Daniel Cabena and Stephen Runge at Hart House

cabenarungeI was at a bit of a loose end yesterday so I made a very last minute decision to catch countertenor Daniel Cabena and pianist Stephen Runge in recital in the Great Hall at Hart House.  It was a free concert and I hadn’t seen a program listing so I was pleasantly surprised to find a rather varied mix of early 20th century Canadian and English art song as well as piano pieces by York Bowen.  I guess I was expecting baroque and earlier material since that’s what countertenors do!

The program was called  A Sanctuary in Song and explored the idea of rest and sanctuary from various angles using some very familiar material (pieces from Butterworth’s A Shropshire Lad and Vaughan Williams’ The House of Life) and some much less well known (e.g. Quilter’s Dream Valley and a coupe of songs by Cabena’s father, Barrie) .  It took me a couple of numbers to get “calibrated” to a countertenor singing material one usually associates with lower voices but once settled in I really enjoyed Cabena’s pure sound, elegant phrasing and excellent diction.  I particularly enjoyed an a capella rendition of The Three Ravens. A generous 90 minute program including several of York Bowen’s Preludes between song sets beautifully played by Runge who was also a most sympathetic accompanist.

I gather that this program is being toured around.  It’s worth catching if it comes your way.


2 thoughts on “Daniel Cabena and Stephen Runge at Hart House

  1. Cabena and Runge presented this lovely, masterful and engaging program at Western last month, and I was impressed with the exemplary committed work of both these fine artists. They were students together at L’Université de Montréal, so perhaps their collaboration dates back years. More telling than my own reaction was that my voice students were sufficiently moved by the repertoire to go running to the library to look up songs they were hearing for the first time, and were quick to tell me that they had asked Daniel Cabena how to order copies of his father’s fine songs from “Songs for Glad Vigils”!…..Infrequently programmed songs by Finzi ,Ivor Gurney, and W. Denis Browne’s magnificent “To Gratiana Dancing and Singing” were welcome inclusions on the program. I t bears noting that the entire recital was in English, and the full house here at Western made up of students but also the large number of members of the London community that come out daily to our events, were extremely responsive to texts they could hear and understand. This may be one approach to renewing attendance at song recitals…..I could not agree more with you John, this is a recital well worth catching it it comes to your community…..and Daniel Cabena will be singing Messiah on Dec 20th with the Guelph Chamber Choir in Guelph’s RiverRun Center, Gerald Neufeld conducting…..it will be worth a trip, and I will be taking my family.

    • Good point about language. I love art song in English. It’s not just that comprehension of the text deepens the experience but also, for me, about my relationship with that text. Some texts that’s not really the case, for example Tennyson, but settings of, say, Housman or Owen will get me every time. Same goes for arrangements of traditional songs, especially if they are from my native North.

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