Three cheers for the demise of Toronto Symphony's misbegotten summer festival project
I was thrilled when I got an email from the National Arts Centre Orchestra yesterday announcing that Project Niagara was dead. From the very beginning, I thought the idea of a summer music festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake was misbegotten. (For the Star's story, click here.)
Taking Canada's most congested highway, using ever-pricier gas, to a twee little town with insufficient parking and accommodations is neither practical, nor green.
When the summer festivals everyone knows and loves were born, the wealthy had their summer homes in the area. Mother, kids and the older relatives would spend the whole hot season amid the cooler country breezes (remember, there was no air conditioning) and the proximity of swimming holes, while Father commuted up by train on weekends.
Nowadays, it makes far more sense to stay in town, with its (relatively) efficient transit, plentiful accommodations for tourists and, best of all, waiting, fallow infrastructure. Few organizations use our concert halls in the summer.
The National Arts Centre Orchestra could easily join in with Ottawa's existing music festivals, if it wanted to. The Toronto Symphony could do the same in this city. Sure, it's more fun to leave the same-old behind for a few weeks, but an orchestral staycation doesn't have to be dull. And it certainly wouldn't cost $10 million a year (if you split the projected $20 million operating cost in two).
The TSO could:
-Hire a summer music director and program a bit differently;
-Try to offer outdoor community concerts, say in Etobicoke's Centennial Park, High Park, at Harbourfront, at Nathan Phillips Square or, most daringly, amid the bustle of Yonge Dundas Square;
-Talk to the Canadian Opera Company and Toronto Summer Music Festival to present something that would encompass operatic, symphonic and chamber music, using the existing expertise of each organization to create something special.
I think this is something that would do much to strengthen the bond between the city and its classical musicians.
Whisking the music away to a place where only people with cars, time and money for a hotel room and restaurants is not going to charm the average Torontonian.
But I guess that was never the point, was it?