This week the Toronto Symphony under their pops conductor Steven Reineke presented three concerts of the music of ABBA featuring Rajaton, the Finnish vocal ensemble. While they describe themselves as an a cappella ensemble –singing their vocals accompanied—it was electrifying to see them team up with the TSO today. Most of their songs were accompanied by orchestra.
As you can see the audience were ecstatic in response, coming to their feet to sing and dance along for the final encores.
ABBA have four members in their band (Agnetha Fältskog, Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson, & Anni-Frid Lyngstad, where the initials of their first names give the band its name).
Rajaton have six members (Essi Wuorela, Aili Ikonen, Soila Sariola, Hannu Lepola, Ahti Paunu & Jussi Chydenius).
While I love the TSO, the best performances today were Rajaton’s a capella songs, brilliant arrangements getting maximum impact from the members of Rajaton. Bass Jussi Chydenius anchors these songs while the others offer clever percussion effects into their microphones. Baritone Ahti Paunu has the most lovely tone, reminiscent of Johnny Mathis, soaring above, as do all three women.
The TSO are sometimes subtle in their support, sometimes over the top in the exuberance of “Waterloo” or “Dancing Queen (performed a second time as one of the encores).”
It’s fun to watch Reineke with his physical conducting style, at times like another dancer, inspiring the orchestra.
Rajaton singing ABBA songs with the TSO make a good fit. ABBA are soft rock, very tuneful and musical in their compositions, which suit TSO pops audiences. The singers of ABBA make music that’s almost like music-theatre, between the melodrama of “The Winner Takes it all” or the silliness of “Mamma Mia”.
Of course my perspective may be distorted. Hindsight is 20-20, right? You must know they’ve made a musical titled Mamma Mia out of ABBA songs. The point is, I suppose, I’m obviously not the first person to notice how well-suited these “rock tunes” are for a music-theatre treatment.
The ABBA concerts are presented by the TSO as a Pride- related event, the third & final concert tonight. I took Erika as part of her birthday celebration this week, but couldn’t help remembering dancing to them when these songs first appeared: many birthdays ago.
It was like a celebration including dinner afterwards, our first time back at Elephant & Castle across the street from Roy Thomson Hall in over two years. Yes I ate too much. Dessert was outrageous.