7 years ago

Volume 13 - Issue 4 - December 2007

cover storyChoral Scene

cover storyChoral Scene is king!by Allan PulkerOnce again Handel 's 266-year old masterpiece, Messiah,tops the December live performance chart by a wide margin.So it seemed fitting to choose as a cover image acomposite of performances of this masterwork, reflectingits extraordinary adaptability and appeal.In the foreground William Woloschuk (subject ofthis month's "Choral Life Q & A " on page 57) conductsthe Counterpoint Chorale's chamber version of the piece(see Dec 2). Behind them, looming like the ghost of Handelhimself, Ivars Taurins conducts the 2,650-strong audience in Tafelmusik's" Sing-along" Messiah at Massey Hall (Dec 23).There will be an extraordinary 23 performances of the work inthe GTA by 13 different presenters, and a further 14 beyond the GTA,by I O different presenters.Tafelmusik and the TSO (with the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir)lead the GTA charge, with five performances each in the week beforeChristmas. Pax Christi Chorale, however, is not far behind, with threeperformances, Dec 7,8, and 9. These thirteen GTA performances are allwith full orchestra, as are productions by Masterworks of Oakville (Dec2), the Mississauga Choral Society (Dec 9), and Ensemble Tryptych(Dec 7) -- Messiah, Part I. But sans orchestra does not necessarily meanless compelling! Take the Elmer lseler Singers Dec 7 rendition, for example,for which they join forces with the Amadeus Choir, and PatriciaWright on the massive Metropolitan United Church organ.Three of the Messiah performances in the GTA are of the singalongvariety - again with dramatic differences in scale: the CounterpointChorale, Tafelmusik at Massey Hall, and one at Eglinton-St.George's United Church, Dec 7, with piano, organ, trumpet and timpani,and the audience-participants seated in the round in sections like achoir. Wine will be available and " Mrs. Bach" herself, a.k.a. Mary LouFallis, will make a cameo appearance.Beyond the GTA the many performances of Messiah occur insuch a variety oflocations that no one in Southern Ontario will have to drivevery far to get to one. Kingston's Messiah is being presented by the KingstonSymphony Orchestra with the Kingston Choral Society on Dec7. The next weekend in Kitchener, the Grand Philharmonic Choir teamsup with the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony Orchestra. The GeraldFagan Singers/Fanshawe Chorus London perforn1ances (Dec 15-16)will be something ofa family affair; the soprano soloist will be Leslie Fagan,conductor, Gerald Fagan 's daughter. And the contralto soloist in theSerenata Choir's Messiah in Midland on December I will be Nina Scott­Stoddart, who moved to Nova Scotia five years ago but whom I rememberwell as the driving force behind a great little concert presenter called OperaAnonymous, during WholeNote's formative years. The alto soloist in theGrand River Chorus's Messiah will be countertenor Richard Cunningham,who is also the conductor of the RenaissanceSingers chamber choir. The Elora Festival Singers'Messiah in Elora on December 9 will undoubtedly be impeccablydone, probably with more emphasis on the lightnessand virtuosity of the music than all but the finestchoirs can muster.So, as ever, Messiah returns in a multiplicity ofguises, but always energizing, inspiring and uplifting. Icould speculate "till the cows come home" about whatmakes this work so appealing, but we are more interestedin your thoughts. Please share them with me, and all ofus, at only other programming that leaps from our listings pages thismonth the way Messiah does, is the extraordinary "John McDermottand Friends" Southern Ontario tour--no fewer than 16 December appearancesin as many different venues! Not a choral story, per se, exceptthat McDermott is a distinguished graduate of St. Michael'sChoir School, which not only offers first rate musical training to itsstudents, but has been presenting annual Christmas concerts (this yearDec 14 and 15) at Massey Hall since 1939! (The faces around the edgesof the cover are those of the school 's current crop of choristers, intribute to the school 's ongoing role in our town's life.)This year, conductors Dr. Jerzy Cichocki and Caron Daley willlead the 250 choristers in a programme of seasonal sacred and secularmusic, including William Mathias' Salva/or mundi and works by Berlioz,Bruckner and Mendelssohn. They do not shy away from the lighterside of the season either -- White Christmas and Carol of the bells. aswell as much-loved carols arranged by composer, Karl Jenkins.While the opportunity to sing is tragically no longer available ona consistent basis in our pub! ic education system, a really vibrant networkof children's choirs has grown up over the years. There are manychoral concerts in December, and a good many of these are by children'sand youth choirs - too many to enumerate, but there to be discoveredin both the GTA and the Further Afield listings. (So indeed aremany other extraordinary choral offerings this December, by choirslarge and small, reflecting the extent to which, at this time of year as atno other, the choral scene is truly king.)In stark contrast to December, January does not have a lot ofchoral music, but what's there is substantial: The Viva Youth SingersJanuary 19 in a program of Chant-based choral music; The Elora FestivalSingers (quick recovery!) Jan 20 in an all-Canadian program; and avery interesting Choral Symposium Concert January 26 in which theYork University Chamber Choir and the Ottawa Bach Choir will collaborate,to name but three of several.However, when it comes to December music, choral is king!Take advantage ofat least a little of the abundance available. (Andwhere you can, sing along!)

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