DaCapo choir’s midnight journey enchants

Posted by on Apr 9, 2013 in Reviews | 0 comments

The Record
Susan Deefholts



Midnight. A time of darkness, power and transformation.

In our daily compass, with its cardinal points of dawn, noon, dusk and midnight, it is at the moment when the day is poised in the centre of night that the most wondrous of transformations takes place: rebirth. A new day emerges and the cycle begins once more.

On Saturday night, the DaCapo Chamber Choir and Artistic Director Leonard Enns captured the mysticism and transcendence of this moment in their concert Midnight: Darkness and Wonder, at St. John the Evangelist Anglican Church in Kitchener.

The daily progression through light and dark has shaped our psyches in profound ways.

Darkness is central to the symbolism of the soul’s journey.

Exaudi, by Manitoba composer Jocelyn Morlock, led us into the shadowed expanse of this inner realm, revealing a complex beauty in the interplay between the vocal lines and the solitary cello, eloquently played by Simon Fryer. The music allowed the darkness to be established, to linger and to grow wide and encompassing, before turning in the direction that would ultimately lead us to redemption.

Arvo Pärt’s Stabat Mater delved even further into this realm via the minimalism of a far smaller ensemble. As with the other works performed, it is uncompromising music, in which each component must be presented with strength, precision and clarity.

Jerzy Kaplanek on violin, Christine Vlajk on viola and Simon Fryer on cello led us into the darkness of Pärt’s mystical vision, whose words are derived from a 13th century hymn. The music was crystalline: a profound contemplation of the suffering of Christ’s mother, distilled and refined into the purity of ice and water.

Soprano Stephanie Kramer contributed to this sense of deep emotion with her edged clarity of sound, while mezzo-soprano Jennifer Enns Modolo and tenor Brandon Leis added other facets of depth, beauty and nuance to the hymn’s message that it is only by sharing in Christ’s passion that genuine transcendence can be achieved.

And yet, the night of the soul is just one facet of darkness: just as we daily navigate through the cycle of bright and dark, so too do we progress through the waxing and waning of darkness in the wheel of the year.

The latter portion of the program focused on seasonal darkness. Mid-Winter Songs is a five-part cycle by Morten Lauridsen, with words by Robert Graves. Instead of playing the cycle through consecutively, however, Enns chose to intersperse the Lauridsen pieces with a number of other night- and winter-themed selections that made for an enchanting diversity of voices.

This second sequence was moving and profound, while the choir’s performance was incandescent. Catherine Robertson’s marvellous piano accompaniment further enhanced the power of the music.

The eloquence of Graves’s poetry, set to the striking expressionism of Lauridsen’s music, created a powerful unifying motif, even as we moved into impressionistic lilt of Camille Saint-SaÎns’s Calme des nuits and the old-world evocations of Franz Schubert’s Die Nacht and Vera Kistler’s arrangement of the folk song, Good Night Beloved.

The other highlight of the cycle was R. Murray Schafer’s eloquent Snowforms — inspired by Schafer’s observation of “the soft foldings of snow” outside his Ontario farmhouse.

The piece, and its performance, was mesmerizing and electric, embodying the diversity and potential of choral music at its best.

As an encore, Eric Whitacre’s Sleep led us into a final facet of midnight. Both contemplative and rhapsodic, the piece subsided into a quiet throb of voices that gradually withdrew to the threshold of sound, like the whispers of thought in those final moments before sleep wraps our minds in soft folds of darkness.

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