Review by Judith Caldwell
The Oakville Ensemble under the direction of artistic director Stephane Potvin presented a concert of songs about love entitled “Heart to Heart” at St. John’s Church in Oakville. An unfortunately sparse audience heard this group of professional singers expertly render these songs à Capella. The eight males & six females of the group have voices which blend beautifully and they enunciate texts clearly.
Maestro Potvin, in his introduction, said the songs presented were like a box of chocolates for the audience—many as expected with a few surprises in store. Most of the works came from the 16th and 17th centuries with two later works. The evening began with “Venite populi terrae” a beautiful blending of complicated harmony in which the sopranos had exceptional clarity.
The rest of the program was divided into the moods of love from the blush of new love; the joy of requited love; the pain and sadness of unrequited or lost love; the anger of betrayal and the serene beauty of sacred love.
Most of the songs were unfamiliar to the audience and there was a same-ness to many of them. The second song was the most familiar “O, my love is like a red, red rose” by 20th century composer Nick Austin. The words are very well-known to many, but this tune was different and quite modern in its harmony. There were three songs by Henry Purcell that were cheerful, lilting, lively and undeniably English.Another three songs were by John Dowland with his clear melody lines, the final one was passionate, colourful and engaging. Songs by Franz Schubert and Thomas Ford were also more recognisable and well received. One song was very odd, it was called “Blind Love” and told the story of a blind boy given a bow and arrow by his mother and then he accidentally kills her pet sparrow. More than one of us wondered why anyone would give a blind child a bow & arrow! Another song was of a young wife complaining of not enough sex… I think the guys liked that one.This was a concert movingly performed by excellent singers, I just wish there was more contrast in the program choices.For further concerts in this series—check www.oakville-ensemble.ca.