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CRITIC’S PICKS | Classical Music Events You Absolutely Need To See This Week: May 20 – May 26

By Hye Won Cecilia Lee on May 21, 2024

L-R (clockwise): Pipa performer Wendy Zhou (Photo courtesy of Toronto Chinese Orchestra); Conductor Juliane Gallant (Photo courtesy of Tapestry Opera); Pianist Christina Petrowska Quilico (Photo courtesy of the artist)
L-R (clockwise): Pipa performer Wendy Zhou (Photo courtesy of Toronto Chinese Orchestra); Conductor Juliane Gallant (Photo courtesy of Tapestry Opera); Pianist Christina Petrowska Quilico (Photo courtesy of the artist)

This is a list of concerts we are attending, wishing we could attend, or thinking about attending between May 20 and May 26, 2024. For more of what’s happening around Toronto, visit our calendar here.

Toronto Symphony Orchestra: FREEDOM! A Tribute to Aretha Franklin

Tuesday, May 21, 8 p.m., Wednesday, May 22, 2 p.m., Wednesday, May 22, 8 p.m.
Roy Thomson Hall, $65+

Shake up your midweek with the music of Aretha Franklin, Queen of Soul. Three featured vocalists, Shaleah Adkisson, Blaine Alden Krauss and Tamika Lawrence, are well-seasoned pros, bringing in-depth experience from Broadway, television production, and recording studios. With Dina Gilbert at the podium of the TSO, the show will groove with the powerful music of Aretha. It’s selling quite hot: plan ahead and be ready to hum along, at least. Info here.

Tapestry Opera: Le Kitchen Party

Tuesday, May 21, 8 p.m.
Theatre Passe MUraille, 16 Ryerson Ave. Pay-what-you-can ($65/45/25)

The Acadians are well-known for their heaving kitchen parties. Juliane Gallant, on behalf of Tapestry Opera, invites you to a party night with a mix of traditional Maritime tunes and contemporary music from Sophie Dupuis (composer), featuring performers Jacques Arsenault, Pierre-André Doucet and Marie Andrée Gaudet. The evening promises to be short and sweet in a 90-minute long program, so come on down with comfortable shoes, should you be moved to join in with singing and dancing. If you wish you could catch them on another day: TO will have another short-and-sweet show on Wednesday, May 22. Iron Chef d’Orchestre, with hosts Jennifer Tung, veteran of 15 years with TO, and Keith Klassen. Read our Preview of both shows here. Info here.

Toronto Symphony Orchestra: Game On!

Friday, May 24, 7:30 p.m., Saturday, May 25, 7:30 p.m.
Roy Thomson Hall. $96+

Live video game music concerts have grown from fringe interest to major cultural events. This weekend, TSO plays music from major game titles: Guild Wars 2, World of Warcraft, The Witcher 3, Bioshock, Assassin’s Creed, and many others, accompanied by never-seen-before HD videos. Ever wondered what an epic boss battle music would actually sound like, in real life? Head down with your gamer friends and family, young and old(er), and see their faces light up, with the real, dynamic soundscape of a live orchestra. Info here.

Toronto Bach Festival: Game of Threes (Festival Opener)

Friday, May 24, 8 p.m., Game of Threes: Eastminster United Church, 310 Danforth Ave.
$52 for single ticket, Festival Passport $187
Festival Continues May 25 & 26 (see below)

Since 2016, Toronto Bach Festival has been focusing on bringing historically informed performances of Bach and his contemporaries to Toronto. What is historically informed practice and why does it matter? Bach scholar and artistic director of TBF, John Abberger is just the right person to curate an answer to that question. With four concert programs and a lecture, the festival will take place in 3 different locations over this weekend, and will give you plenty of chances to learn about the many facets of Bach’s work. The Game of Threes, the first of the four programs, features Bach’s triple violin concerto and Brandberg No. 3, and other works. The Festival continues with an Organ Recital (May 25); Kaffeehaus (May 25); Vocal Recital (May 26) & Lecture (May 26). Read our Interview with John Abberger here. Info here.

VIVA Singers Toronto: Poetry in Motion

Saturday, May 25, 6:30 p.m.
Jeanne Lamon Hall, Trinity St. Paul’s United Church. $25

VIVA Singers Toronto: the most comprehensive and inclusive choral program in the city, is presenting their spring concert. There are seven choirs in the VIVA system, starting from age four to adults, and for those who need a little more detailed accommodation, VIVA’s Every Voice Matters Chorus provides an individually tailored support plan for each participant — a superb example of open-access community music making. It’s a true joy to see all groups excel, and for this spring, VIVA have prepared music of our time — including works by Tracy Wong, Andrew Balfour and Eric Whitacre — along with excerpts from Orff’s Carmina Burana, with senior dancers from the Oakwood Collegiate Institute, and a premiere of the winner of the first annual VIVA composition competition. A great way to watch all-ages/all-abilities excel, as we cheer them on. Info here.

Toronto Chinese Orchestra: Seasons

Saturday, May 25, 7:30 p.m.
Tribute Communities Recital Hall, York University. $30

TCO celebrates the end of their first season as a community partner with York University Arts, Media, Performance & Design, with a mixed program of traditional and contemporary Chinese orchestral music. Along with large ensemble works, a pipa concerto (soloist: Wendy Zhou), Kuan Nai-Chung’s double percussion concerto (soloists: Bobby Csh and Brett Lipson), composer-in-residence Matthew James Van Driel’s brand new orchestration of his work ‘Whiteout’, will be played. Organized in a slightly different manner to a typical western orchestra — winds, low strings, plucked strings, bowed strings, and percussion — it’s a lovely way to see genuine Chinese art music in Toronto, a true bonus of living in a multicultural city. Pre-concert talk starts at 6:45 p.m. Info here.

Christina Petrowska Quilico: A Canadian Piano Recital

Saturday, May 25, 7:30 p.m.
Walter Hall, Faculty of Music. $30

Christina Petrowska Quilico has been championing Canadian composers for decades, and her passion continues in this program of Canadian music. Works by Larysa Kuzmenko, David Jaeger, Ruth Schonthal, Oskar Morawetz and Peter Paul Koprowski, rarely performed live, will all be part of this evening’s experience. What have we, as a nation, been creating in terms of classical piano music? Come and find out. Info here.

Mississauga Symphony: An Alpine Symphony

Saturday, May 25, 8 p.m.
Hammerson Hall, Mississauga Living Arts Centre. $40+

MSO is performing Richard Strauss’s ‘An Alpine Symphony’ for their last concert of 23/24 season. A work known for the sea of brass required, MSO is joined by the excellent Weston Silver Band. A 120-piece orchestra is quite an experience, if one ever wondered what it may be like to experience the entire concert hall resonate – and perhaps your own body resonating with the hall – this is it. Be prepared for some of the loudest and most powerful orchestral music you will ever hear. Info here.

Metropolitan Silver Band

Sunday, May 26, 1 p.m.
Sanctuary, Metropolitan United Church, 56 Queen St. E. Freewill donation.

As part of the ‘Door Open Toronto’ event, the Metropolitan Silver Band will present a one-hour program of a variety of styles, starting at 1 p.m., in the beautiful sanctuary at the Metropolitan United church. There will be a visual arts exhibition, organ performances (on Canada’s largest pipe organ), and guided tours throughout the day as well. A little bit of everything for everyone, and a great way to experience the church and its acoustics with much freedom. Info here.


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