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Friday, June 14, 2024

Music review: Schubertiade with The Leonids and Chor Leoni

Early Music Vancouver played another trump card last week. It featured Chor Leoni, The Leonids and music written by Franz Schubert. However, one setting was commissioned: An Die Musik (To Music) by famed Canadian composer, the late Jocelyn Morlock, who wrote My Name is Amanda Todd.

In a recent radio interview Erick Lichte, who has been directing Chor Leoni for ten seasons, pointed out the enormous value of a live audience and how it enhances the quality of performance. Judging from the quality of Friday’s performance, that audience did not disappoint.

Lichte directs Chor Leoni and The Leonids, a smaller ensemble of male singers that includes Tim Keeler, a countertenor of outstanding skill and emotional depth that in no way diminishes the resonant blending of male voices throughout the entire concert.

It began with the stage gradually inhabited by five members of The Leonids, while Chor Leoni members flanked them in the aisles on either side. Lichte was not in sight. First, the choir members sang Die Nacht (Night) while the quintet stood mute. Then, when the magical musical baton was passed to The Leonids, singing Nachthelle (Night Brightness), the choir members, in turn, stood in silence. Both ensembles sang unaccompanied and unamplified, ‘naked’ as Lichte would say, and the atmosphere was so charged with beautiful sounds that it would be a challenge to imagine better.

The program was further enhanced by several solos played by general accompanist Alexander Weimann on a fortepiano donated by EMV for the evening. Enjoyment intensified as songs focused on the night, the stars, music and love bandied between choir and ensemble in the well-balanced programme. It built to a climax that began with tenor Steven Soph’s lovely solo rendition of An Die Music, followed by the Morlock setting with the Chor Leoni cast.

Another sonorous tenor Jacob Perry delivered the solo parts in Standchen (Serenade), supported by Chor Leoni; a quartet from The Leonids gave an exquisite rendition of Frühlingsgesang (Spring Song); then the whole choir sang a drinking song from the Sixteenth Century. The concert, and Early Music Vancouver’s 2022/23 season, drew to a close as the entire company, enthusiastically conducted by Lichte, sang Geist Der Liebe, which translates to Spirit of Love. The choice could not have been more apt. 

As a parting gift, the choir satisfied the crowd with an amusing encore that encouraged us all to ‘go home’ and, reluctantly, we obeyed.

Chor Leoni will return to St Andrew’s-Wesley United Church on May 11 with a concert entitled The Turning.

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