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Mideast music, John Cage program are on the Koerner Hall agenda

A Middle Eastern music series, a centenary birthday for John Cage and the Toronto debuts of French countertenor Philippe Jaroussky and Australian cabaret queen Meow Meow are on the agenda for the Royal Conservatory of Music's Koerner Hall concerts next season.

Mervon Mehta, the conservatory's director of performing arts, described a new Music From Across the Middle Eastern series at the Koerner as "the centrepiece of our programming next year." The five shows will feature appearances by Ladino singer Yasmin Levy, Israeli folksinger Chava Alberstein, Toronto trumpeter David Buchbinder and the Jamey Haddad Arab Jazz Ensemble.

A four-concert cabaret series features shows by Ute Lemper and the Vogler Quartet, Max Raabe and the Palast Orchester - who sold out at the Koerner last season - and Meow Meow (Melissa Madden Gray), a trangressive Lady Gaga-like performer currently starring in a stage production of The Umbrellas of Cherbourg at London's Gielgud Theatre.

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Mehta's "more traditional" choices include concerts by pianists Louis Lortie and Angela Hewitt; violinists Itzhak Perlman, Gidon Kremer and Karen Gomyo, and cellist Steven Isserlis (performing a new piece by English wunderkind Thomas Adès); soprano Dawn Upshaw (singing a new piece by jazz composer Maria Schneider), mezzo-soprano Susan Graham, tenor Ian Bostridge and baritone Russell Braun; and chamber orchestra Les Violons du Roy with Maurice Steger, described by Mehta as "the Bruce Springsteen of the recorder."

Canadian composer Nicole Lizée will contribute a new piece to a birthday program for John Cage by So Percussion and electronic duo Matmos, and several musicians (including Lortie and André Watts) will perform works by Franz Liszt, born 200 years ago this coming October.

There will also be a performance by Bollywood singer Asha Bhosle, shows by Angélique Kidjo and Mavis Staples, and all-star tributes to James Brown and Stevie Wonder. Mehta said several more pop shows may be added to the season in the coming weeks.

Paid attendance at the Koerner's concert offerings, which began with completion of the hall in 2009, have risen to about 75 per cent this season, Mehta said, up from 68 per cent last year. He added that the performance series, which are partly funded by governments and private fundraising, are not a financial burden on the conservatory, which also runs faculty and student concerts at the smaller Mazzoleni Concert Hall.

Sales manager Heather Kelly said ticket prices for Koerner concerts will not rise from current levels and the conservatory will add live audio and video samples to its website ( by April 30. A smartphone app will also be available.

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About the Author

Robert Everett-Green is a feature writer at The Globe and Mail. He was born in Edmonton and grew up there and on a farm in eastern Alberta. He was a professional musician for several years before leaving that task to better hands. More

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