Island Singers concert looks back at 30 years of great music

The Island Singers ensemble for the spring concert ‘It’s a Great Night for Singing.’

LITTLE CURRENT – The crowd that came out to the first of the Island Singers’ annual spring concerts, held at Little Current United Church, Sunday evening, May 26 was small enough that Little Current resident Julia McCutcheon was prompted at the concert’s conclusion to rise to thank the choir for the concert, noting that while “there were many things going on today, those of us here are certainly pleased that we chose this particular option.” Hopefully the Monday performance the next day in Mindemoya didn’t require any such apologia.

The concert was titled ‘It’s a Grand Night for Singing,’ echoing the program’s namesake first song from the musical ‘State Fair.’

Choir director Chris Theijsmeijer told the audience that the Island Singers, founded about 30 years ago by then choir director Dorothy Anstice, has a large repertoire of music on hand from all of these (usually twice annual) concerts so this year’s event was to be a revisit of music the Singers have performed over the past 30-years.

The 29 voices on hand at Sunday’s concert were accompanied by pianist Linda Wilton with guest musicians Cheyenne Barnes, flautist and Sarah Hovingh, clarinetist.

Tenor Alex Baran’s clear voice was featured in the Maritime Canadian-inspired classic ‘Song for the Mira’ which Mr. Theijsmeijer noted was also part of the Elmer Iseler Singers’ repertoire when they performed in Mindemoya in the winter but stage-whispered, “but they didn’t have a soloist!”

Vivaldi’s ‘Gloria in Excelsis,’ Mr. Theijsmeijer shared, was performed in full by the Island Singers eight years ago. The Spring Concert featured only one representative movement, the ‘Gloria’ but it was a grand choice.

The choir dedicated ‘Locus Isle’ written 150 years ago by Anton Brackner to celebrate the consecration of a church to the rebuilding of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, recently devastated by fire.

A duet, dating from a 1913 piano book, was performed by Island Singers choir director Chris Theijsmeijer and choir accompanist Linda Wilton.

The popular hymn, ‘All Things Bright and Beautiful’ was presented with a lively interpretation and the John Denver favourite, ‘Annie’s Song’ was sung by an ensemble drawn from the choir that included accompanist Linda Wilton.

Director Chris and spouse Heather Theijsmeijer teamed up to present a touching version of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s ‘All I Ask of You’ from Phantom of the Opera while Holly Scott resumed her old role of accompanist for the occasion.

Three guys and a girl belted out the old summertime favourite ‘Take Me Out to the Ballgame’: Heather Theijsmeijer, David Williamson, Arik Theijsmeijer and Ray Kloetstra.

And for something different and based on a 1913 music book written for piano duets that Director Theijsmeijer explained he found in the (old) MSS music room, he and accompanist Linda Wilton shared the piano bench and in the style of piano recitals together played the ‘Triumphal March from Aida’. Mr Theijsmeijer stayed put on the piano bench, this time all by himself, to accompany Michelle Cooper, Samantha Cooper and Linda Wilton on the clever ragtime-style ‘Dust Bunny Rag’.

‘Down to the River to Pray’ was a powerfully-presented spiritual drawn from the Island Singers’ archives. It was followed by another spiritual, ‘Hush! Somebody’s Callin’ My Name’ which featured Ray Kloetstra as soloist where the singer, whose daytime job is as a Pastor declared in song, ‘I’m glad I got my ‘ligion in time!’

The Goslings, a fun Romeo and Julietish song about the fate of two lovebirds, is, Mr. Theijsmeijer explained, representative of a capella singing in four-part harmony, a mode that was popular about a century ago. This rendition was accompanied by Ms. Wilton so it was not exactly in traditional style, but besides being a funny/sad love song sung about a pair of geese (united at last in the oven!) the choir got to demonstrate what they were capable of as the piece ended with soaring crescendo of 29 voices that surely shook the rafters of the old stone downtown church sanctuary.

The finale was ‘Consider Yourself’ from Oliver and many members of the audience did as they were invited to and sang along.

The concert was inspired. We can look forward to Island Singers Christmas performance.