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Big voice fills Assumption Church in first concert of season

There was a small crowd to hear a big voice in Marysburg last week as the 11th season of the Marysburg Summer Festival of the Arts got underway.
Using facial expressions and hand gestures, baritone William Lewans (right), accompanied by pianist Gregory Schulte (left), made the audience understand the love songs he was singing, even when they were not in English in the first concert of the Marysburg Summer Festival of the Arts, held May 25.

There was a small crowd to hear a big voice in Marysburg last week as the 11th season of the Marysburg Summer Festival of the Arts got underway.
The first concert of four to take place at Assumption Church in 2011 featured baritone William Lewans, a native of Saskatchewan now living in Toronto, and pianist Gregory Schulte of Saskatoon.
Schulte, who doubles as the artistic director for the Marysburg festival and a frequent performer, was happy to see people out for this performance.
"I know that there are probably quite a few farm folk busy putting seeds in the ground. We're happy a few of you were able to come," he stated at the opening of the concert.
Everything in that night's program was about love, though only a handful were in English.
The first piece, "Aubade" by Deodat de Severac from his "Trois pieces en langue d'oc," is a love song for the morning, as a serenade is one for the night.
From this first piece on, the powerful voice of Lewans filled every corner of the church.
The second piece was a series of 16 poems by German Robert Schumann, from his "Dichterliebe."
The poems, inspired by the experiences of the poet, in love with a woman of a higher status, had a variety of different moods. At times light and happy, at other times almost despairing, the mood of the different pieces changed dramatically from hopeful to angry, fearful and pained to sad and reflective.
Though sung in German, the emotions of each piece were translated through Lewans' animated facial expressions.
Before the second half of the concert began, Schulte praised the acoustics of Assumption Church.
The building, he said, "is remarkable for two things: resonance and amplification."
Because of it, anyone sitting anywhere in the church feels close to the voice and the sound of the instrument.
"It feels right close to your ear... and we hear you listening, we feel you listening," he said, which makes the audience part of the performance.
The second half of the concert included English pieces like Ralph Vaughan Williams' "Songs of Travel," and more German pieces, including selections from Richard Wagner's "Tannhäuser."
The two English songs tell of two different versions of love - in "Roadside Fire," the singer is a vagabond travelling with his love; in "Youth and Love" he's a young man leaving his love to see the world, explained Lewans.
A set of Ravel pieces from his "Don Quichotte a Dulcinée" portrays a man's three stages of endeavouring to win the love of the woman he wants: in "Chanson romanesque," he tries to impress her; in "Chanson epique," he prays; and in "Chanson a boire," he drinks.
The concert wrapped up with more English songs, including "Black Max," a decidedly more modern and dark tale of love, and "Waitin," a spiritual, both by William Bolcolm.
Finally, Richard Hundley's "Come Ready and See me" completed the program - a song about a man whose friend is dying far away and how he needs to see him one last time.
A standing ovation at the close of the concert, however, convinced Lewans and Schulte to perform an encore piece.
Lewans chose the hymn "Make Me a Channel of Your Peace," in honour of his parents.
"This song sums them up," he said.
Schulte asked the crowd to applaud themselves at one point in the performance.
"This is about something that not everyone loves," he said, "and many who do love it are not here because they don't know about it."
He urged those present to tell people about these concerts.
"We are looking forward to a wonderful season coming up," he said.
The next is set for June 15 and will feature flutist Ross Carstairs and pianist Gregory Schulte.

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