Wednesday, 20 November 2013

LIFT EVERY VOICE: Spirited and deeply satisfying, the Toronto Cantata Chorus thrills at the University Chapel

GROUP DYNAMICS: The TCC is well-known for songs that capture the beauty and power of a pleasurable listening experience.

Any discerning aficionado of ear-pleasing music, regardless of the genre, can appreciate the marvelous acoustics that continue to set Mona's University Chapel apart from other corporate-area venues. One was compellingly reminded of this singular sensation while taking in a recital over the weekend by the absolutely divine Toronto Cantata Chorus out of North America. 

Next to the University Singers, it's the best choir I've ever heard perform inside the venerable chapel, raising the roof with a melismatic blend of fine voices and a wildly diverse repertoire ranging from classical selections and gospel to international folk songs and Broadway showtunes. 

The two-and-a-half hour performances was a benefit in aid of the cash-strapped Jamaican Epilepsy Association (JEA). Conductor Maestro Tak Ng Lai elicited such awe-inspiring harmonies from the group that throughout the concert the applause was consistently resounding. Best of all were renditions of a spiritually charged "Freedom Trilogy," wonderfully arranged by Paul Halley, a magnetic take on Al Green's "What a Wonderful World" and a lighthearted, fun treatment of Bob Marley's "One Love." 

Led by soloist and choir president Aileen Lee, a lavishly gifted soprano possessed of fabulous vocal dexterity, the group then raised the bar with powerful performances of Handel's Hallelujah Chorus (for which the conductor invited the audience to stand) and a refreshing arrangement of "Amazing Grace," on which Lee radiantly soared. 

For me, the major highlights included their memorable take on "Summertime," featuring a gorgeous solo from Pamela Jones and the delightfully surprising inclusion of a medley from Les Miserables that truly set the audience abuzz. "It's been a great time learning about the culture and travelling around the island," Lee told me after the presentation, an occasion that, it bears repeating, put the chapel acoustics to excellent use with songs that capture the striking beauty and power of a pleasurable listening experience.

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