We live in an age of impermanence, where the saying “here today, gone tomorrow” is sadly far too common, especially when it comes to arts organizations. That makes Women’s Musical Club of Toronto that much more special – you see, the 2017-18 season will be their 120th season in a row, uninterrupted through war and peace! This makes them the oldest uninterrupted concert presenter in Canada, and possibly in North America.
Their performances are always a mix of chamber ensembles, plus the occasional solo instrumentalist and usually one vocal recital. When WMCT first started, it met in the mornings, before moving to the afternoon at 2:30 p.m., eventually settling into the 1:30 p.m. time slot. In its early years, it offered a platform for women artists to perform, and membership was exclusively women. Today, 13% of membership are men. The attendance of WMCT has been exemplary over the years, underscoring the fierce loyalty of their members. Today was no exception. Other than an unoccupied section to the side that was reserved for students, Walter Hall was virtually full.
At 12:15 p.m., WMCT Artistic Director Simon Fryer announced the 2017-18 season. This coming season marks the 120th anniversary of the organization. To celebrate this special occasion, the organizers have come up with a most interesting combination of concerts. It opens with violinist Lara St. John playing Shiksa, a program of Jewish music, with Matt Herskowitz at the piano. Also on the program is Sonata in A major for violin and piano by Cesar Franck (Oct. 5).
The Zodiac Trio (Riko Higuma, piano; Kliment Krylovskiy, clarinet; Vanessa Mollard, violin) presents an eclectic program of Stravinsky, Piazzolla, Khachaturian, Shostakovich, Bartok and others, mixing traditional with the modern (Nov. 9). Following a winter hiatus, WMCT continues with the UK-based Elias String Quartet (Sara Bitlloch, violin; Donald Grant, violin; Martin Saving, viola; Marie Bitlloch, cello) in a program of Schubert, Janacek, and Beethoven (Mar. 8).
The vocal component this season is provided by the marvelous Spanish soprano Sylvia Schwartz. She is joined by Quebec pianist Olivier Godin, in Alban Berg’s Sieben fruhe Lieder paired with Frauenliebe und Leben by Schumann in the first half. The second half is made up of Spanish songs by Guridi, Turina, and Montsalvagte (Apr. 12). The final concert of the season is an extravaganza – Cellodrama! (May 3) Led by WMCT Artistic Director Simon Fryer. Joining him are cellists Ariel Barnes, Roman Borys, David Hetherington, Paul Widner, Thomas Wiebe, Leanne Zacharias, and Winona Zelenka. The program is a wide-ranging and eclectic one, from JS Bach to a WMCT commission by Kelly-Marie Murphy. With the presence of eight cellists on the same stage, they will present the magnificent Bachianas Brasileiras No 5, by Heitor Villa-Lobos, composed for eight celli. The soprano soloist is Canadian vocalist-songwriter Sarah Slean.
The 2017-18 season promises to be a memorable one. Tickets go on sale today. For more details, go to www.wmct.on.ca or call 416-923-7052.
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