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La Scena Musicale - Vol. 17, No. 7 April 2012

Four Short Masses: Ensemble MODULATION’s First Album

by Hélène Boucher / April 1, 2012

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A surprising album has just been launched by a group of passionate choristers and their artistic director. It features repertoire from the French Romantic tradition for equal-voice choir. On March 31st, at St. George’s Anglican Church, the MODULATION female vocal ensemble released their first album—after 20 years in existence. The disc features four composers: Fauré, Delibes, Ropartz, and La Tombelle and was made with the support of organist Jacques Boucher and soprano Anne-Marine Suire. Lucie Roy, the founder and director of the ensemble, revels in the realization of this project.

Two decades of MODULATION

Ensemble MODULATION was established in 1991 with the desire to form a women’s choir composed of amateur singers. These women sing with passion, are dedicated to choral singing, and succeed in performing high-calibre works. Each member has a job outside the choir, personal commitments and career changes, but when they meet, the magic of harmony comes alive. They are twelve singers, each with their own musical background, who are committed to the ensemble on a weekly basis. “These women have jobs and busy schedules, but they are putting in hard work vocally and are fully engaged in the ensemble,” says Lucie Roy, the head of MODULATION for the past 15 years. The role is a real privilege for Roy, who gets to wear the hats of both accompanist and director. A core group of singers that adopt the technique of its director has evolved within the ensemble over the last eight years. New voices are grafted around the core of twelve singers. The choir distinguishes itself through its vocal expressiveness and the originality of its repertoire. Confidence and excellent interpretation unites them all. Since 1991, MODULATION has seen sparser periods, with less than 10 singers at times. But with the release of its album on the Espace 21 label, (a project carried out between the summer and end of 2011 in collaboration with the Palazzetto Bru Zane, the centre of French Romantic music) the group holds a place in the Quebec music scene more than ever.

4 short masses at the heart of the French Romantic repertoire

The very nature of these fourshort masses makes for a rare album. A romantic French repertoire unites the two sides of the Atlantic. One follows contact with the granddaughter of the French composer Fernand de La Tombelle, who shared an early work of his with Boucher, who is in Quebec. Roy wanted this link between France and Quebec to be expressed through the album. Another unique feature of the album: each piece—Léo Delibes’ (1836-1891) Messe brève, Gabriel Fauré’s (1845-1924) Messe basse, Guy Ropartz’s (1864-1955) Messe brève en l’honneur de sainte Anne and Fernand de La Tombelle’s (1854-1928) Messe brève—was designed by the composer specifically for a choir of equal voices. Hearing the musical harmony of female equal-voice choir will appeal to music lovers. For this album, MODULATION benefited from the acoustics of the cathedral of Saint-Hyacinthe, its exceptional Casavant organ, and the talent of Boucher. Boucher has also recently produced an album under the same label of La Tombelle’s oratorio, Les Sept Paroles de Notre Seigneur Jésus-Christ, a world premiere recording. The organist of the Saint-Jean-Baptiste church and former Dean of the Faculty of Music at the Université de Montréal brings a unique touch to these 4 short masses by adapting the scores to the twelve voices of MODULATION. For Lucie Roy, the opus will allow fans of choral music to discover the magnificent work of Guy Ropartz, one of her particular favourites.

The future of equal-voice choral singing

This year Ensemble MODULATION celebrates two decades of singing, its first album, as well as the 15-year appointment of its director Lucie Roy. Already, the idea for a second album has been discussed. For now, the challenge is to expand the horizons of equal-voice repertoire. The solidarity uniting each of the women of MODULATION foretells a happy future. The year 2013 may bring new concerts. To go further and conserve the unique bond of trust between them: this is what guides the choir into the future…

Translation: Laura Bates

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