7 years ago

Volume 21 Issue 4 - December 2015/January 2016

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What's a vinyl renaissance? What happens when Handel's Messiah runs afoul of the rumba rhythm setting on a (gasp!) Hammond organ? What work does Marc-Andre Hamelin say he would be content to have on every recital program he plays? What are Steve Wallace's favourite fifty Christmas recordings? Why is violinist Daniel Hope celebrating Yehudi Menuhin's 100th birthday at Koerner Hall January 28? Answers to all these questions (and a whole lot more) in the Dec/Jan issue of The WholeNote.

A Living Legacy In

A Living Legacy In Memory Of A Mentor And Friend Sir David Willcocks (1919-2015) LYDIA ADAMS On Saturday, December 19 at 7:30pm, Yorkminster Park Baptist Church will ring out with the sounds of carols and Chanukah songs old and new as Toronto’s Amadeus Choir, along with the glorious voices of the Bach Children’s Chorus, joins with the Trillium Brass, composer and pianist Eleanor Daley and organist Shawn Grenke to celebrate the life of Sir David Willcocks, the great British choral director, who died in September. This event is much more than simply a tribute to a great musician for me personally, as Sir David was a great mentor and friend to me. Our connection goes back to 1976 during my student days at the Royal College of Music in London, where he was warm, generous, welcoming and encouraging to me. He gave the students at the RCM tremendous opportunity to perform on a professional level and, with his expectation of the highest standard, brought students to a higher level of performance than they could have expected, at a crucial time in our development. We could not have been in better hands. I was fortunate enough to sing with and play for him for the five years I was in London. My very first performance with him was as a member of the Royal College of Music Chorus, for the memorial service for Benjamin Britten in Westminster Abbey, with Sir Peter Pears singing the lead role in Britten’s St. Nicholas Cantata; and my final performance with him was as a member of the Bach Choir, singing at the royal wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer. In addition to recording sessions, there were many, many performances at the Royal Festival Hall, the Royal Albert Hall, King’s College Chapel in Cambridge, annual performances at Wormwood Scrubs prison and touring throughout England, Wales and Europe. Along with his uncompromising standard of excellence, he was one of the kindest people I have ever met. For all his brilliance, he had a profound humility. He led by example in his meticulous rehearsal technique and in his way of working with people. He gave young singers such as the Amadeus Choir’s honorary patron, mezzo-soprano Catherine Wyn-Rogers, their very first major performance opportunities, and he kept up with and supported all our careers as we travelled forward. He was extremely important in the life of our own great Canadian baritone, Gerald Finley, and had a profound effect on many choral musicians of Canada: Jean Ashworth Bartle, Robert Cooper, Elmer Iseler, Gerald Fagan and Peter Partridge, among many others throughout the country. He came to Toronto on several occasions as an honorary patron of the Amadeus Choir to conduct us and the Elmer Iseler Singers in extraordinary performances of Handel’s Messiah and Bach’s B Minor Mass. Every singer involved in those performances sang for him to the very best of their ability – sang from their hearts – and they, along with their audiences, were rewarded with some of the most brilliant performances you will ever hear of those works. Sir David Willcocks was the consummate musician. He was well known for the annual Service of Nine Lessons and Carols from the magnificent King’s College Chapel in Cambridge, and he turned the service into an annual broadcast event not to be missed by musicians around the world. He made many recordings with his King’s College Choir, but none more loved than his performance of the Requiem of Gabriel Fauré, which was released in 1967. He had a spiritual connection with this most sublime of compositions, and his performance with the King’s Chapel Choir, John Carol Case, baritone, and Robert Chilcott, treble, is a benchmark performance in the choral world. Sir David succeeded Reginald Jacques as the musical director of the Bach Choir in 1960. With this magnificent group of 300 singers, he performed all the great choral repertoire and championed the works of British composers Vaughan Williams, Howells, Britten, Elgar and Tippett among many others. As a singer in the Bach Choir, I performed the Bach St. Matthew Passion with them each year and toured and recorded with the choir regularly. I recall that we had just finished a recording of some of his famous Carols for Choirs, when we were told that it was the very first recording ever with a new technique, something called digital recording! We also recorded the Bach St. Matthew Passion (in English). Each year, the Bach Choir would perform a sold-out Christmas program at the Royal Albert Hall with the Phillip Jones Brass Ensemble and the massive organ of the Royal Albert Hall. Composition competition: Another aspect of Sir David’s legacy will also be on display at our December 19 concert: As part of his association with the Bach Choir, he had started a composition competition for children to write a Christmas carol. The lucky winner had her or his carol arranged by Sir David himself for the 300-strong singers of the Bach Choir and the Philip Jones Brass Ensemble, and it was always a magical moment when the time came for the performance of that work. It was an amazing way to inspire young composers. Sir David and the Bach Choir’s annual Christmas concerts at the Royal Albert Hall became the inspiration for the Amadeus Choir’s own seasonal composition competition, now in its 29th year. Through this competition the Amadeus Choir and the Bach Children’s Chorus with conductor Linda Beaupré have sung premieres of hundreds of carols and Chanukah songs, along with a number of winter solstice pieces. This Amadeus Choir’s annual competition for composers has been an important stepping-off point for many of Canada’s finest composers for choirs, including Eleanor Daley, Mark Sirett, Matthew Emery, Scott Tresholm, Kunle Owalabi, Malcolm Edwards and Sheldon Rose, among many others. (The collaboration with Linda Beaupré and the Bach Children’s Chorus has been vital to its success, as has Eleanor Daley’s role as an arranger of the carols by children.) On December 19, we will be singing nine new works, including one called Mary’s Lullaby by eight-year-old composer Antonia Dragomir, who also wrote her own stunningly beautiful lyrics. There is an amazing Chanukah piece, Al Hanassim, by Adam Adler from Thornhill in the youth category and we will have premieres in the adult amateur and professional categories that we consider outstanding. In the spirit of Canada, as we move forward this annual competition for composers will take on a new focus, starting with the upcoming 30th anniversary: it will become more inclusive and welcoming of new works written in a spirit of diversity. It will also include an exciting additional component: a workshop with some of our finest composers here in Toronto, to assist young and amateur composers in building and honing their skills. When Eleanor Daley’s arrangement of Antonia Dragomir’s Mary’s Lullaby is being sung by the Bach Children’s Chorus on December 19 in the wonderful space of Yorkminster Park Baptist Church, I will be smiling: in memory of a great musician and in pleasure at a moment that reflects his ongoing legacy. It is a legacy evidenced in the thousands of conductors, singers, instrumentalists and audience members throughout the world who have been inspired by his outstanding leadership and musicianship, as well as all his recordings, arrangements and original works. Lydia Adams is conductor and artistic director of Amadeus Choir of Toronto and the Elmer Iseler Singers. 28 | December 1 2015 - February 7, 2016

Beat by Beat | Choral Scene Emerging Conductors BRIAN CHANG Walter Mahabir greets me with a big hug and a huge smile on his face. We’re in the busy Coffee Pub at the Centre for Social Innovation Annex, the home of The WholeNote. We haven’t seen each other since Luminato’s staging of Apocalypsis where we sang in separate choirs that made up the monumental work. He’s the new assistant conductor of the Orpheus Choir and one of the reasons I’m focusing on emerging conductors this month. He’s younger than I am by a few years and represents the exact kind of fresh air in choral conducting that I’m looking for and that I respond to. He’s young and attractive, has a gentle yet firm approach and even broke into song uninhibited during our interview. For him, choral music has been fully intertwined with his life from an early age. He’s a proud graduate of the musical halls of St Michael’s Choir School. He has a breadth of experience behind him as well. At York University he studied conducting under Lisette Canton. He’s sung tenor with the Cantabile Chamber Singers, the Canadian Men’s Chorus, the Nathaniel Dett Chorale and the Orpheus Choir. Jennifer Min-Young Lee: The second individual in this month’s focus is Jennifer Min-Young Lee, the new associate conductor of the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir. As a child she was fully immersed in a hybrid youth leadership, skills-building and education program all revolving around music. Born and raised in South Korea, Jennifer spent many summer and winter breaks immersed in the World Vision Children’s Choir. In 1960, children who lost their parents in the Korean War were organized by World Vision into a choir to share love and hope while building their skills and experience. The legacy of this choir continues to this day. Lee explains that this was how she came to learn and interact with music. This intensive musical experience occupied her every break from school. With a master’s in choral conducting from the Eastman School of Music at the University Walter Mahabir of Rochester and an undergraduate degree in music and education from the University of Western Ontario, Jennifer has solid credentials and solid skills. She’s a powerhouse of a conductor and educator. She laughs nervously as she lists all her musical obligations. It’s a gentle way to express humility. She’s a full-time music teacher at Bur Oak Secondary School in York Region. She helms a vocal program of over 100 students as well as piano majors. Most of her students have never had any formal musical education. She takes them as they are and teaches them key skills as they grow and come to embrace the Berlioz L’enfance du Christ Pax Christi Chorale & Orchestra with Nathalie Paulin, Olivier Laquerre, Alain Coulombe, Sean Clark, Matthew Zadow Saturday, December 5, 7:30p.m. & Sunday, December 6, 3:00p.m. Grace Church on-the-Hill an Ontario government agency un organisme du gouvernement de l’Ontario December 1 2015 - February 7, 2016 | 29

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