By Rick MacMillan, Summer 2016 Opera Canada
[Excerpt] Four prominent Canadian singers come together on this disc featuring three song collections and one short scene for vocal quartet by Norbert Palej, Associate Professor of Composition at the University of Toronto–soprano Jacqueline Woodley, mezzo Michele Bogdanowicz, tenor Lawrence Wiliford and baritone Peter McGillivray. The disc is the latest from Canadian Art Song Project, co-founded by Wiliford and Steven Philcox, who here serves as collaborative pianist.
The title work, at nearly 33 minutes, is the most elaborate and the also the most impressive in terms of its captivating musical language, and for Palej’s fascinating, totally innovative accompaniment, which exploits the extremes of the keyboard in a delicate way. It includes 14 songs, with whimsical, nature-themed texts selected from Canadian poet Jan Zwicky’s Thirty-seven Small Songs & Thirteen Silences. (All but one has the word “song” in its title.) Woodley and Wiliford alternate, each singing a few songs before passing on to the other.
Tenor Wiliford shows off his lovely, lyrical style throughout and creates a hauntingly beautiful white tone in “Apple Song” on the ethereal words “stiff with dreaming of that other world” and again in “Small Song on Being Lost,” appropriately on the word “lonely….