Tafelmusik, Canada’s renowned Baroque orchestra, concluded their season this year with a concert series honouring their retiring Artistic Director, Jeanne Lamon. Their “Celebration of Jeanne Lamon” was just that: a fabulous concert which brought a full house of ardent admirers to their feet in enthusiastic applause. On Sunday afternoon, the sun was streaming through the coloured glass and the newly restored Jeanne Lamon hall at Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre was ablaze with golden hues from the renovation and from a huge, ornate frame mounted on the chancel behind the orchestra. Throughout the concert, photographs of the orchestra, its members and their guests showed the history of the orchestra during the 33 years of Lamon’s leadership. Everyone left exhilarated by this Toronto-based treasure which has won acclaim across the country and around the world.
This celebratory concert was unique in many ways. The first section was an “Audience Choice,” intended to thank the locals for their support. Jeanne had circulated a range of choices to the audience prior to the concert; the three pieces on the program were the most popular from that list. The audience choices? A lively G.P. Telemann, Badinage & Conclusion from Musique de Table, Book 3; J.S. Bach’s Concerto for two violins in D Minor, BMV 1043 with Jeanne and violinist Aisslinn Nosky showing their virtuosity; and then J.-B. Lully’s beautiful Passacaille from Armide. This piece recalled Tafelmusik’s ongoing role as the orchestra for Opera Atelier which again this year brings baroque opera to its original venue at the theatre in Versailles.
The second section was variations on three themes from Henry Purcell. Jeanne chose the themes: the song tune “Fairest Isle” from King Arthur, the Hornpipe from Abdelazer, and Chacony in G Minor. Recognizing that Baroque performers in the 17th and 18th Century typically also composed music, and most composers were also virtuoso performers, Jeanne asked her colleagues to reprise this tradition for this special occasion. And so they did. Twenty performer-composers offered a delightful range of variations which, among them, featured all the instruments of the ensemble and provided more than a little light-hearted play. Jeanne said that “this may be the largest number of composers in the shortest period of time ever presented at a Tafelmusik concert.” If so, it was a precedent that was very well received and would be worth repeating.
The last half of the concert was ”a mosaic of musical memories” arranged by Jeanne from some of the music she loved or whose performance was important to her. She conceived the program as a musical quilt. In the program notes, she wrote, “You will hear segments of arias, with instruments playing the vocal lines… sacred and secular music woven together as they were never intended; and… many more unconventional liberties you’ve never heard at a Tafelmusik concert before. After all, memories do not come in tidy rational packages, like well-constructed musical movements, but as fragments that float by dreamlike, in illogical form and order.” And what a quilt it was: Monteverdi, Marini, Vivaldi, Handel, Rameau, J.S. Bach… a range of selections which showed the orchestra and its sections at their best. I am not a trained musician who could offer any informed critique. But as a lay member of the audience, the scope of the choices thrilled me and I didn’t want the concert to end. Brava Jeanne… a brilliant concert to celebrate a brilliant career!!!!!