In Remembrance concert Sunday at Westminster United Church

October 30, 2018   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

Studying for his PhD long after retiring from a teaching career, John Wervers informed us that it is a matter of “13 courses in all, then my thesis on Sacred Music.”

This entirely explains his great enthusiasm for his task as conductor for the upcoming performance of the Rutter Requiem and In Remembrance by Canadian composer Eleanor Daley, this Sunday, October 28, at Westminster United Church at 2:30 p.m.

The concert will see his Amaranth Chamber Choir accompanied by the Waterloo Chamber Players orchestra, with 22 members.

The chamber choir is a collection of “strong voices,” coming from many different communities. This means their rehearsals, at St. Paul’s Church in Shelburne, are rather intense so that they each need to prepare their parts in between. It is not a hardship: they love the music.

“I really try to get Canadian music. It’s the time needed to listen to the music before I choose,” Mr. Wervers commented.

He comes by his determination to play Canadian composers honestly, as the saying goes. Mr. Wervers’ parents, after being POWs during the war, were married in 1945 and came to Canada with their two sons from Holland in 1952 and John was born here.

He relayed the story: “Canadians were heroes in Holland after the war, and my parents were confident that Canada must be the best place in the world. When they became Canadian citizens, they were so happy.”

The upcoming concert, In Remembrance, is a deeply moving, an intricate tapestry of voices. Composer Daley, born in Perry Sound, went to Queen’s University. She has earned multiple diplomas for piano and organ, studying in England as well as Canada.

She has been commissioned to write sacred music for the Elmer Iseler Singers, the Amadeus Choir, as well as for choirs and choral groups in England, Europe and the USA. Best known of her work is her Requiem, which includes In Remembrance.

“The soloists are from the choir this year,” said Mr. Wervers. “We’re doing the Requiem by John Rutter on this program. That’s well known and everyone really likes it too. We’re performing some shorter works  – Flanders Field, using Eleanor Daley’s arrangement,  Blades of Grass and others.

“Our guest artist is Aaron Bell on the trumpet. Unfortunately, Terry Gauthier had to pull out at the last minute. But he found Aaron Bell, who will really do a good job. He’s a fine musician.”

Nancy Sicsic is joining the performance as accompanist. Ms. Sicsic is choirmaster, music director and organist for Westminster Church and the force behind the bi-annual concerts she organizes within the church’s own schedule.

The In Remembrance program will also be performed Saturday night in Alliston and Sunday evening in Collingwood. There, the choir will be accompanied by Keiko Yoden-Kuepfer. Originally from Japan, she has made Collingwood her home since 2006. She studied music in Japan, earning her Degree in Music Education from the Osaka National University, and later completed her Associate Diploma of the Royal Canadian College of Organists in 2016.

The rest of the season for the Amaranth Chamber Choir includes participation with Mr. Werver’s other choirs, the Dufferin Concert Singers and New Tecumseth Singers, in performances of Handel’s Messiah – a 90-member choir plus the Waterloo Chamber Players Orchestra. Again, there will be performances in Alliston and at Broadway Pentecostal Church in Orangeville.

“It’s about seating capacity and the community,” Mr. Wervers remarked. “The Pentecostal church is huge. If we brought that many people for the stage to Westminster, we’d have to remove three rows. We have still asked Nancy Sicsic to accompany. So, we’re going to go there and try it out.

“Then, in the spring, we are with the community choirs and doing shorter works. On May 4 and 5, a choir is coming from Latvia, being billeted with us, to do concerts at Westminster. That will be a bit of a cultural exchange. It’s quite a busy season.”

He commented, “At the end of our rehearsals, I tell them – ‘go home and read a good book, look at a wonderful painting – just study it for a while, read good poetry and feel the passion of good art.’”

What keeps him doing all the work with the choirs?

“Passion,” he told us emphatically, “passion for the music.”

In Remembrance, the concert, will be performed at Westminster United Church, 247 Broadway, on this Sunday, October 28, at 2:30 p.m. Tickets ($20) at the Church office (see Mrs. Sheedy) and BookLore, 121 First Street.

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