Canada's classical musicians are making amazing virtual videos. Here are our favourites so far
Choirs, orchestras and chamber musicians are all getting in on the act
There are few endeavours that rely on teamwork as much as making music. Certainly that's the case for all the choirs, orchestras and chamber musicians who have found themselves sidelined during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
To fill that creative void, many of them have turned to digital technology to achieve virtually what they're no longer able to do in person.
Among the numerous virtual group performances that have appeared so far from Canada's classical musicians, the following efforts stood out.
Members of the TSO play Copland
Among the first to mobilize (at home) for a virtual video were the members of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra who performed a suite from Aaron Copland's Appalachian Spring. TSO principal bassist Jeff Beecher produced the video.
Albertans unite for a stirring Elgar performance
A couple of days later, this video surfaced. It features members of the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra and the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra playing Variation 9 ("Nimrod") from Elgar's Enigma Variations, Op. 36, under the direction of Janna Sailor.
As an encore, they gave this fun virtual performance of the Hockey Night in Canada theme.
Hallelujah Chorus from Montreal's Church of St. Andrew and St. Paul
Under normal circumstances, Easter is a busy time for classical musicians. This year, the musicians at Montreal's Church of St. Andrew and St. Paul were undeterred and included this ingenious supercut of Handel's Hallelujah Chorus as part of their online worship service on Easter Sunday.
Canadian National Brass Project plays Gjeilo
In case you missed it, the Canadian National Brass Project released a new album (its second) in March and it's a marvel. Constellations features music by Gabrieli, Wagner, Holst, Tchaikovsky and Revueltas, along with this arrangement by trumpeter Taz Eddy of Ola Gjeilo's "Sanctus."
OSM plays Fauré's Sicilienne
"The Orchestre symphonique de Montréal and Kent Nagano dedicate this performance of Fauré's Sicilienne to the Quebecers who, every day, are performing essential services with courage and devotion for the benefit of all," says the scrolling text on this beautiful virtual video. "Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts."
Così fan tutte trio featuring Julia Dawson
Canadian mezzo-soprano Julia Dawson lives and works in Frankfurt, Germany, and she rallied some friends in various locales — including her father, TSO bassist Tim Dawson — to perform the famous trio, "Soave sia il vento," from Mozart's Così fan tutte.
Jing Wang and friends play Shostakovich
Canada's Jing Wang has been concertmaster of the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra since 2013. He enlisted fellow violinist Chee-Yun Kim and pianist Jonathan Tsay to play this lovely Gavotte by Shostakovich. On Facebook, he explained some of the challenges involved in these virtual performances:
"After some trial and error, we figured that the most efficient and musically satisfying way was to have the piano record first, then first violin, then second. Contrary to live collaboration, the piano created a unique sense of rubato, and almost 'conducted' us in our ensemble. Following this order of recording, we were able to create more freedom in the music, because this is certainly a piece where not a single beat is static, and the tempo is always moving; which is why this particular movement was so deceivingly difficult!"
Ottawa Bach Choir sings a chorale
Nominated for a Juno Award in 2020, the Ottawa Bach Choir and its conductor, Lisette Canton, marked Holy Week by singing this chorale from Bach's St. John Passion. "O mighty love, O love beyond all measure," the text begins, "Which thee hath brought upon this way of torment."
James Ehnes joins all-star group for Carnival of the Animals
From his home in Florida, James Ehnes joined this all-star super group led by violinist Renaud Capuçon for a movement from Camille Saint-Saëns's Carnival of the Animals. Also featured are clarinettist Andreas Ottensamer, cellists Yo-Yo Ma and Sheku Kanneh-Mason, and pianists Katia et Marielle Labèque.
Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra plays Mussorgsky
"The music does indeed live on!" reads the description of this YouTube video from the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra, and we admire their dedication in the face of adversity. Not only have they been forced to cancel concerts and self-isolate due to COVID-19, but they also had to suspend activities earlier this year when a record-breaking blizzard affected the area.
2 concertmasters play a Leclair sonata
Wouldn't it be amazing if, one day, the OSM and the TSO teamed up to create a super orchestra? That won't happen anytime soon, but this collaboration between their respective concertmasters, Andrew Wan and Jonathan Crow, gives us hope.
31 outstanding trumpeters honour healthcare workers
The remaining virtual videos in this list feature classical crossover performances, with this project organized by Canada's Jens Lindemann leading the pack. Lindemann enlisted trumpeter friends from around the globe, along with a rhythm section, to play a new song by Matt Catingub called "A Hope for the Future" as a tribute to healthcare workers dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Among the all-star lineup are Canadians Ingrid Jensen, Karen Donnelly and Al Muirhead. Be ready for some stratospheric, Maynard Ferguson-worthy trumpet lines starting at 3:30!
A jazzy rendition of 'We'll Meet Again'
Perhaps inspired by Queen Elizabeth's recently televised message, Toronto area singer (and French hornist) Erin Halls virtually teamed up with violinist Drew Jurecka (who takes a nice solo) and guitarist Nathan Hiltz for a swing jazz take on this popular World War II song.
Orchestre Métropolitain covers Gilles Vigneault
This virtual performance of Gilles Vigneault's "Les gens de mon pays," conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin, begins with a brief, inspirational poem from the 91-year-old singer-songwriter, which translates as follows: "There's no song of mine that's not all made with your words, your steps, with your music. I hear you play, I hear you sing, I hear you walk, and it's going to be fine."
Measha Brueggergosman sings 'I'll be Seeing You'
Finally, we were touched by this arrangement of "I'll be Seeing You," a song from 1938 that was immortalized by Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby. The TSO brass provide a solid accompaniment for Measha Brueggergosman's lavishly sung interpretation of these poignant words. And we will look no further for inspiration for this summer's essential eyewear.