Don Wright Faculty of Music ChoraleFor those of you who haven’t tried it yet, the “Just Ask” feature under the Listings tab on our website is a handy way of filtering our daily event listings to show only the types of music that you are interested in. For example, select “choral” for the February 1 to April 7 date range covered in this issue’s listings, and you get details of 72 events – far and away the largest single category we list.

Read more: Vocal Music and Community Building

Sing Along Messiah, TafelmusikFor a classical work that features in only 19 of the 123 concerts in this issue’s listings that involve a choir (or choirs), Handel’s Messiah still commands a lot of Christmas concert attention. (I think the rule is I am allowed to say “Christmas” if I use “Messiah” in the same sentence.)

Read more: The 6.47% Solution - Handel’s Messiah still holds its own

musica intima. Photo by Wendy D.The 20th century term “postmodern” is often uncritically applied to a whole range of artistic expressions that are not easily compartmentalizable – wherever influences and traditions whose conceits lie on a continuum somewhere between antithetical and oppositional are blended together. Sometimes, though, it is entirely appropriate, as was the case with Andrew Balfour’s beautiful and important piece, NAGAMO (Ojibway for “sing”), recently presented on a coast-to-coast tour by Balfour and musica intima.

Read more: NAGAMO: Andrew Balfour & musica intima

Members of the TMS in rehearsal. Photo by Taylor Long.Here’s some good news for a change: there’s a new professional chamber choir in Toronto, the city that barely has any, and none independent from larger arts organizations. Meet the Toronto Mendelssohn Singers, the new 24-member chamber choir within the larger Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, now forging its own path, mostly by way of contemporary music and commissions. 

Read more: Singing For More Than Just Their Supper!

Portrait of Mendelssohn by the German painter Eduard Magnus, 1846. Why do we love Mendelssohn’s Elijah? For many conductors, performers and listeners, it is the perfect oratorio, combining all the dramatic musical elements required to bring this colourful story to life. 

A more puzzling question is why do we love this character, Elijah? In the oratorio’s opening scene, the cantankerous prophet bursts into ominous incantation, pre-empting the overture with a curse. He condemns his people to drought and famine to force their allegiance to Jehovah, and then massacres the prophets of Baal at Kishon’s brook to ensure his rival cult will never rise again. But unlike other bad boy baritones (like Scarpia) or terrible tenors (like Pinkerton) or murderous mezzos (like Clytemnestra), we have sympathy for Elijah, thanks to librettist Julius Schubring’s careful management of Biblically inspired text. Elijah’s fiery, public character is balanced with his gentler, private self, with intimate scenes of tender compassion toward a widow and her child, his humble loyalty to his people, and his gratitude. Ultimately, in his own emotional wilderness scene, he confronts his self-doubt and contemplates suicide. He is saved by a group of angels who sing “Lift thine eyes to the mountains.”

Read more: The unsung heroes of Mendelssohn's Elijah
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