March 10, 2004

Le Voix Baroques

Category: Music :: Permalink

It’s not every week that Grande Prairie gets two great concerts. But this week is an exception. Last night, I heard the Vancouver Chamber Choir. Tonight, I got to hear Le Voix Baroques, a three-piece chamber ensemble featuring Grande Prairie’s own Chloe Meyers on baroque violin, Amanda Keesmaat on baroque cello, and Marie Bouchard on harpsichord. They’re touring with a soprano, Shannon Mercer.

Le Voix Baroques, as their blurb announces, is “dedicated to historically informed performances and recordings of unexplored 17th and 18th century repertoire for voice and instruments.” Their recent CD Elegiae won th Cannes International Classical Music Award.

They began tonight’s performance in Italy with Dario Castello’s Sonata Ottava, followed by three pieces by Claudio Monteverdi: Si dolce e il tormento, Maledetto sia l’aspetto, and a piece apparently inspired by Psalm 150 and possibly titled Laudate domino in sanctis. The Italian set closed with Antonio Bertali’s Ciaccona.

From Italy, we moved to England for Handel’s War, He Sung, Is Toil and Trouble from the oratorio Alexander’s Feast (as is typical for Le Voix Baroques, this isn’t one of the Handel songs most people know). Then, after Henry Purcell’s Plaint from The Fairy Queen, they performed three traditional English songs, A Trip to the Boar (I think), Allie Crocker (I think), and The Prickeli Bush (I’m sure; and no, that’s not a typo).

After a short intermission, Marie Bouchard, the harpsichordist, returned for a brief lesson on the harpsichord and a performance of Rameau’s Le Vezinet. She was joined by the rest of the ensemble for Marin Marais’s Sonnerie de Ste. Genevieve du Mont du Paris and, with Shannon Mercer joining in on vocals, some excerpts from Louis Nicholas Clerambault’s opera Orphee. As you’ve guessed, that set was from France.

The final set, of course, was from German composers, starting with Chloe Meyer’s favourite, Johann H. Schmelzer, represented here by his Sonata Quarta. It was followed by a piece from a cantata by Bach. During the introduction, I thought I heard that this piece was from Cantata 30, but the opening words sounded a lot like “Hort, irh Volker,” which would be Cantata 76, No. 3. (I know that only from the program). The final piece was Reinhard Keiser’s Cara luci from his opera Masaniello Furioso.

The concert was delightful and quite instructive. The performers took the time to explain why they play strictly the original baroque instruments instead of more modern steel-stringed instruments. They also explained some of their technique. In Bertali’s Ciaccona, for instance, the continuo plays the same ground bass 185 (or so) times, while the violin soars above and the harpsichord, still part of that continuo, varies the chords from time to time.

It was an evening well spent. And when I emerged from St. Paul’s United Church one of the first things I saw was a magnificent display of northern lights rippling across the sky from northwest to northeast. Glorious!

Posted by John Barach @ 12:19 pm | Discuss (0)

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