Inaugural Evening at the Atelier

Rosemarie Umetsu has not only been a supporter of the arts through her fashion collaborations but has also loved to entertain enthusiasts housing countless performances at her beloved atelier. Having recently moved locations, the couturier has officially embarked on a new chapter in her fascinating career.

“We have now created a Fashion House taking the Atelier to a higher level of fashion experience with clients and where I can use this space to further augment my design culture”. As she is presently in JUNO mode designing for up to 5 nominees this year and with names like Isabel Bayrakdarian, Measha Brueggergosman, Yuja Wang and many more under her client roster, there was an urge to dive even deeper into developing Umetsu’s fashion expression.

In addition, Yamaha Canada Music has also come on board as a top level sponsor where the atelier is now in a position to continue in an expansive way of what was done in the past. The space can now enhance the goal even further to support arts groups and helping nurture developing artists, as well as assist the established.

Tomorrow evening, the Yamaha Recital Space will present its inaugural recital featuring Korean-Canadian pianist Younggun Kim as well as debut the new Yamaha CX piano. With bookings already going into 2018, I think it’s safe to say that everyone is excited to embrace this new urban event space and its great acoustics.

Younggun Kim performs at Atelier Rosemarie Umetsu

Younggun Kim’s performances have been known for their “technical capacity and a lush sound” with concerts spanning all across North America and Europe. This Saturday, a special inaugural concert will be taking place where the Korean-Canadian pianist will allow audiences to experience a new performance space in the Yorkville area.

Couturier Rosemarie Umetsu, for many years, has opened her atelier doors to artists and opera singers having organized countless intimate concerts. With a brand new location and in partnership with Yamaha Canada, Kim’s recital will be the first of many to come in this brand new chapter.

With his performance attire also being prepared by Umetsu (as he will also be debuting a brand new Yamaha piano)piani, we chatted with Royal Conservatory alum about his upcoming musical presentational and of course, a little fashion.

MC: What’s your approach when performing intimate recitals in comparison to playing at Roy Thomson or Walter Hall?

YK: An intimate space means less distance between me and the audience, which gives me a chance to communicate with them in a way that is unique to such spaces. It is an interesting sensation as a performer that it feels as if I’m playing in a private gathering, surrounded by my friends. It is also possible to verbally communicate with the audience more easily in such a setting; from explaining the background of the next piece to cracking some jokes, playing for a smaller crowd is a great opportunity to connect closely with the public – more so if one doesn’t need a microphone. Lastly, the characteristics of a more intimate space enable a whole other palette that is not necessarily accessible in a large hall; even the smallest nuances will not be lost to the public, and while it isn’t feasible to stuff an entire Wagner production in a 150-people space, such a venue is quite ideal for solo piano and chamber music.

In a way, this is similar when comparing a public lecture and a seminar class. Both have their respective virtues. I’m really looking forward to this Saturday’s session.

MC: Share more details about the evening’s program.

YK: It’s a mixture of popular pieces, rarely played gems, and rarely played versions of these popular works. Every piano enthusiast will recognize the two Chopin works that I have programmed; however, they may not be familiar with Godowsky, who rewrote many of Chopin’s works including his Etudes. Godowsky’s pieces are new works using Chopin’s pieces as a starting point and they deserve to be played more than they are. The practical problem is that Godowsky’s works are, because of his affinity for polyphonic writing, complex harmonic language and his adventurous spirit, considered to be some of the most difficult piano music to play. Imagine playing two Chopin Etudes simultaneously – and that’s exactly what one of the pieces I’ll be playing is about. Also interesting are the Kapustin set; unlike the rest of the program, Kapustin’s musical language is jazz; they are very exciting and quite honestly, always great fun to play. I am happy to say that they have proven themselves to be audience favourites too. I am also playing pieces by Mozart, Schubert, Schumann and Liszt; they are well-known pieces but for a variety of reasons not often performed in public.

MC: Finally, tell us more about your personal style and what fashion means to you both as a musical stage performer.

YK: I always try to dress myself according to the occasion. I believe that how I look is very important in creating a persona on the stage, and it is not disconnected from what I try to convey aurally; after all, you will be ‘seen’ as well as heard on the stage. So far my efforts in fashion have been concentrated on dressing myself in a way to show the same seriousness and dedication that I give to my music; maybe it is time for me to move ahead!

Symphonic Style with Rachel Sin

The poised and structured manner that is Rachel Sin, after many years of admiring her work, still impresses me to this very day. The Toronto-based designer is no stranger to the runway and she will be presenting her latest collection next month for the launch of Toronto Women’s Fashion Week.
RachelSin-About2In preparation to present her latest pieces for FW17, I wondered, what does Rachel do to unwind and refresh herself? The symphony.

If you want to catch the former-architect anywhere else besides her studio, more than likely it would be it will be at Roy Thomson Hall. A fashionable and cultural outing is the ultimate form of entertainment in my books.

Here are some of her favourite go-to ensembles for any musical occasion.


A mid-week performance always adds a nice mix to your work schedule. Fact: classical music does wonders to your work productivity (your boss with be very thankful).

Dinner Date and the Opera

Change things up and add a cultural flare to your regular dinner-and-a-movie outing. Whether you’re more of an Opera Buffa or Opera Seria fan, there’s a Rachel Sin outfit for either.

Sunday Matinee Recital

Rib Knit Turtleneck Dress 212

Rib Knit Turtleneck Dress

A personal favourite, sometimes, the best way to finish your weekend is to go solo and have some you-time while attending an early afternoon performance.

The Rachel Sin FW 2017 Collection with be presented on March 10th, 2017.

*Photos courtesy of

Jonathan Crow and Co.

Jonathan Crow, is all over the place – he has already established himself as a talented leading violinist performing with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra as Concert Master, was appointed this year as Toronto Summer Music’s Artistic Director, continues his chamber work with the New Orford String Quartet, and may I had, just so happens to grow more handsome as her gets older. I promise to focus on the music for the rest of this post.

The BC native has been turning heads in all directions and there is no slowing down. This evening he will perform an English chamber recital featuring both ensemble and solo works for piano and violin featuring works by Elgar, Mozart and others. We ask Mr. Crow about this extra special summer with Toronto Summer Music.

Photo by Sian Richards

Photo by Sian Richards

MC: What do you love about performing with Toronto Summer Music in comparison to your seasonal work with the TSO?

JC: I love the idea of getting to work with young pre-professional players who are excited to play great chamber music. I remember playing my first professional gig almost 20 years ago, and being shocked at the speed at which I was expected to put everything together- the learning curve was pretty steep! TSM does a great job of bridging this gap between student performance timelines of a few months and the professional world. TSM is also a great example of a “festival” type program where artists come in from all around the world and put together exciting programs in a short time- giving the potential for truly unique musical events.

MC: Please share more about your musical interpretation with a smaller ensemble and the repertoire you are focusing on for your TSM performance. 

JC: In my opinion there isn’t a huge difference between chamber music and orchestra- the same skills come into play in both fields. No matter what the kind of music, one has to have great listening skills as well as the ability to adjust to colleagues- both in rehearsal and on the fly during a concert. Chamber music is great for enhancing these skills though, as with only a few people on stage it is a little easier to really have an interaction with each colleague, giving perhaps the chance for more spontaneity than any other form of music.

MC: How does this year’s ‘London Calling’ them resonate with you musically? 
JC: My parents are both British, and I’ve spent a lot of time in England both visiting relatives and working. London is one of the world’s great cities, and has such a huge musical history; it’s fantastic for me to be able to perform an entire concert (and be part of an entire festival!) that takes place around a specific city that means so much to my family and me! It’s amazing to see such varied repertoire that all has a connection to one amazing city.
MC: Do you have a favourite English composer?

JC: For me it has to be Edward Elgar- specifically because of a recording of his violin concerto made by a young Yehudi Menuhin with Elgar himself conducting. I fell in love with this piece and the rest of Elgar’s music as a kid when I listened to this recording over and over. There isn’t a huge amount of chamber music by Elgar unfortunately, but I’m really happy to be performing the Elgar Sonata for Violin and Piano this week.

Photo from Toronto Star

Photo from Toronto Star

MC: Finally, how do you feel about your new appointment as Artistic Director?

JC: I’m pretty to excited to take over from Douglas next year- this is a great festival and he has been doing amazing things! I believe so strongly in what this festival has to present- Toronto in the summer is an amazing place, and the TSM presents a mix of events unlike any other organization in the country. We already have lots of great ideas for 2017- hopefully we can pick up where 2016 left off and make a great festival next year!


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)