The Record: Elora Festival and Singers – Bach’s Mass in B Minor
by Stephen Preece
Guelph - Grammy-nominated Elora Festival Singers will perform Bach’s great B minor Mass in Guelph on Sunday, April 3, 2011 at 3:00 p.m. Considered one of the greatest creations of all times, this spectacular work represents the pinnacle of Bach’s creative genius. Noel Edison will conduct the Singers with orchestra and soloists in this monumental work in the glorious acoustics of the Church of our Lady Immaculate in Guelph.
Noel Edison is well established as one of the most versatile and charismatic conductors in the world today. As conductor and artistic director of two world-class Canadian ensembles, the large-scale Toronto Mendelssohn Choir and the chamber-sized Elora Festival Singers, Noel is widely recognized and appreciated for his skillful interpretive blending of rigorous musical purity together with warm emotional content. In addition to full seasons with the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir and the Elora Festival Singers, he is in demand for guest engagements with such orchestras as the Winnipeg Symphony and Toronto Symphony. In 2002, the University of Guelph conferred upon Noel Edison the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Music and in 2009 he was appointed to the Order of Ontario, the province’s highest honour. Edison has put together a stellar cast of performers for this performance.
The Elora Festival Singers, a professional chamber choir, was founded in 1980 by Noel Edison as the principal choral ensemble of the Elora Festival. Since 1997 the choir has been the professional core of the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir and the Toronto Mendelssohn Singers, and is the choral ensemble-in-residence of the Elora Festival for four weeks each summer. Through regular concert series, recordings, broadcasts, and touring, the Elora Festival Singers has established a reputation as one of the finest chamber choirs in Canada and beyond, contributing to the musical life, not only of the community, but on an international stage, with twelve releases on the Naxos label. The choir is renowned for its diverse styles, from early music to spirituals to contemporary, for its commitment to Canadian repertoire, and for its collaborations with other Canadian artists. The Elora Festival Singers and conductor Noel Edison were nominated for a 2011 Grammy in the category of “Best Small Ensemble Performance” for their Naxos CD “Eric Whitacre: Choral Music”.
Internationally renowned Acadian soprano Suzie LeBlanc has established an extraordinary career specializing in baroque and classical repertoire. She has worked with many of the world’s leading early music ensembles in concert and opera performances as well as on film and on disc. Concerts have taken her to festivals all over the world as well as to the Concertgebouw (Amsterdam), the Wigmore Hall, and the Konzerthaus in Vienna. On the opera stage, she has performed for De Nederlandse Opera, Festival de Beaune, Opéra de Montréal, the Boston Early Music Festival, Tanglewood, Festival Vancouver, and Early Music Vancouver. In recent seasons, she recorded Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte (Pamina) with La Petite Bande and Mozart lieder with Yannick Nézet-Seguin, and returned to the Brooklyn Academy of Music for Bach’s St. Matthew’s Passion as staged by Jonathan Miller. Other recent recordings include Thésée’s Lully, Gluck’s Orphée, Buxtehude motets with Emma Kirkby, Peter Harvey and the Purcell Symphony, and Handel – Portrait.
Suzie is artistic director of Le Nouvel Opéra (www.lenouvelopera.com) which is ensemble-in-residence at the Montreal Conservatory and co-artistic director of the Elizabeth Bishop Centenary Festival in Nova Scotia.
Canadian counter-tenor David Trudgen was recently called “the next generation’s answer to David Daniels,” according to the Chicago Tribune. This high praise was from his recent appearance as Medoro in Chicago Opera Theater’s production of Handel’s Orlando, under the direction of Raymond Leppard. A tall, commanding figure on the stage, David sang the title role of Cesare in the University of Oklahoma’s production of Giulio Cesare. He also appeared at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., where he sang scenes from L’incoronazione di Poppea by Monteverdi for the Kennedy Center Conservatory Project.
Canadian tenor Isaiah Bell's opera roles include Tamino (Die Zauberflöte), Almaviva (Il barbiere di Siviglia), Albert (Britten's Albert Herring), The Madwoman (Britten's Curlew River), Bénédict (Berlioz's Béatrice et Bénédict), and Martin (Copland's The Tender Land), as well as principal roles in numerous Canadian pieces such as Elijah's Kite by James Rolfe and Isis and the Seven Scorpions by Dean Burry. Isaiah currently sings with the Atelier lyrique de l'Opéra de Montréal, having previously apprenticed with the emerging artist ensembles of Calgary Opera and Pacific Opera Victoria. He was also recently awarded first place in voice at the National Music Festival of Canada. He has studied with Canadian soprano Wendy Nielsen, and continues to train under Canadian tenor Benjamin Butterfield and voice instructor Gerald Martin Moore.
Also active as a composer and librettist, Isaiah was recently commissioned by Edmonton's Opera NUOVA to create his fourth original opera, set to premiere during their 2011 season.
A graduate of The Glenn Gould School artist diploma program, Matthew Cassils performed frequently during the course of his studies and as a soloist in Beethoven‘s Symphony No. 9 with The Royal Conservatory Orchestra directed by Peter Oundjian and as a finalist in the RCO Concerto Competition with Mahler’s Songs of a Wayfarer. The 2009/2010 season marked Mr. Cassils‘ debut with Calgary Opera as l’Hôtelier in Manon, and as an impromptu stand-in for Le Comte des Grieux. He then performed as Claudio in Béatrice et Bénédict with the Calgary Opera Emerging Artist Ensemble and understudied the roles of John Brooke and Gideon in the Calgary Opera production of Little Women. Some highlights of the 2010/11 season include Weill’s Seven Deadly Sins at the Young Centre in Toronto, an opera gala of the Jeunes Ambassadeurs Lyriques in Montreal in November, and he will reprise the role of Count Almaviva in Saskatoon Opera’s The Marriage of Figaro in spring 2011. Mr. Cassils has appeared on CBC/Radio-Canada and Bravo Television and performed as the Second Artisan in the Opus Award-winning production of Berg’s Wozzeck directed by Lorraine Pintal and Yannick Nézet-Séguin.
“This great spiritual work deserves a great spiritual space to really let it come alive.” says Dr. Edison. “The combination of this monumental work in this monumental space will be truly magical.”
The Elora Festival Singers 2010 -2011 Season will conclude on Sunday, May 8th at St John’s Church, Elora with “Oh! Canada”, a tribute to Canadian composers.