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Summer festivals: Organist Rachel Laurin takes up residence at Stratford Summer Music

By John Terauds on July 24, 2013

Rachel Laurin presents concerts at Stratford Summer Music on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
Rachel Laurin presents concerts at Stratford Summer Music on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Old and new worlds collide as Canadian concert organist and composer Rachel Laurin and the Vienna Boys Choir converge on Stratford Summer Music this week.

John Terauds

John Terauds

John Terauds, Editor-Emeritus of Ludwig van Toronto, is currently a Divinity student at the University of Toronto and a church music director. He joined the Toronto Star in 1988, was the classical music critic from 2005 to 2012, and continues as a freelance critic for the paper. He is the co-author of Roy Thomson Hall: A Portrait, a book written with Toronto Star Colleague, William Littler.
John Terauds

Laurin, who matured as an artist over the course of 16 years at Montreal’s grand St Joseph’s Oratory and four years at Notre-Dame Cathedral in Ottawa, now works exclusively as a composer and concert organist — both still male-dominated occupations.

She presents three different and complementary pre-lunch solo-organ programmes at Stratford’s St James’ Church. Each surveys organ literature, but with a different focus.

Thursday, Laurin shows off what it takes to interpret organ music — in particular how the choice of tonal colour in “registering” an organ, i.e. choosing which sets of pipes will play together, changes the nature of the music.

Friday’s concert is all about improvisation, something Laurin does in the grandest French style. And Saturday’s programme focuses on the art of composition.

All three concerts feature Laurin’s own creations.

Stratford Summer Music’s website is awkward, if not completely unhelpful (the listings say 11:15 a.m. for each concert, which is correct, but the calendar function says 12:15 p.m., which would make a visitor miss the music entirely). The best place to find reliable detail is under an entry confusingly called the Sun Life Financial Guide here.

This is Laurin playing one of her own creations, a Procession, for AFNOM, an annual festival of new organ music organised in England:

There is also a compelling, representative collection of Rachel Laurin interview and concert clips collected on American Public Media’s Pipedreams site here.

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Starting Friday, the Vienna Boys Choir, representing the very best of the children’s choral tradition as well as one of the last vestiges of boys-only Old World musical culture (even the Vienna Philharmonic allows girls in to play with the boys now), sings the first of three concert programmes at St Andrew’s Church  — Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m.

The first two concerts draw from Viennese and central European repertoire. Sunday’s programme travels around the world. Touring and tourism are how this institution sustains itself, so it has its performance style and programming down to a fine art.

On Tuesday evening next week, the boys give a fourth concert at St Andrews, this time with operatic tenor Michael Schade, himself a graduate of Toronto’s all-boy St Michael’s Choir School.

Details here.

Here is one of the Vienna Boys’ three touring choirs in bel canto mode while touring South Korea four years ago:

John Terauds

John Terauds

John Terauds

John Terauds, Editor-Emeritus of Ludwig van Toronto, is currently a Divinity student at the University of Toronto and a church music director. He joined the Toronto Star in 1988, was the classical music critic from 2005 to 2012, and continues as a freelance critic for the paper. He is the co-author of Roy Thomson Hall: A Portrait, a book written with Toronto Star Colleague, William Littler.
John Terauds
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