VOCES8 at St. James

UK based vocal octet VOCES8 sang Tuesday night at St. James Anglican Cathedral.  The whole thing was arranged by Daniel Taylor of the Theatre of Early Music at the UoT and marked VOCES8’s Canadian debut.  I confess to a weakness for choral music in the Anglican tradition so this was a welcome opportunity to hear some very highly regarded performers.  They didn’t disappoint.  They are a finely tuned and highly skilled group.

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The Pilgrim’s Way

Saturday night saw the inaugural concert of the Toronto Mendelssohn Singers; the professional core of the much larger Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, at Trinity St. Paul’s with Jean-Sébastien Vallée conducting.  There were four pieces on the programme; one very substantial and three shorter works.  Things kicked off with a pleasant but essentially conventional arrangement by Dierdre Robinson of Steal Away. This was followed by an Arabic piece by composer-in-residence Shireen Abu-Khader called I Forgive where the choir was joined by soloist Raneem Barakat.  This dealt with the short life and death of Egyptian LGBTQ activist Sarah Hegazi and was rather beautiful with intriguing Arab influences especially in the solo part.  Then came Elgar’s Lux Aeterna arranged for choir by John Cameron.

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Voices of Mountains

The COC’s latest on-line offering is now available on-line.  It’s called Voices of Mountains and the video is just shy of an hour long.  Only about half of that is music though.  The rest is introductions, artist statements and a 10 minute piece about the Land Acknowledgement installation created for the lobby of the Four Season Centre by Rebecca Cuddy and Julie McIsaac.  It looks very interesting but, of course, one can’t visit it.

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Ancestral Voices

dam-mn-marion_newman_headshot_7x10_cmykBramwell Tovey and the Vancouver Symphony were in town last night for a one night stand at Roy Thomson Hall.  My reason for going was primarily to see Marion Newman sing Ancestral Voices; a work composed for her by Tovey.  It’s the composer’s contribution to the sesqui and it deals with the Dominion of Canada’s troubled relationship with the original peoples of this land.  The four movements trace an arc from an imagined pre colonial “Arkady” cleverly using a Keats text that deals with a clearly not Canadian imagined state of nature through to Charles Mair’s The Last Bison; a very early warning of what happens when Man and Nature get out of balance.  Then comes the most chilling part; an excerpt from a letter in the government archives about residential schools”…separate, isolate, educate; dominate, assimilate; Sow the seeds and forcibly, effectively; Kill the Indian in the child.”  It concludes with fragments of letters from Harper and Trudeau cut with parts of the UN Declaration on Indigenous Peoples.

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Dream of Gerontius

medium_stuart-skeltonEvery time I go to Roy Thomson Hall, as I did last night to see the TSO perform Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius, I have to recalibrate for the acoustic.  It’s just much quieter than the Four Season’s Centre and, indeed, many other venues.  This has the advantage that coughing is largely inaudible but also that even a large orchestra playing full bore doesn’t exactly blow one’s socks off.  So, perhaps it wasn’t a surprise that I was more struck by the meditative aspects of this score than its moments of high drama such as the chorus of demons.  I’m pretty sure this was just the acoustic because conductor Peter Oundjian was certainly going for maximum effect in those sections. Continue reading

Some upcoming events

There a few things coming up in Toronto over the next week or two that might be worth a look.

segalgleadowTomorrow at noon in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre Lauren Segal and Robert Gleadow accompanied by Sandra Horst are giving a free concert featuring  Dvořák’s Gypsy Songs, de Falla’s Siete canciones populares Españolas, Ibert’s Chansons de Don Quichotte and Vaughan Williams’ Songs of Travel.

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Roots

durhamcathedralI was talking to Leslie Barcza of barczablog at a concert yesterday.  He asked me what I was most looking forward to in the upcoming season and I was a bit stumped for an answer because there’s lots of good stuff in Toronto this season but nothing that really sets my pulse racing.  Finally I answered with the TSO’s Dream of Gerontius, which, it turns out, is not exactly high on Lesley’s bucket list.  This led to a brief discussion about how origins affect our reactions; that is until the actual concert interrupted our talk.

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