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Issues: Where and how do our conversations about art music and opera continue?

By Open Submission on January 24, 2014

The Toronto Music Garden, off-season.
The Toronto Music Garden, off-season.

As I’ve already mentioned here, I will be — at least for a while — shutting down Musical Toronto at the end of the month. So where does that leave the ongoing conversation about classical music and opera in Toronto?

Well, there is still a cast of regulars to read: The Star’s Richard Ouzounian for opera, the Globe and Mail’s Robert Harris and the National Post’s Arthur Kaptainis, although the papers’ coverage is no longer consistent.

Among the growing list of bloggers, Stanley Fefferman, Leslie Barcza and John Gilks are hard workers. Young Paolo Griffin is doing an amazing job with his New Music Toronto blog.

Then there’s WholeNote — both in print and online — which is Toronto’s clearing house of all things art-musical.

And I have to mention the newborn BeMused Network, which shows every promise of being a wonderful way to connect Torontonians with the performing arts.

Is that enough? Possibly. Would more be better? Absolutely.

My original vision for Musical Toronto was that it become a community of exchange and discussion for musicians as well as their fans.

Does my departure, temporary or not, leave a void, or create opportunities for others?

I will willingly hand over the keys to Musical Toronto if there is someone out there willing to give it a whirl — knowing that there are 460 subscribers and an average of 1,000 daily visitors ready to lend their eyeballs.

It’s worth pondering this, I think.

John Terauds

Here is a note from operatic tenor John Mac Master this morning that might help stimulate some thoughts:

I’ve been musing about my response since I read of your decision…. I am sure that your reasons are myriad, and you certainly don’t need to explain them to me or anyone else…. but I thought I would offer these thoughts. Many of them may have already appeared as comments, I read them all, and they are a fine testament to your work and your efforts….

1) I agree with commenters who could not imagine how you sustain the amount of work, and the reality that it seems impossible to monetize this kind of thing;

2) I would pay a very modest annual subscription fee, say $20, for the news/information aspect of this…. I don’t mean to insult you; it is not that your blog is only worth $20 to me. It is that like you (I imagine), after a successful career in music, I am broke, and this is what I can afford….

3) the reviews are very valuable, and you have your own point of view and voice, so they will be missed….

4) BUT it may be that the most important work you have done is to create a space where those concerned about art music can read of each other’s concerns and comments (whether we agree or not)….. too much of our labour in music is lonely work, it is great to experience community….. You and I have both been church musicians; and our work was to build community in song/worship/liturgy, and one goes to church to experience that: after all one can pray at home….. In the same way your blog has created community in a way that simply attending a concert (where we have presence, but no voice) cannot…..

And so I wonder if you would consider continuing the blog in a re-tooled format…

-include only the reviews that you wish, and perhaps invite other sophisticated writers to add their own?

-keep the arts news/ clearinghouse aspect going as much as you can…. even if you are only re-posting press releases you get (but that we don’t….. an an example, this morning’s announcement of the TSO season and tour….. there is no guarantee I would see this without your post; I subscribe to the Globe, that may or may not print any or all of it; and I am out of town teaching at Western 3 days a week, so I might miss it if it WAS reported….

Consider asking for a modest subscription rate?

And I wonder if there would be a way to make it the advertising destination of choice for what I am now thinking of as the Indie-Art-Music axis in Toronto (Simon and Lula Lounge; Against the Grain Theatre, Margaret Lam at BeMused et al etc.)…. and perhaps capitalize on their energy/contacts to find some funding (CC, OAC, city of Toronto, foundation?) to pay for someone to do the scut work of maintaining the site, putting up the ads, maintaining a curated calendar of what’s on, what’s coming, get tickets now etc…..

Curated – WholeNote has so many listings I am paralysed when I look ahead to consider what I might attend –

With some of the above, it might leave you time to live life, earn money, and still provide this invaluable service….. It may be that what you started (a place to share your reviews) has morphed into something even greater (a place to share reviews, and meditations too, but now also for an extremely disparate group of music makers and lovers to congregate and share…. Matthew Zadow in Belgium, Kim Barber at Laurier are friends, but I only “meet” them on Musical Toronto….. I’ve sung Beckwith, but only “met” him here, in the tremendous sharing on (Alexander) Neef and Rufus (Wainwright)….

John Mac Master

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