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A Purcell Celebration
Music Review: Seventeen Voyces;

Richard Todd, The Ottawa Citizen
Published: March 14, 2009

OTTAWA — There seems to be something in the air. Earlier this month Toronto’s Tafelmusik put on a concert in honour of the 400th anniversary of the birth of Galileo Galilei with striking narrations and illustration. On Friday night Kevin Reeves and his Seventeen Voyces commemorated the birth of Henry Purcell 350 years ago with a concert in St. Matthew’s Church.

Journalistic integrity requires that certain biases be stated. In this case, I have to tell you that I regard Purcell as a marginally better composer than Max Reger and that Reger is at the very bottom of my pile.

Purcell’s counterpoint is distressingly underdeveloped. There is little elaboration in the inner voices and, to be brief, the fact that some people think he was a great composer puzzles me as much as how to calculate the fifth root of 17.

That said, even Reger might sound not bad if his music were performed with the skill and enthusiasm that Purcell’s received in this concert.

There were two headline soloists, soprano Chelsea Honeyman and countertenor Mark Donnelly. Honeyman’s renditions of Come All, Come All to Me and The Cares of Lovers were especially pleasing as was Rudd’s Love Quickly is Pall’d. All three were extracted from Purcell’s music for Timon of Athens.

A number of the choral singers had significant solo parts as well. They included sopranos Clare Jackson, Martha Coulthart, Barb Delong and Mary Tevlin; countertenor Mark Donnelly; tenor Mike Ruddy and basses Joel Nordenstrom and David Tilley. Although the quality varied from singer to singer, it never went below a satisfactory standard, and was occasionally outstanding.

Actor Todd Duckworth gave an amusing and often informative narration, wearing a very Restoration-looking wig. The amplification of his voice wasn’t very good and there were times when it was hard to understand him from the back of the church.

Among the most appealing offerings were Welcome to All the Pleasures, a long and complicated selection from the Ode for St. Cecilia which gave Donnelly, Ruddy and Tilley their first chance to shine, as well they did. The final Chorus from Venus and Adonis involved the chorus without soloists and was possibly the evening’s most beautiful choral offering.

It was not the last item on the program, though. Honeyman and the Voyces sang Dido’s Lament from Dido and Aeneas. There were a few instances where her voice sounded tired but otherwise it came across wonderfully well, especially the choral sections – at least for people who like Purcell.

Richard Todd



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