BWW Review: SCHÜTZ'S CHRISTMAS STORY Breathes Life into Baroque Music for the Holidays
Within the Trinity-St. Paul Centre's high ceilings and warm wooden walls, audiences can experience a telling of the nativity unlike anything created today. SCHÜTZ'S CHRISTMAS STORY, produced by The Toronto Consort, is a seasonal program centred on Schütz's works, featuring a few other German composers from his era, with his Christmas Story centred as the main event.
There are few places where audiences can experience Baroque music performed the way it would have been when it was composed - in this case, all music in the program is from the period between 1615 and 1664. Even hundreds of years later, Schütz's music is moving and melodic, and The Toronto Consort's extremely capable artists bring the best of it out in this holiday production. Conducted by David Fallis (also performing on a replica chest organ for Christmas Story), the 15-piece period ensemble creates a sound that warms the hall despite the cold outside, performing on instruments that are clear predecessors to modern-day strings, brass, and woodwinds with meticulous detail and passion.
The musical works featured weren't just composed for instruments, though, and a small-but-mighty group of singers bring the written part of Schütz's work to life. Tenor Charles Daniels leads the Christmas Story as the Evangelist, and features in earlier pieces, with great vivacity. He's as great to watch as he is to listen to, as his expressive face translates, in a way, the German-penned story that his clear, bright voice tells.
Soprano Katherine Hill's voice shines in the early program pieces and is a grounding presence in the Christmas Story as she takes on the role of the Angel. Joel Allison's rich bass-baritone adds gorgeous depth to ensemble pieces, and mezzo-soprano Rebecca Claborn's elegant, crystalline sound complements moments of instrumental and vocal accompaniment.
It's a straightforward concert presented without bells and whistles, but SCHÜTZ'S CHRISTMAS STORY doesn't need that. The music has proven through its long lifespan to have a timeless quality, something that The Toronto Consort's team of artists highlight wonderfully. Against the backdrop of the church's hall, it's not hard to see - or hear - the magic in their musical storytelling.
The Toronto Consort's SCHÜTZ'S CHRISTMAS STORY runs through December 15 at the Trinity-St. Paul Centre, 427 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON.
For more information or to purchase tickets, visit https://www.torontoconsort.org/concerts-tickets/2019-2020-the-fellowship-of-early-music/schutzs-christmas-story/
Photo credit: Bruce Zinger
This article has been edited to correct information on period dates and historical instruments used.