Off Centre Music Salon’s opening concert of the season featured a largely Russian, largely 19th century program. There were plenty of songs by Glinka, Tchaikovsky and the like sung by an interestingly contrasted mix of Ilana Zarankin, Joni Henson and Ryan Harper with Inna Perkis and Boris Zarankin accompanying. It was good to hear Joni in this program in the warm acoustic of Trinity St. Paul’s. I think I’ve mostly heard her in the RBA which is notoriously hard on dramatic sopranos. Here the combination of the acoustic and Russian vowel sounds resulted in a very pleasing richness of tone rather than stridency. She also blended well with Harper’s very tenorish tenor and made an interesting contrast with the much lighter, brighter Zarankin. Nice work all round.
Want a Christmas CD with a difference? Christmas at Casa Diva may be what you are looking for. It’s a collaboration between Canadian opera singers lyric soprano Virginia Hatfield, dramatic soprano Joni Henson and mezzo Megan Latham with collaborative pianist Pieter Tiefenbach. While some of the tracks are fairly traditional sounding versions of standards like White Christmas most are clever, almost cheeky, arrangements or even mash ups. Born is the King, for example, is a really cool mash up of Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming, The First Noël and Silent Night that had me grinning like a loon when I heard it at the CD release party (OK the rather good mulled wine probably helped). Most of the tracks are also quite “modern” sounding. The arrangements make no concessions to the sort of soupy sentimentality found on so many seasonal offerings.
The music making throughout is unashamedly the work of serious, classically trained musicians (albeit SCTMs with a sense of humour) so it might not be an ideal gift for friends/relatives who are allergic to that kind of thing. For most readers of this blog though that will hardly be a deterrent. I have never heard a Christmas record remotely like this and it’s growing on me with each listening. You can buy the CD at Atelier Gregorian or online at jonihensonsoprano.com