A sold-out crowd packed Eastminster United Church on the Danforth Saturday night to hear the VOCA Chorus of Toronto serve up a smorgasbord of mostly homegrown Canadian tunes and a couple of traditional Christmas songs.
After local MP Julie Dabrusin welcomed the audience, VOCA artistic director and conductor Jenny Crober introduced singer Cheri Maracle, Mohawk of the Six Nations Grand River Territory. Maracle began the show singing the Women’s Honour Song.
The two-hour program strayed for the most part from the usual holiday fare, featuring classics such as Northwest Passage by Stan Rogers, Log Driver’s Waltz by Wade Hemsworth, Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen and Frobisher Bay by James Gordon, who was at the concert.
Other songs included pieces less often heard at choral concerts this time of year, such as Jane Siberry’s Love is Everything, Le Voyageur by Angele and Albert Arsenault and River by Joni Mitchell.
“The artistic director arranged the music in a really imaginative way,” concert-goer Earl Groenewegen said enthusiastically.
Conductor Crober beamed as she talked about the choir.
“They’re a wonderful group of people,” she said. “This is a special occasion in many ways. It’s a seasonal celebration, but it’s also (Canada’s) sesquicentennial.”
It’s no accident that the chorus focuses on a range of Canadian music.
“I love bringing all different aspects of things into a melting pot,” Crober said. “I actually think about my programming really carefully.”
The show incorporated Indigenous and Quebecois music into the program. Crober took an interactive approach, talking with the audience providing history on a given song about to be performed.
She included a few standard Christmas sing-alongs for the audience, such as Deck the Hall and Silent Night, while adding an Indigenous song, Huron Carol.
The choir, with over 80 singers including guest performers, holds two concerts a year. It began in 1986 as the East York Choir.