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Volume 9 Issue 9 - June 2004

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  • Festival
  • Toronto
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  • Choir

10 ·~ tYUL. SUMMER

10 ·~ tYUL. SUMMER MUSIC JO~N A. MILLER. ARTISTIC PRODUCER JULY 21 TO AUGUST 1, 2004 FEATURED ARTISTS James Ehnes, Ashley Macisaac, Scott St. John, Andrew Chung, violinists Axel rod Stradivarius Quartet, playing Beethoven St. Lawrence Strini;i Quartet, with guest narrators Diane d'Aquila and Michael Therriault Molinari String Quartet, playing Schafer Creaking Tree String Quartet After-theatre Cabarets with Stars of the Stratford Festival in The Voice: Music of Frank Sinatra and Beyond the Fringe , John Longhurst, organist, Mormon Tabernacle, Salt Lake City, Utah Ukrainian Bandurist Male Chorus stratfordsum Harry Somers Lecture & Music, with A.J. "Jack" Diamond and Leslie Fagan, soprano BargeMusic, with Son de Madera, Mexico and Perth County Pipe Band PHOTO OF HERBERT AXELROD STRADIVARI VIOLA 11695) AND STRADIVARI INSTRUMENTS COURTESY SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION. BMO e """' Pr1 .. 1e Benldng· • YAMAHA' Ji Scotlabank Group ARDEN PARK ..._.iawon.-wi-. HOTF.L .. __ ,. ...... ~!~ .......... , ................ fMVW"''·•""r••··wru"' . fiiil RBC ~ ~::.~;::••• .. Insurance ~ ........ ATIGIO J.P. BICKELL FOUNDATION JULIE·JIGGS FOUNDATION Sun~} Life Financial tickets: 1800 5671600 r.o. by Colin Eatock A Tale of Two Choirs Every year, May is "Choir Month" in Toronto: and while many other musical organizations wind down their activities for the year, this city's choral groups blossom in a collective celebration of spring. So busy are Toronto's choirs at this time of year that schedule conflicts are comrrnn - and that's what happened on May 14, when two chamber choirs gave concerts on the same evening. May 14, 2004, 7:30 pm. I arrived at St. James' Cathedral, on Queen Street, in time for a prograqnne by Toronto's pre-eminent professional choir, the Elmer lseler Singers. This was not just any concert, it was a special performance corrnnemorating the founding of the Festival Singers of Canada (the late Elmer Iseler's first professional group) 50 years ago. As such, the event attracted a fulsome audience - Robert Missen, who books tours for the lselers, told me that five founding ~rs of the Festival Singers were in the audience - and a s~e of gravitas hung fu the air. This a cappella concert was an exact replica of one presented half a 1century earlier by the Festival Singers, in Stratford, Ontario: At the time it would have been a boldly modem prograrrnne, containing works by such (then) contemporary composers as Zoltan Kodaly, Benjamin Britten and Canada's Healey Willan. And although I wasn't in Stratford 50 years ago (I was not yet born), I strongly suspect that the concert sounded much as it did back then. Since Iseler's death six years ago, Lydia Adams, the current director of the choir, has cultivated the group's distinctive tone-quality: a homogenous, ethereal "churchy" sound, precise in intonation and finely nuanced in dynamics and articulation. This tribute event certainly underscored, perhaps to a fault, the choir's enduring connections to its founding director. Particularly impressive; in the first half, were poised renditions of Willan's "Rise Up My Love" and Rachmaninoff's "Ave Maria." But ·, alas, I must limit my corrnnents to the first half of the prograrrnne only: at intennission I hailed a taxi and headed for St. Thomas' Church, on Huron Street. May 14, 2004, 8:45 pm. The taxi dropped me at St. Thomas' just in time for the second half of the Exultate Singers' concert. Although an amateur group, under conductor John Tuttle they've made quite a name for themselves, recently winning the grand prize in this year's CBC Competition for Amateur Choirs. I enjoyed the group's warm, rich sound. And while I didn't hear the Exultate Singers perform anything as demanding as Kodaly's "Jesus and the Traders" - an unforgiving work that the Iselers dispatched with workman-like efficiency-Tuttle's mostly a cappelf.a programme showed that his choir was equal to the challenging harmonies of Andrew Ager's "Awake 0 North Wind," and Stephen Chatman's "You Have Ravisqed My Heart." 1 May 20, 2004: Walking along Bloor Street, I had the good fortune to meet two musicians professionally active in Toronto's choral scene. As we spoke, one of my friends suggested that it might have been fitting for the lseler Singers to disband when their fmmding conductor passed away. I don't agree. I don't see any reason per se why a good choir should disband, just because its conductor dies. I do, however, question the Iselers' commitment to the preservation of their founder's trademark sound. This seems to be a matter of deliberate policy: in the printed programme given out at the Iseler Singers concert, Adams' leadership was described as "encompassing the spirit of the past." But isn't Iseler's era well preserved in recordings? Maybe it's time for Elmer lseler Singers to Imve forward in new directions, under the entirely capable Adams. And maybe it's also time to take a look at whether the labels "professional" and "amateur" have much meaning in them, where Toronto's finest choirs are concerned. Colin Eatock is a composer and writer in Toronto who contribuJes to the Globe and Mail and other publicaJions. His T.O. Musical Diary is a regular monthly feature of The WholeNote magazine. WWW. THEWHOl [NOTE.COM )LINE 1 - )ULY 7 2004

·Come anc;l immerse yourself in innovation. Join us in honouring James C"'mpbell's 20th Anniversary as the Festival of the Sound's Artistic Director as well as our o.wn Silver Anniversary. Ju.ly 16 - Gala Opening: The 25th season opens with the first full orchestra concert heard in the Charles W. Stockey Centre Festival Performance Hall. David Jalbert joins the Huntsville Festival Orchestra in the Grieg Piano Concerto. July 17 - A Silver Celebration: More than 25 musicians perform more than 25 works in a day-long concert marathon. July 23 - James Campbell's 20th Anniversary Celebration: To celebrate 20 years as our Artistic Director, James Campbell, joined by the Festival Orchestra, plays the great Mozart Clarinet Concerto. . \ Additional guests: Rian de Waal and Strings Across The Sky. July 24 & 25 - Anton Kuerti and Friends: With much gratitude we honour Founding Artistic Director Anton Kuerti. ·String Quartet Festival: During the third week we begin a · multi-year project that will present the full quartet cycles of both Shostakovich and Beethoven. Three outstanding string quartets, the St. Lawrence, the Borealis and the Lafayette will perform a number of these great quartets. The Vi!1uoso: Our second week features a stellar line-up of virtuoso soloists with pianists, Andre Laplante, Rian de Waal and Richard Raymond, baritone Russell Braun, violinists Moshe Hammer and James Ehnes, as well as Alain Trudel, trombone and Joseph Petric, accordion. Island Queen "Around the World" Cruises: Meander through the 30,000 Islands on a s.election of three hour journeys' that will bring you the music of the Caribbean, the Danube, the Mississippi Rivers and the Grand Banks of Newfoundland. For a brochure, call 705-746-2410 or Toll-free: ·l-866-364-0061 Box Office: 42 James Street, Parry Sound, Ontario E-mail: infp@festivalofthesound.on.ca www:festivalofthesound.on.ca WWW. THEWHOLENOTE.COM 11

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