JONAH: PRESENTED BY THE PEMBINA TRAILS VOICES, CONDUCTOR VALDINE ANDERSON, AND THE MCO
PLEASE NOTE: APRIL 13th SHOW POSTPONED! Please note there are no door sales for the immediate future — all tickets must be purchased online or over the phone (204-783-7377). Please review our ticket and social gathering policies before ordering your tickets for, and attending, our 2021-22 concerts. All Spring Series concerts, unless otherwise indicated, occur at 7.30pm at Westminster United Church (745 Westminster at Maryland).
New! 1.00pm April 12th in-person matinee (incl. online) | $36 Adult | $34 Senior | $15 Under-30
Buy 7.30pm April 12th in-person ticket (incl. online) | $36 Adult | $34 Senior | $15 Under-30
Buy 7.30pm April 13th in-person ticket (incl. online) | $36 Adult | $34 Senior | $15 Under-30
Buy April 29th online-only ticket | $20 Household ticket
PLEASE NOTE: APRIL 13th SHOW POSTPONED! Our city loves choirs. And from the Winnipeg Beer Choir’s rowdy, audience-participatory renditions of Messiah to Canzona’s many performances of the oratorio repertoire, more and more there seems to be a mania for the nearly forgotten oratorio form. A kind of musical theatre without staging, the oratorio tends to be sacred in genre, and rose to popularity to skirt the Catholic Church’s crackdown on “spectacles” during Lent. But that work-around may help to explain why many of the best-known oratorios burst with flamboyance and humour. Who can forget the moment in Israel in Egypt (which the MCO performed a few years ago with Canzona) when a soloist cheerily sings in falsetto, “The land brought forth frogs!”, to describe pestilence ravaging a Biblical Egypt?
If any Manitoba composer could recreate the balance of high art and popular art exhibited by the best oratorios, it’s Sid Robinovitch. His wonderfully original blend of folk, jazz, and contemporary classical has made him one of the prairies’ most celebrated composers. The MCO has asked Sid to compose an oratorio based on the story of Jonah, with the popular Pembina Trails Voices performing alongside the MCO. We’re sure that, with the help of award-winning author and librettist John Weier, this talented group of musicians will bring out the spectacle inherent in all good oratorios. Valdine Anderson conducts the Pembina Trails Voices.
Speaking of spectacle, the MCO is also pleased to present Copland’s boisterous Hoe Down, from his cowboy ballet Rodeo and which has scored countless Hollywood films. Also to be performed are Vaughan Williams’ Charterhouse Suite and de Falla’s Seven Spanish Songs. Together, these shorter works round off an evening of extraordinary music with folk undertones.
Manitoba Chamber Orchestra
Anne Manson, Music Director
Karl Stobbe, Concertmaster
Westminster Church in Wolseley
Tuesday & Wednesday, 12 & 13 April 2022
Online presentation April 29th thru May 13th
Valdine Anderson, conductor (PTV)
Pembina Trails Voices
Bruce Sarbit, narrator
Music: Sid Robinovitch
Text: John Weier and Sid Robinovitch, with additional material by Angeline Schellenberg
Narrator: Bruce Sarbit
World premiere performance
Manuel de Falla (arr. Stephanie Chase)
Seven Spanish Songs
Ralph Vaughan Williams
Season sponsor / CN
April 12th concert sponsor / Gail Asper Family Foundation
April 12th guest artist sponsor / Asper Foundation
April 13th Concertmaster sponosor / Sue & Jim Irving
With the generous support of the Foundation for Choral Music in Manitoba
Volunteer sponsor / MB Liquor Mart
Media sponsors / Classic 107, Golden West Radio & Winnipeg Free Press
Pembina Trails Voices
Pembina Trails Voices (PTV) is an award-winning choral program affiliated with the Division of Preparatory Studies at the Desautels Faculty of Music, University of Manitoba in Winnipeg. With 40 years of offering a top choral program in Winnipeg, PTV continues to shine as a music program steeped in excellence for school age children, youths, and young adults.
PTV’s track record for national and international distinction is impressive. Recent highlights include PTV Singers’ auditioned invitation to perform at the 2020 PODIUM national choral conference in Montreal and 3rd place win at the 2019 International Choral Festival in Llangollen, Wales. PTV’s Cantemus was the winner of the 2019 National Associated Music Festivals Choral Competition and 3rd place finalist in the 2019 CBC National Amateur Choir Competition.
At the 2021 Winnipeg Music Festival, the PTV Chamber Ensemble won the Kozub Trophy for ‘most outstanding music ensemble’ in the Winnipeg Music Festival in March 2021, and the PTV Quartet won the Gordon Hignell Trophy for ‘most outstanding vocal ensemble’.
PTV’s younger choirs, Ragazzi, Chorale and Choraliers, have been consistent past winners of the Winnipeg Music Festival’s top choral awards and finalists in both provincial and national choir competitions.
An established international and Canadian artist with over two decades of solo performances and recordings, Valdine Anderson currently serves on the voice staff at the Desautels Faculty of Music, University of Manitoba.
Her solo soprano career includes concert performances with the London Symphony Orchestra, the London Sinfonietta, Germany’s Ensemble Moderne, France’s Ensemble Intercontemporain where she toured extensively with Pierre Boulez, the Orchestre National de France, the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, the Chicago Symphony with Wynton Marsalis and Daniel Barenboim, the New York Philharmonic, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and many more. In 2004, Valdine toured the USA with the Berlin Philharmonic and Sir Simon Rattle, opening Los Angeles’ new Disney Concert Hall. Premieres written for, and interpreted by, Valdine include works by Kaija Saariaho, Gerard Grisey, Henryk Gorecki, Witold Lutoslawski, Thomas Adès, George Benjamin and Elliott Carter. Valdine has worked with conductors Sir Colin Davis, Seiji Ozawa, David Robertson, Winton Marsalis, Bramwell Tovey, Esa Pekka Salonen, and Edo de Waart among others.
Valdine’s recording of Mahler’s 4th Symphony CD with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra won a Prairie Music Award (now Western Canadian Music Awards), and her recording of the opera Powder Her Face by Thomas Adès was nominated for a GRAMMY. Her signature aria from that recording was made into a short music video by Canadian film director Guy Maddin called Fancy, Fancy Being Rich in 2002. Other solo recordings include Szymanowski’s Songs of the Fairy-Tale Princess, Gavin Bryars’ The Adnan Songbook, Elliott Carter’s opera What Next which was shortlisted for a Grammy nomination, and Michael Torke’s Book of Proverbs.
Valdine Anderson is a frequent juror for the Canada Council for the Arts, and in demand as an adjudicator across Canada. Locally, Valdine has worked as vocal coach for Manitoba Opera, and maintains a private voice studio. In 2011, Valdine founded the women’s choral ensemble, Esprit de Choeur and in 2017 was appointed Artistic Director of Pembina Trails Voices, a choir organization for school-aged children. Her choirs have won awards nationally and internationally and regularly record and commission new works for choral ensembles.
A native of Manitoba, Sid Robinovitch initially taught social sciences at York University. Since 1977, he has devoted himself to musical composition, having studied at Indiana University and the Royal Conservatory of Toronto. He now lives in Winnipeg where he works as a composer and teacher. Having written for a wide variety of musical resources, Robinovitch’s works have been performed by the Toronto and Montreal Symphony Orchestras, the Elmer Iseler Singers and the Vancouver Chamber Choir. His music has been frequently broadcast on CBC radio, including original pieces based on folk-tales from around the world and arrangements of Judeo-Spanish folk songs. Pieces that he has written for the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra include Canzoni Romane (1999), Cantus Borealis—Song of the Forest (2011), and Concerto for Percussion and Strings (2016).
In addition to his concert works, Robinovitch has written music for film, radio and TV, where he is probably best known for his theme for CBC-TV’s satirical comedy series, The Newsroom.
Klezmer Suite, a recording devoted entirely to his music performed by the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Bramwell Tovey, was nominated for a 2002 Juno award and received a Prairie Music Award for outstanding classical recording. Sefarad, a CD featuring his music for guitar, was released in 2008 on the Marquis label, and Choral Odyssey, a recording of his choral music performed by the Winnipeg Singers under the direction of Yuri Klaz, appeared in 2012. Both of these CDs received Western Canadian Music Award nominations for Classical Recording of the Year.
Bruce Sarbit retired almost 15 years ago from a long career as a psychologist in the mental health and university settings and as a teacher of counselling theory and practice. Following retirement, he has writing and producing numerous plays, including All or Nothing (with Harry Nelken) at the Winnipeg Fringe Festival and at MayWorks, The Line (with Brian Richardson) in Brandon, Hotel Azteca and Chameleon in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Bruce has taught courses on a variety of topics: ‘Art and the Modern Mind,’ ‘The Legacy of Leonard Cohen,’ and ‘Existential Psychology,’ and has published essays such as The Rock Still Rolls (on Camus’s The Myth of Sisyphus) and Madness Silenced. In all his work—plays, essays and courses—Bruce searches for lives worth living, for freedom, community and meaning in the face of limitation, alienation and absurdity. Bruce and his wife, Celia, are the proud parents, in-laws and grandparents to wonderful people, Ari (Chelsea), Jared (Eva, Michael, Chloe and Gabriel) and Marti (James).
John Weier was born on the broad and open prairie but grew up on a small peach farm in Southern Ontario. After graduating from high school, he studied at the University of Manitoba; and in 1975 he began work as Winnipeg’s resident luthier—maker of banjos, violas and violins. He is a past President of the League of Canadian Poets and past Creator Co-chair of the Access Copyright Board of Directors.
His first book, a collection of poems, After the Revolution, was published in 1986; his thirteenth, When Flowers Bloom and Sparrows Sing, a children’s book, appeared in the fall of 2013. Other books include Steppe: A Novel, Stand the Sacred Tree, Friends Coming Back As Animals, and Violinmaker’s Lament. Formerly the Carol Shields Writer-in-Residence at the University of Winnipeg, John works freelance as a writer and violin restorer. He has two grown and miraculous children, Anna and Jonathan, and finds himself in Winnipeg still pushing out against those small farm boundaries.
Music: Sid Robinovitch; Text: John Weier & Sid Robinovitch; with additional material by Angeline Schellenberg
Jonah, prophet of Israel, hears the voice of God in the mountain telling him to go to the great city of Nineveh to warn the inhabitants that if they do not repent of their evil ways they will be destroyed. But Jonah refuses to heed God’s command. Instead, he saddles up his trusty donkey and proceeds to the port of Joppa where he finds a ship that will take him to the fabled land of Tarshish. On the way to Tarshish the ship encounters a fierce storm. Jonah tells the sailors that he is responsible for the storm because he tried to run from the word of the Lord, and urges them to throw him overboard to calm the seas. The sailors try to row the ship to land, but the storm overpowers them, and in the end they follow Jonah’s instruction and throw him into the sea.
A great fish swallows Jonah and he dwells in the belly of the fish praying to God to save him in his distress. After three days and three nights, the fish spits him out onto a nearby shore.
God speaks to Jonah a second time repeating his command that Jonah go to Niveveh to tell the people to repent. This time, Jonah obeys God’s order. The Ninevites hear his words and repent of their evil ways. The king proclaims a fast and everyone, great and small, puts on sackcloth.
As a result of the Ninevites’ repentance, God changes his mind and preserves the city. But Jonah is greatly displeased. He knew that God was merciful and would spare the Ninevites. From a vantage point outside of the city gates, Jonah laments the loss of a vine that had shaded him from the sun. Then God says to him: “You weep over a vine which came into being and perished in a night. Should I not be concerned about the simple people of Nineveh, not to mention all the innocent animals that dwell in their midst?”
With this revelation, Jonah realizes that God’s mercy extends to all creatures—great and small.
Seven Popular Spanish Songs
Manuel de Falla (arr. Stephanie Chase)
Falla was the most gifted Spanish composer of the twentieth century. His style blends Spanish folk music with the atmospheric Impressionism of composers such as Debussy. With it, he led Spanish music away from its tradition of providing little more than simple illustration, and toward the mainstream of abstract international composition.
After a youth spent in the province of Andalucia, he relocated to Madrid at 20 to further his studies. In 1907, he moved to Paris, the most vibrant creative city of the era. He came to know such prominent French composers as Debussy, Ravel, and Dukas. Following the conclusion of the Spanish Civil War in 1939, he relocated to Argentina, where he lived for the remainder of his life.
In common with such contemporaries as Granados and Dvořák, Falla rarely quoted authentic Spanish folk materials. This suite is a partial exception. He created it in 1914, as a work for voice and piano. It’s a synthesis of arrangement and composition. Most of the melodies are indeed popular in origin. Others, such as the Jota, are almost entirely his own creations. The suite draws on musical forms from many regions of Spain, from Andalucia to Aragon. In mood the selections range from laments and lullabies (Asturiana and Nana, respectively) to the concluding Polo, a fiery piece in Romany Flamenco style.
Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis
Ralph Vaughan Williams
Thomas Tallis (c. 1505-1585) was one of Tudor England’s most celebrated musicians. In 1567, he contributed eight themes to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s hymn book, the Metrical Psalter. When Vaughan Williams helped to edit a new version of the English Hymnal in 1906, he used the opportunity to restore to circulation the third of those melodies. Tallis used it as the tune for the text that begins, “When rising from the bed of death.” His lovely, sorrowful theme, set in the antique Phrygian church mode, rather than the more common major or minor, moved Vaughan Williams to create a piece based upon it, one that would expand and intensify its inherent qualities. He composed the Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis in 1910.
Reflecting his studies with master orchestrator Maurice Ravel two years earlier, he richly and ingeniously scored the fantasia for three string groups: solo quartet and two orchestras of different sizes. He used them in strikingly antiphonal ways throughout the fantasia. The music explores a wide range of emotion and texture, from whispered intimacies to bold, compelling grandeur.
Vaughan Williams conducted the highly successful premiere himself, in the vast, imposing space of the thousand-year-old Gloucester Cathedral, on 6 September 1910. His wife Ursula wrote, “With the Norman grandeurs of Gloucester Cathedral in mind and the strange quality of the resonance of stone, the ‘echo’ idea of three different groups of instruments was well judged. It seemed that his early love for architecture and his historical knowledge were so deeply assimilated that they were translated and absorbed into the line of the music.”
That fantasia’s premiere, and the debut of A Sea Symphony (his first symphony) one month later, laid the foundation of his international reputation. He revised and shortened the fantasia twice before it was published in 1920.
On the evening of his death, his close friend Sir John Barbirolli, a superlative interpreter of his music, conducted a performance of the fantasia in Vaughan Williams’s honour, at a Henry Wood Promenade concert in the Royal Albert Hall, London. A lovelier, more heartfelt tribute would be difficult to imagine.
The text that Tallis set may give some clues to the contents of Vaughan Williams’s music.
When, rising from the bed of death,
O’erwhelmed with guilt and fear,
I view my Maker face to face,
O how shall I appear?
If yet, while pardon may be found,
And mercy may be sought,
My heart with inward horror shrinks,
And trembles at the thought;
When thou, O Lord, shalt stand disclosed
In majesty severe,
And sit in judgement on my soul,
O how shall I appear?
But thou hast told the troubled mind
Who does her sins lament,
The timely tribute of her tears,
Shall endless woe prevent.
Then see the sorrow of my heart,
Ere yet it be too late;
And hear my Saviour’s dying groans,
To give those sorrows weight.
For never shall my soul despair
Her pardon to procure,
Who knows thine only Son has died
To make her pardon sure.
Hoe-Down, from ‘Rodeo’
Copland composed the ballet Rodeo in 1942. The premiere was danced by the Ballets russes de Monte Carlo in New York on 16 October 1942. The concert suite, entitled Four Episodes from Rodeo, was premiered by Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops on 28 May 1943.
Looking to show its support for America’s efforts in the Second World War, the renowned dance company Les Ballets russes de Monte Carlo commissioned a ballet on an American subject from dancer/choreographer Agnes de Mille. She turned to Copland for the music because of his success four years earlier with another American-themed ballet, Billy the Kid.
The plot of Rodeo is simplicity itself, though many people will think it a museum piece. A cowgirl who is infatuated with a handsome wrangler dresses and acts like a man in hopes of impressing him. It doesn’t work, so she goes back to wearing skirts and wins him over.
Copland’s music makes use of several authentic cowboy songs. He wrote, “The final movement, Hoe‑Down, is the best known and most frequently performed episode. Two square dance tunes are included: Bonyparte and a few measures of McLeod’s Reel played in folk fiddle style. Pizzicato strings and a xylophone add a comic effect to Bonyparte, and the music winds down like a clock before the tune returns for the last time.”