A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.




 

Unusual Praetorius Vespers - The Trumpet Shall Not (& Did Not) Sound
Sunday, December 20, 2015




 I asked José Verstappen to answer my question, Why Bach?  last December 2014. It had all to do with the fact that Early Music Vancouver was going to produce Bach’s Christmas Oratorio. I asked others to weigh in here.

José Verstappen
Let me step on some toes with this one. Here goes: The simple answer is, "Bach? Of course!" My background in the European tradition that focuses on Bach rather than the Messiah around Christmas and Easter still has an impact. The powerful Mengelberg tradition of the Matthew Passion with the Concertgebouw Orchestra, for example ("early music" of a different kind!) kept people huddled around the radio on Palm Sunday, and the streets were deserted. Not to offend anyone; there's of course nothing wrong with Messiah — but personally I would rather sit through the Passions or the Christmas Oratorio on hard pews in a cold church (as I have done many times) than hear another Messiah in a comfortable concert hall.

José Verstappen – Artistic Director Emeritus Early Music Vancouver

This year Early Music Vancouver (under the helm of Artistic Director Matthew White, who as a former countertenor has admitted to have sung in at least 150 Messiahs), again avoided the obvious clichés and with the continuing theme of Festive Cantatas gave us tonight Michael Praetorius’ (1571- 1621) Christmas Vespers.

Such is the increasingly more sophisticated Vancouver audience’s search for the unusual surprise over the established Christmas traditions that the Chan Centre for the Arts was sold out.


The production which involved musicians (instrumentalists and singers) from Toronto, Portland, Seattle, Victoria, Vancouver and beyond and called the EMV Vocal and Instrumental Ensemble) was directed and put together by David Fallis who in a pre-concert talk was so warmly effusive that after the concert I told him I would buy a used Lamborghini from him anytime. If I chose the expensive Italian exotic car over a plain car it has to do with the fact that the Torontor-born Fallis (who directs many orchestras and prepares music for such series as The Tudors) also has elegance and class.

David Fallis
The production of this little known German composer of the 17th century involved converting a concert hall (the Chan) into a church by using what an under 30 would call surround sound. At one point one soprano on stage sang with three other sopranos (these three accompanied by a theorbo player) on the wings and the back of the concert hall. This created that echo effect and a sense of place that no concert hall can provide.

With but a small concession to that ever popular (ugh!) Messiah, we the audience got to sing a couple of songs in English while at other times the soloists and chorus sang in German and in Latin.

There was nothing of this production that was familiar to me so it all was an aural expedition into the unknown all served in comfortable surroundings with (in my case) many musicians who are my friends. My Rosemary and I felt at home.

Unlike other Chan Centre concerts someone called the fierce female guards that prevent us from going back stage or even taking photograph at the end of the concert. Perhaps Mr. Fallis had provided them with a strong mulled wine to keep them at bay or even asleep!

The musicians were all (my guess is that amphetamines might have helped) tired out after performing within the week in Portland, twice in Seattle, Victoria and woke up at 5 in the morning to take the ferry to Vancouver for tonight’s concert. But you would never have known that they were exhausted (the speed in the blood?).


Konstantin Bozhinov with Stile Moderno and PBO Orchestra violinist (they are pals) Arthur Neele

I inquired from my friendly Bulgarian archlute player, Konstantin Bozhinov why the other player (I am not sure if it was Gus Denhard or John Lenti as there were three theorbo players listed, and who were necessary for the three soprano in the wings and back number) had a longer instrument. Just to confuse me he simply said, “My instrument is an archlute and his is a theorbo.” But then he said it with a twinkle in his eyes.


Katrina Russell

Also listed (but now not unusual to this now extremely sophisticated Vancouver musical audience)  were two sackbuts and Toronton Mathew Jennejohn playing not only his more usual recorder but a cornetto an instrument called a dulcian. By process of elimination I came to the conclusion that my Victoria friend Katrina Russell was playing some sort of unusual bassoon that is called that. She confirmed this to me as I admired her reddish baroque hair after the performance.



     

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4/3/16 - 4/10/16

4/10/16 - 4/17/16

4/17/16 - 4/24/16

4/24/16 - 5/1/16

5/1/16 - 5/8/16

5/8/16 - 5/15/16

5/15/16 - 5/22/16

5/22/16 - 5/29/16

5/29/16 - 6/5/16

6/5/16 - 6/12/16

6/12/16 - 6/19/16

6/19/16 - 6/26/16

6/26/16 - 7/3/16

7/3/16 - 7/10/16

7/10/16 - 7/17/16

7/17/16 - 7/24/16

7/24/16 - 7/31/16

7/31/16 - 8/7/16

8/7/16 - 8/14/16

8/14/16 - 8/21/16

8/21/16 - 8/28/16

8/28/16 - 9/4/16

9/4/16 - 9/11/16

9/11/16 - 9/18/16

9/18/16 - 9/25/16

9/25/16 - 10/2/16

10/2/16 - 10/9/16

10/9/16 - 10/16/16

10/16/16 - 10/23/16

10/23/16 - 10/30/16

10/30/16 - 11/6/16

11/6/16 - 11/13/16

11/13/16 - 11/20/16

11/20/16 - 11/27/16

11/27/16 - 12/4/16

12/4/16 - 12/11/16