Local choirs to perform Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass in April

February 13, 2020   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

John Wervers, conductor and music director of the Dufferin Concert Singers and The New Tecumseth Singers, freely admits, “This is my kind of music – this is me,” while pointing to the small book that is Joseph Haydn’s third mass, “The Imperial or Lord Nelson.” 

This will front their upcoming Spring Concerts  in Orangeville and Alliston. The local concert will take place at Westminster United Church on Sunday, April 26, at 3:00 p.m.

Between now and then, however, Mr. Wervers will not be available to rehearse with the two choirs full-time, as he is in the throes of working on the last stages of a PhD, which requires him to spend part of each week at the University of Toronto.

Subbing for him as director of the New Tecumseth Singers is John Dodington, opera singer for many years but now a teacher in Alliston. 

Mr. Dodington took his BA in Music at University of Toronto and his ARCT in Toronto. He sang with the Canadian Opera Company and then went to England for three years, where he sang in operas at Covent Garden, “in the chorus.

“But I was always away from my family touring,” he said. “One day, my little daughter told me, ‘daddy I don’t want you to go away anymore.’

“So, I was offered an audition for Phantom and I sang for seven years in the Toronto production of Phantom. Paul Wilkinson was Phantom. It was one of the best moves I ever made. I wasn’t home at night but I was there every breakfast; basically, I was home every day.” 

Mr. Dodington will also be singing with the Dufferin Concert Singers and The New Tecumseth Singers, performing the upcoming Spring concerts.

Haydn titled his third Mass, Lord Nelson and wrote it in celebration of Nelson’s victory over Napoleon at the Battle of Trafalgar. There ensued a friendship between Haydn and Nelson as a consequence of Haydn’s writing this magnificent Mass.Mr. Wervers said there will be a change of course in terms of Kitchener Waterloo Chamber Orchestra doing the Lord Nelson Mass. The Mass, when it’s in D major, the keys have the brighter sounds, yet, the opening by trumpets in D minor brings down the mood – more ominous and sad. It’s a great work for four soloists, chorus and orchestra but has some brighter moments: during some of it, there is an exchange in singing between the soloists and the chorus which keeps the choir on their toes. Flourishes between the soloists and the orchestra and chorus – sing and then back off. A pretty energy-charged work and very interesting, it will fill the first  half of the concert. 

“Then, we’re doing a variety of shorter works,” Mr. Wervers explained.

“First of these is Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Pie Jesu from his Requiem. It’s such a powerful piece and so familiar. Everyone loves it.” 

Mr. Wervers spoke about the theme of the concert. “I don’t always like to have a theme necessarily but in these times, I thought it would suit a springtime concert. So, there is a theme of hope, peace and unity. Distant Land by John Rutter, which he wrote in1990 in response to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the release of Nelson Mandela. These were both very exciting and hopeful moments in history.”

What is old is new again with “a new arrangement of Amazing Grace. When you have the orchestra there,” he pointed out and explained, “This arrangement is Amazing Grace – My Chains are Gone. This is about when the British parliamentarian, William Wilberforce, [made his anti-slavery speech in 1789] that led the way to abolishing the slave trade. Hence, ‘My chains are gone.’

“The Song for Peace, arranged by Canadian arrangers, MacGillivray and Loomer, and they did a fantastic job; This is My Home, by Bob Buckley has a recurring theme of O Canada. And we’re doing a short Swahili freedom song, Huria, by Patsy Ford Simms.

“We’re also doing And Can It Be, by Dan Forrest, based on the words of Charles Wesley and the only choral writing he did – it’s one of my favourites, really beautiful. More of this will include the orchestra which might not be the case otherwise but as we have them there, we might as well take advantage of the fact.”

Always so good to include You Raise Me Up – this arrangement by Mark Hayes.

“We’ll be doing another fundraiser for Victory House at the Caledon Hills Baptist Church on Airport Road, bringing in different soloists. This is not a paid event for us – it’s all volunteer. We’ll just perform a different concert for them on Sunday April 5, at 2:30 p.m.”

He told us, “At the church last year we brought in $4,000 and a few weeks later, a person who came to the concert, wrote a cheque for $20,000. That was wonderful. Victory House is a women’s shelter that they’re building on the church property.

“It’s a small church but has lovely open sounds – good acoustics. ”

Simply put, “We truly want to be a community choir and give back to the community – all these years since I started these groups – focus on a caring and commitment to people with a passion for good music.”

He became thoughtful, “I think it’s so important that people sing as a social engagement for their intellectual stimulation. From saying, ‘I don’t think I can do this’ to the end, you have that euphoric experience. It’s wonderful to see people say, ‘We did this.’”

The Alliston concert will be Saturday April 25, at 7:30 p.m., at a site not yet selected.

For tickets to the Orangeville concert on April 26, go to BookLore, 121 First Street or call 519-942-3830 or the office at Westminster United Church, 519-941-0381.

Valentines Day concert

Cadence, “Canada’s premier a cappella vocal” group, will be giving a special concert on Friday, February 14 (tomorrow) at St. John’s United Church, Victoria Street, Alliston as part of a series being promoted by John Dodington, organist and choirmaster at the church.

“This a capella group is four guys; they do three concerts a year as fundraisers for the church, Mr. Dodington told the Citizen.”

Tickets can be purchased by calling the St. John’s office 705-495-6732 or Mardi Dodington on 495-451-1504, or at the door.

Cadence is a quartet based in Toronto who won the 2006 Juno Award for Best Vocal Jazz Album of the Year for their album “Twenty for One,” and all told they have produced five albums and a number of singles.

Current members include Ross Lynde, tenor, Kurt Sampson, bass and vocal percussion, David Lane, baritone and vocal percussion, and Lucas Marchand, tenor.

Cadence was formed in 1998 by York University students Carl Berger, Ross Lynde, Dylan Bell and Kevin Fox. In 2000 the group released an album, Frost Free, with a capella arrangements of popular pop and jazz songs. Their album Twenty Four One was released in 2005. 

In 2009, Cadence sang on Kristy Cardville album My Romance. By 2010 Fox and Bell had left the group, and Aaron Jensen, and Kurt Sampson had joined; this lineup recorded the group’s next album, Speak Easy.

Cadence has toured and performed around Canada, as well as in the United States, Europe and Asia. The quartet is also active in music education, attending school functions and hosting a summer camp for a cappella musicians.

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