Category Archives: choir

Bookish update plus the Outgoing Introvert

I usually tweet my #FridayReads, the meme started by Bethanne Patrick (@thebookmaven), so I thought I’d let y’all know what’s cooking on the reading front this week here as well.

I’ve done my first dive in to The Novel: A Biography. I’ve read the Prologue and most of the Introduction and it’s absolutely terrific reading. Once I get to the first chapter (Literature is Invention), I’ll also be picking up The Travels of Sir John Mandeville, noted by the author as being the first English not-quite-a-novel (but a constant narrator and more of a memoir/travel book.) (It’s free at the link as, written in the 14th century, it’s well out of copyright.)

I’m halfway through Inside by Alix Ohlin. I heard Ohlin read at IFOA a couple of years ago and purchased her book based on that. But never got to it. So far so good, and I hope to finish it this weekend.

On the audio front, I started listening to In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. This is for one of the Winter Reading Challenge at Roundtable on Goodreads, and is referenced in The Novel’s chapter title Impersonation.

I have yet to dive in to The Brothers Karamazov, although if I don’t want to get hopelessly behind in the group read, I should pull it out tomorrow. Or rather boot it up. This is one of those cases where my paper copy’s print was too small for me to read comfortably so I ended up buying a copy of the Pevear/Volokhonsky translation for my Kobo. They did a fabulous job on Anna Karenina so I’m hoping Brothers will be good too.

The Outgoing Introvert

This article from the Globe and Mail kinda sums up my project/non-resolution around meeting more people IRL. (It’s well worth a read, if you think you might not have enough community time, and I don’t mean your family or work community.) While I have benefitted incredibly from meeting people online, particularly when I was out of the country for five years, it made me do a bit of a mental inventory of the places where I am part of a community outside of my family. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become much less shy and more outgoing. (“Shy” you say, incredulously, those of you who have met me in the past five to ten years? In truth, I used to have trouble ordering a pizza by phone.)

My communities:

Choir: an absolute necessity in my life. My last two choirs (Toronto and Atlanta) have been associated with my parish. Plus a summer choir that was Catholic but not parish-based. When I lived in Ottawa, I was part of a community choir. I love crave the chance to sing on a regular basis. I meet people of all ages, different religions (or none), knitters, readers, professional musicians, students, vegans, retired people, professors, writers) who all come together to seek beauty in the combination of voices.

Book club: While the club started out with mainly people I know, we’ve branched out and I’ve had a chance to meet fascinating people who have a common love of reading and talking about literature. We’re one of the few book clubs that I know about that includes both men and women and I find that this makes for a somewhat more interesting vibe. We’ve also started an annual low-stress December meeting where, rather than read a book to discuss, we each bring a book that we’ve loved to introduce to the rest of the group. This is a great way to get to know each other a little better.

Genealogical meetings: I used to volunteer quite actively but have had to give that up in the past couple of years. I don’t know many people at the events so sometimes I don’t talk with many people, but I”m travelling to Salt Lake City with a group in February and will get to know some of the local people better.

The Salon: In years BC (before children), we held a reasonably regular “salon” where we invited friends who were interested in smart discussion to talk about topics. Wine and nibblies and a moderator. Sort of like a book club but not on a book. I’d love to do this again and have been mulling over format, topics, and logistics. I even have a spreadsheet somewhere….

So, where is your community? Do you have one? Do you need one?

Sunday choral report

Circumstances only permitted a half hour rehearsal this morning, but our music went reasonably well.

During the Offertory we sang Josquin’s Ave Maria, presented below by the Tallis Scholars. (My email subscribers may not be getting the embedded video. If you’d like to see it, go to the link to my blog at the end of the email.)

During Communion, we presented Jesu Dulcis Memoria, sung here by the Cambridge Singers.


We were rather short of male singers this morning, with only one bass and two tenors, one of them a substitute for our cantor, but I think we managed to pull it off with our organist singing whichever male part needed him.

I spent a lazy afternoon, finishing up another read-through of Atonementby Ian McEwan in preparation for the screening tomorrow at TIFF, part of the Books on Film series. Playwright and screenwriter Christopher Hampton will be there for an interview with Eleanor Wachtel after the screening. The novel is so layered with emotion (or lack thereof) that it was perfect for a sunny Sunday afternoon on the porch.

It will be a busy week. Besides the screening, we are seeing two operas at the COC (Tuesday and Wednesday evenings) and then Michael’s final music concert of high school on Thursday,where he will be featured playing a tuba concerto composed by another student at the school.

From the divine to the devil

The Divine

I used to publish a Sunday Choral Report detailing what we sang in my church choir. When we returned to Canada five years ago, we were lucky to land in a parish with a fabulous organist and traditional choir at the 11:30 am mass. We rehearse from 10-11:15 on Sunday mornings in preparation for that mass, so there’s no weeknight rehearsal which is best for a choir made up of  professional singers and musicians (who sing)  as well as strong amateurs.

Our organist/director has a love of the Renaissance so we often sing from that era. This  morning was no exception. For the offertory we sang Nigra sum sed formosa filia Jerusalem by Tomás Luis de Victoria. The first line of text (originally from Song of Solomon) replaces the singular filliae (daughters) with filia (daughter) pointing to Mary. The full (English) text is as follows:

I am a dark-skinned but comely daughter of Jerusalem,
Therefore have I pleased the Lord
And he has brought me into his chamber
And said to me: arise my love and come.
For now the winter is past, the rain is over and gone,
The flowers have appeared in our land,
The time of pruning is come.

Chanticleer performs it here.

During Communion we sang Homo Quidam in a setting by Jean Mouton. I cannot find a recording to share, but the text is translated as:

Certain man organized a great dinner and sent his servant at the hour of dinner so that he said to his guests to come: Because everything is prepared.Come to eat my bread and to drink my wine that I prepared for you.

Quite an appropriate Communion hymn.

The Devil

After mass, I travelled south to my my monthly book club meeting where we shared our thoughts onGone Girlby Gillian Flynn. [No spoilers follow.] A psychological thriller featuring an arguably evil protagonist, I personally found it both hard to put down and necessary to set aside as the tension rose. Themes of marriage, life in the big-city vs. small-town South, the fate of print journalism and the impact of the 24-hour news cycle and quest to be first with “the” story were all present and considered by the group. While the book was rated on average 8/10 with a small range (7-9), differences of opinion were expressed about the protagonist’s mental state and motivation for the events detailed in the novel. We all loved her plotting (with some debate over how much closure the ending achieved), her sense of humour, and agreed that we’d all see the movie together when it comes out. We had one new member today, and a couple of usual members were absent, but the discussion was excellent. It topped the Amazon.ca Best Pick for 2012list.

On my drive home, I considered my descent from the divinity of the mass and the music we sang, to the discussion of evil and how it comes into a person, a marriage, and a world. On arriving home, I was greeted by my husband sitting on the porch with the papers, a whisky, and a cigar, the first time we’ve had our furniture out on the deck this spring. Life in the middle seems pretty ok.

In the search for the Voice of God…

…some believe Gregorian chants are preferable to folk music

  Apr 22, 2011 

Aaron Lynett/National Post

Brother Brian holds his rosary as he, along with Frater Stanislaus (centre) and Frater Herman Joseph (right) rehearse for their choir specializing in Gregorian Chant at the Holy Family Church in Toronto

When Philip Fournier sings a line of Gregorian chant, it hangs like a puff of smoke in the air before it slowly dissipates above the empty pews below.

The sound, listening to it live from a distance of just several inches away in the choir loft at St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Toronto, is ancient, elemental. The sound originates in his abdomen — a line of text that flows out like a wave, sung in tones that are dark and rich. The words are in Latin. It is not a song so much as prayer that is sung.

Mr. Fournier, with his ragged sweater and perpetual five o’clock shadow, is part of a small cadre of traditionalists for whom singing Gregorian chant is an attempt to restore what they see as the real music of the Catholic Church — sounds that go back to the time when King David sang psalms in the temple. 

If they had their way, they would storm the parish churches and hurl all the guitars and drums into the street because they believe substituting modern music for ancient music has eroded worship.

Philip Fournier

Read the rest at the link above.

I’m a huge chant fan, although realize that to encourage congregational participation in the novus ordo mass, we need to sing familiar hymns and (re-)inroduce these more traditional forms slowly. Both of the parishes I have belonged to since I became Catholic moved to Latin mass parts for Advent and Lent, and my current choir uses a lot of renaissance (and some medieval) music during the offertory and communion periods. We are also (apparently) ordering the Parish Book of Chant and this should go a long way to including more chant in the liturgy.

Duruflé Mania

I missed choir last week due to illness, but I was happy to be back today, particularly since both of our pieces were by Duruflé.  During the Offertory, we sang Ubi Caritas.

Here’s the Chor of King’s College Cambridge….

Then, during Communion we sang Duruflé’s Notre Pere.

Here’s the Ensemble Vocal de l’AVP singing at l’Église Saint Merry (Paris 4e):

These pieces are stunning in their harmony and forward movement, and are a joy to sing.  While I’m excited to be travelling to England in the next couple of weeks, I’m sorry to not be singing with the choir over the Easter weekend.

Sunday Choral Report

We are blessed with a terrific parish choir, comprised of a combination of professional singers, musicians, and keen amateurs. Our rehearsals are the hour and a quarter before mass, where we spend our time preparing the days hymns, choir-only pieces, and work on music for upcoming weeks with remaining time. We rehearse in a room in the lower level of the church building, and then in the quarter hour before mass, we have a break, robe, and head up to the loft at the rear of the nave during the organ prelude. 

Today’s rehearsal went quite well.  We prepared Francis Poulenc’s Salve Regina for the Offertory and Jesu, Dulcis Memoria (Tomás Luis de Victoria) for Communion.  I wasn’t completely firm on some of the difficult intervals in the Poulenc, but it was 98% good.  

Singing from the loft is such a pleasure.  The difference in the sound between our enclosed rehearsal room and the soaring space in the church is huge.  We also stand in a semi-circle around the organ console when we sing and the acoustics are quite different.  As a result, our efforts typically sound much better when we actually “perform”.  (I realise that’s not the correct word to use during mass….)  It was no exception this morning.  I joked to one of my colleagues that I got intervals in the Poulenc during mass that I hadn’t managed to get during the rehearsal.  It’s always a pleasure to finally hear ourselves singing from the loft.  

The presider spoke about the Church’s newest saint, the first male saint born on Canadian soil, Brother André Bessette, now Saint André of Montreal.  Father quoted Saint Augustine’s recommendation to “Pray as if everything depends on God, and work as if everything depends on you.”  I think that will be my maxim for the upcoming week.  I have a lot of catching up to do.

You can’t have too much music….

What a (long) weekend musically speaking!  Starting with the TSO and Verdi's Requiem on Thursday night, it's been a very rich weekend.  

Friday night, I joined 10 women at a birthday party for an old friend at the Jerusalem Restaurant where, once we were almost finished our meal, we were treated to Arabic music and lots of belly dancing.  Not just the woman who works at the restaurant but a number of women who were at a table near us, who continued to party after the dancer had moved on to another area of the restaurant.  It was an interesting group of about 12…all middle-eastern or north African women, but a spectrum of very glamourous form-fitting outfits with makeup and jewellry to head-covered-no-makeup types.  Some of the former were most likely Christian as they were wearing crosses.  But the music was great and it was fun to watch the dancing and celebration.

Saturday, Michael participated in the second of two Kiwanis Music Festival band performances.  Friday, he played with the Junior Stage Band (bass trombone) and although they were the only entry in their class, they scored 89 and thus a gold medal.  On Saturday, the Junior Concert Band competed and they were second in the adjudicated class and scored a 90 as the only entrant in the Challenge (open reperatoire) class.

Sunday morning was choir and mass.  We sang the most beautiful Cantate Domino by Hans Leo Hassler during the offertory and Thou Knowest Lord, the Secrets of Our Hearts (Henry Purcell) (Version from YouTube embedded below). This beautiful piece was written for the funeral of Queen Mary II in 1695.

Thou knowest, Lord, the secrets of our hearts;
shut not thy merciful ears unto our pray'rs;
but spare us, Lord most holy, O God most mighty.

O holy and most merciful Saviour,
thou most worthy Judge eternal,
suffer us not, at our last hour,
for any pains of death, to fall from thee. Amen.

Right after lunch, we headed down to Mazzoleni Hall at the Royal Conservatory to hear a performance in the Glenn Gould Faculty Series featuring their percussion faculty John Rudolph and David Kent, with the Glenn Gould School Percussion Ensemble and special guests percussionist John Wong and flautist Kathleen Rudolph.  I know Kathleen from choir, and  the composer of one of the works is Michael's tuba teacher (Rob Teehan), so it was especially nice to be able to attend, and it was a terrific show.  I can't say that I've listened to that much percussion repertoire and I very much enjoyed the afternoon.

We're looking forward to next weekend when we'll enjoy the TSO again (La Pasion) and COC's Otello!  We're so lucky to live in this great city and be able to enjoy so much world-class music.