Gospel Choir brings Joyful Noise to ChristChurch Cathedral
But few smiles in a year of Not-So-Good-News
The word “Gospel,” from the Greek Ευαγγέλιο, means “Good News,” which has been in rather short supply, lately.
Feeling the need for a top-up, we took the grandchildren to Christ Church Cathedral for “Something to Treasure,” the 2016 edition of the Good Noise Vancouver Gospel Choir’s annual Christmas gala.
The 100-voice ensemble didn’t disappoint – it never does. It turned in spirited renditions of 16 old and new gospel favourites. Artistic director Gail Suderman brought off her customary hat trick of conducting the massive choir from behind her concert grand while crafting keyboard-spanning piano riffs and belting out full-throated vocal solos.
Plus she Emcee’d the evening and composed several of the arrangements.
Organist Michael Kalanj once again pulled out all the stops – in ever-startling sequences and combinations – on his mighty Hammond B-3. Ingrid Stitt limned the tunes with the cool lines of her alto and tenor sax. Muted continuo from Laurence Mollerup’s bass guitar, while percussionist Elliot Polsky supplied a discreet back-beat, except when he got an opening for more fanciful solo flights, as in “The Little Drummer Boy.”
Good Noise is an auditioned, avowedly non-sectarian community ensemble. It unsurprisingly mirrors Vancouver’s overwhelmingly white demographic with just a sprinkling of East and South Asian faces and only a few blacks.
No wonder, then, that for all its energy, professionalism and industrial scale, it never quite attains the “roots music” spirit and improvisatory spontaneity of a more intimate African-American church choir.
The full-house crowd – many of them apparently relatives of the choristers themselves – clapped and swayed apace with the choir. But, as my 10-year-old daughter noted, unlike the fervently jubilant performers onstage, somehow nobody in the audience seemed to be smiling much.
Maybe it was the ongoing slush-storm outside, or the steady drumbeat of depressing headlines these days, or the innate gravity of the churchly setting (people in the front pews kept “shushing” our seven-year-old).
Somehow we never quite made it to the final “Hallelujah.”