I had the pleasure and honour of hosting the emotionally-charged final concert of the Exultate Chamber Singers' 30th anniversary season at Grace Church on-the-Hill on Friday, May 13. The program was just over an hour long and was as close to perfection as one could hope to experience. The atmosphere was heightened due to this being John Tuttle's final concert as the choir's Artistic Director. The church was full of the choir's loyal audience, plus additional friends, colleagues and alumni who came to mark the occasion. From the opening notes of Palestrina's "Exultate Deo", it was clear that the choir was "on" and that this was to be an extraordinary night of music-making. The sophisticated and celebratory counterpoint was clear and energetic, the choir's appearance and sound was warm and relaxed, and Tuttle's signature rhythmic drive was in full flight. The celebrated Canadian composer Derek Holman was on hand for the premiere of his "A Canticle, A Prayer and A Psalm", written especially for the occasion. The choir negotiated this challenging and engaging work with seeming effortlessness and serenity. It came off beautifully and it was a moving sight to have Holman come to the front of the church at the conclusion of the piece to shake hands with Tuttle, sharing a witty aside together and smiling broadly. The choir then launched into the longest work on the program: Rachmaninoff's All Night Vigil, op.47, more commonly known as the "Vespers". By the second or third movement of this 15-movement work, we had all been transported to another time and place. As the piece unfolded, the choir's phrasing, burnished sound and "groove" got stronger and stronger. It was truly a first-rate performance and a gift on so many levels: from choir to conductor, conductor to choir, organization to audience. We all felt connected and elevated by the experience. As the final exultant chords of the work faded, the audience stood and cheered this first-rate choir and their remarkable conductor. Tuttle left the chancel briefly, then returned to collect his choir and take them off. We continued to applaud, and continued, and continued. Finally, Tuttle appeared at the back of the church to acknowledge us, though it was clear he was uncomfortable...for him, of course, the music speaks for itself and that's the end of it. Thankfully, we were able to continue the celebration in the Parish Hall of the church, where the choir had organized a classy reception. Giles Bryant, longtime friend and associate of Tuttle's and a frequent guest of the choir's, hosted a brief program of speeches, which included a video "greeting" from the choir's new conductor, Karen Grylls, from New Zealand. There were other speeches from Peter Tiefenbach, Michael Rowland and, finally, a gracious few words from Tuttle himself. There were more than a few tears in the room....it was the end of a special night of music-making and celebration among a close-knit community that values music-making at a high level. I left the church marveling at how expertly and beautifully Tuttle and the choir had executed a first-rate concert and party. It will live in my memory for many years to come.

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