Classical music: Duo concert to warm up the winter at Music in the Morning

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Four morning concerts highlight a soprano ready to explore her potential

Soprano Miriam Khalil will perform in the morning between January 17 and 20 at 10:30 am in the Koerner Recital Hall. Photo by Shayne Gray

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Miriam Khalil, soprano, and Julien LeBlanc, piano

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When: 17-20 January, refreshments at 10am, lecture at 10:30am

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From where: Koerner Recital Hall, Vancouver Academy of Music, 1270 Chestnut St.

Tickets, more information:

Vancouver’s Music in the Morning concert series kicks off the new year with a mesmerizing concert by soprano Miriam Khalil and pianist Julien LeBlanc.

Last fall, Khalil created a sensation with her intense portrayal of Leïla in Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers. “In 2018 I performed with Bramwell Tovey and the VSO, but this is my first solo concert,” she said in a phone interview from her new home in Edmonton, where she joined the department of music at the University of Alberta.

Khalil’s Lebanese family came to Canada twenty years ago. Raised in Ottawa, she was then part of the Ensemble Studio of the Kandis Opera Company, followed by additional studies at the Steans Institute for Young Artists at the Ravinia Festival in Chicago and the Britten-Pears Young Artist Program in Aldeburgh.

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LeBlanc, her frequent concert partner, is a multi-talented pianist with a particular flair for the French repertoire. He is also an aspiring opera director and, with Pierre-André Doucet, co-director of New Brunswick’s delightful Été Musical de l’Église historique de Barachois concert series.

Khalil’s recent projects define a musician who is ready to break new ground. Her Juno-nominated album Ayre featured a song cycle by Argentinian composer Osvaldo Golijov. During the pandemic, she created, directed, produced and sang an online Arabic video night titled “Songs My Parents Taught Me”.

For their four January performances of Music in the Morning, Khalil and LeBlanc constructed a colorful recital informed by Maurice Ravel’s 1904 Scheherazade, a setting of Tristan Klingsor’s orientalist texts apparently inspired by the most famous of ‘ Rimsky Korsakov among all the Scheherazades.

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Ravel’s ultra-sensual songs are a marvel for voice and orchestra; the piano/vocal version of the score is played less often, but it is not an improvised orchestral piece for the rehearsal room. Ravel’s keyboard compositions are as elegant and sophisticated as his orchestral compositions, just scaled differently.

“The Ravel is exquisitely written for both voice and piano,” Khalil said. “The piano takes us on an almost visual journey, and the lyrics tell the story.”

The duo’s recital will also include songs by Fernando Jaumandreu Obradors, a composer born in Barcelona who lived in the first half of the last century. The transition from Ravel’s imaginary Arabia to Spain is not so far-fetched. Khalil explained: “I am Lebanese and my mother’s language is Arabic. The Moors were in Spain for centuries, so we have melodies that are derived and influenced by Arabic music, especially the rhythms and harmonies.”

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Classical pianist Julien LeBlanc (above) was Miriam Khalil’s frequent concert partner. Photo by Brent Calis

Obradors is remembered for his multi-volume compendium of Canciones clásicas españolas, from which Khalil and Le Blanc will draw up a selection of particular favorites for the matinee program of about an hour without intermission.

“Instead of doing the whole cycle of the song, we chose our favorite version, the best hits,” she says, adding that the piano writing, like that of Ravel, is “very virtuoso”.

The program ends with a selection of folk songs, including Sephardic songs sung in Ladino. Khalil said she is particularly excited to also record Asheghane-ha, a Farsi setting of three Sufi devotional texts, composed for her by Toronto-based composer, educator and musicologist Afarin Mansouri.

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Mansouri is co-founder of the Iranian-Canadian Composers of Toronto and Associate Composer of the Canadian Music Centre. When the work was premiered in the Mazzoleni Masters Series at the Royal Conservatory in Toronto, Mansouri’s songs were hailed as a fascinating intersection between Western and Persian singing traditions.

After her Vancouver performance, Khalil has a few days off in Edmonton, then travels to Arkansas to sing in Gorecki’s famous Symphony of Sorrowful Songs, a work that continues to move audiences and is long overdue. heard in Vancouver.

  1. A look back at a year of classical music in Vancouver

  2. Classic: Vancouver Opera’s Pearl Fishers are an enchanting charmer

  3. Classic: Bramwell Tovey’s place in Vancouver Symphony Orchestra history may never be equaled

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