The North Okanagan Community Concert Association’s first concert of the season featured eight Canadian voices finely blended in intricate harmonies at the Performing Arts Centre Sunday.
The four men and four women who comprise musica intima closed the first half of their all too short program with a chant “to make the magic work.”
And it succeeded.
Magic was in the air several times, particularly during another series of chants: Le chant des oyseaux (Bird Chants) – the work of Clement Janequin in the 1500s. Cute coo coos, rolled angry rrrs and irrepressible cara ra ras interspersed between lively melodies kept our eyes and ears on tender hooks for where next to focus.
Other chants “to bring back the wolf” and “keep the bees warm in winter,” written by Canadian R. Murray Schafer, four centuries after Janequin, brought even more extraordinary blends to the mix.
During these, the ensemble discarded the line formation used for more traditional pieces such as excerpts from Shakespeare, which included a favourite sonnet: “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” Instead, they faced one another in a circle and danced as their chanting intensified. We didn’t want them to stop. They could have chanted “to save the spider, feed the mosquito, glorify the fly…” and we’d have been happy.
The men’s rendition of Healey Willan’s Magnificat (also known as The Song of Mary) transported us to a Benedictine monastery. When they were joined by the women to sing Arvo Pärt’s Latin version, I yearned for more of this Estonian composer’s work (Spiegel im Spiegel for example – a perfect antidote to life’s challenges).
Speaking of composers we love, our own Imant Raminsh’s Ave Verum Corpus, featured on musica intima’s latest recording, entitled 20, to celebrate 20 years since the ensemble’s inception, helped boost sales in the foyer.
And Come Thou Long Expected Jesus, arranged by Lane Price, earned the tenor special applause when he stepped forward to acknowledge his achievement.
Yet another Canadian, Ed Henderson, arranged the beautiful poem Your Fragrance, written by 13th century Persian poet, jurist, theologian and Sufi mystic, Rumi (aka Mevlana).
The poem runs:
Your fragrance fills the meadow
Your mouth appears in a red anemone.
But when those reminders leave,
My own lips open
And whatever I say
I hear you.
The musical arrangement and its execution were equally beautiful.
Favourites like Shenandoah, Loch Lomond and Goin’ Home rounded off the magical evening; although one person suggested longer skirts for the ladies might be more appropriate. “There was quite a lot of leg there,” he commented.
That didn’t inhibit a demand for an encore. The singers obliged with a rousing ditty about a pub crawl in North Vancouver. And, being Canadian, we cheered.
NOCCA’s next concert on Nov. 21 features three more of Canada’s finest young talents, Triple Forte. Anyone wishing to offer or accept a ride to and from the concert should call 250-542-3461.
–– Christine Pilgrim is a freelance writer who covers the North Okanagan Community Concert Association series for The Morning Star.