The Toronto Symphony Remembers…

Jeff Mitchell, Toronto Concert Reviews

The rest of the concert was given over to the Toronto premiere of an hour-long work entitled Afghanistan: Requiem for a Generation, by Vancouver-based composer Jeffrey Ryan, with text by Canadian poet Suzanne Steele, who spent time with the Canadian Light Infantry in Afghanistan between 2008 and 2010.  Her “observations of a Canadian battle group’s road to war and that of their loved ones, before, during and after war”, as expressed through her vivid and graphic poetry, set the stage for the dramatic and visceral music composed by Ryan.  The work is written for orchestra, vocal soloists, as well as adult and children’s choruses. Each of the soloists were exceptional, singing music that was not as lyrical or melodic as one often hears in a requiem but that was, at turns, percussive, violent, plaintive and emotionally raw, even at its quietest moments. The singers were Measha Brueggergosman, soprano, Allyson McHardy, mezzo-soprano, Colin Ainsworth, tenor, and Brett Polegato, baritone. The choruses included the 100-voice Toronto Mendelssohn Choir and the 60+ voices of the Toronto Children’s Chorus.  This listener finds it difficult to capture in words the full measure of this intense work. It would take multiple listenings to internalize all that happens surrounding the basic requiem structure that emerges only through the occasional latin words sung by the choirs that correspond to the typical movements of a standard requiem.  The text is in English, French and Pashto, and the screening of sub-titles was very helpful.

Read the full review here.