Fun at the Opening Gala

Posted by Liz

Starting with the sunny t-shirted members of Dancing In The Street entertaining queueing concertgoers, Music and Beyond’s Opening Gala was an evening of fun to start off the festival with a swing. Once seated (with Dominion-Chalmers United Church slightly less full than I had anticipated), the evening began with an unscheduled (well, not in the program) fanfare by 5 members of the Band of the Ceremonial Guard. Following the Guard and introductions by Yasir Naqvi MPP and CBC’s Lucy Van Oldenbarneveld, the scheduled first piece was Handel’s Zadok The Priest. Not a typical favourite of mine, I had an image in my mind of an excessively large-scale work. I was therefore a little surprised to see just 9 musicians from The Theatre of Early Music (TEM) walk onstage – soon joined by a much larger Choir of The TEM! Hearing the measured opening followed by the famous opening chorus line, I found Zadok much more enjoyable than I’d thought!

After one crowd-pleaser, Menahem Pressler and the Fine Arts Quartet performed another, Brahms’ Piano Quintet in F minor, Op. 34. No mere reprise from last year’s Music and Beyond Closing Gala, I thought tonight’s performance to be nimble and flowing yet with restraint; I found the second movement the most enjoyable but noted the relative sprightliness of the third. Some may grumble but I didn’t mind the light inter-movement applause.

Four songs completed the evening, interspersed with an attempted video and Ravel’s Tzigane. Alexandre Da Costa and Wonny Song were excellent in this performance, however I found the nature of the piece a little too disjointed (sorry, Ravel) – as soon as I got into a rhythm or melody, the mood changed! Stéphane Lemelin and James Westman performed a jaunty rendition of Toreador’s Song from Carmen, with Westman, to audience delight, performing around the front pews before taking the stage. Finally, Yannick-Muriel Noah came onstage and pretty much outperformed everyone else! Her intensely rich renditions of Glück das mir verblieb (Korngold), O patria mia (Verdi’s Aida) and Meine Lippen sie küssen so heiss (Lehár) had the crowd on their feet.

A fun evening that bodes well for the next 79 concerts!

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