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Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Music of the Spheres

The Parry Sound School of Music performed in concert to almost a full house at the Stockey Centre Sunday afternoon, October 21. Director Maia Vimboule accompanied the choir and soloists, on piano, through the performance of a program which featured a wide range of works by classical composers — Beethoven, Franck, Fauré, Mozart, Chopin, Handel, Caldara, Girodani, Bach, Schubert, Debussy and Gluck.

Barbara Bennett, one of the soloists acting as hostess, welcomed the audience and gave a brief overview of the concert program titled Music of the Spheres. She stated that this concert was dedicated to the memory of Keith Arlington Girard (1929-2006) who passed away last fall. Girard, a professional flautist, had also taken vocal training from Maia Vimboule.

The concert opened with Beethoven's composition The Heavens Resound — a spirited piece of music performed by the choir, with robust accompaniment on the piano by Ms Vimboule. This was followed by Franck's Panis angelicus. James Wilson moved onstage and started singing — soon joined by Douglas Heal; then Mollie Moloney, Kylie Donevan and Stacey Molengraaf joined them onstage, adding harmony in the chorus with their voices.

While the male soloists and members of the choir sported black suits and white shirts with bow ties, the women of the choir wore a variety

of white tops and black skirts or pants. The female soloists wore dresses of various colours, lengths and styles adding a touch of elegance to the show.

Mollie Moloney, wearing a long, off-the-shoulder burgundy velvet gown trimmed with rhinestones at the neckline, sang in several compositions during the program. She sang Fauré's En prière with accompaniment on piano by Ms Vimboule. Later in the first half of the program, Ms Moloney and James Wilson performed a duet of Caldara's Alma del core, which was both a pleasure to watch and hear. Their voices blended well together — hers a sweet, melodious soprano, and his a clear, masculine tenor.

Carol Hawken, dressed in an elegant two-piece black outfit, gave splendid performances of Mozart's 1st movement from Exsultate, jubilate and Bach's Quia respexit from Magnificat during the first half of the program. Opening the second half of the show, she was featured as soloist for Schubert's Kyrie and Credo from Mass in G major. Ms. Hawken's mature soprano voice has good range, which she used expertly to express feeling in her singing of these compositions.

Mozart's Veni Sancte Spiritus (which he composed when he was only 12 years old) was performed by the full choir, with Ms. Vimboule on piano, and featuring soloists Mollie Moloney, Barbara Bennett, Lloyd Taylor and Dave Hawken. The School of Music's interpretation of this piece was spirited with harmonizing — and not the hauntingly spiritual Gregorian chant style.

Pianist Darren Durocher performed wonderful, sensitive renditions of Chopin's Nocturne in E flat Major Op. 9 No. 2 during first half of the program; and Debussy's Clair de lune during the latter half of the show. Mr. Durocher charmed the audience with his modesty and his deep gracious bows in response to their applause.

Stefanie Gause, a special guest violinist, displayed mastery of the violin as she performed Mozart's 1st movement from Violin concerto in G major — during one half of the program — and 2nd movement from Violin concerto in G major, during the other. She gave her violin a voice that was — sweet, light and melancholic. Ms Vimboule's accompaniment on piano was at its best. These violin and piano duets were a delightful and relaxing blend.

James Wilson performances of Handel's Where E'er You Walk from the oratorio Semele, and Schubert's Wohin? from the song cycle Die Shöne Müllerin, were well received by the audience.

Douglas Heal sang Giordani's Caro mio ben during the first part of the program, and Danny Boy (an old Irish air) during the second half of the show. Mr. Heal seemed quite at ease on stage; his voice — a pleasure to hear — was a strong, rich baritone, but also expressing gentleness when appropriate.

Mozart's work Kyrie eleison from the Litany in E flat major brought to a close the first half of the program. It was performed by the full choir and featured soloists Carol Hawken, Barbara Bennett, Lloyd Taylor and Dave Hawken.

Early in the latter part of the program, soloists Mollie Moloney, Kylie Donevan, Stacey Molengraaf and James Wilson moved the audience with their interpretation of Schubert's work Ave Marie.

Katerina Fretwell recited her poem Jerusalem Inclusive — touching on themes of diversity and unity existing in the universe under a "cosmic dome". Projections of her artwork onto a large screen over the stage during most of the show, added visual interest and a profusion of colour to the set.

Stacey Molengraaf took the stage again to sing Amazing Grace. Her rendition of this traditional melody was moving; her voice has an Irish lilt that added to the spiritual dimension of the song.

Andrea McIntyre and Barbara Bennett performed Handel's work O Lovely Peace from the oratoria Judas Maccabaeus — their voices blending and harmonizing in this duet, accompanied by Ms Vimboule on piano.

Near the end of the program a slide show — featuring Keith Girard's photographs of nature and Georgian Bay scenery, with taped music Melody by Gluck — provided an inspiring interlude.

The concert concluded with works by Schubert — Bendictus, Osanna and Agnus Dei from Mass in G major, featuring soloists Carol Hawken, Barbara Bennett, Lloyd Taylor and Dave Hawken. As the last notes faded, the audience — applauding — rose to their feet and gave the Parry Sound School of Music performers a well-deserved standing ovation.

Following the show, there was a reception offering a delicious food provided by master chef Sabina Kosalka of Symphony of Food Catering. It was also an opportunity to mingle with other guests and meet the talented performers from the Parry Sound School of Music — and this happened for Alma Grisdale, who attended the Stockey Centre for the first time. She particularly enjoyed the performances of James Wilson; and was pleasantly surprised when during the reception; he came over and warmly thanked her for her expression of appreciation.

With such an intimate atmosphere, it is easy to see why shows at the Stockey Centre are so popular. Our community may be small, but it is rich with musical, artistic and culinary talent.

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