Art of Time Ensemble's
"Black Flowers"
featuring Sarah Slean

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How did these nine exquisite songs come into the world? They are a mutual venture involving the imaginations and abilities of a number of figures from the Toronto music scene.

It begins with an idea called "The Songbook", which is an ongoing concert experience in the Art of Time Ensemble's repertoire. The Songbook stems from Artistic Director Andrew Burashko's pursuit to present music—avant-garde, popular, cabaret, jazz, classical—in ways audiences haven’t experienced.

In 2007, planning a new night of popular songs arranged for classical and non-classical musicians, Burashko turned to Sarah Slean.

Singer, songwriter, poet, painter, Slean had contributed two songs to the Art of Time's evening of music inspired by Schubert’s Piano Trio No. 2 in E-Flat. Planning a new night of popular songs arranged for classical and non-classical musicians, Burashko turned to her. “I thought of Sarah immediately—we had done the Schubert evening together and I was totally enamored of her—so I asked her to choose some of her favorite songs.” Slean had begun appearing professionally in Toronto when she was just twenty, playing the clubs and back rooms along King and Queen streets, those early gigs made memorable by her encounters with contemporary songwriters with whose music she fell in love.

“It was important that Sarah had an emotional connection to the songs,” Burashko continues. “No matter how the songs were messed with, there still had to be a strong connection for her. I’m not a fan of cross-over—I’m really not into pop musicians doing classical songs or vice versa. These are still pop songs, but they’re also adventures. And they get way more adventurous than most pop songs get.” Read Sarah's thoughts on her website about her song selections.

Slean selected the songs, Burashko the arrangers and musicians, and the program, called The Toronto Songbook with Sarah Slean, played to sold-out audiences at Harbourfront Centre’s Enwave Theatre on May 10 and May 11, 2007. And now, very wonderfully, the intricate magic of those evenings has been memorialized. Recorded at Puck’s Farm, an analogue studio just north of Toronto, and produced by Jonathan Goldsmith, these nine songs have now found their way to you. The playing is expert, the arrangements superb—and long may they glimmer in the great black night.

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