Jon Washburn, Conductor Vancouver Chamber Choir


Date and Venue 20 November 2009 @ 8pm| Ryerson United Church, 2195 West 45th Avenue at Yew, Vancouver

Reviewer Nila Gopaul

Sing Out: A world of music! provided one of those rare occasions when an audience gets lucky enough to sit under one roof in the company of a variety of young and professional talent. Artistic Director Jon Washburn and the Vancouver Chamber Choir did a smashing job in their 39th concert season pulling together a fusion of beautiful voices in a one-night performance .

Ryerson United Church is one of the most serene venues to host such a fine event, especially on a cold, thundery and rainy evening.

To a packed house, the choral festivity commenced with the Vancouver Chamber Choir and the Focus Choir singing Johann Sebastian Bach's Lobet den Herrn ("Praise the Lord, all nations"). The rendition was stunning.

Lobet den Herrn is a choral motet, which is a polyphonic vocal composition, usually unaccompanied, with four or five voice parts singing one religious text, which in this case is Pslam 117. Lobet den Herrn is certainly not an easy piece to sing. All voices continued throughout the piece to symbolizeeach and every one; the ornate verses represented the concept of praise. The verse For his mercy and truth rang a gentler feel while the last two lines rule over us forever./Hallelujah. renewed the vitality and strength of the piece.

Composition after composition captured the audience's hearts. But by far the favorite song (even among the older members) seemed to be the modern piece Leonardo Dreams of His Flying Machine. The audience wasn't quite prepared for Eric Whitacre (b. 1970). Whitacre is an American composer of choral and electronic music and he has become one of America's "most (widely) performed living choral composers."

Whitacre composed Leonardo Dreams of His Flying Machine with this in mind: What would a genius like Leonardo da Vinci sound like when he was dreaming? Whitacre's vision of a dream motif even brilliantly incorporates pieces from Leonardo da Vinci's own notebooks. For example "...L'uomo colle sua congiengniate e grandi ale/facciendo forza contro all resistente aria", which in English translates to "A man with wings large enough and duly connected might learn to overcome the resistance of the air".

The UBC University Singers performed Leonardo Dreams of His Flying Machine. With a mix of about 40 voices, the choir made airy textured sounds of flying, swishes that stirred in us personal flight and fantasy. Conductor Graeme Langager and the choral ensemble should be highly commended.

This concert brightened up an otherwise miserable dark evening. Kudos to Jon Washburn and the Vancouver Chamber Choir for bringing together such a diversity of talent.

© 2009 Nila Gopaul