Review of Endangered

Ken Stephen
Large Stage Live!
June 1, 2022

As in other concerts for the last couple of seasons, Saturday afternoon’s performance by the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir — titled Endangered — centred around a theme: the theme of endangered species, suggesting lines of thought about how we react and relate to all other living creatures with which we share our space on this planet.
Each of the three works related in some way to the theme, with the major work, Sarah Kirkland Snider’s Mass For the Endangered, speaking in a very direct way to the issue.
In what would have been an unthinkable lapse even half a century ago, the programme covered the theme of life in this world without once touching on Haydn’s Creation — a clear sign that musical life in our times has moved far away from its former total dependence on the central European classics.
The one piece that came closest to that tradition was the second work, Aaron Copland’s In The Beginning, written in 1947. We’re so used to thinking of Copland as a folksy American composer of country dances that it’s easy to forget he had many other and more diverse aspects of his musical personality.
In The Beginning has roots firmly planted in the chant-and-response pattern of traditional Jewish prayers, not only in its structure but also in its harmonies which often give a nod to the age-old chants so fundamental to that religious tradition. On the other hand, it diverges strikingly by giving the role of the “cantor,” so to speak, to a female soloist — on this occasion, mezzo-soprano Julia Barber.
Read the full review on Large Stage Live!