The 21C Music Festival – five days of newly-minted music during which audiences have an opportunity to experience fresh new sounds and ideas from the greatest musical minds of today – moves from May to January with its sixth edition. From January 16 to 20, 2019, this season’s edition will celebrate the American minimalist composer Terry Riley, with his music being performed in three of the concerts, including one that he will headline, titled Terry Riley: Live at 85! Additionally, more than a half of the works presented during the festival will be receiving premieres – six world, one North American, 10 Canadian, four Ontario, and one Toronto – by 10 Canadian composers.
Other highlights include the Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s (TSO) debut at the 21C Music Festival with a program that includes two world premieres (Emilie LeBel and Stewart Goodyear), one Canadian premiere (Terry Riley), and three Ontario premieres (Dorothy Chang, Dinuk Wijeratne, and Jocelyn Morlock), conducted by Canadian conductors Tania Miller and Simon Rivard; Royal Conservatory alumnus Stewart Goodyear appearing in two entirely different programs: the first with the TSO playing the world premiere of his own new piano concerto, titled “Ur-“, and the second – a world premiere performance of with his own compositions and his take on rock songs – not only playing the piano but also singing; and Koerner Hall return of the adventurous American group Sō Percussion, performing a program titled Amid the Noise, consisting of all Canadian premieres by Vijay Iyer, Caroline Shaw, Donnacha Dennehy, and Jason Treuting.
This year’s edition of the festival also has a strong focus on students of The Conservatory. They will perform alongside TSO musicians during the opening night and also in two of their very own concerts: 21C Cinq à Sept featuring the 2018-19 Rebanks Fellows of The Glenn Gould School and the Glenn Gould School New Music Ensemble with a program titled 4D.
Finally, the Festival is thrilled to welcome back two partners from previous editions – Continuum with a 21C AfterHours concert, featuring one world and two Canadian premieres (Carolyn Chen and Kati Agócs), and Esprit Orchestra Presents Constellations, including a world (Christopher Goddard) and a Canadian premiere (Toshio Hosokawa), conducted by Alex Pauk and featuring virtuoso saxophonist Wallace Hallady.
Mervon Mehta, Executive Director of Performing Arts at The Royal Conservatory, said: “We are blessed to have Terry Riley as our celebrated guest artist for this 21C Music Festival. Riley has been a seminal composer and player in the contemporary music scene for decades and has influenced countless composers across many genres of music. Hearing him play in Koerner Hall will be a dream come true. Now its sixth edition, we decided to move the festival into January. The new time-period allows us to fill a space in Toronto’s cultural calendar and allows the students of The Glenn Gould School to participate more fully than ever before. We are grateful to Michael and Sonja Koerner for their continued and unwavering support for the festival.”
The Toronto Symphony Orchestra makes its 21C debut on the opening night of the 21C Music Festival on January 16 with two world premieres: the first of a piano concerto by Stewart Goodyear, titled “Ur-”, and the second by the TSO’s new Affiliate Composer, Emilie LeBel, titled They do not shimmer like the dry grasses on the hills, or the leaves on the trees, and conducted by the newly appointed Resident Conductor of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Simon Rivard. Canadian conductor Tania Miller conducts the rest of the program, which includes the Canadian premiere of a string orchestra version of Terry Riley’s Half-Wolf Dances Mad in Moonlight and three Ontario premieres by Canadian composers: Dorothy Chang’s “North Star” and Dinuk Wijeratne’s “First Winter” (both from True North: Symphonic Ballet), and Jocelyn Morlock’s Nostalgia.
On January 17, the audience will have an opportunity to experience pianist and composer Stewart Goodyear like never before. This performance will include Goodyear singing and playing variations on Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” as well as his original piano sonata and “Acabris! Acabras! Acabram!,” as well as a collection of songs that he has composed for himself and a band.
This event on January 18 will be an intricate and often improvisational concert with elements of minimalism, jazz, ragtime, and north Indian raga, consisting of an all-Terry Riley program. Riley was influenced by John Cage and John Coltrane and his works, such as In C and A Rainbow in Curved Air, have inspired virtually every contemporary classical and many rock composers since, including Peter Townshend, Lou Reed, and Radiohead. The first part of the evening features Tracy Silverman on electric violin playing excerpts from The Palmian Chord Ryddle and Sri Camel, both arranged by Silverman. Terry Riley and his son, Gyan, join forces for the second part of the evening, which will include Riley’s Mongolian Winds, Ebony Horns, Emerald Runner, The Bull Song From the Old Country, and selections from Salome Dances for Peace.
This concert will be livestreamed.
Continuum, committed to presenting and promoting contemporary chamber music through unique and compelling programming for more than 30 years, returns to the 21C Music Festival with 21C AfterHours on January 18. This late-night concert features Wesley Shen, one of Canada’s extraordinary new pianists/harpsichordists, and Continuum’s internationally-renowned ensemble. The program consists of two Continuum commissions: Cassandra Miller’s Overture and Linda Smith’s Sarabande; two Canadian premieres: Carolyn Chen’s Ache Bind Blind Break and Kati Agócs’s Immutable Dreams, a world premiere of Monica Pearce’s toile de jouy, and Unsuk Chin’s 3 Études.
2018-19 Rebanks Fellows of The Glenn Gould School present 21C Cinq à Sept, a late afternoon concert on January 19. Nicole Joshi performs Vinko Globokar’s ?Corporel for body percussion, and violinists Katya Poplyansky and Danny Koo are soloists in Arvo Pärt’s Tabula Rasa for two violins, string orchestra, and prepared piano. The rest of the program will consist of a Toronto premiere of Lou Harrison’s Varied Trio and the Canadian premiere of a string orchestra version Terry Riley’s G Song.
With innovative multi-genre original productions, sensational interpretations of modern classics, and an “exhilarating blend of precision and anarchy, rigor and bedlam,” (The New Yorker), Sō Percussion has redefined the scope and role of the modern percussion ensemble, placing it at the leading edge of 21st century music. Their Koerner Hall return on January 19, titled Amid the Noise, consists of four pieces, all of which will be receiving their Canadian premieres: jazz pianist and MacArthur "Genius" prize winner Vijay Iyer’s TORQUE; member of the vocal ensemble Full of Teeth, Caroline Shaw’s Taxidermy; Irish composer Donnacha Dennehy’s Broken Unison; and Sō Percussion's own Jason Treuting’s amid the noise.
This concert will be livestreamed.
4D is the title of the Glenn Gould School New Music Ensemble’s concert on the afternoon of January 20, which is also part of The Conservatory’s Sunday Interludes concert series. The program includes a world premiere, titled Icefolding, by Anna Höstman, commissioned by The Royal Conservatory, for large ensemble. The evening opens with Misato Mochizuki’s Halai for three theatrical voices and is followed by the North American premiere of his 4D for nine instruments, the Canadian premiere of Toshio Hosokawa’s Garten Lieder for large ensemble, and the Ontario premiere of Zosha Di Castri’s Phonotopographie for 15 instruments.
Another partner from a previous edition of 21C, Esprit Orchestra, closes the festival with Constellations on January 20. Christopher Goddard’s beguiling world premiere, Les tringles des sistres tintaient, re-imagines the spellbinding gypsy song that opens act two of Bizet’s Carmen with its fluidity, exoticism, and perpetual forward energy. Virtuosic saxophonist Wallace Halladay reveals the extent of Japanese visiting guest composer Toshio Hosokawa’s exquisite creativity in Concerto for Saxophone and Orchestra (Canadian premiere). The program also features Alison Yun-Fei Jiang’s River Memory and Claude Vivier’s Orion, perhaps the most vivid expression of the composer’s musical state of eternal homecoming. Music Director and conductor Alex Pauk leads the Esprit Orchestra.