Luminous Voices choir offers brilliant display of music excellence for Remembrance Day

Stephan Bonfield for The Calgary Herald
Sunday, November 11, 2013

Luminous Voices presented the second of its Remembrance Day concerts (the first was in Cochrane) titled Mass for Troubled Times, and it was a brilliant display of musical excellence. Calgary's professional choir took on two fair-sized Masses of some difficulty by Haydn and Timothy Corlis, and showed every sign of international mettle Sunday night at Knox United Church.

After a serenely nuanced In Flanders Fields by Stephen Chatman, the choir got down to business with Corlis' Missa Pax, a work I had heard about a few years ago and hoped to hear performed in Calgary one day.

The Introit began with a setting of the well-known prayer 'Veni Sancte Spiritus' featuring glowing upper voices, resonant passage work from pianist Cheryl Emery and lucid arabesques from clarinettist, Krishan Power, before drifting into a soothing, incantational 'Kyrie'.

The 'Gloria' began in a similarly minimalist vein, punctuated by fine solos from mezzo Meghan Prescott, who has a splendid instrument, until the broader sections of praise which were conflated with lovely key and rhythmic changes. Another well-taken clarinet solo by Krishan Power bridged to the amazing Sanctus.

Opening with a motive in striking fourths, first in the sopranos and then the other voice parts, Luminous Voices painted a majestic 'Sanctus' with broad chords followed by flecks of scrupulously-sung, infectiously rhythmic tics. The lovely and intimate 'Benedictus', set in contrapuntal texture, came complete with another beautifully played incantatory clarinet obbligato by Krishan Power.

The 'Agnus Dei' took on a striking translucent quality via chordal stasis ensuring a meditative thoughtscape. Impressive were the choir's mastery with the impossibly long-held notes on the word 'pacem' followed by an incantatory Gloria Patri to blissfully close.

The narrative of this work is fresh and at times difficult to perform, and should be a welcome addition to the choral repertoire repeated every Remembrance Day.

The Haydn Missa Angustiis (Lord Nelson Mass), the Mass for Troubled Times eponymous with the concert's title, features a demanding breadth of virtuoso choral compositional features, all of which were pulled off with impressive resonant fullness by Luminous Voices, who displayed inspired, unstinting musicianship throughout.

The orchestra was a perfect and continuous complement to the choir, and the two forces were always in appropriate balance, whether as oppositional forces, or unified in blended texture. And kudos must go to bass Paul Grindlay for his impressive stentorian solo in the 'Qui Tollis' section of the Gloria. Equally impressive was the choir's remarkable handling of the swift, contrapuntally demanding sections such as the 'Cum Sancto Spiritu' and the 'Dona nobis pacem', remarkable displays of this choir's capabilities.

And the Credo canon, one of my favourite moments, with muscular string lines, was offered in a splendid, uncommonly lyrical reading, that required an exquisite and meticulous approach of timing and sectional balance here and throughout the movement, complete with a nuance one does not hear on the best recordings. Hats off to director Tim Shantz for such artistic excellence that is of marquee international quality.

© Calgary Herald 2013