Sunday, at Grace Church on the Hill, Soundstreams presented Celebrating R. Murray Schafer. It felt like a cross between a concert and a memorial service. There were no prayers but there were eulogies and Eleanor James drew the parallel between Schafer’s sources of inspiration and Pentecost; that feast of the Church having been chosen deliberately for the event.
There was lots of music of course. The afternoon was bookended by two of Schafer’s ceremonial wilderness pieces for voice and trumpet. Meghan Lindsay and Michael Fedyshyn welcomed us with the Aubade for Two Voices and bid us farewell with Departure. Both were made the more haunting from the performers being out of sight. Choir 21 with conductor David Fallis sang two sets. First came the three hymns from The Fall into Light which appropriately set texts drawn from the Manichaean tradition. There was some wonderfully precise singing here. The second set was perhaps more light hearted with Epitaph for Moonlight which was written for amateur performance and the playful Fire which, besides singing, involves banging rocks together.
In between we heard a high energy rendition of String Quartet No. 12 from the Molinari Quartet and Two Sisters: Isis and Nepthys; another mystical piece dealing this time with the sun’s nightly journey through the underworld. This is a highly technical sing done with precision and beauty by Meghan Lindsay and Lindsay McIntyre with unusual and interesting accompaniment by Judy Loman on harp and Michael Murphy and Joyce To on percussion.
We also heard a recording of The Death of Shalana; a 2004 work for four choirs recorded at the 2005 Northern Voices International Choral Festival. It’s commonly seen a s a farewell from Schafer with its repeated refrain of “Shalana is no more” and the final line of “But his voice is everywhere”. It’s another rather haunting piece.
I really can’t think of a better way to celebrate the unique musical legacy of R. Murray Schafer and his long relationship with Soundstreams.