Cheek-to-Cheek was the title of a smooth concert last Sunday featuring the Pender Harbour Choir in Madeira Park.
After the initial Irving Berlin tune by the same name that set the tone, the repertoire roamed all over the map, from a Billie Holiday selection to a hymn to Mozart's Alleluia to some stirring gospel tunes. In fact, this choir shows its strength - spirited enthusiasm - when performing gospel.
At a previous Pender Harbour concert featuring the Vancouver gospel group Circle of Voices, the choir had taken the opportunity to learn some new songs that suited their breezy style. At this concert, they closed with the traditional spiritual song Set Down Servant and encored with River in Judea. This trend is encouraged by the choir's director, Joe Hatherill, who is also a jazz musician. "I discovered that gospel is jazz," he told the audience. One of the concert's highlights was the appearance of countertenor Tony Lancaster. For those unfamiliar with the range of a countertenor, as I was, his high, soprano voice and his impassioned delivery of operatic selections in both Italian and French, was a delightful surprise. Originally from Montreal, Lancaster was working as a hair stylist in Vancouver until a client asked to hear his singing voice. The pure tones astonished the client and Lancaster was recommended to Sandra Head, a voice teacher and adjudicator. That was as recently as spring of 2003, and Lancaster has not looked back. The full house at the School of Music last Sunday invited him to take an encore.
Joining the Pender Harbour Choir were some members of the Reflections choir - a group of women who love to sing, seemingly without a musical director. In fact, Paula Seward, who provided the piano accompaniment for both choirs, is their musical leader. Reflections' choice of music was refreshing as it drew from other cultures. Particularly evocative was the Oseh Shalom by Joan Beckow.
The choir chose this concert to start its fundraising raffle - first prize is a double-seater Adirondack chair made by choir member Jim Hawkes, and second prize is a hand made quilt. Also on display in the Harbour Gallery opposite the Music School was a selection of framed photographs from the collection of the late wildlife photographer and environmentalist Myron Kozak, available by silent auction.