The whole family attended the annual fundraiser for the I Furiosi Baroque Ensemble last night at the studio of Rosemarie Umetsu, who does alot of designing for artists in the city. She and her partner, Wayne Umetsu, are generous supporters of the Toronto arts scene. It was a relaxed and funky scene on a cool, late summer evening, and a great opportunity to get caught up with friends and acquaintances. The “up close and personal” performance that I Furiosi gave (with guest violist Max Mandel) was a poignant reminder of the unique and special gifts of this wonderful ensemble. Violinists Aisslinn Nosky and Julia Wedman are prodigiously talented and work as an extraordinary team, trading phrases and lines expressively and with high energy. What’s particulary fun to watch is how they embody the music, twisting and turning, bobbing and weaving, raising eyebrows, smiling, frowning, opening their eyes widely with every musical gesture. I think…
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I’ve had some help making a new website where all my interesting stuff will come together in one place. It’s a bit fancier, and a bit easier to use, once you get used to it. I hope you’ll come on over and follow my blog in its new home on my website. In the next few weeks I want to tell you about a whole bunch of things that will happen in December (in Toronto, Waterloo Ont., London UK, Victoria B.C.) so if it’s convenient for you would you mind subscribing to my blog in its new manifestation here?
if you subscribe you’ll get a wee email message to let you know there’s something new up on the blog.Thanks so much for reading about my musical adventures, and adding your own comments. I really appreciate it.
Why on earth have we not sung Josef Rheinberger’s Christmas cantata before? Read Wholenote Magazine and you will stand in thankful awe of the zillion performances of Handel’s Messiah in Toronto; yet I mourn the 50 odd Christmases that have passed without any knowledge of Rheinberger’s wonderful work, “The Star of Bethlehem.” Pax Christi Chorale is polishing up our performances of this piece for next weekend at Grace Church on-the-Hill, and the more we sing it, the more we appreciate this masterwork of high romantic art: a work that paints the intimacy of the nativity, romanticized pastoral scenes, and the grandeur of an astronomical phenomenon leading the Magi on their quest through the desert. It is not only a musical story full of drama and emotion, but also a superbly crafted work from the steady hand of a composer well versed in writing both organ fugues and superb choral pieces. And since it has “Erwartung” as the first movement, it has to be cool – and there’s even a Hallelujah chorus!
Pax Christi Chorale and family have had a long and happy relationship with Josef Rheinberger, starting a decade ago when we recorded “Bleib bei uns” and sang it pretty much by memory as an encore piece. We moved on to explore a set of four Latin motets which were equally rewarding to sing, with soaring, rangy melodies beautifully written for every voice part with rich harmonic textures and stimulating imitative counterpoint. In my own home, the Rheinberger affair got serious when Bruce Kirkpatrick Hill announced that he was going to embark upon a project to play all of the Rheinberger organ sonatas in various organ recital series across Toronto. He did get through quite a few of them. St. James Cathedral, Yorkminster Park Baptist and Metropolitan United are the places that still support weekly organ recitals, free to the public, and he played on all of them. It was also handy that Bruce could get away with using Rheinberger’s historic photo as his own publicity shot. The likeness is fairly striking don’t you think?
We’ll be singing “The Star of Bethlehem” in an arrangement for organ and strings by Roger Bergs, the very talented and hard-working organist of Knox Church, Toronto and composer on faculty at the University of Toronto. Roger’s arrangement is extremely clever and will work very well in our intimate performance venue. Our new youth choir director, Jeffrey Newberry, will be bringing along a host of highschool music students to enhance the first part of the programme – a wonderful way to connect with the next generation of choral singers. Our soloists Bethany Horst and Michael Robert-Broder will be absolutely stunning.
So, it’s official. Rheinberger is the new Handel.
We had just come from singing the morning service at the Anglican church in Picton, on Canada Day, 2012, when the Gallery Choir stopped at this sunlit restaurant at Huff Estate Winery in Prince Edward County. We continued on to the house of generous friends and swam in Lake Ontario before returning home to Toronto. This event was emblematic of this group of people. We have worked fairly hard at singing marvelous choral music, but there has always been a more profound element to this group. We have formed friendships that are enriched by music-making and we have supported each other through very challenging times. We’ve enjoyed exhilarating musical moments, and shared a lot of good food and wine. The next two weeks will be my last at the Church of St. Mary Magdalene and I have a lot to thank these people for. I thank the choir for their commitment to musical excellence which took us to the CBC competition in 2008 (and a memorable train trip to Laval, Quebec) and to Newfoundland’s Festival 500 in 2009. I thank them for giving me the confidence to write music for them, and for the hardworking team around the altar who create an atmosphere that cries out for liturgical music. Our two CDs “Willan Mass X” and “Alleluia” will be a lasting record of our time together in the very special surroundings of SMM, where the people listened and appreciated our music, and the building put an amazing glow on our singing. I thank the entire church community and Fr David Harrison for supporting me spiritually and physically through the dark time following my husband’s death. Some of those frozen casseroles are still getting me through busy weeks : )
With the choir’s help I will be leaving SMM on a high note (literally) and they have planned an extra evensong service this Sunday, Nov 18 at 4:30pm, followed by a reception offered by the choir.
If you are a choral music geek like myself, you’ll want to know what we are singing in the next two weeks.
Sunday Nov 18, 11 am: Palestrina, Missa Brevis; Guerrero, O sacrum convivium
Sunday Nov 18, 4:30 pm: Martin, Selwyn Service; Willan, Hail gladdening light; Philips, Salve Regina; Martin, O Lord support us all the day long; Martin, At thy great name
Sunday Nov 25, 11 am: Palestrina, Missa Papae Marcelli; Willan, Lo in the time appointed
for more information, and maybe I’ll see you there?
This is the 10th year for the Colours of Music Festival in Barrie, Ontario. This small city north of Toronto hosts a very ambitious festival every September where you can not only hear classical music beautifully played and sung, but also enjoy the glorious Autumn colours offered up by local trees, free of charge. I have the great pleasure of being composer in residence this year, and I thought you’d like to know what I’ve written.
First off, on Monday Sept 24 the MacMillan Singers from the University of Toronto will sing “Rise up my Love,” a motet on the famous text from the Song of Solomon. I thought that university students would appreciate these beautiful words, and I also admit that I wanted to take a stab at this text, since my predecessor at St. Mary Mag’s has a pretty good setting of it. I am just that much of a Schmuck.
The next piece is a bit of chamber music played on Friday afternoon. It’s a sonata for trumpet, clarinet and organ – not a common combination, but I had fun writing it. It’s called “Colours of the Heart” and it’s in three movements: Red (courage), Blue (longing) and Gold (triumph.)
The last piece is for my own choir at St. Mary Mag’s and it’s called “Little Organ Mass” and we’ll sing this on Saturday Sept 29. It’s a setting of the modern Anglican words for the Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus and Agnus Dei. The organ takes a predominant role and will be skillfully played by my organ student Matthew Whitfield.
All of this happens due to the imagination and dedication of one man – Bruce Owen – who has tirelessly devoted himself to music in Barrie for many years. He commissioned all these works. I am so grateful to him for encouraging me to present a whole concert programme of my own compositions. I would never have had the confidence to do that myself, so I am very grateful to him.
Do come up (or over, or down) to Barrie if you have some time to spare next week. Here’s the link to the Festival website:
Schola Magdalena celebrated the Feast of Saint Hildegard tonight by singing a short concert before Evensong at St. Thomas’ Church, Huron Street, here in Toronto. I don’t know if my colleagues in this women’s ensemble have a similar experience, but for me it is pretty freaky to be singing music that was written by a woman living about a thousand years ago in a country several thousand miles away in a convent on a hillside vineyard by the Rhine river. Her musical language is really a universe away, and even if you could understand her Latin texts, you would be mystified by her visceral imagery of human relationships and her colourful (green) view of science and the natural world, and her obsession with the phrygian mode. Yet her music gets through, and expresses something inexpressible.
I’d just like to say thank you to my friends in the Schola for their beautiful singing and (I am sure of it) the healing power that music can have when sung with sincerity, skill and understanding.
Happy birthday, Hildegard.