I Remember: UTS

I’m going through a series of retrospective experiences.

Yesterday was Jeremy Dutcher’s concert exploring and re-visiting music from his culture.  Today I heard a Holocaust memorial performance (review still to come).

And the whole time as a kind of background there’s the CD in my car that I’ve been playing incessantly.


Unlike the two aforementioned experiences, this bit of remembering is a joyful project from University of Toronto Schools.

I’ve spoken of this institution a few times in passing, particularly when interviewing or reviewing an artist alumnus, such as

University of Toronto Schools = UTS.  It was projected in the plural when founded in 1910, but is still a single institution.  And it’s singular, one of a kind.

The headline means at least two things.  There is a CD titled “I remember” that has been produced by UTS.  But when I say “I remember: UTS” I’m unavoidably thinking back on a place that has been indelibly etched into me, because of course I’m an alumnus.  When I think for example of the phrase uttered by that unforgettable teacher in “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie,” (a film that appeared when I was in grade 8 at UTS by the way), saying loosely paraphrased, “give me a girr-rull at an impressionable age, and she will be MINE for LIFE”..?

Of course I can’t find it on youtube.

Even so it has a great deal of truth to it.  I remember looking about me at the time, taking in the godlike masters (as they called the teachers in those days), and thinking I would have no ability to resist their imprint.

When I was at UTS it was boys rather than girls (and they called us “old boys” not “alumni”), although the school has been co-ed since the year after I left.

As far as the CD is concerned, it’s unique, a remarkable recording unlike any I’ve ever encountered.

If you come to the recording without any connection to UTS you might simply enjoy the diverse assortment of performances:

  • Scriabin: Valse in A flat major, Annie Zhou (‘16) piano
  • Brahms: Scherzo, Amir Safavi (’10) violin & Aaron Dou (’18) piano
  • Dukas: Villanelle, James Sommerville (‘80) horn & Annie Zhou (’16) piano
  • Dvorak: Romance, Aaron Schwebel (‘06)  violin & Derek Bate (‘71) piano
  • Chopin: Trois Écossaises, Annie Zhou (‘16) piano
  • Vieuxtemps: Souvenir d’Amérique, Emma Meinrenken (‘17) violin & Su Jeon Higuera piano
  • * Rapoport: Waldberauscht, James Sommerville (‘80) horn & Annie Zhou (’16) piano
  • * Royer: Danzon, Conrad Chow (‘99) violin, Aaron Schwebel (‘06), violin, Ronald Royer cello, & Aaron Dou(’18) piano
  • * Shugarman: Carousel, Conrad Chow (‘99) violin, Aaron Schwebel (‘06), violin, Emma Meinrenken (‘17) violin, Donna Oh (‘18) cello,  Ronald Royer cello, Mark Laidman bass
  • *Eddington(‘98): Bubblegum Delicious based on poetry of Dennis Lee (‘57), Cynthia Smithers (‘06) soprano, Rebecca Moranis (’16) flute,  Conrad Chow (‘99) violin, Donna Oh (‘18) cello,  Aaron Dou (’18) piano, David Fallis (’73) narrator, Alex Eddington (‘98) conductor
  • * Bao (‘14): Dance, Billy Bao (’14) violin & Ronald Royer cello
  • Mendelssohn: Auf Flügeln des Gesanges, Alastair Thorburn-Vitols (‘22) boy soprano & Derek Bate (‘71) piano

* Signifies premiere recording

Notice that plethora of asterisks, meaning that roughly half of the recordings are premieres, original compositions getting their first hearing. That’s new music.

But alongside the new, are the memories that I remember.  I remember that when I was there, the music program was not as it is now.  The school produced an amazing assortment of talented grads, and –no offense, UTS! –it was not due to the excellent music program.  I was a cellist when I arrived at UTS at the end of grade 6, going into grade 7, but: they didn’t have a string music program.  Nope. Of course that was in another century.  The music program in those days was co-ordinated with the cadet corps, and so we played wind instruments.  And so the cello was set aside (my family couldn’t afford private lessons, at least, not for that plus the piano I was already studying). I started playing the euphonium and later took up the tuba, marching around as the smallest guy in the UTS band, with the biggest instrument.

Don’t get me wrong, it was fun.  My single most enjoyable moment in my whole time at UTS is a memory of being in the band at an assembly playing “La Cumparsita”, alongside George Stock on trombone.

But my point is, Derek Bate, David Fallis, James McLean et al (the ones who went in that pre-co-education era, 1910-1973) don’t come from a brilliant music program.  It was a school full of nerds, which meant we showed up already primed and ready, usually taking private lessons.  And the current generation of nerd? They get the additional push of a really good school music program, to kick it up a notch.  That’s why you have a generation of wonderful musicians coming out of the school.

The recording is an anthology of recordings to celebrate the school by anthologizing that  talent.  Some, like Bate & Fallis, who are from that Precambrian era before there was much of a music program, got their education via private study (Derek Bate) or great church mentors (David Fallis).  But the majority on this CD  come from that later era when the school took the gifted kids and saw to it that their nerdy sensibilities had good music instruction to kick it up a notch.  And some on the CD are from that eager team of teachers.  Everyone on the CD is affiliated to UTS in some way either as graduates or instructors.  Ronald Royer was the driving force behind this labour of love although you’ll notice a number of participants who don’t have their graduating year bracketed after their name, indicating that they did not actually go to UTS.  It’s a fascinating CD, and as I listen, I really do remember.

And it’s a nice feeling.

Remember was released through the Cambria Music label and is distributed through NAXOS Direct. The recording is available on more than 65 streaming services worldwide and through vendors such as Amazon, iTunes and University of Toronto Schools. OR go to this page

This entry was posted in Music and musicology, Personal ruminations & essays, University life. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to I Remember: UTS

  1. Richard Rix says:

    A boy soprano from the UTS class of ’22? It took me a few moments to realize you must be projecting into the future, and why not. Of course, in the pre co-ed days the school also had a decent hockey team, scuttled by virtue of the changed cohort. I have no firsthand experience as a student but my years on the UTSPA were enjoyable, even if I was once reprimanded from on high for inappropriate content in the newsletter.

    • barczablog says:

      Aha! a fellow parent. Me too (as you might conclude from the bullet list beside the image of the album). I understood the place much better when I came back as a parent.

      By the way, I meant to remark that the album is a celebration of youth, nowhere more evident than in the closing selection, sung by the youngest participant.

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