Ken Stephen, Large Stage Live!. The combined forces of the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir and the Toronto Youth Choir acquitted themselves magnificently throughout the cantata, from the majestic opening cry of O Fortuna to the rapid-fire yet still completely clear diction of In taberna quando sumus or Veni, veni, venias. The steadiness of the tone was noteworthy and the choral blend across the full dynamic range was an unfailing delight.
Joseph So, ludwig van Toronto. From the downbeat of “O Fortuna” onwards, it was a sonic journey of extraordinary impact. Sometimes this piece can come across as a tad bombastic, but under Runnicles’s baton, it was plenty loud but never overdone. There were moments of subtlety, underscoring the inherent lyricism of the work. But at the climaxes, it was thrilling, thanks to the inspired playing by the TSO, notably the brass and the woodwinds. ...
And what can I say about the three choirs, except that they are the best. It was headed by the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, surely a national treasure. The torrents of sounds were thrilling, full-bodied, incisive, rhythmically precise, exactly the way it should sound. The ending, a recap of the opening “O Fortuna,” was exhilarating, bringing the audience to its feet.
Leslie Barcza, barczablog. I’ve heard a lot of versions of Carmina Burana and must recommend Runnicles’ distinctive interpretation. He connects the sections together rather than making big pauses, he pushes the tempi in the quicker passages, which is especially electrifying if you get your percussion & brass to opt for clear & crisp attacks. You won’t hear a better performance. This orchestra is in fine form coming towards the last few concerts of the year (this week & next).
Credit too must go to David Fallis, who has the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir matching Runnicles’ requirements for clarity. The text was pristine, the dynamics sometimes beautifully restrained except in the big climaxes, so that the performance had more shape than usual (more than last time certainly). The soft singing still had great intensity, diction and consonants and energy but without being loud all the time. As a result? Extraordinary. If I could go see every concert this week, I would.
Carol Toller, The Globe and Mail. Toronto’s Tafelmusik and Mendelssohn choirs and the buzzy New York-based experimental ensemble Roomful of Teeth have all commissioned pieces from Balfour, and close to 20 groups across the country have performed his first published work, Ambe. The five-minute piece builds around a driving, rhythmic bass line that echoes the sound of a ceremonial drum – or, as Balfour has said, the heartbeat of Mother Earth – and projects a message of unity for all "two-legged beings.” The text is in Ojibway, and its energetic, welcoming message “seems to be something that people want to hear right now,” Balfour says.It’s a far cry from Handel’s “Hallelujah” chorus and the rest of the Western canon that dominates choral programming in North America. And for Canadian choir directors, that may be what’s most exciting about Balfour’s work. He’s drawing on his First Nations identity to nudge the Canadian classical-music scene out of its stodgy Eurocentric traditions.
Michael Johnson, Concertonet.com. This year’s Easter presentation by the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir (“Sacred Music in a Sacred Space“) took place at St. Anne’s Anglican Church a heritage building whose interior was decorated in the 1920s by notable artists in a style hearkening back to art nouveau. The space thus related nicely with the program of 20th century music composed between 1910 and 1987, a time period that experienced the emergence of various musical philosophies and styles. The word “rapt“ best describes the approach of all eight composers.
David Richards, Toronto Concert Reviews. The Toronto Mendelssohn Choir found a new venue for its annual concerts for Holy Week,Sacred Music for a Sacred Space. The new location, St. Anne’s Anglican Church, has a beautiful Byzantine style structure that dates to 1907 with interior decoration and paintings completed by J.E.H MacDonald and other members of the Group of Seven. Before the concert began many of the early birds in the audience were out of their seats getting closer looks and photos of the iconography on the walls and ceilings The symmetrical shape and the domed ceilings gave a warm acoustic without the excessive decay of Gothic styled churches. The setting was clearly one of Interim Conductor and Artistic Advisor David Fallis’s inspirations for the program.The first half of the program was clearly designed to set the tone for a meditative experience. Two reflective motets by French composers opened the concert.
TMC’s popular annual Sacred Music concerts are intended to provide a moment of calm for patrons with a program of contemplative a cappella music. For 2019, David Fallis has created a program of 20th century composers with the first half featuring composers from France and Switzerland, while the second half features composers from Eastern Europe and Russia.David opens the concert with Olivier Messaien’s O sacrum convivium – a composition to help patrons step out of time. In his program notes, David remarks that this motet is “a perfect example of Messiaen’s preoccupation with the suspension of the perception of time in music by the use of extremely slow tempos and subtle changes in length of notes, all designed to bring us closer to something outside of time, eternal.” The first half also includes Poulenc’s Salve Regina and Martin’s Mass for Double Choir, all performed by the 70-member Mendelssohn Singers.The second half of music of the Eastern Orthodox Church will be sung by the full TMC.
Welcome to Sacred Music for a Sacred Space. All of the works on tonight’s program come from the 20th century, the first half from France and Switzerland, the second half from eastern Europe and Russia, with the exception of Healey Willan’s masterpiece which concludes the evening.In earlier periods of European musical history, sacred music was often written by composers who essentially earned their living from the church, and one cannot really know how much the composer was writing from a position of deeply held faith, or writing what was required, often brilliantly, much as an opera composer has to be able to create music which is suitable to many situations or characters. As the influence of the church as employer diminished in the late Baroque and Classical periods, less sacred music was written, and the 19th century sees much more emphasis on symphony, opera and chamber music than on sacred music. There are not many Romantic composers whose chief claim to renown is their sacred music, and it is not by chance that the greatest works of 19th century sacred music are Requiems (Verdi, Berlioz, Brahms), in which one muses on death, a human condition not restricted to people of faith.So by the 20th century it is a decided choice for a composer to write sacred music, and many of the composers represented tonight write from a position of faith, if not always entirely orthodox.
Dave Richards, Toronto Concert Reviews. It was a miserable night to trudge downtown. The six or more inches of snow and slush were enough to discourage many from heading out. By mid-afternoon in Oakville when I learned that the GO trains would be cancelled for several hours, my own attendance was put in doubt. But for those of us who did brave the weather to St. Andrew’s Church, The Toronto Mendelssohn Choir and their Interim Conductor and Artistic Director David Fallis made it more than worth our effort with a celebration of Haydn and Handel.