Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 4/12/2011 (3864 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
It takes a great deal of work to put on a Christmas concert. Hours of rehearsal time, venue planning, preparation of program notes, advertising, ticket selling, etc. But before all this takes place, the repertoire for the concert must be selected.
There is an art to putting together an effective and cohesive program of music -- one that will display the talents of the ensemble, challenge them as artists and at the same time provide a pleasing offering to a mixed audience.
The Winnipeg Singers, under the direction of Yuri Klaz, is a wonderful choral ensemble, perhaps the best in the city. They can sing anything and make it sound fabulous. Their Christmas with Brass concert on Sunday afternoon, however, showed only limited facets of this talented group's abilities.
The program of mostly sacred music opened with Giovanni Gabrieli's atmospheric O Magnum Mysterium; the singers divided into two choirs on facing balconies. His Hodie Christus Natus Est added Dietrich Bartel on organ and the Winnipeg Brass Quintet, making for an authentic, multi-layered treat that was simply delicious. Kudos to Dean Pollard and Blaine Workman (trumpet), Shannon Moses (French horn), Jason Kehler (trombone) and Kenton McPeek (tuba).
Salvator Noster (also Gabrieli) was less successful, as choir and brass broke into three groups, struggling to be interconnected. Despite Klaz's efforts, some strained trumpet entries and overly prominent voicing resulted in an uneven performance.
Monteverdi's Exultant Caeli featured superb solo work from alto Jodie Borlé, giving a rich weightiness to her part, bass Jereme Wall and expressive tenor Dan Peasgood, whose trills were pristine. This was lovely period work.
By the time the choir performed Tilley's setting of In the Bleak Midwinter we had reached a breaking point. This was suitably bleak, almost plodding. The afternoon was becoming long, with little reportorial variation. Thank goodness for a bit of lightness with Eleanor Daley's Gabriel's Message, bubbly and spirited.
The second half of the program was a little less staid, with John Tavener's richly harmonized chant, God is With Us. John Van Benthem's rich baritone was commanding and sure, filling the sanctuary. Bartel's booming organ entrances added great drama and intensity, making this the standout of the afternoon.
Norwegian composer Ola Gjeilo's wonderful re-creation of a fourth-century prayer, Tota Pulchra Es, was a stunning vehicle for the choir. The ladies opened with perfect clarity and the men ably carried on the meditation. Klaz imbued the subtlest of expression into this work, as singers momentarily alighted on each note.
But it was the brass quintet that brought the jolly spirit of the season to this concert, with their swinging version of Go Tell it on the Mountain and a fittingly brassy Do You Hear What I Hear? Judging by the audience's (and Bartel's) rhythmic head nodding, this was a welcome departure from the heavier selections proliferating the program.
At the risk of playing the Grinch, I'd say that the Winnipeg Singers could lighten up a bit. Ho, ho, ho!
Christmas with Brass
The Winnipeg Singers
Crescent Fort Rouge United Church
Dec. 4 Attendance: 420
***1/2 out of five