New Rideau Chorale music director stages December concert

By Manor Park Chronicle

New Rideau Chorale Director Kevin Reeves begins his tenure with a Christmas concert at Southminister Church. Photo: Monika Rahman
New Rideau Chorale Director Kevin Reeves begins his tenure with a Christmas concert at Southminister Church. Photo: Monika Rahman

Choirs are the shared creation of their members and their music directors. Each community of singers and each professional choral leader bring unique qualities to the music and the sound. So, it’s big news when change occurs. And Rideau Chorale has big news.
Kevin Reeves is Rideau Chorale’s new music director.

Rideau Chorale is a 55-voice, auditioned community choir with members from across the National Capital Region.

“Kevin is a special artist in the Ottawa community,” says Manor Park resident and Rideau Chorale bass Tim Schobert. “He’s not only highly experienced and respected as a choral leader and musician, but he’s a cartoonist, film-maker and general all-round creative mind.”

Kevin was always surrounded by music – his mother was a piano teacher and his father a singer, although not formally trained. He studied piano and organ, and began singing with St. Matthew’s Church Choir in the Glebe.

By the 1980s, Kevin, a tenor, was singing professionally, including in a production of Stratford’s Beggar’s Opera, one of 32 young singers chosen from across Canada.

In 1982, he decided to try something new–conducting. He spent a season as St. Matthew’s interim music director. When the position ended, he didn’t know what was next. Kathryn Palmer, an Ottawa soprano, approached him to advise he was too good at conducting to give it up.

Kevin took her advice to heart. He formed and has since shepherded Ottawa’s Seventeen Voyces and worked with a wide variety of Ottawa-based groups, including the Ottawa Regional Youth Choir and the Ottawa Choral Society.

As well as conducting, Kevin has composed. From his Vision of the Gitche Manitou for countertenor Daniel Taylor, to the whimsical The Humpty-Dumpty Blues, to the comic opera Nosferatu, he has combined his musical knowledge, creativity and wit to the delight of singers and audiences.

First concert Dec. 10

And for his first concert as music director, Kevin will conduct several works by Marc-Antoine Charpentier, a composer who dominated the Baroque music scene in 17th century France.

The concert takes place Sunday, December 10th at 7:30 p.m. at Southminster Church, 15 Aylmer Ave.

Marc-Antoine Charpentier was the son of a master scribe and, thus, well connected to influential families in Paris. He was well-educated by the Jesuits, but quickly dropped out of law school and left for Italy. He headed to Rome where he studied with Giacomo Carissimi, a master of baroque.

Upon his return to France, he began working for the aristocratic Guise family where he remained for 17 years. The Guise family and their influence with King Louis XIV helped Charpentier break Jean-Baptiste Lully’s monopoly on the composition and performance of opera in France. And when Molière finally had his fill of Lully, he turned to Charpentier for the incidental music in his plays.

Charpentier was prolific, writing between 500 and 800 works, many now seemingly lost. But his music lives on today, with his Te Deum providing the fanfare for the Eurovision Network.

Reeves has chosen three pieces for performance by Rideau Chorale. The larger Messe de Minuit de Noël is based on ten traditional French carols and, instead of the solemn sound of many masses, has a lyric and dance-like quality. Magnificat H. 79 and Salve puerule are shorter pieces revealing more of Charpentier’s style.

So, put our concert in your calendar,” says Kevin, “and come experience the joyous atmosphere of a Baroque Noel.”

This article was written by Janice Manchee, chair of Rideau Chorale. She also sings tenor. Information about Rideau Chorale and its virtual and upcoming performances can be found on their website. Tickets are available on Eventbrite.

Kevin Reeves leads Rideau Chorale in rehearsal. Photo: Monika Rahman