Raising her voice four new Canadian female composers and their works-premiered with the Orpheus choir of Toronto

Raising her voice four new Canadian female composers and their works-premiered with the Orpheus choir of Toronto


I’m merely bubbling from the Friday evening concert on March 8th, of the Orpheus Choir of Toronto’s concert celebrating “International Women’s Day, with their event entitled “Raising Her Voice” at Grace Church on the Hill, Toronto. For this reporter, this concert was one of the best produced choral concerts that I have ever attended, having been involved with the Orpheus Choir and its administration for many years!

A new partner for Orpheus Choir was the involvement of “Diaspora Dialogues” of Toronto, as they matched up Canadian four poets and composers, with their works by the late Priscila Uppal and Christine Donkin, (Careful, Careful), Shadi Eskandam and Ankia-France Forget, (A Prayer for Return), Phoebe Wang and Tawnie Olson, (Two Tea Bowls) and Yayo Yao and Katerina Gimon, (Beneath/Sound), these new works were such a delight of sounds and textures all premiered for this special “International Women’s Day” concert.

As usual Robert Cooper Artistic Director and Conductor, blended established Canadian and international female composers into this fantastic program by “Katerina Gimon, (O Virtus Sapientiae ), Ramona Luengen, (Celebremus), Cecilia McDowall, (I Know That My Redeemer Liveth), Jocelyn Morlock, (Exaudi),  Diane Loomer, (Ave Maris Stella), Gwyneth Walker, (I Thank You, God) and Sarah Quartel (How Can I Keep From Singing) provided such a balance between these established artists to these four new composers, joining the ranks of their established colleagues.  The Choir was magnificent and gave their best and at times, engaging with many animated moments from all of the selected mosaic of the works displayed by these female composers. I especially enjoyed “I Thank You God” by Gwyneth Walker and lyrics by the poet E.E. Cummings. Lots of joyful music and Cummings’ poems were shared by speaking out the lyrics, from the Choir to the audience- as a gift!

Photo from left to right, Tawnie Olson; Katerina Gimon; Robert Cooper, Artistic Director; Ankia-France Forget; Christine Donkin.

We were given such a divergence of ideas, of vocal ranges and emotions, genuinely demonstrated by these new composers that were showcased in this concert.  I especially enjoyed Twanie Olson’s “Two Tea Bowls” as the piece was divided into two movements. As I was listening intensively to the first movement, I was reminded of some of the same types of voicing, and motifs similar to Benjamin Britten’s work. The piece made me sit on the end of my chair, grasping the lyrics (lots of text) along with the difficult voicing, the Choir so beautifully performed the cacophonies of sound and dynamics.

I was engaged and so enjoyed Katerina Gimon’s “Beneath/Sound.” This piece had such texture in it as the lyrics speak of “beneath throat, breath, beneath breath, the earth” and you could imagine the levels of sedimentary rock displayed by choral layers of sound and its voicings-that was challenging and was the focal point of the evening with these newly commissioned works being premiered.

Bravo and Brava, to my fellow Orpheus Choir friends and to Robert Cooper, Ellse Naccarato, Apprentice Conductor, and Lisa Griffiths, and the Chorus of the Orpheus Choir of Toronto who worked very diligently on this concert and made it such a success!

Too bad, that we do not have CBC Radio’s “Choral Concert” anymore to feature this program for a national or international audience. I would encourage any choral conductor’s in my social media audience, to go and investigate all of these new works for your ensemble to perform in the future!

Where you at this amazing choral performance, what were some of your moments in the concert that you enjoyed? Let’s chat about this in the comments below.

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