Baroque Christmas, Laudate Singers and period instrumentalists, Sunday, Dec. 9, 3 p.m. at St. Andrew's United Church, North Vancouver. Tickets: $35/$30/$15/free 12 and under, visit laudatesingers. com.
THE opulence of 17th and 18th century France will take centre stage at a baroque-themed holiday concert presented by Laudate Singers and a talented group of period instrumentalists Sunday in North Vancouver.
The music will conjure up images of the lavish life of the Sun King and the dazzling halls and gardens of his ornate Château de Versailles, the result of their performance of two major works by Marc -Antoine Charpentier (1643-1704). Described by Laudate's artistic director Lars Kaario as a "fantastic" composer whose music has recently been rediscovered, Charpentier worked primarily in Paris during the reign of Louis XIV, a grand and stable time in France in terms of leadership as well as financial wealth.
"This allowed artists to flourish," says Kaario, who also serves as Capilano University's director of choral studies.
Baroque Christmas, getting underway at 3 p.m. at St. Andrew's United Church, will feature a performance of two of Charpentier's best works, "Messe de Minuit pour Nöel" and "Te Deum, H.146."
"It's quite a unique program," says Kaario, who, while searching for a new repertoire for the professional chamber choir, stumbled upon an impressive production of 'Te Deum' performed right in the Musée du Louvre, posted on YouTube.
"The French kings, and King Louis XIV in particular, they liked 'Te Deum' . . . . The references obviously are to God, but some of the text could be taken to refer to the king as being a strong leader," he says.
For example the opening, "Te Deum laudamus, te Dominum confitemur/We praise thee, O God; we acknowledge thee to be the Lord," could be interpreted to have a double meaning, "praising God, but also praising their king," says Kaario.
A version of the work was often performed at official ceremonies under the Sun King's reign. "There is a real sense of celebration and it's very uplifting, so I thought it would be suitable to do at this time," he says.
Also on the program is "Premiere Suite de Symphonies" by Jean -Joseph Mouret, known for its opening movement, the Rondeau, which is used as the theme song for PBS's Masterpiece Theatre (now known as Masterpiece). Mouret (1682-1738) was a court composer who worked during the reigns of both the Sun King and Louis XV.
Victoria countertenor Mark Donnelly (a different singer than the one associated with the Vancouver Canucks) is serving as guest soloist. Kaario describes him as one to watch.
Examples of early music specialists taking the stage include Seattle-based trumpet player Kris Kwapis, cellist Nathan Whittaker and violinist Courtney Kuroda.
North Vancouver violinist Nancy DiNovo, who has worked with Kaario countless times over the last 25 years, is serving as concertmaster. A faculty member at Capilano University and the University of British Columbia, DiNovo was founding concertmaster of the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and is a former member of the St. Louis, Toronto and Boston symphony orchestras.
She's excited that they're doing Sunday's concert at early music pitch, meaning their instruments are tuned a tone to semi-tone lower than standard.
"There's a quality in the sound that really harkens back to a different era," she says. "You feel as though you're being taken back in time and experiencing the music much as it would have been heard at the time it was written."
Period instruments will be used in the performance, including an early form of trumpet and a theorbo (a large lute), and a harpsichord. As well, string players will use gut strings and early forms of bows, shaped like those used by archers rather than those commonly used by musicians today.
DiNovo is also excited to be performing in a church, which will result in a quality of sound more reminiscent of European halls and churches, adding to the overall ambience.
"The sound and the location make it an extra special Christmas event," she says.
"I think that anybody who comes to that concert is going to come away having had a wonderful experience because that's the experience I always have when I play early music," she adds.
DiNovo encourages community members to take advantage of the opportunity to hear Laudate. "It's a dazzling choir, they're just gorgeous," she says.
In addition to this weekend's Baroque Christmas, Laudate is presenting two upcoming free and interactive family Christmas concerts featuring seasonal favourites and carol sing-alongs, Sunday, Dec. 16. The first gets underway at 2 p.m. at St. David's United Church in West Vancouver and the second at 4 p.m. at St. Andrew's.
"(Parents) can bring their children and they don't have to worry about them making a lot of noise, in fact, we encourage them to have fun and just let loose," says Kaario.