Arts Feature

David Holler, artistic director of
 Fanshawe Chorus London

Fanshawe Chorus London presents Karl Jenkins’ Stabat Mater at First-St. Andrew’s United Church (350 Queens Ave) on April 18 at 7pm. Tickets are $30/Adults; $25/Seniors; $15/Students. Call 519-433-9650 or 519-672-1968.

Easter recital: Fanshawe Chorus London’s Stabat Mater

Amie Ronald-Morgan

London, ON - Fanshawe Chorus London is joining forces this year with Hamilton’s Mohawk College Community Choir for their traditional Good Friday concert. 

Under the baton of David Holler, who conducts both groups, the choirs will present Karl Jenkins’ Stabat Mater and Johannes Brahms’ Nänie, April 18 at First-St. Andrew’s United Church.

The evening’s centerpiece, the Stabat Mater, is a 13th century Roman Catholic poem that meditates on the suffering of Mary during the crucifixion.  It was first performed in 2008 at Liverpool Anglican Cathedral, directed by Jenkins himself.

“The text is told from the point of view of Mary standing at the cross as Jesus is being crucified,” Holler explained. 

“It’s very powerful, very sad, and very important for holy week.”

As audiences may remember, Fanshawe Chorus London performed Schubert’s version of the Stabat Mater last Good Friday. This Stabat Mater is quite different and eclectic.

“Karl Jenkins is a Welsh composer, but he’s actually originally a jazz musician. He got his start as an oboist. Later on in his career he started writing for advertising, music for commercials and such that was a little more classical in nature, so he started writing more classical pieces,” Holler said.

A well-known example is the strings arrangement heard in the black and white De Beers anniversary diamond commercial from the mid-90s. Jenkins has twice won prestigious awards for best advertising music.

“He’s a very eclectic composer in that he’s got that jazz influence. He puts a lot of world music into his own work, there’s a lot of Eastern influence; at one point (during Stabat Mater) we sing in four languages at the same time – Hebrew, Aramaic, Latin and Greek. The movement is called ‘And the Mother Did Weep,’ that text is performed in those four languages, and it’s absolutely stunning,” Holler added.

 Fanshawe Chorus London performed Jenkins’ most well-known piece, The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace, in 2011 to commemorate the tenth anniversary of 9/11. 

Upwards of 120 choristers comprising Fanshawe Chorus London and Mohawk College Community Choir will be joined by the Concert Players Orchestra for Stabat Mater.

 As well, Holler welcomes Ancaster-area mezzo soprano Jennifer Enns-Modolo as guest soloist. The piece will be preceded by the shorter Brahms composition.

“Nänie is the German form of the Latin word ‘nenia’ meaning a funeral song. It is not necessarily a sacred piece like the Stabat Mater or a requiem, but Brahms did this song in honour of his friend who passed away. It’s a lamentation of the inevitability of death. Like the Stabat Mater, it is a challenging piece as well but both choirs are doing beautifully with it. It really will be an amazing performance,” Holler said.

 “We’re starting the programme with a short piece by Gerald Finzi, Eclogue, which will just be for strings and piano, and our own accompanist, Allison Wiebe, will play for that,” he added.

Eclogue was one of several compositions originally intended to be part of a larger piano concerto, but the work was never finished. Following Finzi’s death, his publisher named two of the individual movements and published them as separate works. Interestingly, Finzi was an agnostic who entered churches only to play music – yet wrote such inspired Christian choral masterpieces. 

Fanshawe Chorus London will present the concert in Hamilton prior to their engagement at First-St. Andrew’s.

“We’re trying to get our choir out there in other areas so people can hear the wonderful group we have here in London,” Holler said.

“All of the pieces on our programme are beautiful and contemplative, it is perfect for this season.” 



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