Montreal's St. Lawrence Choir will conclude the 2011-2012 season on May 26 with a performance of W.A. Mozart's Grand Mass in C minor, conducted by artistic director Michael Zaugg. The concert takes place at Église Saint-Jean-Baptiste and marks the culmination of the St. Lawrence Choir's 40th anniversary celebrations.
Founded in 1972 by conductor Iwan Edwards, the St. Lawrence Choir is a vital part of Montreal's choral music scene, not only presenting its own series of concerts each year, but for many years comprising the largest part of the choir of the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal.
Choristers Carolyn Osborne and dik Harris have been singing with the St. Lawrence Choir since its inaugural season. CBC Music asked them to reflect on their 40 years with the ensemble.
Q: Looking back, are there certain performances that stand out in your memory?
Carolyn Osborne: Singing Benjamin Britten's War Requiem at Carnegie Hall with Charles Dutoit and the OSM was a highlight. It was thrilling to see "St. Lawrence Choir" on the posters outside the hall. Also, our final concert with [founding artistic director] Iwan Edwards in May 2007, when we sang many of our favourite pieces, was very moving for obvious reasons.
dik Harris: Faure's Requiem in Carnegie Hall with the OSM. Sylvia McNair was the soprano soloist, and her singing was ethereal, and thus inspiring.
The St. Lawrence Choir rehearses at Carnegie Hall in New York City. (Photo: Supplied by the St. Lawrence Choir)
Q: Apart from singing and making music, what has belonging to the St. Lawrence Choir brought to your life?
Harris: It has been an important complement to my life as an academic, allowing me to mix and interact with a very different group of people.
Osborne: Being a member of the St. Lawrence Choir has brought joy to my life. My dearest friends are fellow choristers, both past and present. Our shared memories are such a pleasure.
Q: What are the main reasons you have continued to sing in the St. Lawrence Choir for so many years?
Harris: That the choir continued to improve, and to accept and master new challenges. That is still the case today.
Osborne: Our three conductors have all been exceptional pedagogues. As long as I could continue to meet their challenges and expectations I would never consider leaving the choir for another.
Q: Are there people you would like to single out for special praise for their involvement with the St. Lawrence Choir?
Osborne: Iwan Edwards, founder of the St. Lawrence Choir, is obviously the first person deserving of special praise. His passion and dedication inspired us for 35 years. I would also mention Dorothy Slapcoff and Dominique Roy, the pianists whose senses of humour added to the joy of attending rehearsals. And conductor Charles Dutoit, whose confidence in the St. Lawrence Choir resulted in many outstanding recordings with the OSM and performances in Montreal, Carnegie Hall, Lanaudiere and at the Saratoga Performing Arts Centre with the Philadelphia Orchestra.
Harris: I think those persons who have served the choir on its executive committee over the years deserve a lot of the credit for the choir's continuing growth. In their different ways they have supported, and maybe influenced, Iwan [Edwards], Marika [Kuzma] and Michael [Zaugg] in advancing their visions for the choir.
Q: Can you remember any unusual or unexpected circumstances that had an impact on the St. Lawrence Choir's activities?
Osborne: The St. Lawrence Choir was a guest of the McGill Chamber Orchestra for its performance of Britten's Saint Nicolas when tenor soloist Peter Pears learned that Britten was dying. The order of the program was reversed so Pears could fly back to England that night. This news had a great effect on the choir, resulting in a poignant performance.
Harris: We have never had a concert cancelled, but one with Marika [Kuzma] in a Montreal North cultural centre got close. It was in the middle of a major snow storm and the remarkable attendance of choristers was a testament to their commitment to the organization.
Q: What three words would you use to sum up your 40 years with the St. Lawrence Choir?
Harris: Growth, privilege, adrenalin.
Osborne: Joy, pride, rapport.
Conductor Michael Zaugg looks forward to moving the 75-voice St. Lawrence Choir in new directions. (Photo: Sarah Rennie).
The St. Lawrence Choir's 40th anniversary season concludes with the first Montreal performance of Robert Levin's reconstructed and completed version of Mozart's Grand Mass in C minor, K. 427. Here are the details:
St. Lawrence Choir
Orchestre symphonique de Longueuil
Charlotte Corwin, soprano
Tracy Smith Bessette, soprano
Isaiah Bell, tenor
Alex Dobson, bass
Michael Zaugg, conductor
Église Saint-Jean-Baptiste, Montréal
May 26, 2012, 7:30 p.m.
If you have sung in the St. Lawrence Choir at any point in the last 40 years, let us know about it in the comments below, or write to email@example.com.
on May 23, 2012