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(Posted 3 p.m., Apr. 23)

Blackburn Chorus and friends deliver powerful performance
By Fred Sherwin
Orléans Online

Ottawa soprano Joyce El-Khoury was one of four soloists who appeared with the Blackburn Chorus during their performance of Mozarts’ Requiem on Saturday. Fred Sherwin/Photo

It's been 250 years since Mozart was born and 215 years since he died. In between those two milestones the Austrian composer wrote some of the most important music in the history of western civilization and none more so than Requiem.

When the Blackburn Chorus was comtemplating material for their 22nd Spring Concert, celebrating the birth of one of the world's most brilliant classical composers was an obvious choice. The difficulty was in trying to decide which of his great works to perform. In the end they chose Requiem, and judging by their performance on Saturday night it was a wonderful choice.

To perform the Requiem you need three key ingredients -- a superb chorus, a talented orchestra and outstanding soloists. Saturday night's performance at Dominion Chalmers United Church had all three, not to mention an exceptional venue.

Ottawa's Virtuosi Orchestra provided the musical accompaniment, while soprano Joyce El-Khoury, mezzo-soprano Claudine Ledoux, baritone Keith Miller and tenor James O’Farrell were the invited soloists.

The chorus got things going with a thunderous introit followed by the softer Kyrie, but it was during Dies Iraie, the first movement of the Sequenza, that the chorus truly shone. The alto and soprano sections were in especially fine form as their voices filled the enclave and soared to the rafters. So powerful was their performance that it made my blood tingle.

During the second movement of the Sequenza, the soloists each sang a verse beginning with Colorado native and former NFL fullback Keith Miller. While all four soloists lived up to their advance billing, the Blackburn Chorus was out of this world both literally and figuratively as evident by their performance of the haunting and other wordly Lacrymosa.

The rest of the Requiem went by far too quickly, leaving the audience hungry for more. After a short intermission the ensemble was happy to oblige with Mozart's lesser known Vesperae de Dominica.

While the Requiem is primarily a choral performance, the Vesparae provided the perfect showcase for the talents of the four soloists, especially Ottawa native Joyce El-Khoury.

During several of the movements, the gifted soprano exchanged verses effortlessly with Ledoux, but it was on her own that she provided some of the most mesmerizing moments of the evening. Her closing of Laudate Dominum literally gave me goosebumps, especially her final "Amen" which provided the perfect exclamation point to an unforgettable evening.

Since a small group of friends first got together 22 years ago to share their love of popular music, the Blackburn Chorus has evolved into one of the most powerful vocal ensembles in the city. They also rank among the city's best kept secrets.

Besides the music they're also very good at taking care of the little things, like printing programs with the original Latin verse along with English and French translations.

It should also be noted that a portion of the proceeds from both the Friday and Saturday night concerts will go to the CHEO Foundation.

(This story was made possible thanks to the generous support of our local business partners.)


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