A stained glass window glows behind the black-clad figures of a choir as they sing, flanked on either side by the massive pipes of a church organ at the Church of the Holy Trinity in Toronto. It’s a familiar sight to many lovers of choral music. The Toronto choir Acquired Taste performs a composition by Saskatchewan-born pianist and composer Renee Rosnes on a Youtube video posted on June 7. At about 4 seconds into the video, the top of a head appears at the back of the choir, and then the choir’s performance is interrupted by the shrill blast of a whistle.
While the pea whistle may find a part in a very few pieces of classical repertoire, Rosnes’ Still is clearly not one of them. However, you’d never know that by watching as the choir members simply continued to sing, apparently unruffled by the intrusion. A few seconds later, a second figure slips behind the choir, ostensibly to herd out the intruder, but the whistleblower is determined to remain free. A figure in t-shirt and shorts makes its way through the choir from the back row to the front, emerging near the conductor and then walking away down the aisle of the church.
The choir doesn’t miss a beat. Other than one or two members who guard their ears after the initial whistle blast, not so much as an eye looked up from the music.
According to the choir’s Facebook page, the music itself — a demanding contemporary piece in its Canadian premier — kept them on their toes:
Nothing focuses the mind like the knowledge that you’ve got notes to sing!
A man wandered into the church during our Acquired Taste concert on June 3rd. At one point he blew a whistle into the ears of the bass section, and then made his way through the choir. Our reaction? Make room for him and keep singing! He left peacefully after a couple of minutes.
Of course he chose the most difficult piece on the program as his moment to interrupt, which might explain why we were so intensely focused.
The video was shot during the group’s June 3 spring concert at the Church of the Holy Trinity. While they are amateurs as singers, the choir most likely owes its admirable discipline to the fact that they are no strangers to performance and all its vagaries. Unique among Toronto choirs, being made up entirely of professional musical instrumentalists.
The Acquired Taste Choir was formed by the group Pocket Concerts as a kind of community-building initiative with the goal of letting professional musicians rediscover their amateur roots. Pocket Concerts is the brainchild of co-directors — and husband and wife — violist Rory McLeod and pianist Emily Rho.
Along with private concerts, since 2013, the group holds intimate Musical Salons in the couple’s downtown Toronto condo, and presents classical music concerts in various locations around the city and beyond, including an upcoming performance at Sheldon Rose Gallery in North York on July 28, and a Chamber Music Getaway at Kingfisher Bay Retreat Centre in the Kawarthas in November.
It’s not clear if the concert interrupter had an agenda, or just stumbled onto the performance. Within a few minutes, he’d wandered back out of the church, and the choir sang on.