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Chamber music on tap

John Swartz
Jeffrey Moellman and Christina Heppelle rehearse for the Chamber Music Orillia concert Sunday at Guardian Angels Church.

Jeffrey Moellman and Christina Heppelle rehearse for the Chamber Music Orillia concert Sunday at Guardian Angels Church.

It is not often one thinks of Guardian Angels Church as a concert venue. The last big concert that comes to mind happened several years ago, when the Cellar Singers performed Verdi's Requiem there.

Sunday afternoon, Chamber Music Orillia will be having a concert featuring a trio of musicians: Jeffrey Moellman, Marie-Caroline Bourque and Christina Heppelle.

A number of you will recognize Moellman as the director of music and organist at Guardian Angels; Bourque is his wife and a violinist, while Heppelle is a singer from Phelpston.

Chamber Music Orillia is a relatively new group and is just completing its first concert season Sunday.

Moellman and Bourque are the constants, being the only ones to appear in each of the three concerts they have had so far.

"We look at the music we are looking to perform and then figure out instrumentation," Moellman said.

"The last concert we had with Albert Greer, he needed, effectively, a string quartet and me to accompany his choir; and then Peter Voisey came on to play some Mozart with the strings. The first concert was a bunch of strings also, so this time it's really small and we are just kind of doing solo and duet pieces," Moellman added.

In this concert, you will hear music composed by Bach, Haydn, Eugene Ysaye, Marcel Dupre, Mozart, Corelli and William Walton.

Walton? There's a name you don't commonly find listed on a program for a chamber concert. He's best known for large orchestra and gigantic pieces of work like Crown Imperial. That's exactly the piece Moellman will play on the organ.

"It's pretty neat; it's a good arrangement. It goes well on the organ," Bourque said.

While it's not exactly the kind of tune to expect at a chamber concert, where the trio (who will mostly perform solo works) will play from is a little different, too. They'll be in the choir loft - behind the audience.

"It just sounds better coming from the choir loft. It is a little different perhaps for people for a recital," Heppelle said.

She thinks one of the pieces she has chosen to sing will do rather well from there.

"The song that I'm doing from the Haydn Creation is about the creation of birds, so a lot of the vocalizing and the accompaniment imitates bird noises, trills and stuff like that. I really like the effect in a church, especially a Catholic church with a loft, because it has the beautiful acoustics and you can really make them ring like birds," Heppelle said.

Moellman discovered her singing only recently.

"On Good Friday, we had a service in the evening called Tenebrae and a number of people from my own choir, as well as four members of the Cellar Singers, in addition to Christina and three of her siblings and two parents, made up my choir for that service," Moellman said.

"It was kind of a select choir. She sang a solo for one of the pieces and I was so impressed by it, in the back of my mind we were putting this program together and I said, 'I have to ask her if she'd like to sing,'" Moellman said.

Of course, the organ manual is in the loft, so Moellman has no choice about where he performs.

And he wants to be able to keep performing on that organ.

"All of the proceeds from the freewill offering are going to benefit the organ at Guardian Angels," Moellman said.

The organ, with 1,150 pipes, is starting to show its age.

"The organ is almost 100 years old and nothing significant has been done as far as maintaining it. We are in the process of assembling a committee to explore what the best course of action is," Moellman said.

He noted the leather that stops the air from blowing through the pipes is cracking, one note on the bass can't be used and, just recently, the motor for the blower failed and had to be replaced. Fortunately, he has an electronic keyboard for backup.

It will be a bit different experiencing a concert with the performers above and behind the audience, but Bourque is happy to play in it.

"Except one of the pieces actually, there's a piece for solo violin that I'll play in the front of the church, so people don't get a sore neck for the whole concert," Bourque said.

Both Moellman and Bourque are planning a second season to start in the fall.

They aren't confining their performances to Orillia and have to sort out the musicians they will need.

"I think in addition to playing Orillia, our goal is to bring our music to the surrounding areas. There are places that have festivals and the need for that kind of programming and we want to provide it. There are a number of musicians we can call on and vary the ensemble," Moellman said.

The first concert next season will happen at the Opera House in Gravenhurst, others will happen here. Bourque likes the idea of taking their music on the road.

"If we were just to keep it within Orillia, there's plenty of duets for two violins and things like that, but it's more fun to expand it a little bit and collaborate with people from relatively close to Orillia, also," Bourque said.

The concert starts at 3 p.m.

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