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Date: 10 December 2004, 8pm Venue: The Orpheum Theatre

Reviewer: John Jane Decorative element -holly






Conductors Jon Washburn and Eric Hannan Featured Performers Touch of Brass

Decorative element -holly
Eric Hannan
Eric Hannan

At this time of the year, there are few more festive and joyous combinations than voices and brass instruments, so it was a pleasure, indeed, to attend the 10 December concert given jointly by the Vancouver Chamber Choir, Vancouver Cantata Singers, and the Touch of Brass ensemble. It's a busy season, and there is plenty of competition, but the programme drew a respectable crowd.

The combined complement of the 43–member choir under the leadership of Maestro Jon Washburn, got things underway with Giovanni Gabrieli's polychoral and antiphonal Tre Coro Spezzati. Gabrieli, a prodigious composer, was, like Mozart, surely touched by the hand of God. His divine lyrics, even when translated into English are a tribute to the birth of Christ, and were sung with great appreciation for the balance required.

Female members of the Chamber Choir visibly distinguished themselves by wearing gold blouses and black skirts, while ladies in the Cantata Singers were attired in red shirts and black blazers and slacks.

For the next selection of Christmas songs, the Cantata Singers performed as a single unit before again joining the Chamber Choir for "Carols for the Nativity,"’ including Émile Blémont’s lively, French Provençal carol "Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella." This collection of four popular, traditional carols was specially arranged for a double choir by Vancouverite, Stephen Chatman, who also attended the concert to see the work performed.





The combined choirs and brass tentet returned to the stage after the intermission, this time, under the direction of the elegant Eric Hannan in a glorious rendering of "Christmas Cantata," composed by esteemed American organist and choral conductor Daniel Pinkham. The Cantata, a three-movement work that draws texts from the Latin letters of Saint Paul, is characterized by mood changes that effectively use various vocal textures.

Daniel Pinkham
Daniel Pinkham

Rounding out the evening were three audience carols, “God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen,” “Unto us a Child is Born,” and “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” that brought the three groups together, with additional reinforcement, provided by Bryn Nixon on the Wurlitzer organ. This gratifying sing-along allowed the audience to claim they've performed with the Vancouver Chamber Choir and the Vancouver Cantata Singers.

No such concert of seasonal music would be complete without “Silent Night,” and the appreciative audience were not disappointed when this anchor of Christmas celebrations was offered as an encore.

Both choirs impressed with skill of construction and musical effectiveness, with both conductors rising to the contrapuntal challenges in a programme of tasteful arrangements of seasonal favorites.

2004 John Jane