A lush fusion of Arabic, Hebrew, Sardinian, and Sephardic folk melodies and texts, Argentinian composer Osvaldo Golijov’s Ayre is a brilliant example of 21st-century cultural counterpoint. This recording is the culmination of performances in Toronto for audiences at the breathtaking Ismaili Centre. Against the Grain Theatre Founding Member Miriam Khalil has now sung this technically challenging and deeply moving song cycle in numerous cities across Canada, the United States and Argentina, making this her signature piece.
"I can’t think of better start to such a venture than this recording of Osvaldo Golijov’s song cycle, Ayre. The work captures some of the company’s central ideals: beauty, relevance, and innovation."− Opera Wire
"The Lebanese-Canadian soprano Miriam Khalil fearlessly embodied the parade of characters represented in these songs, spinning out tales of ancient battles with an urgency and charisma that made them feel like yesterday’s news."− Boston Globe
"And the colours in her voice find perfect counterparts in the 11 instruments that accompany her, from a klezmer-sounding clarinet, to a powerful accordion, French horn, string section, even a laptop playing electronic sounds. Khalil matched them all in both timbre and emotional content."− The Globe and Mail
"Ayre is a perfect and tremendously satisfying example of cultural transcendence."− The Globe and Mail
"The performance, by Miriam Khalil and band with Jeremy Flower on electronics was extraordinary. It was that rare thing that raises the hairs on the back of one’s neck."− Opera Ramblings
Against the Grain Ensemble
Joanna Wu, Flute
Juan Gabriel Olivares, Clarinet
Gabriel Radford, Horn
Dave Burns, Percussion
Elmer Ferrer, Guitar
Kristan Toczko, Harp
Alexander Sevastian, Accordion
Jeremy Flower, Electronics
Carol Gimbel, Viola
Raphael Weinroth-Browne, Cello
Roberto Occhipinti, Double Bass
Recorded live at The Ismaili Centre, Toronto, November 10–12, 2016
Sound Engineer, Pouya Hamidi
Produced by Joel Ivany, Miriam Khalil and Against the Grain Records
Mixed by Dennis Patterson, Big Smoke Audio
Thanks to Joel Ivany, Sammy Ivany, Barry Shiffman, Osvaldo Golijov, Jonathan MacArthur, Joanna Barrotta, Jeremy Flower, The Ontario Arts Council, Roberto Occhipinti, The Ismaili Centre, Zulfikar Hirjii, Jason Hand, Anna Treusch, Michael Barker, and Dennis Patterson
1. Mañanita de San Juan
(Morning of St. John’s Day)
Traditional Sephardic romance
(Music and Lyrics: Traditional Sephardic romance)
2. Una madre comió asado
(A mother roasted her child)
Traditional Sephardic song after The Lamentations of Jeremiah
3. Tancas serradas a muru
(Walls are encircling the land)
Lyrics and Music by Melchiorre Murenu (Sardinia, c. 1820); Francesco Ignazio Mannu (Sardinia, c. 1795)
Music by Gustavo Santaolalla
(Traditional Sephardic lullaby)
6. Wa Habibi
Traditional Christian Arab Easter song
7. Aiini taqtiru
(My eyes weep)
Traditional Christian Arab Easter song
8. Kun li-guitarati wataran ayyuha al-maa’
(Be a string, water, to my guitar)
Poem by Mahmoud Darwish
(from Eleven Planets in the Last Andalusian Sky)
9. Suéltate las cintas
(Untie your ribbons)
Lyrics and Music: Gustavo Santaolalla Instruments: Voice, guitar
10. Yah, annah emtza’cha
(O God, where shall I find you?)
Poem by Yehudah Halevy (c. 1112)
11. Ariadna en su laberinto
(Ariadne in her labyrinth)
Lyrics: Traditional Sephardic romance
Osvaldo Golijov pre-show speech
Preview Performance at the Canadian Opera Company’s Free Concert Series in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre. Photo credits from left to right: Juan Gabriel Olivares, Gabe Radford, Alexander Sevastian, Elmer Ferrer, Kristan Toczko, Jeremy Flower, Dave Burns, Miriam Khalil, Roberto Occhipinti, Raphael Weinroth-Browne, Carol Gimbel, Joanna Wu. Photo: Lara Hintleman
One of Canada’s acclaimed singers, Lebanese-Canadian soprano Miriam Khalil is lauded as a “skilled, versatile artist” whose “signature warm lyrical voice” makes “her fine soprano express every emotion with exactness and feeling.” An alumna of the Canadian Opera Company Ensemble Studio, she won first place in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions (Great Lakes Region) and subsequently appeared in the 2007 documentary The Audition. Her performance credits include Glyndebourne Festival Opera, Canadian Opera Company, Minnesota Opera, Opera Tampa, Fargo-Moorhead Opera, Opera Hamilton, Against the Grain Theatre (AtG), Edmonton Opera, Pacific Opera Victoria, Opera Lyra Ottawa, and prominent orchestras across Canada, in roles such as Mimì (La bohème), Mélisande (Pelléas et Mélisande), Governess (The Turn of the Screw), Susanna (Le nozze di Figaro), Donna Elvira (Don Giovanni), Cleopatra (Giulio Cesare), Almirena (Rinaldo), and the title role in Alcina. Ms. Khalil’s 2018/19 season includes appearances as Mimì in La bohème with the Canadian Opera Company, Marzelline in Fidelio at Pacific Opera Victoria, Eurydice in Orphée at the Banff Centre for the Arts, and Noor Haddad in AtG’s Handel mash-up BOUND.
Osvaldo Golijov is a composer who blends classical forms with the rhythms and melodies of other genres to create a concert experience that resonates deeply with contemporary audiences. Drawing on diverse musical and literary traditions (from tango and klezmer to the poems of Emily Dickinson and Pablo Neruda), Golijov’s compositions exhibit a fresh, powerful style. Among Osvaldo Golijov’s best known works are the St Mark Passion; the opera Ainadamar; a cello concerto, Azul, and the song cycle Ayre. He has also written soundtracks for films by Francis Ford Coppola (Tetro, Youth Without Youth), and arranged music from many places in the world, primarily for the Kronos Quartet. He is currently working on Falling Out of Time, a song cycle for the Silk Road Ensemble, based on a book by David Grossman. He was born in Argentina in 1960, lived in Jerusalem in his youth, and moved to Massachusetts in 1991, where he is the Loyola Professor of Music at the College of the Holy Cross.
New York Flutist Joanna Wu currently holds the position of Principal Piccolo with the Suzhou Symphony Orchestra. She graduated from Northwestern University with a Bachelor of Music degree, completed her postgraduate studies at the Yale School of Music, earning a Master of Music degree and was a Rebanks Fellow at The Royal Conservatory’s Glenn Gould School. Her mentors include Ransom Wilson, Susan Hoeppner, Walfrid Kujala, John Thorne, and John Oberbrunner. Ms. Wu’s extensive orchestral experiences include the Shanghai Opera Symphony Orchestra, New Haven Symphony Orchestra, Symphoria, New World Symphony, and Yale Philharmonia. Ms. Wu has given recitals at Carnegie Hall, Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center, and Canadian Opera Company and performed concertos with Yale Philharmonia, Eastern Connecticut Symphony Orchestra, and Northwestern University Symphony Orchestra, performing Nielsen’s Flute Concerto. Ms. Wu has also worked as a Protégé Artist with Chamber Music Northwest, in Portland, Oregon, won numerous awards which include: the Thomas Daniel Nyfenger Prize of the Yale School of Music, Winner of the Yale Woolsey Concerto Competition, First Prize in the 2016 Eastern Connecticut Symphony Orchestra Instrumental Competition, First Prize in the American Protégé International Woodwind and Brass Competition, the Farwell Trust Award from the Musicians Club of Women, and Third Prize in the 2012 National Flute Association Young Artist Competition.
Juan Gabriel Olivares
Born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Juan Gabriel Olivares is a musician, researcher, and educator. Olivares has performed as principal with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Ontario Philharmonic Orchestra, and Toronto Concert Orchestra, and has performed with conductors, soloists and composers such as Renée Fleming, Leonard Slatkin, Peter Oundjian, Robert Spano, Zubin Mehta, David Zinman, and Sir Andrew Davis, Kaija Saariaho, Osvaldo Golijov, Beat Furrer, and Salvatore Sciarrino. He has toured Canada with Thin Edge New Music Collective and premiered many works as a member of the Aspen Contemporary Ensemble. He has performed with Canadian Opera Company, CONTACT Contemporary Music, Against the Grain Theatre, and the Klangspuren Festival hosted by Ensemble Modern. Olivares received formal classical training at the Glenn Gould School of the Royal Conservatory of Music and received his master’s degree in performance Rice University. While in Houston, he was the curator and artistic advisor of New Art/New Music, a multimedia art gallery series and toured to the Dominican Republic as soloist and clinician of the Festival Clarinetissimo. As a doctoral candidate at University of Toronto, his research articulates the intersection between contemporary classical music and entrepreneurship. He co-directs the Contemporary Music Ensemble at the Faculty of Music, and teaches clarinet pedagogy. Juan is a Légère Artist and currently performs on Buffet-Crampon clarinets.
Gabriel was born and raised in Toronto, Canada. He is currently Third Horn of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, a position he has held since 2002. Gabriel has played with many orchestras, including Carnegie Hall performances with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Les Violons du Roy. He played with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, the National Arts Centre Orchestra, the Kirov Orchestra and l’Orchestre Symphonique de Québec. As studio artist, he has been recorded for Hockey Night in Canada, the Olympics, Murdoch Mysteries, and the feature film Burn Your Maps. In 2017, Gabriel joined the Boston Symphony, toured Japan and Europe, and has performed at Symphony Hall at Tanglewood. He has worked with artists André Laplante, Jonathan Crow, David Louie, Frank Morelli, Joaquin Valdepeñas, the Penderecki String Quartet, and James Campbell. Gabriel teaches at the University of Toronto and the Glenn Gould School at the Royal Conservatory. He is a member of the faculty at the NYO Canada, and spent several years teaching at Banff Centre. Gabriel adjudicated auditions for the first-ever YouTube Symphony Orchestra. In 2012, he was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for his work fundraising, mentoring, coaching and teaching at the NYO Canada.
Percussionist David Burns is passionate about chamber music, having founded several groups in his native Canada with the purpose of commissioning and performing new works from around the world. Burns has performed with members of NEXUS, Black Earth Percussion, and Canadian Brass. He was appointed Principal Timpani/Percussion of the Hyogo Performing Arts Centre Orchestra in Japan in 2016 and has performed with members of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam, the philharmonics of Vienna and Berlin, as well as the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra. Burns has performed as part of the Banff Summer and Rockport Chamber Music Festivals. David Burns received his training at The Glenn Gould School of The Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto.
Cuban-Canadian Elmer Ferrer is widely recognized as one of the world’s premiere guitarists. An extremely versatile and prolific session musician, Elmer has recorded and toured the globe with many of Cuba’s top producers and artists. As a producer, arranger, session acoustic or electric guitarist, Ferrer has contributed to more than 100 music recordings, including two Latin Grammy nominee albums, a Goya awarded movie soundtrack, and recently, the latest CD from Italian superstar Zucchero, La Sesion Cubana. Elmer is a two-time recipient of the Cubadisco artist award and is leader of the Elmer Ferrer Band. Known for captivating audiences and critics alike, the EFB has headlined international jazz, blues and music festivals, and shared stage line-ups with Keb Mo, Johnny Lang, Bonny Raitt, Van Morrison, Kid Rock, The Chris Duarte Group, Los Lobos, and The Derek Trucks Band.
Kristan Toczko was recently first place winner of the prestigious OSM Standard Life Competition, has been named a CBC Radio-Canada Young Artist, and was featured as a soloist in nation-wide broadcast. Toczko has been featured with the Vancouver Symphony, l’Orchestre Francophonie and Bathurst Chamber Music Festival and festivals including the Ottawa ChamberFest, Toronto Summer Music Festival and Rio Harp Festival. Additionally performances include: National Arts Centre Orchestra, Jalisco Philharmonia and Beijing Symphony. She has participated in summer festivals such as the Aspen Music Festival, National Orchestral Institute, Orchestra of the Americas, Scotia Festival and Lucerne Festival Academy. Kristan has performed with esteemed artists such as Measha Brueggergosman, Peter Oundjian, Matthias Pintscher, Sir Simon Rattle and Barbara Hannigan. She is a founding member of harp duo Duo Novus where she has commissioned new works and toured internationally. Kristan Toczko holds degrees from McGill and Yale Universities, where she was awarded first prize in both schools’ concerto competitions. She currently resides in Sudbury, Ontario with her husband, teaching and performing throughout Canada.
Alexander Sevastian is a winner of the prestigious Coupe Mondiale International Accordion Competition in 2007 in Washington, DC. He is also a winner of three other competitions such as The Oslofjord (Norway 1998), Cup of the North (Russia 2000), Antony Galla-Rini (USA 2001). A native of Minsk, Belarus where he finished the Glinka College (class of Miron Boula) Alexander went to Moscow to study with famous Friedrich Lips. While he was a student, Mr. Sevastian joined a Russian TV folk instrument orchestra and with a great support from the conductor Nikolai Nekrasov he became a featured soloist.
After graduating from the Gnessin Academy of Music and getting a Master Degree in performance, Alexander moved to Toronto, Canada. Soon after he received an Advanced Certificate in Performance from the University of Toronto (class of Joseph Macerollo) and joined famous ensemble Quartetto Gelato. With this group Alexander has toured extensively in Canada and the USA. After his triumphal victory at the Coupe Mondiale in 2007 Alexander ‘s solo career began to thrive. He has had several solo tours of Atlantic Canada, Québec, and the prairies. He was invited to perform recitals at several prestigious festivals in Vancouver, Victoria, Mont-Treblant, Montmagny, Las-Vegas, Stresa (Italy), Kraguevac (Serbia), Castelo Branco (Portugal), Samara (Russia). Alexander was featured soloist with several leading North America symphony orchestras, including The Toronto Symphony with a very successful debut in 2008.
Alexander Sevastian passed away on February 16, 2018. Together, we remember his friendship, artistry, and dedication to Ayre.
Jeremy Flower is a multi-instrumentalist and composer of acoustic and electronic music. His work with electronics has landed him on stage as a guest artist with orchestras and chamber groups all over the world as well as with world-renowned electronic producers in experimental, ambient and minimal techno genres. Flower has been commissioned by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for their Music NOW series, James Sommerville and the Hamilton Philharmonic for their new music festival What Next?, and Carnegie Hall’s Weill Institute. He has written music for the feature documentary Risk, by Laura Poitras, and Animas Perdidas, from Monika Navarro. In addition he writes music for the Mediated Matter Group from MIT’s Media Lab. He is part of David Krakauer’s Ancestral Groove project, which explores the heritage of traditional Jewish music through the lens of the modern experience fusing Klezmer with hip-hop, jazz, and house music. He has collaborated extensively with Argentine-American composer Osvaldo Golijov, helping to create electronic parts for the Grammy-nominated song cycle Ayre (2006) and one-act opera Ainadamar which won two Grammys (2007). Both of these works have been recorded for and released by Deutsche Grammophon. Flower and Golijov also collaborated on the film score for Francis Ford Coppola’s 2007 film, Youth Without Youth, a composition for the opening of WNYC Radio’s new performance space, and the score for Coppola’s 2009 film Tetro, and the film Twixt. Currently Flower is working on a couple children, a second recorded song cycle to follow 2016’s The Real Me, and building modular synthesizers.
Violist and musical entrepreneur Carol Gimbel has been described as “”…a mercurial mind, incredibly driven (with an) unbounded sense of creative entrepreneurialism” (Village Living Magazine) is a versatile performer combining her flair and entrepreneurial spirit to push the limits of artistic expression. Noted for her “confidence and whisper-quiet tones” (Post and Courier) Gimbel is the recipient of numerous performance and production awards including several Canada Council for the Arts Performance Grant Awards and the Ontario Arts Council International Residency Award for research on new practices in viola performance. This season she will appear as a guest soloist with Festival de Febrero Orchestra, Orquesta Sinfonica Zapopan, Young Performance Artists, guest artist with the Attacca String Quartet, and has recently performed at the Piccolo Spoleto Festival, Freudenberg Arts, and International Viola Congress. In 2008, Gimbel founded the critically acclaimed Music in the Barns Productions specializing in repurposing alternative performance venues for “rare and thought-provoking concert performance(s)” (The WholeNote) that engage new perspectives on art, music and the world around us. Gimbel has curated concerts for the Toronto Summer Music Festival, Canadian Music Center, and appears regularly as a guest speaker at New York University’s Gallatin School, University of Toronto, International Maker Faire, JazzFM Business in the Arts Conference, and Salon21. Gimbel received a Bachelor of Music Degree in Viola Performance from Rice University Shepherd School of Music and an Artist Diploma from the Glenn Gould School of the Royal Conservatory of Music. She performs on a viola made for her in 1995 by Gabrielle Kundert, a copy of a 1776 Giovanni Batistta Guadagnini.
Cellist, multi-instrumentalist, and composer, Raphael Weinroth-Browne is rapidly making a name for himself as an exceptionally versatile musician both in Canada and internationally. With his groundbreaking duo, The Visit, Raphael has played major festivals such as Wave Gotik Treffen, 21C Festival, and the Cello Biennale Amsterdam. In addition to performing with The Visit and as a solo artist, he is also a member of acclaimed chamber trio Musk Ox and East-meets-West duo Kamancello. Raphael’s cello playing is featured prominently on Malina, the latest release from Norwegian progressive rock/metal band Leprous. He has since joined the band on tour for over 100 shows all across Europe and the United States. Raphael has played on over 80 studio albums. His work as a collaborator and session musician is extensive, ranging from performances with Pauline Oliveros and Ernst Reijseger to studio recordings with Lawrence Gowan of the band Styx and Leprous. In addition to being an active live performer, Raphael has also developed a considerable following on YouTube. His inventive cello ensemble and amplified cello arrangements of metal and progressive rock songs have been praised and reposted online by the likes of Opeth, Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree, and Chris Adler of Lamb of God and Megadeth.
Roberto Occhipinti is one of Canada’s premier bassists, comfortable in a wide variety of musical contexts. He toured and recorded with Blue Note recording artist Jane Bunnett on her last 3 albums, including the Grammy-nominated disc Alma de Santiago. In addition, Roberto toured with Juno award winning group NOJO, performing at Canadian jazz festivals with saxophonist Sam Rivers. Roberto has recorded and produced 3 albums with Cuban piano virtuoso Hilario Durán including 2005 Juno award winning album New Danzon. Other recording projects include: a Juno nominated disc City of Neighborhoods with NOJO and Sam Rivers, a quintet recording with drummer Marty Morell and a new disc for his nonet following on the success of THE CUSP featuring his own compositions for a larger jazz ensemble. As producer, he is currently working on projects for the Gryphon Trio, Shurum Burum Jazz Circus, Quartetto Gelato, Soul Stew and Hilario Durán’s next album. Notable performances in 2004 include a live broadcast of the National Jazz Awards where The Cusp was nominated for album of the year, the On Stage Series at the Glenn Gould Theatre in collaboration with the True North Brass and a concert with Jovino Santos Neto and the Gryphon Trio. Roberto Occhipinti also toured with EMI recording artist Gorrilaz and performed with Damon Albarn’s Mali Music at the Barbican in the UK and as well as concerts for the BBC and MTV. Roberto Occhipinti has been a member of the Winnipeg Symphony, Hamilton Philharmonic and Canadian Opera Company orchestras. Additional recent performances include: St. Lawrence Quartet, The Gryphon Trio and Via Salzburg. He was a member of the new music group Arraymusic, performed with New Music Concerts and was principal bass of the Esprit Orchestra.
Landing image and final image of Miriam Khalil, photographed by Darryl Block