Da Camera Singers presents: Mozart | Martin

November 29, 2019

Featuring W. A. Mozart’s Requiem and S. Martin’s new cantata, Winter Nights
With Orchestra Borealis
Saturday, November 2nd, 2019 at 7:00 PM
All Saints’ Anglican Cathedral

Laura’s first program with Da Camera in the 2019-2020 season marked a turning point in the life of the choir in this final concert with Dr. John Brough, who had led the artistic vision of the choir since 2005. Da Camera Singers, with Orchestra Borealis, will presened Mozart’s beloved Requiem mass with Dr. Brough alongside the Alberta premiere of Canadian composer Stephanie Martin’s new cantata, Winter Nights, presented and conducted by Laura Hawley in her role as Da Camera’s new artistic director. These two stunning works, with additional selections by J. Ch. Bach, Michael Merrill, and Bernat Vivancos, offered a thoughtful and moving All Soul’s Day program celebrating these past fourteen years of Dr. Brough’s inspiring leadership and ushering in the next chapter of Da Camera’s musical journey.

Here is an excerpt from Laura’s program notes (click on “View Program” to see the full program).

“Today’s program is truly a “Da Camera” program in it’s diversity of repertoire spanning from the 1600s to today’s Alberta premiere of a new Canadian work.  In our collaborative programming for this concert, John chose the Mozart Requiem partly because November 2nd is All Souls Day (or Commemoration of All The Faithful Departed). It was a natural and meaningful fit for us to continue with this theme the for the music in the first half of the concert, given the strong ties to the Christian Liturgical Calendar that John and I share through our work as Anglican church musicians and through our foundational years which we both spent singing in Ottawa’s Anglican Cathedral and churches.  

The first half of the concert is inspired by the overall arch of a J.S. Bach cantata, with choral works acting as “opening chorus, recitative, arias, and closing chorus,” and counterpoints the Mozart Requiem from the vantage point of one approaching the end of life. 

Our “opening chorus” is Heaven Haven, an exquisitely moving new work by American composer Michael Merril, who composed this work while in residence at the Banff Centre here in Alberta. Some may already be familiar with this text from Benjamin Britten’s large-scale choral work, A.M.D.G. This new setting, dedicated to Merril’s grandmother, beautifully captures the sense of longing for peace through it’s carefully crafted use of line, tessitura, and stunning lingering harmonies that one does indeed want to rest and find refuge in. 

Within the arch of the Bach-cantata-form concept, Vivancos’ Aeternam offers what I might call an “anti-recitative” for choir. This stunning work seeks to eradicate time altogether, taking the listener away from any sense of pulse, hurry, or rhythm-, form, or harmony-driven propulsion. Here, we turn the idea of the fast-paced, plot-driven “recitative” upside-down and in so doing, we seek to capture the individual’s experience of the “opposite of life” with an expression of tranquillity, peace, and eternity in the place of worldly hustle and bustle. 

The centrepiece of the program’s first half is the Alberta premiere of Toronto composer Stephanie Martin’s cantata Winter Nights.  Here, each movement offers a different vignette, acting as the “choral arias” in the overall cantata concept of the first half. The opens with folklore of the collective consciousness (about weather, no less – how very Canadian!), moving on to texts that call to mind larger reflections upon changing of the seasons, the passage of time, the freezing of the earth when winter comes, alongside a very specific moment where we “zoom in” on a Christmas memory from Martin’s own childhood, expressed through her musical setting of a poem by her sister about one very distinct Christmas eve they shared. In this movement, listeners may experience their own flood of memories when, just after the words “church singers choired in their stalls,” the orchestra quotes, simultaneously, “Lo, how a rose,” “O God, Our Help in Ages Past,” and “Joy to the world.”  In Martin’s cantata, we experience a spectrum of feelings from nostalgia to profound reflection, and one of the things I love about this work is the many layers of meaning one can find in the music and texts, from “simple sayings” to broad metaphors for life and death. 

We close the first half with a final chorus, the Sterb-Aria (Death Aria), Es ist nun aus, mit meinem Leben, written by Johann Christoph Bach, the cousin of Johann Sebastian Bach’s father.  The baffling perfection of this work expresses perfectly the contentment of a faithful soul ready to pass from this world and enter into the loving embrace of heaven. We are grateful to Ivars Taurins and Charlotte Nediger for providing us with the edition we are performing from tonight.”

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