Saturday, 6 October 2012

Rocking Out With Musicians in Ordinary

John Edwards and Hallie Fishel aka Musicians in Ordinary
You know what I like about Musicians in Ordinary? Everything. They're talented, funny, and they unselfishly share the stage with equally gifted guests. Watching lutenist, John Edwards and soprano, Hallie Fishel perform tonight's programme, His Perfections Like Sunbeams, with guests Christopher Verrette, and Justin Haynes, I remain impressed with their abilities and the intimate mood they continually create at their concerts.

Tonight's programme was a tribute to Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales (1594 - 1612) with music composed by the musicians he welcomed into his household. Hallie has an embracing soprano with spot-on diction, no matter what language she sings in. English pronunciation has changed a lot over the centuries, add the high vocals in the singing mix, and it can be tricky to follow, but not so when listening to Hallie; she's done her homework and it shows. With her, the voice is always charming and captivating without being simpering or too precious, as she with  There is a Garden in Her Face (Robert Jones) and Come My Celia (Ferrabosco). Above all, I adore her clear Italian and  the emotions she expresses in Notari's Ahi, che s'accrease and Vol vedet"il mio mal and Ciaccona (both credited to Notari, but unconfirmed).

Thankfully taking the starch out of chamber music with his humourous comments and facts about the period and music being played, John Edwards never misses a beat as he effortlessly transitions from the lute to the 6-foot theorbo, from solos (Sturt's Prelude-Mrs. Hoffmans Alman), to duets (Ciprano di Rore's Ben si qui mostra il Ciel), to trios (Ford's Unto the Temple of Thy Beauty), and quartets (Notari? Ciaccona). His casual sure-handedness belies the deftness of fingers and the trained ear needed to play the pieces MIO selects for their concerts. 

Guests, Christopher Verrette and Justin Haynes were welcome additions to tonight's concert. Verrette is Verrette is a member of Tafelmusik's violin section, and has played with MIO in many concerts. The man is a storyteller on the violin. I don't know how else to put it. Each time I listen to him play, he takes me on a journey. He plays with none of the keening, emotionally manipulative tricks that less talented violinists try to pass off as "feelings". I especially loved the way his playing worked with Hallie's voice on  Romanesca (Notari?) and with John on another possible Nortari's piece, Ruggiero. Complementing Justin Haynes tonight was his very eye-catching dragon-headed viola da gamba (which he made). I found myself rocking out to his three part solo by Ford: Three Lyra Viol Pieces: and if you doe touch me ile crie-Forget me not, A pill to purge melancholie. The spotlight was on him and he shone brilliantly.

If you are at all intimidated by concert halls, then give Musicians in Ordinary a try, and start with their Helliconian Hall Series. The Hall looks like a tiny church and is situated right behind Hazelton Lanes, on 35 Hazelton Avenue, just north of Yorkville Avenue. No dress code in effect, just come and enjoy some great music with several laughs from John in between selections. Ticket prices are a reasonable $25/$20 students and seniors.

Want to learn more about Musician in Ordinary (MIO), including why they have such a strange name? Check out their blog: and/or

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