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Mary Kunz Goldman
The Buffalo News, April 2006

Here's a fascinating survey of choral music: ancient and modern, Catholic and Protestant, well-known and obscure. The Protestant side tends to be more dramatic, including Mendelssohn's mercurial "Hear My Prayer" and Herbert Howells' "Magnificat." The Catholics tend toward calm, as witnessed in Mozart's famous "Laudate Dominum," Franck's "Panis Angelicus," Faure's "Cantique de Jean Racine" and an arrangement of the cathartic "Nimrod" from Elgar's "Enigma" Variations. Noel Edison presides over very fine singing from the Choir of St. John's Church, Elora, Canada.

Rosemary Anderson
April 2006

It's no surprise that the Choir of St. John's, Elora, is releasing another CD. This award-winning group of 21 professional singers, directed by Noel Edison, not only sings at church services, but gives recitals here and overseas.

Hear My Prayer: Hymns and Anthems, is the title of the choir's new CD, which will be released by Naxos on Tuesday.

"I've used some of the best Anglican traditional music, and the most enriched,'' says Edison, organist and choirmaster of St. John's Anglican Church.

"I've got a top-flight Canadian soprano, Karina Gauvin, as soloist and a very fine organist, Matthew Larkin from Ottawa. The music is just wonderful.''

Gauvin has performed at London's Royal Opera House, at New York's Lincoln Center and many other venues. She has also won Juno awards for her recordings. Larkin is organist and director of music at Christ Church Cathedral in Ottawa.

"Karina has sung at the Elora Festival many times,'' Edison says. "In fact, she will be singing at the opening of the (Elora) Festival this year.''

The CD, recorded at St. John's early in 2004, includes choral elements from Protestant and Catholic traditions, and has a collection of favourite hymns and anthems dating from the early 17th century to the present day by English, Irish, German, Italian, Austrian, American and Canadian composers. The works reflect a range of music styles in the Christian church. The title of the CD is also its cornerstone piece, Edison says.

Hear My Prayer is a 12-minute hymn for soloist, chorus and organ by Mendelssohn, with words in English by William Bartholomew.

The other 14 selections range from Howell's Magnificat, Franck's Panis Angelicus and Faure's Cantique de Jean Racine to the more recent piece, Stephen Chatman's Remember.

"The (Choir of St. John's) is absolutely first class,'' says Guelph's Barrie Cabena, a composer and artistic director of the Guelph Spring Festival. "It's an excellent professional choir with excellent musicality and direction.''

Edison says he tries to attract young university students to the choir, which has an annual budget of $100,000.

A director of this choir for the past 20 years, Edison is also the founding conductor of the Elora Festival Singers, and conductor of the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir and the Mendelssohn Singers.

He is co-founder and artistic director of the Elora Festival, and a frequent guest conductor for symphony orchestras.

Chicago Tribune, April 2006

After studies with Gilles Tremblay in Montreal, Gottfried Michael Koenig in Utrecht and Karlheinz Stockhausen in Cologne, the Canadian Claude Vivier went to Asia and realized, "the trip was basically a journey into my essence." The haunting, ritualistic music he developed afterward had many unusual vocal effects embedded in chantlike melodies that proceed with all instruments playing in close to the same rhythm with almost no counterpoint.

One of Vivier's grandest plans--left unrealized by his murder at age 34 in 1983--was to collect a number of independent works on the theme of Marco Polo and present them as a kind of opera. This astonishing pair of DVDs completes the plan by assembling his five works for voices, various sized orchestras and solo piano; adding a fragment (for voices, synthesizers and percussion) left unfinished at his death; and staging them all on the second half of a program that begins with his earlier short opera, "Kopernikus."

As the conductor says on an accompanying hourlong documentary, here are tonal works of vision and power with a sound unlike that of any other Western contemporary. Four of them appeared on a 1996 Philips CD by some of the same forces, but everything is enhanced here by an alternately spare and startling visual component that makes the set required viewing for anyone interested in maverick composers of the late 20th Century.

“Immortal dreams of Claude Vivier: 20th-century gay composer's works are released on 2-DVD set”

David Vernier, April 2006

You might accurately describe this program as a compilation of "great hits of Christian church music", including as it does Franck's Panis angelicus, Finzi's God is gone up, Mozart's Laudate Dominum, Fauré's Cantique de Jean Racine, Lotti's Crucifixus, Howells' Magnificat, and the overrated, overwrought, overlong (and usually excruciatingly-sung) Hear my prayer by Mendelssohn. We also get a couple of Purcell anthems, O God, Thou art my God and Remember not, O Lord, Stanford's glorious motet Justorum animae, Duruflé's tiny masterpiece Ubi caritas et amor, and the choral setting of Elgar's "Nimrod" orchestral variation (Lux aeterna).

In previous reviews, I've praised this excellent choir from Elora, Ontario, and its performances here are first-rate as well. The choir especially shines in the Stanford and Duruflé, singing these oft-recorded motets as well or better than anyone on disc, with every detail of phrasing, breathing, and dynamic change perfectly worked out and executed. The same goes for the Howells, a work we don't hear often enough. We also can appreciate the ensemble's extraordinary discipline in the Purcell pieces, successfully managing the difficult transitions and sustaining the momentum through vocal writing that usually just seems disjointed and cumbersome. . . . this is a very satisfying program that choral enthusiasts will embrace, especially when they hear such highlights as Eleanor Daley's refreshingly traditional In Remembrance (from her Requiem), the aforementioned Stanford and Duruflé, and the spectacular rendition of the Elgar, the best version on disc by far. The sound, from the choir's home venue, is full-bodied yet well-balanced, detailed and cleanly articulated. (I'm still hoping that Naxos will include track listings/timings in the CD booklet, not just on the back of the CD box.)

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