The Notebooks of Leonardo DaVinci

Saturday May 11, 2024 – 7:30 pm
Eglinton St George’s United

Our final program of the season will push the boundaries of choral performance the furthest with Jocelyn Hagen’s The Notebooks of Leonardo DaVinci. This 40 minute work for choir, orchestra, and projected film employs newly developed technology wherein the video elements (created in tandem with the music) are able to be slowed down or sped up in accordance with the ensemble’s rubato. Long story short: no click track! The text uses quotes from the Italian genius’s own writing, providing unique insight into DaVinci’s mind. I am thrilled that our performance will be the Canadian premiere of this piece. Various short pieces from the Italian Renaissance era will round out this program.

Past Performances

I Will Hold You

Saturday October 28, 2023 – 7:30 pm

Christ Church Deer Park

A celebration and reflection on what it means to live in a cosmopolitan city in a globalized world, I Will Hold You explores themes of migration, displacement, identity, and unity. The first half of the program includes music by a wide range of composers whose artistry contributes to Canada’s vibrant choral scene, notably Hussein Janmohamed, Pouya Hamidi, Tracy Wong, and Natalie Fasheh.

Janmohamed’s piece, Sun on Water, draws on Western choral tradition as well as Arabic rhythms, Sufi, Muslim and South Asian devotional traditions to evoke a yearning for unity. The slow, rumbling crescendo of the music was inspired by the sun rising over the Scarborough bluffs, where shimmering rays of light pass through the depths of the lake without ever truly touching.

Both Hafez, by Pouya Hamidi, and Sehati, by Tracy Wong explore the meeting of various cultural identities. Hamidi’s Hafez, with poetry by Bänoo Zan, pays homage to the eponymous Persian poet through virtuosic vocal lines accompanied by the daf, a type of Persian frame drum. In Sehati, composer Tracy Wong combines English and Malay text to express a message of togetherness despite cultural differences. Light dance-like rhythms combine with long legato lines complement each other in this delightful work.

Ya Hala bil-Deif, arranged by composer Natalie Fasheh, continues this celebratory exploration of unity. This traditional Bedouin song is about the hospitality of tribes welcoming travelers to their camps and serving coffee with cardamom as a sign of respect. This uplifting and celebratory piece is full of joyful movement and excitement. 

The second half of the program primarily features the stunningly poignant To the Hands by world-famous American composer Caroline Shaw. Composed as a response to refugee crises across the globe, To the Hands utilizes both baroque style and modern extended techniques with string quartet and choir to depict our common humanity. The music ponders how allowing suffering in others creates harm both abroad and at home. Closing the performance is a tender and dramatic setting of All Things are Passing by Stephen Paulus. The recurring phrase, adapted to “love never changes,” reminds us of our potential to support those around us who are most vulnerable.

Winter Waking

Tuesday December 19, 2023 – 7:30 pm

Grace Church On-The-Hill

Our Christmas concert, Winter Waking, offers both traditionally beloved holiday fare and rarely performed seasonal works. Creatively re-imagined classics such as Laura Hawley’s In Dulci Jubilo and Scott Brubacher’s Silent Night are tempered with standards such as Howard Darke’s In the Bleak Midwinter and John Rutter’s setting of Still, Still, Still.

Balancing these holiday staples are several rarely performed seasonal gems. Celebrated African-American composer Adolphus Hailstork’s The Lamb employs twisting chromatic harmonies to depict the wonder of the newborn Jesus, while the Canadian premiere of Taiwanese-American Adrianna Tam’s Christmas Carol offers a sparkling and lively depiction of the same story. Rounding out the program is the fiendishly playful and virtuosic Midwinter Songs by famed composer Morten Lauridsen.

Poulenc’s Gloria: Jewels of the French Repertoire

Saturday March 9, 2024 – 7:30 pm

Grace Church On-The-Hill

Francis Poulenc is widely regarded as one of the 20th century’s most accomplished and quirky composers of choral music. His unique vocal writing and flashy style are on full display with his Gloria. Powerful moments are balanced with playful and mischievous sections, particularly the Laudamus Te, which was inspired by a group of soccer-playing nuns. Languorous movements for soprano solo and a vibrant organ part complete this beloved masterwork.

Partnered with the Gloria are several works by French, French-Canadian, and Haitian composers. This celebration of French style and influence includes works by Maurice Ravel, Lili Boulanger, Franco-Ontarian Marie-Claire Saindon and Haitian-American Sydney Guillaume. While the large amount of French language in the program will be a challenge, the wide range of colour and whimsy in this concert will be a delightful highlight to the season.