Poulenc wrote a solo flute piece!?
August 9, 2012

Every flute player has either played or heard Poulenc’s Flute Sonata (and if you haven’t, stop everything and find it on YouTube!), but until just a few years ago, we all believed that this was the sum total of his flute works.  Not so!

Until the late ’90s it remained unknown, hidden in the collection of Frederick R. Koch, a Yale graduate, until it arrived in the hands of the Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. The collection contained manuscripts of many of our valued composers: Debussy, Ravel, Berlioz, Faure, Gounod, Massenet, Duparc, Poulenc, Walton, Mozart, Schubert, Wagner, Puccini and Chopin, amongst others! Can you imagine having these manuscripts in your basement!?

Ransom Wilson, a professor at Yale, heard about this collection and immediately made an appointment to see the beautiful new acquisitions. He was not disappointed. The previously unknown work for solo flute is dated 1942. Wilson has this to say about the piece:

“Un Joueur de flute berce les ruines (A flute player lullabies the ruins) is in a modal, melancholic style. (…) Short and simple, but of undeniable beauty, [it] is undoubtedly an important addition to the solo flute repertoire.”
                                                              ~ Excerpt from Ransom Wilson’s Preface

Un Joueur de flute berce les ruines by Francis Poulenc is available at the Leading Note. Call or email today to order your copy!

Changes are afoot…
June 29, 2012

New book display!

Big changes are in the works at The Leading Note. We are currently implementing a plan to redesign our floor layout that will create more space for music in tight corners.


The first step in this plan is already complete: our “book section”, that is the place where we keep books about music, has been moved to the front of the store. In this location the books are more prominent, visible, and browsable. Come check it out!

Biographies and more!

Children's Books!

The rest of the front room will be shuffled around in the coming weeks. A few highlights to look forward to: piano collections will be easier to browse and you will be able to see the covers; the strings will have their own space alongside chamber music; piano methods and theory will be put together on neighbouring bookcases.

For comparison, here is the front of the store before:

Old front display.

The wind room will undergo some major renovations in July also: seven new bookcases will be moved into the room to make a new home for brass and percussion and more space for flute and clarinet.

In the back room, both choral and vocal music will be expanded significantly while harp will find a new home beside organ.

While these changes will take some getting used to for our regular customers, they will allow us to stock more music in every section. We last expanded back in 2004! We would love to hear your feedback as we implement this new design. Please post your comments below.

What do you think of our new
front-and-centre book section?

Another local bookshop closes its doors
June 13, 2012

After the closure of Nicholas Hoare’s Ottawa and Montreal locations at the end of April (and their gorgeous wooden bookshelves), we were saddened to learn yesterday of the imminent closure of Mother Tongue Books in Old Ottawa South. 

In a beautifully worded open letter, the co-owners of Mother Tongue Books write about the challenges of running a bookshop—they call it “extreme retail”—and the dramatic changes that continue to take place in the bookselling industry.  The authors note, however, that with all these challenges come great rewards, a sentiment that definitely rings true with us at The Leading Note (just replace “book” with “music score” in the excerpt below): 

Bookselling is a beautiful way to share ideas (and ideals), and to support new journeys of discovery, learning and change. One of the great joys of being a bookseller is putting the right book in the right hands. What a wonderful gift to be a part of the reading and creative lives of our customers and community!

The co-owners’ letter is worth reading in its entirety.  The authors make a case for supporting local shops because they in turn support and build community:

Now, more than ever, it is important to support your remaining local booksellers and businesses. They are the building blocks of vibrant neighbourhoods and communities. Next time you are at a community event, take the time to see which local businesses supported it; in turn, support those businesses.

Although The Leading Note is not a traditional “book store”, we feel a certain allegiance to all small, independent businesses, especially community-oriented ones like Mother Tongue Books.  With print music being our primary focus, the move to digitization will have an impact on us.  We will do our best to keep up with these changes and already offer a quick digital download printing service for last minute orders.  However, our passion will always be for a beautifully printed and bound publication.  We would love to hear our customers’ perspectives on these recent events.  Do you endeavour to support local businesses when possible?  Do you see yourself moving to a digital product in the near future?   

We at The Leading Note are certainly most grateful for your continued support of our little shop.  We wish the owners of Mother Tongue Books great success in their future endeavours.  Let’s hope that no more local shops will close their doors in the near future, further impoverishing Ottawa’s cultural industry.

Urtext Facsimiles of Masterworks from Henle Verlag
May 31, 2012

Thanks to our partnership with the University of Ottawa Music Library, we presently have a collection of interesting books on display at The Leading Note.  Because the Library is currently renovating part of their facility, we are holding onto some new aquisitions that we sourced for them until the Fall.  We are usually unable to keep rare books like these in stock so a special thank you to the Library for allowing us to put them on display for our customers.

The collection includes numerous facsimiles of manuscripts and original publications of masterworks from Beethoven, Mozart, Haydn, Chopin, Debussy, and other composers.

These facsimiles are published by Henle Verlag and are reproductions of the sources used to make their famous “urtext” editions. The facsimiles are beautifully bound with sewn spines and cloth covers.

Although we cannot stock these facsimiles regularly in our store, they are always available for special order. Come by our shop soon to view the books. They make great gifts for music lovers! You are welcome to purchase any of the facsimiles on the shelf (don’t worry, we will order another copy for the Library).

Special Choral Books from Podium Now in Store
May 30, 2012

We at The Leading Note have been busy in recent weeks helping to organize Podium, the biennial choral conference hosted by the Association of Canadian Choral Communities. We had a booth in the trade show at Podium this past weekend. For this special choral conference, we stocked a wide variety of books on choral strategies, vocal techniques, warm-ups, and sight-singing. Many of these books are new to the Leading Note and we are very excited to have them in stock. Please come by the shop to browse our special display which is now located in the choral room.

We also have multiple copies of many of the choral pieces performed at Podium as well as the titles featured in The Leading Note’s Children’s Choir Reading Session, hosted by local clinician Jackie Hawley. Among these are some of our top-selling choral titles, including Klee Wyck by Brian Tate and Al Shlosha and Shiru by Allan E. Naplan. We also featured several new pieces including the following:

Laura Hawley: Au champ d’honneur

Au champ d'honneurAu champ d’honneur is the official French adaptation of John McCrae’s famous poem In Flanders Fields for use in Remembrance Day ceremonies. Hawley has set the text for unison children’s choir with minor divisi used sparingly at the works climax. Unlike the original English poem, Au champ d’honneur has rarely been set for choir. Hawley’s composition is consequently a very useful addition to the repertoire of Canadian choral music.

Willi Zwozdesky: Hearth and Fire

This new arrangement by Vancouver composer Willi Zwozdesky of the traditional song Hearth & Fire is set for three-part children’s choir with piano. The setting is expertly crafted, moving from the unison beginning to a three-part climax that can optionally be sung a cappella.

Sandy Scofield: Song of Life

Song of LifeSandy Scofield is a singer/songwriter from the Saulteaux and Cree First Nations. Her Song of Life uses vocal sounds to convey a joyful celebration of life without using a literal text. The piece is scored for a solo singer who leads the chorus in canon. The piece is accompanied by rattle and hand drum.

Donald Patriquin: Carol of the Field Mice

The text of this new carol by Donald Patriquin is taken from Kenneth Grahame’s Wind in the Willows. Sung by a troup of field mice carrying lanterns through the night a-carolling, the song is overheards by Mole and Rat as they scavenge in the kitchen. Patriquin’s setting includes a few good vocal challenges for young singers including a descant on the final verse. This makes a good twist on the familiar Christmas concert repertoire.

Garrett/Nickel: I Dreamed of Rain

I Dreamed of Rain is a beautiful song by American singer-songwriter Jan Garrett arranged here for SSA choir by Larry Nickel, the curator of Cypress Choral Music. The arrangement is set so that each verse builds on the textural density of the previous one. Some brief four-part writing is reserved for the final coda, which ends a cappella.


We also have many other works by local composers whose works were performed at Podium, including Elise Letourneau, James Wright, and myself.


Fun Friday: Let the Music Move You!
May 25, 2012

The concert-going experience is pretty predictable. Often beautiful, and sometimes breath-taking – but predictable. You sit and watch while the orchestra sits and reads and plays. It’s an aural experience.

And yet the students at the University of Maryland are striving to make the classical music concert experience much more.

Their concerts feature everything from theatrical lighting design, to narrations read by orchestra members, to choreographed movement, as seen in this performance of Debussy’s “Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun”, choreographed by Liz Lerman.


What I find fascinating is that the opposite has been happening in the theatrical world for some time now. A number of musicals have been staged with actors who are also musicians – providing their own accompaniment on stage as part of the production. Lloyd Webber’s Sunset Boulevard, Finn’s A New Brain, Herman’s Mack and Mabel, and Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along, Company and Sweeney Todd have all been staged with the actor-musician concept. Here’s the cast of the 2006 Tony Award-winning Revival of Company performing “Side by Side”, directed by John Doyle.


While the U of M orchestra has taken “Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun” – an abstract piece – and has added a layer of theatricality through movement, Doyle has taken a theatrical piece and, by putting instruments in the hands of his actors, has moved it towards the abstract by pushing the “suspension of disbelief” line.

Does the added dimension of movement in a classical work and instruments on a theatrical stage add to or detract from your enjoyment of the work?
Should orchestral musicians stay in their chairs and should theatre musicians stay in the pit? Leave us a comment with your thoughts on the matter!

Podium Choral Conference coming to Ottawa in May!
April 27, 2012

Are you a choral conductor, chorister, composer, educator, administrator or overall choral enthusiast?  If so, you can’t miss the upcoming Podium 2012 - Choral Célébration Chorale taking placing in Ottawa from May 17-20.

A joint project of the Association of Canadian Choral Communities (ACCC) and Choirs Ontario, Podium 2012, is the top meeting place for Canada’s choral community and one of the best and most accessible professional development opportunities in the country.  Join us at the Lord Elgin Hotel and various performance venues in the Centretown area to hear some of Canada’s finest choirs, attend workshops with leading choral professionals, and exchange ideas with colleagues.

Podium 2012 will be the first Podium to be offered in both official languages. Workshops will be led by Francophone and Anglophone choral leaders and each session will include a powerpoint presentation in the other official language. In addition, all related handouts and print material will be available in both English and French and bilingual aides will be stationed throughout the venue to assist with directions and information. Welcome to our Francophone choral friends!
The Leading Note will be taking part, of course (it’s right up the street, how could we miss it!).  We will be hosting a Children’s Choir Reading Session on Saturday, May 19 at 9am, led by the wonderful Jackie Hawley, esteemed director of the Cantiamo Girls Choir and the Ottawa Children’s Choir.  The Leading Note will also have a display at the Podium MarketPlace Trade Show in the Lady Elgin room of the Lord Elgin Hotel.  Be sure to stop by and say ‘hi’.  We’ll have lots of choral music and other choral resources available with special discounts on orders placed at the show!
We could go on and on about all the amazing choirs from across Canada performing at Podium.  See the full list here.  We have tickets on sale at the shop for the three “Highlight” Concerts, available to the general public (fully registered Podium delegates get to attend these concerts at no extra charge).   The National Youth Choir and Toronto’s Elmer Iseler Singers perform Friday and Sunday night, respectively.  The Opening Gala Concert will feature a combined choir made up of singers from Ottawa-area community and high school choirs all under the direction of Matthew Larkin in a performance of Paul Winter’s enchanting Missa Gaia
The full schedule and registration form are available online at www.podium2012.ca.  The Leading Note is looking forward to seeing you there and welcoming all out of town visitors to our beautiful city!
Resonance: The New RCM Voice Series
April 13, 2012

They are finally here – all 13 books in the new RCM Voice Series arrived at The Leading Note yesterday afternoon.  RCM’s music publisher, Frederick Harris, has given the series the name “Resonance”, following in the new naming tradition of “Bridges” and “Overtones” (the new guitar and flute series, respectively).  The series follows an identical grading system to the old 3rd Edition books – there are Repertoire books for Preparatory to Level 8 and companion books of Vocalises and Recitatives for Grades 5-7, 8, and 9-10 (this last one available in high or low voice).

The new series also includes these great new features:

  • a piano accompaniment CD included with each Repertoire book
  • musical theatre selections are now included in the Repertoire books
  • an IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) chart is also included in each of the Repertoire and Vocalises/Recitatives books

As always, the series includes a wide range of eras and styles and features a variety of languages.  Also included is a selection of Canadian songs, composers, and arrangers.  These books are essential for RCM (Royal Conservatory of Music) exam preparation but provide a rich and varied selection of repertoire for any voice student.  A new RCM Voice Syllabus has also been released to replace the 2005 Edition so come by soon to pick up your copy!