8 years ago

Volume 10 Issue 8 - May 2005

  • Text
  • Choir
  • Toronto
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  • Choral
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COVER STORY I Choral conductor Lydia Adallls interviewed by Allan. Pulker 1 The 2004-05 season is the thirtieth for the Amadeus Choir. In that time it has grown from a small, enthusiastic group of singers at St. Mark's United Church in Scarborough to a professional level ensemble of 100 voices which has garnered rave reviews for its performances, has made six recordings and is constantly commissioning new works. Much of this accomplishment has occurred under the direction of the choir's conductor and artistic director, Lydia Adams, now in her twentieth year with Amadeus. Q. How is the Amadeus Choir different from when I interviewed you nine years ago? Lydia: The sight-singing ability has shot up · as has the general level of ability. The Amadeus Chamber Singers are at a level where they have been able to join the Elmer lseler Singers to record Harry Freedman's complete choral music and also to make a CD put out by CBC records of two major choral works by Christos Hatzis - Everlasting Light and De Angelis. The choir now sings at a professional level, even though all buJ a handful are not. I will still bring people in who are not up to the standard, and give them a chance to · raise their abilities. They promise to work hard, prepare for rehearsals and take voice lessons, and usually it works out. With the soprano section, however, I really have to demand everything that the choir needs. The sopranos' sound colours the whole choir, which is why you need extraordinary singers in the soprano section. What you need in a choral singer is extraordinary musical skills and the ability to work as part of a team. Your voice, no matter how good, needs to blend within your section. A choir is a microcosm of Canada, of the world, which needs a merging of individuals in a common, dare I say, spiritual purpose. It is incredibly revitalizing when it takes place. Q. Some of the ingredients of choral conducting seem obvious: really knowing the music. being good with people, knowing how to get them on your side, knowing how to run a productive rehearsal ... . But what goes into "artistic vision"? Lydia: Thinking all the time about developing programs for the choir. I have to think two to three years ahead, you know. Where is the choir going to be two or three years from now, what will they be able to do, what will challenge them? In terms of what I am looking for in the music I choose, I have been realizing more and more how important spirituality is. After our last concert there were some people in tears and there have been several people (harmonica virtuoro so Larry Adler was one) who asked that our recording of Everlasting Light be played for them while they were dying. There is a hunger for the spiritual which the beauty of the sound of the human voice singing a beautiful text set to beautiful music can satisfy. Q. Where do you look for repertoire? Lydia: I'm always looking. I go to lots of conferences. If I come away with one good new piece I consider myself to have done well. Then there are friends, wonderful composers, like Eleanor Daley, who are always sending scores. Or you phone them up and ask them. We recently commissioned Eleanor Daley to compose a setting of Salutation to the Dawn, Doris McCarthy's favourite poem. For two years Stephen Chatman has written pieces for us. It is so great to be performing new m4sic. The trick is to inspire young composers. That was Elmer [Iseler]'s great genius. He would take works that were sub par and raise them by his performance. I'm always listening for music I want tci perform and composers whose music I want to perform. There's a composer in New Zealand who has sent carols for our competition. I'm interested in his work, and . keep in touch. There is so much innovative choral composing going on in England, Sweden, Denmark, Latvia and Estonia. Q. Are you optimistic about the future of choral music in Canada? Lydia: We have great children's choirs here and children's choir conductors - people like Jean Ashworth Bartle, Linda Beaupre and Gerry Fagan, with whom I will be working this summer in the Ontario Youth Choir - who are inspirations both to the kids who sing in their choirs and to other conductors. Many of the children in these choirs join youth choirs and then adult choirs after that. These children have incredible role models and from a very early age become professionals. Edmonton, Calgary and Newfoundland, all of them have strong children's and youth choirs and are producing great singers. Q. Does your work with the Elmer Iseler Singers influence your Amadeus work? Lydia: Every group you work with affects your sensibilities. There was a time when I had just started conducting, when I wondered how I was going to fill the time in rehearsal. What do we do now that we have gotten past the notes? That's the question and the challenge. You have to know what you're looking for: That's what keeps you going. Q. How do you develop that knowledge? Lydia: Your mentors are very important. I had two stunning mentors, David Willcocks and Elmer Iseler. Willcocks, besides being a wonderful musician, was an incredible rehearsal manager. He always planned his rehearsals so that they ended right on time! I learned from him to vary the demands I make on my singers so they're not getting tired and tha.t I'm keeping their concentrawww. THEWHOLENOTE.COM tion. Above all I have learned that the music is first, and my first priority is to bring the music to life. That way there is no room for ego and we're always trying to develop. Another thing about David Willcocks was that he always welcomed questions and was very gracious to his singers. Elmer and Lloyd Bradshaw too, influenced so many people. People who worked with them felt that they had been touched by greatness. Q. There are going to be almost 160 choirs profiled in this issue of WholeNote. 1 am struck by the discrepancy between the reality of thousands of people engaging in this disciplined and demanding activity and the image reflected back to us from the media: everyone glued to TV, sports, etc. Lydia: There was an incredible study done by the American Choral Conductors Association about the number of people who sing in choirs. Singing is a very physical thing and provides a very positive stimulus to the brain, the body and the psyche. I think that has a lot to do with it. Of all Lydia 's comments in our all-too-brief interview, the one that stuck most is the remark about the music being first, and the conductor's first responsibility being to bring the music to life. It put me in mind of my student day rehearsals with Deral Johnson of the Faculty of Music Chorale at the University of Western Ontario, at 3:30 in the afternoon, a time of day more suited to siesta than song. The first half hour was a struggle, then, from the music, magically, energy and a scintillating level of engagement would come. I also found myself remembering, a couple of years later, joining another choir with a young conductor who had studied with the right people, knew the music inside out, never missed a cue, and in his fussy search for perfection spent all the time working out details instead of singing. There will be two more opportunities to be touched by Lydia Adams' choral magic this season: the Amadeus Choir's next performance will be of J. S. Bach's Mass in B Minor at the George Weston Recital Hall on May 28. The next performance of the 20- voice professional choir, the Elmer /seler Singers, which she also conducts, titled The Celtic Spirit, will be at Glenn Gould Studio on Friday May 6. MAY 1 - JUNE 7 2005

Me[ebrat-in.g ozart 0 and playing 5 peace I. minfania ioronto · NURHAN ARMAN MUSIC DIRECTOR Toronto's Premier Chamber Orchestra 2005-2006 MAS TE RP L ECE SERIES ... 7 SATURDAYS AT 8 PM GLENN GOULD STUDIO, 250 FRONT STREET WEST Oct15 ROBERT SILVERMAN Pianist BlBER Battalia MOZART PianoConcertoK449 BARB ER Adagio for Strings DVORAK "American Quartet," arr.Annan Nov12 ET SUKO KIMURA Violinist MOZART Violin Concerto No, 1 SHOSTAKOVlCH Sinfonia Op. 110, arr. Arman STRAVlNSKY Apollon Musagete March 4 BEVERLEY Percussionist BURCE Flanders Fields Reflections (commissioned work) HA TZ l S Love Among the Ruins (In the aftermath of September 11) V l VA LD L Concerto TCHAlKOWSKY Quartet No.1, arr. Arman April 8 CARLO PALLESCHI Guest Conductor RAFAEL HOEKMAN Cellist MORAWETZ Divertimento HAYDN ,Cello Concerto in C BARTOi< Divertimento HAYDN Divertimento May6 SCOTT ST. JOHN Violinist STRA V lN SKY Concerto in D SCHUBERT Rondo , SARAS A TE Zigeunerweisen HONEGGER Symphony No. 2 MOZART Divertimento K 136 Christmas Treats Dec 3 at the Walmer Centre GIUSEP PE .. LANZETTA Guest Conductor Etsuko Kimura, Leonid Peisahov, Konstantin Popovic, Aleksandar Gajic, Violinists V l V ALD l The Four Seasons PENTLAND Holiday Suite MAN FRED LN l Christmas Concerto Feb4 MICHAEL ESCH Pianist MOZART Eine Kleine Nachtmusik STRAUSS Metamorphosen BRAHMS Quintet for Piano and Strings MAY 1 - ]UNE 7 2005 WWW. THEWHOLENOTE.COM

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