Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Christmas with the TSO

This is a belated and hopefully short review of two great concerts in one week. First the traditional Christmas favourite "Handel's Messiah" to which I took a first time symphony attendee. Hopefully she enjoyed the experience and will want to go again. I'm always looking for new people to join the fun :)

I had rather high expectations having seen the NACO version several times, and the TSO did not disappoint! The soloists were wonderful! The soprano, Shannon Mercer, had an exceptionally clear voice. Admittedly I was briefly distracted by the tenor, Colin Balz
er's, resemblance to Voyager's Doctor. Although note I was sitting in practically the last row on the floor so from that distance there was a resemblance, perhaps closer not so much, but he also had a lovely voice.

The balance between orchestra, soloists, and chorus seemed excellent and while I would have liked more punch from the Hallelujah Chorus, it was beautiful if not "knock your socks off" forceful. The brass, which showed up for a solo from the organ level, did look like they dozed through the second half when they joined the orchestra after the intermission, but Andrew McCandless came alive when it counted for the trumpet solo near the end, it had punch!

Two nights later I was back again for "Christmas with the Canadian Brass". I think I found my secon
d favourite conductor at this concert! John Morris Russell was lively, had a good repour with the audience and told a neat personal story about how the favourite record his family had was by the Canadian Brass. This story served as their intro following several strictly orchestral pieces.
The whole show was great, even lacking some TSO principal players (I noticed the clarinet, bass, and trumpet were missing). The smaller chorus, but much larger orchestra gave the Hallelujah Chorus the strength I'd desired previously.

When Canadian Brass joined the orchestra they added their own degree of showmanship. I'd never seen them perform before but they were great, with entertaining intros to pieces, jokes about themselves and a "melting" tuba player/Frosty. They had unique as well as beautiful arrangements, even a piece with them and the big band brass of the TSO. It was all a delightful way to get into the Christmas spirit, in case by the 23rd of December, you weren't already there! :)

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