By Kerry Doole
– As part of its extended Centennial Celebration, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO) will embark on its first tour under the artistic leadership of Music Director Gustavo Gimeno. Running from Feb. 11–14, 2023, the tour takes the Orchestra to three cities, including the TSO’s début at Chicago’s Symphony Center and return appearances at Ottawa’s National Arts Centre, as part of an orchestra exchange, and at New York’s Carnegie Hall, marking Maestro Gimeno’s début at the famed locale.
In other TSO news, Gimeno has agreed to an extension that will keep him on the podium through the 2029-30 season. He still has almost three years left in his initial contract, The Toronto Star reports.
– The deadline for submissions to perform at the 2023 TD Toronto Jazz Festival is Dec. 15. Apply here. The fest will run June 23-July 2.
– Congratulations to Toronto's Horseshoe Tavern upon turning 75 last week. Still a crucial component of the city's live music scene, the 'Shoe richly deserves its 'Legendary' tag. A birthday party last Wed. featured spirited sets by veteran New York rocker Willie Nile (he's just a year younger than the club) and local favourites The Lowest Of The Low. Industry notables spied swapping 'Shoe stories included Cam Carpenter, Derek Andrews, David MacPherson (author of a Horseshoe history), Stephanie Hardman, Matt Williams (MRG), and Tim White (The Headstones).
– Montreal's Osheaga Festival has just announced its headliners for the 2023 edition: Billie Eilish, Kendrick Lamar, and Rufus Du Sol. The fest runs Aug. 4-6 at Parc Jean-Drapeau, and 3-day tickets go on sale tomorrow (Dec. 16) here.
– Loreena McKennitt is nearing the end of an eight-city Ontario tour presenting a seasonal concert entitled Under A Winter's Moon: A Concert of Carols and Tales. Promoting the tour herself, McKennitt chose historic churches as her venues, and, judging by the superb show FYI caught at the lovely Music Hall situated in the New Vision United Church in downtown Hamilton, the ambience of these rooms perfectly fits her well-curated material. She has explained that "one of the missions of this tour is to help build the profile of projects like The Music Hall and help to save these historic buildings as they try to find their new role in the community."
Carols and stories from Indigenous and Celtic cultures were featured in the concert, and much of the second half was devoted to readings from the Dylan Thomas classic A Child's Christmas In Wales, performed by renowned veteran actor and folk musician Cedric Smith. McKennitt's pure voice and eloquent harp playing was skilfully accompanied by an ensemble that included English cellist Caroline Lavelle, and the sizeable crowd in attendance was highly appreciative. The remaining tour shows are at Kingston (Dec. 16), Ottawa (Dec. 17), and Peterborough (Dec. 18). Info and tickets are here. McKennitt's album Under A Winter’s Moon was recently released on her own label, Quinlan Road, via UMC.
– Nearing the end of a cross-country trek, roots-rock super trio Blackie and the Rodeo Kings checked into the FirstOntario Concert Hall in Hamilton last Sat. in what was a hometown gig for BARK member Tom Wilson. The theme of Indigenous reconciliation was prominent throughout, starting with an opening set by Digging Roots, and continuing with a passionate address by Wilson, including an excerpt from his upcoming second memoir. Joining Blackie in proceedings was a notable guest list comprising Terra Lightfoot, Serena Ryder and Colin James, all making stellar contributions. The sight of pals James and Colin Linden trading licks was a treat. Musical tributes to BARK comrades Willie P. Bennett, The Band (via their Linden co-write Remedy), and the late Gord Lewis and Boris Brott were superbly executed in this stellar show.
– The much-praised Toronto world music group Minor Empire is set to collaborate with Norwegian guitar and electronics pioneer Eivind Aarset for the next presentation in Minor Empire’s Sonic Colliders series. This brings upcoming concerts to Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal in what is dubbed "a unique fusion between Minor Empire’s Anatolian-inspired soundscapes and Aarset’s groundbreaking experimentation on guitar and electronics." The shows are at Toronto's Small World Music Centre (Jan. 12), Ottawa's Art Court (Jan. 13), and Montreal's Sala Rosa (Jan. 14). Tix here, and you can check out some exclusive FYI content on the collaboration here.
–Feels Like Christmas is the title track of a new holiday album from the respected East Coast singer/songwriter Jon Mullane. The original song first came out a year ago, but has maintained interest and is now accompanied by this video.
– The acclaimed Toronto artist Just John has released a new cut, Slayer, accompanied by a Justino-directed music video. Check it out here.
– Rock singer/songwriter Neil Leyton was a popular member of the Toronto music community as a member of the popular art-glam indie project The Conscience Pilate and as the founder of the Fading Ways record label. He then crossed the Atlantic, working in Scandinavia and now Portugal. A member of the Lisbon rock 'n roll collective Lusitanian Ghosts, Leyton, under his own name, released a new single this week, (I Got A Call From) Michael Maker, out on Shame Destroyer Records. It is a tribute to the leader of one of his influences, US garage rock heroes The Makers.
– The now Brooklyn-based Toronto musician/bandleader Brownman Ali is back in Ontario this month and taking his annual Holiday Madness show on the road. Dubbed a"truly insane modern jazz Christmas concert", it is being staged in Kitchener (Dec. 16), Toronto (Dec. 17) & Guelph (Dec 18. - 3 pm matinee). Tix here. Brownman returns to Sugar Run in Kitchener on Dec. 31 for a jazz meets hip-hop NYE party featuring Brownman & Gruvasylum and rapper Kelson Fredricks. Tix here.