Archive for the ‘SITES IN TRANSITION’ Category

The Frozen Barn Blues

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The Frozen Barn Blues

While exploring the haunted and sadly abandoned farmhouse just outside Toronto’s city limits, Rob and I wandered into this adjacent barn space that had clearly been used as a crazy clubhouse, replete with a massive Austin Powers billboard on one wall.

This was the first time we had found a chance to jam together, and man was it freezing in there, one of those penetrating, damp colds that marks the beginning of a good ol’ Canadian winter. I was carting along my old wooden 1920’s flute, an instrument appropriate for the vintage of the farmhouse, which is a piece of work to play in tune at the best of times, so, given the sub-zero temperatures I appreciate you cutting me a little slack in the tuning department…in fact I was kinda pleased with myself that I managed to rock out spontaneously with this Blues riff!

After a couple of hasty takes I could barely feel my fingers anymore, so we hustled out of there and headed for the nearest Tim Horton’s. For more pictures of this desolate country site, check out my slideshow on Phanfare.

Urban Bansuri

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Raga Shivranjani, Banusri

About 5 weeks ago I dropped by the busy worksite of the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandira just north of Pearson International Airport to see if I might don work boots and lend a hand, and was welcomed onto the site with a wonderful, friendly and informative tour. This temple, a cultural & architectural jewel – and very much in the news with its grand opening just last weekend – is simply indescribable. Although only able to catch the festivities after sundown, I was impressed by the incredible enthusiasm and excitement still in the air. (more…)

Caboose Perspectives

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Pennsylvania 6-5000!

Here’s a fun, little piece, alluding to the carefree days when these de-commissioned cabooses rode the rails from coast to coast!

For something a little more substantial, here is a fun, bigger piece entitled The Great Train Race, by Ian Clarke, posted by Nina Perlove on her YouTube site amidst a wealth of videos and on-line, flute-related pedagogical materials.

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Caboose Interior

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Puccini

I find that even the idea of a caboose is romantic in the extreme, and immediately evocative of the golden age of rail transport. So, after a day of exams in Regina, I went exploring and discovered not just one, but two caboose (cabii?), de-commissioned and left rather forlornly in the middle of a broad expanse of rail lines. (more…)

Caboose No.04990

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And this just in…help restore this 112-year old piece of history!

In simply looking for a Railroad Song, I first tried Arlo Guthrie which led to learning about Casey Jones, and in a matter of minutes, I had opened a window on a whole musical railroad culture with links directly back to Stephen Foster, one of America’s most renowned and prolific songwriters.

I invite you to learn more about The New Christy Minstrels, one of whose members is Dolan Ellis, “Arizona’s Official State Balladeer” since 1966! Well, just some technical difficulty embedding his song…and in the meantime, this should keep you railway buffs amused!

Photo Cliff Grassmick

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Regina’s Old Train Tunnels

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Puccini

It was a brutally long day of conducting RCM music exams in Regina, so after recording discreetly in some de-commissioned twinned cabooses just north of the mall, I made my way along the rail lines and came upon the old passenger platform for the historic Regina Train Station. In the fenced off shadow of today’s booming Casino Regina, I discovered that one of these decrepit entranceways was no longer boarded over. I entered the dank, dark space, and descended (more…)

Sonata for Flute and Jackhammer

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Gershwin Prelude

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Stairway to Heaven

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Recently I performed with colleagues in the concrete shell of the Royal Conservatory of Music’s new Koerner Hall, as part of a ‘Hard Hat Concert’ and catered thank-you lunch for the construction crew on the site. It was probably in part the rather unusual repertoire of the event (Bach, Wagner, Led Zepplin?!) that prompted NYC’s PLAYBILL Arts to pick up the story shortly after it appeared in the Toronto Star under the light-hearted title: ‘Sonata in C for Flute and Jackhammer’.

St. Bart’s Sanctuary

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The Swan

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Deep Midwinter

On a bitterly cold day last December, I stopped in quite spontaneously to warm up at Saint Bart’s in the east end, enroute to record at the Riverdale Zoo’s old Monkey House. The welcome I received was just what I needed this particular day!
(more…)

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Russell Hill Road Elegy

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A couple of months ago and not far from this house, I discovered wonderful acoustics in one of Toronto‘s historic Water Filtration Buildings. There does seem to be increasing awareness about preservation, so to come across this wonderful old home right in the same neighbourhood – in the midst of being torn down – came as a shock.

If given the opportunity, I have no idea what I would have played as an ode to an historic house like this, ripped from the fabric of our downtown core. Perhaps Massenet’s Elegy: (more…)

Toward the Taj

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CPE Bach

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My recent discovery of a massive, deserted warehouse in the northeast part of Toronto was like finding the pot-of-gold at the end of the rainbow!

Part of the original inspiration for Urban Flute springs from an early influence: Flutist Paul Horn’s ‘Inside’ series.* Specifically his recording from within the Taj Mahal left an indelible impression on me, not to mention his musical ‘conversations’ with the Orca Whales on the second LP.

* NOTE: The day after posting this entry – completely out of the blue – I was tipped off about this extraordinary podcast profiling Paul Horn: www.paulhornmusic.com/ (more…)

Return to Mary Mag’s

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Weinzweig Duo

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I was delighted to have an opportunity to return and offer prelude music for a service at the historic Cathedral of Saint Mary Magdalene, minus the snow as pictured here! Flute and Oboe meld beautifully in this most evocative space – Vicki Hathaway, Oboe. (more…)

Silence is Golden…

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Improv 1

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I’ll Never Smile Again

The Bloor-Gladstone Branch Library is undergoing a $6.5 million overhaul, making it the most extensive renovation/expansions ever undertaken by the Toronto Public Library system of one of it’s wonderful historic locations.

I was delighted to have the opportunity to record on location yesterday. One can only marvel at the incredible acoustic properties of the high, arched cielings, contrasted by the din of excavation (more…)

Evergreen @ the Brick Works

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www.evergreen.ca/rethinkspace/

In the Don Valley, fires periodically swept through the natural grasses long before the Brick Works’ kilns were fired up. These massive kilns, now derelict yet largely intact and still on site, basically ‘built’ Rosedale’s exquisite and stately homes along with many of the historic buildings of original Toronto.

Evergreen’s proposed transformation of the historic Don Valley Brick Works site is visionary and truly inspiring, and is poised to offer an incredible, culturally rich hub for Toronto’s system of ravines and natural trails.

(more…)

Palm Sunday at Mary Mag’s!

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(Ch.Koechlin)

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Recently I had a chance to provide prelude music for a service at The Church of Saint Mary Magdalene, and here is a sampling of the music from their Palm Sunday celebration.

I continue to have only praises to sing about this wonderful, historic church and its warm, welcoming congregation…the rich musical history and superb acoustics are only the tip of the iceberg! (more…)

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Tollkeeper’s Cottage

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This track was recorded on location using a period instrument, a vintage wooden flute well-suited for the setting of this historic cottage – the Tollkeeper’s Cottage is a unique building and very old indeed by Toronto’s standards!

This music was transcribed by Lord Simcoe’s sister, and her handwritten copies of traditional Irish dance tunes date back to 1783!

I encourage you to get to know the Tollkeeper’s Cottage, located on the North-West corner of Bathurst & Davenport – they open their doors Saturday, March 17 for a traditional St.Patrick’s Day celebration!

ww.tollkeeperscottage.ca/html/Background.htm

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Morning at the Waterworks

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Introducing myself to staff at Toronto’s central water filtration plant, I encountered a major renovation of the site. With connected rooms replete with brass railings, massive victorian pumps in one section, arched internal windows and high lofted ceilings, the ambience of this historic utilities building can be heard in the full, rich acoustic. (more…)

Ah! So Pure

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As a plasterer goes about his craft, I check out the acoustics of this wonderful, historic building with a reading of one of Berbiguier’s familiar 18 Studies…

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…and the lyrical, flowing music of Ah! So Pure by von Flotow, from his operetta ‘Martha’, seems well-suited for the wonderfully live acoustic, not to mention the actual setting of this Water Filtration Plant, here at the base of Russell Hill Road!

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www.operatoday.com/content/2005/12/flotow_martha.php

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Cupola Stairs, Distillery District

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One of the first sites that I recorded at with my sister, Lynn, back in October, 2006, I recently returned to this uppermost floor of one of the inumerable and intriguing historic buildings at the Distillery District. (more…)