3 years ago

Volume 25 Issue 4 - December 2019 / January 2020

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Welcome to our December/January issue as we turn the annual calendar page, halfway through our season for the 25th time, juggling as always, secular stuff, the spirit of the season, new year resolve and winter journeys! Why is Mozart's Handel's Messiah's trumpet a trombone? Why when Laurie Anderson offers to fly you to the moon you should take her up on the invitation. Why messing with Winterreisse can (sometimes) be a very good thing! And a bumper crop of record reviews for your reading (and sometimes listening) pleasure. Available in flipthrough here right now, and on stands commencing Thursday Nov 28. See you on the other side!

There was a dichotomy

There was a dichotomy between performance-oriented professional choirs and singing groups such as glee clubs. One was seen to be very serious, the other, with its fun and relaxed environment, often struggling to be taken seriously, even though it took as much energy and enthusiasm to form a glee club. There was rarely an in-between. I appreciated Lane Osborne and the GCVI choir for pointing to a way to bring that “in-between” to fruition. Handel’s Messiah rap, anyone? Maybe next year. Ivars Taurins as Mr. Handel sing-along Messiahs, returning to Roy Thomson Hall for the second year in a row while their usual venue for this (Massey Hall) is under renovation. The Tafelmusik Chamber Choir is accompanied by the Tafelmusik Orchestra, with soloists Margot Rood (soprano), Lucile Richardot (mezzo-soprano), Thomas Hobbs (tenor), and Peter Harvey (baritone), all under the direction of “Mr. Handel himself.” The Glee Effect: Speaking about children and sing-along Messiahs reminds me, in a topsy-turvy roundabout way, of a column I recently wrote on the Guelph Chamber choir. I subsequently had the pleasure of seeing the choir perform a few weeks later. The beautifully arranged concert, titled “Five Days that Changed the World,” featured the Guelph Collegiate Vocational Institute (GCVI) Chamber Choir, conducted by Lane Osborne, made up of high school students from GCVI. I left it filled with inspiration at the way choir members provided various background sounds, and the fact that the concert was primarily a cappella. One song in particular stayed with me, In Your Eyes by Peter Gabriel, arranged by Deke Sharon. What I enjoyed about it was Osborne’s choice to use a student (a young man) to play percussion. Not in the way you’d expect, however, but rather using his mouth to provide a percussion line for the choir. I saw what he was doing and thought, “Oh, he is a beatboxer!” (“Vocal percussionist,” I learned that day, is the more formal term in choral circles.) I found myself closing my eyes and focusing on him, such was his accuracy and skill. I have noticed a rise in a cappella performances in choral circles in recent years, but Osborne’s inclusion of a vocal percussionist gave me Sister Act vibes. As a kid, I would suggest songs from that movie soundtrack to choir directors, always itching to reproduce that upbeat, soulful presence in a room. I loved the film for demonstrating that choirs could be enjoyable and used as a release. And while I was in choirs, we would be asked to produce sounds mimicking things like winds and rain to set a tone for the audience, the percussion in “In Your Eyes” was something more fundamental than that. Today’s generation would compare the work to songs featured on the TV show Glee or the film Pitch Perfect. As someone who started singing in choirs relatively early, I have always been aware of the extent to which my peers thought of choirs being stuffy and rigid. Although I always had fun and knew that the reality of choir environments contradicted these assumptions, I also knew that it did not always seem this way to unfamiliar eyes. CHORAL SCENE QUICK PICKS (details in the listings sections) SO MUCH MESSIAH, SO LITTLE TIME! !! NOV 29 AND 30, 8PM: The Georgetown Bach Chorale present Choruses from Messiah and Bach’s Christmas Oratorio Parts 1 and 6. Directed by Ron Greidanus with accompaniment by the Baroque Orchestra. At St. Elias The Prophet Ukrainian Church on November 29 and Christ Church Anglican on November 30. !! DEC 1, 2PM: With the Welland-Port Colborne Concert Association, Choralis Camerata will present Handel’s Messiah with soloists Melissa-Marie Shriner, soprano; Christina Stelmakovich, mezzo; Laurence Wiliford, tenor; and Michael York, bass. At the Dr. J.M. Ennis Auditorium at Welland Centennial Secondary School. !! DEC 17, 18, 19 AND 20, 7:30PM: Tafelmusik partners with Evergreen Brick Works for this year’s Messiah, with one dollar from each ticket sold going towards Evergreen’s Don River Valley revitalization project. With soloists Margot Rood, soprano; Lucile Richardot, mezzo-soprano; Thomas Hobbs, tenor; and Peter Harvey, baritone; under the direction of Ivars Taurins. At Koerner Hall in Toronto. For a full list of Messiah performances visit and type “Messiah” into the search. DECEMBER DEFINITELY NOT THE MESSIAH! !! DEC 6, 8PM: The Exultate Chamber Singers present “Holidays with a Twist: A Merry Romp Through Some Festive Favourites,” at St. Thomas’s Anglican Church in Toronto. !! DEC 7, 7:30PM; DEC 8, 2:30PM: Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker. Enjoy the music of the ballet, presented by the Niagara Symphony Orchestra in “A Symphonic Bon-Bon: The Nutcracker in Concert.” Joined by Chorus Niagara Children’s Chorus with chorus director Amanda Nelli and conductor Bradley Thachuk. At FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre in St. Catharines, Ontario. !! DEC 8, 4PM: Joined by the Salvation Army North York Temple Band, the Toronto Youth Choir offers “On Winter’s Night,” showcasing works by Chilcott and Rutter. At St Andrew’s Church in Toronto. !! DEC 10, 11 AND 12, 8PM: Also with a matinee performance DEC 11, 2PM. Vocal powerhouse Measha Brueggergosman joins the TSO, with the Etobicoke Schools of the Arts Holiday Chorus, for TSO Holiday Pops at Roy Thomson Hall under the direction of conductors Steven Reinecke (Dec 10 and 11) and Lucas Waldin (Dec 12). A CAPPELLA, ANYONE? !! DEC 6, 7:30PM: Join local masters of the art form, the a cappella group, Cadence, in a holiday concert at St. Paul’s United Church in Scarborough. A FLYING START TO THE NEW YEAR !! JAN 12, 3PM: Now in their 54th season, the Vesnivka Choir presents “A Ukrainian Christmas”. Along with the Toronto Ukrainian Male Chamber Choir, a collection of traditional and contemporary Ukrainian Christmas carols and New Year’s songs, with folk instrumental ensemble. At Islington United Church. !! JAN 24, 7PM: The VIVA! Youth Singers of Toronto present “Beethoven’s 250th Anniversary Concert” at the Regis College Chapel. !! JAN 25, 7:30PM: “Last Night of the Proms.” Evan Mitchell conducts the Kingston Choral Society and Kingston Symphony in lively British music. At the Grand Theatre in Kingston. !! FEB 02, 2:30PM: University of Toronto Faculty of Music presents the Macmillan Singers and Men’s Chorus, under the direction of conductors David Fallis and Mark Ramsay, in “Choirs in Concert: All Creatures Great and Small.” At Church of the Redeemer in downtown Toronto. Menaka Swaminathan is a writer and chorister, currently based in Toronto. She can be reached via 34 | December 2019January 2020

Advent &Christmas @ Yorkminster Park Baptist Church CELEBRATE THE SEASON WITH US A TAPESTRY OF YULETIDE MAGIC FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 29 TH 7:00PM A Fundraiser for the House of Compassion TICKETS: at the door Advance Tickets Call 416-922-1167 • THE ANNUAL • City CAROL SING In collaboration with SATURDAY, DEC. 7 - 2:00 PM WITH SPECIAL GUESTS Dina Pugliesez • Murray McLauchlan Marc Jordan • Ian Thomas FREE ADMISSION A collection will be taken for the Churches on-the-Hill Food Bank GLORIOUS SOUNDS OF HANDEL: Messiah Elmer Iseler Singers with the Amadeus Choir FRIDAY, DECEMBER 13 7:30 PM TICKETS: REGULAR SENIOR CALL: 416-922-1167 A FUNDRAISER IN SUPPORT OF THE YPBC REFUGEE FUND CAROLS BY CANDLELIGHT SUNDAY, DECEMBER 15 4:30PM A candlelight choral presentation featuring choirs and musicians of Yorkminster Park Baptist Church. FREE ADMISSION. Doors open at 3:30 pm. DECEMBER 19 7:00PM Fundraising Christmas Concert Tickets $25.00 online at or at the door. FESTIVAL OF NINE LESSONS & CAROLS SUNDAY, DECEMBER 22 4:30PM Following the historic tradition of King’s College in Cambridge. Featuring the Choirs of YPBC. FREE ADMISSION. Doors open at 3:30 pm. Yorkminster Park Baptist Church 1585 Yonge St., (1 block north of St. Clair Ave.) For information on our services and events call (416) 922-1167 or visit

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