Six Continents: Singing around the World

Date and Venue 9 February 2008 @ 8pm | Ryerson United Church, 2195 West 45th Avenue at Yew, Vancouver

Reviewer Ed Farolan

Every year, the VCC under the directorship of Jon Washburn, hosts and organizes a six-day conducting symposium through workshops, seminars and conductor training for the advancement of Canadian choral music. This is the 28th year, and five conductors were chosen to work with Maestro Washburn to conduct songs from six of planet Earth's continents: Jean-Charles Cote (Port Coquitlam), Cody Obst (Calgary), Albert Pinsonneault (Cincinnati, Ohio), Sergio Pires (Brazil), and Jean-Sebastien Vallée Champaign-Urbana, Illinois).

This concert is the culmination of the workshop, and all five conductors select and rehearse three pieces each, with Washburn, concluding the evening also with three songs which he jokingly commented in his introduction as "the leftovers."

Albert Pinsonneault started off with a composition by South African composer Mzilikazi Khumal, an energetic piece entitled "Akhala Amaqhude Amabili" based on a Zulu folk song. Following this was a sentimental folksong, an Indonesian piece entitled "Sapu Tangan"; heended his repertoire with the American composer, Aaron Copland's "I Bought Me a Cat," a delightful children's nonsense song by Oklahoma playwright Lynn Riggs. The choir delighted the audience with the humorous rendition of this much loved song.

Coté selected Mexican composer Jorge Córdoba Valencia´s "El Ángel y la rosa" and "Poema surrealista del elefante y del canto," two compositions based on poems written by early 20th century Peruvian surrealist poet, Carlos Oquendo de Amat. These were followed by Washburn´s arrangement of the Japanese traditional song "Sakura" (Cherry Blossoms), and ending with Australian composer Peter Schultorpe's "Sanctus."

Liturgical compositions are a must for this group. After all, the venue where VCC holds its concerts is a church. The other religious compositions were "Behold the Tabernacle of God" by British-Canadian composer Healey Willan, conducted by Sergio Pires and "Requiem/Kyrie" by 19th-century Brazilian composer José Mauricio Nunes García, conducted by Washburn.

It was interesting to see the variety of styles, not only in the compositions, but also in the conducting. The Asian compositions were nostalgic and melancholic, whereas the African songs were dynamic and energetic. I enjoyed the Lithuanian piece, "Algimantas Brazinskas" (The Inn), a rambunctious song performed extraordinarily well by the choir as they mimicked drunk clients singing at an inn.

Other pieces that were well-conducted and performed were "Med de helga Anda" (Sweden), "Juramento" (Cuba), "Ahrirang" (Korea), "Wonfa Nyem" (Ghana), and "Tambur" (Hungary).

To the satisfaction of the audience, it was another enjoyable and educational evening with this well-travelled choir that has performed in over forty countries and whose mastery of different languages make these singers a unique and extraordinary entity in the world of music.

© 2008 Ed Farolan