Elora festival: Online and ready to roll

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This page is also available in / Cette page est également disponible en: Francais (French)

The Elora Festival this year unfolds mostly in places other than the picturesque town in southern Ontario that gives the annual summer choral celebration its name. “We made the decision early on to go the streaming route,” says Mark Vuorinen, artistic director of both the festival and the Elora Singers. “The kind of music that we do really requires indoor venues.”

Which, alas, remain closed to audiences in Ontario. Recording is permitted, so the 24-strong Singers will be doing their thing for cameras and microphones. As will three international ensembles who would not likely be available in a traditional on-site festival.

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Predominantly atmospheric and a cappella, the schedule starts with the Elora Singers on Aug. 5 as recorded in Christ Church Cathedral in Hamilton. The program, called Reflections, is a tour through the centuries with obbligatos by cellist Katie Schlaikjer.

The singing goes uptempo on Aug. 7 with the Maryland-based Jason Max Ferdinand Singers. Vuorinen heard this gospel group in an online festival and was suitably blown away.

Another international offering is the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir under Tõnu Kaljuste singing music by Veljo Tormis (1930-2017), a composer who lacks the global renown of his compatriot Arvo Pärt but is highly esteemed in the homeland.

“Tormis spent almost his entire career writing music based on regilaulud, a folksong form that goes back hundreds of years,” Vuorinen explains. “He helped bring it back into the culture of Estonia.”

Voces8, an acclaimed British octet, is heard on Aug. 26 in a popular program called Choral Dances recorded in the deconsecrated London church they call home. Repertoire ranges from excerpts from Benjamin Britten’s opera Gloriana to Van Morrison’s Moondance.

Homegrown programs include one on Aug. 12 spotlighting the noted Canadian baritone Russell Braun in Songs of the Sea, a 1904 cycle by Charles Villiers Stanford (1852-1921). “These were Russell’s suggestions,” Vuorinen says of the five songs, which involve support by male choristers. “New pieces to me, but I’m glad he suggested them.” Carolyn Maule is the piano accompanist.

The Elora Singers at Twilight on Aug. 14 offers atmospheric lighting and relaxing end-of-day repertoire including selections from Rachmaninoff’s Vespers. Cover Story, one week later, includes arrangements of hits by the likes of Annie Lennox, the Beatles, Björk, and Carly Simon.

Concluding the festival on Aug. 28 is a words-and-music program toggling recitations of Robert Frost, Rainer Maria Rilke, Shakespeare and Sara Teasdale by the distinguished actor Colm Feore with choral settings of poetry by these authors. Some of the readings will be filmed in Elora. Singing happens in St. Peter’s Church in Kitchener.

“I don’t think there is anything quite like being in a live space with a wonderful choir,” Vuorinen admits. “But on the other hand, we are looking at this as an opportunity to reach an audience that we might not have been able to reach otherwise.”

Single tickets and passes are available at various prices in keeping with a pay-what-you can philosophy. www.elorafestival.ca


This page is also available in / Cette page est également disponible en: Francais (French)


About Author

Arthur Kaptainis has been a classical music critic since 1986. His articles have appeared in Classical Voice North America and La Scena Musicale as well as Musical Toronto. Arthur holds an MA in musicology from the University of Toronto. From 2019-2021, Arthur was co-editor of La Scena Musicale.

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