Sunday, February 21, 2010

Broadway Gala v.9


I must say that last night's Broadway Gala was extremely fun and definitely the least stressful Gala I have ever experienced. I think it was due in part to the fact that Belle Canto didn't have too many numbers so I wasn't doing rapid-fire costume changes in the wings of the stage and I actually had time to just hang out in the green room and watch the other performances. However, it did feel strange to be so idle when there was still so much backstage chaos going on.

The first half of the evening were song selections revolving around the theme of "Family" from Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, The Sound of Music, Gypsy, Anne of Green Gables, White Christmas, and Cinderella and the second half were songs from The Fiddler on the Roof.

I have to get it out now, I must say a special thanks for the amazing men's chorus this year! It's staggering to think that these men return year after year to help us out with the Broadway Gala given the amount of work they have to go through every year. They definitely had a lot of work in store for them this year with the male chorus demands in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and Fiddler on the Roof. You may wonder how a treble-centric choral program manages to find men but it is all through the connections of our choristers. Fathers, husbands, brothers, friends, random strangers---these men comprise our male chorus. The only unfortunate thing this year was that Belle Canto and the Men's Chorus didn't have any duet numbers since I only have fond memories of knocking on coconut bras of the men from last year's South Pacific.

I watched the first half of the concert from the Green Room t.v. so it was hard for me to hear exactly everything that was going on but it seemed like everything appeared to run smoothly. The "Goin' Courtin'" song from Seven Brides for Seven Brothers was extremely cute when 2 Belle Canto lasses were showing the proper courting ways for the socially unrefined brothers. There was a point where each of the men took turns two-stepping with the gals and it was hilarious to watch their purposefully off-beat dance steps as they tossed the ladies around.

The numbers from Anne of Green Gables, Cinderella, and Gypsy were mainly small group or solo numbers and they all were carried off wonderfully from soloists from the choir. I do have to say, and I am not alone in this, that the highlight of the first half was definitely the songs from the Sound of Music and specifically the lovely little Mia, playing Gretel in "So Long, Farewell." The unphased little Mia sat in the middle of the stage all by herself and sang the solo line with confidence and charm. I watched from the backstage t.v.'s and my friend, Nicole, put it very well in saying that the performance was so gutwrenchingly cute that her ovaries felt it.

The second half with Fiddler on the Roof brought all the choirs on stage for the mass numbers, and I must admit, I was winging it for a few of the pieces. Due to the fact that I was in Montreal for most of the week and missed out on 3 of the large rehearsals, I was definitely lagging behind in choreography precision. I knew my steps for the solo Belle Canto numbers such as for "Sister's" and "The Dream" from Fiddler but everything else was new to me. I appreciated the help of my fellow choristers tweaking my movements in Fiddler during the dress rehearsal (which was right before the performance) and I just watched others for the cues in Sabbath Prayer, Anatevka, and Sunrise Sunset. Also, thanks to Amy from Belle Canto for gathering up some Belle's to run through "Sisters" with me backstage.

Sure, it wasn't my best Broadway Gala performance to date but I had fun and I know my slight mishaps didn't ruin the show. The most challenging was "The Dream," and it wasn't due to the fact that I didn't know what I was doing movement-wise, but lining up words with an improvised piano part was not easy. Especially when we needed to get notes from piano.... However, I am not here to dwell on the negative. It was an extremely fun performance overall and I must give kudos to Steven who played Tevye for many of the Fiddler songs. Maybe it just worked out that he's the husband of our choir conductor but we managed to maximize on his talent in the past few years. He played the she-male, Edna, from Hairspray last year, and his comedic flaire for Tevye was spot on this year. Plus, it makes me smile to think of how he is a Geology academic by day but a community Broadway star by night :)

Overall, our 9th Broadway Gala was a success in my eyes minus some small missteps, missed notes, and funky piano improv on some of the songs. It's a bit of a chaotic production every year but I wouldn't have it any other way :)

Enjoy some of the pictures from the evening!

The men's chorus in Fiddler on the Roof
Photo Credit: Stephen L.

Chamber Choir singing Do-Re-Mi from The Sound of Music
Photo Credit: Stephen L.

Touching up makeup backstage

An array of costumes from the evening

Relaxing in the Green Room

A cozy self-portrait

My dress for the sisters number. I originally brought a black dress (since I wasn't sure on what the costume verdit was as I kept on getting continuous e-mails from people changing their mind while I was away in Montreal) but I noticed that lots of people had color dresses on during the dress rehearsal. Due to the fact that our choreographer, Adam, said he was more focused on looking at people's dresses, I figured another black dress wasn't the most stimulating so I called my mom to bring this dress that has been sitting in my closet for a while. Sometimes I feel sorry for my pretty clothing pieces that never get to be worn so I'm glad this dress was able to have a night out. I believed it all worked out well and you can probably tell from the first photo in this post that the color pops a lot better than black.

Matching sister's dresses worn by actual sisters in the choir
Photo Credit: Amy B

Belles classy in black for our sisters numbers.
Photo Credit: Amy B

All of Belle Canto on stage performing Sisters
Photo Credit: Stephen L.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Fairwell Montreal

My last day in Montreal was definitely less action-packed but just as much fun. I met Leanne at the McGill Schulich School of Music around noon after her morning practising. We headed off to Simons yet again for some shopping but then ended over in the hip Plateau area on St. Laurent street for lunch.

At the advice of Jeremy, we went over to Cafe Santropol for their delicious sandwiches. In my mind I was expecting a bakery-like place that served sandwiches on the side but the exterior of this restaurant looked like an ordinary house. Indeed, inside the restaurant was a home-turned-restaurant and we grabbed a table in the sun-room at the back of the house. There was a cute patio outside which I can only imagine is very lovely in the summertime. The sandwiches were made on their signature Cafe Santropol bread and Leanne postulated that molasses was the secret ingredient to give the bread its rich color. There were so many delicious sandwich options but I ended up settling on one with smoked ham with apple and mint jelly. It was so refreshing and light! I can't wait to go back next time and try their other inventive sandwich options.

After lunch we did some vintage shopping on St. Laurent and one of the highlights was walking into a store where the sales girl looked like she walked out of the 50s era with her red lips, jet-black tied back into a chic roll, thick-framed glasses and vibrant cropped sweater. The store was full of hidden gems with showcases full of cat-rimmed glasses, shelves with evening clutches from the 1960s and hanging displays of vintage brass broaches. I appreciated the fact that this vintage store was extremely non-junky since it's no fun to go vintage shopping and you're sniffling because everything is dusty and old.

It started snowing and getting chilly near the end of our shopping trip so we headed back to Leanne's place to start on dinner for the evening. She made a delicious vegetarian casserole and baked vegan chocolate brownies for dessert. Again, we topped off the evening by viewing multiple episodes of GLEE as well as watching the Olympics men's hockey shootout between Canada and Sweden. Exciting times!

Now, I am back in Edmonton and getting myself organized for the Cantilon Broadway Gala I'll be performing at tomorrow. If you're in the Edmonton/St. Albert area, you should come check out the show!

Location: Arden Theatre St. Albert, AB
Time: 7:30 pm
Tickets: $30 Adult, $15 Student

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Montreal Binge Eating

I fear this blog is venturing far away from the realm of choral music, oh well, I'm taking a break from school so the subject matter is taking a break from choral singing as well.

Today Leanne and I headed off to try lunch at The Sparrow. If I thought Reservoir was amazing yesterday, the Sparrow is equal if not better. I was assured everything on the menu was delicious and it was. The restaurant is run by a chef who worked under Gordon Ramsay in London and the Sparrow embraces "gastropub" food. Thus, uniting liquor and delicious eats to go along with it. I also heard they have a killer brunch... too bad I'm not here until the weekend! The restaurant design was also quaint and cute with a lovely sparrow patterned wallpaper on one side of the restaurant.

Afterward, Leanne and I ventured off to find Fairmont Bagels where she picked up many delicious hand-rolled bagels.

We walked down St. Denis and did some shopping and when we parted ways, where she headed off to rehearsal, I took a break from walking in the cold and went to go get some hot chocolate at Juliette et Chocolat. I remember last time I visited Juliette et Chocolat I had a bit too much chocolate and had an intense sugar buzz afterwards. This is because their hot chocolate isn't some watered-down powder mix. You're drinking actual melted chocolate mixed with cream. This time I didn't overdose and the experience was much more enjoyable. I just sat there, drinking liquid chocolate gold and eating a sundae topped with brownies, strawberries, bananas and chocolate fondue sauce while reading the online news from my cell phone. After this I did some more shopping in the area before meeting back up with Leanne after her Contemporary Music Ensemble rehearsal at McGill.

Leanne was famished so we went to find La Banquise for some delicious Montreal poutine. This restaurant is 24h and I have fond memories of its greasy and satisfying dishes. My friend and I searched for this restaurant by walking uphill on icy streets with killer windchill and I remember the sweet, warm, smell of victory when the aroma of freshly fried food was in the air. La Banquise was a greasy comfort-food haven for us and it has not changed. I opted for the Poutine Dan Dan this time where crispy fries were topped off with pepperoni, bacon, onions and cheese all smothered in gravy. Greasy heart-attack inducing food never tasted so good!

We headed back to her apartment and enjoyed viewing "Chickasaw" a musical DVD gifted to me by Donald Patriquin yesterday. I also topped off that viewing by introducing Leanne to GLEE and we watched the pilot together. How I love that show!

Just one more day in the city!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A Choir Girl in Montreal

I am traveling away in Montreal and I have a few highlighted snapshots to show for it :)

Started out in Verdun, QC walking from Leanne and Jeremy's apartment to the metro

Heading up to the Plateau area to have lunch at Reservoir (a restaurant recommended to me by my sister). So delicious! The restaurant had a laid-back vibe but the food is gourmet in a non-pretentious way. The menu was all in French on a chalkboard and I ordered something where I recognized the words "salmon and apple" but I wasn't wholly sure of what the dish was. However, I did find out it was a pan fried salmon which was topped off with deep fried sweet onions on a baked slice of apple. I know it sounds like a strange combination but it was so inventive and appetizing. I have never tasted anything in my life like it!. To top it off, I got warm crusty bread to go along with my latte!

Then I was off to a concert at St. James United Church to see Leanne play in her string trio. In between waiting for busses to arrive and dodging hobos at church entrances I couldn't get into I, unfortunately, was late and missed their piece since they were first in the program. But I did catch the other performers and they sounded great. The church was also a really nice venue for music.

After the concert I met up with Canadian composer, Donald Patriquin, and chatted about music over sushi. What an excellent combination! We did a gift swap at the end where I passed along some music from the Cantilon Chamber Choir and he shared a DVD with a musical he wrote music and directed called "Chickasaw." He also gave me a reusable bag with a Nietzsche quote in French "Life without music is an error" to bring a hopeful reminder that I made the right choice about not going on the choir tour after reading my post: Choral Apathy.

Then I was off to St. Catherine's for shopping! I raided of Simons thoroughly and afterward I gawked at beautiful things I can't afford at Ogilvy's.

Since I had time, I went to Schwartz for a smoked Montreal meat sandwich. I was told that I HAD to eat here and after dodging the hobo outside the door (lots of hobo run-in's today) I enjoyed a deli sandwich at the counter. It was delicious but there was just SO much meat. I couldn't even see the bread! I had to divide what I thought was the midway point of the sandwich and eat 4 separate pieces with a fork and knife. It's very much a eat-and-go restaurant, since there's always a line-up, but I think it would be a much more relaxing dining experience if I went back with some more people next time.

Then I took the bus back to the McGill area and had a chai latte at Art Java. It was nice to just sit down and read the McGill student newspaper. Olympic news was also on the t.v. so I enjoyed how people were in Stanley Park golfing since the weather was so nice and warm for the Olympics. It was also just nice to be near other students, even though they were all there cramming for exams and finishing up their papers before their reading week, which happens to be a next week.

After meeting up with Leanne we came back to her place and baked chai spice cookies from scratch and had a craft evening where we made cards. What a fantastic way to unwind after a very productive day!

Because I believe in sharing delicious things, here's the recipe to make your own chai spice cookies! Credit to Lilian, Leanne's friend!

Chai-Spiced Cookies

Makes about 30 cookies

Fragrant with the classic flavors of chai tea, these buttery, crumbly cookies are perfect for dunking in a cup of tea of coffee.


1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup powdered sugar, sifted


Preheat oven to 350°F. Beat butter with granulated sugar and vanilla in a medium bowl until well blended. Stir in flour, spices and salt until just combined.

Scoop and roll dough into small teaspoon-sized balls and place about an inch apart on parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Bake until lightly golden, 15 to 20 minutes. Cool on the sheet for 5 minutes. Roll warm cookies in powdered sugar and let cool completely on a rack. Store in an airtight container.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Time for a Break!

It is high time for a break! More specifically, a reading week break! A full week without early morning classes, assignments and major commitments! Is it sad to say I've been waiting for this since the beginning of January?

Anyway, my reading week break will be filled with the following activities:
  • Heading to Montreal to visit my dear friend, Leanne, whom I sang with in Con Fuoco and Jeremy, her lovely husband
  • Meet up with Canadian composer, Donald Patriquin, for a tour of the McGill music department-yay for connecting with awesome music people though blog comments!
  • Shop at Simons-yes, this is totally unrelated to music or choir... but I'm still a girl... and girls shop when they travel :)
  • Drinking hot chocolate and eating copious amounts of Montreal deli sandwiches
  • Coming back home to perform in the Cantilon Broadway Gala's performance of Fiddler on the Roof
I'll be back just in time for the Broadway Gala performance. If you read my post on it last year, you can bet it'll be a fun evening indeed. We do the dress rehearsal that afternoon and the performance that evening. I'm missing all of the blocking rehearsals next week leading up to the performance, but thankfully, we blocked Belle Canto's main numbers and for the other group pieces I can easily assimilate myself into the background. I know my notes and words so I'm not worried.

Take care and stay warm (for those in chilly climates like mine!)

I'll definitely be blogging when I'm in Montreal next week so stay tuned!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Choral Apathy

I have put off writing this post for a while because, frankly, it kills me to be talking about it. For as long as I have been in choir, I have enjoyed the perks of being in a choir from free food to the chance to tour amazing places.

In the beginning years of the Chamber Choir, my first tour was to Regina SK, after that was Vancouver BC, following that was my first international tour where we went to Wales for the Llangollen Music Festival, then there was a mini choir exchange tour to Toronto ON. Next, I was off on my next large international trip: Hungary, Vienna, and Prague for the Bela Bartok Festival. Then I had a few years break but I still had the chance to go on a mini trip to Victoria B.C. for a day to sing at a music conference. However, after a few years in Belle Canto, we were off to Cork Ireland to compete in the Cork International Choral Festival! Then I was extremely lucky to be able to return to Cork the following year because the University of Alberta Madrigal singers entered the same festival as well! Yes, I have been extremely lucky to travel to so many places. Yes, I have been blessed to have had the opportunity to sing in amazing venues. Yes, touring is a luxury and I have been given an experience that some people will never be exposed to. It still hurts though. Since I haven't explained myself very well "it" refers to the fact that Belle Canto is off to compete in the Seghizzi Choral Festival in Italy this July... and I'm not going.

This is the first time that I have been left out of a choir tour.

Don't get me wrong, it has nothing to do with the choir, I know they would all be happy to have me there, but it's the first time where "life" has interfered with my choral passions. The reason I will not be able to head off to Italy and have wonderful choral adventures is that my Masters program is packed with clinic and courses that I need to complete, which, coincidentally, runs until the end of July. For a few months in the summer last year, after accepting my place in the program, I toyed with the idea of going to Italy.... maybe even just for the weekend! Show up, compete in the classes, and then head back to Canada without missing on any major coursework or clinic time! My mind buzzed with this possibility! Maybe it was possible to have the best of both worlds??? Alas, the stress of not knowing what I would be missing until July arrived and by that point already having my tickets booked just didn't cut it for me. Also, I usually extend my trip and travel after the competition (since I'm already over there) but a 3-day weekend blitz would not really allow for that. I had to make a decision... and school won out. However, I have to admit that when I received my acceptance call from the University, after the initial shock from that message died down, the FIRST thing that popped into my head was: "That means I can't go to Italy."


For a second I felt like declining my Masters acceptance! I realize that may sound a bit sick to some of you readers. Clearly, I did not act on this natural choral reflex of mine (my parents would have probably slaughtered me after first giving me a raging lecture on how I shamed them and all their efforts to raise me). I have slowly come to terms with the fact that I won't be able to go, trying to find trivial details to make me feel better like "That means I don't have to fundraise like crazy this year! Whoot $2500 saved!", "Nobody knows where Seghizzi is anyway!", and "The performance venue doesn't look that nice". All in attempt to placate my silently suffering self.

I have never been through such a bout of choral apathy. It is a deadly thing. It's the crippling unmotivation that is getting me. I feel like I have nothing to work towards this year. Why should I memorize that piece? I won't be able to sing it anyway. Why should I go to that performance? I don't need performance experience anyway. Maybe it's even better for me not to sing since I'm just throwing off the group balance that actually will be touring. I've always known it's important to have a common goal in choir, whether it is for a particular concert or competition, but once that end goal is no longer in sight, it's hard to motivate yourself to continue what you're doing. We all need something to drive us and inspire us to be better. When that stimulus is gone... we're directionless.

Meanwhile, I am excited that my choir is going and watching them buzz over the amazing experiences to come! I get to hear about their travel plans and the amazing gigs they are lining up for themselves, such as singing in St. Mark's Cathedral for Sunday service in Venice! However, I can find myself detaching from it since I find it hurts less. The less I know about their wonderful tour plans the less I know about the things I am missing out on. It's not a great strategy but it's the one I'm currently employing. Silent detachment with a hint of grin-and-bear-it.

I suppose it would be easier if I could blame this on something. Blame it on the choir for not wanting me there! That's not the case. Blame it on my passion-consuming program! Which is not the case (for the most part). Blame it all on me! Even though I know I made right choice since there wasn't really a choice.

All I can do is wish them the best. Cheer them on while they're overseas competing. Hope they bring back a 1st place standing so I can bask in the glory as well, because, hey, even though I'm not standing on the same stage as them in Italy doesn't mean I'm not still a part of the choir :) Oh, and for any of my fellow choristers reading this post, I also wouldn't say no to them bringing home a handsome Swedish choir boy for me :)

In the meantime, take care readers, I hope this wasn't too much of a oh-woe-is-me blog post! I really do wish my choir the best and you can bet I'll be singing with them up until the day they leave on that plane to Italy!