Review by Anne Bergstrom
From the opening processional by the forty male voices of Vancouver's Chor Leoni to the second encore, a large audience at St. Mary's Church in Indian River sat enchanted. Founder and director Diane Loomer is an expert at drawing the best in tone quality, intonation, pianissimo, and enunciation from her singers-in six languages.
The choir members "love to sing in Russian, especially in this church," and gave us two beautifully blended and balanced motets. Some of the basses were able to reach low notes that resembled organ pedal tones, beyond what I knew the human voice could produce. There were also some prayers by Poulenc sung with clarity and sweetness, and Schubert's setting of the Twenty-third Psalm.
The featured soloist, Steve Maddock, is a former choir member who has gone on to make his own career. He has a strong and clear baritone that was a pleasure to hear. Also soloing a number of times was second tenor Ray Horst. He played the clarinet with "Song for the Mira," and sang the falsetto lead in "The Lion Sleeps Tonight," getting the timbre just right. The talented accompanist was Ken Cormier, who sang whenever not needed on piano.
The remainder of the program consisted of folk songs and spirituals. These were a varied mixture, but on the slow side-I would have liked a few more of the lively songs. The printed program listed all the tour repertoire, to be selected from at each concert; I'm sure there were others wishing for numbers like "We'll Rant and We'll Roar," or "Squid-Jiggin' Ground." The first encore was "Make and Break Harbour," a poignant Stan Rogers song, but we had hoped for "The Mary Ellen Carter." However, everyone was delighted when the strains of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" were heard, and shouts of laughter when one chorister burst out vigorously during the song with "Can you feel the love tonight?" and soon after, "The circle, the circle of life!"
Almost as impressive as what this choir can do is who they are: teachers, doctors, students-in other words, amateurs. They range in age from early twenties to sixties, have won numerous awards, and have released six CDs. With one rehearsal a week, it takes dedication and hard work to reach this high level of music-making.