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Ludwig Van
Toronto Montreal

MAJOR CHORDS | Car Culture Meets The Orchestra At The Drive-In

By Peter Goddard on October 7, 2020

TSO-Drive-in

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO) is to perform Kings of Ragtime Oct. 7 at the CityView Drive-In, 20 Polson St. in Toronto. This savvy musical expedient during the COVID-19 pandemic offers the sort of isolation and social distancing difficult to maintain in concert halls.

It’s also part of a direction in orchestra management over the past 50 years or so in attracting new listeners by going to where they are. Classical concerts are popping up in rock club and discos. Groups of Toronto Symphony players spent the last week in September performing in neighbourhoods around town. Some take part in the Art Gallery of Ontario’s outdoor series.

But a drive-In? CityView is designed mainly as a concert/event venue, not an al fresco cinematic experience. It does have enormous LED screens showing performers in action. And, a vintage vibe hovers over everything as CityView channels drive-in era nostalgia. Glass Tiger, the ‘80s Big Hair band is there Oct. 8. The Edge, the ‘70s alt rock station as CFNY-FM is producing an Oct. 9 concert. CityView’s retro-sensibility flows from its ‘50s-ish logo, suggestive of the classical drive-ins, the few rickety wooden originals now just hulks in empty fields near small towns (My poor wrecked favourite is just west of Elmvale, north of Toronto.).

The pandemic has brought new life to the modern drive-in though. So why shouldn’t CityView go whole-hog drive-in-movie-wise — Porky’s is a perfect drive-in flick by the way — and bring the Toronto Symphony along for the ride in months ahead?

Back to Porky’s. In director Rob Clark’s 1981 Canadian gross-out — and who said Canucks don’t have bad taste? — there are vast panoramas of primal landscapes oozing murky meaning, seductive temptresses, villainous leaders who are pure evil and lots of virginity getting lost. Can’t you just imagine Wagner’s swelling cellos, his thrusting trombones? Parts of Parsifal could be played before and after the screening, and during a scheduled break allowing for the buying of pulled-pork sandwiches.

CityView drive-in Toronto

The drive-In is a special sexual space marrying car culture — deeply sensual as it is on its own — to romance to guilt and lots of loud noises. This pretty much describes classical music too, only without the cars. Why not pair Debussy’s La Mer with an Aquaman revival at the drive-in during Spring when it’s really wet ? Or the Perfect Storm? I mean, isn’t some form of coarse romantic activity in back seats built in to the very idea of going to the drive-in? Wouldn’t a little sex appeal sell a few string quartets?

“I told ya, keep your hands off of my Puccini.” You can hear it now.

TSO chief Matthew Loden has crafted a musical balancing act going from the Baroque with Vivaldi’s Four Seasons (Oct.16) to the blues First Ladies of Soul (Oct.17). The Vivaldi is already sold out.

A seasoned TSO patron might wonder where in J.S. is Bach and the rest of the serious posse. But Loden sees his series as finding “audiences who would like to explore the orchestral experience for the first time.”

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Peter Goddard
Peter Goddard
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