David Richards, Toronto Concert Reviews
They lined up outside Yorkminster Park Baptist Church and down the street waiting for the doors to open for a mid-winter gift to the city by the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir. On a bright, sunny, and almost warm Saturday afternoon, choral music lovers came in droves and filled the mammoth church to hear the choir in a free concert.
The concert, billed as Romantics and New Romantics was not the usual fare of well-known popular tunes meant to please an undiscerning audience. Indeed, it was an hour and a half packed with choral gems from the 19th to 21st centuries. Not that for choral lovers there wasn’t a mix of new and familiar, this was a concert meant to touch the heartstrings of both the uninitiated and the seasoned concert-goers. It did just that.
This was the first of a three-concert series in which guest conductors are being introduced to Toronto audiences this spring. John William Trotter, a Canadian living in Chicago, has developed a large following as Principal Music Director and Artistic Director Designate of A Cappella, a Chicago-based professional vocal ensemble. He is known for innovative approaches to presentation and Saturday’s concert was evidence. He demonstrated in this concert not only his ability to elicit fine musical expression from the choir, but also his ease in communicating with the audience.
The concert opened with Samuel Barber’s own arrangement of his Adagio for Strings, perhaps the best-known string orchestra work of the twentieth century. As a choral work, using the Agnus Dei from the Catholic Mass, it is a stunningly reflective piece of music. In the hands of Trotter and the TMC, its radiant beauty was on full display as it began in a shroud of mystery and built with long sweeping melismas to its exhilarating climax before settling once again. I think it was a breathtaking high B flat that the sopranos reached in that climactic moment.
The choir’s patron and namesake composer, Felix Mendelssohn, just had to be a part of this concert. His German a cappella motet, Richte mich, Gott had some gorgeous moments of rich harmony. I was particularly moved by the soaring phrase in the line, “Sende dein Licht und deine Wahrheit” (Send forth your light and your truth). Next came Hear My Prayer in a highlight of the concert, soprano Lesley Emma Bouza’s solo. Bouza is one of the professionals in the choir and displayed a warm, lyrical voice that sang easily over the choir.
Read the full review here.