Three was the magic number Wednesday night when Music at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church presented the Three Cantors of Canada. The three Anglican priests presented a program that ranged from Gregorian chants and liturgical hymns to Broadway tunes and spirituals. Angus Sinclair assisted on the piano.
Before they officially became known as the Three Cantors, Rev. Bill Cliff, Rev. David Pickett, and the Very Rev. Peter Wall had their own cathedrals in various towns in Ontario and were well known within their communities for liking to sing together, Wall told the small crowd. Sinclair played organ in a London, Ontario church. Then, 14 years ago, a priest friend suggested they give a concert. That became three concerts and, despite their shock at their success, that number continued to grow, he said. Now, with several discs recorded, they’ve given more than 180 concerts. All of them are to support world hunger and to date they’ve raised more than $1 million.
The three men showed they had not only beautifully regulated baritones with finished phrases, excellent pitch, solid part singing, and breath control, they had a sense of humor. The entire program was very polished.
Initially, they began with an a cappella chant from the back of the church, sung in Latin and English. They were dressed in black cassocks with either red or wine colored sashes. Once they came to face the audience, they sang “This Joyful Eastertide” with Sinclair providing a fourth harmony before he moved to the piano. The next six tunes were anthems, such as “Let Us Be Bread” or hymns, such as “Soul, Adorn Yourself with Gladness,” which was sung to a Spanish rhythm.
Then, off came the cassocks and on went the tuxedos. Each man took a turn to sing a golden oldie including: “If I Were a Rich Man” from “Fiddler on the Roof”; “Miss Otis Regrets” by Cole Porter (1934); “Puttin’ on the Ritz” from the 1930s film. Wall was especially smooth in “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” by Jerome Kern. Pickett was bittersweet in “What’ll I Do?” by Irving Berlin, but he sang so softly sometimes, one couldn’t hear the words. Cliff gave style to a rarity, “And Her Mother Came, Too.” Sinclair kept the pace moving and played everything from memory. A gospel number, “The Lights of the City,” was rowdy.
After a brief intermission, the Cantors continued with more oldies, a piano solo from Sinclair by Louis Vierne, a few of their favorites including “Old Man River” and some gospel numbers that brought loud applause.
The next concert on the series is Music for Two Pianos May 21.