Archived Concert Reports

Come Not Near Our Faerie Queen

An evening of Hallowe'en favourites drew the usual appreciative audience to Trinity-St. Marks on Saturday night, with just enough new stuff to keep the interest going. This choir is Portrait 2fortunate to have at its call, if not exactly beck, the compositional and arranging talents of Earle Peach, acknowledged in the program, and of Music Director David Millard.

David it seems, from various dedications and audience intro's has the meritorious habit of seeing a need for music and then filling that need by putting pencil to manuscript paper on various busses on the Lower Mainland Transit System. We think that Skytrain would work as well, though we are concerned that the Seabus is too well endowed with its own pitch (leave aside roll and yaw) to mentally beat back; and the West Coast Express? - too darn comfy!!

The concert began with the Stevens "Ye Spotted Snakes with double tongue." These are the words sung by the "First Fairy" and Chorus for Queen Titania in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, Act 2 Scene 2. This enjoining of the nasties to stay away might have been better placed after the other pieces in the programme had reviewed for us the nature of threats to peace, order and good government in this veiled realm of the slightly unreal!

We had a suite of Earle's mysterioso pieces - "Song of Amergin", "She Moved Through the Fair" (The Alto and Soprano piece with Suzie Britnell starring as the story-teller) and "Shall We Go Down to the Rowan Tree." These miniatures are well handled by the choir and this time came with an extra dose of precision. The conductor has to be in charge - and he was!

Then David Millard turned the attention to a couple of items from his own back pocket, the familiar "Fear No More the Heat o' the Sun" and a new arrangement of the traditional "Lord Randal" The former is taken from Cymbeline Act 4 Scene 2 where a funeral song is sung over the drugged but supposedly dead body of "Fidele" who is, in reality, Imogen disguised as a boy.
David Welcomes Ye Spotted David Introduces
David welcomes the audience Ye Spotted Snakes David Introduces the Beasts
This is a truly lovely piece for which the choir obviously has great affection. Melodic invention is evident throughout every part with not an ugly interval in sight. The resulting rich harmonies and suspensions make for music that sings of regret but also relief in passing from this imperfect, dangerous and sometimes treacherous world. And treachery is what is in store for Lord Randal. Never was a poisoning such rollicking good fun. Mary Leigh Warden assumed a fervent Scots brogue to tease out the secret of the deepening malaise of "Lord Randal, my son." The audience responded well to the final revelation of fratricide.

The midpoint of the programme came with the Contrapunto Bestiale of Banchieri, appropriately, since most of what was to follow concerned the animal or animal/spirit kingdom as opposed to the human foibles presented in most of the preceding half. First up was the curiously named "The (English) Dragon" by Oliver Barton. This dragon is an angry but self-aware beast that will "spare some, others not!" Short, fun, astringent and challenging - watch out world, there is a rythmically more complex version out there!! David's "Green Lady" with its tale of a murderous tree, hollered by the suitably aghast men of the choir, was followed by "Over Hill, Over Dale" from Act 2, Scene 1 of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. This is set to nimble music, as fleet as Puck, by John Liptrot Hatton. The choir ran through this piece lightly and trippingly but not without the proper swagger of "I do wander everywhere, swifter than the moone’s sphere." This is the prideful Puck who puts a girdle around the world in 40 minutes but requires the audience to take note as he sets out "Look how I go..."

Another Barton work was next, bringing us the tingly mystery of "The Gurt Black Dog of Somerset." David explained that the black dog in English folklore is taken as an omen of bad things to come, however there are exceptions and in this case a shepherd lost in the mists on the local moor is led home by a dog who appears at his side. He assumes that the only half seen beast is his own dog come to fetch him. But on arriving at his cottage door he is greeted by that best friend as he catches just a glimpse of the disappearing great black dog who delivered him. This tale of a personal reunion was followed by Earle Peach's haunting story of Gaian separation told in "From the Air" David Millard draws this piece along very slowly but with great freedom of phrasing. The group is well drilled in all the nuances and the block chord structure allows the words about longing for "the Earth so Green..." to be heard and well understood.

Jabberwock Bow
The Jabberwock Time for Bows
The highlight of the evening was undoubtedly "Yomervokhets" written by David for his Jewish Folk Choir. It is a six section rendering of the Yiddish translation of Lewis Carroll's Jabberwock. Stepen Aberle not only excelled in the solo baritone role but also in the tag team exposition of the English and Yiddish lines of the poem that preceded the singing. Although Mr Millard is the language expert it was Stephen who read the Yiddish lines with gusto and with absolute authenticity. This performance reaped such applause that one feared the actual music would be an anticlimax. Not so! David has created a marvelous blend of word-painting melodic lines and quirky rhythms, all dressed up in an elaborate salaam in the direction of Zemirot and Klezmer music. The strong solo work and crystal diction of Stephen Aberle - profiting from the spoken prequel - made a strong impression and garnered another ovation at its conclusion.

The concert closed with "From Peace and Social Joy" by Anonymous. This song starts as if the tribulations of Hallowe'en are over, but it is not long before they're baaack! We are told that "hags and witches hate the smiles of day, sport in loud thunder, and in tempests play" And so goodnight!

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