On Friday March 3, Mount Allison Music hosted a recital featuring Mt. A music professor Dr. Christina Raphäelle Haldane and her collaborative pianist Dr. Carl Philippe Gionet. This recital would be the world premiere of a variety of pieces, including Haldane’s version of “Sure on this Shining Night” by Samuel Barber. It was also the premiere for “You Gave Me Hyacinths,” a collaboration of many years between Haldane and David Jaegar, based on the poem by David Cameron. Haldane and Gionet breathed life into every song they performed; it was a joy to watch.
Haldane is an accomplished soprano who has performed around the world. She has taken on many lead opera roles and has performed in opera houses in Finland, the UK, Scotland, and Hong Kong. She has released various works, including Let Me Explain (2019), a collection of Canadian art songs. Haldane joined Mt. A’s music department this past summer and is on the voice faculty of two masterclass programs.
Gionet is Haldane’s cousin and long-time collaborator. He is an accomplished pianist and multidisciplinary artist. Gionet has received training around the world and has been a part of numerous prestigious summer programs. He is the recipient of many arts awards and is active in both the music and fine arts communities.
It was a privilege to watch two seasoned and successful musicians perform on the Brunton Auditorium stage. You could see how strong their bond was. It was not a singer and her accompanist; it was a team that very evidently shared the same passion for music. The whole concert was a celebration of the female voice, both literally and through the pieces chosen. Works such as “Sure as the Shining Night,” “Penelope,” “You Gave Me Hyacinths,” as well as Handel’s work, all share a delicate quality in their lyrics, which embodies the romantic version of the female perspective. This quality was only emphasized by Haldane’s brilliant performance as she seemingly floated across the stage gilded by the stage lights. She embodied the lyrics of each piece and drew the audience in. Her voice rang so purely that it left my head hollow, only able to take in and savor the sweet sound of their music, as opposed to the multitude of anxieties that typically take up residence in there. Her movements were light, yet purposeful as she embodied the heroine of each song.
Haldane and Gionet opened the recital with “Sure on this Shining Night,” a piece that Haldane said she has loved since she was in her undergraduate program. Prior to tonight, however, she said “[s]he never felt courageous enough to sing [it].” Well, I certainly hope she was put at ease by the thunderous applause from the audience. I had never heard this song before tonight, and doubt I will again; however, Haldane’s performance is a memory I will hold with me for a long time. She was radiant; you could see the pride in her eyes as she accomplished a task that I am sure she had wanted to achieve for many years.
Another highlight from the concert came from a collaborative effort between Gionet and Haldane. For years, Gionet has been working on a creative re-imagining of arrangements for Twelve Acadian Folk Songs tailored to Haldane’s voice. These have been featured in a record titled Tu me voyais, which premiered last fall. Haldane described the creative process as an adventure and expressed joy at being able to work on these pieces with Gionet. Interestingly, Gionet said it was an “accident” that the songs got finished when they did. Although the scores have reportedly been done since 2016, Gionet added the final touches when inspiration struck at a friend’s house on Prince Edward Island. He stated that even though the songs have been finished for a while, as the process of production began, “it has been rewarding to see [the songs] take on a life of their own.” The duo only performed four songs, and I wish they had done more; they were engaging, fun, and reminded me of home. I highly recommend listening to the music wherever it is available and buying the album when it comes out.