A group of more than 100 local voices hit the stage at the Capitol Theatre on Friday and brought the audience through a time warp of classical choral music. From traditional sacred music based on a writing from the Book of Psalms to a modern masterwork, members of the Windsor Symphony Orchestra Chorus, the Windsor Classic Chorale, the Country Classic Chorale and a few University of Windsor student singers, showed just how much talent there is in our local choral scene.
With a presentation of two pieces spanning 300 years, conductor Bruce Kotowich led the choirs through a masterful session as the group prepared for a feature performance at New York City’s prestigious Carnegie Hall on Saturday. You could feel the excitement build as the group worked its way through the show for its hometown audience.
Beginning with the complex and challenging Beatus vir from Antonio Vivaldi, the Windsor Symphony Orchestra Chorus and Windsor Classic Chorale performed the early 1700’s piece bouncing back and forth with multiple counterpoint melodies, often sung at the same time. It’s an odd piece of music from the Baroque period that was mostly reserved for performing during sunset vesper prayers at church on Sundays and holidays. Although sometimes bizarre in technique and an extremely complex composition to be considered a normal church selection, it has its moments of glory, especially when the voices are all going off at once – the stereo effect was certainly in full effect during the Gloria Patri climax of the work.
Kotowich provided a great background to the piece before they performed it, preparing the audience for the multiple melodies and ended the opening performance with a joke about how long church services would be if that piece was performed.
The choirs were then joined by members of the Country Classic Chorale and a few University of Windsor student singers for a truly stunning presentation of Ola Gjelio’s Sunrise Mass, the same selection they’ll be performing in New York.
Sunrise Mass is a beautifully crafted choral piece that not only sounds modern and spiritually-uplifting, but it also seems to pay homage to the past with subtle tributes to the classical composers of yesteryear. There were even brief piano moments reminiscent of the piano works of rock bands Styx and Queen.
It’s a piece that requires some skill to perform, with endless notes being sung in extremely long refrains spread throughout the work. Neither expressly sacred nor secular, it uses ancient texts even though the titles of the four movements are in English – The Spheres (Kyrie), Sunrise (Gloria), The City (Credo) and Identity & The Ground (Sanctus). The four movements develop from a sense of the cosmos to an affirmation of the earth, from the echo of The Spheres in the first movement to the final reassuring themes of Identity & The Ground. It’s a great selection to represent Windsor on North America’s finest stage this weekend.
Accompanied by pianists Michael Oddy and Monique Simone, the giant choral ensemble received a well deserved standing ovation from a large crowd that even spread into the balconies. Chorale music is certainly not dead in Windsor – it’s actually gaining momentum – so much so that the city will be glowingly represented this weekend when our friends, neighbours and fellow music lovers tear it up at Carnegie Hall. To all the singers headed to New York, congratulations on your hard work and enjoy the time you’ll spend on one of the world’s greatest stages. #YQG proud.
Later this year, the Windsor Symphony Orchestra and Windsor Classic Chorale are collaborating on three concerts this November as part of the WSO Intimate Classics series – watch for details this fall.
Artistic Director – Bruce Kotowich
Piano – Michael Oddy and Monique Simone
Mary Jeanne Peters
Mary Ellen Sands-King
Claudia den Boer