“It is hard to believe that Koerner Hall, which still feels so new and vibrant, is reaching the end of its 10th season,” says Mervon Mehta, Executive Director of Performing Arts at The Royal Conservatory of Music (RCM). But the season will end the way it began — on a high note.
In keeping with Koerner Hall’s mandate, the 10th anniversary concert season Finale Festival offers a potent mix of artists from many different genres and cultures, performing Broadway tunes, jazz, pop, and world music.
Kicking it off on April 30 (8 p.m.), famed Italian bass-baritone Luca Pisaroni and his father-in-law Thomas Hampson present an evening of operatic arias and Broadway songs titled No Tenors Allowed.
Both Pisaroni and Hampson (the man whose voice Diane Sawyer once described as “a baritone so rich it can circle the universe”) have sung the great opera houses of the world. But this event promises to be a more intimate affair.
“You don’t have a 20-foot pit in front of you, separating you from the singers,” says Mehta. “You just have two incredible voices on stage for the whole night and they happen to be very close to each other, so that makes it a really fun night out, with some glorious music.”
On May 2 at 8 p.m. Anoushka Shankar takes the stage. The sitar player and composer studied exclusively from the age of nine under her father and guru, the late Ravi Shankar. In fact, she appeared with him during Koerner Hall’s inaugural concert season a decade ago.
She’ll be followed May 3 (8 p.m.), by the Art of Time Ensemble performing a show titled Doghouse Roses in honour of Steve Earle, celebrated guitarist, Americana musician, singer, songwriter and anti-war activist.
Once called “a folk artist for contemporary America,” Earle logged several failed marriages and a stint in the federal penitentiary due to his battle with addiction. But he emerged intact, with a zeal for social justice and stories to tell.
During this concert, celebrated author Michael Ondaatje and actor Rick Roberts read Earle’s lyrics and fiction, while the Art of Time Ensemble — in the form of singers Andy Maize (Skydiggers), Susie Ungerlieder (Oh Susanna), Tom Wilson (Junkhouse, Blackie and the Rodeo Kings), and Gregory Hoskins — perform Earle’s music.
The show, says Mehta, is emblematic of the Art of Time Ensemble’s unique ability to blend high art and popular culture. “Their calling is to open up the classical world to a more pop audience and to open up the pop world to a more classical audience,” says Mehta.
May 4 (8 p.m.) will see Romani musician Robi Botos and Friends take the stage, blending aspects of Romani, Hungarian, and European folk and classical music with jazz.
And finally, to end the season, Lighthouse, the iconic and groundbreaking Canadian jazz-rock band, known for songs like “Sunny Days,” “One Fine Morning,” and “Pretty Lady” performs May 14 at 8 p.m.
For Mehta, the season has epitomized Koerner Hall’s aim to bring truly extraordinary artists from all genres of music to the public. In keeping with that quest, he says, Koerner Hall will announce its complete season for next year right after the last 2019 concert is finished.
“I keep hearing from people who haven’t been here and they’ll say, ‘Oh yeah, Koerner Hall, that’s where they do the piano recitals,’” Mehta says. “But we’re so much more than that.”