Is a celebration an excuse to be bold or an occasion to be conservative?

A walk through a Toronto music season is a lot like a stroll down Queen West: Regulars can anticipate which gallery will have a worthwhile show, which coffee shop makes the smoothest americano, and which storefront offers the best opportunty for a bargain or something one-of-a-kind.

So a bump in the routine comes as a shock.

I’m still dizzy from last night’s strange encounter with the Tafelmusik Chamber Choir (the review is in the previous posting here), where director Ivars Taurins decided to use the chorale’s 30th anniversary as an excuse to try something completely different.

The result felt neither celebratory, nor satisfying. But it did show that, three decades on, Taurins wants to challenge and be challenged. He wants to push himself, his singers and his audience.

These are the hallmarks of great artists, for whom complacency and comfort are signs that the flame of creativity is flickering.

But is an anniversary celebration a time to rock the boat — or should we all be able to sit back and count all the reasons why we love this occasion?

I have to admit to also being peeved about the lack of Canadian content in a programme heavily oriented toward 20th and 21st century fare. This country has had several notably accomplished choral composers whose works are enjoyed the world over, yet are not always heard in Toronto.

Last night, we heard Garden, a fine new piece by James Rolfe (which we were not allowed to applaud). It would have been nice to hear it alongside existing Canadian gems from Imant Raminsh, Gerald Bales, Violet Archer, Derek Holman and, if we wanted to be a bit retro, Healey Willan.

Their music is also worth celebrating.

Here is Magnificat by Imant Raminsh, sung by the Hart House Chorus in 2004:

John Terauds


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