Ours is not the only community that looks to music in every situation, every day of our lives. Rhythm and musical sounds have been around as long as mankind exists. It is no wonder then that music is performed at every level, professional and amateur, for festivities celebrating the stations of our calendar year, the big and small festivities of the church year, for our community festivities and birthdays, as well as at farewell gatherings.
There was only one concert billed as a Christmas concert in our community that we know of, that of the Männerchor Harfentöne.
That frosty and snowy Sunday afternoon many people migrated to downtown Toronto despite the bad weather and filled the St. Patrick’s Church to near overflow. We could not stay, but heard many reports of the fabulous concert. Already the beginning was something to behold: Below the altar all the male participants of the various choirs were standing and singing "O komm, o komm Emanuel" while the ladies of the mixed choirs walked in the middle of the church with burning candle to join the male singers in the refrain. This festive beginning set the stage for a rich and varied concert with audience participation in between, something I remember well and love. It creates the proper balance of listening to the old familiar tunes and singing out your heart in enthusiasm and joy about the season.
The Male Choir Harfentoene under the baton of Horst Hartmann amazed as always with their repertoire and richly layered voices. I am still especially partial to the choir’s fabulous bass voices, which offset baritone and tenors and give depth and dimension to the presentation.
There was a duet - O holy Night - sung by Manfred Floren and George Brennauer, an Appalachian Carol sung with a lovely voice by Susan Brown - I hear that she will sing for us again in the future; and there was the poetry written and red by Alfred Uhl, who used to be one of our favorite tenors. His wife Linda Marcinkus accompanied the choirs, but also performed Schumann’s "Träumerei" to much applause.
And then there were the 3 guest choirs: Harmonie, Loreley and Edelweiss under the baton of George Zadubán. No one knew that this would be the last concert he would conduct for and with them. On December 29th he suddenly left this world and his bewildered family and disciples behind. Everyone who knew him has only accolades to report. His musicianship, his teaching methods, his patience and enthusiasm and knowledge for the field of music is legendary, and we will bring you more of his live in the next issue. For now we would simply like to acknowledge that he was a great friend to our community and music and we will thank him for his generous contributions to our wellbeing.
He conducted the three choirs as a mass choir together, something he had also demonstrated great aptitude for during our Alpine Fests at the CNE in past summers. This Christmas concert was no exception. He conducted the choirs to sing old favorites like "Ave Maria" and "Heidschi bumbeitschi" and other favorites, receiving great applause.
The successful afternoon ended with e traditional "Stille Nach, heilige Nacht", sung by all, "We wish you a Merry Christmas" and the obligatory coffee and Stollen in the adjoining community hall.
And while we are looking forward to another concert by the Harfentoene (who even sing spirituals like "Glory to the new born King" and "Jacob’s Ladder" to huge rounds of applause) and their guest choirs, we can hardly imagine that it would take place without George Zaduban.
Salute to Vienna
Another concert our community does not want to miss anymore is the traditional Viennese New Years concert in the afternoon of New Years Day in Roy Thomson Hall. Since 1995 impresario Attila Glatz and his wife Marion have produced this concert in a ever growing number of cities in North-America to much acclaim. Sponsored generously in Canada by Swarowsky 12 cities can enjoy this marvelous tradition.
In Toronto the venue always sells out. The audience though obviously tired from celebrating the night before, faithfully turns out to be cheered up by the joyous sounds of Strauss and family and other composers of similar genre of lighthearted music. The talent is either local or imported in parts. The conductor in Toronto was Karl Sollak from Vienna, Soprano Ingrid Mankhof is Canadian of Austrian-German descent, and originally from Vancouver, and American Tenor Otoneil Gonzaga hails originally from the Philippines. And then there were of course our brilliant local symphonic players, several of which we also recognized from the Nayumi Seiler concert "Via Salzburg" earlier in December. To enhance the musical offerings ballet cannot be missed and so we had the pleasure to encounter members of the National Hungarian Ballet to grace the stage. Narrow as the strip was for their performances in lovely costumes, they managed to evoke some of the flavors of the Viennese Waltz.
From the opening "A night in Venedig" to the last encore and the "Radetzki March" the audience became audibly more alive and enthusiastic. The tiredness of the previous night left quickly. Enveloped by the vivacious tunes of yesteryear our memories for the good old times made us smile and happily we applauded until our hands nearly fell off. Now that was a curtain call! Not just the two obligatory rounds we usually seem to be capable of. The talent was amazing. The sound was great because everything was discretely and effectively miked, and the music certainly was most enjoyable.
We are looking forward to seeing again everyone who is anyone in the mainly Austrian German and Hungarian audience, that stepped out of the building a lot more light-footed than they entered.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if that mood that all experienced would last the whole year?!!!!!
Happy New Year!
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