The Naked Emperor 2008: “Secret Truths” Reviewed by Stanley Fefferman

Friday, October 4, Kobayashi Hall, Toronto.

The Woodbridge Dancers opened The Naked Emperor’s (TNE) second annual Charity concert in support of the Canadian Music Therapy Trust Fund.  The secret truth the dancers explored is about “the wisdom and truth that comes with experience…not necessarily age.” The TNE’s creative trio of production executives has strong ties to the local artistic community and a belief which is a secret that should be revealed to Stephen Harper: namely, that ‘artists give back to the community’, therefore artists are worthy of our support.

The program was a tastefully selected banquet of musical modes. Chantal Ferris’ Woodbridge Dancers [click on the photo] performed to the music of Sting, Apocalypta and Jadely. Phil Disera, a composer who has a fine technique on classical, steel string and electric guitars performed three smooth lyrical originals on classical guitar and accompanied the lovely TNE co-producer, Francesca Blandizzi on two of her sensitive Folk/Blues originals, which she delivered in a soft, clear, breathy style.

Hubert Razack [click on photo] sang a couple of dream-inspired originals in a pleasing tenor full of personality that touched on the innocence of inner children and our secret wish to lead them into the light of day. Razack’s songs were classed as World Music along with Kozaburo Hirai’s “Fantasy for piano Sakura Sakura,” and Pierre Galant’s “Six Variations on ‘Land of the Silver Birch,’” which were played on the piano by featured pianist Yuka Koreeda. This versatile young woman also introduced us to the intense heartbreak of the Italian father of the sonnet Petrarch in a piece by Franz Liszt, and the intimacies of the suicidal lover from Franz Schubert’s masterpiece “Die Schone Mullerin.”

From the world of opera we had heldentenor Jason Lamont delivering towering recitals of Puccini’s “Nessum Dorma” from Tosca, and Leoncavallo’s “Vesti la guibba”. Accompanying Mr. Lamont on piano was the highly skilled vocal accompanist Nicole Bellamy. Ms. Bellamy also accompanied soprano soloist, choral singer, teacher and conductor Susan Suchard’s widely ranging, lightly coloured account of “Tacea la notte placida” from Verdi’s “Il Trovatore”, in which she reveals her preference for death if she cannot be with the man she loves. Ms. Suchard also surprised us pleasantly with Rogers and Hammerstein’s inspirational song of comfort “You’ll Never Walk Alone.”

The Classical “Violin Concertino in A minor op. 29” played by Jinne Kim [click on photo] was for me the most surprising secret revealed this evening. It was composed by Emiko Hsuen, TNE’s musical director, a trained singer of lieder whose compositions I thought were limited to the contemporary vocal music we heard several times this evening. It seems Ms. Hsuen has no limits. She also served as the Oz-like invisible voice that mastered the evening’s ceremonies in a very dignified fashion. Many of her remarks were directed towards the work of the Canadian Music Therapy Trust Fund. She urged us all to find out more about their great work and to make a generous donation. If you are inclined to go with this suggestion, you could find what you need at www.musictherapytrust.ca/en-trustfund.html

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