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Bach Festival 2010

Also published in The Rover.

Christ Church Cathedral glows with competence as the choir enters; the pews gleam with it, and I happily come out of the rain to receive a healthful serving of Our Cultural Solids. The concert is part of the 2010 Montreal Bach Festival, a healthy-sounding machine for the production of lovely evenings, which each year fills some churches with the music they were intended for.

As churchgoers race towards statistical irrelevancy, the majority experience these spaces mostly in historical or artistic contexts, and not as chambers of mysterious power (except over hats). When seasoned with liturgical music, however, even a dingy wooden chapel can smell Roman. The space of the church grew and filled like an old organ bellows with the first notes of “Lobet den Herrn, alle Heiden”, the opening cantata sung by VivaVoce.

A local chamber choir known for their pure sound, VivaVoce sang a selection of early Bach cantatas with efficient elegance. Though our pleasure did not increase proportionately to the number of instruments added, particularly some slippery violins, a measure of the purity and bleedin’ holiness of the opening piece lingered throughout the evening, particularly in the smugly wonderful singing of tenor Bernard Cayouette.

Also on display were the didactic efforts of VivaVoce’s artistic director Peter Schubert. His charming and occasionally patronizing introductions are a nervous tick of high culture trapped in a culture of justification.