Stunning Handel’s Messiah
Four outstanding guest soloists and a professional orchestra will join our combined choirs for this year’s pre-Christmas presentation of George Frideric Handel’s joyous Messiah oratorio. Conducted by our director of Music Kirkland Adsett, the Men and Boys’ and Women and Girls’ choirs will be bolstered by tenor James McLean, baritone Geoffrey Sirett, mezzo-soprano Lydia Piehl and soprano Jennifer Taverner.
Two performances will be held: Saturday, Nov. 22 at 7pm and a Sunday matinée Nov. 23 at 2pm. This will be the first year for a matinée concert, which Rev. Canon Pat Johnston hopes will appeal particularly to young families and seniors. “The strong lineup of soloists will give a memorable launch to the Christmas season in the intimate setting of a candlelit church,” she says.
While completed by Handel in 1741 and frequently performed, Mr. Adsett says the stunning Messiah oratorio “still after all this time speaks to new generations clearly, profoundly and with freshness.”
Ms. Taverner, the guest soprano who gave a brilliant performance at last year’s St. Matthew’s Messiah, has a bachelor of music from Wilfrid Laurier University and completed the Artist Diploma program at the Glenn Gould School of the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto. She stands out for her riveting stage presence and what some have called “instinctive musicality”.
Ms. Piehl, the mezzo-soprano, is a recent graduate of the University of Ottawa who has sung in operas in Edmonton and Ottawa and been a featured classical vocal soloist at events throughout Ontario and Quebec.
Mr. Sirett, the Kingston-born baritone, is a graduate of music programs at the University of Western Ontario and University of Toronto and has performed in cities across Canada in opera, concert and recitals. His solo album Vagabond is devoted to art songs in English.
Mr. McLean, the lyric tenor, has an extensive repertoire that encompasses baroque to contemporary music. Trained at the Royal Conservatory in Toronto and a graduate in music from the University of Toronto, he has sung with major Canadian symphony orchestras and choral groups. For many years he made his home in Germany, where he taught and performed as well as across Europe. He now teaches at Ontario’s Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo.
The St. Matthew’s performances will again include a cash wine and beer bar open before the start and during intermission. Tracy Arnett Realty Ltd. is sponsoring the wine bar and Robertson Martin Architects Inc. is the presenting sponsor. Tickets for the concerts may be purchased at the church office and after most Sunday 10 am services. They can also be bought online at www.stmatthewsottawa.ca. Reserved seating is adults $35, students $25. Unreserved seating is adults $25, students $15. An additional $5 will be charged for tickets purchased at the door.
Tickets will also be available at Compact Music stores on Bank St. and at CD Warehouse outlets.
Jennifer Taverner, soprano
Ms. Taverner holds a bachelor of music degree from Wilfrid Laurier University and completed the Artist Diploma program at the Glenn Gould School of the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto. An experienced concert soloist, she is noted for her vibrant stage presence and instinctive musicality. She is a grant recipient of the Canada Council for the Arts and has been named a laureate of Les Jeunes Ambassaduers Lyriques. Highlights of her 2013-14 season included a debut as Micaela in Carmen with Opera Hamilton, the contemporary opera Airline Icarus with Soundstreams, Bach’s Mass in B minor with the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, Fauré Requiem and Messiah with the Bach Elgar Choir, and as a guest recitalist with the Off Centre Salon. She won the 2010 Royal Conservatory Orchestra’s Concerto Competition, singing Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915, and has held two consecutive vocal fellowships at the prestigious Tanglewood Music Center in Boston.
Lydia Piehl, mezzo-soprano
Ms. Piehl is a recent graduate of the University of Ottawa whose recent performances include the role of Mercedes in Edmonton with Opera Nuova’s production of Bizet’s Carmen, and Dido in Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas with the University of Ottawa’s Opera production. Other roles with the UofO Opera include Dorabella in Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte and Donna Elvira in Mozart’s Don Giovanni. She has also been a featured soloist in the UofO’s Callixa-lavalee Choir and performs classical vocal solo work throughout Ontario and Quebec.
Geoffrey Sirett, baritone
Born in Kingston, Mr. Sirett has a Master’s in Music-Opera degree from the University of Toronto and a Bachelor in Music degree from the University of Western Ontario. Born in Kingston, Ontario, he is the winner of the Jim and Charlotte Song Prize and has a solo album Vagabond devoted to art songs in English. This past season he premiered Rolfe’s Open Road for Soundstreams and appeared in that company production of Brian Current’s Airline Icarus. His work across Canada in opera, concert and recitals included touring Ontario with the Bicycle Opera Project and performing in 13 cities over five weeks – totally pedal powered!
James McLean, tenor
Mr. McLean’s extensive singing repertoire ranges from baroque to contemporary music in opera, concert and recital. Trained at the Royal Conservatory in Toronto and a graduate in music from the University of Toronto, he has sung with major Canadian orchestras and choral groups, including the Toronto Symphony, Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, Ottawa Choral Society and Calgary Philharmonic. In 1985, he launched a European music career by making his home in Germany for more than 20 years. He was first lyric tenor at the opera houses in Nurnberg and Essen, and taught and performed widely in Germany and other parts of Europe. An Associate Professor at Essen’s Folkwang University, he now teaches at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario, and has given Master Classes on song interpretation in Canada, Germany and Italy.
St. Matthew’s Five Centuries of English Cathedral Music concert in late March proved to be a thoughtful and beautifully crafted exploration of the development of Anglican cathedral music from Tudor times onwards. Despite a late spring snowfall, the Sunday afternoon presentation attracted a sizable audience of about 350 people.
Kirkland Adsett, St. Matthew’s musical director selected works by about 20 of the best known composers representing every time period of the almost 500-year old musical tradition. In addition to the choral offerings, St. Barnabas’s Wesley Warren played an organ solo.
The music ranged from subtlety of William Byrd’s “Civitas sancti tui” and Orlando Gibbons’ “Hosanna to the Son of David” to the boldness of Handel’s “Zadok the Priest” and the simplicity of John Tavener’s “The Lamb”. The choirs also sang works by Thomas Tallis, Thomas Morley, Henry Purcell, Thomas Attwood, John Stainer, Edward Elgar, Benjamin Britten, and John Rutter. Many of the most influential cathedral music composers were linked to the Chapel Royal as well as London’s Royal College of Music and Royal Academy of Music.
The audience was deeply moved by the concert and many commented on the freshness of the some of the earliest works and how the more contemporary pieces echoed the music of the past.