Venue: Orpheum Theatre
Date: 6 December 2003 8.00pm

Reviewer: June Heywood


 

 

 

Featured Performers: Trinity Western University Chamber Singers and CBC Radio Orchestra

Conductor: Jon Washburn
Guest Conductor: Wes Janzen


Jon Washburn

The Magnificat! was magnificent. Under the direction of Jon Washburn and guest conductor, Wes Janzen, the program rolled along with the joy of Christmas.

Mozart's Regina Coeli particularly exemplified this brief, brisk, charming, and cheeky joy with a momentary quotation from Handel's Hallelujah Chorus. The CBC Radio Orchestra played swiftly, almost soundlessly, and in perfect unison before the choir and soloists joined the instruments.

In addition to Mozart, the other composers were Schutz, Montiverdi, Schubert. Bruckner, Tavener, and Liszt.

During Schultz's Magnificat, the three elderly gentlemen in the brass section played softly in celestial harmony. The Vancouver Chamber Choir was joined by the Trinity Western University Chamber Singers for Monteverdi's, Ave Maris Stella, a slower, more pensive, almost sad piece.

For the most part, the soloists' voices didn't carry loudly enough. One alto's voice cracked completely. Members of the choir were unable to cover their surprise. However, soprano Katherine Goheen, under the direction of Wes Janzen, sang her part in Schubert's Magnificat with strength and clarity. Lorraine Reinhardt's voice was also outstanding in both the Mozart and Bruckner pieces.

 


 

 

 

 

Bruckner composed three separate settings of the hymn Ave Maria. Jon Washburn provided an unobtrusive orchestral accompaniment that tied all three together. The sorrowful strings rose and fell as the choir paused between phrases before entering in perfect harmony. One of the hymns sounded like a lullaby sung softly and gently with voices and instruments reaching beautiful high notes.

Only a conductor as talented and confident as Jon Washburn would split the choir and strings to stand or sit on each wall whilst he remained centrestage. This Washburn did directing Tavener's Two Hymns to the Mother of God. The background lighting also changed from red and gold to blue and green. The a capella parts of the hymn sounded like a medieval chant; the strings joined in discordantly until "Glory in the Highest" rang out; followed by the sound of gloom and doom.

Liszt intended, according to the programme notes, "to utilize the harmonic and dramatic musical language of the Romantic era without losing the piety and intensity of traditional Catholic liturgical music" in his Inno a Maria Vergine (Hymn to the Virgin Mary). At first, there was a flowing quality to this final piece. Then the double bass, piano, and choir interpreted what sounded like a torrent of wild raging tempests before they were joined by the trombones and trumpets thereby adding a richness to the final phrases of the hymn.

2003, June Heywood


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