Music of the Americas
Vancouver Chamber Choir

Date: 27 September 2002 Venue: Ryerson United Church

Reviewer: John Jane


 

 

 

Conductor: Jon Washburn; Featured Performer: Linda Lee Thomas, Piano

 


The Vancouver Chamber Choir opened their season with a fine eclectic programme of songs and choral excerpts originating from the two American continents. The 22-member choir performed in front of a near full house of enthusiastic supporters at the Ryerson United Church. Inside the church, an aural treat awaits, with a high wooden ceiling which makes for excellent acoustics.

I arrived at the old church within fifteen minutes of the scheduled start, and took my place directly behind the reserved seating for the (absent) Mexican consulate delegation. The musicians appeared on the stage area, entering from both sides of the church to exuberant applause. The recital commenced with an explanation from Mr. Jon Washburn on the history of the first two pieces and the reason for their selection. The programme got under way with spirited interpretations of Widmer's Salmo from Brazil, and Franco's Magnificat from Mexico.

Following another brief introduction from Washburn, the singers tackled the Villalobos version of Ave Maria sung perfectly in the original Latin. The highlight of the first half must surely have been Murray Schafer's "A Garden of Bells" - a work performed countless times by the Choir since 1983. In his understated introduction Washburn promised a sonic experience. What the choir delivered was vocal campanology, with the singers using their voices to simulate the sound of bells.

 

 

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The first half concluded with the choir being joined by guest pianist Linda Lee Thomas in performing a ternary of Canadian folk songs by Derek Healey.

The choir returned after the perfunctory twenty minute break with a lively rendering of 'Indianas' by Argentina's Guastavino, and a short, somewhat jazzy lullaby by George Gershwin, before giving up the stage to Linda Lee Thomas. Ms Thomas chose for her solo a tango by Argentinian composer Genero Esposito, which she appeared to enjoy playing as much as the audience enjoyed listening.

The choir saved what was arguably their best until the last, with a moving performance of Mr. Washburn's sensitive arrangement of Piazzolla's heroic tango-opera "Maria de Buenos Aires Suite."

The evening concluded with a predictable, rather than spontaneous encore of a delightful Cuban folk song.

This concert was a wonderful curtain-raiser for the Choir, who start their season with a couple of new full time members including Joanna Dundas, the second soprano, whose voice I had the pleasure of hearing in a school gymnasium when she was an Argyle secondary school student in North Vancouver just a few years ago.

2002 John Jane