Over the past 25 years, the Peterborough Singers have performed a vast and eclectic selection of choral music—from Bach, Haydn, and Fauré to the Beatles, Stan Rogers, and Serena Ryder, and everything in between. It’s what the Singers do: wherever there’s first-rate choral music to be sung, whatever the genre, they’re willing to tackle the challenge in their mission to pursue creative excellence.
Now, to celebrate their 25th anniversary, the Singers are putting together a one-time-only Greatest Hits concert—an eclectic mash-up of music crossing all genres, from the most sublime classical selections to foot-stomping Celtic and contemporary pop songs.
The Greatest Hits concert is scheduled for Saturday, February 24, 2018, at 2:00 pm, and will feature appearances by a variety of the Singers’ favourite soloists.
“We’re doing something radically different for our February concert this year,” said Singers Artistic Director Syd Birrell. “Instead of the usual pop concerts we’ve been doing the past number of years, we’re being very selfish as a choir, and we’re singing all the stuff that we like the most.”
At the beginning of this season, Birrell put out an antique silver teapot (silver anniversary…get it?) at the Singers’ weekly choir rehearsals. Choir members, including many who have been in the choir since its inception, were invited to vote by dropping slips of paper with the names of their favourite songs into the teapot.
The result is a program featuring many of the Singers’ most beloved songs. In the classical vein, songs that made the cut include Elgar’s Lux Aeterna, the “Libera me” from Fauré’s Requiem, and (no surprise here) the wildly popular “O Fortuna” from Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana. On the pop/rock/folk end of the spectrum there are songs as various as “O Darlin'” by The Beatles, “Stompa” by Serena Ryder, and “Fogarty’s Cove” by Stan Rogers.
There was also one song that came out way ahead, by at least a factor of two, but attendees will have to wait until the end of the concert to find out which one that was. “Trust me, it’ll be worth the wait,” said Birrell.
There is also one anomalous selection on the program—a piece of music that the Singers have never performed before but that has been 50 years in the making. That piece is Haydn’s “Insanae et Vanae Curae,” which Birrell describes as “one of the most exciting classical anthems ever written.”
In going through his letters to his parents from music boarding school in the UK when he was a young teen, Birrell recently uncovered a letter in which he enthused about the piece after hearing it for the first time.
“It’s a really, fabulously, exciting piece of music,” says Birrell. “I discovered it when I was kid, and I’ve been looking for a chance to do it. It’s got a stunning organ part, and it’s simply a very satisfying sing. So 50 years later, I’m finally getting a chance to do it with the Singers.”
Among those soloists joining the Singers will be Liza McLellan, the virtuosic cellist from Quartetto Gelato, baritone Andrew Tees (who created quite the impression when he performed Fauré’s Requiem with the Singers a few years back), organist Matthew Larkin, and Peterborough natives Jacob Abrahamse, Carl Christensen, and Steve McCracken on the saxophone, to name a few.
Those who routinely attend the Singers’ February concerts should also be aware that there is a change of venue this year. Instead of Calvary Church on Lansdowne, the choir will be performing at Emmanuel United Church (formerly George Street United). The reason for the change is a simple one: the choir needs the backing of Emmanuel’s enormous pipe organ for the classical pieces on the program.
So why not come out and help the Singers celebrate 25 years of song, as they share some of their favourites from the past quarter century?