Ken Stephen, Large Stage Live!
This week’s virtual Festival of Carols concert from the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir triumphantly overcame all obstacles to continue a much-loved Toronto tradition in a year of challenges.
Mounting this programme was especially challenging for the TMC because the Choir had planned and hoped to do an in-person live concert, and was forced by degrees to toss all its plans overboard and re-imagine the entire enterprise for a virtual audience.
With Toronto currently under the most extreme conditions of lockdown, the Choir had to dispense with any thought of live performance on screen and instead adopt a sequence of fascinating visual makeshifts to provide a key element of the entire experience.
The first makeshift became evident in the very first number, Hannah Kendall’s Nativity, written in 2006. In this work for 3-voice SSA choir and 3 solo voices, the singers were distributed widely across the gardens of Yorkminster Park Baptist Church, in a broad arc around conductor Simon Rivard. The resonant acoustic surrounding the voices, and lack of any background traffic noise, made it obvious that the music had been previously recorded indoors (in Koerner Hall, perhaps?). The credits at the end confirmed that the singers in the park weren’t actually singing as the video was made.
This unique outdoor re-creation of musical performance was made for several of the numbers during the concert. The visuals of a cold winter’s night, with illuminated Christmas trees in the background and singers warmly wrapped in coats, mitts, scarves, and the like, added atmosphere to a work that already had plenty of atmosphere to share.
Read the full review here.