Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

20 years in the making.

Thursday, April 4th, 2013

Today, I was sent this email message from a KSS bass, new to the choir this season. It’s good to hear how things seem from the choir’s perspective—or maybe we don’t want to know? Anyway, it made me laugh, so I share it with you…


This concert has been 20 years in the making. Did anyone envision this program during some of those rehearsals during that first year?

Both works are recognized within choral circles as challenging and not for the musically faint of heart. Compliments from the players from Orchestra London are not given out easily! We are in the “A” league of ensembles.

What makes KSS unique is the next concert. With equal technical finesse, we will take our LIVE audience down a different musical road with an entirely different style. Rare is the choir anywhere that can sing this with the KSS flair.

From the ranks, an apology is in order for all the unspoken rehearsal utterances and e-mail note comments – things like “If she goes over this ONE more time!!” or “we weren’t THAT far out of tune!!” or “where in the @#$&% are we supposed to get that pitch from?” & “how are we supposed to count when the time signature and the @#$&% tempo keeps changing every bar!?!”

In strange way and a first for me as a singer, am looking forward to late Saturday afternoon, after a long nap, to listening to the recordings one final time (a suggestion from Paul Grambo to get my head in the right space), then to the church for warm ups and all those vocal exercises that back in January made no sense.

Kudos are earned for all your work, patience and shear determination over the last few weeks.

Now at that bar I have to remember to…

Dave Burnett

Desert Island Dream Come True

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013


Pathways to Paradise posterOne of my desert island pieces is the Duruflé Requiem, written in 1947. I have loved it since I first heard it back in my undergrad music history course. I remember it to this day, I walked out of the music listening lab (turntables back then) stunned. I was in another world floating down the hall of the music building. I was raised Lutheran and I remember thinking that this work made me wish I were Catholic so I could fully sink into the text of a Requiem mass.

Well, today I can. Still not Catholic, I now have the mental breadth to hear the words in metaphor for life here on earth and they pack a wallop. While listening to it in the Nairobi airport this past January on my way home from Southern Sudan, I remember a particularly emotional reaction to the middle of the fourth movement, the Sanctus. “Hosanna in excelsis”, mean “Deliver!, Save me! (request for God’s deliverance) in the highest”. The tremendous climax that Duruflé wrote for these words gripped my heart as I remembered the people of war-torn Southern Sudan and what they had been through and what they are continuing to suffer in some regions. This text is current; it is powerful today in a deeply human way that transcends denominations and religions.

Musically, Duruflé was influenced by the French Impressionists of his day, Debussy and, especially Ravel. And yet, he used as his main musical inspiration the ancient Gregorian chant, often in it’s entirely, for the Requiem mass. His musical language still resonates with us today while throwing us back across the centuries with the chant, gathering up eons of human experience. Unbelievably beautiful.

Pairing that with Poulenc’s sparkling Gloria—one of the sacred masterworks of the 20th century (1960)—is amazing. This work, too, I fell in love with back in undergrad. Very much not in the expected “sacred” mold, this work states that all of human existence is a holy thing. French cathedral solemnity contrasted sharply with Parisian street flair. Poulenc is unabashed and simply out there. Very funny and very sensual at the same time. He said himself, like Maurice Chevalier! These two works heighten each other wonderfully.

Preparing for this concert has been a true labour of love. Challenging on many levels, for every minute of work put into it, it pays back triple. It The depth of richness one uncovers is endless. The choir has risen to every expressive demand of the music and I have had to grapple with conducting dozens of tempo changes and easily a hundred meter changes, which are at the heart of each work’s rhythmic sinuousness and vigor. We are all better musicians for it.

A watershed concert, to be sure, in the middle of our 20th anniversary season. It doesn’t get better than this. Do come hear it!

Pathways to Paradise – 8 pm, Sat. April 6, 2013 (click to purchase tickets)


The Peacekeepers: Canadian contributions to world peace November 17, 2012

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

This is the music that will be performed this Saturday, November 17, at the first concert of our 20th anniversary season. Interwoven with the music be stories and quotes narrated by Ted Barris, Canadian journalist, author and Canadian war historian.

I am very proud of this concert. It will be moving and uplifting.

Soldier’s Cry

Roland Majeau, arr Trent Worthington

Edmonton singer-songwriter Roland Majeau is a talented and passionate Canadian artist who is writing and recording real music for real people. Often likened to James Taylor, Roland’s unique blend of country, folk and pop is a style of music that tells a story.

This poignant song was arranged by Roland’s friend and fellow musician, Trent Worthington.


In Remembrance
Eleanor Daley
Toronto composer, Eleanor Daley, is world renowned for her exquisite setting of this moving poem by Mary E. Frye, which is from her Requiem. It speaks of the eternity of the soul.



In Remembrance
Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sun on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circling flight.
I am the soft star-shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die.


Abide With Me
Henry Francis Lyte, arr Greg Jasperse
This popular hymn was said to be a favourite of King George V and Mahatma Gandhi.

The hymn is sung at the annual ANZAC Day services in Australia and New Zealand, and in Remembrance Day services in Canada and Great Britain. This stunning arrangement is by Greg Jasperse, a composer and arranger currently living in Chicago. Blessed with an incredible gift of arrangement and harmony, he has composed for and conducted Vocal Jazz Choirs across North America and Europe.


The Nathaniel Dett Chorale of Toronto:


Dirge for Two Veterans (Dona Nobis Pacem: IV)
poem by Walt Whitman, music by Ralph Vaughan Williams

This intensely moving piece was written by Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958), one of the most influential British musicians of the twentieth century. He was a composer, arranger, editor, collector of folk tunes, and conductor. His outlook was human and social. An important experience in VW’s life was his time in the British Army in WW I. He volunteered for service at age 42, and served as an ambulance driver and as an artillery officer. The impact of the war on his imagination was deep and lasting. His cantata, Dona Nobis Pacem, (Give Us Peace) was written in 1936. VW meant it clearly as a warning against war.


Performed by the Atlanta Symphony Chorus and Orchestra, conducted by Robert Shaw


Where Have All the Flowers Gone?
Pete Seeger, arr Mark Sirett
Singer-songwriter and American activist, Pete Seeger, has long been at the forefront of Civil Rights and the peace and anti-war movements, as well as the fight for a clean environment. After reading Soviet author Mikhail Sholokhov’s epic novel about the Cossacks pre-World War I, And Quiet Flows the Don. Seeger wrote this song in 1955, adapting it from a Cossack folk song mentioned in the novel. Arranger Dr. Mark Sirett is an award-winning composer living in Kingston, Ontario, whose works are frequently performed by Canada’s leading ensembles.



He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother
Bob Russell & Bobby Scott, arr John Coates, Jr.
“He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother”, one of the most defining and enduring tunes of the 1960s was by The Hollies and became one of their biggest hits. The origin of the title of the song is often associated with Father Flanagan, the founder of Boys Town. In 1941, Father Flanagan came across a drawing of a young boy carrying his brother with the caption reading “He ain’t heavy Mister – he’s m’ brother!” It is sung here to emphasize the need to help each other if we are to heal the divisions that lead to conflict.


A men’s chorus singing this:


Dona Nobis Pacem (Mass in B Minor, final movement)
J.S. Bach
The Mass in B minor is widely regarded as one of the greatest works of all time and is frequently performed. The work was Bach’s last major composition. As the final movement of such a monumental work, the prayer, Dona nobis pacem (Grant us peace), is the culmination of the entire mass that precedes it. As the first piece of our second half, it heralds the desire for peace in all its forms, going beyond the absence of war. It states our intention and serves as a starting point to explore what might be the work for peace here on this earth.


Atlanta Symphony Chorus and Orchestra – Robert Shaw


Al Shlosha D’Varim
Text from the Pirkei Avot (1:18) Allan Naplan
The Pirkei Avot is an important compilation of the ethical and moral teachings of the Rabbis from around 220 CE. The piece is, appropriately, a partner song of two interweaving melodies.

Melody 1:  Al shlosha d’varim haolam kayam,
The world’s sustained by three things, by truth and justice and by peace.

Melody 2:  Al haemet v’al hadin v’al hashalom, hashalom.
By truth and justice and by the work for peace, the world is sustained for us all.

Treble, Christian Haworth, sings this with us.



Distant Land (A Prayer for Freedom)
John Rutter
Words and music were written by John Rutter in 1990, soon after the demolition of the Berlin Wall and the release of Nelson Mandela from prison. It was premiered in Carnegie Hall, New York.


Hear the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sing this


Nation Shall Not Lift Up Sword (Dona Nobis Pacem: VI)
Ralph Vaughan Williams
The final section of Dona Nobis Pacem is an affirmation of peace as justice with mercy. Confident and joyful, it then breaks into a blaze of glory. It fades to the soprano soloist’s repeated prayer for peace, ending the work as a benediction.


Atlanta Symphony Chorus and Orchestra – Robert Shaw


I Dream a World
André Thomas
American composer and conductor, André Thomas, set this inspiring poem by Langston Hughes, American poet, social activist, and playwright. He was one of the earliest innovators of the then-new literary art form jazz poetry. Hughes is best known for his work during the Harlem Renaissance. His main concern was the uplift of his people, whose strengths, resiliency, courage, and humor he wanted to record.
We are joined by treble, Christian Haworth.



I Dream A World – Langston Hughes
I dream a world where man
No other man will scorn,
Where love will bless the earth
And peace its paths adorn
I dream a world where all
Will know sweet freedom’s way,
Where greed no longer saps the soul
Nor avarice blights our day.
A world I dream where black or white,
Whatever race you be,
Will share the bounties of the earth
And every man is free,
Where wretchedness will hang its head
And joy, like a pearl,
Attends the needs of all mankind-
Of such I dream, my world!


This Little Light of Mine
Harry Dixon Loes, arr Mark Hayes
“This Little Light of Mine” is a gospel song written by American composer and teacher Harry Dixon Loes in about 1920 and arranged by the talented and popular composer, Mark Hayes.

In closing with this song, we join the millions around the world who are working for peace in ways big and small by letting our light shine. By letting our light shine in the ways of peace, we remember those who have gone before, and honour their gifts of sacrifice and love.




Ted Barris, narrator
Christian Haworth, treble
Ron Fox, piano, organ

Trumpet – Shawn Spicer
Timpani – Greg Mainprize
Percussion – Greg Mainprize

Love is in the Air – Looking Back

Sunday, March 28th, 2010

Audience #2
I showed up early for the KSS Love is in the Air concert to take some behind-the-scenes photos, and make sure I remembered how to work the video camera that KSS uses to create archive recordings of its concerts. The audience always shows up early, and the anticipation in the room was high as patrons waited for the concert to begin.
Rehearsing before show #3
I slipped backstage to check on the singers. They were assembling to warm up before the show.
Return music here
Meanwhile the choir’s librarian was sorting extra music that singers had already turned in.
Sorting music
Rehearsing before show #1
Karen warmed up the singers, and then began the pre-concert routine of reminding everyone which aspects of each song to focus on.
Rehearsing before show #2
Instead of their usual formal concert dress, the choir wore casual black, with red ties or scarves, for their evening of jazz.
David Burghardt
Back in the church sanctuary, announcer David Burghardt warmed up the audience.
And the concert began.
After Four #1
Each half of the program opened with a set of Shakesperean songs and sonnets set by jazz legend George Shearing. Before each piece was sung, local theatrical talents David Wasse and Bronwyn Powell read the poem aloud. This married couple’s interpretations of Shakespeare’s words had the audience enthralled and entertained.
After Four #2
Special guests After Four (left to right: Jenny Nauta, Dave Williams, Theresa Wallis and Ron Nauta) got toes tapping with their swinging, scat-filled versions of jazz standards and popular songs arranged by the talented Ron Nauta.
KSS and After Four
After Four even joined KSS for a few numbers, including the energetic Blue Skies, which closed the first half of the program.
Blue Skies sheet music
This Marriage sheet music
I was eagerly anticipating the only non-jazz piece on the program – Eric Whitacre’s This Marriage. Karen had chosen it months ago, before she settled on the jazz format for the concert, and couldn’t bear to cut it from the program. I’m glad she left it in; I’d heard the song ahead of time on YouTube, and was deeply touched by the lyrics and harmonies. Set to poetry by the Sufi mystic Rumi, it brought tears to my eyes when I finally heard it performed by KSS.

May these vows and this marriage be blessed.
May it be sweet milk,
this marriage, like wine and halvah.
May this marriage offer fruit and shade
like the date palm.
May this marriage be full of laughter,
our every day a day in paradise.
May this marriage be a sign of compassion,
a seal of happiness here and hereafter.
May this marriage have a fair face and a good name,
an omen as welcomes the moon in a clear blue sky.
I am out of words to describe
how spirit mingles in this marriage.

I was especially awestruck by how Whitacre finished the song with sung ahhs and ooo’s – an interesting interpretation of the final line. See Whitacre himself conducting another performance of the piece (sung by the Ole Miss Concert Singers), below.

Sing, Sing, Sing
One of the highlights of the evening for some of our patrons, I’m sure, was when the audience got to participate in the final song (Sing, Sing, Sing) by snapping along in rhythm, conducted by Karen.
Love is in the Air bows
Our next concert, River! (Saturday, May 29, 2010), celebrates the Thames, and will feature the world premiere of a new song commissioned by KSS, composed by Londoner Jeff Smallman.

Michelle Lynne Goodfellow is the KSS Director of Communications

Review of Love is in the Air from Beat Magazine

Sunday, March 28th, 2010

KSS and After Four
“This is not the first time I have enjoyed a rich and stimulating evening with the Karen Schuessler Singers, nor will it be the last. This evening’s performance however was particularly thematically dear to my heart owing to my great love of Shakespeare’s plays, many of which I have myself directed. In this concert, entitled Love is in the Air!, Shakespeare’s Love Sonnets are performed, brilliantly set to music by jazz master Sir George Shearing. In addition to the choir, Londons’ local jazz quartet After Four sang love songs from several eras incorporating diverse styles of singing. Choral work in Jazz style is my idea of heaven and I was not disappointed.”

Read the rest of the review by Cheryl Cashman, here.

KSS in the London Free Press

Saturday, March 27th, 2010

London Free Press article
Tonight’s KSS concert is featured today in the London Free Press entertainment section. Check out the online story here.

The Freeps attended this week’s Tuesday night rehearsal, so there are also some added features to the online story – a photo gallery and a short rehearsal video.


Thursday, March 25th, 2010

“We used to be able to listen – or at least our grandparents could. I remember vividly my grandmother playing LP’s of Schumann and Brahms for me, and I learned to dance and twirl and wildly conduct classical music long before I could play it. The powerful, lingering memory of my grandmother’s house was that it was so quiet. Days were supremely slow. The mail came. A car turned around in the driveway. We ate dinner. Yet the silence was active, simple, and refreshing – and when Horowitz began to fill the living room with music, it wasn’t that he broke the silence. Rather, it was as if he gently stirred it into motion. I know that anyone else would have felt, as I did then, that you couldn’t help but listen.

“Why is it that our society has lost the ability to listen?”

Read the rest of this essay, from Dan Kreider’s blog Spaces Between the Silence, here.