Medieval music for the masses

Choral ensemble sings the praises of The Beloved

Ensemble Laude

Directed by Elizabeth MacIsaac, Ensemble Laude is an award-winning women’s community choir dedicated to singing intercultural choral repertoire and early music (pre-1600). Its upcoming concert, The Beloved, features a fresh and diverse selection of choral works celebrating adoration in all its forms, including signature pieces from the medieval period, joyously upbeat Renaissance and French Canadian songs, and a sampling of exciting contemporary works.

“Ensemble Laude has been in existence well over 10 years now,” said MacIsaac. “It began at one-third or one-fourth the size it is now. Ten singers in my basement over the years expanded to 30 or 40.”

It is a very inclusive choir. “You don’t have to have been singing choral music for a long time or be able to read music. It just seems to be the kind of person who likes to experience rarified music and can hold a tune.” The singers range in age. “The age group is vast. Right now the youngest is 14 and I’m not allowed to say how old the oldest is,” she said.

MacIsaac has lead choirs for more than 25 years in Canada and France. She also enjoys an international career as a vocalist specializing in early music and new commissions of contemporary music.

Spanning from east to west, ages past to present, from divine rapture to sweet romance, The Beloved explores the journey of the heart’s song. There will be surprise guests and moments of comic relief, including PDQ Bach’s Throw the Yule Log On, Uncle John.

“We always include medieval repertoire as part of concert’s choral diversity,” said MacIsaac. “I do a lot of travel around the world finding music for the female voice.”

This concert however, will include male voices, adding depth to the madrigals and some of the comedic pieces — yes there is funny choral music. “Laughter is so much part of the joy in life. We include elements of that whenever we can,” she said.

The Ensemble performs several concerts on Southern Vancouver Island every year, raising money for charity and bringing medieval and world repertoire to Island choral enthusiasts. The 2011-12 season highlights feature a commissioned work by Canadian composer Nicholas Fairbank, and participation in the Kathaumixw International Choral Festival in Powell River in July, 2012. Ensemble Laude has been chosen as “favourite vocal ensemble” in Monday Magazine’s 2010 and 2011 M Awards.

With Beloved, the singing focuses on the love of an object and with the Christmas season it’s the Christ child, said MacIsaac. The concert includes Sufi poetry, and the rich imagery of exotic Persia. “There’s true Farsi music from another tradition, and percussion instruments including the medieval oud and viello,” said MacIsaac.

The concert will coincide with the release of Ensemble Laude’s CD, Inspirata, which includes lively repertoire from Hildegard von Bingen and the Libre Vermeil de Montserrat (Red Book of Montserrat), and contemporary works by Ola Gjeilo, Eleanor Daley and Abbie Betinis.

The Beloved shows at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 18, at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church. The concert is by donation, “which makes people feel welcome,” said MacIsaac.

For more information about Ensemble Laude, go to www.ensemblelaude.org.

 

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