Sunday, December 8, 2019

Advent Season 2019

This Advent season I sang in two major concerts.  The first, on December 1st,  being a church concert with 5 small pieces.  2 Stanford Magnificat settings, 1 Schubert Magnificat setting, 1 Mozart Magnificat setting and Mozart's Coronation Mass.  Yes, all this in one concert.  We had beautiful soloists in Howard Rempel, Michael Martens, Anne Marie Dueck and Karis Wiebe, and a lovely little orchestra all under the direction of Yuri Klaz.
This was my first time singing Stanford, and although we are not Anglican I think our mainly Germanic choir did okay with is pretty pieces.  I do feel the these beautiful reflections of Mary, the Magnificat, are lovely words to sing out during Advent.

Maestra Jane Glover, this concert was my 3rd with Glover whose gaze can cut you to the quick.

      The second of my concerts was with the CMU Festival Chorus as guests of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, under the baton, make that, under the baton-less hands of the indomitable Jane Glover!  Jane performed the entire Messiah without baton and score!   She took some glorious liberties with tempo as in a grand ritard (not at the end) in the Hallelujah Chorus which she described as 'vulgar and Victorian" and thanked us for indulging her.  She called the opening of Worthy is the Lamb a choral recitative and declared there was no regular tempo there so we would all just have to watch her.  To the orchestra she said, 'I am still hearing bar line.  I want to hear syntax.  This is choral recitative."
      Her lovely expressive hands, body and face conveyed everything instrumentalists, soloists and choir required.  During "they rebuke" Ms. Glover's face was near collapsing, whereas in the "he trusted" movement she looked so vile and horrid that it scared even the basses in the back row!  Jane pays homage to Handel with every movement.  During, the soprano aria, "I know that my Redeemer liveth" Jane looked completely radiant.  She gave much of herself and expects, nay demands, the same from all of us!  She can be completely terrifying and is not one to mince words.  At the dress rehearsal, where conductors are always pressured by the union clock, she stated at the end , "there have been a lot of intonation problems in the orchestra tonight and if I had the time I should like to go over then but I trust you to take responsibility for intonation when you are getting paid."  Of course, this kind of talk gives a little boost to unpaid amateur choristers.
At the opening of our concert at the Centennial Concert Hall, Saturday December 7, 2019 the Symphony's executive director, Trudy Schroeder actually thanked the choristers for giving their time and talent to this Messiah.  This is the first time, that I can recall, the Symphony publicly thanking us like this.  It was very appreciated.
The CMU Festival, although able to perform great works, is a collection of amateurs who are all busy with their day to day lives and who sing for pleasure.  They spend a full work day at their real jobs and then come together to rehearse works as a labour of love.  When we perform, it is our happy place.   This is in contrast to the WSO players who are actually at work when performing and do other things for fun.
Soloists for this performance were Andrea Lett, soprano, Andrea Hill, mezzo, Zach Finkelstein, tenor and Stephen Hegedus, baritone.
You can read a review of the performance here.
A little tidbit from our first choral rehearsal with Ms. Glover:    Anytime we were singing a long U vowel sound such as in Hallelujah or the to of Unto Ms. Glovers discerning ears heard an umlaut.  She was quite visibly affronted by this sound.  She asked, quite incredulously, if this was a Manitoba accent and without waiting for an answer said to, "get rid of it."  Then it led her to tell, what she thought was an utterly hilarious anecdote about the mezzo Janet Baker who was so accustomed to singing Lieder that when needing a ride to the concert hall in London asked for someone to call her an Über.  Some of us offered some polite laughter but inwardly we puzzled, "you mean its not pronounced Über?"

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Requiem Report

Here I am in the slump between Requiem season and Advent.  Yes, I know it is a rather long slump and it surprises me every time how sad I feel after the last big performance of the season.  By now you know I need to be working on a choral work, no matter how busy I am in my other life.  I won't be rehearsing a major work until September!
One way to get out of the slump is to relive the recent choral experience by writing about it.
VERDI REQUIEM -a choral highlight was performed in March 2019 with the CMU Festival Chorus and the Winnipeg Philharmonic Choir conducted by Daniel Raiskin. I had earlier worked with Raiskin, notice how I can say that even though he is oblivious to my existence?  I continue to be intrigued by the individual chorister's knowledge of the work personality of a conductor while he/she remains ignorant of the individual  chorister and sees only this large mass of singers.   So back to Raiskin.  I was looking forward to working with him again because I had rehearsed and performed the Messiah with him in December and found him to be an excellent conductor for choirs!  This was a surprise because many orchestral conductors are not so.  Raiskin has a very clear beat combined with passion and the occasional jumping jack from the podium.
The venue, however, was not ideal and although the chorus was large we had to be slightly "miked".  This is not the best and some audience members did complain about the rather tinny sound in some parts.  This is because the Centennial Concert Hall is still without it's acoustic shell.  This is a travesty!
Giuseppe Verdi
Still the Verdi Requiem is a dramatic, grand scale work, with soloists and a huge orchestra and choir blasting away together, and then plaintively coming apart.   It is stunningly beautiful in parts and also downright frightening in others. I was thrilled to have a 2 night performance of it!  In fact I wish I were part of a permanent installation of it so I could sing it night after night to my death!  The Verdi does not come around that often, I sang it last 5 years ago, so I don't know how many more Verdis I will be allowed to be part of.  5 years from now I will be quite an old lady and the thought of being rejected from the choral stage is anxiety producing!  Mama Mia please let there be a few more Verdis coming from me!

Anton Bruckner
Bruckner Requiem is the next piece I worked on.  Never heard it before and yet I liked it from the first rehearsal on.  It has some beautiful parts in its short little life of 30 minutes.  Most notable is the men's chorus singing Hostias.  This work was performed with my wonderful non-auditioned church choir and a small orchestra which boasted WSO players amongst them.  Soloists Anne Marie Dueck, Karis Wiebe, James Magnus, and Howard Rempel were lovely!  The stellar Yuri Klaz was our conductor. It was truly enjoyable to learn a new work.  Alongside it we also presented Mendelssohn's unfinished oratorio, Christus.  This follows the Bach passion recipe of a tenor evangelist, (James Magnus) narrating the scene of screaming chorus crowds.  First Mennonite Church Choir loves performing anything by Mendelssohn and so of course we only wished it was a finished Oratorio so we could sing more of the same!  If you clink on the FMC choir link above you will hear us in a performance of Christus.

Now that it is over I must look ahead and see what is on the choral horizon for me.  I certainly will be joining the incomparable Jane Glover in presenting Messiah in December 2019 and I am crossing my fingers to receive an invitation to sing the Berlioz Messe Solennelle.  A work I have never sung nor heard until just now when I used it as my soundtrack to write this blog post.  Fingers crossed that next year at this time I will be performing it!  It's on the WSO listing for April 24, 25, 2020!