St. Lawrence Choir: Stepping Into Légendes

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While Scandinavian mythology has had a resurgence in popular culture, inspiring numerous works in the last few years, myths and legends have also fascinated and inspired composers. Légendes, which the St. Lawrence Choir will perform on April 20, is an intriguing journey into the world of myths and fables.

“I wanted to explore the theme of legends, and I discovered some works that are rarely played but really fascinating,” says Philippe Bourque, choirmaster and artistic director. “According to my research, Légendes will include two Canadian premières.”

“The first, Snöfrid, Op.29, by Sibelius, is in Swedish and recounts a hero’s dilemma of having to choose between good and evil. “In the late 19th century, Sibelius wrote a dozen little-known programmatic works—some political, some quite short, like Snöfrid. However, Snöfrid seems to be attracting renewed interest in Europe, where it has recently been reissued,” Bourque says.

The second is Switezianka, Op.44 or The Mermaid of Lake Switez. One of four ballads for choir and orchestra by Rimsky-Korsakov and sung in Russian, it recounts the meeting of a hunter and a young woman who profess their love beside Lake Swietez. After the woman disappears, the hunter meets a mermaid who charms him and makes him forget his first love. The mermaid, who takes on the appearance of the young woman, drowns the hunter as punishment for his infidelity. Ever since, people have said that two shadows can be seen on Lake Swietez on nights of the full moon. “We wrote the score ourselves, because it couldn’t be found. That’s how much we wanted to do this piece! It deserves to be known!” says the maestro enthusiastically.

The second half of the concert is Die erste Walpurgisnacht, Op.60 by Mendelssohn, his only secular cantata. It’s inspired by a tale by Goethe and tells the story of Druids confronted by Christians from a village trying to get them to stop their pagan rites. Bourque says: “It’s not an anti-Christian work; rather, an appeal on Goethe’s part for tolerance among groups. Mendelssohn loved fairy tales and enjoyed illustrating the various elements in the story through his music, for example by using tonalities.”

The choir will be accompanied by the St. Lawrence Choir Orchestra and four soloists—Lucie St-Martin (soprano), Lysianne Tremblay (mezzo-soprano), Éric Laporte (tenor) and Scott Brooks (bass- baritone). Vanier College Choir will join them on stage for this grand concert at the Maison symphonique.

“People don’t dream enough these days, but the world of fairy tales helps them step back from the everyday and reconnect with their inner child,” says Bourque, inviting audiences to come and dream with him.

St. Lawrence Choir


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