by a professional orchestra, recorded and broadcast live on the CBC with Bramwell Tovey conducting the WSO. I did not place first in the competition, but the broadcast opened up opportunities for other commissions and lead to my position as the Edmonton Symphony’s first composer in residence which in turn lead to several other projects including a commission for the Toronto Symphony in 1995. Eleven years after my professional debut, Bramwell Tovey would be there again for another turning point in my career, as conductor for the premiere of my first opera, Filumena, in Calgary in 2003.

JS: What are the hardest things for an outsider to understand about what you do?

JE: The questions I am asked most frequently is “where do your ideas come from”, usually followed by “how do you know how to write for all those instruments”.

JS: What haven’t you attempted as yet that you would like to do and please tell us why?

JE: I’ve made a couple of attempts at writing a musical; but, as with most projects, there are variables beyond my control and consequently some of the projects I’ve worked on have never come to fruition. Although I have written one film score, I know I’d enjoy writing a few more of those because I thoroughly enjoyed my first effort.

JS: What are your most meaningful achievements?

JE: Any project which was created in collaboration with another artist. I’ve had the good fortune of working with marvelous librettists, directors, choreographers, filmmakers, and consulted with other musicians. Although I’m proud of the compositions I’ve created independently, I do enjoy the congenial camaraderie of working with other creative artists and I treasure the friendships that have blossomed from these projects.

JS: Let’s talk about the state of the arts in today’s society, including the forms in which you work. What specifically gives you hope and what specifically do you find depressing?

JE: I’m encouraged that the arts are still valued by today’s society. Of course, there is much room for improvement – there always is – but by and large, people are still supporting the efforts of creative artists either by purchasing tickets or donation. I’m also encouraged by the work of younger composers who continue to create new music. What saddens me is the absence of the infrastructure that readily recorded and broadcasted the music of Canadian composers performed by Canadian ensembles and musicians; this once flourishing infrastructure has suffered a death by a thousand cuts. So, while a new infrastructure for music distribution slowly evolves and develops, composers and musicians must work even harder than ever to promote themselves and their work.

Andrew McCandless, Trumpet Soloist

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