Review by Judith Caldwell
Anyone who likes sacred Renaissance music should have been at St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Waterdown on Saturday evening when Musikay presented a program titled “Alleluya” for 4 a capella voices. Unfortunately, a rather sparse audience found their way there which may have been because this was Musikay’s first concert in the Hamilton area or it may have been because there are no obvious external signs that this church is actually St. Thomas’. Hopefully more people will attend in future.
The voices belonged to Brenda Enns, soprano; alto Catherine McCormack; Nick Gough, tenor; and Terrance Ball, bass with Maestro Stephane Potvin conducting.
The acoustics in the church are wonderful and the four voices more than adequately filled the space. The program was built around Messe Psallite Domino, a mass in the usual five parts by Charles d’Ambleville. Even Wikipedia knows little about him but he lived from 1588 – 1637. d’Ambleville was a little later than Palestrina who is credited with saving polyphony from extinction by clearing away the over elaborate constructs that threatened to obscure the meaning of the sacred words and d’Ambleville wrote his polyphony very clearly and cleanly.
A quartet of songs to the Virgin Mary began the concert and two of these were by Palestrina. These were slow and meditative and showed the meticulous preparation which is the hallmark of Musikay, each singer had a beautiful voice and they blended perfectly to give a rarefied, ethereal sound that expressed the sacred music in the way it was apparently originally performed. According to Maestro Potvin, there would have been no female sopranos then. The Mass was presented with interspersions of other pieces of the period, so that the Kyrie and Gloria were heard, then three songs by other composers, then the Credo, two more songs, the Sanctus, a Pater noster & Ave Maria, and then the Agnes Dei. This was an interesting way to present a Mass, but it worked well as the other songs were very similar and gave a sense of wholeness to the program.
The program finished with Gaude Virgo, Mater Christi by Josquin des Prez which was much livelier than much of the previous program. The music was beautiful and beautifully sung, but an audience member was heard to say she wished there had been more variety to the program as she had trouble telling one piece from another. Potvin did say they specialised in Renaissance music and the next concert in February would be Love Songs of the period.