Coming Together through Toronto’s Beloved Messiah

Brian Chang, Choral Scene, The Wholenote. Toronto Symphony Orchestra CEO Matthew Loden and I are chatting about the beloved cultural phenomenon that is Messiah in Toronto. Sitting in his office overlooking Roy Thomson Hall, I can see the iconic webbing of the edifice, a physical nest that cradles the music hall. In a few weeks, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and guests, under the baton of Johannes Debus, will present a major six-performance run of Handel and Jennens’ masterpiece.. (Full disclosure: as regular readers of this column know, I sing in the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir and will be on stage for these performances.) “We live in a very disjointed and fractured time right now. I think that the human condition is to long for a kind of togetherness, to find your place with people,” says Loden, speaking about the need for a space for an event like Messiah. “Increasingly, we keep finding ways to disintegrate relationships. When you have a moment where you can come together collectively and still have an individual experience while feeling the music coming off the stage with a couple thousand other people – that is really powerful.” With these TSO performances alone, 15,000 people will experience the majesty of the most iconic of Toronto classical-music traditions.
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Categories: 2018-2019 Season and Media Reviews.

TMC announces 2018-19 Season and appointment of David Fallis as Interim Conductor

Acclaimed Toronto conductor David Fallis has been named as Toronto Mendelssohn Choir Interim Conductor and Artistic Advisor for the 2018/19 and 2019/20 seasons. “David brings to the TMC a life-long passion for choral music, incredible conducting experience, and a wide-ranging knowledge of choral repertoire and creative programming," commented TMC Executive Director Cynthia Hawkins.  "We are thrilled to work under the leadership of such an accomplished musician over the next two seasons while the TMC carries out an international search for our new artistic director.”   The Toronto Mendelssohn Choir’s 2018/19 season starts with performances with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra in the Fall, including Benjamin Britten’s compelling War Requiem in a concert that commemorates 100 years since the conclusion of the First World War. The TMC’s own concert season begins in early December with Festival of Carols, the Choir’s annual joyous welcome to the season.  Then in January, a Free Community Concert will focus on the music of great composers from Canada and the United States. In February the TMC, with orchestra, will perform two great 18th century choral-orchestral masterpieces by Handel and Haydn. The season concludes with Sacred Music for a Sacred Space in April with a program that brings together two rich choral traditions: the French subtlety of Messiaen, Poulenc and Martin, and the mystical traditions of Eastern Europe and Russia.
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Categories: 2018-2019 Season and Media Releases.

Grammy-nominated Toronto Mendelssohn Choir leader recalls brush with Lady Gaga

David Friend, The Canadian Press Noel Edison didn't expect to rub shoulders with Lady Gaga when he attended the Grammy Awards for the first time, but the chorus master at the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir couldn't resist the opportunity when it arose. At the glitzy celebration for the 2010 awards in Los Angeles, Edison found himself standing near the "Bad Romance" singer. So he stuck out his hand and introduced himself. "(I) said, 'Look, I want to congratulate you — I think you've got a unique sound and a unique approach to this modern-day popular culture,'" he recalls. "We had a nice chat with her big thugs standing around. We had a little vodka together, so that was fun." Edison didn't win the Grammy that year, but he'll have another chance on Sunday as he vies for best choral performance with his choir and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. The Toronto performers share a nomination with British conductor Sir Andrew Davis for his daring take on Handel's "Messiah," which throws in new elements that elevate the composition's theatrical flair.
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Categories: 2017-2018 Season and Media Reviews.

Halls Brings TSO Messiah Brilliantly Into Focus

Arthur Kaptainis, Ludwig Van Toronto. In the age of sexed-up and dumbed-down Messiahs, it is good to be reminded how utterly self-refreshing Handel’s masterpiece is when addressed by the right personnel under a conductor with something to say. Such were the conditions that prevailed Monday in Roy Thomson Hall, where Matthew Halls led the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Toronto Mendelssohn Choir and a crack quartet of Canadian soloists in through a performance that could fairly be called electrifying.
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Categories: 2017-2018 Season and Media Reviews.

The enduring high note of Handel’s Messiah returning in dual Toronto productions

John Terauds, Toronto Star. No one expects a stopgap to turn into a masterpiece. But that’s what happened to George Frideric Handel when one of his collaborators, Charles Jennens, handed him some texts to set to music. Messiah has, since its premiere in Dublin at Easter time 275 years ago, become one of the best-loved pieces of classical music in the English-speaking world. Toronto is no exception, becoming a virtual shrine to Messiah at this time every year. The city’s two flagship orchestras — the Toronto Symphony Orchestra on modern instruments, and Tafelmusik Orchestra on historical ones — present multiple performances every December. The two-hour oratorio, either in part or whole, is also heard in churches, cathedrals, schools and community concerts from the city core to rural villages.
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Categories: 2017-2018 Season and Media Reviews.

Record Keeping: Why Mess With Handel’s “Messiah”?

Paul E. Robinson, Musical Toronto. Handel’s Messiah has been with us for a very long time. A work clearly beloved by millions of people, its presentation is an annual Christmas event in many cities. So why mess with it? People love it the way it is. What moved Sir Andrew Davis to rewrite the piece?
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Categories: 2016-2017 Season and Media Reviews.

Charles Jennens: The unsung hero of Handel’s Messiah

Robert Harris, The Globe and Mail. In this season of goodwill and compassion, spare a moment for the forgotten man of Christmas. His name is Charles Jennens. You probably have never heard of him, but every Christmas, you probably listen to, if not sing, at least some of the words he crafted together. Jennens is the man who assembled the texts for Handel’s Messiah. The very fact that we call it Handel’s Messiah demonstrates exactly how much we value Jennens’s contribution to the oratorio. Yet a compelling case can be made that it is Jennens’s compilation of biblical texts, most from the Old Testament, that is as responsible for Messiah’s enduring power as Handel’s music. A radical suggestion.
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Categories: 2016-2017 Season and Media Reviews.

Is Toronto Getting Tired Of Messiah Yet?

Michael Vincent, Musical Toronto. As for the chorus, the Toronto Mendelsohn Choir were on stage arranged on risers behind the orchestra. The aural effect was worthwhile. Rather than the typical arrangement of situating the chorus in the choir loft, on stage allowed for a centralised and cohesive reference emanating through the orchestra. TMC’s female voices were in particularly fine form, and the overall balance was both polished and powerful. I think we all agree how lucky we are in Toronto to have a choir like the TMC to keep choral music at such a high standard in our city.
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Categories: 2016-2017 Season and Media Reviews.

Messiah watch

Arthur Kaptainis, Montreal Gazette. Messiah watch: There was a time when I offered a ritual recommendation of the 1987 EMI Toronto Symphony/Toronto Mendelssohn Choir recording of Handel’s oratorio under Andrew Davis, which even at the time was swimming against the historicist flow by using fairly large forces. Now the British conductor has created a recording of his own “new concert edition,” which applies all manner of modern instrumental accoutrements to the masterpiece, marimba not excluded. Again the TSO and Toronto Mendelssohn Choir are the ensembles. The label is Chandos. I am sure Sir Andrew would agree that this should not be the only Messiah on your shelves. Certainly, it has its striking and high-spirited moments, but I find it rather like a walk through the toy department.
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Categories: 2016-2017 Season and Media Reviews.

Enjoy TSO’s take on Messiah in the comfort of your own home

Brad Wheeler, The Globe and Mail. Captured live in December, 2015 (Sir Andrew Davis's reimagined Messiah), the recording features soloists Erin Wall, Elizabeth DeShong, Andrew Staples and John Relyea, along with the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir. And while this second-coming album affords you the luxury to bust out your hallelujahs in the comfort of your own living room, automobile or wherever, there’s nothing like witnessing the Messiah in person.
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Categories: 2016-2017 Season and Media Reviews.