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(Posted 7 a.m., May 10)

Coro Vivo anniversary concert a retrospective walk down memory lane
By Fred Sherwin
Orléans Online

Coro Vivo celebrated its 30th anniversary Friday night with a musical walk down memory lane that appropriately reflected the ensemble's eclectic repertoire over the years. Fred Sherwin Photo

It's been 30 years since a group of 17 friends first got together in Blackburn Hamlet to form what would eventually become Coro Vivo Ottawa.

Pam Robin is the last remaining member of what was then called the Blackburn Chorus. She still remembers the first time they performed in front of an audience at a nursing home on Montreal Road.

"It was being televised by Rogers cable vision and we were scared stiff," recalls Robin.

The original group of 17 was formed by Irene Thompson and Joan Eustace. They would go on to perform at retirement homes. hospitals, schools and anywhere else they were welcomed.

Gary Yates joined the chorus in 1989. He was "recruited" by his wife who coaxed him into joining the ensemble after he drove her to one of the practices.

"It was the best decision I never made," jokes Yates.

From its humble beginnings in Blackburn Hamlet, Coro Vivo has grown into one of premier choral ensembles in the city as evident by the quality and eclecticism of their anniversary concert on Friday night.

The first half of the program began with "It's Grand Night For Singing " from the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical "The State Fair" with Louise Lévillé providing accompaniment on piano as she has been doing for the better part of the past 20 years.

The next three songs were all chosen to reflect the ensemble's versatility, starting with the title song from Andrew Lloyd Weber's "Phantom of the Opera". They then sang "Panis Angelicus", taken from the hymn "Sacris solemniis" by Saint Thomas Aquinas, followed by the American spiritual song "Sweet Chariot" which literally ended on high note delivered by tenor Nancy McCaughan which made the hair on my arm stand up.

The rest of the opening set included songs from the chorus' earlier years such as "Sunrise, Sunset", "A Gaelic Blessing" and "Peter in da Sea, Sea, Sea" which was frolicking good fun as was the final song of the set "Jing-ga-lye-ya".

After a brief intermission the chorus and the audience were back for more, starting with an inspirational performance of the first part of the "Gloria, In Excelsis " hymn. It proved to be the perfect warm up for the magic that was to come.

The chorus chose one of their favourite songs next, "Va Pensiero" from the Giuseppe Verdi opera "Nabucca", followed by a song that's near and dear to my heart, "Away From the Roll of Sea", by Cape Breton singer, songwriter, historian and storyteller Allister MacGillivray.

But the highlight of the evening was still to come as the chorus switched its musical focus to its most recent period under the tutelage Antonio Llaca, who took over as conductor from David Chin in 2006.

One of the first concerts Coro Vivo held under Llaca's direction was "Navidad Nuestra" which was a wonderful tribute to the maestro's Latin American heritage, and one of the best pieces they sang that evening was "Misa Criolla, Gloria".

The chorus performed a reprisal of that magical moment Friday night with guest soloist Sylvia Larrass once again taking centre stage, and if possible, it was even better the second time around with guitarist Christian Flores and percussionist Juan Louis Vasquez providing musical accompaniment and Mother Nature providing some dramatic lighting as lightning strikes flashed in the window above and behind the stage.

Next up on the program was the whimsical "Juramento" by Cuban composer Miguel Matamoros, followed by another Coro Vivo classic "Cantique de Jean Racine" by the 19th century French composer Gabriel Fauré.

The chorus traveled back down east for its next song, selecting another piece by McGillivray entitled "Here's to Song" with McCuaghan providing the lead vocal. Next up on the program was "Hymn to Freedom" by Canadian jazz legend Oscar Peterson. They then ended the program with their own unique version of "The Barber of Seville Overture", before inviting all the former chorus members in the audience to join them for an encore.

The entire program provided the perfect celebration for the little community choir that has truly blossomed over the years into a choral ensemble that now totals 51 members from across Ottawa.

I'm sure there is still a lot more magic to come starting with their annual holiday concert in December. I can hardly wait.

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



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