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.
Spotlight on North America. Saturday, January 26 at 3 pm EST.
Interim Conductor David Fallis has put together a program featuring works by Canadian and American choral composers for the TMC’s 2019 free community concert. David notes
“We want to shine our spotlight on three key areas: the exciting new generation of Indigenous artists across Canada who are leading contributors to so many aspects of our cultural life, choral music included; local Toronto composers from Healey Willan to Stephanie Martin; and the fact that some of our most alluring melodies are folksongs whose origins are obscure but which live on in lively arrangements by important composers.”
This concert is a wonderful opportunity for people to hear the Grammy-nominated 120-voice Toronto Mendelssohn Choir and discover some stunning contemporary choral music, including two works by Andrew Balfour, the prominent Winnipeg composer of Cree descent.
The Toronto Mendelssohn Choir welcomes the holiday season with a concert of Yuletide favourites combined with some new discoveries. The Choir will be led by guest conductor Howard Dyck and will be joined by the Toronto Youth Choir (Matthew Otto, conductor), the Canadian Staff Band of the Salvation Army (John Lam, bandmaster), and Michael Bloss on organ.
Conductor Howard Dyck has put together a program that brings together music of celebration and music for contemplation. It’s also a program that acknowledges some choral greats, including Healey Willan, while also featuring works by contemporary composers. The Choir will open with Healey Willan’s Hodie, Christus natus est. And later in the program the Choir will perform the world premiere of Toronto composer Stephanie Martin’s An Earthly Tree which was commissioned by St. John Cantius Church in Chicago as homage to Healey Willan in this year commemorating 50 years since his death. According to composer Stephanie Martin, “An Earthly Tree entwines the well-known Gregorian Christmas chant Hodie Christus natus est in 21st-century harmonies.”
David Richards, Toronto Concert Reviews. The lights dimmed at St. Paul’s Basilica bringing a hush over the capacity audience and suddenly heavenly a cappella sounds began wafting down from the balcony in the rear of the church. Since 2007, the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir has made it a tradition to present a concert of music appropriate for Holy Week in one of the most beautiful churches in Toronto on one of the Christian church’s holiest days, Good Friday. As the choir began to sing, I squelched the temptation to look back; looking upward at the colourful ceiling paintings of the life of Paul was as far as I dared turn my head. I was transfixed in the moment. The words of Behold the Tabernacle of God reinforced the feeling that I was in a ‘sacred’ space.
Dave Richards, Toronto Concert Reviews.
For the eighteenth consecutive year, the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir has begun its hectic December schedule of performances with its Festival of Carols. The cathedral-like Yorkminster Park Baptist Church was festooned with twenty-five foot high Christmas trees at either side of the chancel, lit with thousands of sparkling lights. The sounds of the TMC, organist David Briggs, the Canadian Staff Band of the Salvation Army, and the Canadian Children’s Opera Company was glorious. This was indeed the beginning of a month of great music, celebration and festivities.
From the opening bars of Bob Chilcott’s arrangement of the Sussex Carol, the energy of the choir’s rhythmically charged singing was joyfully uplifting.
Dave Richards, Toronto Concert Reviews. Yesterday’s concert was a momentous celebration of the great music that grew out of the nineteenth century British choral tradition. It included the music of the famed British composers Elgar, Vaughan Williams, Parry, Holst, Stainer, Sullivan and Tavener as well as Canadians Healey Willan and Elizabeth Ekholm, each heavily influenced by the musical traditions of England.
The concert began with organist Michael Bloss performing the long introduction to Handel’s Coronation Anthem Zadok the Priest. The first sound of the two hundred voice combined choir shook me so intensely that the majesty of the music overwhelmed me at a visceral level. It was a sound that produced goosebumps throughout the entirety of my body.
The concert opened with Gregorio Allegri’s Miserere mei, Deus -- the piece that will forever be associated with the brilliance (and cheekiness) of Mozart, who, at the age of fourteen, wrote it down from memory after just one hearing. With the Miserere, Edison established an aesthetic tone that would govern most of the program: a precise and spacious treatment, notable for perfect intonation and for its restrained approach to tempo and dynamics. I don’t know who the unnamed stratospheric soprano was whose voice soared above all others, but her contribution was impressive.