Listening

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Listening to Canzona and Musikbarok

Henry Engbrecht leading rehearsal.

Henry Engbrecht leading rehearsal.

Sunday I had the rare opportunity to hear the St. Matthew’s Passion (J.S.Bach) performed in its entirety by Canzona and Musicbarok led by two of my inspirational musical heroes Henry Engbrecht and Eric  Lussier respectively. It was an emotional moment for me and most of the audience because Engbrecht is retiring as active conductor and founding Artistic Director of the baroque choir Canzona. To add to the moment Eric Lussier was playing harpsichord and organ.

Eric Lussier at the harsichord.

Eric Lussier at the harsichord.

Eric is the leader of Musicbarok which has performed often with Canzona. A Lussier performance is increasingly rare as arthritis makes playing a constant challenge. Lussier actually lived in this house where I have my home and writing studio, and has stayed in the Wolseley neighborhood. He taught piano lessons to my kids, well about 2 years each maximum so they can at least read music and find Middle C on the piano. I never got much further, but that’s another story.

There was no introduction, there were no speeches. The concert began, running for 3 and a half hours plus a 15 minute intermission. While some of the audience may have thought this was a marathon, the musicians did all the heavy lifting during the evening.  It was an accomplished performance of one of Bach’s most complex choral masterworks, moving me to tears twice. Issiah Bell as the Evangelist was the standout soloist of the might, and I was intrigued by the viola da gamba you don’t see in performance very much. The chorales whether sung by the choir or by the congregation were reminders of where I’m from, and those that made it into the Mennonitsche Gesangbuch were the choral music my father favoured. God is dead, and sometimes I miss him, though less and less as I get older.

Someone I once knew said she sort of got the Jesus thing, but just could not buy into the Resurrection. One of the things I like about most Passions is that Jesus is tormented, denied by his followers, crucified, and laid in a tomb. “Father, why have you forsaken me” is a story that never loses its resonance. My favourite piece of music for this time of year is Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater, which I heard performed by a choir in Toronto in 1997 and which I was fortunate enough to introduce on CBC in 1998. A mother’s (or a father’s) suffering at the loss of a child is another timeless story.

Mennonites do not like crucifixion  iconography, preferring instead the empty cross signifying that “He is Risen!” “Risen indeed!” the standard Easter Sunday greeting for Mennonite church-goers once upon a time, and in German of course back in the day. Unfortunately the music I’ve come to associate with Easter Sunday are the rousing German “gospel” choruses; Roll ab den Stein Jesus Lebt! and the boom ching of Friedenfurst, which I conducted reprising of my role as Simon Stimson as I turned twenty in a small church outside the city. I may have more to say, but clearly Bach and Pergolesi are my favoured classical music listening of this week, and I realize again I’m a lucky man having heard these two moving pieces of choral music performed live.

TAKE FIVE: March 13, 1998

Take Five with Shelagh Rogers today for First Encounters.
Guest Victor Jerrett Enns a writer and arts administrator,
spins his choice, a performance of Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater
by soprano Felicity Palmer, mezzo Alfreda Hodgson, the St.
John’s College Choir and the Argo Chamber Orchestra, all
under the direction of George Guest.

 

 

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2 Comments

  1. Shaun Friesen
    Posted April 17, 2014 at 1:59 am | Permalink

    Ahhh… Mennonite musical royalty stepping down and the death of Divinity all woven into the context of a Saints passion. Crosses hung with suffering or those bare,trading for for a partial resurrection and self righteous for the what awaits those who dare to explore beneath what passes for courage today. To make it complete the return of Jesus Christ Superstar to Wpg. I still have a memory of the sacrilgious actions of MCI students crammed into the gym to listen to it, under General’s watchful eye. You hunkered down in your fox hole in front of a speaker, perhaps to be the first to hear “the truth. “Who are you? What have you sacrificed?’ $0 years later, wit “God’s death not mattering as much” what resurrection, whose voice do we seek?
    Be well
    Shaun

    • Victor
      Posted April 23, 2014 at 2:38 am | Permalink

      As the saying goes….that happened so long ago….it’s not even true anymore.
      I’ve had hearing aids for nearly a decade, dismayed at my audiologists remark. “No, it wasn’t all the rock n roll you listened to. We see a lot of this in OLDER people.” I was barely 50. Being precocious, after 4 osteo surgeries in two years, is just no fun any more. Thankfully the walking stick I found for $10.00 at Antiques and Funk on Main looks good on me. Good to hear from you Shaun!
      V

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