Date: 28 September 2003 at 3.00pm
: Ryerson United Church

Reviewer: John Jane





Conductor: Jon Washburn
Featured Performer: Linda Lee Thomas - Piano

The Vancouver Chamber Choir opened their 2003-2004 season with a fine programme of both sacred and secular songs and choral excerpts connected by their French origin. The twenty-member choir performed in front of a small, yet, jubilant audience at the Ryerson United Church. Ryerson is the beautiful stone church on the corner of 45th Avenue and Yew Street that offers the visitor warm ambiance and concert hall acoustics.

This season, the Vancouver Chamber Choir appears to be experimenting with offering an additional performance on Sunday afternoons for selected concerts. This may eventually prove to be popular with many of the Choirís supporters on more typical Vancouver bleak weekends but on this near-perfect Summer day, would-be attendees obviously preferred to tend to their roses.

Following a brief explanation by Maestro Jon Washburn the choir began with a joyous interpretation of Claudin de Sermisyís Missa Novum Lectionum sung in the original Latin. The rather dense textures of this work seemed to present little problem for the choir. This was a shorter version than the one given in the Friday evening performance, nevertheless, the performance still ran for thirty minutes. Maestro Washburn correctly pointed out that it was rare to hear a sung mass, nevertheless, a similar version was used by the Catholic Church for high mass until the nineteen-fifties.

The singers then re-positioned for Camille Saint-Saensís short two-part songs, Calme des nuits and Les Fleurs et les arbres. The Choirís chromatic rendering of these songs more than suggest the Parisianís love of nature.

  The jewel of this afternoon concert was Gabriel Faureís mellifluous Madrigal and Pavane. Though the Pavane is better known in its orchestral form, this lyrical choral arrangement came across with remarkable clarity. Linda Lee Thomas provided flawless accompaniment and was deserving of the audienceís enthusiastic applause.

Following a rather lengthy break, where artists and audience took to the gardens to enjoy the late afternoon sunshine, the choir returned to perform Francois Poulencís surreal Sept Chansons, the first of which ironically titled La Blanche Neige. (White Snow)

To round out the programme, Washburn chose Jules Massenetís Songs from the Amaranth Woods, which again featured Ms Thomasís piano accompaniment. Massenetís Amaranth songs are a real treasure and certainly more melodramatic than the earlier performed Saint-Saens work. Though these songs may well have been intended for a vocal quartet, here they were competently presented by a full chamber choir, and, as with the previously mentioned songs, the singers truly express the composerís celebration with nature.

This was a wonderful curtain-raiser for the Choir, who also introduced two new full time sopranos with Vancouverite Natasha Neufeld and Jemmy Chen, who came to Vancouver from Taipei.

© 2003, John Jane