Saturday, October 26, 2019

Choral season is now upon us!

There are many things I look forward to in the autumn:  the crisp, clear days beneath a bright blue sky, showing against the bright colours of the trees ready to shed for another winter;  the abundance of produce and other good things in our farmer's market; the hot apple cider waiting for me Saturday mornings when I arrive at the market; and of course, the music of the season.

For me, nothing celebrates the cooler fall days musically quite like great choral music.  It goes hand in hand with warming yourself in a church with history all around you.  And it also celebrates the very fine performing arts spaces much of our music - choral and otherwise - often calls home.

So this weekend we'll highlight a couple of choral concerts coming up this weekend and next, featuring performances in Guelph and here in St. Catharines.  In both cases, you will not be left wanting for great music of the past and present.

There is no country on earth I think with a better choral lineage than Great Britain.  Going back to Elizabethan times up through the 19th and 20th centuries, there has never been a shortage of great purveyors of choral music originating in the British Isles.  Two modern-era British composers will be front and centre for both concerts I'm highlighting this weekend.

Tomorrow afternoon in Guelph, the Guelph Chamber Choir under newly-minted Artistic Director Dr. Charlene Pauls will pair up with the GCVI Chamber Choir to celebrate the good that is all around us with a concert entitled Five Days that Changed the World.  The title work is by British composer Bob Chilcott and joins other works that focus on bringing people together.

The Chilcott work highlights five moments that connected and advanced humanity:  the invention of printing, the abolition of slavery, the first powered light, the discovery of penicillin, and the first human in space.  The music reflects humour along with wonder and a touch of poignancy throughout its movements.

Other works on the programme tomorrow afternoon include Winnipeg composer Andrew Balfour's welcoming song Amba (sung in Ojibway), American composer Joan Szymko's It Takes a Village, French composer Maurice Durufle's introspective Ubi Caritas, Canadian composer Sarah Quartel's Sing, My Child, and Paul Simon's familiar Bridge Over Troubled Water in a new gospel arrangement by Kirby Shaw.  Also on the programme will be Eric Whitacre's Cloudburst.

The concert will be at 3 pm tomorrow afternoon at Harcourt Memorial United Church in the heart of Guelph, and tickets are available in advance through the River Run Centre box office by calling 519-763-3000.

Next Saturday evening at 7:30 pm, Chorus Niagara kicks off their new season with the Canadian premiere of Michael Tippett's 1941 oratorio A Child of Our Time.  This powerful work was composed in response to the horrors of Kristallnacht, when Nazi Germany ramped up fear and terror in the country.  Tippet's work remains a compelling call for unity in a divided world, which perhaps seems as cogent a comment on our own times as much as it was on mid-20th century life as the world found itself again embroiled in war.

A Child of Our Time draws inspiration from African-American spirituals such as Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen, Steal Away and Deep River among other works, and will be performed by the combined forces of Chorus Niagara and the Orpheus Choir of Toronto, 160 voices strong, the Orpheus Concert Orchestra and featured soloists Johane Ansell, soprano, Lauren Segal, mezzo-soprano, Andrew Haji, tenor, and James Westman, bass.

Of course, Robert Cooper, Artistic Director of both Chorus Niagara and the Orpheus Choir of Toronto will conduct in Partridge Hall at the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre in downtown St. Catharines.

For tickets for this and the entire Chorus Niagara season, call or visit the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre box office at 905-688-0722 or email

There you go, two reasons to embrace the cooler autumn weather by warming your heart and soul with great choral music with meaning, this weekend and next.  What could be better than that?

Enjoy your weekend!

October 26th, 2019.

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