With the arrival of cool weather, rainy mornings, and changing leaves, it’s clear that fall is officially upon us here in Toronto! Our concert is fast approaching (less than a week away!) and we’re busy putting the final touches on our pieces for Stories of Remembrance. Next month brings Remembrance Day, and in step with our commemorative theme we will be performing a setting of “In Flanders Fields” by Canadian composer David MacIntyre. His setting of John McCrae’s famous verse has a dignified simplicity, fitting the poem’s solemn and moving subject matter.
MacIntyre utilizes military musical archetypes in his setting, which conjure up mental images of battle in days gone by. In a recent rehearsal, we discussed our different thoughts on his setting of the first verse, in which the sopranos float smoothly above the detached, lightly staccato accompaniment that pulses unified beats. Some images that came to our minds while rehearsing this verse included the muffled, distant drums of a marching army, or a dignified funeral procession. Sharing our artistic opinions in rehearsal can help inform our interpretation of the piece as an ensemble, adding to our musicality and unity in performance.
A second military connection in MacIntyre’s piece occurs a bit later, with a “fanfare” that he specifically marks in the score. Of course, since the piece is a cappella, we recreate this traditionally brass sound with the power of five-part vocal harmony. In a brisk 9/8 metre, the musical line is propelled forward victoriously, as if invincible – the reverie is broken only moments later as the choir slows down and resumes duple metre. MacIntyre brings the listener back down to earth, to a more emotional and understated musical language, matching the noble yet somber poetry.
We look forward to sharing this interpretation of “In Flanders Fields” and other beautiful poetic settings with you all on the evening of October 23rd. Don’t forget to invite a friend (or two)!