Alles Gute zum Geburtstag Beethoven

I will keep this very short and sweet.

On this day, 244 years ago, one of the most talented personalities in classical music history was born. Ludwig van Beethoven has been a true inspiration throughout my entire musical career and has been by my side every step of the way as I have studied and mastered some of his most recognizable works.

Let’s just say, whenever I was going through a bad mood, I knew just how to cheer myself up. So, in honour of his birthday, please take a moment and listen to one of my favourite piano concertos.

Life After the Holidays

Christmas is 9 days away! December is whizzing by and before you know it, 2015 will be just around the corner. We are all guilty of indulging and letting go during the holidays. Getting back on track is always a struggle and it’s all about finding the perfect regime that will whip you back into shape.

It’s not always that simple to push and motivate ourselves – I can raise both my hands to that. But it is possible. Over the past few weeks, I’ve come across some really interesting beauty products and programs that that will definitely be my go-to’s come January 1st.

Raw Vitality Total Health

Candice Marley is a Holistic Health Practicioner. Nutritionist, Master Herbalist and Wellness Coach and the lady behind Raw Vitality. She created this program to teach others about the most effective natural healing and health tools that can keep you feeling vibrantly health, naturally beautiful and perfectly balanced. “When we eat and live in the healthiest ways we can experience a powerful Raw Vitality without depending on medications, energydrinks, stimulants or anything else”.raw vitality health system

What advice can you share when it comes to staying on top of your health during the holidays?

Keep time in your schedule to nurture and care for yourself. It is important to make sure you are eating healthy by making your own meals, and not just grabbing junk on the go, continuing balanced exercise even a 20 minute walk each day can make a big difference, making time for managing stress in a healthy way and taking time to get outside and get natural sunlight and fresh air. We recommend yoga and meditation to help manage stress. Meditation can be especially helpful for people during the holidays and most stressful times in life. We offer a 30 day meditation program delivered via email each day in our 30 day program.

You can follow Candice’s blog and find natural healing tips on her web site or at

Iam Yoga

For many, the practice of yoga has become a mere aspect of an overall fitness and physical conditioning routine. And while the pursuit of physical health is one of the many reasons to practice yoga, Toronto’s IAM Yoga studio aims to teach students the ability to enhance their mental well being, improve health and drastically reduce physical and emotional reactions to stress in the busy day-to-day.

Iam Yoga founder, Linda Malone, has also established From Our Kitchen – a series of talks, lectures, podcasts, interactive workshops and lessons for food preparation and natural body solutions. Just last week, they held a special holiday session and their recommended detox regime really caught my attention.

Many assume that juice cleansing is the best post-holiday detox solution but they are wrong! “It’s significantly more effective to eat 100% unprocessed foods, with a focus on vegetables, healthy  fats and clean protein”. Herbal teas with milk thistle and dandelion roots can actually provuide very effective and gentle liver support (something that we will all definitely need).

Fuzz Wax Bar

On top of getting back to our normal ways through exercise, medication and diet, let’s not forget that it’s all about looking and feeling pretty (inside and out) while going through this whole process.

Toronto’s Fuzz Wax Bar is dedicated  entirely to waxing services for both men and women. They focus on providing fast and flawless service by their top Fuzzologists. Did I mention how affordable it is too?

They also offer some great products of their very own including the Skin Perfecting Scrub – a fantastic exfoliator you can apply from head to toe.


Kelly & Jones

Last, but certainly not least, we all want to smell our very best as we march into the new year. But what if you could add an interesting twist to your latest scent. I came across Kelly & Jones back in 2012 and have been in love with their line of fragrances ever since. These frangrances “enhance the nuances of both wine and perfume”.

The new Notes of Wine Collection features a total of 5 delightful vino aromas –  Sauvignon Blanc, Reisling, Cabernet, Merlot and Chardonnay.






The Nord Vision

What do you get when a rising male model and fashion photographer join creative forces? A collaborative project where ideas can come to life and dialogues ignite between various industries including fashion and the arts. Myles Sexton and Jonathan Hooper are no strangers to the editorial world and are well known in their realms of focus As a result, Nord Magazine was born – a luxury triannual online and print publication based out of Toronto covering local and international themes.

Nord [nawrd], deutsche for magnetic north, just launched its very first issue titled “Skins”. Each issue is constructed around one main theme with a strong focus on the visual content surrounding its subject matter.

As the magazine’s artistic and creative directors, both Sexton and Hooper have decided to follow a different publishing perspective not driven by consumerism or sponsored messages. Their ultimate goal is for every issue to be a curated capsule of ideas, artists and concepts.

Toronto is very lucky to have such a duo and having recently bumped into both of them at a fashion show, it was quite the privilege to see these boys in action. With a bright future ahead of them and another great addition to their many talents, I learn more about Nord’s very beginnings.

nord magazine jonathan hooper myles sexton

Jonathan Hooper (left) and Myles Sexton (right)

MC: What was the inspiration behind launching NORD?

M/J: The lack of inspiration is really what inspired us. We live in a fashion market that really could not move any slower in the forward direction. Yet we have a city full of ridiculously talented models, designers, artists, and they get little to no recognition. As artists, we wanted to collaborate with these individuals not only just locally but internationally, while giving them a luxe publication to feature them in. Thus, Nord was born.

MC: Both you and Jonathan have established fantastic careers for yourselves – how have the two of you combined your creative visions together for the magazine?

Myles: Jonathan and I are pretty much the polar opposites of each other. From our style, personalities, taste in men (haha), we are both very different individuals. Due to our differences ,I think that we are able to see a bigger picture. We are able to collide our ideas and morph them into something more beautiful than either of us could dream of. Since the day we first became friends three years ago, we have been collaborating together – the artist, and the muse.  When it came time that we both wanted to create Nord it was almost second nature to combine our creative visions. Now we are able to create without limits through this publication of ours.

nord skins cover

Nord cover model Winnie Harlow

MC: From modeling to managing the magazine, Myles, what have you learned the most so far?

Myles: I love learning. When I feel like I am not growing and learning ,I go a bit crazy. That’s why I am working in many different careers paths currently. I keep gaining new perspective and skills from each of them. Though I work in many different fields, they have all  taught me that the only thing truly standing in the way of your dreams is yourself.  

MC: Jonathan, you’ve photographed runway shoots, campaigns, the list goes on. With your own magazine, what approach is taken for planning the visuals behind every issue?

Jonathan: The visuals behind every issue ties into the major theme we approach. Our pilot looked at the meaning and interpretation of skins, and was predominantly produced by yours truly, to set a bar for our aesthetic moving forward and accepting submissions. Now, visuals still must tie into the thematic framework of each issue, but it’s a process of curation between our in-house content, submissions and collaborations between creative.

MC: How do you stand out from other online and print publications?

M/J: We are not just another fashion magazine; we are a collaboration of artists showcasing their talents without limits. We make you adjust your gaze when looking at beauty. We elevate the up-and-coming with the established. We create conversation and share the dialogues of these individuals. Nord is designed as an incubator and an artist colony. We are the highest point under the sun, just to the left. 

nord logo

Man on Demand

You may know them as falsettos or male altos. Countertenors have quite the unique role in the vocal world and became an early music phenomenon. Equivalent to its counterpart, the female contralto or mezzo-soprano, popularity grew throughout the 17th century and roles are still very much in demand today.

Canadian countertenor Daniel Cabena is highly regarded in both Canada and Europe for prize-winning performances ranging from baroque to contemporary repertoire. He is recognized for his outstanding talent and has been described as “very classy, with his freely flowing slender, well-sustained alto voice”.

Just recently, Cabena returned to Guelph after spending much time traveling throughout Europe while stationed in Basel. His schedule is definitely jam packed for the next few months and I couldn’t have been more thrilled when the opportunity came up to chat with this dashing fellow.

daniel cabena 2MC: Countertenors are very much in demand all over the world. Do you find it difficult at times to choose roles if there are quite a few to choose from?

DC: I’m grateful that there’s now such an interest in and acceptance of the countertenor voice. That’s really a blessing for me and for my alto colleagues; and it becomes harder and harder to imagine a time – even though that time was so recent – in which the voice was almost exclusively a feature of the choral world. Now there’s a real abundance of wonderful countertenor soloists. Between the moment of Alfred Deller’s debut recital in London and the present day, the voice type that he invented or re-imagined has become an established Fach and has taken on a clear diversity of subcategories, much like the other Fächer. Perhaps we’ll eventually start hearing about lyrico-spinto countertenors and Karakter Kontratenöre. In the meantime, we’re certainly already hearing them on the world’s stages.

But, for the moment, I’d hazard to say that those differences in voice type between countertenors are still not entirely understood; and in that sense, yes, it can be difficult to choose roles or to choose between this or that offer of work. For, quite often a countertenor is still asked to sing – sometimes even on a single concert program – music originally composed for a soprano castrato, a female contralto, a boy soprano, a Purcell “countertenor” (who was was a tenor, a sort of haute-contre à la francaise, though our day’s male falsettists have borrowed his name). To say the least, that sheer variety can pose some technical difficulties. In the end, each singer has to choose his roles and repertoire according to what makes him sound most entirely and beautiful like himself.

MC: Are you a fan of baroque roles with the rise of countertenors replacing castrati performers?

DC:  I am indeed a fan of the practice of countertenors taking on roles originally composed for castrati. I wouldn’t say, though, that there’s necessarily much of a sonic relationship between those two voice types. Nor are the countertenors of today surrounded by anything like the star culture that surrounded the castrati. Also, I wouldn’t say, either, that a countertenor is a more “authentic” casting choice for those roles. In fact, I think the aim of authenticity or historical accuracy is better served by casting entirely according to the creative integrity of a given production, rather than trying to refer to any historical norm. There was, however, a great diversity in casting in, say, Handel’s time; and quite a number of the male roles in his operas were written not for castrati but for women. So, in fact, if one is trying, in casting a Baroque opera, to some extent to enter into the “authenticity” of the thing, one would surely have to take into account this vast difference between the aesthetic sensibility of our time and that of the 18th Century: we’re nuts about realism, while our operatic ancestors were much more intrigued with and compelled by form, structure and artifice. There are many arenas in which one might discuss that topic of aesthetic difference, but I would make a comment just on this one, which ties in with your question: there was way more gender fluidity on stage in the opera of the 17th and 18th centuries than there is in the operas and casting of today. WAY more!

As as a countertenor, I am delighted and privileged to have, at my disposal, some of the castrato repertoire. But I wouldn’t want to be cast in those roles simply because I’m a dude! Rather, I’d want to be cast on the basis of something special that I can bring to the work, the role, the production. And, besides, it’s difficult to imagine a more wonderfully and entirely “Giulio Cesare” Giulio Cesare than that incarnated by Sarah Connolly or a more eloquently uttered performance of Messiah than that offered by Catherine Robbin.

MC: Have you ever faced a challenging role as a countertenor?

DC: I’ve encountered lots of challenging roles. One challenge for me is that, though I’m brimming with energy and ideas (and even strong opinions, for which I beg your indulgence!) I’m rather a soft-hearted soul. That can make it a bit tricky to enter into, say, the mental and emotional space occupied by a villain like Tolomeo in Handel’s Giulio Cesare. Violence and outward displays of anger don’t come naturally to me; so I have to search for them, search for the motivations that bring out those expressions, seek to turn outwards what I’m more inclined to experience inwardly. At the same time, villainy is quite a lot of fun to play. And I think that the very process that I’ve just hinted at has been and is ongoingly a wonderful learning experience for me. So these are challenges for which I’m grateful. (And I’m deeply grateful to Tom Diamond for having led me through some of that process and for having provided me with the tools with which to work away at it.)

daniel cabena 3

MC: Favourite opera character you’ve performed to date (or a few if you can’t choose just one).

DC: So, to answer your next question, I’d say that Tolomeo, that villain who’s so far from my own temperament and character, is one of my favourites to perform. I also love Oberon from Britten’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”.  I’m fascinated by the combination of villainy and nobility in Oberon, and I love his music – even though the role sits rather too low in the voice to allow for any vocal fireworks. It’s all nuance and colour and text and character. Oberon’s quite different from Tolomeo, and perhaps rather more like myself. But an entirely other favourite role of mine was that of Donna Elvira in “Dal male il bene,” an opera composed in collaboration by Abbatini and Marazzoli scene from which I performed under the direction of Guillaume Bernardi a few years ago. I loved working with Guillaume, who led me into the role with such care and subtlety and by way of the text. I just loved that process. And I loved exploring the physicality of the character, one physiognomically so different from myself. I wonder, in retrospect, if the experience of singing a female role wasn’t somewhat akin to that of working with a mask. In any case, it was liberating and enriching for me.

MC: What are you looking forward to about your upcoming performing on December 7th?

DC: I’m really looking forward to my and Stephen Runge’s December 7th recital at Hart House. That performance will be the last of a tour, which has taken us to a number of venues – universities, for the most part – in the Maritimes and Ontario. It’s a joy to work with Stephen, with whom the rehearsal process is smooth and straightforward and the music-making spontaneous and natural. He’s just such a wonderful pianist and accompanist. We’re both very pleased with the program that we’ve created and which we’ve entitled “A Sanctuary in Song.” We developed the program initially for a CBC broadcast, and we’ve subsequently tinkered with it slightly so as to create two versions, one shorter one, for lunchtime concerts and the like, and one full-length one, which we’ll be performing at Hart House.

The music and poetry of which the program is composed is very dear to me, a sort of musical mother-tongue in a way (or “father-tongue,” I might say, as I discovered the works of most if not all of these composers thanks to my father, Barrie, who’s a wonderful composer, organist, pianist and church musician). So I’m very much looking forward just to speak that language again. I also love leading the audience through the story that we’ve traced out in the program and to go through that journey myself.

MC: How do you find performing a recital with an accompanist, such as Stephen Runge, in comparison to an opera role?

DC: The process of performing a recital with a single accompanist is, I’m sure, quite different from that associated with an opera role. But what strikes me most just now is the similarities between the two. By that I mean especially that the feeling of collaboration can be equally strong in both instances and that there’s a great seeking after character and narrative clarity in both cases. I do, however, love the intimacy of recital. I love being so close to my accompanist, such that one can very spryly, instantaneously pick up the physical and musical hints left by the other. I also love the proximity of the audience and being able to see them and receive their reactions. But I also love a part of the recital work that happens long before singer or pianist gets near the stage, and that’s the work of creating a program. I imagine it to be akin to the work of a curator; in any case it’s certainly an opportunity to interpret or maybe just come to terms with the music and texts that have touched me, made me who I am. I find that to be an immensely enriching process, and it’s one that I cherish.

Daniel will perform this Sunday December 7th at 3:00 PM (Hart House, Toronto)

Pocket Concerts

Throughout the 19th century, salon music was a growing and popular genre in Europe. People would gather under the roof of an extravagant host and enjoy an evening full of fascinating conversation, poetry readings, and of course, music. A composer who became well known for attracting such events was Franz Schubert. His Schubertiades were sponsored by wealthy friends and aficionados of the composer’s work.

Salon-concert culture still lives on and I was delighted to found that such an event took place, here, in Toronto. Pocket Concerts presents some of the city’s best chamber musicians in living rooms (our modern “salons”) all over the Greater Toronto Area. These performers have brought intimate and interactive musical experiences into the homes of many hosts.

On top of creating a relaxed atmosphere, each Pocket Concert consists of about 45 minutes of fantastic music, followed by a reception, during which music-lovers have a chance to meet with the ensemble as well as each other. An unforgettable chamber music experience full of listening and learning among friends, this ensemble has brought together a strong community of admirers.

PC - Rory McLeod Viola Photo 10 Resized Photo by Bo HuangArtistic Director and violist, Rory McLeod, shared with me how each event comes to life and the musical planning behind each Pocket Concert.

MC: What was the inspiration behind starting Pocket Concerts?

RM: It really started with a conversation I had with my brother Alex, also a violist. We had recently played a private house concert for some friends of friends, and were talking about how much we love playing in people’s homes. There’s an intimacy to the house concert experience that you can’t quite find in a concert hall, and there’s much more of an opportunity to connect with people.

There’s also a funny side to this story. I was on a fairly high dose Prednisone for a few months, and one of the side effects of the steroid was to make me very energetic. I was only sleeping about three or four hours a night and felt pumped up all the time. I wanted to do something useful with all this excess energy, so I started brainstorming, sent dozens of emails, and finally came up with a two-pronged approach that would offer both private and public house concerts in Toronto. Many people gave me help along the way, and the idea seemed to resonate with people. We really have our community to thank more than anyone else. Our hosts, our musicians, and our audiences all come together to create something very special for each concert. We couldn’t do it without the help of these passionate music-lovers.

MC: You provide an intimate, 45 minute performance – how do you go about choosing the repertoire for this type of setting for your audience?

RM: Programming concerts like these is an organic process. We often ask our hosts if there’s a particular type of ensemble that they want to hear, or a particular piece, and we try to make that happen. We also ask the performers if they have any repertoire that they’re dying to perform, and try to work that in. We try to balance variety with depth, and often combine single movements with complete works.

The key is to find a variety of pieces that the performers are passionate about playing, and are also interesting for the audience. We try to include something contemporary and Canadian on each programme, so that people hear something they’ve never heard before. If you prepare your audience properly for what they’re about to hear, people are very receptive to music that’s a bit “out there.”

MC: How do you approach your potential hosts?

RM: At first, we found our hosts through word of mouth. The host of our first concert was an old high school friend who liked the idea and wanted to do something special for her anniversary with her husband. Once we started presenting concerts, the word spread quickly, and most of our hosts have approached us since then. At the reception of our first concert, five separate people asked me if they could host a Pocket Concert.
PC - Turina Quartet Audience Photo by Chris Hutcheson RESIZED

MC: As a performer, how do you feel when playing in someone’s home in comparison to the concert stage?

RM: Playing a house concert is my favourite way to perform chamber music. I love having the opportunity to communicate directly with the audience, and I love that they are so close to me. There’s a certain magic that happens when you get thirty people together in a small space, all close enough to hear the musicians breath and see the glances among the players. We’re playing for smaller audiences, but the experience is much more intense and much more meaningful for each person. It’s also great to have a chance to chat and get to know each other after the performance, instead of arriving and leaving by the stage door. Our network of hosts, our musicians, and our returning audience members are starting to feel like a large extended family.

PC - Turina Quartet Plays

MC: What can we expect for your next performance (Chansons de mon placard – Songs from my cupboard)?

RM: First, you can expect to hear some great music played by fantastic performers. The Malcolm Arnold piece is very humorous, bordering on whacky at times. The Strauss and Korngold songs are beautiful in very different ways, and the Tiefenbach pieces will add even more humour. The theme, Songs from my Cupboard, reveals something about our approach to programming, and also gives you a clue as to how silly some of the songs will be. I have enormous respect for our musicians, and can’t wait to hear them perform together.

After the performance, you’ll have a chance to eat, drink, chat, mingle with each other, and meet the performers. As well as being a lot of fun, the reception is a very important part of the Pocket Concerts experience. This is our chance to get to know each other, talk about the music, and talk about other things. Our hosts Roland and Marion Wilk have a lot of experience with house concerts, and we’re very excited to be co-creating this concert with them. I hear wonderful things about their lasagna. I’m looking forward to it!

The next Pocket Concert will take place this Saturday December 6th at 7:30 PM.
Click here for buy tickets.

For concert details, hosting, and everything else, visit