THUNDER BAY, ON --- February 27, 2012 --- With great anticipation I waited for the appearance of Monica Whicher in the TBSO master-works series. The orchestra instead of choosing a guest artist who offers something outside the box to entertain their audience, instead relied on the draw of one of Thunder Bay’s own, Monica Whicher.
Monica grew up in Thunder Bay and completed her undergrad degree in music at Lakehead University many years ago. I know this since I was in the music program at the same time and we shared some classes. She is an outstanding example of many from the University’s Music Department.
As someone who has lived all my life in Northern Ontario there is something wrong about calling a person a Diva. We might use terms like “She’s a darned good soprano” or perhaps a “very passionate singer”. I still think you cannot take the North out of someone who has grown up here and we seldom have Divas until now. In our case the word could have developed from divine, for her performance last Thursday was simply that. Singers of her calibre can perform without a microphone, and using only her voice and gestures is able to convey the message of her arias clearly and passionately throughout our 1500 seat Community Auditorium. Her technique is flawless, but that is only a tool that she uses to set the mood and to convey the passion of the music. While I was listening to the concert, aria upon aria, I thought of the courage required to stand on a stage with only your voice and a full symphony orchestra behind her and sing this concert. As all first class musicians do she sang from memory but she also sang from her heart as well.
A concert such as this presents challenges to both the singer and the orchestra. A soprano singing in her low range cannot project as well as she can in her upper registers. Monica made use of very clear diction to make herself understood. I felt that the orchestra having just played the Natalie Choquette concert who sang with a microphone had trouble getting a good balance with the singer in a few spots, but fortunately there moments were few and short. Monica’s lesson was good clear diction can save the day!
The second half the orchestra played a few selections of Ravel and Debussy. I particularly enjoyed the Petit Suite by Debussy and Ravel’s Pavane pour une infant défunte. This was followed by the highlight of the evening, Devorák’s Song to the Moon from Rusalka. This famous aria is something that all accomplished sopranos yearns to sing. It is powerful, emotional and melodic. In her rendition of this famous aria Monica was all of that. Her singing engaged the orchestra and together the song of the water sprite’s impossible love is sung to the moon, in the hopes that she is remembered in her love’s dreams.
What a great way to end a concert. Monica had many friends and family in the audience that night. The concert last Thursday was special for her, for she is our home town Diva, and she gave her very best for all of us who attended. Well done indeed.
Arts Editor: LakeSuperiorNews.com