Renaissance Christmas performed by the Oakville Ensemble Reply

Review by Judith Caldwell

On Saturday evening at Grace Lutheran Church, the Oakville Ensemble gave us a Christmas Concert of Renaissance music sung à cappella.  The concert was taped for later airing by Cogeco™.  It will be aired several times before Christmas.
As in other disciplines, the Renaissance was a time of innovation and change for music.  There was a demand for serious music as entertainment, not just for liturgy, and musical education led to the growth of those educated amateurs who wished to play publicly.

Director Potvin & the Oakville Ensemble singers

  Composers responded by writing chansons and madrigals which were more fun to perform.  Much melodic composition, both secular and sacred survives from this period, so there is a surfeit from which to choose.
Maestro Stephane Potvin chose two joyful Christmas motets by Jean Mouton plus several pieces from Praetorius, William Byrd and Palestrina plus a piece which was repeated three times, first  in the style of Gesius, then J.S. Bach, and finally Praetorius  which showed aurally the development of this music.  The eight-member choir  was excellent and really seemed to enjoy singing this music.
Additionally, we were treated to two flute duets by Jennifer Merrill, a teacher, and Erin Workman; her student.  Both were traditional French tunes from this period and were quite delightful.
The audience had the opportunity to sing as well!  Familiar carols like ‘Away in the Manger’; “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” and ‘Joy to the World’ tested the audiences` pipes.    The concert was a pleasant mix of sacred and secular songs ranging from  a motet that sounded like a Gregorian chant with sopranos & altos, to a very lively drinking song.  With the flutes and our sing-along it was  varied and enjoyable.
The Oakville Ensemble presents Handel’s “Messiah” on December 8th and 9th

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