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Austrian and German influence in new concert

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Chamber Music Orillia starts its sixth season this weekend in a concert of choral masterworks from Austria and Germany.

SUBMITTED Chamber Music Orillia starts its sixth season this weekend in a concert of choral masterworks from Austria and Germany.

Chamber Music Orillia (CMO) kicks off its sixth season this weekend in a concert of choral masterworks from Austria and Germany.

The 46-voice CMO Chamber Choir presents Germanic Treasures under the direction of its artistic director, Jeffrey Moellman. Founded two years ago, the choir has grown with each endeavour, and now attracts experienced singers from not only Orillia and Barrie, but also Collingwood, Port Carling and Haliburton.

One of the choir’s new members, Marcia Armstrong, has an explanation for that. Moellman “is a wonderful teacher of musical interpretation and expression,” she said.

She returned to live in Orillia this past summer after 16 years away. Once settled, Armstrong was eager to become musically involved locally, and a friend mentioned the choir.

“I was intrigued by her glowing remarks (about the choir). I met Jeff and was immediately impressed by (his) musicality, intellect, passion and desire to create a choral ensemble of the highest calibre.”

Another chorister, Nick Bauman, characterized Moellman’s approach as “intensely demanding, and yet lighthearted,” but quickly added “he brings out the best in the choir.” Moellman puts this skill to regular use in his weekly work with more than 115 singers, ranging from adults to six-year-olds in the two CMO Youth Choirs. His work as a music educator and advocate was recognized this past spring with the Orillia District Arts Council’s 2016 Educating in the Arts Award.

The CMO Chamber Choir boasts many trained musicians, which speaks to the high level at which the entire choir makes music. One of those, Adrienne Volgmann, contends the makeup of the choir allows “rehearsal time to be used efficiently, and to target more subtle nuances than in most community groups.”

Individual singers have much to take away from the rehearsals, too, as Volgmann attests she has “learned so much ... about stylistic nuances ... and vocal technique. Artistically, it is satisfying to produce beautiful music at a high level with other talented musicians.”

A keen selection of music plays a big part in guiding the choir to new artistic heights. Armstrong “absolutely loves the music that Jeff has chosen for the concert,” which opens with a well-known piece by Austrian composer Anton Bruckner, included on the program at the request of a chorister.

Moellman obliged, recalling his own experience regularly singing in Cleveland under celebrated Austrian conductor Franz Welser-Möst, who had grown up in a home overlooking Bruckner’s birthplace. Another small gem on the concert is Benjamin Bolden’s award-winning work, Tread Softly, which was selected by Choral Canada as the winner of its 2016 Competition for Choral Writing. The composer’s mother is Lorna Bolden, a local music educator and member of the CMO Chamber Choir.

The remainder of the program is filled with large, bold works. Josef Rheinberger’s Mass in E-flat for Double Choir has been described as the “most beautiful, pure vocal music of the 19th century,” and the composer was honoured for this mass with the Order of St. Gregory the Great in 1879 by Pope Leo XIII. Johannes Brahms’s 11 boisterous and poignant Zigeunerlieder (or Gypsy Songs) crown the program, featuring Orillia’s perennial favourite tenor, Albert Greer. Hailing from Collingwood, Keiko Yoden-Kuepfer tackles the rollicking, virtuoso piano accompaniment, as well as a piano solo by Brahms.

The concert takes place Oct. 23 at 3 p.m. at St. James’ Anglican Church in Orillia. Admission is $25 for adults, and $5 for ages five to 18. For more information, visit chambermusicorillia.org



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