Celebrating the human voice

Coming hard on the heels of the sold-out performance of Mozart’s Requiem by the York University Concert and Chamber Choirs last week are four more concerts showcasing the most popular instrument in the history of music: the human voice.

The Music Department’s Medieval & Renaissance Ensembles are featured today at 12:30pm. Directed by faculty member Judith Cohen (right), who also plays vielle (hurdy-gurdy) and percussion, the two groups will present a fascinating program of sacred and secular music for voice and period instruments.

The York Medieval Ensemble comprises seven performers who meld their voices with recorders, drums and psaltery, an ancient stringed instrument of the zither family. Their repertoire, ranging from the 12th to the 14th centuries, includes Latin plainchant, an early French motet, and a late medieval English song.

The Renaissance Ensemble, likewise with seven musicians, adds new string instruments — violin, guitar and rebec (precursor of the viol) — as well as dance to the vocals, recorders and percussion found in the Medieval Ensemble. The repertoire includes works from 16th-century Spain and France as well as several pieces from the early 17th century by the English composer Thomas Ravenscroft. The two ensembles will join forces in a performance of the 15th-century Christmas motet Beata progenies by Lionel Power.

The York University Women’s Chorus takes the stage on Nov. 28 at 7:30pm with music celebrating the Christmas season. A highlight of the program will be A Ceremony of Carols, the beloved choral masterpiece of English composer Benjamin Britten. Also on the playbill are works by 19th-century German composer Peter Cornelius and Canadians James Wright and Eleanor Daley. York music Professor Lisette Canton (right) conducts, with Nathalie Doucet-Lalkens on piano and guest artist Caroline L√©onardelli on harp.

The York University Men’s Chorus moves into the spotlight the following day, Nov. 29 at 12:30pm. Prof. Canton will direct the ensemble in an engaging program of contemporary choral music. The repertoire includes works by Emani Aguiar, Wendall Whalum, William Henry Smith, Vincent Persichetti and others. Piano accompaniment is by Catherine Wilson and Nathalie Doucet-Lalkens.

The choral music series concludes Dec. 1 at 7:30pm with a spirited performance by the 85-voice York University Gospel Choir. Directed by its founder, York music Professor Karen Burke (left), the Gospel Choir is just one year old, but already a force to be reckoned with.

The choir will fill the Recital Hall with inspiring music composed by Donald Lawrence, Joe Pace, Walt Whitman, Kirk Franklin and other renowned gospel artists, backed by a live rhythm section.

All performances take place in the Recital Hall in the Accolade East Building. The midday concerts are free of charge. Admission to the evening concerts is $12 and $5 for students.

For tickets, call ext. 55888 or visit the Fine Arts Box Office Web site.