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The biggest moments of the concert were saved for the carols sung by the choirs and audience with accompaniments by the brass band and organ. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing can never miss with its familiar descant in the David Wilcox arrangement. Similarly, The First Nowell arranged by Paul Halley created joyous sounds that filled the hall with brass, timpani, organ and voices. Let the Christmas season begin!
This concert will be repeated tonight, December 6 at 7:30pm at Yorkminster Park Baptist Church and can be heard live on line at www.livestream.com/TMChoir. The livestream wll also be available following the concert.
The Toronto Mendelssohn Choir will combine with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra at Roy Thomson Hall December 18-23 in performances of Handel’s Messiah.
For the eighteenth consecutive year, the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir has begun its hectic December schedule of performances with its Festival of Carols. The cathedral-like Yorkminster Park Baptist Church was festooned with twenty-five foot high Christmas trees at either side of the chancel, lit with thousands of sparkling lights. The sounds of the TMC, organist David Briggs, the Canadian Staff Band of the Salvation Army, and the Canadian Children’s Opera Company was glorious. This was indeed the beginning of a month of great music, celebration and festivities.
From the opening bars of Bob Chilcott’s arrangement of the Sussex Carol, the energy of the choir’s rhythmically charged singing was joyfully uplifting. The renowned English organist David Briggs enhanced the singing with richly colourful and rhythmic accompaniments on the magnificent four manual Cassavant organ. It didn’t hurt that conductor Noel Edison was wearing a red suit jacket to herald in the spirit of the season. It was clear that this concert was meant to connect with the audience on an emotional level. It was meant to bring back the memories of childhood with familiar melodies and carols.
The jubilant atmosphere continued with the Canadian Staff Band of the Salvation Army led by bandmaster John Lam. With a brass processional followed by an upbeat medley of carols, the band was at its brilliancy best. The smiles on the faces of the choristers sitting and listening behind the band were telling.
We didn’t have to wait long for the pure tones of the forty or so children in the Canadian Children’s Opera Company to add to the Christmas feeling with several selections sprinkled throughout the program. They were perhaps at their best in the Elmer Iseler arrangement of Away in a Manger. Their unison singing rang out over the beautifully crafted suspension-filled accompaniment. Madelaine Ringo-Stauble, a fine young soprano with the CCOC, sang the second verse of the carol.
Toronto Mendelssohn Choir's 'A Festival of Carols'; Photo credit: Anne Longmore
Toronto Mendelssohn Choir marks the beginning of the holiday season with glorious sounds!
Canadian Children's Opera Company with Music Director Teri Dunn and Soloist Madelaine Ringo-Stauble; Photo credit: Anne Longmore
The TMC mixed a cappella singing with organ and brass accompanied arrangements of mostly familiar Christmas melodies. By contrast, the simple tuneful Good News Carol by the Joannie Ing, winner of the 2017 TMC Choral Composition Competition was a new work with a traditional feel that will no doubt become Christmas repertoire for choirs across the country.
The finest singing of the night belonged to the professional voices of the Elora Singers. I was intrigued by Timothy Corlis’ To See the Cherry Hung with Snow, a contemporary setting of the A.E Housman poem. It was followed by a very rhythmical arrangement of Go Tell it on the Mountain by Paul Halley. For these two pieces, Edison placed his chamber choir in the middle of the nave where the aisles between the trancepts meet the centre aisle of the church. Facing one another in a tight circle, the singers really connected.
Review by David Richards
Toronto ON December 6th 2017
The Elora Singers with Choral Director Noel Eddison; Photo credit: Anne Longmore