DESKTOP
TABLET (max. 1024px)
MOBILE (max. 640px)
Return to Top
Ludwig Van
Toronto Montreal

SCRUTINY | Opus 8 Choir Revels In The Bawdier Side Of Song At Heliconian Hall

By John Terauds on February 4, 2018

Opus 8 with Robert Busakiewicz (conductor) at Heliconian Hall, Toronto. (Photo: John Terauds)
Opus 8 with Robert Busakiewicz (conductor) at Heliconian Hall, Toronto. (Photo: John Terauds)

After Dark. Opus 8. Robert Busakiewicz, conductor. Heliconian Hall. February 3. www.Opus8choir.com

We all know that the real fun begins after dark. And that’s the effect Toronto’s recently formed Opus 8 choir was looking for in a concert for a packed house at Heliconian Hall on Saturday night.

Opus 8 is something special for Toronto. The city has an abundance of fine choirs, but no small ones offering just one or two voices per part  — something like England’s The King’s Singers (an all-male sextet) or the Nylons (a male quartet), but featuring women as well as men – singing a cappella. It’s the ultimate portable show.

This, in itself, is cause for celebration. Opus 8 is in its second year of offering a small concert season in a variety of venues and featuring a variety of musical styles. The singers have already released a calling-card first album, Melancholy & Mirth, which is an excellent showcase of their fine craft.

Most of the singers are associated with the choir at Toronto’s St James Cathedral, where Opus 8’s conductor, Robert Busiakiewicz, is also the music director.

The program tantalizingly offered risqué songs from the Renaissance to the Spice Girls, splitting the pre-19th-century material into the first half of the 90-minute program (including intermission) and the contemporary stuff into the second half.

The 19th century was conspicuously absent from the bill. But, then again, the 19th century wasn’t known for being amorously adventurous in public. I wonder how a Victorian audience might have reacted to the evening’s opening song, which translates as “Lick My Ass,” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Most of the other ancient amorous exclamations and exhortations — by Palestrina, Monteverdi, Tomkins, Schütz, des Prez and l’Héritier – were a bit more circumspect, but lust was never far from the surface. It was no different in the English-language second half of the concert, which ranged from Gary Turner’s “Tequila Samba” to Busiakewicz’s own arrangement of a Spice Girls’ medley cheekily titled “Canticum Puella Spicies.”

The octet sound quite good, in a red-blooded, full-throated way. Busiakewicz has worked the details, and it shows. The program was neatly arranged, and the conductor’s commentary between songs added just the right dose of humour. The audience loved every minute — especially when the songs were in English.

But there was a strange disconnect in the overall feel of the concert. We sat in the formal, traditional way, in neat rows facing the tiny Heliconian Hall stage. The singers stood in a taut semicircle with their music stands. But the music was of the sort that should have been sung around a crackling fire, with alcoholic libations flowing freely.

It was also strange that the polyphonies of the older music could just as well have been conveying an august sacred text – and that this went unacknowledged in spoken word on in the printed program.

Perhaps like the woman being sung about in one of the evening’s songs, the whole setup needed “a sip of Tequila,” to “reveal a spirit dancing joyously for the sky.”

LUDWIG VAN TORONTO

Want more updates on Toronto-centric classical music news and reviews before anyone else finds out? Follow us on Facebook or Twitter for all the latest.

John Terauds

John Terauds

John Terauds, the founder of Musical Toronto, is currently a Divinity student at 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
John Terauds

John Terauds

John Terauds, the founder of Musical Toronto, is currently a Divinity student at 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
Share this article
lv_toronto_banner_high_590x300
comments powered by Disqus

Ludwig Van Toronto

THE SCOOP | Royal Conservatory Lands $1 Million Donation To Support Fellowship Program

By Michael Vincent on November 29, 2018

The Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto announced today that $1 Million will be donated to support the Rebanks Family Fellowship and International Performance Residency Program over the next five years.
Read the full story Comments
Share this article
lv_toronto_banner_high_590x300

THE SCOOP | Canadian Classical Music Represents At The 61st Grammy Awards

By Michael Vincent on December 7, 2018

Six Canadian classical music artists/groups have been nominated for the 61st Annual Grammy Awards.
Read the full story Comments
Share this article

SCRUTINY | We Came For Boléro But Stayed For City Noir

By Stephan Bonfield on November 22, 2018

While Ravel's Bolero was eaten up by a cavernous Roy Thomson Hall, it was the TSO's performance of John Adams' retro-styled City Noir that won us over.
Read the full story Comments
Share this article
lv_toronto_banner_low_590x300
lv_toronto_ssb_atf_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_high_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_mid_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_low_300x300
lv_toronto_tsb_high_300x700
lv_toronto_tsb_low_300x700
lv_toronto_ssb_atf_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_high_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_mid_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_low_300x300
lv_toronto_tsb_high_300x700
lv_toronto_tsb_low_300x700

We have detected that you are using an adblocking plugin in your browser.

The revenue we earn by the advertisements is used to manage this website. Please whitelist our website in your adblocking plugin.