What a week! What a celebration! And what a milestone worthy of celebrating.
In the words of Toronto music critic David Richards, the Opening Festival of Koerner Hall’s 10th anniversary concert season was a huge success, attracting several thousand diverse concertgoers to The Royal Conservatory to celebrate the landmark anniversary of a treasured concert venue as well as the growing diversity of Canadian music.
Highlights of the eight-day series included outstanding orchestral performances, a superlative soprano, and richly varied musical events that celebrated our nation's diverse communities and confirmed Koerner Hall as Canada’s newest cultural hub.
Royal Conservatory Orchestra Earns Rave Reviews
The festival began on September 28 with a wonderful concert by the Royal Conservatory Orchestra (RCO). Under the baton of internationally celebrated conductor Gabor Takács-Nagy, the RCO tackled a challenging program of Mozart, Dvořák, and Tchaikovsky with outstanding results—in just a few weeks of preparation.
In his review of the performance, David Richards praised the RCO’s “brilliant” energy, as well as its “consistently high level of musicianship.” James Anagnoson, Dean of The Royal Conservatory's Glenn Gould School, was even more effusive. During a recent dinner for Dean's and Chancellor's Scholarship supporters, he exclaimed that the orchestra “knocked it out of the park.”
More than 1,000 individuals in 15 countries watched the concert, which is the first in a series of events that will be streamed live over the course of Koerner Hall’s 10th anniversary season.
Kathleen Battle Dazzles at Season Gala
Legendary soprano Kathleen Battle also earned raves for her recital on October 2 for Koerner Hall’s 10th Anniversary Season Gala. The audience was awestruck by her lustrous, expressive voice; attendee Dr. Tricia Wood described the experience as “shatteringly good.”
Ms. Battle earned her loudest ovations for a series of spirituals she presented at the end of the concert. Dr. Wood felt the singer’s emotional reading of "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" was “the most perfect thing [she'd] ever heard.”
Among the illustrious guests at the gala concert was Ontario Lieutenant-Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell, who applauded the event and proclaimed Koerner Hall as one of the world’s great concert venues.
A world-class space in Toronto where Ontarians and visitors to this province can see some of the best artists of our time. A great pleasure to attend the anniversary celebrations and to hear the incredible Kathleen Battle. Bravo! pic.twitter.com/ZeGzPzCEOw— Elizabeth Dowdeswell (@LGLizDowdeswell) October 5, 2018
Jerry Cans Break Down Cultural Barriers
A song about the deliciousness of seal meat produced one of the most unexpected musical moments of the Opening Festival. During The Jerry Cans’ concert on October 4, the Iqaluit-based band inspired hundreds of audience members to sing along to “Mamaqtuq’”', one of their many rock-tinged songs about life in the North.
“It’s the first time I’ve heard everyone in Koerner Hall singing in Inuktitut,” remarked Mervon Mehta, The Royal Conservatory’s Executive Director of Performing Arts, recalling fondly what he considered a highlight of the week.
Also performing on October 4 was the New North Collective, an ensemble of circumpolar performing artists whose music is representative of a multitude of genres, including jazz, folk, spoken word, and rock. Among the members is instrumentalist and producer Jan de Vroede. “Our first artist from Greenland,” Mehta noted enthusiastically.
Koerner Hall Free for All Celebrates Multicultural Music
Even more diverse was the third edition of Koerner Hall Free for All, The Royal Conservatory’s beloved open mic event. Over the course of the day, more than 100 musicians took to the stage, performing a wide range of music, from ambient to opera, and from Polish folk to Chinese rock. Several hundred enthusiastic audience members applauded their efforts.
Many of the participants were visibly thrilled to perform in Koerner Hall, though for guitarist and multidisciplinary artist Donal Bichan, the experience was humbling. During his post-performance interview, he expressed a feeling of privilege to stand before an audience in a space that has become “hallowed” for musicians and concertgoers throughout Toronto and around the world. Musician and broadcaster Dave Trafford, one of the hosts of the event, was even more plainspoken: for him, Koerner Hall “is what makes Toronto one of the coolest cities in the world."
Yannick Nézet-Séguin Produces the Festival’s Fireworks
Superstar conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin earned more audience admiration – and critical acclaim – for his welcome return to Koerner Hall on October 5 with Montreal’s Orchestre Métropolitain and American pianist Nicholas Angelich. David Richards reviewed the event admiringly, and observed that the acoustics of Koerner Hall highlighted the outstanding calibre of the orchestra, stating that “every instrument was crystal clear…and the sound was rich and full.”
Nézet-Séguin was equally complimentary about the hall, which has become a favourite venue for the orchestra. He thanked the hall for providing another “warm welcome” and hailed it as a “Canadian gem.”
Thank you, koerner_hall for being such a fantastic hall, and for welcoming us at @LeMetropolitain so warmly, for the second time! You are a Canadian gem.#koernerhall #toronto #canadian… https://t.co/iEtFG67JDR— Yannick Nézet-Séguin (@nezetseguin) October 6, 2018