La Scena Musicale

Friday, 9 December 2011

This Week in Toronto (Dec. 12 - 18)

The Yuletide musical season reaches its peak this week, with multiple performances of Handel's Messiah, ranging from small scale performances in local churches to mega-productions at halls that seat thousands. Top on the list for size is the Toronto Symphony Orchestra's version. Billed as "Toronto's Favourite Messiah" by its marketing people, this Messiah certainly has the longest tradition and is always well attended. This year, guest maestro Nicholas Kraemer leads a team of four soloists (soprano Suzie LeBlanc, mezzo Meg Bragle, tenor Lawrence Wiliford, and bass-baritone Andrew Foster-Williams) and the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir. Performances at Roy Thomson Hall 8 p.m. on 14, 16, and 17, plus a matinee (3 p.m.) on the 18th.

For those Torontonians who like their Messiah intimate, they've always turned to the version offered by the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Choir, given each year at their home Trinity St. Paul's Centre. Well, this year they are moving to the larger, state of the art Koerner Hall. According to their website < > all their performances (Dec. 14, 15, 16, 17 at 7:30 p.m.) are sold out! Perhaps there will be returns so do check with the Koerner Hall box office. There is, however, the very popular Sing Along Messiah at Massey Hall on Dec. 18 at 2 p.m. Ivars Taurins leads a terrific team of soloists, the same as the regular performances (soprano Karina Gauvin, countertenor Robin Blaze, tenor Rufus Muller and baritone Brett Polegato).

For an "alternative Messiah," it's worth checking out Aradia Ensemble's The Dublin Messiah. Bill as Handel's original 1742 version, it is rapidly becoming a Toronto tradition under the direction of conductor Kevin Mallon. The soloists are soprano Virginia Hatfield, mezzo Maria Soulis, tenor Joseph Schnurr and bass-baritone Giles Tomkins, all possessing youthful and attractive voices. A single performance on December 17 at 8 p.m. at the Glenn Gould Studio.

For something a little different - and non-religious - the Amici Chamber Ensemble is presenting Critics Choice: What do they really want to hear? As the title suggests, the program is selected by several invited critics - John Terauds of the Toronto Star, John van Driel of 96.3 FM, and Colin Eatok of the Globe and Mail. What an interesting concept! On the program are works by Beethoven, Debussy and Elgar. The show is on Friday Dec. 16 8 p.m. at the Glenn Gould Studio.

As mentioned earlier, there are a bevy of Messiahs all over town this week,each with their own very loyal following. Here are a highly person selection that I find particularly interesting. On Dec. 17 at 7:30 pm, the Ontario Philharmonic is presenting Messiah with Michael Burgess. Well, Mr. Burgess is a legend in Canadian musical theatre, and here's a chance to hear him in Handel. Also appearing are soprano Inga Filipova-Williams, a fine Fiordiligi at the RCM three years ago; mezzo Christina Stelmacovich whom I last heard at the Montreal Vocal Competition a few years back; and former COC Ensemble baritone Andrew Tees. Marco Parisotto conducts the Toronto Chamber Choir. The performance is at Christ Church Deer Park. There are also two performances at the Regent Theatre in Oshawa just to the east of Toronto.

Across the street at the Yorkminster Park Baptist Church on 1585 Yonge Street is the venerable Amadeus Choir with director Lydia Adams. They are presenting the Glorious Sounds of the Season. It celebrates the 25th anniversary of their seasonal song-writing competition. This concert will feature the winners together with other holiday favourites. Soloists are pianists Eleanor Daley and Shawn Grenke, and the Bach Children's Chorus.

A few kilometers west down the QEW at the Living Arts Centre in Mississauga is the Mississauga Symphony under conductor John Barnum. They are presenting Voices of Christmas. Guest choirs are the Cawthra Park's Concert Choir "The Ritz" and the Chamber Choir in a program of holiday favourites. The performance is on Saturday at 4 p.m.


Sunday, 4 December 2011

This Week in Toronto (Dec. 5 - 11)

Violinist James Ehnes in an all Tchaikovsky program with theToronto Symphony Orchestra

Now that we are solidly into December, we are officially in Holiday Season. The big Messiah feast hasn't quite started yet, but there's already a veritable feast of holiday programming big and small, taking place in regular concert venues as well as in the various churches around the city. Here is an eclectic selection of notable Christmas-related concerts:

The Nathaniel Dett Chorale is presenting An Indigo Christmas that features African Latino and Andean music on Dec. 6th 8 p.m. at Koerner Hall.

The Toronto Mendelssohn Choir is presenting Festival of Carols on Dec. 7 7:30 p.m. at the Yorkminster Park Baptist Church, 1585 Yonge Street. Noel Edison conducts and Richard Ouzounian is the narrator.

Right across the street on 1570 Yonge Street is the Christ Church Deer Park, where you can catch Toronto Welsh Male Voice Choir's presentation of A Welsh Christmas.

The British group Tallis Scholars has been on tour the last few months. They are presenting a Holiday Concert featuring a diverse setting of the Magnificat on Dec. 8th at 8 p.m. Koerner Hall.

Jumblies Theatre is presenting Like an Old Tale, an East Scarborough Retelling of Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale, featuring baritone Doug MacNaughton and soprano Neema Bickersteth. There is also traditional Tamil and First Nations' singing. It takes place on Dec. 8 7:30 p.m., with additional shows Dec. 9 to 18.

The Canadian Men's Chorus is presenting A Gentlemen's Christmas: Winter Chill, featuring music by Rusk, Vaughan williams, Looma, Ramsay, Luengen, and Takash. It takes place at the Glenn Gould Studio on Dec. 10 8 p.m.

On Sunday (Dec. 11) 3 p.m., the Toronto Symphony Orchestra presents a children's concert (for those 5 to 12), Twelve Days of Christmas, conducted by Richard Hayman.

On the "non-Holiday Music" front, top on my list is the return of Canada's foremost violinist James Ehnes to the Toronto Symphony Orchestra in an all-Tchaikovsky program on Dec. 8 8 pm, repeated on Dec. 10th 7:30 p.m. He plays the Tchaikovsky violin concerto. Also on the program is Symphony No. 2 "Little Russian", and the rousing Polonaise from Eugene Onegin.
Peter Oundjian conducts.

The Queen of Puddings Music Theatre is presenting New Voices, featuring 15 vocal and instrumental pieces, led by soprano Betty Wayne Allison. It takes place at the Tank House Theatre, Young Centre for the Performing Arts, 55 Mill St. in the Distillery District.