Saturday, 20 October 2012

Toronto Consort Off To a Rousing Start With "The Tudors"

Happy 40th Anniversary Toronto Consort!

The Toronto Consort: (top row) David Fallis, Alison Melville, Michelle DeBoer, John Pepper, Paul Jenkins,
(bottom row) Katherine Hill, Terry McKenna, Laura Pudwell, Ben Grossman.

Photo Credit: Paul Orenstein
Last night was my first experience seeing the Toronto Consort. They kicked off their 40th Anniversary season with The Tudors: music from the Fairfax Manuscript, Henry VIII Manuscript, music recorded for the television series (The Tudors) as well as music their new double-CD All in a Garden Green: A Renaissance Collection, as well as an earlier CD, The Queen.

The first half of the evening included a lovely solo, Madame d'amours from soprano, Katherine Hill, backed by Alison Melville on flute, and Terry McKenna on baroque guitar. David Fallis, Paul Jenkins and John Pepper performed a wonderful a capella of Ah Robyn, a song best known as being performed by Feste in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. The only non-vocal piece in this first half was a splendid collaboration on Consort VIII & If love now reigned (music by Henry VII) featuring viol, recorder and baroque guitar.

The Tallis choir joined Toronto Consort on the last sections before intermission in performing music by Thomas Thallis. Divided into eight sections, the entire group was dispersed into several aisles in the upper balcony of Trinity-St. Paul's Centre. Spem in alium, written for 40 voices, should have been the highlight of the evening, however, I was sitting in the balcony, much too close to a vociferous soprano. Each time that particular choir sang, I lost the experience of being enveloped by music. Had I been listening from the orchestra level, I would have been impressed by the staging as well as the unique surround sound experience; instead, I could only listen with half an ear to the choirs farthest away from my seat.

The second half of the evening showcased all the instruments: baroque guitar, flute, harpsichord, hurdy-gurdy, viol and mandolin. Alison Melville plays a mean recorder, and her talent was well-showcased on her solo piece, Waltham Abbey. Piva alla Venetiana was a toe-tapping little number, as was the funky Bellamira & Emperor of the Moon. I don't know how Ben Grossman makes the hurdy-gurdy sound as good as it does on Boate Man, but I definitely wanted to hear more! David Fallis showed his talent for characterization on Willy prithee go to bed, and mezzo-soprano Laura Pudwell had me tearing up with the dolorous, Essex last good-night. The rousing applause she received was well and truly deserved, and was a memorable highlight of tonight's programme. Brava!

You have one more opportunity to hear Toronto Consort perform, The Tudors, tonight at 8:00 pm at Trinity-St. Paul's Centre.

The Toronto Consort
Trinity-St. Paul's Centre
427 Bloor St. West (1 block west of Spadina)
Toronto, ON  M5S 1X7
Box Office:
Phone Number: (416) 964-6337
In person (subject to availability)

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