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This article was published 8/11/2017 (940 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Just over a year ago, Canzona, one of the city’s best-loved choirs, quietly took its leave, pushing its own pause button due to a necessary restructuring that included a change in artistic leadership.
The baroque vocal ensemble marks a triumphant return to the city’s choral community on Sunday with The Grand Motets, where it will also introduce its new artistic director, Kathleen Allan. The program, which begins at 7:30 p.m. at the St. Boniface Cathedral, features music of the French Baroque, with a core group of 21 choristers joined by members of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra.
"Canzona has such an illustrious history of performing the baroque masterworks, and I intend to uphold and honour that wonderful tradition that was initiated by (founding artistic director) Henry Engbrecht in 1989," Allan says over the phone from her Vancouver home. "We’ve spent the last year dreaming and developing a vision for the ensemble in the coming years, including forging new collaborations and putting baroque music into different contexts to make it relevant for the 2017 Winnipeg community."
Born in St. John’s, N.L., Allan — her voice still infused with charming, East Coast twang — first moved to Vancouver to study music composition at the University of British Columbia, followed by further graduate studies in conducting at Yale University. Now a triple threat, she nurtures three flourishing careers as a composer, conductor and soprano soloist — a feat that would make lesser musicians quiver — as well as having studied and performed with such early music luminaries as Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Masaaki Suzuki, Nicholas McGegan, Helmuth Rilling and Simon Carrington.
"I’ve recently given up on the word ‘balance’ because it doesn’t seem to work," Allan says with a chuckle, when asked how she manages to juggle three musical balls at the same time. "I’m going more with the word ‘focus’ at the moment, because artistic leadership is certainly my focus. But I love composing, and feel that I’m evenly extroverted and introverted, so I need both of those in order to stay fulfilled. They just take turns coming to the fore and it’s messy. It’s not a perfect system, but it’s always fun."
In addition to helming Canzona, Allan also serves as director of choral studies and associate conductor of the Symphony Orchestra at the Vancouver Academy of Music, and is associate conductor for the Vancouver Bach Choir. She first heard of the Canzona opening from a choral colleague, earning the plum position after a 2016 audition. She will travel to Winnipeg just prior to each of its scheduled two concerts this year for one week of intensive rehearsals, with Canzona associate director Geung Kroeker-Lee first laying the foundation.
The upcoming program features the Manitoba première of two 17th-century French Baroque masterworks: Jean-Baptiste Lully’s Exaudiat te Dominus, and Marc-Antoine Charpentier’s Te Deum, H. 146, written in the looming shadow of the elder musician.
"Lully was the director of music in the court of Louis XIV, and wrote sacred works for performance in the king’s royal chapel at Versailles," Allan notes. "Charpentier wrote really spectacular music that wasn’t really recognized until Lully’s death. This work is very celebratory, and quite opulent with trumpets and timpani and will be a great way to ring in Canzona’s new phase."
Also included on the bill are two German settings of those same texts by J. S. Bach and Johann Hermann Schein that also pay homage to the strong Mennonite influence embedded within Manitoba’s choral community.
And will local choral aficionados ever hear any Allan compositions?
"Aha! That’s a good question!" she demurs. "It would more likely be an adaptation, or an arrangement, but we’ll have to wait and see."
In the meantime, Allan is focusing on helping to re-establish Canzona in its place within Winnipeg’s cultural fabric.
"It’s a great honour to accept the role of incoming artistic director of Canzona, and I’m very excited about our first concert together," Allan states. "I believe strongly in the power of choral music to unite all people across regions, cultures and faiths, and of the music of the past to highlight human truths that span the ages," she states. "I have every confidence that Canzona will only continue to flourish while remaining rooted in the rich cultural communities of Winnipeg and Manitoba."
Tickets for the concert are $30 for adults, $24 for seniors and $12 for students and are available at McNally Robinson Booksellers, online at canzona.ca or at the door.
Flipside Opera’s third annual Opera Idol will be held Sunday at 2:30 p.m. at St. Andrew’s River Heights United Church, 255 Oak St., featuring 14 emerging artists vying for cash prizes and a chance to perform in a future production by the troupe established by Judith Oatway, Dawn Bruch and Lisa Rumpel. Audience members will cast votes for their favourite diva and divo followed by a dessert reception, with judges Gregory Dahl, Rob Herriot and yours truly offering pearls of wisdom and commentary throughout the afternoon.
For tickets and further info, visit flipsideopera.com.
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