Opinion by Danny (& Terry) Gaisin
Saturdays on CBC radio has an interesting program called “This is my Music” in which Arts celebrities are introduced (bios that are mind-boggling) and then present two hours of their favorite musical works.
The Hamilton Philharmonic’s Gemma New was featured yesterday and her presentation was superb. Reflecting on her personality, her taste is not only eclectic, it’s also surprising. She selected the Louis Armstrong/Ella Fitzgerald duet -‘Cheek to Cheek’. Then, Stravinsky’s ‘Firebird’; a 180-degree change. Abrupt pace change, “The famous ‘Star Wars’ by John Williams (who along with Leroy Anderson) are a couple of the last century’s greatest composers. We know she also admires the works of Anderson due to our attending her Winter HPO concerts. Some of her choices:- ‘The Great Gate of Kiev” from Moussorgsky’s “Pictures at An Exhibition” ; some Bach; some Beethoven, and of course Mozart. The lady’s taste seems to mirror my own… no wonder I seem to run out of superlatives when critiquing her Philharmonic concerts.
The show also gave listeners a peak into her persona. She started playing violin at age 5 and undoubtedly she was a prodigy. But there is a sincere sense of self-mockery as she sees the humour in many events in her life. As a child she ushered at New Zealand concerts and admitted to concentrating far more on the performance than on the patrons. She readily admits to the conductor’s place in the orchestral hierarchy, but then quotes Harry Truman about ‘The Buck Stopping here’. I have reviewed the Hamilton Philharmonic during three podium regimes and by far the most intimate conductor/audience relationship has been with New. Her addresses to the audience are erudite and “Um”-less, but never condescending. She speaks as intimately as if in a one-on-one conversation. Instinctively, she included (as she does when on stage) accolades to some of her HPO confrères that she considers a major part of her accomplishments.
My radio relationship with classical music dates back to WWII when as a pre-teen, I was permitted into the parlour Saturday’s to listen to the ‘The Met’ and the narratives of Deems Taylor. Will now even admit to being a fan of Leonard Bernstein’s “young People’s Concerts” from 1958 until coming to Toronto in 1962. There, I’ve finally confessed to still learning from Bernstein while supposedly a classical music maven for a Montreal weekly newspaper!
These are trying times for everyone, the pandemic affects us all. Both concert and live theatre events are mandated closed. Obviously, ticket refunds are offered. BUT, I beg all of you to sign back the refund to the venues so that they, their cast, crews, Front of House staff and maintenance people can struggle through. Thus, they may still be around when the situation improves. And It Will. Stay healthy, dear readers, and our ONTARIO ARTS REVIEW will start printing submissions when all is back to normal.