Island Singers make a joyful noise to two packed houses

Popular Manitoulin choral group the Island Singers gather on stage following a performance at the Mindemoya Missionary Church in one of two packed performances celebrating the Christmas season.

LITTLE CURRENT – It was standing room only for the Island Singers concert at the United Church in Little Current last Saturday. All who attended found themselves enjoying a delightful afternoon of music making.

“It was a great blend of traditional and contemporary music!” said Cassandra Flikweert following the concert. “A splendid mix for the multigenerational audience.”

The sweet solo voice of six-year-old Abigail Daniso stilled the audience with John Rutter’s arrangement of ‘Silent Night.’ She was soon joined by a chorus of angelic voices and a piano-flute accompaniment that assured everyone they were in for a wonderful afternoon. 

The ‘Advent Prayer’ was a delicate pairing of the beloved ‘Panis Angelicu’ and ‘Lo How a Rose E’er Blooming’ with a melody that softly rested on the final chord. At heart, a teacher, to everyone’s delight, conductor Chris Theijsmeijer provided a second opportunity for young Sophie Hietkamp to play her flute with Samantha Cooper at the piano. We look forward to hearing Sophie again in future concerts. 

Next on the programme was ‘Pat-a-Pan Noel,’ a high-energy song that tells of the birth of Christ from the perspective of the shepherds playing their drums. Ramona Daniso maintained the driving rhythm with perfection on her hand drum. 

‘The Snow Carol (Still, Still, Still)’ followed, but should you have been mesmerized by images of gently falling snow, you would be roused back to life when the singers began ‘In Dulci Jublio,’ a joyful contrasting piece with a complex rhythm that the choir mastered.

Peter Gordon and Carmen Adam brought smiles to all during their wee duet in the song ‘Let it Snow.’ This song was composed in 1945, in California, during a heat wave, but who would ever guess it from the lyrics. 

The Island Singers pulled out all the stops with ‘Joy to the World,’ the traditional carol filled with Christmas cheer, hope and joy. After this song, the choir took a break while the full house had a turn to sing ‘Hark, the Herald Angels Sing.’ 

Ray Kloetstra’s basso profundo rendition of ‘You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch,’ filled the place with a deep reverberating sound that brought him a rousing applause from the delighted audience. 

The ‘Carol of the Bells’ is a song about bells that ring in holiday joy, yet ironically, its relentless melody suggests a moody, haunting force. With beautiful singing, Michelle and Samantha Cooper and Heather Theijsmeijer captured both the mirth of the lyrics, and the restless push of the music. 

Before the choir came back onstage, ‘What Child is This?,’ sung by Heather and Chris Theijsmeijer, and ‘I Wonder as I Wander,’ sung by Arik Theijsmeijer showcased three beautiful voices in songs that are surely some of our Christmas favourites. 

The second half of the program featured a set of toe tapping songs including ‘Dance Your Dance,’ ‘Come to Me O My Love’ and ‘A New City of Joy.’ 

In a daring move, the Island Singers sang an a cappella version of ‘The Heart of the Fugue,’ a complex four-part song that recites the elements of the Fugue while singing them. The audience was kept on pins and needles through all the difficult twists and turns until the choir’s successful conclusion, “Ah!”

If one single work shone above all the others in the second half of the concert, it was Faure’s magnificent ‘Cantique de Jean Racine.’ It was here that the exceptional skills of director Chris Theijsmeijer were clearly seen. Not only was the vocal harmony perfect, but the warm tone of the French Impressionist song was maintained throughout. Joined by Kari Gerhard on violin, Alex Baran’s accompaniment on piano was exquisite as he ever so gently brought forth the melody from a filigree of surrounding notes. 

The Island Singers ended the concert with a cheerful version of ‘Ding! Dong! Merrily on High,’ accompanied by a driving piano duet played by Arik Theijsmeijer and Alex Baran. The song ended on a suitable piano flourish to close a fantastic program. This was a lovingly crafted concert, an afternoon of exceptional music.