DESKTOP
TABLET (max. 1024px)
MOBILE (max. 640px)
Return to Top
Ludwig Van
Toronto Montreal

ZERO IN | Tafelmusik's Jennifer Nichols On Why It's Important To Get Out Of The Way Of The Music

By Sara Schabas on November 14, 2017

Jennifer Nichols (Photo: Rob Campbell/Commons)
Jennifer Nichols (Photo: Rob Campbell/Commons)

When dancer, choreographer and now director Jennifer Nichols first heard early baroque music as a child, she became instantly obsessed.

“It wasn’t like, ‘oh, this is nice,’ it was so far beyond that,” the director of Tafelmusik’s upcoming Haus Müsik concert describes. “Kind of like a feeling of coming home.”

In this sense, it’s fitting that Nichols’ first foray into directing will be a sort of homecoming for the multitalented performer. Nichols has danced for Tafelmusik for many years as part of Opera Atelier.

The Collingwood, Ontario-native has garnered quite the diverse resumé since moving to Toronto in 2000, with choreography credits including the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the Art Gallery of Ontario, Against the Grain Theatre, Bicycle Opera, the CW network’s Reign, managing her own successful ballet fitness studio, the Extension Room in Corktown and Pointe Break Retreats business, as well as performing as a dancer.

When asked what taking full reigns as a director feels like for Nichols, she laughs. “I’ve wanted to do it since I was young. I have an overall vision for things, not just the movement, but how it is influenced by the context and the music. I love to write, and when I was young I painted and drew. I’ve been involved in so many artistic disciplines that I wanted to throw it all in the pot.”

Crossing/Traversée, the title for the Tafelmusik concert Nichols directs, will be a multi-sensory evening in Toronto’s Great Hall. Digital projections, spoken word, dancing, live music and spoken word will feature, while lavender from a Creemore, Ontario farm, used in cocktails as well as the space, will evoke the French countryside. The evening sounds much more like an underground warehouse concert than something one would expect from Canada’s premiere baroque ensemble. But Nichols feels otherwise.

Haus Musik April 27, 2017 at Longboat Hall (Photo: Jeff Higgins)
Haus Musik April 27, 2017 at Longboat Hall (Photo: Jeff Higgins)

“The irony is that presenting it in an intimate surrounding or our version of a salon [Longboat Hall in Toronto’s Great Hall], is kind of how the music would’ve been presented back in the day,” she explains of the evening. “People didn’t go to concert halls to hear this type of music; it was done in homes, salons, party-environments that were social gatherings, not sitting down in a proscenium-style theatres and watching from the outside. You were immersed in it. In a sense we’re staying more true to what environment the composers were writing for than how you’d find this music presented nowadays.”

Nichols also doesn’t believe in modernizing art solely for the sake of keeping up with the times.

“It’s such a cliché to say to keep the art form alive you have to modernize everything,” she relates. “I don’t think modernizing things means changing it or altering it so much that it’s not recognizable or respectful of it. It’s a matter of layering some supportive material there to give it a bit of colour in a different way. To reflect something or bounce something off it that would help it convey the beauty of the music to an audience in a different way. Maybe a more palatable way or a more accessible way; it really depends how you do it.”

This isn’t the first time Nichols has been asked to enhance already beloved pieces of art. She choreographed and performed with the violinist and composer Edwin Huizinga for the Art Gallery of Ontario’s Mystical Landscapes show earlier this year.

“The [art or] music spoke first, which was how I started with this,” she describes of the two experiences. “With the AGO I didn’t have as many elements to play with, like the luxury of adding film and lights, it was more a question of, what can I add in this space? More of a vague sort of narrative and an interaction between me and Edwin. It’s sort of playing, shaping the elements that have been added to the music and seeing how that takes shape.”

In Crossing/Traversée, Nichols has utilized a similar approach.

“My big task was that I didn’t tamper with the period of music,” she says of the French baroque music that will be performed on Thursday. “By adding all these elements, [the piece] is about Tafelmusik and their repertoire and them as an orchestra, first and foremost. It’s about enhancing or supporting in a way that’s not just about what I’ve added.”

The word Tafelmusik comes from the German for, “table music” or “music for the feast,” and in a sense this sort of casual approach has been Tafelmusik’s vision for all of its almost forty years of excellence. Under Jennifer Nichols’ imaginative and sensory direction, we can be sure that Thursday night’s performance will certainly be a fest. I wouldn’t miss it, if I were you.

Haus Music: Crossing/Traversée takes places at The Great Hall Toronto on Thursday, November 16 at 8 p.m. For tickets see haumusikTO.com.

#LUDWIGVAN

Want more updates on Toronto-centric classical music news and reviews before anyone else finds out? Follow us on Facebook or Twitter for all the latest.

Sara Schabas

Sara Schabas

Sara Schabas is a soprano and writer born and bred in the heart of Toronto’s musical community. When she’s not singing opera, you can find her covering Carole King on the ukulele, biking through the Annex and advocating the merits of Puccini.
Sara Schabas
Sara Schabas

Sara Schabas

Sara Schabas is a soprano and writer born and bred in the heart of Toronto’s musical community. When she’s not singing opera, you can find her covering Carole King on the ukulele, biking through the Annex and advocating the merits of Puccini.
Sara Schabas
Share this article
lv_toronto_banner_high_590x300
comments powered by Disqus

Ludwig Van Toronto

SCRUTINY | With 24-hours Notice, Andrew Haji Steps In Like A Pro

By Joseph So on October 19, 2017

After a last-minute cancellation by Gordon Bintner, tenor Andrew Haji fearlessly steps in for a noon hour recital with soprano Simone Osborne at the COC.
Read the full story Comments
Share this article
lv_toronto_banner_high_590x300

ZERO IN | AtG's Opera Pub Brings Back The Lost Art Of Drinking Beer Between Arias

By Matthew Timmermans on November 5, 2017

How Against the Grain's laid back Opera Pub intends to bring back the old idea of opera as social gathering.
Read the full story Comments
Share this article

FEATURE | The Toronto Symphony Orchestra Brings Remembrance Day Home

By Jennifer Liu on October 30, 2017

To commemorate Remembrance Day, the TSO mount Afghanistan: Requiem for a Generation, an emotionally powerful work by Canadian composer Jeffrey Ryan and Suzanne Steele, Canada’s war poet in Afghanistan.
Read the full story Comments
Share this article
lv_toronto_banner_low_590x300
lv_toronto_ssb_atf_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_high_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_mid_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_low_300x300
lv_toronto_tsb_high_300x700
lv_toronto_tsb_low_300x700
lv_toronto_ssb_atf_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_high_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_mid_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_low_300x300
lv_toronto_tsb_high_300x700
lv_toronto_tsb_low_300x700

We have detected that you are using an adblocking plugin in your browser.

The revenue we earn by the advertisements is used to manage this website. Please whitelist our website in your adblocking plugin.