THUNDER BAY, ON - December 7, 2009 - From the opening selection, “Magnificat” by Christine Donkin, Dulcisono women’s choir began delivery of one of the most refined choral programs the city has seen in years, certainly by a local group. The choir has many capable voices, and in this instance Nancy Berglund performed the solo.
The performance delivered with confidence that only comes from hard work and a personal goal to become the best that you can be. This must be a goal of the group’s director, Susan Marrier, but also of each choir member. This level of performance is only achieved by recording rehearsals, and then carefully listening to each line of music and fixing all the things that can be made better at the next rehearsal. When this becomes the norm at practice, then the results will show in performance. This choir sings like a choir that practices two or more times a week.
Quality diction is one of the great features of this choir. With my poor hearing I could clearly understand every word. This was due to accentuated consonants and all the vowel tones being sung the same way. Diction benefits the singers as well. When you can be clearly you don’t need to sing as loud. In choral terms that is called sotto voce. This means there is always a little extra in reserve for when you really need it.
Singing sotto voce also means that the choir listens to one another more intently, and this always leads to improved pitch and blend. In a choir with a mix of younger and older voices, the vibrato was remarkably under control, enough to warm the sound when needed, but never enough to become a distraction. The sopranos can take the challenge of a rising passage in their upper register without the pitches fragmenting. This is a feat only the better choirs can accomplish. The lower voices in this choir are also exceptional. It is easy for women to resort to a chest voice to bring definition to their line, but in so doing they destroy the tonal balance of the choir. You won’t find this in Dulcisono’s singing. Though out the entire concert, blend, diction, pitch and balance were beautifully consistent.
When a choir is driven to excellence, it is not surprising to find that the program can lead more to the intellectual side of Christmas. Just the same as you can see by this photo they do have a good sense of humour. St. Nick drops by for a visit before doing his rounds.
Carol MacDonald has been the group’s accompanist for several years, and while many of the pieces were sung acapella or accompanied on the organ played by Ellen Hole, her role is vital to the choir at rehearsal. Her confidence at the piano is transferred to the singers on stage.
Kevin Macleod and Rob Van Wyck did a number of musical chores during the performance ranging from running the rhythm section to playing guitar and flute. Veronika Rönkös also added a cello line to a couple of numbers as well. The reason I mention this is it breaks the concentration a purely academic program can have and provides a visual and musical variety that keeps the show alive.
Choral singing in Canada, and this includes Thunder Bay is seeing a resurgence in interest. People just like learning to sing and working together, and they seek out opportunities where they can learn. Within the city the activities at Lakehead University’s Music department have created an enriched learning environment for student singers. This has increased pressure on other community groups such as Dulcisono to respond. This year I really like what I have heard.
Lastly this choir is a champion of music through the ages, and this includes works on their program written or arranged by Canadians. New music is something often shunned by singing groups, or at least performed less enthusiastically. I am looking forward to this choir’s spring concert.
Arts Editor: LakeSuperiorNews.com