Tallis Choir

The year is 1725, the night is Christmas Eve. In the colonial city of Quebec it is crisp and clear; snow upon snow has fallen and tonight lies in vast expanses, sparkling under the stars. Life is not easy — in no small measure because of the extreme cold — ah, but inside the church this night there is warmth and a sense of wonder at the holiness of this yearly ritual. And there is wonderful music: a marvellous Messe de Minuit pour Noël by the late French composer Marc-Antoine Charpentier is being performed. Brought over from France, it’s filled with delightful melodies of French carols. Its sections are surrounded and interspersed with other Christmas music too, noëls and motets by composers both from the French court of King Louis XIV and from the New World; a carol in an aboriginal language; also lovely organ music from a book recently brought over from France by the new organist of Notre-Dame parish. For the sophisticated congregation of Quebec, it truly is a glorious feast of music.

Every year, the Tallis Choir presents a concert programme, built around an imagined but possible historical event such as the above, with music that was performed in the period. They do this with obvious joy in the extensive research involved in the preparation, by people such as choir member Douglas Cowling and director Peter Mahon. On December 10 at St. Patrick’s Church, you can hear this season’s offering as the Tallis Choir, the Talisker Players, organist Philip Fournier and director Peter Mahon recreate a high mass for Christmas Eve as it might have been celebrated in colonial Quebec city, “Midnight Mass for New France, 1725.”


18_early_messiah_herrhandelThere’s no dearth of annual Messiahs in the offing, each one special in its own way. Here’s a sampling of some which offer a particularly unique approach:

Georgetown Bach Chorale takes an historical approach in terms of location and musical presentation. Director Ronald Greidanus waxes enthusiastic about the venues: “The buildings are as incredible as the music, Acton’s Old Town Hall being very similar to the theatre Handel would have performed his Dublin premiere in; the second location (east of Georgetown) even more breathtaking — an isolated wooden Catholic church situated in the middle of a field, lit by candles, decorated by incredible byzantinian icons. Listeners will be bemused by a beautiful chorale sound (complete with 22-member choir, two harpsichords, baroque chamber organ, baroque strings and brass) in an intimate church that seats only 180 — it truly is like going back in time, it’s like the best kept secret!” December 3 in Acton, December 4 in Brampton.

Pax Christi Chorale’s performance, under the direction of Stephanie Martin, acknowledges children. “The Children’s’ Messiah” is designed especially for youngsters, in a condensed version with narration and a casual, child-friendly setting. December 10 at Church of St. Mary Magdalene.

Aradia Ensemble’s “The Dublin Messiah” recreates the first performance of Handel’s famous work using the original version of the score, as presented in Dublin on April 13, 1742. And there’s a nod to the dress code of the day: as in the original performance, they request that, “The Ladies who honour this Performance with their Presence would be pleased to come without hoops (hoop framed skirts), as it will greatly increase the Charity by making room for more company.” December 17 at Glenn Gould Studio.

Tafelmusik’s “Sing-Along Messiah,” celebrating its 25th anniversary, is directed by none other than Handel himself (aka Ivars Taurins). Taurins received a Gemini Award nomination this year for the film version; his immersion in his character is based on painstaking research — from Handel’s ruddy complexion (he was fond of drink) to the type of starch (not powder!) Handel used in his wig. As their press release says: “Does the audience notice these subtle distinctions? Maybe not, but they completely buy into the illusion that Handel has come back after 270 years to conduct them in this three-hour annual ritual.” December 18 at Massey Hall.

A Host Of Others To See Out The Old And Welcome In The New:

• December 8: The Tallis Scholars appear at Royal Conservatory’s Koerner Hall, in a programme that features diverse composers’ settings of the Magnificat — glorious choral music from 15th century John Taverner all the way to late 20th century Arvo Pärt.

• December 9, 10, 11: Toronto Consort celebrates “A Spanish Christmas” — Christmas with a Latin flavour as it might have been experienced by the Spanish-speaking nations of the world on both sides of the Atlantic in renaissance and baroque-period times. This is a world the Consort revisits every two years; this year’s presentation includes solemn motets, lively villançicos, pieces in native languages and dialects, some in African rhythmic inflections. Music of “irrepressible spirit, flashing rhythms and soulful sonorities.”

• December 10: I Furiosi Baroque Ensemble presents “Hell Hath No Fury” …  like I Furiosi scorned! “Not your average Christmas concert” so be prepared to be surprised.

• December 16: Sine Nomine Ensemble for Medieval Music presents “Puer natus est nobis: A 14th-century Mass for Christmas Day,” a musical reconstruction of a nativity mass from Avignon. This year the ensemble celebrates 20 years of inventive programming, combining vocal and instrumental music from medieval courts and churches with readings, drama, and liturgical action, to provide insight into the fascinating artistic and intellectual culture of the Middle Ages.

20_early_hallie_fishel___john_edwards_-_the_musicians_in_ordinary_-_500__-_alexandra_guerson• January 1 and 2: Musicians In Ordinary’s annual New Year’s Day concerts offer an elegant alternative to the traditional New Year’s fare, with cantatas by Vivaldi and Alessandro Scarlatti, a trio sonata by Corelli and music for solo archlute by Zamboni. Soprano Hallie Fishel and lutenist John Edwards are joined by violinists Edwin Huizinga and Christopher Verrette, and others.

• January 15: Toronto Early Music Centre’s “Musically Speaking” series resumes at its new location of St. David’s Anglican Church, 49 Donlands Ave. Music by Guillemain, Leclair and Telemann is performed by Alison Melville, recorders/traverso; Elyssa Lefurgey-Smyth, violin; Justin Haynes, viola da gamba; and Sara-Anne Churchill, harpsichord.

• January 19 to 22: What a way to celebrate your 30th anniversary! Jeanne Lamon’s “gift” to herself is to direct Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Choir, along with spectacular guest soloists, in a semi-staged performance of Handel’s rarely performed music drama Hercules — a dramatic story “seething with the destructive power of sexual jealousy” inspired by a Greek tragedy written by Sophocles more than 2500 years ago.

• January 27: In Kingston, the Melos Choir and Chamber Orchestra presents “The Italian Connection: Gabrielli to Vivaldi,” welcoming guest guitarists Jeff Hanlon and Chad Yacobucci.

• January 27 and 28: Perhaps you’ve heard him singing with Tafelmusik: the passionate evangelist in Bach’s St. John Passion, the tenor soloist in the B Minor Mass, or the tenor voice in Purcell’s opera King Arthur. Or with the Toronto Consort, in the Monteverdi Vespers or the opera Orfeo. If so, you’ll not have forgotten the remarkable agility of his voice, or the intensity of his commitment to the text. Now the Toronto Consort presents the English tenor Charles Daniels in recital, in “It was a lover and his lass,” a concert of exquisite lute songs from the English and French Renaissance. He’ll be accompanied by lutenist David Miller, in works by Morley, Danyels, Campian and Moulinié.

• January 28: The years 1788 to 89 were incredibly creative ones for Mozart; he was then at the height of his powers. Academy Concert Series performs three of his major chamber works written during that time, in “Mozart: A Year In Vienna.”

• February 4: Fellow columnist, lutenist Benjamin Stein, makes the point that “Improvisation was a natural part of Bach’s musical milieu, and this skill, neglected in much classical music training, is one that has reappeared as an essential aspect of training in early music.” In Music at Metropolitan’s “BachFest II: Jam Sessions with Bach,” performances of works by Bach and other German composers are combined with improvisations on baroque dance forms and hymn tunes. Taking part are four talented musicians: Benjamin Stein, theorbo/lute; Sara-Anne Churchill, keyboard; Daniel Rubinoff, saxophone; Elyssa Lefurgey-Smith, violin.

• February 4: In “Pergolesi’s Inspiring Stabat Mater,” Barrie Concerts brings internationally renowned musicians to their stage: soprano Dame Emma Kirkby, countertenor Daniel Taylor and the Theatre of Early Music will surely inspire with their performance. The series is sold by subscription only and is virtually sold out; lucky are those who already have their tickets.

Finally, a correction to last month’s column: it’s not often I mistake Schubert for Gounod. Granted, they both wrote Ave Marias, but only one of these is based on Bach’s Prelude No.1 from the Well Tempered Clavier Book I, and it definitely wasn’t the Schubert as I stated in the print version of last month’s issue. I guess The Well-tempered Sleeper finally awoke … Better late than never!

Simone Desilets is a long-time contributor to The WholeNote in several capacities who plays the viola da gamba. She can be contacted at earlymusic@thewholenote.com.

What does Elvis Presley’s Can’t Help Falling in Love have in common with a song by 18th century composer Jean Paul Martini? Or the musical Kismet with Alexander Borodin? Or Gounod's Ave Maria with Bach? If you know the answers, you’ve already tapped into a musical phenomenon that stretches in a long continuum back to ancient times: out of existing music emerges new music — which is to say that throughout musical history, composers have seized upon a good tune when they’ve heard one and known how to capitalize on it in ways appropriate to their time and purpose. This is one of November’s themes.

21_early_diana_kolpak_as_the_clown_in_scaramella__photo_by_kathleen_finlayScaramella: Scaramella’s upcoming concert “Hit and Run” is built upon this well-known and widespread practice, taking some of the baroque era’s “good tunes,” beloved and popular in their day, and revealing how 16th century composers have transformed them into new pieces. Artistic director Joëlle Morton explains: “In some rare instances, the new pieces were spoofs — making fun of the original tunes. But in most situations, the new composers referenced the older pieces in a respectful way by quoting the text, resetting an old melody or bass line with completely new parts, composing additional lines that could be added to the older work or creating elaborate virtuosic showpieces out of one or more of the original lines.”

Thus you’ll be able to hear Diego Ortiz’s gamba-inspired flights of invention on the melancholy song Doulce Memoire, by earlier composer Pierre Sandrin, as well as how a ciacona (or chaconne) has been treated in three ways: the first two in 15th and 16th century settings, the third by contemporary composer (and recorder virtuoso) Matthias Maute — a recently completed tribute to the late wife of a dearly-respected man.

Running concurrently with the musical presentation is another delight: a clown, who will dramatize the texts involved, in the manner of the commedia dell’arte movement, which was so popular at the time.

“Hit and Run” takes place on November 26 at Scaramella’s usual gracious venue, Victoria College Chapel.

Ensemble Chaconne: A related theme, seen in several concerts this month, is that of the interrelationships between music, words and drama. In Shakespeare’s England these were well and flourishing, as popular tunes, both their melodies and text, were so familiar that musicians used them as the basis for sets of variations; also, poets set new verses to known tunes, often based on news of the day. The Bard himself assiduously incorporated well known songs into his plays and wrote poems for new songs. And many composers from Shakespeare’s own time — Thomas Morley, for example — and from every era since, have contributed music for specific use in his plays.

A group which is perhaps not well known to Southern Ontario audiences brings a colourful programme entitled “Measure for Measure — the Music of Shakespeare’s Plays” to our area this month. Ensemble Chaconne is dedicated to vivid, historically informed performance of renaissance and baroque music on period instruments. Based in the Boston area, it has a 25 year history and has concertized widely. Its core ensemble is a trio, whose distinguished members play renaissance/baroque flutes, viola da gamba and lutes/theorbo/early guitars; for the upcoming pair of concerts, so replete with song, they’ve added mezzo-soprano voice.

If you’re in the Kitchener-Waterloo area on November 17, you can hear them at the Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber Music Society concert; if you’re in Hamilton on November 18, you’ll find them performing at McMaster University.

Academy Concert Series: The Academy Concert Series’ season opener features interwoven themes of music and drama too. Its centrepiece is a love story, which unfolds in a trilogy of Vivaldi chamber cantatas (one having only recently been discovered in Vienna) collectively known as L‘Amore per Elvira. We witness the declaration of love, the lover’s sad news that he must go away, the return amid fears and hopes and finally, the lovers’ reuniting — all poignantly expressed in both words and music.

Along with this is another parallel but modern day love story, placed in Vienna, woven throughout the performance and enacted by actor Vanessa AvRuskin. And interspersed between the cantatas are chamber pieces by Vivaldi that highlight the violin — the instrument on which he was known for his excellent playing.

22_early_kerrimcgonigle_photo_by_raymond_coburnThe evolution of what might be called a musical love story is the story of the Academy Concert Series itself. Founded over 20 years ago, it has been constant in its mission to bring historically informed chamber performances to Toronto’s audiences. After a 16 year run as artistic director, multi-instrumentalist Nicolai Tarasov has now decided to largely hand over the reins to talented cellist/baroque cellist Kerri McGonigle — a passionate and accomplished musician, who I’ll bet will bring fresh life to an already lively series.

“Vivaldi Visits Vienna” takes place on November 12 at Eastminster Church.

A diversity of others

• November 13: In Kitchener, Classics At The Registry presents “Guitarra Barroca: A tour of baroque music for the guitar,” featuring a guitarist known for his musicianship and versatility, Kevin Ramessar, in collaboration with Larry Larson, trumpet and Graham Hargrove, percussion. (Note: This information arrived too late to make it into the printed listings; see the online listing at www.thewholenote.com. Click on “Just In,” and see New Listings–Beyond the GTA or go to the searchable Concert Listings and click “Concerts Beyond the GTA”);

• November 18: In Kingston, the Melos Choir and Chamber Orchestra presents a concert for St. Cecilia’s Day and celebrating the 300th anniversary of the birth of William Boyce. Programme includes Purcell’s Cecilian ode Welcome to all the Pleasures, Te Deum and Jubilate by Boyce, and other lovely music;

• November 19: “Glory – Sounds of Baroque Exultation” is the aptly-chosen title of a concert by the Larkin Singers, featuring Handel’s sacred motet Nisi Dominus as well as Vivaldi’s Gloria and Bach’s cantata Wachet Auf.

• November 19 and 20: In Toronto and Hamilton, Capella Intima presents “Venice and Beyond,” highlighting composers of the Venetian school who left Venice later in their careers: Grandi, Merula, Agostini, Sances, Valentini and Milanuzzi. Music for tenor and baritone voice, baroque guitar, organ, harpsichord and gamba.

• November 23: “In the Shadow of the Volcano,” traditional music of southern Italy including the villanelle, tarantella, fronna and tammurriata, is presented by the Vesuvius Ensemble as part of the Canadian Opera Company’s Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre series.

• November 25: In the first of four concerts honouring Bach, spread throughout the season, Music at Metropolitan presents “BachFest I: Christmas Oratorio, Parts 1–3.”

• November 26 and 27: The 16-voice a cappella choir Cantemus Singers presents their annual Christmas celebration, “Nowell Sing We,” with carols and motets from the renaissance and baroque periods, Giovanni Gabrieli’s Hodie Christus Natus Est for double choir, Telemann’s Deutsches Magnificat in G for choir, soloists and orchestra, and other works.

• November 27: In Kitchener, there’s a treat of two wonderful Bach cantatas (Wie schöen leuchtet der Morgenstern and Lobet den Herrn), in Spiritus Ensemble’s programme “Bach Vespers for Advent.”

• December 1 to 4: Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra is joined by guest director and oboist, Alfredo Bernardini, to present “Baroque Splendour – The Golden Age of Dresden,” with stunning and virtuosic music created for Dresden’s remarkable court orchestra by Zelenka, Fasch, Pisendel, Telemann and Vivaldi.

Simone Desilets is a long-time contributor to The WholeNote in several capacities who plays the viola da gamba.She can be contacted at earlymusic@thewholenote.com.

several capacities who plays the viola da gamba.

Interesting personalities: the world of music is full of them. I’d like to tell you about a few who will be gracing our stages and charming our senses during the coming month.

early__harry_bicket_and_the_english_concertTake, for example, Jan Dismas Zelenka, one of those talented people whom history might well have completely forgotten, had it not been for the determination of some who “discovered” and sought to revive his music long after his death in 1745. This Bohemian composer, whose lifetime spanned more or less the same years as that of J.S. Bach, spent most of his career at the Dresden court (a flourishing centre of music and the arts in 17th- and 18th-century Germany) where he played double bass, conducted the Dresden Court Orchestra and became Court Composer of Church Music. His music is acknowledged as being extraordinarily creative, with unexpected turns of harmony and a freshly expressive outlook.

Of course, as part of his duties he wrote masses. One of these, the Missa votiva, has quite a touching genesis: Zelenka wrote it to give thanks after recovering from a long illness, dedicating it as follows: “J.D.Z. composed this Mass ad majorem Dei gloriam to the greater glory of God in fulfillment of a vow, after having recovered his health through God’s favour”.

You can hear it, along with a beloved motet by one of his acquaintances and admirers, in Tafelmusik’s “Glorious Bach and Zelenka” performances, which take place on various days, and at various times, between October 14 and 20.

And consider Johann Rosenmüller, 17th century German composer and virtuoso trombonist, who is credited with being an instrumental figure in the transmission of Italian musical styles to Germany. He had a promising career as teacher and organist in Leipzig, and was in line for the position of cantor at the Church of St. Thomas, but his career was abruptly halted in 1655 when he and several schoolboys were arrested and imprisoned on suspicion of homosexuality. Aha; he escaped, fled Germany and next turned up in Italy, where by 1658 he had established himself at St. Mark’s in Venice as a trombonist and composer. Years later he also held the post of composer at the Ospedale della Pietà (the girls’ orphanage soon afterward to become famous as fertile ground for Vivaldi’s prolific creative output).

Rosenmüller’s music was clearly inspired by the brilliant acoustic of the Cathedral of St. Mark’s. You’ll be able to hear the effect of this magnificent space when, on October 21 and 22, the Toronto Consort brings together voices, strings, cornetti, sackbuts, lutes and keyboards to present “Venetian Splendour: The Music of Johann Rosenmüller.”

A towering figure of the 15th century, the Franco-Flemish composer Johannes Ockeghem led a life that is somewhat obscured to us now, some five or six centuries later. We know that he was employed as a bass singer in the chapels of various royal courts, most notably the French courts of Charles VII, Louis XI and Charles VIII; that his life was very long; that though his surviving output of compositions is not large, it reveals a highly innovative style; also that he was admired throughout Europe for his expressive music and his technical prowess.

It’s obvious that he revelled in creating musical problems and working out solutions — for example, his motet Deo Gratias is a magnificent, pulsating canon for four nine-part choruses (36 parts in total). His Missa Cuiusvis Toni is a mass that may be sung in any one of four different modes, at the performers’ choosing. Enormous technical feats of composition, these — yet (to quote one account) “music of contemplative vastness and inward rapture”.

Both these works will be performed this month — the Deo Gratias in “surround sound,” the Missa Cuiusvis Toni in — well, you’ll have to attend the concert to find out which mode. They’ll be heard in the Toronto Chamber Choir’s first concert of the season, “Ockeghem: Medieval Polyphony,” on October 23.

A much-admired musician of the 21st century, the acclaimed English conductor and keyboard player, Harry Bicket, will be bringing his ensemble, the English Concert, to town — alas on one of the same nights as the Toronto Consort performs. Bicket is renowned for his interpretations of the baroque and classical repertoire and for his work in opera, though his biography is chock-full of music making in wide-ranging styles and periods, all over the world. It’s especially telling that he was chosen in 2007 to succeed Trevor Pinnock as artistic director of the English Concert, one of the finest of the U.K.’s period orchestras.

The concert takes place in an ideal venue for this group, the Royal Conservatory’s Koerner Hall, on October 21. The music is ideal too, a true representation of their art: suites from semi-operas by Purcell, solo and orchestral concertos by Vivaldi and Telemann.

early_philippe_jaroussky2_by_simon_fowlerA compelling musical personality whose star is definitely on the rise is the French countertenor Philippe Jaroussky. He’s been described as a “young singer with the tone of an angel and the virtuosity of the devil.” Perhaps because he began his musical life as a violinist, his singing displays a very pure sound quality and high, sweet timbre; this combined with his dazzling vocal feats, expressive phrasing and handsome stage presence have catapulted him into an international career in a relatively short time.

Jaroussky’s art is ideally suited to the virtuosic coloratura of the baroque; this will be evident when, on November 1 at the RC’s Koerner Hall, he’ll be joined by the acclaimed baroque orchestra from Cleveland, Apollo’s Fire, in a programme of fiery operatic arias and orchestral music, entitled “Handel and Vivaldi Fireworks.”

Others in a nutshell

• October 8: “Apt for Voices, Viols or Violons”: For its first concert of the season, the Musicians In Ordinary presents a programme of consort songs, dances, lute songs and solos from the Elizabethan and Jacobean courts, by Holborne, Byrd and Dowland. Soprano Hallie Fishel and lutenist John Edwards are joined by a renaissance violin band of five parts, led by violinist Christopher Verrette.

• October 8: Cardinal Consort of Viols presents “Oktoberfest!”:

Beautiful German music from the 16th and 17th centuries, with refreshments included, in a relaxed, friendly atmosphere at Royal St. George’s College Chapel.


• October 15 and 16: “Best of Baroque”: Andrew Davis conducts the TSO, and plays harpsichord and organ in a rich tapestry of music by Bach, including Brandenburg Concerto No. 5, Concerto for Oboe and Violin and Davis’ own orchestrations of Bach organ works.

• October 16: Windermere String Quartet on period instruments presents the fourth in their six-concert survey of “The Golden Age of String Quartets,” juxtaposing three great works by Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven.

• October 22: “A Celebration of Victoria: 1611–2011”: Tallis Choir commemorates the 400th anniversary of the death of Victoria, presenting some of his greatest works and those of his contemporaries, Guerrero, Lobo and Esquivel.

• October 29: Our ever-energetic friends in Kingston, Trillio, present their third annual “Baroquetoberfest” with music on period instruments by Telemann, Bach, Matthes and others — not to mention home-prepared German food including choucroute garnie and a German beer sampling!

Simone Desilets is a long-time contributor to The WholeNote in several capacities who plays the viola da gamba. She can be contacted at earlymusic@thewholenote.com.

And so a new season begins. From late summer’s vantage point, I can already see a huge range of early music activities shaping up in the coming year, from Scaramella’s “Hit and Run” in November, featuring triple harp and clown among other things, to the Royal Conservatory’s presentation of French sopranist-countertenor Philippe Jaroussky with Cleveland’s baroque orchestra Apollo’s Fire, also in November; to Tafelmusik’s period performance of Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony in May; to Nadina Mackie Jackson’s developing project “Vivaldi’s Lost Girls” (a celebration of Vivaldi bassoon concertos); and much in between. But first to the events of the present month.

Schola Magdalena

schola_magdalenaA small ensemble of six women’s voices, expressive and pure in intonation, produces an ethereal sound not too often heard in concert. Schola Magdalena is just such an ensemble, founded in 2007 and based in Toronto. You can hear them twice in the coming month, as they’ll be launching a new CD at their home venue of the Church of St. Mary Magdalene and then performing at Barrie’s Colours of Music.

The group’s director, Stephanie Martin, is organist and director of three choirs at St. Mary Magdalene, director of Pax Christi Chorale and a professor at York University. Interested in knowing what prompted her to add yet another ensemble to her very busy life, I asked her to talk a bit about Schola Magdalena’s formation and its projects.

Schola Magdalena gives her great satisfaction, she told me, “because it is a democratic group. My other ensembles require a leader/follower model, and, although a totalitarian system is efficient, it can be an undue burden on the leader. I enjoy solving musical problems with Schola Magdalena since we work as peers. Everyone is a leader; everyone is a follower … Six voices allow us to sing early polyphony which is often three parts; that gives us a nice balance of two voices on each part … Coming up with our interpretation takes a while, but we arrive at an interpretation we all like. It’s a great model for problem solving.”

Regarding plans for the future: “We’d like to tour back to Quebec where many of our French-speaking supporters are. We’ve included notes and translations in French in the CD booklet because we often sing to French-Canadian audiences — often Roman Catholic church choirs, who have a deep connection to Gregorian chant. We have an invitation to visit Spain but we need to find baby sitters for six children!”

And as for that above-mentioned CD, titled Virgo Splendens, it includes “quite a bit of Hildegard, some wonderful early English polyphony — a setting of the Magnificat — some traditional Gregorian chants which we still use in our liturgy at St. Mary Magdalene. There are also fragments from a mass by Dufay. One important element is the recording of the four “Marian anthems” that are sung throughout the liturgical year.”

Both the CD launch on September 24 and the Barrie concert on October 1 feature a selection of the above repertoire. And besides the beauty of the music on this disc, you’ll treasure it also for its cover: a reproduction of a beautiful icon — Madonna and Child — lurking obscurely in the Church of St. Mary Magdalene.

A random mention of others:

Two concerts highlighting English music for voices occur this month: On September 16, Aradia Ensemble’s “Music of the English Chapels Royal” presents anthems from the time of Charles II — music by Purcell, Turner, Blow, Locke and Humfrey. On September 24 and 25, the 16-voice Cantemus Singers offer a programme called “Rule Britannia” madrigals, motets and bar songs from the times of Henry VIII all the way to George I’s reign.

From September 21 to 25, you can hear music for courtly celebrations at the baroque courts of Poland, Sweden, England, France, Germany, Spain, Russia and Austria, presented by Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra.

On September 10 in Waterloo: Nota Bene Baroque holds a “Fundraising Extravaganza” to celebrate its 10th Anniversary Season and the launching of its new name, with mini-concerts, Baroque-inspired refreshments, an instrument petting zoo, and guest, baroque dancer Daniel Gariepy.

At the Toronto Music Garden: On September 8, you can let dusk fall over you joyfully, as baroque cellist Kate Bennett Haynes inaugurates a cycle of Bach’s Six Suites for Unaccompanied Cello with Suite No.1 in G Major. On September 18, the Vesuvius Ensemble closes the season with “I canti a Maria — Music for the Madonna,” passionate traditional songs to the Madonna from some of the many sanctuaries in the region of Naples.

There’s more! Do peruse The WholeNote’s listings to discover all that’s out there.

She can be contacted at earlymusic@thewholenote.com.

It’s time to pack your knapsack, your suitcase or your picnic basket and head out of town in search of different impressions. For the early music aficionado this doesn’t necessarily mean abandoning the music you’re fond of, just that you’ll have lots of chances to experience it in new places.

Bach Music Festival of Canada

First I must tell you about a new summer festival emerging in South Huron, that area situated on Lake Huron which includes several small communities such as Exeter and Zurich. The Bach Music Festival of Canada takes place from July 11 to 17, and is actually an interesting mix of Bach, contemporary and other music, culminating in a performance of Bach’s B Minor Mass with soloists, orchestra and over one hundred singers. At its helm is artistic director Gerald Fagan, known nationally and internationally as a choral conductor and pioneer.

The week is packed with concerts, workshops and master classes. Trio Alla Grande, an extremely musical and sensitive guitar trio, opens the festival with a concert of contemporary and original music, and gives an interactive discussion and workshop. Violinist Lara St. John, known as a passionate exponent of Bach, performs a recital and offers a masterclass. Renowned basso Thomas Paul, now in his 70s, shares his expertise on the singing of Bach arias in intensive workshops, with a resulting concert, “The Art of the Aria.” The Harvestehuder Chamber Choir from Germany performs with London’s Gerald Fagan Singers in a concert of Bach, Canadian and German choral repertoire.

All this, combined with participation of locally-based choristers, make this Festival an ambitious project indeed, and a wonderful gift of music to the area.

Other summer festivals:

At the Ottawa Chamberfest there’s too much to mention here, but they have a website to guide your hunt through medieval, renaissance, baroque and other categories (www.ottawachamberfest.com). I’ll point out just two performances: on July 25, Ensemble Caprice presents “Et In Terra Pax” featuring vocal and instrumental works by Vivaldi and Zelenka; on August 4, “La Poésie noble du violon sous Louis XIV” features Lully, Jacquet de la Guerre, Clérambault and others — all with brilliant performers involved.

July 19 at the Hamilton Organ Festival, you can hear organ music by Bach, Byrd and Buxtehude played by organist Matthew Coons; and during Stratford Summer Music’s “Organ Week,” music by Gibbons, Purcell and Handel will be performed on July 29, and some of the most glorious of Bach’s organ music on July 30, by Robert Quinney from Westminster Abbey. The organ in collaboration is highlighted on July 26 at Parry Sound’s Festival of the Sound: organist William McArton is joined by flutist Suzanne Shulman and trumpeter Guy Few in works by Handel, Viviani and Rameau.

Other early music can be found here too, such as a concert of solo Bach works for flute, cello and keyboard on July 27. This is one of three July concerts I’ve noticed which feature Bach solo cello suites. At Festival of the Sound it’s the first suite, played by cellist Marc Johnson. On July 2, cellist Rachel Mercer will perform suites nos. 2, 3 and 6 in Waterloo — not in a “summer” venue but in the ongoing series of the Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber Music Society. And on July 5 yet another performance, this time at Campbellford’s Westben — Concerts at the Barn, with Brian Manker, principal cellist of the Montreal Symphony Orchestr, playing suites nos. 2, 4, and 6.

At the Elora Festival, on July 16, there’s a most interesting concert of Telemann sacred cantatas — he completed several cycles of these for the church year —performed by tenor Kevin Skelton (more about him in a moment), along with recorder, harpsichord and gamba.

15_earlymusic_kevin_skeltonAt Stratford Summer Music, there’s a lovely touch of the early, “a delicious combination of musicianship and cuisine,” as lutenist/guitarist Terry McKenna performs short concerts (each showcasing a particular aspect of renaissance/early baroque music) at Rundles Restaurant, every Saturday and Sunday throughout the festival.

Whereas urban-based artists and audiences tend to migrate to out-of-town summer venues, some will also arrive in town from elsewhere. Kevin Skelton, who lives abroad, is a Canadian tenor of great accomplishment as performer, director, founder of several ensembles, contemporary dancer and published scholar who holds degrees in voice, conducting and musicology. In addition to the above-mentioned performance at the Elora Festival on July 16, he’ll be appearing at the Toronto Music Garden on July 17 with other wonderful musicians in a presentation entitled “With Joy and Light Encircled.” And, (too late to make The WholeNote’s print deadline; you’ll find it on the website at “Listings: Just In”), on July 30, Toronto’s Church of St. Mary Magdalene will resound with Gregorian chant as Schola Gregoriana Aurea Luce, a choir of men’s and women’s voices from Venice, Italy, perform.

I’ll leave it to you, the early music seeker, to find out more: The WholeNote’s summer listings, and individual websites, have all the details. The opportunity to design your own summer early music festival awaits!

Simone Desilets is a long-time contributor to The WholeNote in several capacities who plays the viola da gamba. She can be contacted at earlymusic@thewholenote.com.

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