Chor Leoni

PopCappella III

When & Where March 3 at 8pm, March 4 at 5pm & 8pm | St. Andrew's-Wesley United Church, 1022 Nelson Street

Conductor Erick Lichte Featured musicians Ken Cormier – Piano, Jodi Proznick – Bass, Keith Sinclair – Guitar & Liam Macdonald - Percussion

Reviewer John Jane

Formed in 1992 by former director, the late Diane Loomer to provide male singers an opportunity to gather and perform classical repertoire. Over three decades, that simple motif has remained even if other things have changed. Current artistic director Erick Lichte has very capably carried the chor Leoni forward, and at the same time the choir has broadened their repertoire to include popular music.

Accomplished a cappella singing, clever arrangements and an adventurous spirit have allowed the sixty-plus members of Chor Leoni to become one of North America's best male choirs. Partly because of the size of the choir and also the need for ideal acoustics, the group regularly perform in the sanctuary of St. Andrews-Wesley United Church.

Under the leadership of Erick Lichte, the choir opened their program with British singer Adele Adkins’ “Rolling in the Deep,” with the aesthetic lighting in the sanctuary, changing from blue to red and gold match the vocal performance. The lyrics seem to suggest emotional nearness and dependence and while Adele’s focus is on a romantic relationship, the sentiment could just as easily apply to a community.

Next, is a medley that combines two show tunes in the same key: Cole Porter’s “So In Love” from Kiss Me Kate and “Tonight” from West Side Story. Miles Ramsey’s arrangement makes the criss-crossing between the songs almost seamless.

Most of the songs performed in this concert’s program were written by singer/songwriters and recorded by the original solo artists. Some worked really well, but some are less successful. One song that does work well is Ken Cormier’s arrangement of Kate Bush’s “Army Dreamers” from her 1980 (yes, 50 years ago) album, Never For Ever. It’s an excellent example of a song performed as a solo by a female artist transcribed for male voices. While not one of Kate Bush’s best known compositions, it has a haunting melody and a poignant story of a soldier returning from a tour of duty but not how a mother would want.

Another song that just seems to fit perfectly in the repertoire is Don Maclean’s “Vincent” (or if you prefer, Starry, Starry Night). Erick Lichte, in his introduction, suggested that the choir dedicate the interpretation to the vulnerable and those with heightened artistic sensitivity. The song is performed in an appropriately midnight blue lit sanctuary.

Not everything in the program is adaptations of well known popular songs. “Little Bluebird” is an original composition from local musician Jodi Proznick. In Ken Cormier’s arrangement, vocals gradually give way to instrumental. While Chor Leoni’s version is quite charming, I still prefer Proznick’s own jazz inflected original (with Laila Biali on vocals).

Not quite an original, but Marie-Claire Saindon’s arrangement of quirky Canadian composer Daniel Snaith’s “Sisters” provides the choir with an opportunity of a first public performance. While Snaith records under the name of Caribou, he is regarded more as a producer than a composer or even a musician. His music is rather more explorative than accessible.

The last “item” in the program is “Dynamite Dynamite TNT” - a musical mash-up devised by Ken Cormier that borrows elements of “Kissin’ Dynamite” from AC/DC and “Dynamite” by Korean boy band BTS (Bangtan Sonyeondan). Chor Leoni left out “Wake me up” from the published program, but instead included “Sweet Caroline” by way of an encore - a joint participation of choir and audience.

© 2023 John Jane