l-r:Elektra Women's Choir, Chor Leoni Men's Choir, Vancouver Chamber Choir

musica intima ensembleWelcome the World: A Choral Gala

Date and Venue 9 Feb 2010 @ 7.30pm | St. Andrew's-Wesley United Church, 1022 Nelson St (at Burrard), Vancouver

Reviewer Ed Farolan

The 120 voices of four of Canada’s top choral ensembles (Chor Leoni Men’s Choir, Elektra Women’s Choir, musica intima vocal ensemble, and Vancouver Chamber Choir) joined forces to welcome visitors from around the world who are here these next few weeks for the Winter Olympics.

The voices of these choirs resounded with songs from around the world singing in the world's many tongues. Each ensemble sang different songs from different countries to the delight of a full-house audience.

The first part of the programme had all the choirs in the midst of the audience singing Welcome songs, "Welcome Here", the traditional Shaker tune, and "Welcome Song", a traditional Haida song sung by Chor Leoni.

Following this was "Die Nachtigall", Mendelssohn's composition based on Goethe's poem, sung exquisitely by the Vancouver Chamber Choir, followed by the Swedish "Sommarpsalm" executed superbly by the all-women Elektra choir. Then came "Where did you sleep last night?", an Estonian composition sung uniquely by musica intima, followed by "Fengyang Ge", a Chinese traditional song executed magnificently by Chor Leone,

Then came the Korean theme song of the 1988 Summer Olympics, "Ahrirang", sung beautifully by the Vancouver Chambr Choir. Elektra followed with the Croatian "Dobri Denek", and lastly, a beautiful rendition of a traditional Sengal song, "Kaki Lambe", sung to the delight of the audience by the 12 voices of musica intima.

Everyone left the stage except the Elektra choir under Artistic Director Morna Edmundson who led the choir to four songs in Latin, English, and Inuktitut. I was impressed by the moving, ethereal composition of David Macintyre's "Ave Maria" inspired by the apparitions of the Virgin Mary in Maidjaguri (Bosnia). What intirigued me was there were only two words sung, "Ave" and "Maria", but they were sung in different ways which truly delighted the audience. The same occurred with "Dona Nobis Pacem" by 38-year old Japanese composer Ko Matsushita, where only these three words were sung, but it had a melange of the Japanese and traditional Gregorian chant to it.

The Vancouver Chamber Choir guided by Artistic Director Jon Washburn closed the first half with traditional Chinese melodies, the traditional cherry blossom song, "Sakura", the sentimental Indonesian "Sapu Tangan", 43-year old Canadian composer, Loreena McKennit's "Tango to Evora", a composition she made for a documentary film about 17th century witch hunts in Evora, a small, ancient city in Portugal. And finally, a jazzy arrangement of an Andalusian folksong by another young composer, Englishman Bob Chilcott (b. 1955), "En la Macarenita", which received a hearty applause from the audience.

Songs from Russia, England, Inuit, Spain and France were sung to the delight of the audience by the six-men and six-women choir of musica intima (no director). What delighted the audience most was the Cuban song "Son de la Loma" by Miguel Matamoros and arranged by 40-year old Canadian composer Jonathan Quick. We all know how zesty Cuban music is, and musica intima's rendition of this song woke up the audience.

The last choir to sing in the programme, Chor Leoni, led by Artistic Director Diane Loomer, started off with the Zulu song "Wimoweh" written in 1939 by a South African musician, Solomon Linda, and which evolved abd was popularized as "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" in the Disney animated film, Lion King, Loomer removed the English words and recaptured the original Zulu chant, and the ensemble did a wonderful job, to the extreme delight of the audience. The ensemble went on to sing other international songs from Finland, Russia, Czechoslovakia, France, and the ever popular Mexican "La Cucaracha" with the enjoyable clever arrangement of Robert Sund.

It was 10 pm and the choirs got together again with a reprise of "Welcome Here" and the traditional college song "Vive l'Amour", after which the audience stood in ovation in grateful appreciation of this wonderful evening of singing to welcome the world to Vancouver, which I believe to be the most international city of the world.

© 2010 Ed Farolan