NORTHERN LIGHTS, Sat., Dec. 10, 2016

On Saturday, December 10, 2016 at 7:30 PM, the VOCA Chorus of Toronto presented ‘NORTHERN LIGHTS’.

The evening’s performance featured several stunning works by the world-renowned Norwegian / NYC-based composer, pianist and recording artist, Ola Gjeilo.

Artistic Director Jenny Crober has long been an admirer of this brilliant composer’s works, and has enthusiastically introduced our choristers – and our audience members – to several of his beautiful compositions over the seasons. Our choir was truly thrilled to hold a workshop with Mr. Gjeilo two months ago, where he also accompanied two of his signature works on piano, including Tundra, which we performed that evening.

We were delighted to welcome back violinist Elizabeth Loewen Andrews and cellist Wendy Solomon as guest artists for this concert, and extended a warm welcome to violinist Laurel Mascarenhas and violist Rory McLeod, who joined our choir for the first time.

We featured seven of Mr. Gjeilo’s works, both choral and instrumental at our concert, along with a wide variety of seasonal selections by other composers.

Ola Gjeilo’s joyous Prelude started off the evening, followed by two selections (Kála Kálla and Éyze Shélig, featuring soprano Kelsey Taylor) from Eric Whitacre’s enchanting Five Hebrew Love Songs. Several soloists (Jacques Arsenault, Matthew Dalen, Justin Welsh and Nicholas Borg) were featured in the 16th Century Swedish carol, Gaudete, adapted by Jim Cooke, followed by our sopranos and altos in Ola Gjeilo’s sublime Tundra, featuring soprano Kelsey Taylor. The wistful Madison, written for cello and piano by Ola Gjeilo, performed by Wendy Solomon and Elizabeth Acker was followed by his gorgeous arrangement of The Holly and the Ivy, then our audience carol sing. After our audience carol sing, then PDQ Bach’s Good King Kong Looked Out (very loosely based on Good King Wenceslaus;) came the final selection of the first half of our concert, Shawn Kirchner’s moving arrangement of the Appalachian carol Bright Morning Stars, featuring baritone Justin Welsh.

Cuncti Simus, a jaunty Medieval carol, arranged by Ricardo Soto opened our second half, followed by Hector Berlioz’s choral gem, L’Adieu des bergers à la Sainte Famille. Our concert’s namesake, the stunning and intense Northern Lights by Ola Gjeilo (with solos by Kelsey Taylor, Jennifer Routhier and Matthew Dalen) was followed by Bob Chilcott’s lively arrangement of Jingle, Bells (Mr. Chilcott kindly added the comma;). Frobisher Bay, by Guelph songwriter James Gordon, which featured our tenors and basses with soloist Matthew Dalen, led to a solo piano work by Ola Gjeilo: the tender and reflective January, performed by Jenny Crober. After our second carol sing, and a bit more audience participation with Zol Zain Sholem arranged by Joshua Jacobson, featuring Elizabeth Acker, piano and tenor Jacques Arsenault on accordion, we performed Ola Gjeilo’s final work of the evening: his heart-wrenchingly beautiful Sacred Heart (Ubi Caritas III). Our evening finished with Mark Hayes jazzy and joyous mash-up of two well-known spirituals (Mary Had a Baby and Go Tell it on the Mountain), Mary, Go Tell It!

VAST ETERNAL SKY, Sat., May 7, 2016

On Saturday, May 7, 2016 at 7:30 PM, the VOCA Chorus of Toronto presented ‘VAST ETERNAL SKY’.

Our evening began with one of the most beloved and renowned of all the major choral works: Gabriel Fauré’s ‘REQUIEM’. We presented English composer John Rutter’s highly-acclaimed chamber orchestra edition, based on Faure’s 1893 version, featuring our soloists/leads Elizabeth Polese (soprano), Lawrence Shirkie (baritone) and our guest artists, the Talisker Players (orchestral ensemble).

In the second half of our concert, we feared a wide variety of secular and sacred works, most based on the subjects of sky or heaven. Our guest artists for this portion of the evening were Elizabeth Loewen Andrews and Stephen Marvin (violin), Mary McGeer, artistic director of the Talisker Players (viola), Laura Jones (cello) and Joseph Phillips (double bass). This portion of the evening began with Faure’s cherished “Cantique de Jean Racine”, and featured our accompanist, Liz Acker and our guest instrumentalists. Another beloved French choral work, Morten Lauridsen’s “Dirait-on” followed, featuring Liz Acker, piano. The joyous, Appalachian-inspired “Faith is a bird which feels the light” by Elizabeth Alexander featured our sopranos and altos, with soloist Jennifer Routhier, which was followed by Toronto composer Eleanor Daley’s sublime “Paradise (Song For Georgian Bay)”. William Dawson’s rousing version of “Ain’A That Good News!” featuring our tenors and basses was followed by our concert’s namesake: Norwegian born, NYC-based composer and pianist Ola Gjeilo’s stunning “Across the Vast, Eternal Sky”, featuring our accompanist, guest violinists, violist and cellist. Deke Sharon’s sassy arrangement of Delugg and Stein’s “Orange Colored Sky”, featuring soloist Tom Roedding led us to the final selection of the evening: Mark Haye’s choral/piano arrangement of one of the world’s most popular and beloved popular songs, Harold Arlen’s “Over the Rainbow”, which sent our audience off into the spring air with a warm glow.