Behind the Musik: A Grand Tour of Italy

Here are the official program notes for A Grand Tour of Italy

Download the Program Notes | Download the Program Listing

Directed by Rodolfo Richter
Dec 1-4, 2016, Jeanne Lamon Hall, Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre
Dec 6, 2016, George Weston Recital Hall, Toronto Centre for the Arts

PROGRAM NOTES
by Christopher Verrette

Italy was the principal source of the musical trends that came to define baroque music in the seventeenth century. The innovative new forms of opera, sonata, and concerto were all developed there. Copious volumes of music were published, especially in Venice, and Italian musicians travelled across Europe, bringing their talents and compositions. This program moves freely between different generations of composers and different cities and courts, both within and outside Italy.

The Bergamasca was a popular dance that allegedly lampooned the citizens of Bergamo. Musically it was set to a four-note repeating bass line, over which parts could either be composed or improvised. Bergamascas have a playful affect that can be associated with performers: the mischievous servant character in Italian Commedia dell’arte, named Arlecchino, is ostensibly a native of Bergamo, and the “Rude Mechanicals” dance a Bergomask in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Marco Uccellini was a violinist based in Modena. His Bergamasca comes from his Opus 3, published in Venice in 1642.

We jump ahead a few decades to Venice under the spell of the prolific composer and violinist, Antonio Vivaldi. Although Venice had been a major centre for publishing—most of the music on this program was published there—Vivaldi preferred to have his music published in Amsterdam, as was the case with his Opus 9, entitled La Cetra. The title refers to a type of Ancient Greek harp and is no doubt a gesture toward its dedicatee, the Emperor Charles VI, who was himself a musician and music lover. The symbol relates the violin, as solo instrument in the concertos, to the instruments that accompanied classical drama, but also refers to the Hapsburg monarchs themselves, who frequently used the symbol of the lyre. A year after its publication, Vivaldi met the Emperor in person, who gave him gifts and engaged him in extended conversation (apparently to the chagrin of his ministers).

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The title La Cetra had in fact been used many years before by Giovanni Legrenzi for a book of sonatas dedicated to another musical emperor, Charles’ father Leopold I. Legrenzi had held positions in Bergamo and Ferrara prior to coming to Venice, where he published his Opus 10 in 1673. It is his last and most ambitious set. The scoring of one sonata for four violins is unusual, and is perhaps most striking in the first movement, when one can hear a number of short motifs being passed quickly from one violin to the next.

The interaction of four separate violin parts was also employed by Giuseppe Valentini in one of his concerti grossi, a departure from the usual two violin soloists. Valentini was part of the vital music scene in Rome during the heyday of Corelli, where there was lots of work at the various churches and in the households of influential families. It is unknown whether Valentini actually studied with Corelli, but he was certainly part of the pool of freelancers Corelli regularly called upon, and is known to have held positions with the Ruspoli and Borghese families as well. His music was circulated internationally and was frequently plagiarized.

Arcangelo Corelli was revered as a composer and violinist both during his career and after. His instrumental music represents a kind of benchmark for the forms that would dominate the later baroque. He is largely credited with developing the concerto grosso, in which a small concertino group interacts with a larger ripieno. Although he apparently composed and directed performances of concerti grossi throughout his career, they only saw publication at the end of his life, as his final Opus 6. The eighth concerto is a favourite for its seasonal content, the finale Pastorale, “written for the nativity.” Another unusual feature in this concerto is the performance indication at the first Grave: “come sta,” meaning to play it “as is,” without the added ornamentation that would normally by expected of the performers.

Dario Castello was among the first generation of composers to explore the possibilities of the sonata in the early seventeenth century. Little is known about his life; on the title page of his first volume of sonatas he claims to be chief wind player at San Marco in Venice, and several of his sonatas do include parts for cornetto, dulcian, and trombone, the principal wind instruments used in churches at the time. His works tend to be in many sections with bold changes of character.

Throughout the baroque era, Italian musicians travelled and frequently found successful positions abroad. The Hapsburg court in Vienna, the seat of the Holy Roman Empire, was noted for employing the finest Italian musicians, and it was here that the young Veronese Antonio Bertali found employment as an instrumentalist. He never returned to Italy, and would eventually ascend to the position of Capellmeister. An accomplished violinist, he is most noted for his sonatas today, but was also a composer of vocal music and had a great deal of influence over the development of Italian opera at the Imperial court, which continued for generations.

One of the best-travelled musicians of the seventeenth century was Biagio Marini. A native of Brescia, a major violin-making centre, he worked at San Marco in Venice under Monteverdi, at various Italian courts, in Germany, and as far away as Brussels. He eventually returned to Venice. He was a daring and innovative composer for the violin, creating what is some of the first solo repertoire for that instrument. The Passacaglia that closes his final opus, however, eschews virtuosity completely: a version of the passacaglia bass pattern is used as a recurring refrain, and while the intervening sections carry us through some striking harmonies, they never accelerate into fast notes, maintaining a state of gravity throughout.

We close with music by an Italian expatriate who not only never returned home, but went in a very different direction with his musical style as well. The Florentine Giovanni Battista Lulli was brought to France as a teenager for a position as an Italian tutor. Already possessing some musical and theatrical skills, he somehow continued his musical education in France, and became a favourite of the young Louis XIV. When Louis took over as ruler in 1661, he named Jean-Baptiste Lully his Surintendant of the royal music and granted him French citizenship. Lully led ensembles at court that were legendary for their discipline. Eventually he took on the challenge of creating a French form of opera, and obtained what was essentially a monopoly for its production. Dance always had a large role in these spectacles. The elegant Chaconne from his mature opera Phaëton was widely copied and transcribed in the period.

© C. Verrette 2016


PROGRAM LISTING

Directed by Rodolfo Richter, violin

MARCO UCCELLINI 1603/10–1680
Aria sopra la Bergamesca (Venice, 1642)

ANTONIO VIVALDI 1678–1741
Concerto no. 1 for violin in C Major from op. 9, “La Cetra” (Venice, 1727)
Allegro – Largo – Allegro molto
Cristina Zacharias, violin soloist

GIOVANNI LEGRENZI 1626–1690
Sonata for 4 violins & continuo from op. 10, “La Cetra” (Venice, 1673)

GUISEPPE VALENTINI 1681–1753
Concerto grosso in A Minor, op. 7, no. 11 (Rome/Bologna, 1719)

INTERMISSION

ARCANGELO CORELLI 1653–1713
Concerto grosso in G Minor, op. 6, no. 8 “Christmas” (Rome, 1714)

DARIO CASTELLO fl. 1720s
Sonata 15 from Sonate concertante in stil moderno, libro secondo (Venice, 1629)

ANTONIO BERTALI 1605–1669
Sonata à 4 (Vienna, c.1640)

BIAGIO MARINI 1594–1663
Passacaglia from Op. 22 (Venice, 1655)

GIOVANNI BATTISTA LULLI 1632–1687
Chaconne from Phaëton (Paris, 1683)

Join us on our Grand Tour of Italy at Jeanne Lamon Hall, Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre and George Weston Recital Hall, Toronto Centre for the Arts. Tickets are available here.

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Asia Tour 2016: South Korea

By John Abberger, oboe

After two days of rehearsal we performed our first concert on the tour on Sunday, November 12 at the Shanghai Oriental Art Center. The two days of rehearsal in China were grueling but necessary for several reasons.  In the first place, we have not performed Bach: The Circle of Creation since we first mounted it in April 2015, or more than eighteen months ago, and there is general agreement that Circle of Creation is the most difficult memorization feat that we have tackled to date, owing to the complexity of Bach’s music.

Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Choir Published by Andrew Eusebio Page Liked · 14 November · On the bus heading towards Daegu, South Korea.This is how we Tetris the orchestra into a minibus. Nobody moves until the bass gets off. Photo: Beth Anderson
On the bus heading towards Daegu, South Korea. This is how we Tetris the orchestra into a minibus. Nobody moves until the bass gets off. Photo: Beth Anderson

Secondly, we had to work with the new narrator, who would be reading the script in Mandarin.  This presents several challenges of its own. The narrator must famaliarize himself with the music and the flow of the show back and forth between music and words, and we must get a feel for the narrator’s body language, since we cannot rely on understanding cues from the text itself as we normally do. All of this gave us a bit of extra adrenaline on opening night of the tour.  We were fortunate to have an excellent narrator in David Zhang, however, and the performance went well. It was warmly received by an audience of about 800, a respectable crowd, but, sadly, scattered about in a 1,600 seat concert, giving the impression of a smaller number.

On to Korea.  Monday, November 14 was a long travel day: 9:30am departure from the hotel, 10:45 arrival at the Shanghai Pudong Airport for a 2:00pm flight, which was delayed on the ground for 1 hr. and 40 minutes.  Add to this a one-hour time change, and we were on the ground at the Incheon airport in Seoul at about 8:00pm local time with still another 50-minute bus ride to the hotel in the Gangnam district of Seoul.

L-R: Marco Cera, Dominic Teresi, Hyun Chul Lim, John Abberger, and Patrick Jordan
L-R: Marco Cera, Dominic Teresi, Hyun Chul Lim, John Abberger, and Patrick Jordan

We are fortunate to have a wonderful friend in Seoul, a bassoonist named Hyun Chul Lim who was a university classmate of Dominic Teresi, and we count him as a member of an exclusive club of friends that we have in various cities around the world. We look forward to seeing them again when we return, and in addition to enjoying a wonderful friendship built upon repeated visits to their home cities, they provide invaluable guidance to local sights and dining spots. Hyun in particular never disappoints. On Wednesday he took a few of us to a beautiful spot just outside of the city where we visited a Buddhist monastery located near the top of Un-Gil-San mountain, one of the hills that surround Seoul.

Photo: Dominic Teresi
Photo: Dominic Teresi

After driving up a steep one-lane road, we park and walk the last 500 meters or so to the small monastery compound.  While listening to the monks chant in the background, we stand near a 500-year-old gingko tree, and enjoy a beautiful view of the surrounding hills. Below us we can see the point at which the North and South Han rivers join to form the Han river that runs through Seoul. There is also a commanding view from a small teahouse in the compound, and we take a moment to savour a cup of hot green tea before taking our leave of this beautiful spot. Back at the bottom of the mountain we stop for a fantastic lunch of grilled river eel, cooked at the table over charcoal embers. Once grilled and sauced, the slices of eel are rolled up in a lettuce leaf with chili sauce, slivers of fresh ginger, and slices of raw garlic. They are indescribably delicious, and we gobble as many of these morsels as we can to prepare us for the next round of rehearsals, this time with a Korean actor/narrator.


Asia Tour 2016: South Korea

Fri Nov 18, 7:30pm
Grand Concert Hall
Daegu, South Korea

Sat Nov 19, 5pm
Tongyeong Concert Hall
Tongyeong, South Korea

Sun Nov 20, 7pm
LG Centre
Seoul, South Korea

A Chat with violinist Cristina Zacharias

Our upcoming concert series A Grand Tour of Italy, which features the Tafelmusik solo concerto debut of our own Cristina Zacharias, transports you to seventeenth century Italy, highlighting Italian composers and the violin. The Italians really embraced the violin — instrument makers, violinists, and composers: some would say this really is where the violin was born.  Cristina took some time to chat with our Marketing Associate, Andrew Eusebio.

Cristina holds a Master of Music degree from McGill University. A core member of Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra since 2004, she has performed across North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia, and can be heard on over 25 recordings for the ATMA, Analekta, CBC, BIS, Naxos, and Tafelmusik Media labels. Cristina appears annually at the Carmel Bach Festival, where she is the Assistant Principal Second Violin. Cristina is a frequent collaborator, guest soloist, and director with a diverse group of ensembles, and is equally passionate about baroque, classical, and modern repertoire.

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Cristina Zacharias, violin. Photo: Sian Richards

Andrew Eusebio: How did you and the violin cross paths and what is it about the violin that audiences love?

Cristinia Zacharias: I started playing violin when I was five. My father had played violin as a child, and it was because of his and my mother’s interest in music that they signed both my three-year-old sister and me up for lessons in a Suzuki violin program. My sister later switched to cello, but I always loved the violin. I think audiences love the same things that that violinists love – the huge variety in sounds. The violin can sing like the voice, or can thrill with speed and virtuosity.

AE: We’ll talk soon about your solo concerto of Vivaldi’s “Le Cetra” but could you shed some light on the other pieces in the program? Are there any you’re particularly looking forward to performing?

CZ: I had the chance to play the Valentini 4-violin concerto many many years ago in Vancouver, and really loved the piece for its originality. I’ve tried a few times to find a way to play it in various concerts but it hasn’t ever happened. I’m very much looking forward to hearing it played by my talented colleagues!

AE: We’re very excited for your Tafelmusik solo concerto debut of Vivaldi’s “La Cetra,” op. 9: Violin Concerto in C Major. Can you talk about this piece and how you prepare for a concerto performance?

CZ: This concerto is the first of a set of twelve in Op. 9 that are all for the violin. You often hear jokes about there being too much similarity between Vivaldi’s many concertos, and I really think these are unwarranted! The more I study Vivaldi’s huge output the more amazed I am by his inventiveness and his wide range of ideas. When I study a Vivaldi concerto closely, I  love to discover how he weaves together his musical ideas. He had the gift of making very complicated structures sound simple. When preparing a concerto performance like this, the process is very similar to how I prepare most music: start with the score and get to know how all the parts interact, then focus on my own part.

AE: What can our audiences expect and discover from this concert and its repertoire?

CZ: I think everyone who hears this concert will come away with a new appreciation for the incredible inventiveness of this period in Italy. All of the composers are so different, and their unique voices offer a vast array of ideas, soundscapes, and originality.

Hear Cristina perform in her Tafelmusik solo concerto debut and join us for A Grand Tour of Italy December 1–4 at Jeanne Lamon Hall, Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre, and December 6 at George Weston Recital Hall, Toronto Centre for the Arts. Tickets are available here.

Asia Tour 2016: Tafelmusik visits Shanghai

By Michelle Odorico, violin
Michelle Odorico joins the orchestra on her first Tafelmusik tour – and what a way to begin, travelling to China and South Korea and playing a fully memorized Bach program! We’re proud to say that Michelle is an alumna of Tafelmusik’s artist training programs: she was first introduced to baroque violin at the Tafelmusik Baroque Summer Institute in 2012, inspiring her to pursue a Master’s degree with Jeanne Lamon at the University of Toronto. She attended TBSI twice, and the Tafelmusik Winter Institute four times, last year featuring as concerto soloist. It’s been thrilling to see her playing with the orchestra this fall: in Opera Atelier’s production of Dido & Aeneas, and in our mainstage concerts celebrating the choir’s 35th anniversary. We asked her to submit a few blog entries while in Asia so that we could travel along with her on her first Tafelmusik tour.
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Welcome screenWe landed in Shanghai late afternoon on Wednesday. It was my first fourteen-hour flight, and as much as I enjoyed watching three movies back-to-back, I have a new-found respect for those who travel overseas on a regular basis. We were warmly greeted at the hotel with hot tea, flowers for Jeanne, and a “Welcome Tafelmusik” page on their lobby screen.

Thursday was our free day to recover from the long flight and adjust to the new time zone. I tagged along with violinist Julia Wedman and guest harpsichordist James Johnstone, who is here from London, England.

We planned to go to the Yu Gardens but we missed the entrance and ended up walking around the western wall of the gardens, where we absorbed the authentic feeling of the old city with its tiny streets and street vendors making food in front of their homes. There we nearly met our demise by Shanghai’s silent killer – the electric motorbike. They can come from any direction at any moment without warning and poor unsuspecting tourists would benefit greatly if they would use their bell.

We finally found the entrance to the gardens. Created in 1569, the Yù Yuán means the Garden of Happiness and was the largest and most prestigious garden in all of Shanghai. Our favourite part was the dragon and the beautiful tiled roofs. We stopped for a refreshment at the “local coffee shop” (aka Starbucks), and then walked through the main tourist area, which we immediately dubbed “Selfie Square”. Selfie sticks were in abundance and so we decided to join in ourselves.

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L-R: Julia Wedman, violin, James Johnstone, harpsichord, Michelle Odorico, violin

Many of us from the orchestra visited the South Bund Fabric Market on our free day. It is a three-story building filled with suits, coats, dresses, scarves, etc. There you can have the outfit of your choice in any material, colour, or size that you need — delivered to your hotel a few days later!

Friday was a full rehearsal day at the Shanghai Mass Arts Centre. We rehearsed in a dance studio and had a productive day, despite it feeling like the middle of the night.

Later that evening, a group of six of us wanted to go on a boat tour see the stunning architecture along the Huangpu River, which runs through the centre of the city. I took a taxi with violinists Jeanne Lamon and Patricia Ahern. In a second taxi were Alison MacKay (double bass), Allen Whear (cellist) and Raha Javanfar (projections designer). We ended up being dropped off at two different boarding stations and got on two different boats. Jeanne spotted them on the other boat as they passed us.

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Shanghai architecture

On Saturday we had a rehearsal with David Zhang — (our narrator for the Chinese performance), who learned the show remarkable quickly and whose beautiful English helped the rehearsal process tremendously. In the afternoon we had a small but appreciative audience of patrons from the Shanghai Mass Arts Center.

That evening, we went to a really cool area — the French Concession — and had dinner at the fantastic “Green and Safe” restaurant. It is right across from the Shanghai Conservatory where cellist Allen Whear taught and performed earlier this year and has a bright and warm atmosphere — both the food and company were wonderful!

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L-R: Allen Whear, cello; Patricia Ahern, violin; Christopher Verrette, violin; Julia Wedman, violin; James Johnstone, harpsichord; Allison Mackay, double bass.

Further Listening – Let Us All Sing!

by Ivars Taurins, Tafelmusik Chamber Choir Director

If you enjoyed our concert program Let Us All Sing!, featuring Tafelmusik Chamber Choir, and Sherezade Panthaki, soprano, Jonathan Woody, bass-baritone, and Philippe Gagné, tenor, I encourage you to explore some of the following:

George Frideric Handel
The Laudate Pueri on our concert program is thought to have been part of a larger work composed by Handel while visiting Rome in 1707. It was a commission to compose music for a Vespers service in celebration of the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel for an order of Carmelite nuns at their Church of Santa Maria di Monte Santo. One of the most striking pieces in Handel’s “Carmelite Vespers” is his DIxit Dominus, and within it the most exquisite and sensual movement, setting the words “de torrente in via bibet” – (He shall drink of the brook in the way), for two sopranos, male choir singing chant, and strings.

De torrente in via bibet” from Dixit Dominus (Elin Manahan Thomas & Grace Davidson, the Sixteen, dir. Harry Christophers). The whole of Dixit can be seen here in a live performance with John Eliot Gardiner directing the Monteverdi Choir and the English Baroque Soloists.

Jean-Philippe Rameau
For me, Jean-Philippe Rameau’s music is the epitome of the French baroque movement in music, but is also a harbinger of the orchestral colours, textures, and harmonies which reappear generations later in the music of Debussy and Ravel, and brings to mind the works of the great French impressionist painters of over a century later.

If you track down Gardiner’s ground-breaking 2002 recording of Les Boréades, have a listen to “Que ces moments sont doux” from Act V, scene v: 1 minute, 10 seconds of overwhelming beauty and sensuality.

Listen to Entrée de Polymnie from the same opera…divine. And, if you want something which, at the beginning, sounds like something from another century
( hints of Stravinsky! ), try The Overture to Zaïs: specifically the first selection of the live concert at The Proms (0:00 – 4:54). You can also try this recording  of Les Musiciens du Louvre, directed by Marc Minkowski, with modern art!

Agostino Steffani
I admit that up until three years ago, Steffani’s music was unknown to me. It was due to the groundbreaking research and consummate artistry of Cecilia Bartoli that I discovered the amazing riches of this obscure Italian composer, working at court of Hannover, for the future King George I of England.

Here is Bartoli’s video project about Steffani, entitled “Mission,” and info from her website about the project. Here are a couple of examples of Steffani’s ravishing music for voice: “Morirò” from Henrico Leone and “T’abbraccio mia Diva” from Niobe, regina di Tebe.

You can watch and listen to all of these videos on our YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/tafelmusik1979 in the playlist titled Further Listening – Let Us All Sing!

Memories of the Tafelmusik Chamber Choir

By Peter Mahon, countertenor

As the longest serving member of the choir (hands up all those who remember me from the 1980s!), I have been asked to write about my memories of the choir over the last 35 years. As you might imagine, there are many from which to choose over that length of time. The problem is to decide which ones to talk about.

Tafelmusik Chamber Choir, 2001
Tafelmusik Chamber Choir, 2001

I could mention the growth and development of the choir from an essentially amateur ensemble with a quartet of paid section leaders to a fully professional group.

There was our first recording in 1987, for Hyperion Records with soprano Emma Kirkby. We recorded in the Church of St. Mary Magdalene … in February, in the freezing cold because the heat was turned off to stop the pipes banging. We were all wearing winter coats, hats, and scarves. Not pleasant, but it was worth it.

Vivaldi Cantatas, Concertos & Magnificat, 1987
Vivaldi Cantatas, Concertos & Magnificat, 1987

There was the incredible expansion of our performance schedule around the same time. I was working in the office and got to witness it first-hand. The demand for tickets was like an avalanche. In very short order we went from two concerts per project to five. We went to Massey Hall for the Sing-Along Messiah for the first time. Our first year we had 1,500 people and of course, now we sell out with scalpers outside the hall.

We have been fortunate to work with many great guest conductors: Gustav Leonhardt, Andrew Parrott, Richard Egarr, Sigiswald Kuijken, Nicholas McGegan, Ton Koopman, Bruno Weil, and Kent Nagano, to name a few.

Kuijken worked with us in 2002 while the Salt Lake City Olympics were going on. I will always remember the look of puzzlement on his face when he saw everyone on stage smiling near the end of the Sunday afternoon concert. What he could not see was Elly Winer standing at the back of the hall with his hands held up showing the final score of the gold medal hockey game, Canada 5 – USA 2.

After the concert, everyone rushed downstairs to the men’s dressing room. As the guys were undressing, the ladies all barged in to watch the medal presentation on the small b&w television that we had brought in. As the Canadian flag was being raised, in various stages of undress, we sang one of the finest renditions of O Canada that you will ever hear.

For many reasons the choir does not do much touring. However, we have been to Montreal twice recently. First, to sing the Bach B-Minor Mass with the orchestra, conducted by Kent Nagano. It was during the month of January and we got to experience the kind of winter that we don’t normally get in Toronto. It was 25 below zero for the entire week. We were very glad that we could walk from the hotel to the hall without going outside.

A couple of years later, Maestro Nagano paid the choir the singular honour of inviting us to take part in the opening concert of Montreal’s new Maison Symphonique in a performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with OSM and OSM Chorus.

It was quite a change from one of our early tour in the mid-1980s. We went to Michigan to sing two performances of Messiah. In Detroit, we sang in a 2,000-seat hall. The most memorable part of the performance,  and indeed of the tour, was the rapturous applause that we received at the end of the concert from our audience of 23 people. The concert promoters probably should have spent a little more on marketing. We have certainly come a long way since then.

As a new parent in 1981, I would not have imagined that I would still be singing with Tafelmusik in 2016. It has afforded me my favourite memory, namely the pride and pleasure of performing with two of my children and my son-in-law, each of whom has been a member of the choir in recent years.

Tafelmusik Chamber Choir members, 2016/17. L-R: Paul Oros and Joel Allison, bass; Peter Mahon, alto; Daniel Webb, tenor; Meghan Moore, soprano.
Tafelmusik Chamber Choir members, 2016/17. L-R: Paul Oros and Joel Allison, bass; Peter Mahon, countertenor; Daniel Webb, tenor; Meghan Moore, soprano. Photo: Sian Richards

Finally, it has been a great pleasure to get to know many of you through the years and an honour to perform for you. It is always a special moment to walk out on stage at the beginning of a Tafelmusik concert, being greeted with your warm applause and the friendly smiles on so many familiar faces. I look forward to forging more happy memories for all of us in the years to come.

Join us for Let Us All Sing!, November 5-6 at Jeanne Lamon Hall, Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre. Tickets are available here.