This weekend I went out of town to see a concert while processing this weekend’s great tempo rubato. Daylight Savings Time appropriates an hour from our lives that will only be given back half a year from now. I figured it might be fun to wake up in a new place, not terribly worried whether it’s 7 or 8 or 9: so long as I didn’t miss breakfast. More on that in a moment.
Speaking of travel, artists sometimes have to leave home. The greatest satisfaction isn’t necessarily in the big city, but may be found guest-starring in a small town.
Oriana Singers, conducted by their Artistic Director Markus Howard and accompanied by accompanist Robert Grandy presented a concert in Cobourg last night including Fauré’s Requiem featuring baritone Geoffrey Sirett and soprano Larissa Koniuk. You may remember them from Bicycle Opera Project programs over the past few years.
They pull their opera productions around the province behind their bikes, including last summer in Sweat when he was music director, while she was a featured performer, and Artistic Director. Geoff’s face is all over town in the promotional images for The Overcoat: a Musical Tailoring, coming later this month.
In the Fauré, played with organ plus Tak Kwan’s eloquent violin solo in the Sanctus, Sirett had the bigger role. In the Hostias his rich baritone warmly filled the sanctuary space, while in the Libera Me, his solo seemed as insistent and powerful as the entire 60+ voices of the choir (admittedly carefully restrained in this section by Howard). Koniuk’s Pie Jesu displayed the beauty of her vocal colour to great advantage.
There were other choral pieces on the program. We began with Fauré’s Cantique de Jean Racine, a flowing & lyrical warm-up for the Requiem that followed. Later in the program we heard Acclamation / Hallelujah by Robert Ray, Winter’s Agnus Dei, and Ola Gjeilo’s Evening Prayer, aided by David Tanner’s mellifluous saxophone.
The second half included a series of operatic excerpts. Koniuk began with “Je veux vivre” from Roméo et Juliette, easily popping her high notes, all smiles throughout. Sirett followed with a contrasting aria from Die tote Stadt, his sound floating in the space. We would also hear Musetta’s Waltz from Koniuk and a charming “La ci darem la mano” with a delightful bit of flirting between the couple. Thankfully Donna Elvira had the night off, allowing nature to take its course for once; but then again Zerlina is married to Don Giovanni.
In the meantime it was a great pleasure watching the chemistry between them and their guests, the drama written on the faces of choristers watching Sirett or Koniuk, let alone the intensity of their performances in the choral works. I was thrilled by the Fauré, one of my favourite works.
Oriana Singers will have their 50th anniversary next season. Their next concert this season is Shakespeare: Words & Music coming Saturday May 26th.
Let me add that we had a great time, staying at the Woodlawn Inn, a bed and breakfast a few blocks away from the church where we enjoyed the concert: close enough to walk on a brisk March evening. I’m adding a couple of photos to show the room, which I understand is one of the smaller ones, actually. Yes we had an upstairs including a couch & a second TV, a working fire-place (gas I suppose: which was really awesome when i woke up to it in the night) and for those who care for such things, a jacuzzi.
It wasn’t a long drive away from Toronto, but with the help of a bit of Ardbeg, Oriana Fauré, Sirett, Koniuk, Howard and Cobourg herself, I lost all sense of time.
You can’t steal something when it’s given away freely.