I had my first experience with Toronto Choral Society last night at Eastminster United Church on Danforth.
Holly Chaplin’s page on Facebook (where my review of the weekend opera was shared) told me that she and Joshua Clemenger (also in Mother of Us All) would be singing. I was at least as fascinated by the audience and the experience, as I was by the performance of Mozart’s Requiem.
Toronto Choral Society remind me a bit of Toronto City Opera, another organization that combines volunteers with professionals. I think it was their first time back in a live venue (rather than virtual) since the pandemic, so there was a great deal of excitement.
Last night we watched Geoffrey Butler conducting accompanist William O’Meara, and soloists Holly Chaplin (soprano), Jennifer Elisabetta Centrone (alto), Joshua Clemenger (tenor) and Dylan Wright (bass): and the choir, with over 90 names listed in the program.
While the soloists bring a professional polish to the program, the choir are not far off, pushed by Butler’s energetic tempi (which I really liked), and O’Meara’s pristine playing.
It’s not what I’m used to.
A woman sitting in front of me video-taped the soloists during their quartets, something we’re usually not permitted to do. I watched her holding up her phone, only slightly distracted from the wonders of the performance. It’s not the first time I’ve wished classical music producers would permit social media, although I understand there are copyright concerns, and maybe singers dislike the sudden presence of a camera, especially if it flashes. But it felt so natural and spontaneous. I think this is truer to the spirit of Mozart’s time than the usual strictness we impose upon modern audiences.
A gent sitting near me had a score. I heard someone ask him about following. Indeed I heard him gently singing along a few times. And why not? I know some people would balk at the idea but it seems so honest. I heard him mention something in conversation –forgive me if I sound like an eaves-dropper – but as I was sitting there eaves-dropping on Mozart and 100 performers I couldn’t help hearing him say something about his voice changing. The lady he spoke to giggled (perhaps thinking of what boys endure in puberty), but it’s no laughing matter. I don’t have the high notes I used to have. A singing voice is just another of our athletic capabilities. We don’t usually run as fast or as far at 75 as we could run at 25, and similar changes come into play for vocal cords and our lung capacities as we age.
There was a chorus member who entered early with a cane indicating possible blindness. When she sang it was without any musical score, apparently from memory, which in some ways was the coolest thing I saw all night. This seems to be a choir that believes in inclusiveness.
I have heard that singing or dancing help longevity. If you google you can find several mentions of the idea, such as this one. I love to sing, sometimes with my 100-year old mom. She is still all there mentally, never more so than when she’s singing an old Hungarian song for me, as I marvel at her memory.
I must include the webpage where you can join the choir, something I was contemplating as I listened last night. There’s a small fee but much of what they do is supported by volunteers.