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Back to the Glory Days


THUNDER BAY, ON  -----  November 24, 2010  ---- Thirty-two years ago Consortium Aurora Borealis Robert Van Wyckbegan its first concert series in Thunder Bay. Then the young and energetic Elizabeth Ganiatsos was a music history teacher working out of the infamous Black Shack at L.U’s campus. Her passion then and now is the performance of early music, especially that from the Elizabeth the 1st of England.

It was easy for her to recruit students and musicians from the university to help her produce these concerts and many of her history students found themselves on stage at one time or another. As the season’s progressed the group began to perform in period dress. Elizabeth would scour the fashion journals of the era and over a period of years managed to costume the entire troop. It was all part of the show, no matter that the bloomers would not stay up. The addition of costumes and dancers to the productions added a visual element to her concerts and the largely amateur musicians did an admirable job they too relied on the visual element to help make the concert a success.

This is perhaps an admirable way of using the visual element to make up for something lacking on the musical side of the performance. That was thirty years ago, and the concert on stage last Saturday night was a fully professional performance. Gone are the costumes, replaced with performance blacks that is standard in any performance hall. It is not that this has gone main-stream, but it is now a sign that the Consortium has gone professional. It would be good to see some colour onstage if not in costumes then in different dress, or perhaps some flowers to make the event more festive, and less formal.

Now for those who thrive on a good performance, the musicians were outstanding. Robert Van Wyck  players a marvellous recorder solo “Greensleeves on a Ground” just as the second half began. Not on but two friends phoned me up after the performance to tell me how much they enjoyed his performance.

Where else in Northern Ontario are you likely to hear a concert featuring recorders and Elizabethan music. The Consortium Aurora Borealis is unique to Thunder Bay and has over its thirty two years presented music from the late 1400’s to about the turn of the century. As their program indicates Fwbeuary 26th will seem them present a program called the “Baroque Jazz connection. This special event will take the Consortium into new ground and I believe it is the first time anyone has tried this novel approach to concert programming.

Susan KorstanjeI loved the vocal and choral work for this concert. Together with the spoken dialog they gave the program contrast and balance, though one of the comments I heard was “It was like listening to two hours of the same stuff”. This comment would not be favourably viewed by someone who knew the music of the period, since the programme represented all the major composers of the time. This is why they need a visual element to their concerts to keep their audience interested.

Members of the Consortium Vocal ensemble put together by Dean Jobin-Bevans sang exceptionally well, and this performance brought back many memories. It truly is great music. Some singers such as Nicolas Ross and Susan Korstanje well called upon to sing solos as well. In a small one voice to a part ensemble everyone must balance blend and carry their part. The night’s choral music was splendid as you would expect from professional singers clad in black!

The Consortium is Northwestern Ontario’s Renaissance and Baroque Chamber music group. Their next performance will be January 22nd and it promises to be a musical treat. The “Extravaganza Italiana” will bring ins some very special talent from Toronto. Special guests Lucas Harris (theorbo) and two guest sopranos Michele Deboer and Dawn Bailey will certainly add some colour to this concert. I cannot remember a time when a Theorbo (Huge bass Lute) was plaed at a concert in Thunder Bay. Certainly not  during my time in the city.

Bert Rowson
Arts Editor:


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