April 21, 2023
An original commissioned work by a Cuban Canadian composer will pay tribute to Cuba’s vigorous and deep-rooted dance culture in the final moments of the Ottawa Choral Society’s concert of Latin American music on June 11th.
Suite Cuba by Alondra Vega-Zaldivar will showcase the distinctive rhythms of Cuban dance, including the conga, rumba, cha cha chá, and danzón in choral and orchestral arrangements featuring the poetry of José Martí.
The work was commissioned by the OCS and Artistic Director Gabrielle Gaudreault and received the support of a $5000 grant from the Ontario Arts Council. Ms. Vega-Zaldivar says the work reflects her Cuban roots and her deep appreciation of her native country’s history, culture and music.
“We are delighted to premiere this exciting piece that blends the traditional rhythms and sounds of the dances with harmonies and counterpoint that add a contemporary flare,” says Dr. Gaudreault. “The commission furthers the OCS’s mission to support the creation and dissemination of new Canadian choral music, and we expect the audience will welcome it with enthusiasm.”
The June concert’s principal work will be Argentinian composer Martín Palmeri’s Misa a Buenos Aires, from which the concert draws its title, Misa Tango. The work exploits the intensely emotional heart of this distinctively Argentinian musical form. Tango’s deeply secular roots are given a sacred, but still gripping, setting supported by the accompaniment of an authentic ensemble of strings, piano and bandoneón. Acclaimed mezzo-soprano Julie Nesrallah will be the soloist.
The concert throughout will be a celebration of the sounds of Latin America. Other works will include sacred motets from modern Latin American composers including Ernani Aguiar (Brazil), César Alejandro Carrillo (Venezuela) and Alberto Ginastera (Argentina). A set of four songs by Carlos Guastavino (Argentina) from his Indianas suite will feature the composer’s beautifully melodic and evocative work for chorus and piano.
The famous anthem of thanksgiving Gracias a la Vida by the Chilean singer and artist Violeta Parra will be presented in a choral arrangement by Willi Zwozdesky.
Misa Tango will be the OCS’s final concert of the 2022-23 season. It will be performed at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Hintonburg, 50 Fairmont Avenue at 3 pm on Sunday, June 11th.
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January 10, 2023
The Ottawa Choral Society presents on March 19 th , 2023, a concert of vocal works composed by women on the theme of war and peace. “The classical repertoire, so long seen as the domain of men, contains many outstanding works, overlooked and unappreciated, by women,” says OCS artistic director Gabrielle Gaudreault. “Composed by Women: Music of War and Peace offers a representative and compelling selection of modern and contemporary work by women composers.”
Following International Women’s Day earlier in the month, the program will feature Latvian composer Lucija Garuta’s God Thy Earth Is Aflame as the principal work. Garuta wrote this cantata in 1944 in the final days of the Second World War. It was first performed in Riga, Latvia under the sound of guns as Nazi occupiers battled Soviet forces for control of the contested country. The cantata was banned by Moscow and not performed again until 1988 as the Soviet empire collapsed.
Soloists will be baritone Clarence Frazer and tenor Jean-Philippe Lazure, who received a distinguished mention in the OCS’s New Discoveries Auditions in 2016. Both singers are alumni of the Canadian Opera Company’s prestigious Ensemble Studio and sought-after singers in concert halls across Canada.
The concert will take place just over a year since Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine, and while wars continue to take lives in the Sahel and the Horn of Africa, Yemen, Myanmar, and other conflict zones.
The Ottawa Choral Society has invited two special guests to offer some thoughts on the theme of war and peace. Latvian Ambassador to Canada Kaspars Ozolins will introduce and reflect on the pertinence of Garuta’s work in a contemporary context, including the women, peace and security agenda. Jacqueline O’Neill, Canada’s Ambassador for Women, Peace, and Security will make remarks on women’s meaningful participation in conflict resolution, resistance, and community resilience.
The other compositions to be featured in the concert are:
Peace, Now by Joan Szymko
In Flanders Fields by Christine Donkin
The Fiddle and the Drum by Joni Mitchell
St. Francis’ Prayer by Margaret Bonds
Unto the Lord with my voice, I cried by Iryna Aleksyichuk
August 26, 2022
The Ottawa Choral Society announced today the three concerts of its 2022-23 season, under the leadership of new Artistic Director Gabrielle Gaudreault. Comprising a classic Christmas cantata, modern meditations on war and peace, and contemporary and new works from Latin America, the season will present a rich, exciting, diverse musical panorama.
The Saint Nicolas Cantata, Benjamin Britten’s celebration of the legendary 4th-century missionary’s life and work, will be presented on December 18 along with a program of carols for the holiday season. Britten’s lively and robust cantata describes the many adventures of one of the Christian church’s founders and will offer a hearty start to the holiday season. Tenor Matthew Dalen will sing the role of St. Nicolas.
On March 19, the Choral Society will perform a collection of short modern and contemporary works on war and peace by women composers, many Canadian, including Eleanor Daley and Joni Mitchell. The concert centrepiece will be Latvian composer Lucija Garuta’s cantata God, Thy Earth is Aflame. The work was first performed in Latvia in 1944 during the final phases of the Second World War. It evinces human desperation in the face of armed conflict, as well as hope for peace.
The final concert of the season on June 11 will feature the works of Latin American composers, including Misa Tango by Martín Palmeri, a setting of the mass that exploits the intensely emotional heart of the distinctly Argentine musical form. Acclaimed mezzo-soprano Julie Nesrallah will be the featured soloist accompanied by an authentic ensemble of strings, piano, and bandoneón. An original commission for the Choral Society by Cuban-Canadian composer Alondra Vega Zaldivar, will further complement the program, along with works by Alberto Ginastera, Carlos Guastavino, and Violeta Parra.
“This 2022-23 season will offer a wide variety of musical styles and dramatic concepts,” says Gaudreault, who is looking forward to her first year at the Choral Society’s podium. “We are confident that our audiences will be moved and inspired by three distinct programs which will showcase the breadth, depth and power of the Choral Society’s renowned voices.”
All concerts will be held at St. Francis of Assisi Church, 20 Fairmont Avenue in Hintonburg.