Antara - Between
At First Light
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One of Canada’s top chamber choirs, the Exultate Chamber Singers is a Toronto-based ensemble dedicated to showcasing new Canadian choral music through commissioning and programming. While there are some who consider all music of the 20th century to be contemporary, Exultate commits itself to music that is truly contemporary, as demonstrated with their recent recording At First Light.
Consisting of eight works written by Canadian composers between 2018 and 2021 – seven of which were commissioned by Exultate – At First Light provides a glimpse into some of the wonderful music being written by both emerging and established composers in our country. There is a wide range of compositional diversity here, with texts taken from many sources including Malay lyricist Mohamad Fairuz bin Mohamad Tauhid, the Lebanese-American Kahlil Gibran, as well as Shakespeare and Yeats, set by an equally diverse range of composers.
Unlike the “modernist” music of Schoenberg and Stockhausen, this modern music is largely tonal, with a freedom of technique and expression that has been gathered and distilled from centuries of musical history and returned to its listeners in new, creative forms. Ethereal harmonic textures are the primary musical vernacular here, but each composer’s individual approach ensures that each work is unique unto itself. Whether Matthew Emery’s brief yet profound Be Still, My Heart, Mari Alice Conrad’s atmospheric At First Light, or the rhythmically delightful Speak to Us of Joy by Ecuadorian Canadian Sami Anguaya, there is a variety of styles and techniques on display which provide a distinctively wide-ranging and satisfying listening experience from beginning to end.
A robust and enthusiastic exposition of contemporary Canadian content, Exultate’s At First Light reminds us that there is much to celebrate here at home with regards to classical music. Although its death has been signaled many times over the last half-century, the presence of such gifted composers and interpreters indicates that there is indeed a future for this genre that will be defined not by survival, but rather by successes yet unimagined.