Tag Archives: David Lidov

the Bradshaw Amphitheatre, an Homage

The Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre, RBA, has achieved Most Favoured Venue status with Toronto chamber music audiences. An anonymous gift makes the RBA’s public concerts free of charge. They are the product of  programme director Nina Draganic whose discriminating and eclectic tastes consistently account for line ups and full houses. A visit to Ms. Draganic’s RBA website will provide ample insight into the popularity of her concert series.

Rick Sacks was one of her presciently gratifying choices. On 24 April, he performed a concert of music for the MalletKat – two octaves of rectangular rubber pads laid out like the black and white keys of a piano keyboard and activated with, what else, mallets. A computer helps program the pads with an almost infinite number of sounds and Rick employed many of them during the concert. An hour’s worth of MalletKat music proved plenty diverse enough to hold the audience’s attention.

Rick played six works, four of his own creation. On a couple of occasions, his natural gift for whimsy struck home. In his 2009 Dragnet, a Sergeant Friday -“Just the facts Mam” tribute, Rick donned a fedora and pulled up his shirt collar to take his bow.

The program opened with a work by David Lidov, evocatively titled I Want You To Know That I Love You (An Aria). This was written in 2011 and revised in 2012. I didn’t feel loved at all and wondered if i was missing something. Perhaps. There were no programme notes.

A commission by Rick was GOLEM (2014) by Musique Concrète composer Giels Gobeil. Although to me overly long, GOLEM is the work of a professional and the first work by Gobeil involving a performer. The industrial or factory sounds were, for the most part mesmerizing. I believed Rick when he said prior to playing the work, that it was extremely difficult and he was still working on it. At concerts end, GOLEM elicited questions from the audience about its notation.

Lullaby (2010) by Sacks, is a simple construction of sampled sounds of a naturally amplified German version of an Mbira. Lullaby is a beautiful work and without the traditional buzzing of shells or bottle caps attached to Mbiras played in Africa, it was profitably adapted to the MalletKat. Tender and affecting, Lullaby created a dramatic presence.

The last work was the premier of Rick’s Andronicus, which, on a couple of occasions and much to the delight of the capacity audience, he accidently referred to as Androgynous. Dedicated to the Bradshaw Amphitheatre and the Canadian Opera Company, Andronicus is a skillfully arranged pastiche of operatic excerpts triggered by strikes on the MalletKat. Andronicus ended in parody with a much too long high soprano note allowing Rick, mouth opened wide, sanpaku eyes ablaze and a supplicant’s arms outstretched, to accept his audience’s long and grateful applause.

Rick Sacks is the artistic director of Array Music, a composer, a percussionist and conductor. In this author’s opinion, Rick’s term as Array’s Artistic Director has wrought significant changes bringing  Array Music into an elite group of Canadian contemporary music educators and presenters. I look forward to Array’s Young Composers Programme in the last half of this month. (May 2014.)




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Trichy Sankaran and his Kanjira meet a North American drumming tradition.

Mridangam master Trichy Sankaran.

Mridangam master Trichy Sankaran.

In 1972 I began teaching music improvisation at York University in the city of Toronto. The course was elective and the students were from various faculties on campus such as physical education, dance , English and music among others. York University offered a music program very much different from other traditional music schools. Austin  Clarkson was our Dean and musicologist; David Lidov taught composition; Peggy Sampson, a viol player, taught Early Music; David Rosenboom was the head of the Electronic Music Studio; Casey Sokoll taught Theory and Piano; and John Higgins taught Indian singing.

Trichy Sankaran was teamed with Higgins and taught Mridangam, a two headed barrel drum common to South Indian music. But the way Trichy played, the Mridangam was not at all common. Trichy was born in 1942 and began studying Mridangam ten years later. Trichy was in his 30th year when I met him. He was a recognized master musician. Today he is a legend.

Perhaps it was during a faculty meeting when Trichy and I first met. At sometime we must have asked each other if there was any music we could play together. Very much intimidated, I suggested a few military drum beats that I knew quite well and thought he might be interested in hearing. The famous British/American Reveille or wake-up drum beating would probably be a good start. Trichy came to the percussion studio and we began playing Three Camps. Trichy memorizes everything so I would play the 1st phrase, he’d play it back, asked me to play it again and so on.  Given his tradition of memorization, it didn’t take him long to memorize the entire beating.

It was a lot of fun and a heck of a learning experience, more for me I suspect, then for him. He played Kanjira, a small Indian tambourine and I played on a practice pad. Trichy is recognized as a  master soloist on Kanjira as well as Mridangam, his primary instrument. A few months later we performed Three Camps on an informal student concert.

Trichy and I had another  wonderful moment a year later during a faculty Christmas party. Trichy had brought his Kanjira and I had a Western tambourine. We began playing softly in a far corner of the room and there occurred one of those meetings of the mind. We just got in a groove and created some really incredible music. It ranged far and wide in tempo and rhythmic complexity. Without meaning to, we kind of stopped the party. Conversation ceased and people around the room were listening. In music, moments like these are rare and unforgettable.

Many years later I had the pleasure of playing a solo at a party celebrating the wedding anniversary of Austin and Beverley Clarkson. To begin the festivities, Austin asked me to come to the podium and play a flexatone solo. This was a complete surprise. Rather reluctantly I made my way among the tables of guests. Austin handed me a Flexatone and stepped aside. Just before I began to play I looked out over the guests directly into the eyes of the master, Trichy Sankaran. What in Heaven’s name am I doing and what will Trichy think? I played a brief Flexatone sonata and all went well. I was quite pleased and relieved.

Trichy and I remain good friends to this day though we rarely see each other. He is often in India and is a thoroughly dedicated teacher. When I think of him, the early, more naive experiences we shared are my fondest memories:Three Camps, our impromptu Christmas party duet and a Flexatone solo. Trichy has always been a gentleman. He is also a gentle man within whom dwells a lion’s spirit.

To experience the artistry of Trichy Sankaran and his many accomplishments and awards, I urge readers to visit his website:

Trici and I learning "Three Camps" on Kanjira and Practice Pad at York University ca. 1972-3.

Trichy and me learning “Three Camps” on Kanjira and practice pad at York University ca. 1972-3.

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Posted by on November 16, 2013 in Articles, Contemporary Music, History


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