Saturday, November 16, 2019

Music Niagara presents Choralfest starting this weekend

There is something about the colder weather we are experiencing now that brings out in me a desire to revel in the magnificent sounds of truly great choral singing.  Be it a church choir or professional ensemble, there are a multitude of choices from which to choose in Niagara.  Some of the best from Niagara and beyond will be on full display this month and next during Music Niagara's Choralfest.

The summertime music festival has pioneered inventive classical and jazz programming in the Niagara Region for many years now, but usually by mid-August they are done for the season.  Not anymore.

With Choralfest Music Niagara is endeavouring to present world-class, diverse music experiences in unique and intimate settings throughout Niagara.  Performances range from crackerjack school choirs to the best Toronto has to offer.

The whole festival kicks off tonight with a performance by the Juno award-winning Elmer Iseler Singers with Lydia Adams conducting.  On the programme will be works by Guerrero, Lassus and Gibbons along with Canadian composers such as R. Murray Schafer, Vivier and others.  The Elmer Iseler Singers will be performing tonight at 7 pm at Niagara Mennonite Church at 1775 Niagara Stone Road in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

The Avanti Chamber Singers under the direction of Dr. Rachel Rensink-Hoff, fresh from their debut performance of the season in St. Catharines last weekend, will perform on November 19th.  Dr. Rinsink-Hoff, Assistant Professor of Music at Brock University most often performs with the community-based chamber choir under the umbrella of Brock's Viva Voce Choral Series.   Here they step from underneath that umbrella to bring their trademark choral music, both accompanied and a cappella to Niagara-on-the-Lake with works by not only Canadian but also Niagara-based composers.
The performance begins at 7 pm in the cozy confines of St. Mark's Anglican Church on Byron Street in the Olde Town.

November 22nd the Victoria Scholars, an all-male, award-winning choir of international acclaim will perform everything from Gregorian chants to works by French-Canadian composers, both sacred and contemporary.  To date they've recorded four albums and have performed with some of the biggest names in classical and contemporary music.  While their sound is firmly rooted in the traditional Renaissance music, they push their musical boundaries to include the Baroque, Classical and Romantic eras as well.  The Victoria Scholars perform at 7 pm in one of my favourite churches in Niagara, Our Lady of Peace next door to Mount Carmel Monastery at 6988 Stanley Avenue in Niagara Falls.

The next night the Celaya Conservatory Children's Choir will perform at 1:30 in the afternoon at St. Mark's Church in Niagara-on-the-Lake.  If you have not heard of the Celaya Conservatory Children's Choir before, you're not alone.  Neither had I.  It turns out they're one of the top Children's choirs in Mexico and this is their very first performance in Canada.  Count on hearing some Latin American music to warm up a late November afternoon on November 23rd.

That very evening one of the big draws for Choralfest this year will be a Sing-Along Messiah, with the Messiah Chorus and Orchestra conducted by Mervin Frick filling the space at St. Mark's in Niagara-on-the-Lake with the glorious Handel oratorio that for many is a Christmas tradition.  If you feel like joining in, well, go right ahead.  It is a Sing-Along Messiah after all.  It happens at 7pm on November 23rd.

On the 24th, Music Niagara presents the Vesnivka Choir and Volunge Choir, also at St. Mark's at 2 in the afternoon.  Volunge, it turns out, is named after Lithuania's beautiful "Golden Oriole" and is an award-winning Lithuanian choir led by conductor Dalia Viskontas along with accompanist Danguole Radtke.  Volunge will perform an eclectic programme of Lithuanian sacred and secular songs and major works before giving way to the Vesnivka Choir led by founding conductor and director Halyna Kyitka Kondracki.  Their programme will be sung entirely in Unkrainian with works by Oleksander Koshyts, who first brought the familiar "Carol of the Bells" to North American audiences, as well as Ukrainian folk songs and works by Ukrainian-Canadian composers.  The programme will conclude with some lighter fare by composer Bohdan Vesolowsky.

One of the local highlights to the festival is the appearance by the award-winning Laura Secord Secondary School Choir from right here in St. Catharines.  Under the direction of Ms. Katryna Sacco, the choir has toured many North American cities as well as in Europe.  They've also worked with many professional musicians including Measha Brueggergosman, Kenny Rogers, Take 6, Molly Johnson, Jackie Richardson, Joe Sealy and most recently, during the Voices of Freedom Festival last weekend at the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre.  The performance will be November 24th at 7 pm at St. Mark's Church in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

The Hamilton Children's Choir comes to St. Mark's Church on November 25th at 7:30 pm, accompanied as well by the Celaya Conservatory Children's Choir.  Jasmin Lin, a Music Niagara Performance Academy alumni and student at Juillard will perform with the choir onstage on the great Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume "Messiah" violin awarded to her by the Canada Council Instrument Bank for three years.

The festival will conclude December 8th with a decidedly non-choral performance by the Toronto All-Star Big Band performing their Swinging Christmas show, a collection of seasonal and all-time favourites from the Golden Age of Swing.  The performance begins at 7 pm, again at St. Mark's Church in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

If you are interested in any or all of the performances beginning tonight and running through to December 8th, you can purchase tickets in advance through the Shaw Festival box office by calling 1-800-511-7429.  There will be special student pricing discounts available as well.

Have a great weekend!

November 16th, 2019.

No comments: