A musical passport round the globe

York University’s Faculty of Fine Arts is celebrating its resident talent with the York Fine Arts Festival, featuring more than 40 public events packed into a three-week period running March 9 to April 1.

The Department of Music delivers, for its contribution to the festival, a musical voyage that travels through eight centuries and five continents, ranging from classical to contemporary, jazz and world music. Altogether, the concert roster comprises 14 events featuring 28 different performances. They include the World Music Festival, a global showcase of nine concerts running until March 16; Jazz Festival, with seven hot concerts March 20 to 23; York University Symphony Orchestra’s concert of soloists spotlighting exceptional young artists March 29; York University Gospel Choir, channeling heavenly music March 30; and the joyous finale of the whole York Fine Arts Festival: York University Concert and Chamber Choirs with Handel’s celebratory Coronation Anthems on April 1.

Musical traditions from around the globe will be showcased during York’s World Music Festival. Ranging from West African drums, Chinese orchestra and steel pan to flamenco, Celtic and Klezmer music and more, the young performers in world music program present a cross-cultural musical kaleidoscope in nine different programs. Produced by York ethnomusicologist and multi-instrumentalist Rob Simms (right), the lineup of midday and evening concerts highlights some of the over 20 international cultures represented in York’s world music program.

The World Music Fest kicked off March 12 with the steel pan rhythms of the Islands, courtesy of Lindy Burgess’ Caribbean Ensemble and culminates March 16 with a spirited World Drum & Dance celebration featuring the hot sounds of Cuban Ensembles directed by Ruben Esguerra, Rick Shadrach Lazar and Paul Ormandy; West African Drums led by Kwasi Dunyo, Larry Graves and Anna Melnikoff; Korean Drums directed by Charles Hong; and the pulsating rhythms of Lazar’s Escola de Samba.

In between, the audience will travel the globe with the Celtic Canadian Folk Ensemble directed by Sherry Johnson, the Japanese Ensemble led by "koto queen" Linda Kako Caplan, Irene Markoff’s Balkan Ensemble, the Middle Eastern Ensemble directed by Bassam Shahouk, Flamenco Guitars led by Roger Scannura, the Chinese Orchestra directed by Kim Chow Morris (left), and the Klezmer Ensemble directed by Brian Katz.

All World Music Festival events are held in the Tribute Communities Recital Hall, Accolade East Building except World Drum & Dance on March 16 that takes place in the CIBC Lobby in Accolade East. Performances are free and take place nightly at 7:30pm, with midday shows 12:30-1:30pm, today and tomorrow.

From March 20 to 23, the York University Jazz Festival takes over and turns up the heat, melting away the winter blues with performances featuring the York University Jazz Orchestra led by Al Henderson, four jazz choirs directed by Bob Hamper and Mim Adams, and 15 small ensembles directed by Mike Murley, Lorne Lofsky, Kelly Jefferson and Mark Eisenman. The performances showcase the talented young artists in Canada’s oldest and largest university jazz program, currently helmed by renowned jazz drummer Barry Elmes (right), newly appointed Chair of the Music Department, with faculty comprising some of the country’s top jazz musicians. All Jazz Fest performances are free and take place in the Accolade East Building, with evening performances nightly at 7:30pm plus one-hour shows at 12:30pm on March 21 and 22.

On March 29, the York University Symphony Orchestra directed by Mark Chambers presents a concert of soloists featuring some of the Music Department’s top young talent. Concerto competition winners offer arias from Offenbach, Verdi and Gounod, and selections from clarinet and piano concertos by Weber, Beethoven and Mozart, in full orchestral setting. Beethoven’s Egmont Overture rounds out the program. The concert takes place at 7:30pm in the Tribute Communities Recital Hall, Accolade East Building. Admission is $12, students $5.

Led by its founding director, Karen Burke (left), and backed by a live rhythm and horn section, the 85-voice York University Gospel Choir offers a spirited concert of contemporary Gospel favourites on March 30. On the program are works by Israel Houghton, Richard Smallwood, Joe Pace, John P. Kee, Kurt Carr and Andre Crouch, plus one of Burke’s own compositions, How Sweet the Name, featuring York student soloists. Special guest artist Amoy Levy will provide the accompaniment. The Gospel Choir performs at 7:30pm in the Tribute Communities Recital Hall, Accolade East Building. Admission: $12, students $5.

On April 1, the York University Concert and Chamber Choirs join forces under the baton of Lisette Canton (right) in a joyous festival finale: George Frideric Handel’s celebratory masterwork, the Coronation Anthems. With guest artist, organist Matthew Larkin, the 100-voice combined choirs take centre stage for Let Thy Hand be Strengthened, The King Shall Rejoice, My Heart is Inditing and the majestic Zadok the Priest (sung at the coronation ceremony of every British monarch since George II in 1727).

The April 1 performance of Handel’s Coronation Anthems in York University’s Tribute Communities Recital Hall is the crowning and concluding event of the York Fine Arts Festival. The concert will also be presented the previous evening, Sat. March 30, at Metropolitan United Church, 56 Church St. in downtown Toronto. Both performances take place 7:30pm. Admission is $12, students $5.

The Department of Music rounds out its Fine Arts Festival programming with evening concerts by the York University Chamber Choir with Under the Gypsy Influence (March 19) and Women’s and Men’s Chorus singing Italian Baroque music (March 27), plus a series of afternoon performances by the Brass Ensembles, Medieval & Renaissance Ensembles, York University Chamber Strings, Wind Symphony, Percussion Ensemble and others.

For a detailed schedule, visit /www.yorku.ca/finearts/festival/.