As summer deepens and we look back over the past season, the word gratitude jumps to mind. Gratitude for the joy and beauty that music brings. Gratitude for the support of our donors and audience members. Gratitude for the dedication and commitment of our musicians, staff, and board. And gratitude for those whose passionate leadership paved the way for Tafelmusik to thrive for more than four decades.  

In August of last year, we were delighted to announce that Music Director Elisa Citterio had renewed her contract through to the end of our 44th concert season in 2022/23. Since assuming the helm of Tafelmusik in 2017, Elisa has blazed new trails while continuing to enhance the orchestra’s status as a global leader in period performance.

In 2020/21 and for the first time in Tafelmusik’s history, we presented a completely digital season of concerts and online content that has helped us stay engaged with audiences. We recorded ten concerts in several Toronto locations including professional studios, our home venue of Jeanne Lamon Hall, and Koerner Hall. The transition from live concerts to video production and digital broadcasting has not been easy, but we are proud to have prevailed and to have been recognized by our peers as leaders in this new terrain.  

“With less than a year of exploration and experimentation to draw from, Tafelmusik is demonstrating that they are not only able to survive but thrive in this new and unexpected virtual environment.” 

—Matthew Whitfield, The Wholenote

The season opened with Mozart Together, followed by Passions of the Soul, a program of music by baroque composers. A Tafelmusik Christmas brought the choir and orchestra together for the first time in 2020, while two Close Encounters chamber music programs, Re-Tuned and Divertimento, explored repertoire that is slightly off the beaten path. For our 2021 Spring Social we presented a filmed version of our 2019 baroque-to-folk hit, Café Counterculture, with music ranging from Bach to Buffy Sainte-Marie. 

Four brand new concerts curated by Elisa Citterio —Il Seicento, On the Road, Dynamic Duos, and Essential Bach—focused on the intimate interplay between musicians and replaced originally scheduled programs requiring larger forces and guest soloists.

Between concerts, Tafelmusik offered an array of compelling digital content designed to engage various audiences and keep the conversation going. Notable among these initiatives was Musik in Motion, a free series of video collaborations with local artists Darby Milbrath, Alex McLeod, and Tafelmusik cellist Keiran Campbell, who interpreted music that is an essential part of Tafelmusik’s signature repertoire through their respective disciplines.

In 2020/21 we presented three online Tafel Talks—thought-provoking conversations about the transformative role of music in our world today. Featuring dynamic guest panelists and moderators from Toronto and beyond, these lively panel discussions navigated a range of intriguing topics including Music as Resistance with panelists Torquil Campbell, Kate Helsen, and Reginald Mobley moderated by Raha Javanfar; Emotional Rescue: how choral singing enhance our wellbeing with panelists ArinMaya, Jody Malone, and Ruben Valenzuela moderated by Cory Knight; and Joseph Bologne: Black & Classical with panelists Dr. Christine Gangelhoff; Tanya Charles Iveniuk, and Patrick G. Jordan moderated by Marlon Daniel.

Free digital offerings peppered throughout the season included Sing-Along Messiah on Screen, a virtual version of our beloved annual tradition, which was streamed on YouTube more than 27,000 times, and a new 24/7 Holiday Music Stream in December; a broadcast of Mozart Together in recognition of National Psychology Month; an online concert featuring Tafelmusik musicians and their children for Family Day; and a wide-ranging conversation between Chineke! Orchestra founder Chi-chi Nwanoku and Tafelmusik double bassist Pippa MacMillan.

As part of our commitment to contributing to community life in a meaningful way, Tafelmusik was pleased to partner with several organizations over the course of the season. In September, Tafelmusik joined the Istituto Italiano di Cultura Toronto and COSTI Immigrant Services in presenting a free live concert for Canadian newcomers, and developed a video introducing the baroque violin for young audiences at Safehaven. In January, staff and clients from the Centre for Mental Health and Addiction (CAMH) were able to view two free online Tafelmusik concerts. In February, the Toronto Black Film Festival and Tafelmusik co-presented Neojiba: Music That Changes Livesa documentary feature film exploring the changes that instrumental practice promotes in  the lives of members of a youth orchestra in Bahia, Brazil. And in March, the TD Toronto Jazz Festival helped get the word out about Café Counterculture as the concert’s Marketing Partner.

In June 2020 we shared a statement on Black Lives Matter, recognizing our privilege and the marginalization t Black, Indigenous, and people of colour face every day. In April 2021, we shared a progress report on the commitments Tafelmusik has undertaken to date. These include building a cross-department Diversity Working Group (DWG) to examine biases and help advance Tafelmusik as an organization firmly rooted in equitable practices, and a three-year action roadmap that includes an organizational Justice, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Vision Statement and concrete actions to be taken over the next three years in the areas of talent recruitment, anti-oppression, staff and artist training, and programming selection. Further information and our goals for the remainder of 2021 can be found by visiting our Progress Report on Justice, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion.

Two issues of Tafel Magazine for the musically curious were published featuring in-depth articles and interviews with Elisa Citterio, conductor and Joseph Bologne scholar Marlon Daniel, conductor Bernard Labadie, and double bassist Chi-chi Nwanoku. These offstage conversations are offered to explore how artists and thinkers around the world are inspired by the music of baroque and beyond, and provided a crucial connection with our audience when the COVID-19 pandemic prevented live public concerts.

Two digital albums were released this season on our in-house record label, Tafelmusik Media: Baroque for Baby, a kid-friendly playlist curated by violinist and mother of two, Cristina Zacharias; and The Music of Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, a reissue of our 2003 landmark recording devoted to the music of the influential Black 18th-century composer. Newly commissioned album artwork by Toronto painter Gordon Shadrach and an essay by American conductor and Bologne scholar Marlon Daniel accompanied the re-release as part of Tafelmusik’s commitment to contextualizing the work of Saint-Georges.

Tafelmusik's Baroque Summer Institute (TBSI) has been an internationally renowned artist training program for many years, however with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the format of TBSI was completely retooled for online access. The 2021 virtual edition of TBSI welcomed 99 participants from around the world to a busy week of masterclasses, lectures, and workshops, presented live over the Zoom conferencing application. Although the format was different from years past, TBSI continued to bridge the transition between academic training and professional experience for young musicians and helped them build their professional network. Tafelmusik is grateful to BMO Financial Group for their continued leadership support of Tafelmusik’s Baroque Summer Institute. 

To conclude the 2020/21 season, we were delighted to partner with Canadian Stage to present Baroque and Beyond outdoor chamber music concerts on July 8, 9, and 10. These performances were part of Canadian Stage’s Dream in High Park — the company’s summer programming at the High Park Amphitheatre, designed to build, strengthen, and restore community connection through the performing arts. Tafelmusik’s outdoor concerts were supported by The Mclean Foundation.

We cannot summarize the 2020/21 season without acknowledging the tragic loss of our Music Director Emerita Jeanne Lamon, C.M. O.Ont. on June 20, 2021, at age 71. Jeanne’s inspired leadership, passionate dedication to artist training, and commitment to the values of collaboration, inclusion, and artistic excellence shaped Tafelmusik over the course of her remarkable 33-year tenure from 1981 to 2014. Under her guidance, we built an enviable reputation as “one of the world’s top baroque orchestras” (Gramophone), growing from our modest beginnings to the cutting-edge period ensemble we are today. While our grief is immense, it is clear through the thousands of messages we’ve received—from musicians, organizations, students, and patrons—that Jeanne’s life touched so many people. Though her passing will leave a huge void in our hearts, we are comforted by the knowledge that her spirit will continue to vibrate through our music.

The world has changed dramatically for all of us over the course of the past year and the landscape of the future is unpredictable. Yet Tafelmusik was able to stay the course for the 2020/21 season. Thanks to our collective creativity and nimbleness, we have been able to adapt to a number of detours and challenges. We created ways to share our music and curiosity with listeners around the world over the past ten months and were deeply touched by the number of people who let us know that Tafelmusik became a lifeline in the darkest days of the pandemic. Now more than ever, we recognize the vital role Tafelmusik plays in the wellbeing of so many.

“My admiration and appreciation for Tafelmusik has grown. Throughout the COVID period you have reached out with news and provided excellent programming, right from the start. I feel that I have come to know the individual members of the group more, and have had the pleasure of seeing the passion that everyone brings to the music and to performing. Tafelmusik has been one of the highlights of the year, and a musical performance lifeline during COVID.”

— Tafelmusik subscriber

As we look ahead to 2021/22, the tenet that guides us is the knowledge that Tafelmusik provides essential emotional sustenance through music.

Buoyed by a mood of optimism for the coming season, we are fixing our collective gaze on a dream for the coming months and invite you to picture it in your mind’s eye: the orchestra and choir are assembled on stage at Jeanne Lamon Hall for a live performance of Bach’s music.

The most vivid and crucial part of that dream? You – our community of cherished patrons and supporters, who smile as you soak up the glorious music with us.

Until next season, we encourage you to explore and enjoy our YouTube channel, to experience some of the highlights of this year. And, to listen to our recordings on Apple MusicPrimephonicSpotify, or wherever you stream your music.

Images and image credits:
1. Music Director Elisa Citterio from Passions of the Soul.
2. Panelists speaking in Tafel Talks: Emotional Rescue.
3. Choir Director Ivars Taurins from A Tafelmusik Christmas.
4. Cellist Keiran Campbell from Musik in Motion.
5. Front cover of The Music of Joseph Bologne. Detail of Opus 7 by Gordon Shadrach.
6. Tafelmusik performing High Park with Canadian Stage. Photo by Dahlia Katz.


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