Spent yesterday’s overcast afternoon indoors, this time at St. Clement’s Church in Forest Hill for the Heliconian Choir and Orchestra’s (HCO) Salut Printemps recital, which I heard about via one of the choir members, my pal – and fabulous mezzo-soprano – Martha Spence.
The afternoon’s program included some classical favourites, featuring female composers, as well as two new compositions – both by female composers – conducted by HCO resident conductor and co-artistic director Cheryll Chung.
The combined choir/orchestra opened with eight movements from Giovanni Battista Pergolesi’s “Stabat Mater,” featuring soloists Barbara Fris (soprano) and Catharin Carew (mezzo-soprano). Folks will recognize this from the Amadeus soundtrack, especially this scene:
Then some Mozart: three movements from “Symphony no. 40” – which you can hear in this compilation of scenes from Amadeus:
After intermission, we were treated to “Songbird,” by Sarah Quartel, performed a cappella by the choir on the two stairways at the entrance of the church, then the choir and orchestra together again for the title piece of the afternoon, Claude Debussy’s “Salut Printemps,” featuring soloist Jen Slade, who filled in last-minute when the original soloist was unable to perform.
The two new works that followed were both by female composers – and both present in the audience. “Song for Abwoon” (“Abwoon” translates to “Source of sound”), by Joanna Estelle and featuring soprano Janet Catherine Dea – a lovely prayer to the Creator of the Universe and written with a call/response structure, with the soloist acting as cantor and singing her parts in Aramaic. Monica Pearce’s “You Know Me” was inspired by Gwendolyn MacEwan’s poem of the same title – a beautiful contemplation of a lover, full of passion and vulnerability with a touch of melancholy.
The ensemble closed with an audience favourite: selections of “Le carnaval des animeaux” by Camille Saint-Säens. Some folks may find this to be on the cheesy side of classical, but damn, it works. The 13th movement Le Cygne (Dying Swan) is a favourite of figure skaters:
A lovely way to spend a Sunday afternoon in spring – with music celebrating the season.
For more info on the Heliconian Choir & Orchestra, please visit their website: www.hco.heliconianclub.org