8 years ago

Volume 18 Issue 8 - May 2013

  • Text
  • Choir
  • Toronto
  • Theatre
  • Concerts
  • Musical
  • Jazz
  • Choral
  • Singers
  • Festival
  • Vocal
Includes the 2013 Canary Pages choral directory.

Frank NagyThe second

Frank NagyThe second East and West event will be Soundstreams’ seasonfinale concert, “Music for China,” on May 14, which also happens tobe their first stop on the way to touring in China. Featuring music forchamber orchestra written by Chinese, North American and Europeancomposers, the concert will include performances by the CanadianAccordes String Quartet and the Chai Found Music Workshop — anensemble from Taiwan that specializes in contemporary classical aswell as traditional Chinese and Taiwanese music. I do have to notea heartening feature of this concert program, even though it is notmentioned in any of the media releases (which is not to be taken asa criticism, but rather a sign of progress). All works on the programare written by women, with the exception of the piece composed byMurray Schafer. This fascinating lineup includes composers DorothyChang (USA), Fuhong Shi (China), Alexina Louie (Canada) and KaijaSaariaho (Finland).Contemporary choral: Four concerts of contemporary choral musicare in store for lovers of this genre. The Oriana Women’s Choir celebratesthe 80th birthday of Ruth Watson Henderson on May 25 witha concert featuring several of her compositions along with premieresby emerging composers. On June 1 the Amadeus Choir joins withthe Bach Children’s Chorus to present Henderson’s Voices of Earthand a premiere by Eleanor Daley. And on May 10, the Upper CanadaChoristers sing music of the Americas, including pieces by AstorPiazzolla (Fuga y misterio) and Eric Whitacre (Lux Aurumque) sungby their highly accomplished Latin ensemble Cantemos. If you haven’tyet heard the virtual choir version of Lux Aurumque — it’s a must. Goto YouTube and search it out. Whitacre’s music is also included in theDa Capo Chamber Choir’s concerts on May 4 (Kitchener) and May 5(Waterloo), along with works by Leonard Enns and Glenn Buhr.Emerging: New sounds by young composers can be experiencedat two events, both happening on May 25. At the Music Gallery, the∆TENT ensemble performs works by emerging local and internationalcomposers, while the group called “(insert TITLE)” showcases worksfor the marimba. Arraymusic presents their annual Young Composers’Workshop Concert with premieres by four emerging composerswho have spent the month workshopping and experimenting withmembers of the Array ensemble to create their new pieces.With such an eclectic mix of concerts representing widely divergingaesthetics to choose from, this month offers the perfect time toopen your ears to something you may not have encountered before.And in so doing, you will be right in step with the stimulating forcesspring offers.Wendalyn Bartley is a Toronto-based composer and electro-vocalsound artist. the JACK Quartet,Aiyun Huang, The McGill andUniversity of TorontoPercussion Ensembles, andTorQ Percussion QuartetMay 24–25, 2013in Toronto and WaterlooFor more by Beat | Choral SceneSolemnis SpiritMore than any other musician before Wagner, Beethovenexemplified the idea of composer as spiritual leader, the artistas visionary genius who compels the support of performers,teachers and historians to realize his dreams and ideas.Beethoven is an approachablegenius, though. Hisachievements are leavened andhumanized by his vulnerability,his awkwardness bordering onmisanthropy and his loneliness.Through the insights we garnerfrom his letters and notebookswe are witness to his very humanstruggles with friends, familyand colleagues, to his franticrewriting and experimentationwith his own work.With few exceptions, everynote of Beethoven’s oeuvrefeels like something is at stake.To be involved in a performanceof his work sometimesseems, in a small way, likesharing in his struggles. Asmuch as any of his works, theMissa Solemnis — performed inToronto on May 15 by the TorontoMendelssohn Choir — exemplifiesthis phenomenon.BENJAMIN STEINThe Toronto MendelssohnChoir and Festival Orchestraperforming at Koerner Hall.It’s generally accepted that Beethoven did not write sympatheticallyfor voices. He was certainly not alone in this. In many instances Bachappeared to think of the voice as an instrument with a human beingattached. Many of both composers’ solo and choral vocal lines, beautifullywrought, are only possible to execute faithfully as long as thesinger does not have to breathe for minutes on end.The choral section of Beethoven’s famous Ninth Symphony is a halfhourlong vocal rollercoaster ride that taxes both the solo quartet andthe choir with sustained high tessitura writing, dynamic extremes thatrequire skilled vocal control, long instrumental-style passages with noroom to breathe, all combined with the challenge of being heard overthe wall of sound created by brass, winds, strings and tympani.The Missa Solemnis is the same thing, multiplied by three.It is the extreme nature of the vocal writing in the Missa Solemnisthat makes it especially challenging. Beethoven’s cruelly high melodiclines and virtuosic instrumental writing were well beyond the capabilitiesof the players and singers of the time, and the first performanceof the work (in Russia, 1824) was famously ragged. It was notpublished in its entirety until after his death.PETER MAHONSales Representative416-322-8000pmahon@trebnet.comwww.petermahon.com20 | May 1 – June 7, 2013

But in writing music that outstripped the capabilities of the musiciansof the time, Beethoven founded the idea of the composition asartistic and spiritual summit, to which musicians must aspire andstrive. Wagner and Stravinsky would continue this tradition, forcingmusicians to develop new technical prowess, matching their abilitiesto new sounds that the world had never experienced. The Italianverismo vocal training of the late 19th and early 20th centuriesfounded a tradition of vocal heft that could deliver the heaviness ofsound required by late Beethoven composition and the music thatfollowed in its wake.The Missa Solemnis is infused with the same spirit as the NinthSymphony and other late period Beethoven — a musical expressionof faith lockedin combat withdoubt. Extremesof mood conveyan almostdesperate sense ofBeethoven’s desireto connect to theworld around him.The TorontoMendelssohnChoir is perhapsthe only groupin the region thatcan marshal theforces for sucha mammothwork. A largescalechoir inthe 19th centurymode, the TMCis well equippedto be able tohandle the technicalelementsof the work and to have a fighting chance to avoid being swamped bythe orchestra. This is a massive undertaking for any ensemble and achance to hear it live is not to be missed.The Missa Solemnis is a kind of apotheosis of the European masstradition, but innumerable other mass settings exist to cater to alltastes. A homegrown Canadian example that draws on one importantstrain in our history is the Celtic Mass for the Sea written by ScottMacMillan, a legendary folk musician from the East Coast. For their“Celtic Tide” concert on June 1 the VOCA Chorus has assembled a kindof Canadian Celtic supergroup, experienced and renowned playerswho bring their deep knowledge of Irish folk tradition to the music.The VOCA Chorus, led by veteran conductor and pianist JennyCrober, has made a specialty of combining classical works withfolk and popular elements. Their Celtic-themed concerts have beenincreasing in popularity each year, and tickets for this current concertare reportedly in high demand.Celtic Mass for the Sea was commissioned by the CBC in 1988 andhas garnered many performances since then. The work blends theexuberant nature of Celtic rhythms with the resonance of the ancientmass text. Macmillan is planning to travel to Toronto to attend theperformance and will give a pre-concert lecture on the work. Readmore about this concert at on the subject of modern Canadian works: I took part ina concert recently where the hapless ticket seller was quizzed aboutthe nature of the music involved. The potential concert-goer wantedto make certain that whatever works were on the program would notbe too “modern.” Assurances that the most modern composer of theevening died in 1986 were barely sufficient.Yes, this happened. It’s common enough, really, so there’s no pointin being all snobby about it. Many people actively fear contemporarymusic, and I’ll address that in depth in future columns. But folks, yourfriends, neighbours and colleagues are exploring new works in theirvarious choirs every week. All of them, or at least most of them, makeit back after rehearsal with their sanity intact. If they can do it, so canyou. Here are a few concerts to consider this month.This year’s celebrations of Ruth Watson Henderson’s 80th birthdaycontinue with a concert of her works by the Oriana Women’s Choiron May 25. Read my appreciation of Watson Henderson’s work in myOctober 2012 column which you can find on The Wholenote’s website.On May 4 and 5, Waterloo’s DaCapo Chamber Choir performs“Leonardo Dreams,” a concert featuring works by the ensemble’sconductor Leonard Enns, fellow Canadian Glenn Buhr and AmericanEric Whitacre, all of whom write very well for choir and whose workshave enjoyed repeated success with audiences.Enns’ and Watson Henderson’s works are also featured in a concertby Barrie’s Lyrica Chamber Choir on May 25, along with works byHealy, Estacio and Mozetich.On May 24 and 25, another woman’s chorus, Etobicoke’s HarmonySingers, performs an all-Canadian program of popular works, withsongs by k.d.lang, Joni Mitchell, Barenaked Ladies and Michael Bublé.On June 2 the VIVA! Youth Singers perform Dean Burry’s A MedievalBestiary, which is a cantata specially written for children’s voices.Burry’s work is both well wrought and appealing, and ought to be avery good introduction to classically styled music theatre for children.On the subject of youth choirs, I recently had the pleasure of doingsome vocal coaching for the Bach Children’s Chorus. It was an educationto watch conductor Linda Beaupré — as experienced a choralmusician as we have in Toronto — work with the next generation ofchoral singers. Her Bach Chamber Youth Choir, performing on May 11with the Bach Children’s Chorus, is a rare youth ensemble catering tomid- and older teens interested in choral singing.Finally, a free concert: the Caribbean Chorale of Toronto performs atthe Church of St. Stephen on May 5.Ben Stein is a Toronto tenor and theorbist.He ca e contacted at his website at May 1 – June 7, 2013 | 21

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