Yesterday’s concert in the RBA, the first I’ve been to in a while, featured the five members of the Orchestra Academy; violinists Joella Pinto and Gloria Yip, violist Carolyn Farnand and cellists Erin Patterson and Alison Rich, with Joel Allison and Samuel Chan and Rachael Kerr on keyboards. It was an interesting concert in many ways. We don’t get to see the young instrumentalists much nor do we often see Ensemble members sing with a chamber ensemble. It was also interesting to hear the contrast between Joel’s dark toned bass-baritone, often singing in a very low tessitura, with Sam’s much brighter, lighter baritone which sometimes was well up in tenor territory.
I think the contrast was most evident in two Purcell pieces. Joel sang Arise, ye subterranean winds from The Tempest, which lies very low and has that tricky low coloratura thing going on. Lots of power here and great drama. Then they shared Stay Prince from Dido and Aeneas with Joel singing Mercury transposed down while Sam sang Aeneas. There are some pretty high floaty notes for Aeneas here and they came off well.
We also got some Vivaldi and Handel and Mozart and Rossini and Donizetti with both guys showing dramatic flair as well as vocal skills and great playing from the instrumentalists. There was plenty of discussion about the experience the OA participants get. Apparently, besides working with the orchestra they get voice and acting lessons. I can think of a few conductors who might benefit from that! And so to the finale where the tables were turned and Joel and Sam got to demonstrate their instrumental skills. Turns out that Joel is no mean violinist and he played the intro to each section of his Vivaldi aria with as much dramatic flair as his singing. Sam didn’t look quite so comfortable playing the harpsichord continuo!
So, something a bit different and lots of fun.
Photo credit: Artists of the COC Orchestra Academy and Ensemble Studio performing in the Canadian Opera Company’s Free Concert Series in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre, photo: Ian McIntosh