MEET TORONTO CONSORT PATRONs AND SUPPORTERS
Al & Jane Forest
The Forests began coming out the Toronto Consort in the late 90s!
Thank you both for your wonderful patronage over many years.
How did you first discover the Consort?
In the late 1970’s, driving home from work, I would listen to Stories and Music for Children on CJRT-FM and once during fundraising, we sent a small donation and as a “thank you” gift, they sent us a vinyl album, entitled To Syngen and Pleye, by some outfit called The Toronto Consort. In the liner notes, there was a brief introduction to the music – which was fascinating – but what intrigued us most were the exotic sounding names of the instruments being played: krummhorn, shawm, sackbut, oud, citole, bombard, schalmei, vielle, psaltery, rebec. We had no idea what these could be, yet the sound was amazing.
Our first concert was in the 1990’s, when on Jane’s prompting – likely from an insert in a Tafelmusik program – we attended a Consort Christmas program.
What has surprised you about the Consort?
What surprised us both was just how much fun all of the musicians were having on stage as they performed the program. As we attended more concerts, rather infrequently in those days, we realized that many were not simply a set of early musical pieces strung together, rather, there was often a narrative – a story told or theme explored – which made the programs much more enjoyable.
What might we be surprised to find out about you?
Al: In my younger days, I was a competitive gymnast and twice took part in the Canadian championships (although I might add, not very successfully – last place both times).
Jane: I am a crafter and among other things, have created a series of designer Teddy Bears – even one for the Toronto Consort a few years ago as a Silent Auction item. After some fairly extensive research regarding clothing of the period, I fashioned this Early Musician Bear. Al’s contribution was the little wooden flute.
- If you could step in to David Fallis’ role as Artistic Director to program a concert, what would you program?
It would be way out of our league to try and program a concert. It seems that one needs to be a gifted musicologist to undertake the extensive research needed to uncover the repertoire – it’s not just a matter of getting sheet music from the local “early music” store – and then figuring out how it should be performed. By the way, the Consort has, with former member, Alison Mackay, a resident “creative genius” who gets the seed of an idea (for example, upon seeing Holbein’s painting, The Ambassadors) and is then inspired to develop an entire musical evening around it.
If you could have TC come to your home and serenade you, what music would you request?Any time, anything you like!
Please share a Toronto Consort memory Al!
Once, many years ago, I was driving home from a meeting of Fire Chiefs in Strathroy, Ontario and I happened to tune into the CBC’s In Performance program with host Eric Freisen. They were broadcasting a celebration of Toronto Consort’s 25th Anniversary season which included a concert from TSP and an in depth interview with David Fallis. One thing that I recall from that interview was David’s remark that there seems to be a perception these days that early music is “primitive”. He asserted that this notion is definitely not true and that early music is not any less sophisticated than later forms of music, simply different from that which came afterwards. This stuck with me and over the years some of the amazing early music performed by the Toronto Consort has certainly confirmed this fact. Think of the 40 Part Motet by Thomas Tallis, Spem in alium from 1570.
What would you tell someone about the TC who is not familiar with our work?
In addition to the often odd ball array of musical instruments being played, the main reason to attend a Consort program is to experience the unbridled joy of music making. Believe me, it is infectious.
The TC covers a lot of territory, both musical periods and geography. Do you have a favourite?
Al: My personal favourites include Renaissance Italian madrigals and English Broadsheet Ballads.
You are a long time supporter of the TC. Why?
We do support other performing arts organizations and the reason for each is exactly the same: it is because of the people. David Fallis and the other members of the Consort are, first and foremost, wonderful human beings. Their musicianship (and scholarship), while extraordinary, is secondary.
Do you have a memorable performance?
Over the years there have been lots of memorable performances, including the Praetorius Christmas Vespers, the two Marco Polo concerts and most recently, The Play of Daniel [link], just to name a few.
However, one that comes to mind is Night Games in Siena. What was striking about this concert, as we were watching it unfold, was the feeling that if these people weren’t performing this show at TSP that evening, they would probably have been doing exactly the same thing at someone’s home – they were enjoying it so much.
Do you have a favourite TC concert recording?
Al: Having collected all of the Consort’s recordings, except one or two of the early vinyl records, I can truthfully state that my favourite is the one I happen to be listening to at the time. They are all wonderful.
What are you listening to these days?
Jane: The Czech Christmas Mass by Jakub Jan Ryba and Liberty with Mark O’Connor.
Which concerts have you enjoyed recently?
This past December, we have attended Aradia Ensemble’s Beatus Vir, a concert of Sacred Music of Vivaldi, Bach’s Christmas Oratorio and Handel’s Messiah with Tafelmusik, the Toronto Chamber Choir’s Christmas in Dresden, and the Consort’s Christmas at the Monastery of Santa Cruz. Delightful concerts all!
Name your top 3 favourite recordings of all time.
Al: (he found a sneaky way to cheat this question)
|1||Anything by the Beatles||Tafelmusik|
|2||The Who’s Tommy||Tafelmusik|
|3||Walter Carlos: Switched On Bach||Tafelmusik|
Jane: The music of Mark O’Connor and anything played by James Galway.
Are you musical? Your earliest musical memory?
Al: As a young person, I played piano, violin and viola – and not very well. Now, I’m a “professional” audience member. One of my earliest recollections of music was listening to Kindergarten of the Air on CBC before I started going to school. Unbeknownst to me, the theme was the famous melody from Brahm’s Symphony No. 1.
Jane: I played violin as a youngster and was always singing in choirs – and still do. As a child I remember my Mother listening to CFRB at 9:00 pm to the classical music program.
If you could play an early music instrument, which one would it be and why?
Jane: I would play the violin, if I still have an ear for music.
Al: I’d rather listen to ones having fun making music. Sad to say, but for me, playing an instrument was rarely fun.
If you could go back in time to a medieval or renaissance court, which one would you want to visit and why?
Al: No thanks, I probably wouldn’t survive a week in such an alien environment, with the strange language and customs, disease, war and barbaric dental practices. Of course, one of the most incredible aspects of the music of those times is that it transcends all the foreign elements and speaks to us directly here and now.
- What do you like to do after a Toronto Consort concert?
We drive home to Orillia, with smiles on our faces.
- What do you like to do around town (that isn’t musical)?
We have been visiting the AGO a bit more frequently lately, but when we travel, we love to visit the local art galleries, museums (including textile and decorative arts) and most especially, the local botanical gardens.
- What are you reading these days?
Jane: I am a mystery buff and I also get into works by Joan Chittister and now Pope Francis.
Al: Currently, I am reading a book entitled: Trees on Mars by Hal Niedzviecki [Amazon.ca]which is a critique of our seeming obsession these days with predicting and more importantly, controlling the future. This may be apropos for one who truly appreciates the efforts of the Toronto Consort and others to re-discover the wonders of the past which have been forgotten or discarded.
Do you have a favourite film of late?
Al: Not much of late – rather the classics: Preston Sturges, David Lean, Stanley Kubrick, the Coen Brothers
Jane: I enjoy Downton Abbey for the wonderful costumes and sets. [TTC: We are with you on that Jane!]
You like to travel. Where have you been recently?
Here’s where we could go on for several more pages. Recent trips to Versailles with Opera Atelier and Leipzig with Tafelmusik stand out; however, one of our greatest joys has been to see the Consort perform in various places around Ontario: Kingston, Orangeville, Parry Sound, Port Hope and Midland (and the school concerts at TSP). It is wonderful to see the different audiences respond in such positive ways to the these concerts. It serves to confirm our love for the Toronto Consort.