From sacred to folk: the Elora singers do it all

Ontario’s critically acclaimed chamber choir presents a dynamic program to Sackville audience

The Elora Singers, led by conductor Noel Edison and accompanied by pianist James Bourne, delighted a full audience in Brunton Auditorium during the second stop of their Canada 150 Maritime Tour. The chamber choir, including singers from the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir’s professional core, performed an engaging and diverse program, ranging from compositions by J. S. Bach to Canadian folk songs.

The first half of the performance consisted of sacred works while the second half featured folk songs from across Canada. The repertoire showcased the ensemble’s versatility to perform different choral genres in German, French, Latin and English.

In two selections by Bach, Lobet den Herrn, Alle Heiden and Cum Sancto Spiritu (Gloria from Mass in B minor), the ensemble did an excellent job of bringing out each individual vocal entry throughout the intense polyphonic movement: It was clear that the choir was having fun with the complexity of these two works.

“Edison’s conducting was masterful, precise and emotional; one can tell that his conducting presence provides an expressive influence over the choristers’ and pianist’s performance,” said first-year organ student Gibson MacMillan.

In the first half, numerous works were sung in English by Arvo Part, Eric Whitacre, Healey Willan and Timothy Corlis. In the works by Willan and Corlis, also Canadian composers, it was evident that the choir’s strength in conveying the text made each work more dramatic and convincing.

Her Sacred Spirit Soars by Whitacre, written for double choir in canon form, presented a continuous thick, warm wall of sound and harmonies, enhancing changes in momentum: The choir produced an impressively full sound for only having 20 singers.

In Immortality by Corlis, the choir had a nice balance between the low and high registers, even when individual voice parts were singing at the very extremes of their respective ranges.

“Corlis’ Immortality left me with goosebumps,” said first-year voice student Adele Marsland. “They were completely blended and in tune: When the complicated and dissonant harmonies resolved, the effect was a stunning sound.”

Selections from Ruth Watson Henderson’s Five Ontario Folk Songs opened the second half. The first selection, The Maggie Hunter, is based off of the traditional Kingsfold hymn tune, and the choir sang with distinctive differences in articulation and intensity from verse to verse. The choir lived up to Edison’s description of “fun and evocative” in their playful performance of the next selection, Poor Little Girls from Ontario.

Contrasting to the Ontario folk songs, both coasts of Canada were represented through arrangements by Larry Nickel: Old Lady Rose by David Baker talks about the eponymous B.C. ship, featuring a contented, flowing melody. Fogarty’s Cove by Stan Rogers, which is set along the shores of Nova Scotia, has a more upbeat melody led by the lower voices.

The concert concluded with popular compositions by Harry Somers and pleasant arrangements by Lydia Adams and Jonathan Quick. The choir sang through the rhythmically challenging Si j’avais le bateau and Feller From Fortune by Somers with confidence, while making the text light and humorous at the same time.

“The choir’s blend was phenomenal, and the group’s expressions were very coherent and clear,” said third-year voice student Emily Steers.

The Elora Singers will conclude their 11-day Canada 150 Maritime Tour with a final performance in Dartmouth, NS, on Oct. 21.

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