This weekend, Winnipeg’s baroque chamber choir Canzona celebrates 35 years – and they’re throwing a party!  

The last concert in the Winnipeg Baroque Festival lineup happens on Sunday when Canzona and their artistic director Elroy Friesen welcome back old friends, special guests and their founding conductor, Dr. Henry Engbrecht.  

To boot, there will be some outstanding music, including the opening anthem, “Zadok the Priest” by Handel.  

“It’s a favourite,” says current Canzona Artistic Director and conductor, Elroy Friesen. “I’ve always wanted to do it.”  

A popular piece in the repertoire, it has, surprisingly, been sparingly performed in Winnipeg – Friesen hasn’t heard it live, and Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra members with whom he chatted can’t recall playing it. 

“It's a pretty exciting start (to the program),” says Friesen.  

From there, more Handel will be heard, music which predates the anthem by about two decades when the composer was studying abroad.  

“I think Handel was trying to prove himself in Italy,” says Friesen, noting the challenging vocal requirements for the singers. “It’s extreme ranges for virtually every choir part.”  

Set for soloists, chorus and orchestra, the commanding “Dixit Dominus” text may also reference the military upheaval at the time, as the War of Spanish Succession played out across Europe.  

Canzona goes beyond the baroque with music by contemporary Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Caroline Shaw on the program.  

Written in 2016, “To the hands” is a response to Ad manus from a Dieterich Buxtehude’s 17th century masterpiece “Membra Jesu Nostri.” Shaw’s work considers the suffering of those around the world seeking refuge, and of our role and responsibility in these global and local crises.  

“(The piece) comes from the point of talking about the hands,” explains Friesen. “Wounds that we carry in our hands and wounds that we give to others with our hands.”  

There is certainly a very clear social justice component to the work, he notes.  

“We live in a time right now where there’s a lot of things to reflect on,” says Friesen. “And we’re also living in a city where we’ve got work to do in building a healthy community.”  

The “spectacular” music is Friesen’s favourite on the program, even edging out the Handel Anthem. 

“(To the hands) is really stunning.”  

The concert closes with an alumni chorus joining the current crop of singers, led by founding conductor Dr. Henry Engbrecht.  

“He’s passionate about baroque music and he is passionate about Bach,” note Friesen.  

Appropriately, Engbrecht will conduct the “Dona Nobis Pacem” from Bach’s B Minor Mass. 

35! A Choral Celebration takes place 7 p.m. on Sunday, April 21 at Knox United Church.  

Tickets and more details available at: or  

NOTE: Puck drop between the Winnipeg Jets and the Colorado Avalanche is set for 6 p.m. on Sunday evening. Parking in the area is expected to be impacted.