Darkness to Light by the Per Sonatori Baroque Ensemble

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Don’t forget to smile, your parents are watching. Sarah Nakonechny

Review of the baroque ensemble’s recent performance and venue

On September 10 at Knox-Metropolitan United Church located in downtown Regina, the Per Sonatori Baroque Ensemble performed their program Darkness to Light. They are a group of period-instrument players and vocalists who focus on pieces that were composed during the Baroque era. Their performance techniques, the instruments they use, and even how they tune them are all informed by this era.

have never experienced a performance of this nature before and have also never attended anything in the Knox-Metropolitan United Church either. Walking up to the church was lovely. The entrance is directly across from Victoria Square Park and the church bells were ringing as all the guests began to filter in. The inside of the church is very well kept and beautiful to look at. They have large stained-glass windows and a balcony for those in attendance to sit in. I’ve never sat in a church with a balcony before, and it is certainly something I wouldn’t mind doing more often. As far as church pews go, these are definitely some of the more comfortable pews I have sat in, which was a pleasant surprise.

They began by making a land acknowledgement and informing us that their flutist was ill that evening, and as a result one of the pieces in the program unfortunately would be removed. After, they acknowledged their sponsors: Saskatchewan Lotteries, Saskatchewan Arts Board, Saskatchewan Orchestral Association, City of Regina, and Luther College at the University of Regina who donated a portative organ for the performance. Once all the formalities were over, it was time for the performance to begin.

Talk about starting with a bang! The first soloist, Victoria Stroeder, was up in the balcony while the strings were on the ground accompanying. That’s how a show should be started. The design of the church allowed for her voice to carry for what felt like miles. There was no reason for a microphone to be anywhere in sight with how crystal clear and vibrant the sound was.

The remainder of the show continued on the main floor. The other soprano soloist featured during the evening, April Polasek, gives every single Disney princess a run for their money. How her voice carried and the nature of the songs she was singing reminded me so much of Snow White when she’s singing along with the birds. Her dark brown hair and complexion certainly added to the Snow White vibes that I was feeling. It was breathtaking to listen to.

After intermission, the choir as a whole took the stage. The wall of sound that came from the 18 performers felt like a tsunami crashing over me. Each layer hit with such force that it made me breathless. Throughout the movements they featured the two sopranos from earlier, Stroeder and Palasek, along with alto Solveig Hovdestad, tenor Aaron Balkaran, and bass Michael Hawkes. Hearing the layering of sound and the subtlety of the accompanying support during individual features was remarkable. Watching each member, their performances looked utterly effortless.

The vocalists were stunning, but we can’t forget to mention the string players and organist. They were a small but mighty group consisting of three violins, one viola, one cello, one double bass, and one organ. The organist also doubled as the conductor for the choir and strings. They had moments in each piece where the vocalists were silent, and you could hone in on the sound coming from the instruments. The group held their own and the intensity did not subside during the instrumental portions, and they did a wonderful job of providing support in the background when needed.

Overall, the performance and the location were absolutely spectacular. Words don’t even begin to capture the feelings that this group can pull out of you. If you’re wishing to see them at their next performance, they will be at Knox-Metropolitan United Church on Friday October 21 at 7:30 p.m. for their Irregular Pearls program which features composers from the 17th and 18th centuries. 

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