Two very special concerts
Say, you have a free evening and would like to go hear a concert. Where do you find out what’s on?
Besides looking in a newspaper’s entertainment section, or scanning the multitudes of flyers and posters displayed throughout the city, one very good place to find what fits your needs is a free magazine called Wholenote, The Toronto Concert- Goer’s Guide. It is chockfull of information about musical events in and around Toronto.
Now, if you had looked under "Saturday, April 14" or "Saturday, April 21", you would have found around two dozen musical events on each day, making your choice not exactly easy. If you were lucky, you would have noticed in the profusion an item called Singing Together: 12th multi-cultural concert, parts 1 & 2. You would have been fortunate, indeed, if you had chosen to attend one of these two choral concerts, because they are in a class of their own.
Singing Together started in 1995 as an attempt to bring singers of different ethnic communities together to sing for and with each other. As it turned out, audiences also liked the idea of being able to hear different choral traditions in one sitting. As a result, the concerts have been virtually sold out for the last number of years.
This year, ten participating choirs made it necessary again to put on two performances. Each evening, five groups presented music of their homelands, and for a grand finale they all joined in the singing of four songs.
Visitors to the first concert enjoyed offerings by an Italian choir Coro San Marco under the direction of Daniel Colla, a Korean women’s choir Joyful Singers under their conductor Koung Sook Kim, a German-language choir Schola Cantorum under the direction of Manfred Petz, the Chinese ensemble Creative Note, directed by Daphne Hsu, and – finally – the Armenian Choir of Toronto, under Sarkis Hamboyan.
Guests at the second concert were treated to singing by the Chinese Canadian Choir of Toronto under Andrew Chung, the Austrian Edelweiss Choir conducted by Manfred Petz, the Trillium Japanese (women’s) Choir of Toronto directed by Takako Yanagida-Lordly, the Italian folk ensemble Coro Italia L’Aquila under Mary Lou di Tacchio, and the Croatian Choir Cro.Arte Chorale directed by Betty Kovacs.
The idea for this annual multi-cultural concert originated with Daniel Colla, Coro San Marco’s conductor. In its execution and refinement, Manfred Petz of both Schola Cantorum and Edelweiss has taken a leading role. Both men have recently been honoured by their respective homelands, Italy and Austria, with decorations of distinction for their work in keeping alive their native music and bringing it to wider audiences in Canada.
Concert guests regularly and universally agree that what makes these concerts so special is that they are truly, as the welcoming words in the programme booklet say, "a smorgasboard of choral music from all corners of the world", further enhanced by a veritable riot of colourful costumes, a separate feast for the eyes. For me, however, the most moving aspect of the performances is the coming-together at the end of all the singers from the different groups to join in the singing of several songs. This year, the selection consisted of Beethoven’s The Heavens are declaring, a South-African song Siyahamba, a Newfoundland folk song She’s like the swallow, and Oscar Peterson’s Hymn to Freedom.
No wonder, personal messages to the concert participants and audiences from Ontario’s premier Dalton McGuinty and Toronto’s mayor David Miller both emphasize the inspiring and healing benefits of different ethnic communities coming together in song.
In spite of the wealth of offerings in Toronto’s music scene, make sure you look out for next year’s Singing Together. You will find it a truly enriching experience.
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