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Bertil van Boer
Fanfare, September 2012

What came was almost an hour and a half of an enormously entertaining film by 90th Parallel Productions about what seems to have been an annual event taking place in Toronto for more than three decades…The key to this is the effable director of the Tafelmusik Chamber Choir, Ivars Taurins, who plays the part of the irascible George…Frederick Handel, hamming it up as the director punished by the Almighty as a joke to be sent back to earth annually to direct this thing. His paraphrase of the opening of Cabaret…is not to be missed. His straight people are the redoubtable Tafelmusik orchestra, which performs the truncated version of the oratorio with energy, precision, and good authentic performance practice. Suzie LeBlanc’s clear soprano rings out brilliantly in her arias such as “Rejoice Greatly,” while tenor Rufus Müller easily handles…the ebulent “Ev’ry Valley,” and countertenor Daniel Taylor…smoothly and accurately conquers the changing moods of “But Who May Abide.”

The best part, however, is the chorus, filling the entire hall like a political convention with placards indicating the four voices. To be sure, they too have backup in the form of the Tafelmusik choir standing behind the instruments, but when Taurins exhorts them to “raise the roof” at the Hallelujah chorus, one can feel the power and energy of the mass of voices. They are good, too, for if there are any tone-deaf enthusiasts among them, they are submerged in a superb wash of sound that would no doubt make the real Handel smile…What is more, they take the faster tempos of the conductor with hardly a falter or stumble.

In case you find it overwhelming, the DVD also includes a number of bonus audio tracks of a more serious nature. Granted, these are choral movements without any sort of cohesion, but it is a chance to compare the normal professional concerts of Tafelmusik’s choral and orchestral groups with the raucous and effervescent cast of hundreds.

What can one say? This is not just a community sing-along, it is a happening and one that demonstrates that such events can be done both joyously and efficiently. Taurins…provides continuity both through his rather pithy introduction, and with sporadic commentary throughout… © 2012 Fanfare Read complete review

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