Review by Judith Caldwell
A Christmas concert to open the season was held at the ‘Rock on Locke” as part of the Hammer Baroque series, entitled Stella di Natale. It featured Ensemble Alloro and Rezonance Baroque Ensemble. Ensemble Alloro is a duo of voices; Emily Klassen, soprano and mezzo Meagan Zantingh, dedicated ‘to the performance of Baroque Chamber music in intimate settings and to bringing lesser-known works to a larger audience.’ Rezonance Baroque Ensemble is a group which varies per the repertoire and required instrumentation – in this case two violins played by Rezan Onen-Lapointe and Jimin Shin, and David Podgorski’s harpsichord.
The program was of sacred music of the 14th to 17th centuries containing both Italian Catholic and German Protestant music. The opening song to Mary, Laudemus Virginem, sung as an a capella processional set the tone of glorious musical meditation on the theme of Christ’s nativity and it was among three written by that prolific composer Anonymous. The voices blended beautifully and it was obvious that both ladies were singing repertoire which they cared for deeply. The early songs reflected thoughtfulness about Mary and the coming birth and included a German song of Willkommen which showed off the delicate and precise playing of Rezonance and longing anticipation of the two voices. Then had Zantingh singing solo, first a gorgeous acapella Gregorian chant then a quite lively accompanied German song about Christ as Bridegroom, who would take the singer up to paradise.
A duo of voices and harpsichord brought the audience up to ‘the Word made flesh’ with lots of Hallelujahs. This was followed by a truly lovely acapella duo version of O Come, O Come Emmanuel sung in Latin which featured very intricate vocal work which both singers obviously enjoyed. Klassen then sang Alessandro Scarlatti’s Cantata Pastorale per la Nativita di nostro Signore Gesu Cristo accompanied by Rezonance, a long and beautiful work which provoked murmurings of ‘wow’ from the near-capacity audience.
For a change of pace Onen-Lapointe and Podgorski offered a version of Greensleeves (What Child is This) written for the violin by John Playford in the 17th century. It was quite different from the versions modern audiences are used to and one could imagine a Baroque court listening to it. The afternoon concert ended with another a capella duet by the aforementioned ‘Anonymous’ in a meditative mood of quiet rejoicing for the safety of Mary and arrival of the Christ child. The music may have been largely unfamiliar but it was both varied and evocative of the real meaning of Christmas. The next Hammer Baroque concert is Jan 28th.