blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit

blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit
By Alison Hobbs, blending a mixture of thoughts and experiences for friends, relations and kindred spirits.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Quite a queer concert, with serious overtones

The doors of Southminster Church in Ottawa have been "Open for Music" every Wednesday lunch hour for the past few weeks, and I have attended most of the concerts in the series. Tomorrow's recital looks very promising, featuring the world première of Frédéric Lacroix' Sonatine pour hautbois et piano, to be performed by the composer and Charles Hamann, first oboist in the NACO. Mr. Lacroix teaches piano and composition at the University of Ottawa and is respected as a fine musician hereabouts. They're also going to perform pieces by Rubbra, Ravel and others.

Last week (June 15th) I sat on the front row for a very different sort of performance by Tone Cluster, Ottawa's "choir for gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgender people and their allies," as it says on their website. They are also known as Quite A Queer Choir. Our friend Gianluca is its VP and Concert Co-ordinator. This concert was dedicated to the victims at the gay nightclub in Orlando where three days previously a man had gone berserk and killed 49 people, injuring 53 others. In any case the audience knew that this was to be a concert with a message, entitled Issues of Note. Every item was performed with a particular social issue in mind and every item was sung with passion, our grief at the recent news giving the concert an extra dimension.

Even before the choir started singing they were interesting to look at, dressed in black with bright red accents, scarlet shirts or neck wear, scarlet hair decorations, or, in the case of one of the baritones, with a pony tail, short skirt, high heels and a scarlet cummerbund.

The first piece was the heart-tapping, thigh-slapping, finger clicking White Winter Hymnal, followed by the spirited Alhamdoulillah, a song of welcome to Syrian refugees. Then came Words (on an anti-bullying theme) and the traditional spiritual, Bright Morning Stars Are Rising, incorporating a solo by Gianluca, which they dedicated to the victims of AIDS / HIV. Keeping their audience in an emotional state, they continued with an arrangement of a disturbing song, I Don't Like Mondays, about a shooting by a schoolgirl, and the catchy I Dreamed of Rain which I have heard them sing before.
... I dreamed of freedom and the moon rose,
And peace spread over the land ...
Tone Cluster performing 'Hernando's Hideaway'
The transgender baritone sang a solo during the choir's rendition of Loch Lomond (another catchy enough tune to stay in one's head for days), recalling the partings due to war, and then they sang the Tibetan Om Mani Padme Hum, a celebration of "cultural diversity ... as important as biodiversity!", which started with a very deep bass drone, effectively done. We also heard a piece in French, Je te retrouve, and "something completely different", Hernando's Hideaway, with plenty of movement from the choir, swaying their arms and waltzing. The sister of a choir member had written Come Sit With Me, which according to the introduction dealt with equal marriage, followed, to my surprise, by a Renaissance madrigal about a dying swan, Il bianco e dolce cigno. I wonder if they have ever tried Gibbons' madrigal, The Silver Swan, along similar lines.

They are a versatile choir indeed. The last two items were Eric Idle's Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life (famously sung in Monty Python's Life of Brian) –– they had fun with that one –– and Gently Walk On The Earth, composed for Tone Cluster and premièred at MosaiK.

I came away very affected by this experience; it took the whole of my bike ride back to Sandy Hill (where I bought a coffee) to calm down.

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