Posted by: Janice Manchee
It’s fall again and Rideau Chorale is deep into preparing their December concert, complete with some new tenor and bass voices enriching the sound.
This year’s concert, ‘Gloria,’ includes a potpourri of lesser-known seasonal works and features a major work by John Rutter and another by local choral composer, David Rain.
Rain’s Rideau Carol premiered in 2016. “It was inspired by a marathon training run,” says Rain. He stopped for a rest in Vincent Massey Park near a sign for “Chutes Rideau Falls.”
“Suddenly, I heard a whole Christmas carol,” he says. “It was bilingual, French and English, and would play on the word “chutes.” It can have a double meaning because “chut” also means “hush” in French.”
His intention was that the score would cascade over that word, taking listeners on a musical tour of the nation’s capital. The piece travels through Parliament Hill, the National Gallery and the Byward Market, where Rain lives.
Rain is a self-described “late in life” choral composer, having taken up this artistry in his mid-60s. With a background in Law and English, he spent most of his professional career in international development and refugee and immigrant support. This took him abroad for studies and lead to a 10-year stay in Tanzania.
He’s also a long-time performer, singing with the choirs in Vancouver and as a tenor with Ottawa’s The Stairwell Carollers for 28 years.
Rain donates half of his income as a composer to the Ottawa Community Immigrant Services Organization and Orkidstra, a program for kids in under-served communities based on the “El Sistema” program.
As well as Rain’s work, the concert includes John Rutter’s Gloria. Rutter is not local, having grown up above the Globe pub in London, UK. He’s mainly known as a composer of carols, but Gloria, composed in 1974, is among his larger-scale works. It is scored for choir, brass, percussion and organ and was his first major overseas commission.
Rutter has noted the influence of Gregorian chant throughout the piece. Reviewer John Quinn noted that Rutter is successful because he writes music people want to perform and hear. As well, although the music sounds easy, it is actually challenging for performers.
The shorter works include the soothing In the Stillness by Sally Beamish, the haunting O Magnum Mysterium by Morten Lauridsen, the mesmerizing I Wonder as I Wander as arranged by Andrew Balfour and the healing Lully, Lulla, Lullay by Philip Stopford.
While Rideau Chorale will perform these and other pieces, the audience is also welcomed to join in on certain better-known carols.
Once again, the very busy Matthew Larkin is directing Rideau Chorale. He places John Rutter at the forefront of classical choral composition. Newer works by the other composers, he says, provide a more contemporary idiom.
“Celebrations of Christmas inevitably blend the old and the new,” he says. “Our concert carries on this tradition.”
The concert will be performed December 3, 2022, starting at 7:30 pm at Southminster United Church in Old Ottawa South. Tickets are available at Eventbrite.ca.
Janice Manchee sings tenor with Rideau Chorale. Information about Rideau Chorale and its virtual and upcoming performances can be found at rideauchorale.com.
Featured in the November 2022 OSCAR.