Thursday’s concert in the Music in the Afternoon series at Walter Hall was curated by Marion Newman and featured herself, soprano Melody Courage, baritone Evan Korbut and pianist Gordon Gerrard. It featured some classic opera duets and trios ranging from the Flower Duet from Madama Butterfly to an exuberant “Dunque io son” from the Barber of Seville along with Berlioz’ “Vous soupirer” from Beatrice et Bénédict (which sounded like title should translate as “you will be immersed in warm soup”). These numbers were all very well done and there were a couple of solo pieces too with Melody singing the Poulenc La Fraicheur et le Feu with great verve and Evan chipping in with an exuberant “Sit down, you’re rocking the boat” from Guys and Doills.
The real interest for me though lay in the contemporary Canadian works on the programme. There was some Ian Cusson. Marion and Evan gave us the “Arrival in Prague” scene from Indians on Vacation (which is still a WIP). This has very clever text by Royce Vavrek; something much darker going on behind an apparently comic scene, accompanied by excellent music. I’ve seen this scene before and it always makes me laugh and did again yesterday but it’s also quite disturbing.
We also got Evan singing songs to texts by Gwerndolyn MacEwen from the song cycle Breakfast for Barbarians. The first song “A Breakfast for Barbarians: has a fantastic, metaphorical text. The music is interesting too, lying quite high for a baritone, but Evan knocked it off with aplomb. If I were to criticize Ian’s song writing it’s that he picks such amazing texts that sometimes I don’t give enough attention to the music, at least on first listening! Hopefully I’ll get a chance to hear the whole set of these in the not too distant future.
There was a fascinating solo piano piece by Tomson Highway too. The Sage, the Dancer and the Fool was totally unexpected. I’ve only heard Tomson do Country and Northern stuff and here was a delicate, intricate piece for solo piano reminiscent of, say, Satie. Then Marion and Gordon gave us Bramwell Tovey’s Ancestral Voices. I saw Marion sing this piece with orchestra with the, sadly missed, composer conducting in 2018. Reading my words from them I think all I could add is that in piano score they seem even more direct and, especially the last two songs, quite heartbreaking.
All in all a. very cool programme that was received enthusiastically not least by a high school group from Unionville. We need to see more kids in the concert hall if the art we love is to have a future.
Lovely review. All I would add is that the final number, “Soave sia il vento” from Mozart’s _Così fan tutte_, was the only number featuring all three singers together and was greeted by a warm standing ovation and two curtain calls.