On Tuesday evening, the RCM presented an awards gala at Koerner Hall naming three new Honorary Fellows of the Royal Conservatory of Music: celebrated conductor Sir Andrew Davis, singer-songwriter Ron Sexsmith, and philanthropists Phil and Eli Taylor.
The Royal Occasion, included a short yet illuminating performance by both Sir Andrew Davis and Ron Sexsmith. Though worlds apart, each was extraordinary in their own way.
“Maestro Davis, Ron Sexsmith, and Phil and Eli Taylor have contributed immensely to the landscape of music and the arts in Canada and around the world. Their collective influence has provided inspiration and enjoyment to millions of people.” Dr. Peter Simon, President of The Royal Conservatory of Music affirmed. “In recognition of their commitment to excellence and furthering participation in music by all, Sir Andrew, Ron, Phil and Eli are all highly deserving of this Honorary Fellowship of The Royal Conservatory.”
The hour-long presentation began with a performance of Sarasate’s Zigeunerweissen Op. 20 (Gypsy Airs), by twelve-year old violinist (and RCM student) Arielle Silverberg, and pianist Benjamin Smith.
As the adage goes, it’s always better to show rather than tell, and after seeing Silverberg’s near flawless performance, there was little doubt as to what impact the RCM has on developing young talent. Beyond the work’s obvious technical challenges, Silverberg’s interpretation was mature beyond her years, and she was a delight to watch. Her fingers seemed to dance across the fret board in a momentously playful manner. Her tone was well-defined, and her gypsy style vibrato just right.
Proceeding Silverberg, was Sir Andrew Davis, performing Debussy’s “La terrasse des audiences du clair de lune”. Before playing, he joked about having to perform before receiving his award. Unfortunately an orchestra wasn’t in the budget, so he decided to brush off his rusty piano – something he said he hasn’t done in a very long time. He also recalled his many the wonderful memories as the Toronto Symphony conductor laureate.
Ron Sexsmith, was next to amble towards the stage from his seat in the stage box . His songs were soft and intimate, and for a moment, made Koerner Hall seem like a fire-side living room. Sexsmith, whose songs have been covered by the likes of Paul McCartney, Elton John, and Elvis Costello, confessed he was surprised to receive the honour, especially considering his relative lack of formal musical training. Nevertheless, he said it was a great honour to be recognised.
He was delighted to mention that his parents had travelled all the way from St. Catharines on a Grey Hound bus to attend the occasion. They waved, sitting from the audience beaming with pride. It is amazing that no matter what stage of career a performer is in, their parents are always just as proud.
Phil and Eli Taylor, two philanthropists who helped fund the Performance Academy for Young Artists, were also honoured for their contributions to Toronto’s classical music community. Speaking from the stage, they pointed toward their family, and how important the RCM has been for the development of their kids and grandkids’ well-being. They explained just how much in means to them to help contribute to fostering Canada’s many talented young musicians.
Before the after hours reception, a string ensemble of students, faculty and alumni of the Glenn Gould School of Music and the Phil and Eli Taylor Performance Academy for Young Artists took the stage. They performed the second movement of Elgar’s Serenade for Strings in E minor, Op. 20. Elgar is an acquired taste, but seemed to go over well amongst an audience.
The event was clearly not only about celebrating these four musicians and philanthropists, but also about using the careers of these wildly successful artists as beacons from which to light the paths of future performers, conductors, composers, and songwriters. The open bar during the after party was a nice touch.