Vancouver Chamber Choir

Gloria! A Bach/Vivaldi Christmas

With the CBC Radio Orchestra and The University Singers of the University of British Columbia.

Soloists: Katherine Goheen, soprano | Violet Goosen, soprano | Fabiana Katz-Eser, alto | Siri Olesen, soprano | Marla Mayson, alto | Elizabeth Skillings, soprano | Jonathan Quick, tenor | William Vermeulen, bass

Conducted by Jon Washburn

Friday, 8 December 2000, The Orpheum Theatre


by J. H. Stape

Jon Washburn's programme for the Vancouver Chamber Choir's first concert of the Christmas season was simply unerring in moving ever upward, climbing from an initial and appropriate solemnity to an exultantly joyful close. One had the sense of having one present after another to open, with something needed and useful arriving first, a delightful surprise next, and that much and long wished-for dream item coming last.

A more exquisite evocation of the Christmas spirit in music could perhaps be imagined but certainly not equalled. There was no disappointment in the fare offered, and a festive tone was evoked and sustained after the nicely contrasting opening nod to serious duty.

Telemann's cantata 'Machet die Tore weit,' written for the first Sunday of Advent of 1719, a somewhat dourly Teutonic expression of longing for salvation, unfolded into sheer joyousness as a sprightly rendition of Vivaldi's 'Gloria,' recalling the first Christmas, brought the first part of the concert to a close.

The evening concluded with an intense rendering of Bach's 'Magnificat' written for Christmas 1723, and revised and handsomely re-orchestrated in 1730, the version used on this occasion. UBC's University Singers added their twenty-one youthful and fresh voices to the Vancouver Chamber Choir for the opening and closing pieces.

No less than eight soloists, a third of the Chamber Choir, performed during the course of the concert, allowing individual contributions to shine brightly forth and amply showing why this choir holds its place as one of Canada's most distinguished choral ensembles.

Tenor Jonathan Quick, an idiomatic singer, and alto Fabiana Katz-Eser, whose dark, lustrous voice had much individual character, offered particularly notable performances. Katz-Eser was especially affecting in her two solos in Vivaldi's 'Gloria,' and was well partnered by the principal oboist in the second. Another high point was the brief 'Suscepit Israel' movement of Bach's 'Magnificat,' sung with much nuance of tone by the Chamber Choir's sopranos and altos.

Washburn's spirited conducting elicited much pleasant work from the CBC Radio Orchestra, surely one of Vancouver's best, and if not 'period', the lush sound on offer was no less welcome than if it had been.