Transcript: Noel Edison | Feb 13, 2000

(Rhythmic string and wind music plays)

In animation, a word in pink slides by against a gray background as hands paint strokes using paintbrushes, play a piano, and touch as in a dance performance.

The title of the show reads “Dialogue.”

The title of the episode pops up against an image of a member of studio staff applying touches of makeup to two men seated facing each other on a set made to resemble a living room: “Noel Edison, Conductor.”

Richard sits facing the camera. He is in his fifties with blond hair graying at the temples and clean-shaven. He wears a black suit over a dark blue shirt and striped blue tie. He wears round-framed glasses.

Richard says WELCOME TO DIALOGUE.
I'M RICHARD OUZOUNIAN.
THE SOUND OF CHORAL MUSIC IS A
BEAUTIFUL THING, AND THE MAN
THAT HELPS PRODUCE THAT
SOUND IS TO BE CHERISHED
AND APPRECIATED.
THIS DIALOGUE IS
WITH JUST SUCH A MAN - NOEL EDISON.

Turning his head to face Noel, he says WELCOME TO DIALOGUE.

Noel is clean-shaven in his forties, with blond hair parted at the side, and wears round-framed glasses. He wears a dark blue jacket over an open-necked light blue pinstripe shirt. His mouth is set in a wry expression.

Noel replies THANK YOU, RICHARD.

Richard says I'VE GOT TO ASK YOU, WHEN
KIDS ARE GROWING UP, THEY
DON'T START AND SAY I WANT
TO BE A CHORAL CONDUCTOR,
OR DO THEY?
[laughing]
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST MEMORY
OF CHORAL MUSIC AND YOU?

Noel says ACTUALLY, I DO REMEMBER AS A
CHILD THAT I ALWAYS WANTED TO
BE A CHORAL CONDUCTOR, OR A
CONDUCTOR, BECAUSE I LOVE
ORCHESTRAL AS WELL, BUT WHEN
WE WERE GOING AROUND --
I THINK IT WAS GRADE 6 OR 7,
THEY WERE ASKING WHAT YOU
WANTED TO BE, AND I
COULDN'T SAY THAT.
I SAID I'D BE A LAWYER OR
A POLICEMAN OR SOMETHING.

Richard says RIGHT.

Noel says BUT, YOU KNOW, AS ONE GAINS
THEIR CONFIDENCE AND REALIZES
THAT THIS IS ULTIMATELY WHAT
YOU'RE GOING TO END UP DOING,
THEN YOU JUST
SORT OF GO FORTH.
I WAS ALWAYS VERY FORTUNATE
BECAUSE I SORT OF ALWAYS KNEW,
YOU KNOW, AND I TEACH AT A
UNIVERSITY, AND I FEEL SORRY
FOR STUDENTS WHO COME THROUGH
AND THEY JUST DON'T KNOW WHAT
THEY WANT TO DO, YOU KNOW?
THEY'RE CONSTANTLY LOOKING FOR
SOME SORT OF EXPRESSION IN
THEIR ARTISTIC DEVELOPMENT,
AND THEY ARE NOT SURE HOW TO
REALIZE IT, AND I CAN SEE
THAT WOULD BE VERY DIFFICULT.

Richard asks WHERE DID THIS LOVE
OF MUSIC COME FROM?
DID YOU GROW UP IN A HOUSE
WITH A LOT OF MUSIC?

Noel says WELL, I DID.
MY MOTHER WAS, IN FACT, IN
THE TORONTO MENDELSSOHN CHOIR
UNDER SIR ERNEST MACMILLAN
FOR 10 OR 11 YEARS.
MY FATHER, WELL, HE LOVED --
HE WAS THE CONSUMMATE FAN.
HE HAD TWO TUNES, ONE WAS THE
NATIONAL ANTHEM AND THE OTHER
ONE WASN'T.
[laughing]
BUT DAD BECAME GREAT FRIENDS
WITH A LOT OF MUSICIANS,
HEALEY WILLAN, SIR ERNEST
MACMILLAN, FRED SILVESTER, AND
HE WAS HEAD OF PHILOSOPHY AT
TRINITY FOR ALL HIS LIFE,
AND HE WAS ALSO ASSOCIATED
A LITTLE BIT WITH THE MUSIC
FACULTY AND GETTING SOME
PEOPLE WHO WANTED TO DO MUSIC
AND PHILOSOPHY, AND SO HE KNEW
A LOT OF THE MUSICAL TYPES.
AND MOTHER SANG, AS I
SAID, FOR 11 YEARS IN THE
MENDELSSOHN, AND MY
GRANDMOTHER WAS A CONCERT
PIANIST HERE IN TORONTO.
MY GRANDFATHER ON MY FATHER'S
SIDE WAS A PRESBYTERIAN
MINISTER AND AN ORGANIST.
SO IT'S SORT OF IN THE GENES.

Richard says YEAH, YOU COME
BY IT HONESTLY.

Noel says I COME BY IT HONESTLY, AND
EVERY CHRISTMAS, ACTUALLY
AFTER THE MESSIAHS, GROWING UP
HERE IN TORONTO, MOM AND DAD
WOULD HOST THE POST-MESSIAH
PARTIES, AND I WAS TOO YOUNG
TO REMEMBER THIS OR I WASN'T
BORN OR I CAN'T QUITE REMEMBER
THE SEQUENCE, BUT APPARENTLY
ONE NIGHT JOHN VICKERS
ANNOUNCED HIS ARRIVAL WITH A
RATHER NUCLEAR “HELD IN HIGH-C.”
AND APPARENTLY SHATTERED A
GLASS, SO THE RUMOUR GOES.
I'M NOT SURE IF
THIS IS ALL TRUE.
I THINK THE ONLY THING THAT
WAS SHATTERED MY FATHER'S
NERVES, BUT THOSE WERE --
THOSE ARE PICTURES AND
MEMORIES THAT MOM ALWAYS
TALKED ABOUT, WITH ALL THE
MAUREEN FORRESTER, AND LOIS
MARSHALL, AND JIMMY MILLIGAN,
AND MARK STILLWELL, AND
THE MACMILLANS, SIR ERNEST
MACMILLAN AND HIS
WIFE LADY MACMILLAN.
SO THOSE WERE VERY IMPORTANT
MOMENTS IN MY FAMILY'S HISTORY.

Richard says AS A YOUNG MAN GROWING UP
WITH ALL THESE PEOPLE AROUND
YOU, WERE YOU LIKE THE
PRECOCIOUS YOUNG BOY WHO WAS
ALLOWED TO COME IN AS STAY UP
LATE WITH ERNEST MCMILLAN
IN THE CROWD?

Noel says WELL ACTUALLY, I WAS
TOO YOUNG FOR THEM.
I'M STILL QUITE
YOUNG, RIGHT RICHARD?

Richard says ABSOLUTELY.

Noel says I THINK I WAS -- I THINK
I WAS ABOUT TWO OR THREE
OR FOUR OR FIVE, SOMEWHERE
IN THAT PERIOD.
MY BROTHERS AND SISTERS, WHO
ARE OLDER THAN ME, THEY KNOW
OF THESE STORIES, THESE
INDIVIDUALS, BUT I ALSO HAD A
TRAINING AT A CHURCH CHOIR
HERE IN TORONTO, St. SIMON'S,
WITH NED HANSON, AND I WAS IN
THAT FOR 12 YEARS, AND THAT,
FROM AGE 7, STRAIGHT UP TO
ABOUT AGE 18 OR 19, I GUESS
IT WAS, WAS A REALLY
GOOD GROUNDING FOR ME.
IN FACT, THREE OF US BECAME
GREAT FRIENDS, AND MY OTHER
TWO FRIENDS WHO ARE THE
SAME AGE HAVE GONE ON,
BEEN GREAT CONDUCTORS.
EVA BELL WHO IS NOW CONDUCTING
OPERA ALL AROUND THE WORLD.
JUSTIN BLINEBORN HAS DONE TWO
THINGS AT THE MET, HAS JUST
DONE A RECORDING WITH THOMAS
HAMPSON AND RENEE FLEMING.
AND THEN SAM WONG WHO'S BEEN
ASSISTANT CONDUCTOR AT THE
NEW YORK PHIL STUDIED UNDER
ZUBIN MEHTA AND HAS BEEN HERE
IN TORONTO, AND HE'S NOW THE
CONDUCTOR OF THE HONOLULU
SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA.
SO THREE OF US WENT
THROUGH AT THE SAME TIME.
WE SORT OF KEEP IN
TOUCH WITH ONE ANOTHER.

Richard says DID YOU EVER GET TOGETHER AS
KIDS, I MEAN, I'M PICTURING
YOUNG LAWYERS GET TOGETHER AND
SAY, BOY, WHEN I GROW UP,
I WANT TO BE THIS PERSON.
I WANT TO BE CLAYTON RUBY, OR
I WANT TO BE THIS PERSON
OR THAT PERSON.
DID YOU GUYS SIT AROUND AND
SAY, I'M GOING TO CONDUCT
LIKE THIS, OR I'M GOING
TO CONDUCT LIKE THAT?

Noel says WELL, ACTUALLY, WE DID.
WE ALL HAD MENTORS.
WE HAD PEOPLE WE ASPIRED TO.
WE HAD PEOPLE THAT INSPIRED US
THROUGH THEIR MUSIC MAKING.

Richard asks WELL, LIKE WHO?

A caption reads “Noel Edison, Conductor.”

Noel says WELL, THERE WAS -- ONE OF
MY GREATEST INFLUENCES ARE
ACTUALLY ORCHESTRAL
CONDUCTORS AND ORCHESTRAS,
ALTHOUGH CHOIRS ARE
VERY IMPORTANT TO ME,
AND THEY ARE MY MAIN LOVE,
AND SINGERS ARE VERY IMPORTANT
TO ME AND THEY
ARE MY MAIN LOVE.
BUT A LOT OF MY INFLUENCE HAS
BEEN THROUGH CHAMBER MUSIC AND
PIANO RECITALS AND ORCHESTRAL
WORK, SO I LOVE FURTWANGLER,
FOR EXAMPLE.
I DIDN'T LIKE VON KARAJAN.

Richard says HOW COME, TOO...?

Noel says WELL, I JUST -- ESPECIALLY
HIS LATTER WORK.
I MEAN, HE WAS CERTAINLY A
CONSUMMATE MUSICIAN, BUT I
FELT THAT HE JUST -- HE WAS
SUCH A TASKMASTER AT THE
DISCIPLINE AND THE TECHNICAL
THAT HE WORKED THE SPIRITUAL
RIGHT OUT OF THE SCORE.
BUT I PREFER THE MORE --
THE ROMANTIC, THE MORE
PASSIONATE APPROACH.
THE ONE THAT'S GOT AN
INDIVIDUAL CHARACTER IN
THEIR MUSIC-MAKING.
I MEAN, I LOVED A LOT OF
LEONARD BERNSTEIN, FOR EXAMPLE.
SOME OF IT OUTRAGEOUS, BUT
IT WAS DISTINCTIVE LEONARD
BERNSTEIN, AND GOOD TASTE ON
THE TOP OF A GREAT SCORE.

Richard says RIGHT.

Noel says AND THAT COMBINATION, AS A
CONDUCTOR, I FIND IS REALLY
EXCITING TO LISTEN TO, BECAUSE
YOU KNOW COMPOSERS GIVE US
THEIR MATERIAL, AND A LOT OF
COMPOSERS SAY, THEY WANT THE
CONDUCTOR TO ADD THEIR
DIMENSION TO WHAT THEY SEE IN PRINT.
AND IF IT'S IN THE HANDS OF A
GREAT CONDUCTOR, THEN IT'S
IN THE HANDS OF A GREAT
PERSONALITY, AND A GREAT AURA,
AND A GREAT -- A GREAT
EXPERIENCE WILL BE HAD FOR A
LISTENER AND THE PERFORMER, IF
THIS PERSON HAS THE CHARISMA
AND THE INSIGHT INTO THE
SCORE, AND THE PERSONALITY
TO CARRY IT OFF.

Richard says DO YOU THINK THERE COULD BE A
CONFLICT BETWEEN A CONDUCTOR'S
PERSONALITY OR SOUL
AND THE MATERIAL?
FOR EXAMPLE, PEOPLE THINK,
YOU KNOW, VON KARAJAN WAS
BRILLIANT AT BEETHOVEN,
BUT THERE'S LOTS OF OTHER
MATERIAL, WARMER MORE
ROMANTIC, MORE FRAGILE
MATERIAL HE MIGHT NOT
HAVE DONE AS WELL.

Noel says I THINK HIS EARLIER
RECORDINGS IN THE '50s AND '60s,
EARLY '60s, OF HIS BRUCKNER
SYMPHONIES ARE FABULOUS.
I THINK THEY'RE QUITE NICE,
AND HIS WAGNER ALSO WAS REALLY
REMARKABLE, FOR ME PERSONALLY.
I MEAN, I'M NOT SETTING
THIS UP AS THE THING.
BUT I FOUND THAT I GOT HIS
TWO BEETHOVEN CYCLE SERIES,
AND I DON'T LIKE
EITHER OF THEM.
I LOVE THE SOUND
OF THE ORCHESTRA.
IT WAS CERTAINLY THE GREAT
SOUND OF ORCHESTRAL PLAYING.
I MEAN, THERE WAS -- EVERYONE
TRIED TO SORT OF COPY THE
BERLIN OR THE VIENNA SOUND.

Richard says RIGHT.

Noel says AND THAT SOUND WAS SO
IMPRESSIVE, BUT I JUST FOUND
THE PERSONALITY NOT CONVINCING
TO MY TASTE AND, YOU KNOW,
THERE IS NO RIGHT OR WRONG,
RICHARD, IT'S JUST A MATTER OF
TASTE OR MATTER OF
PERSONAL PREFERENCE.
BUT PEOPLE LIKE CARLOS KLEIBER
I THINK IS ANOTHER SUPERB
BEETHOVEN CONDUCTOR.
HIS BEETHOVEN SYMPHONIES ARE
JUST PHENOMENAL AND I LOVE THEM.
NOW THE NEW ONE I LOVE VERY
MUCH IS NIKOLAUS HARNONCOURT
WITH SORT OF THE NEW -- NOT
THE MORE INSIGHTFUL APPROACH
TO THESE SCORES, HAVING BEING
THROUGH THE AUTHENTIC PERIOD
WHERE THEY SORT OF CLEANED
HOUSE, THEY DID THE LEAN,
MEAN, CUISINE APPROACH TO
MUSIC MAKING, GOT RID OF ALL
THAT, YOU KNOW,
ROAST BEEF AND PORK.

Richard says RIGHT.

Noel says THE BEECHAM APPROACH, I
GUESS, AND BROUGHT IN THIS
LITTLE CLEANER APPROACH, BUT
HARNONCOURT HAS GONE BEYOND
THAT EVEN WITH MODERN
ORCHESTRA AND BROUGHT IN VERY
MUCH JUST A SENSIBILITY,
AND A NATURALNESS AND A REAL
UNDERSTANDING, AND A STRONG
WONDERFUL, VIBRANT PERSONALITY
TO THE SCORE.

Richard says YOU WERE STARTING INTO -- I
WAS GOING TO ASK YOU WHERE YOU
FALL DOWN ON THE ORIGINAL
INSTRUMENTS CONTROVERSY.
YOU KNOW, IS THAT THE BEST WAY
TO PLAY IT OR SHOULD WE PLAY
IN THE STYLE OF THE
CENTURY WE'RE LIVING IN?
OR WHAT'S THE CALL?

Noel says I THINK THE CALL IS, IT DEPENDS
ON THE PIECES YOU'RE DOING.
IT DEPENDS ON THE
PLAYERS YOU HAVE AT HAND.
I THINK IT ALSO DEPENDS ON THE
HALL IN WHICH YOU'RE GOING TO
BE PERFORMING.
I JUST DID A BACH, St. MATTHEW
PASSION ON MODERN INSTRUMENTS,
BUT I INSISTED THEY ALL USE
BAROQUE BOWS SO THEY'D HAVE
THE LIGHTNESS AND FOR
THE RHYTHMIC INTRICACIES
OF THE BACH SCORES.
SO THE BOWS WERE NOT TOO
HEAVY AND THEY WERE LIGHTER
AND THEY HAD A LITTLE
MORE AGILITY WITH IT.
I DID A B-MINOR A COUPLE YEARS
AGO WHERE I DID STRICTLY
BAROQUE INSTRUMENTS, AND I
HAVE DONE SEVERAL PERFORMANCES
WHERE I DO JUST STRICTLY
BAROQUE INSTRUMENTS.
IT TENDS TO -- I TEND
TO DO A BIT OF BOTH.

Richard says RIGHT.

Noel says AND I CAN'T TELL YOU WHICH
ONE I WANT TO DO WHEN.
I PREFER TO HAVE MORE AN
AUTHENTIC ORCHESTRA BECAUSE
THE WRITING IS SO HIGH VOCALLY,
YOU KNOW, AND IF YOU'RE IN
A MODERN ORCHESTRA, THAT CAN
REALLY STRAIN ON THE TENOR LINE,
FOR EXAMPLE, BECAUSE IT
SITS SO HIGH FOR SO LONG.
SO IF YOU CAN BRING IT DOWN TO
THE 415 PITCH, WHICH BAROQUE
INSTRUMENTS DO, THEN IT
MAKES IT MORE SINGABLE, MORE
ACCESSIBLE FOR THE SINGER,
ESPECIALLY OVER A SUSTAINED
PERIOD OF TIME.
HANDEL, I PREFER SOME OF THAT.
OF COURSE, IF YOU GO INTO ANY,
LIKE MONTEVERDI OR ANYTHING
BEFORE THAT, I THINK YOU
REALLY NEED THE COLOUR OF THE
AUTHENTIC INSTRUMENTS.

Richard says YOU KNOW, AS I'M TALKING
TO YOU, I'M HEARING A GREAT
MIXTURE OF VERY PERSONAL
HUMANISM BUT WITH A GREAT
DEAL OF KNOWLEDGE.
DO YOU THINK THAT --
WHERE DID THAT COME OUT?
IN YOUR UNIVERSITY EDUCATION?
IN YOUR TRAINING?
HOW DID ALL THESE PIECES
COME TOGETHER FOR YOU?

Noel says RICHARD, YOU SAW
ALL THAT IN THERE?
WELL, RICHARD, I HAVE A
FESTIVAL THAT HAS TAUGHT ME A
LOT OVER 20 YEARS, THE ELORA
FESTIVAL, WHERE I HAVE
PROGRAMMING THAT I HAVE
TO CATER TO MANY FRONTS.
I HAVE A SITUATION WHERE IT'S
FIRST OF ALL SUMMER FESTIVAL.
I HAVE A SITUATION WHERE I
HAVE CERTAIN VENUES THAT WILL
WORK FOR CERTAIN
PERFORMERS OR MUSIC.
AND YOU HAVE TO BE VERY
CREATIVE AND INVENTIVE, AND
YOU ALSO HAVE TO MAKE SURE
YOUR COMMUNITY IS BEHIND YOU.
AND WITH ALL THOSE IN
MIX, PLUS YOU'VE GOT THE
UNFORTUNATE -- I MEAN ANY
GOOD IDEA DEGENERATES INTO
MONEY OR WORK.

Richard says RIGHT.

Noel says AND YOU NEED TO GO FIND THAT,
SO WITH ALL THOSE ELEMENTS IN
THERE, YOU HAVE TO -- YOU HAVE
TO BE A FAIRLY WELL-ROUNDED
INDIVIDUAL TO SORT OF COAX
PEOPLE ALONG, TRAIN THEM,
ENCOURAGE THEM, GIVE THEM
PRIDE IN THEIR PRODUCT.
MAKE SURE THE PRODUCT IS
NOTHING BUT THE BEST.
BUILD AN AUDIENCE BASE,
BUILD A CORPORATE BASE,
BUILD A VOLUNTEER BASE.
NOT THAT I DO THIS
SINGLE-HANDEDLY, BUT THERE IS
THE ELEMENT OF THIS SORT OF
PIED PIPER SCENARIO THAT COMES
INTO PLAY A LITTLE
BIT IN FESTIVALS.
JIM CAMPBELL WILL TELL YOU THE
SAME AT PARRY SOUND, AND I'M
SURE AT STRATFORD, AND I KNOW
CHRIS NEWTON IS THE SAME THING
AT SHAW THAT, YOU KNOW, YOU
NEED SOME SORT OF VISION AND
LEADER, BUT YOU NEED
TO HAVE A FLEXIBILITY.
YOU HAVE AN UNDERSTANDING,
AND YOU GOT TO KEEP IT ALL
SORT OF IN BALANCE.
SO THE FESTIVALS GIVE ME MY
GREATEST SORT OF HANDS-ON
SENSIBILITY AND FLEXIBILITY,
AND A SENSITIVITY TO WORKING
WITH OTHERS, AND BALANCING
AMBITION WITH FINANCIAL
REALITY, AND ARTISTIC GOALS
WITH PEOPLE SUPPORTING IT, YOU
KNOW, AN AUDIENCE BASE, AND
ALL THOSE SORT OF THINGS.

Richard says LET'S TALK ABOUT ELORA.
FOR OUR VIEWERS WHO MAY NOT
HAVE BEEN FORTUNATE ENOUGH TO
GET THERE, COULD YOU JUST
PAINT A LITTLE PICTURE
ABOUT WHAT IT'S LIKE
GEOGRAPHICALLY RIGHT THERE?

Noelsays WELL, IT'S EXACTLY AN HOUR
FROM THE AIRPORT OF TORONTO,
AND GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
FROM TORONTO, IN THE HEART OF
TORONTO, OUT TO THE AIRPORT IS
ANYONE'S GUESS, BUT WE'RE JUST
15 MINUTES
NORTHWEST OF GUELPH.
AND IT IS A VILLAGE OF
APPROXIMATELY 3,000 PEOPLE.
IT IS SITUATED AT THE FORKS OF
THE IRVINE AND GRAND RIVERS,
WHERE THE IRVINE AND GRAND
RIVERS MEET, AND THIS IS KNOWN
AS THE ELORA GORGE.
THE WALLS OF THE GORGE, ABOUT
50 FEET TO 100 FEET IN HEIGHT,
AND THEY GO FOR SEVERAL MILES
ALL THROUGH THE BIG GORGE
PARK, WHICH IS A HUGE
CONSERVATION PARK OWNED OR
RUN BY THE GRAND
RIVER ASSOCIATIONS.
AND WE HAVE LOVELY HOMES IN
THE VILLAGE ALL BASED ON LIME.
A LOT OF IT BUILD FROM
LIMESTONE TAKEN FROM THE ELORA
QUARRY, WHICH IS ONE OF OUR
PERFORMING VENUES, AND WE HAVE
THE ELORA MILL, WHICH IS THAT
IDYLLIC SORT OF RESTAURANT
RIGHT SITUATED AT THE GRAND
RIVER BY THE TOOTH OF TIME.
IT'S A TOWN THAT IS -- WHOSE
PEOPLE, MADE UP OF A LOT OF
UNIVERSITY PROFESSORS, A LOT
OF TEACHERS, A LOT OF ARTISANS
BECAUSE THE MAIN INDUSTRY IS
ARTISAN WORK, POTTERY AND
ANTIQUES AND SHOPS.

Richard asks WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO
SET UP THE FESTIVAL THERE?
HOW DID YOU COME THERE?
WAS IT WHILE YOU WERE
FINISHING UNIVERSITY?

Noel says WELL ACTUALLY I WAS FINISHING
JARVIS COLLEGIATE IN TORONTO,
GRADE 13, AND THIS WAS 21
YEARS AGO, AND MY PIANO
TEACHER HAD MOVED TO ELORA
TO BE THE ORGANIST AND
CHOIRMASTER AT THE ANGLICAN
CHURCH THERE AND TO TEACH AT A
PRIVATE SCHOOL, St.
JOHN'S-KILMARNOCK, AND
St. MARGARET'S, A
GIRLS PRIVATE SCHOOL.
AND HE SAID INSTEAD OF ME
TRYING TO FIND ANOTHER PIANO
TEACHER, WHY DON'T YOU JUST
DRIVE UP ON THE WEEKENDS AND
CONTINUE ON WITH LESSONS?
FINE.
SO I DID, AND ONE THING LED TO
ANOTHER, THAT I WAS OFFERED
A JOB UP THERE TO START
DOING A LITTLE GIRLS' CHOIR
IN THE CHURCH.
I THOUGHT, GREAT, AND I WANTED
TO GO TO UNIVERSITY WITH A
VOICE TEACHER, VICTOR
MARTENS, UP AT LAURIER.
SO IT WAS ALL SORT OF LOOKING
AS IF, WELL, I WAS GOING TO
LEAVE TORONTO AND MOVE
UP THERE, SO I DID.
AND A YEAR OF BEING UP THERE,
I MET SEVERAL PEOPLE, AND SOME
FRIENDS OF MINE HAD MENTIONED
AN IDEA, A CONCEPT OF A
FESTIVAL, AND THEN THE
ORIGINAL ARTISTIC DIRECTOR,
MICHAEL PURVES-SMITH, HAD
WRITTEN A PROPOSAL AND GIVEN
IT TO SOMEBODY IN THE TOWN WHO
DIDN'T KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH IT.
I GOT HOLD OF IT AND PASSED
IT AROUND TO MY FRIENDS,
AND THEN HERE WE ARE TODAY.

Richard says HAVE YOU EVER LOOKED BACK ON
IT AND THOUGHT THAT OUT OF
THAT FAIRLY SMALL BEGINNING,
YOU KNOW, QUITE A LOT HAS
HAPPENED, AND IT'S NOW QUITE
A SUBSTANTIAL FESTIVAL?
DID YOU EVER THINK IT WAS
GOING TO GET TO THAT POINT?

Noel says IN THE ARTS, IN CANADA, WHEN
YOU START ANYTHING, YOU NEVER
THINK IT'S GOING TO GET
ANYWHERE, AND THESE THINGS
TAKE SO MUCH TIME, AND YOU
JUST -- EVERYONE KEPT SAYING,
YOU MUST HAVE FIVE
AND TEN YEAR PLANS.
WELL, I TELL YOU, IT WAS
ALL WE COULD DO JUST TO GET
THROUGH ONE YEAR.
AND YOU'D HAVE TO GO THROUGH
ONE YEAR AND SIT BACK AND LOOK
AT THE FINANCIAL SITUATION.
YOU JUST HAVE TO ASSESS
EVERYTHING AND THEN SAY,
ALL RIGHT, WHAT CAN
WE DO FOR NEXT YEAR?
IT WAS SORT OF REALLY HAND TO
MOUTH, BUT EVENTUALLY, YOU
KNOW, PEOPLE STARTED TO BUY
INTO THE IDEA OF THE FESTIVAL.
THE COMMUNITY OF ELORA,
WHICH IS ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL.
YOU CAN'T BE SEEN AS OUTSIDERS
COMING IN AND JUST SORT OF
DROPPING IN PERFORMANCES
AND THEN FLEEING.
I MEAN, IT'S GOT TO COME --
YOU'VE GOT TO HAVE A BASE.
I DON'T CARE WHERE YOU ARE, IN
TORONTO OR MONTREAL OR VIENNA.
YOU'VE GOT TO COME FROM
WITHIN THE COMMUNITY.
AND IT'S BROAD-BASED SUPPORT.
YOU KNOW, IT'S VOLUNTEERS AND
IT'S BASIC FUNDRAISING AND
ALL THOSE SORT OF THINGS.
SO THAT TOOK TIME TO
DEVELOP, BUT IT'S
DEVELOPED SIGNIFICANTLY.
I MEAN, WE STARTED WITH A
BUDGET OF, I THINK, ABOUT
24,000 IN 1979 AND 1980, AND
WE NOW AT -- WELL, IT'S NOT
HUGE, BUT IT'S ENOUGH.
IT'S 570,000,
SOMEWHERE IN THERE.

Richard says WAS THERE KIND OF A TURNING
POINT OR DEFINING POINT YOU
COULD MENTION?
LIKE A CONCERT OR A SERIES OR
AN EVENT THAT MADE YOU KNOW THIS
WAS PROBABLY IN HERE FOR THE
LONG HAUL, NOT THE SHORT HAUL?

Noel says WELL, INTERESTINGLY ENOUGH,
WHEN WE STARTED CONCERTS IN
THE ELORA QUARRY, WHICH IS, WE
PUT ARTISTS ON A RAFT AND THE
AUDIENCE ARE ON BLEACHERS ALL
AROUND THE TOP OF THE CLIFFS.
WE CAN PUT ABOUT 1,200 TO
1,500 PEOPLE IN THERE,
AND IT IS AN ABSOLUTE
SPECTACULAR SETTING.
AND WHEN WE STARTED DOING
THAT, ALL OF A SUDDEN WE HAD A
TIGER BY THE TAIL, AND PEOPLE
SAID, OKAY, AND THAT WAS
SOMETHING THAT WAS UNIQUELY
IDENTIFIABLE WITH ELORA, TO
THE POINT THAT PEOPLE SAID,
WHAT'S HAPPENING AT THE ELORA
QUARRY FESTIVAL, YOU KNOW,
AND THIS SORT OF STUFF.
AND, RICHARD, WHEN WE STARTED
DOING CONCERTS IN THERE, WE
COULD'VE PUT DUCKS SERENADING
PIGEONS ON A RAFT AND, I TELL
YOU, WE COULD'VE SOLD IT OUT.
I MEAN, THE WHOLE PHENOMENON
OF SOMETHING GOING ON DOWN IN
THIS SETTING.
THEN WE HAD TO CLOSE IT
DOWN AFTER ABOUT FOUR YEARS
BECAUSE -- I DON'T KNOW IF YOU
REMEMBER IN THE MID- TO LATE
'80s WE WERE GETTING INTO HUGE
INSURANCE SCAMS AROUND THE
COUNTRY, AND WE COULDN'T EVEN
GET LLOYD'S OF LONDON TO
SECURE THAT INSURANCE,
AND SO WE HAD TO DROP IT
FOR A FEW YEARS.
THERE WAS NO PROBLEM, NO RISK
TO US, BUT IT WAS JUST IN CASE.

Richard says RIGHT.

Noel says AND THEN EVENTUALLY, ABOUT
FIVE YEARS AGO, WE STARTED
AGAIN, AND IT'S BEEN VERY
SUCCESSFUL, AND THE GRAND
RIVER CONSERVATION AUTHORITY,
WHO OWNED THE PROPERTY, THEY
JUST GIVE IT TO US FOR THE
WEEK, AND THEY ARE THRILLED TO
KNOW THAT THEIR FACILITY IS
BEING USED FOR SOMETHING OTHER
THAN JUST SWIMMING OR PICNICKING.
SO THAT, THEN WE FOUND A GREAT
BIG BARN THAT IS USED AS A
SAND/SALT STORAGE FACILITY IN
THE WINTER, AND WE TRANSFORM
IT INTO A CONCERT
HALL IN THE SUMMER.
AND IT HAS SPECTACULAR ACOUSTICS.
WE HAVE THE CHURCHES WHICH
ARE ALL BLESSED WITH
SUBLIME ACOUSTICS.
ONE OF THEM WE'VE HAD TO AIR
CONDITION JUST BECAUSE IT'S --
WE USE IT SO MUCH.
AND THEN WE HAVE THE STREETS
OF THE VILLAGE ITSELF, AND WE
HAVE THE MUSEUM, AND WE HAVE
THE MILL, AND WE DO THINGS
IN TENTS AS WELL.
WE USE EVERY CORNER OF THE
VILLAGE TO MAKE IT A SORT OF A
CELEBRATION OF A COMMUNITY.

Richard says IT'S REALLY AN EVENT THAT
HAS PROSPERED ON EVERY ANGLE,
AND IT'S KIND OF REACHED
A GREAT POTENTIAL.
IT'S USED THE CITY AND THE
PLACE AND EVERYBODY WHO'S IN IT.
SO SHIFT GEARS HERE.
HOW ARE YOU GOING TO DO
THAT WITH THE TORONTO
MENDELSSOHN CHOIR?
WHICH YOU ARE THE RECENTLY
APPOINTED CONDUCTOR OF,
AND IT'S A VENERABLE
ORGANIZATION.
IT'S BEEN AROUND
FOR A LONG TIME.

Noel says YEAH.

Richard says WHAT ARE YOU GOING
TO DO WITH IT?

Noel says WELL, WE'RE GOING TO THE
105th SEASON OF THE TORONTO
MENDELSSOHN CHOIR, AND I
HAD SOME FAIRLY BIG SHOES
TO STEP INTO.
I MEAN MY PREDECESSOR WAS
Dr. ELMER ISELER, WHO GAVE
CHORAL MUSIC THE
PROFESSIONALISM THAT IT NOW
ENJOYS IN THIS COUNTRY.
IF IT WASN'T FOR HIS ENERGETIC
PIONEERING WAYS, THERE
WOULDN'T BE PEOPLE
LIKE ME AROUND TODAY.
AND IT'S TAKEN -- I MEAN
ELMER'S SOUND, AND HIS WHOLE
IDEA OF MUSIC MAKING, WAS
VERY DIFFERENT FROM MINE, OF
COURSE, AND IT'S TAKEN ME A
COUPLE OF YEARS JUST TO BRING
A BIT OF NOEL EDISON INTO THE
CHOIR, AND THAT'S ALWAYS --
YOU KNOW, THESE ARE ALWAYS
DIFFICULT TIMES, BECAUSE THERE
ARE LOYALTIES TO THE PAST
CONDUCTOR, WHICH RIGHTLY SO,
BUT IT'S GONE VERY WELL SO
FAR, GONE VERY, VERY WELL.
I'VE GOT A LOT OF NEW PEOPLE,
AND I'M LOOKING VERY FORWARD
TO THE FUTURE WITH IT.
SEVERAL THINGS, I JUST
PRESENTED SORT OF MY FIVE-YEAR
VISION TO THE BOARD
ABOUT TWO WEEKS AGO,
THAT WE HAVE STARTED.
WE'VE EMBARKED ON AN
INTERNATIONAL RECORDING VENTURE.
WE DID THE BERLIOZ'S REQUIEM
BACK IN NOVEMBER WHICH WILL BE
RELEASED THIS JUNE, ON NAXOS
LABEL, AND THAT WILL BE
RELEASED INTERNATIONALLY
AS OF JUNE 1st.
I HAVE A MEETING WITH NAXOS IN
A COUPLE OF WEEKS IN THAT WE
ARE NOW PRESENTING THREE
MORE, RECORDING EACH YEAR,
OF THE MAJOR ORATORIOS.
St. PAUL, ELIJAH, AND THEN
POSSIBLY THE DREAM OF
GERONTIUS, AS A
RECORDING SERIES.
I WANT TO GET THE CHOIR
BACK AND RE-ESTABLISH ITS
INTERNATIONAL REPUTATION THAT
IT ONCE ENJOYED, BUT IT'S
FALLEN INTO A BIT OF A LAPSE
OVER THE PAST LITTLE WHILE.
ACCOMPANYING THAT
IS TOURING AT HOME.
I WANT TO GET THEM AND HAVE
JOINT PERFORMANCES OR EXCHANGES
WITH THE PRINCIPAL CHORUSES
THE BOSTON SYMPHONY CHORUS,
NEW YORK.
WE'RE ACTUALLY LINED UP TO
DO ONE WITH THE NEW YORK
CHORAL SOCIETY.
WITH CHICAGO SYMPHONY CHORUS,
PITTSBURGH, BALTIMORE, AND
ALSO WE'D LIKE TO DO IT ACROSS
CANADA, IN OTTAWA AND IN
VANCOUVER AND WINNIPEG
AND THEN EDMONTON.

Richard says NOW THESE ALL
SOUND WONDERFUL.
ISN'T THIS HORRIBLY EXPENSIVE?

Noel says VERY.
WE HAVE A PLAN IN PLACE
THAT WE ARE NOW WORKING FOR
THE SUMMER OF 2000 DOING A
TOUR TO ALL THE BIG FESTIVALS:
TANGLEWOOD, RAVINIA,
AND QUEBEC CITY.
SHAW FESTIVAL.
THAT'S OUR FIRST STEP.
THE NEXT STEP IS THAT WERE
GOING TO DO THESE ONE-OFFS
WITH THE AMERICANS ONCE A YEAR,
WITH THE AMERICAN CHORUSES.

Richard says RIGHT.

Noel says AND THEN WE'RE WORKING ON A
TOUR ON THE MILLENNIUM MONEY,
OR SOMETHING ALONG THIS LINE,
TO LINK IN WITH THE MAJOR
CANADIAN ORCHESTRAS AND THEIR
SEASON AND OFFER THE CHORUS
FOR SOMETHING SUBSTANTIAL THAT
THEY WOULD LIKE TO PRESENT
THAT THEY DON'T HAVE THE
CHORUS TO DO IT WITH, OR DO IT
WITH THEIR OWN CHORUS
THAT'S IN RESIDENCE THERE.

Richard says IT SOUNDS WONDERFUL THAT YOU
ARE TRYING TO REVITALIZE THE
CHORUS BY LETTING OTHER PEOPLE
SEE IT, BRINGING IT OUT ACROSS
THE COUNTRY.

Noel says WELL IT IS A VENERABLE
ORGANIZATION.
IT'S THE TORONTO MENDELSSOHN
CHOIR, BUT IT IS ALSO CANADA'S
OLDEST ARTS ORGANIZATION.
IT IS SORT OF “THE TOP OF THE
CHORUSES” IN THIS COUNTRY.
AND IT'S FOR SO LONG BEEN SORT
OF HUNKERED DOWN IN THE CEMENT
BUNKER OF ROY THOMSON, AND I'M
JUST, IN THE PAST YEAR OR TWO,
TRYING TO MOVE THEM OUT OF
THERE A LITTLE BIT, BACK INTO
MASSEY HALL, WHOSE BUILDING
I MUCH FAVOUR FOR ACOUSTICS.
INTO SOME OF THE CHURCHES
THAT CAN TAKE OUR 180 NOW.

Richard says RIGHT.

Noel says -AND JUST MOVE THEM OUT A
LITTLE BIT MORE INTO THE
COMMUNITY, SO THAT THEIR
OUTREACH IS JUST BEYOND SORT
OF THE STAGE OF ROY
THOMSON A LITTLE MORE.
AND, OF COURSE, IN THE
PROGRAMMING, TOO, RICHARD,
I'M DOING THE OLD TRADITIONAL,
LIKE THE ELIJAHS, OR THE
St. PAULS, BUT I'M DOING
SOME VERY CONTEMPORARY WORK.
SO I'M COMMISSIONING WORK BY
GLENN BREWER TO WRITE ME A GLORIA WHICH IS
GOING TO BE FABULOUS.
I'M MARRYING THAT WITH
THE CANADIAN PREMIERE OF
PENDERECKI'S CRADLE, WHICH
HELMUTH RILLING PREMIERED AT
THE BACH OREGON
FESTIVAL TWO YEARS AGO.
YOU AND I AND ERIC ARE
GOING TO BE TALKING ABOUT A
COLLABORATIVE EVENT
IN A COUPLE OF YEARS.

Richard says ERIC ROBERTSON, YEAH.

Noel says ERIC ROBERTSON AND OUR
MULTIMEDIA PRESENTATION.
A STRAVINSKY SYMPHONY OF
PSALMS, THE POULENC GLORIA,
AND THEN A CANADIAN PREMIERE
OF PHILIP GLASS' WORK, ITAIPU,
WHICH IS AN ABSOLUTELY --
I'LL USE THE NEW RAGE WORD OF
'AWESOME' BUT THIS IS A WORK
THAT PHILIP GLASS CAME UP --
IT WAS A WORK INSPIRED
ON A JOURNEY OF HIS DOWN
TO SOUTH AMERICA.
HE CAME ACROSS THIS MASSIVE
DAM, WHICH IS CALLED ITAIPU.

Richard says I HAVE A SENSE OF
DISLOCATION HERE.
I'M HEARING THE WORDS, TORONTO
MENDELSSOHN CHOIR AND PHILIP
GLASS IN THE SAME SENTENCE.
YOU SAY THEY BOTH BELONG TOGETHER?

Noel says ABSOLUTELY.

Richard says I WANT TO KNOW, WHICH ONE OF
THESE TWO DOES NOT BELONG?
DO YOU SAY THEY BOTH
BELONG TOGETHER?

Noel saysABSOLUTELY.

Richard asks WHY?

Noel says WELL, PHILIP GLASS HAS
WRITTEN A FABULOUS WORK FOR
CHOIR AND ORCHESTRA.
WE SHOULD BE
DOING THESE WORKS.
THIS IS A WORK THAT HAS NOT
BEEN DONE IN CANADA BEFORE.
IT'S BEEN DONE SEVERAL TIMES
IN THE STATES, IN FACT, ROBERT
SHAW HAS, IN FACT, RECORDED
IT BUT TO MY KNOWLEDGE
IT HASN'T BEEN DONE IN CANADA.
THIS IS A SIGNIFICANT
PIECE OF WORK.
PHILIP GLASS IS, YOU KNOW, ONE OF
THE WORLD'S GREAT OPERA
COMPOSERS THESE DAYS
OR THE ONE IN VOGUE.
I MEAN, HE'S VERY MUCH
FROM THIS MINIMALIST SCHOOL.

Richard says RIGHT.

Noel continues YOU KNOW, THAT HYPNOTIC
GORECKI, TAVENER, ARVO PART,
SORT OF LINEAGE OR INFLUENCE.
AND THAT STUFF IS CERTAINLY
VERY MUCH IN VOGUE IN THE
CHORAL COMMUNITY.
THE TAVENERS AND ARVO PARTS,
AND LOOK AT THESE RECORDINGS
THAT ARE SELLING NOW.

Richard says RIGHT.

Noel continues YOU KNOW, THE TOP-SELLING
RECORDINGS, EVEN POPS AND
CLASSICALS, ARE THESE CHORAL
RECORDINGS THAT OFFER YOU THIS
SOLACE OF YOUR SOUL, AND
MEDITATIONAL MUSIC, AND ALL
OF GOD'S TOP 10 TUNES.
I MEAN, IT'S INCREDIBLE
MARKET OUT THERE NOW.
AND THESE COMPOSERS, THERE ARE
A LOT OF THEM THAT PICKED UP
ON THIS AND ARE
WRITING IN THIS STYLE.

Richard says SO I GATHER THAT ANYTHING
THAT IS GOOD CHORAL MUSIC, YOU
FEEL, IS GRIST FOR THE MILL OF
THE TORONTO MENDELSSOHN CHOIR.

Noel says ABSOLUTELY.
ABSOLUTELY, AND THAT'S NOT
JUST CANADIAN, BUT THAT'S
AMERICAN AND EUROPEAN.
THERE ARE SOME -- I'M DEBATING
ABOUT, THERE'S A NEW WORK THAT'S
CALLED A REQUIEM FOR A FRIEND
WHICH HAS TAKEN OFF ON
TOP OF THE POPULAR CHARTS,
WHICH IS CHOIR, AND ORCHESTRA,
AND ALTO SAX, AND JAZZ BAND,
AND SOME OTHER THINGS, AND
IT'S THIS ECLECTIC MIX, AND
IT'S NOT THAT I JUST WANT TO
GET ON THE BANDWAGON OF TRYING
TO FIND SOMETHING NEW, BUT IF
IT'S DONE INVENTIVELY, IF IT'S
REALLY GOT SOME GOOD CREATIVE
JUICES BEHIND IT AND IT MOVES
ME, THEN I THINK IT'S WELL
WORTH SOMETHING THAT THE
MENDELSSOHN CHOIR SHOULD BE
PRESENTING IN THIS COUNTRY,
WITH THE TORONTO AUDIENCES,
IF NOT THE LARGER AUDIENCES,
MAYBE THROUGH CBC WOULD
EXPERIENCE THESE WORKS,
BECAUSE THEY ARE VERY
IMPORTANT, AND THEY ARE
GOING TO BE IMPORTANT.
I DON'T KNOW HOW.
WE WON'T KNOW.

Richard says CONSIDERING THE SUCCESS
YOU'VE HAD DOING WONDERFUL
THINGS IN WONDERFUL VENUES
WITH ELORA, LET ME GIVE YOU A
FANTASY SITUATION HERE.
YOU CAN TAKE THE TORONTO
MENDELSSOHN CHOIR, AND YOU CAN
PUT IT ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD,
ANY PLACE, DOESN'T EVEN HAVE
TO BE A THEATRE, AND YOU CAN
HAVE THEM PERFORM ANY PIECE OF
MUSIC, WHAT WOULD YOU DO?

Noel says OH, RICHARD.
OH, MY GOODNESS.
WHAT PIECE WOULD I DO? OH, BOY.
WELL, YOU KNOW, IT WAS JUST
TWO DAYS -- TWO WEEKS AGO
I DID THE BRAHMS
REQUIEM WITH THEM.
THIS SOUNDS VERY STAID AND
VERY TRADITIONAL AND NOT
TERRIBLY NEW AND INVENTIVE
FROM SOMEBODY WHO SHOULD BE
MAYBE MORE NEW AND INVENTIVE
AND THE “NEW KID ON THE BLOCK,”
BUT I'M ROMANTIC AT HEART.
AND THE PIECE LIKE A BRAHMS
REQUIEM OR THE ALTO RHAPSODY
IS A PIECE THAT I'M VERY, VERY
FOND OF, AND IT SPIRITUALLY
SPEAKS TO ME.
I THINK MUSIC AND IT'S PART OF
MY CHURCH SIDE I GUESS, BUT
MUSIC MUST -- MUST HAVE SOME
MESSAGE TO ME AND IT MUST HIT
ME AT SOME LEVEL.
IT CAN'T BE JUST AN
INTELLECTUAL LEVEL.
I'VE GOT TO BE EMOTIONALLY
CONNECTED TO IT SOMEHOW.
I LOVE THE JOHN TAVENER,
ARVO PART, NEW SCHOOL.
I FIND THAT VERY EVOCATIVE,
BUT I LIKE THAT SCHOOL, AND I'D
LIKE TO MARRY THAT A LITTLE
BIT TO MAYBE WITH SOMETHING
MORE STRAVINSKY-ESQUE
YOU KNOW, I SEE A NEW
SCHOOL DEVELOPING.
I'M SEEING A LOT OF YOUNG
COMPOSERS COMING BACK WITH A
VERY ROMANTIC STYLE, BUT STILL
TRYING TO FIND THEIR OWN
VOICE, AND THEY ARE MIXING
SOME VERY AVANT-GARDE AND SOME
VERY TRADITIONAL, SOME GREAT MELODIES.
THIS NEW ECLECTIC WRITING
OR STYLE THAT'S COMING INTO
VOGUE, I FIND VERY EXCITING, VERY EXCITING.

Richard says AND I THINK IT'S FORTUNATE
THAT THE MUSIC IS COMING INTO
VOGUE AT THE TIME THAT YOU'RE
GOING TO BE HERE TO HELP
PROMULGATE IT AND MAKE SURE
THAT WE ALL GET TO HEAR IT.
BEST OF LUCK WITH THE TORONTO
MENDELSSOHN CHOIR AND THE
ELORA FESTIVAL, AND
EVERYTHING ELSE.
NOEL EDISON, THANK
YOU FOR BEING HERE.

Noel says IT WAS MY PLEASURE.
THANK YOU, RICHARD.

Richard looks at the camera and says
FOR DIALOGUE, I'M
RICHARD OUZOUNIAN.
GOODBYE FOR NOW.

Music plays as the end slate reads “Dialogue.”

A production of TVOntario. Copyright 1999, The Ontario Educational Communications Authority.

Watch: Noel Edison