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Media Reviews

Mendelssohn Choir brimming with rousing, diverse works

Performing Arts Supplement
The Globe and Mail, October 7, 2010

As it celebrates its 117 th season, the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir is not beyond learning new tricks. This grande dame of symphonic sound - Canada's oldest cultural institution - continues to add venues, themes, arrangements and voices to its presentation of rousing choral works.

With a mix of sacred and secular repertoire, performed in both stunning concert halls and beautiful churches, the choir's 2010-11 season demonstrates the choir's terrific diversity, says artistic director and conductor Noel Edison.

"You've always got to look out for new things," says Edison. Indeed, in his 14 years of leading the 165-voice Mendelssohn Choir, Edison has brought in much younger voices, which he says gives it "a more luminous, versatile sound." He has also strengthened the choir's professional core.

Edison has put together a 2010-11 season of varied musical experiences. These include two masterworks performed in the crystal-clear acoustics of Koerner Hall at the Royal Conservatory of Music's TELUS Centre for Performance and Learning - Bach's St. John Passion and Mozart's Great Mass in C minor. In churches, the choir will use the space creatively to immerse the audience in sound. These concerts include the annual Festival of Carols at Yorkminster Park Baptist Chruch, where the choir and a brass orchestra will perform music by Gabrieli, Schütz and more. Sacred Music for a Sacred Space on Good Friday at St. Paul's Basilica will feature the works fo the dean of Canadian composers, Healey Willan, on the 130 th anniversary of his birth.

The season includes a number of performances with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra at Roy Thomson Hall, including Janacek's Glagolitic Mass, Handel's Messiah and the Last Night of the Proms.

The beloved Messiah this year reunites the choir and TSO with conductor emeritus Sir Andrew Davis, whose new, grandly scaled orchestration of the oratorio "takes it back to the 1950s," Edison says. "It's a great, big, wonderful, roast-beef-and-Yorkshire pudding Messiah."

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