Transported: New Ears Respond to Sacred Music in a Sacred Space

New Ears reviewer Rakel Zetterlund attended Sacred Music for a Sacred Space on Wednesday, March 23, 2016. Here’s what she thought:

I thank the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir for the opportunity to review Sacred Music for a Sacred Space on Wednesday March 23rd 2016. As a first time choral concert-goer, I truly did not know what to expect walking into St. Paul’s Basilica that Wednesday evening. I was immediately taken aback by the beauty of the church, however it was soon taking second seat to the beautiful music of the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir. I was completely blown away by harmonious sounds of the choir echoing through the church, seemingly emanating from nowhere during the Mass for Four Voices. The rest of the evening managed to change my perspective on classical music drastically. My former understanding of classical music could best be comprehended listening to compositions by Mozart, Bach, and Dvořák, for instance: Large symphonies of sound with multiple instruments and movements. I would have never taken into account that the saxophone, an instrument previously reserved in my mind for solos in rock and roll songs, could blend so harmoniously with the voices of the choir. John Johnson gives an incredible performance alongside the choir effortlessly pushing out sounds unheard on the saxophone before this night. (At least for me.) I have never been so stricken by a performance from a single instrument.

The rest of the music performed was breathtaking. I thought I would find myself uncomfortable sitting on the hard wooden bench of one of the church pews, however that fact only came to mind when I stood up to applaud at the end of the night. The gentle hamonies throughout Parce mihi, Domine and God So Loved the World truly transported me to a different space in time. Yes, this was Sacred Music for a Sacred Space, and there was nowhere else that would act as the same way St. Paul’s Basilica did for this performance. The beauty of the church, the beauty of the voices, I could have easily been sitting in a church in the 16th century!

Perhaps the most humbling moment for me was on the way home, waiting for a streetcar with members of the choir. I found myself thinking “These are real people!”, though with voices like that, they could easily be mistaken for angels.

Rakel Zetterlund is an early childhood music and art teacher living and working in Toronto. She works as a freelance illustrator in her spare time and has made appearances in several independent concerts and musical theatre performances in Toronto. Rakel Zetterlund