Thursday, July 29, 2010

A Choral Opportunity

Greetings readers!

Now that many of my fellow Belle Canto choristers are back in Canada, and Amy B. finished up the last of her guest blogger posts, it is time for this blog to be transferred back to my choral-centric ways. I can't say that I've been too busy with choir for the past while. While Belle Canto was in Italy, I was constantly checking my Facebook for photo and status updates from the choir. Even though I wasn't there... I really felt like I was there. When I would see photos of the whole choir performing I could see the spot where I would be standing and the sites I would have seen had I been with them. However, I don't feel too sorry about myself since I am actually headed to Italy in August! Just because I can't participate in the competition doesn't mean I can't tour the country on my own. This time next week I will be in Rome!

I suppose it is time to give you all an update what I have been up to during the time my choir was away. Yes, I was busy with all my school and clinic commitments but I have also had an ongoing project from the end of April. If some of you may remember a recording project I took on at the end of April, which I blogged about in this post, I can now report what those recordings were actually for. I was actually auditioning to be on the substitute list for the professional adult choir here in Edmonton: Pro Coro.

Shocking, I know!

For my fellow choristers reading this entry---do not fear! I am not leaving Belle Canto. I just thought it was time that I tried something new. It was rather impulsive decision. I was just randomly on their website while I was taking a break from studying for my Motor Speech Disorders final, and their sidebar message had me hooked:

They were still going to consider audio submissions for singers to be placed on the substitute list! I thought this was the perfect opportunity! I knew that I wouldn't have the time to be a full-time member, since I'm still in a full-time Master's program, but I thought that being on the substitute list would provide me a chance to sing with them without being tied down for the whole season. Most of the choristers in Pro Coro are professional musicians or they are voice students studying at the University. A little bit out of my comfort zone but I'm used to being the odd one out when it comes to performing in these groups.

My audio submissions were considered and I received a message back saying that there was a possibility that I would be considered for the substitute list. That was nice of them to let me know! Then a few weeks ago I received and e-mail from the assistant conductor, telling me that they were interested in hearing me live to assess my musical and sight-reading skills. I was worried. It has been years since I've done a live audition (we don't re-audition the same choristers every year in Belle Canto to save time). It was also one of those times where I wish I would have taken an aural skills class in University. I knew sight-reading would be tricky for me because I'm actually not the best sightreader. In choir, after the first run-through of a piece, we hardly ever sightread just for the fun of it so I rarely practice sightreading. Learning notes quickly in a choir is one thing but what about musical group sensitivity? How can that be assessed while in an audition situation? Sometimes I feel like you're tested like a soloist in a choir audition. However, I also realized that if I want to get into more professional groups, I was going to have to learn how to go through a professional audition process in order to get into them. It's high time I stopped complaining and did something about it.

On the day of the audition, I went warmed up, dressed well, and ready to get beat-down by the sightreading passages. It was actually a pretty calm experience. I had trouble getting a good breath at some times so my breath support did not fuel me as long as I would have liked for some of the long aria passages. However, chord and interval singing, range testing etc. went smoothly. The sight-reading started easy and got progressively more complicated. By the end I had no idea what the line was supposed to sound like. It looked at the notes and they were all just random intervals all over the staff. I tried my best and moved on.

Another interesting part was when I was asked to sing a "whole tone scale". I tried to grasp at the residual theory knowledge from my childhood and realized I was thinking of a "whole tone" but that was not necessarily a "whole tone scale." I looked at my auditioner puzzled. I knew that feigning understanding would not serve me well so I confessed I was not familiar with that term. He played the scale for me a few more times. It sounded strange. Definitely something I had not sung before. He played it one more time and asked me to try it. I butchered it. Then he explained to me the 4th note was a tritone and to try again and I got it spot-on. Hopefully, I was able to learn it quickly enough to convince him that I'm not a complete musical dud.

The whole audition didn't last for very long, and before I knew it, I was being escorted out the door. He told me he would run my audition results and recordings pass the principal conductor, Richard Sparks, and that they would get back to me. Overall, I was just glad for the opportunity to step out of my musical box.

Anyway, a few days after I received a message from Mr. Sparks. They would like me to sing at the first concert of their season on October 3, 2010. I heartily consented!

Sometimes, when you've been in a choir for too long, you no longer feel challenged and start wondering if you're actually any good because you don't feel like you're actually getting any better. I took this audition process to see how I compared to other choristers in the city and it seems like I'm good enough to at least fill in! Hey, that works for me! I'm excited for this opportunity and to see what new things I can learn throughout the process. Stay tuned in September as I definitely will have thoughts in relation to the rehearsal process.

Until next time, take care readers!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Guest Blogger Series: Singing in Italy

Photo Credit: Amy B.

Singing in Italy


Since I’ve been fortunate to be the guest blogger on The Choirgirl, I thought it was appropriate to end on a musical note. We’ve just finished a week and a half of singing our faces off, and I would be remiss if my blogging didn’t reflect this. I can tell I am an inexperienced/uncertain/rookie blogger, because I couldn’t bring myself to blog during our time in Gorizia – I felt like I shouldn’t comment on an experience while we (and other choirs who read The Choirgirl blog) were still having it….I know, I know: this is exactly what bloggers usually do (be current) but I couldn’t. So I didn’t. And now I am forced to give you a synopsis of our very busy tour – hopefully I don’t miss much.

Since I am a person who appreciates moments, I’ve made a list of some of the singing moments that stand out from this tour:

Most Amazing Church Performance Experience in Italy: The Mass we sang at Chiesa di Sant’Agostino, in San Gimignano, for sure. For starters, I was so overheated from a couple of days without air con and the heat of the morning (see previous blog post about heat) that I got very sick just before service began….not my finest moment. Fortunately, I was able to regroup to sing all but 1 of the selections we shared at mass. The acoustic in the church was lovely and we sang so well, our director had a teary moment at the end of the Carillo Ave Mario. We had 2 masses to sing that day, the second one being at Basilica San Marco in Venice, so we figured if mass #1 was this good, the second one would be an AMAZING experience for sure!

LEAST Amazing Church Performance Experience in Italy: The Mass at Basilica San Marco, unfortunately. Maybe it was the anticipation that killed it for us…..or, MAYBE it was the SOUND CHECKS ON THE OUTDOOR STAGE DIRECTLY OUTSIDE IN SAN MARCO SQUARE WHICH BOOMED through the church through most of the mass. Unfortunate, especially since the concert they were sound checking for wasn’t even until the following day! The acoustic in the church was disappointing, and it took the priest a while to warm up to us. Also, we had to sit in a very odd arrangement to sing, which took some getting used to. And there was a lot of heat. And standing. We sang well, but it just wasn’t the same. Boo.

Buggiest Concert: Piazza San Pietro Martire, in Monza, by a mile – mosquitoes EVERYWHERE. Lucky for us, my fabulous husband ran out and found bug repellent for all of us (right around the time the farmacia’s were all closing, I’m told, so it was quite a feat!). We have a picture of everyone spraying themselves down prior to the outdoor concert – very funny. The concert was in a beautiful courtyard in the middle of a cloister, with a lovely garden. We sang in the garden and our audience sat along the outdoor hallways on two sides. The concert didn’t start until 9:00 but this did not allow for much cooling of the temperature – even our Italian hosts were concerned about the heat! A 9:00 start time also meant that lights were required for us to see and for our audience to see us....heat-producing lights, right over our heads, sadly. In the end, the concert was very successful – by this time, much of our music was very comfortable from so much performance and practice, and we were all very focused on perfecting things for the competition, so we sang well. Our hosts were also very gracious, and treated us to good food (and wine) before and after the show.

Photo Credit: Amy B.

Best Reaction to a Performance We Gave: This is a toss up, because we had very appreciative audiences and fans all the way along, but I think I have to give it to the owner of Castello di Verranzzano Winery. He asked us to sing on his outdoor patio, overlooking his winery, and when we finished, he was speechless and tearful. I recall him saying something about being where he loved to be, doing what he loved to do and hearing such beautiful music all at once….I was very touched. Runner-up reaction goes to Gianfranco, our bus driver, who recorded us singing Sida Rudia and made it his ringtone – it doesn’t get much better than that.

Photo Credit: Erin M.

Place We Should Have Done a Concert But Didn’t: Postojna Caves. I have never seen anything so amazing, The caves are beautiful and vast and the acoustic was to die for. They actually have a part near the exit called the “Concert Hall”, and they told us the space had a 6 second reverberation time. Cool. Apparently they actually host concerts there fairly often, but we didn’t know this until we got there – this would be a good reason to go back to Slovenia. We sang Kaipavaa there, just for kicks. It was awesome.

Photo credit: Steven T.

Competition Highlight: Our 20th Century class performance wins it, I think. Every competition has a moment like this, and I think this was ours – we just gelled, and all of the details we’d practiced and obsessed over came together in that moment. We all left the theatre quite excited, agreeing that we had rocked it.

Photo Credit: Amy B.

Awards Won: Five in total: 2nd place in Folksong, 2nd place in Romantic, 4th place in 20th Century, 4th in the Grand Prix, and a special award for “Program of Most Artistic Interest”.

Photo Credit: Steven T.

Photo Credit: Amy B.

The Opportunity to Spend Two Weeks With 23 Amazing Women, Making High Quality Music to be Proud of, In Italy: unforgettable and priceless.

In Italy, we got to know each other. We became an ensemble who could finish each other’s musical sentences. We sang hard and gave it everything we had. It was my privilege to take part, and to share some of our moments with you.

Photo Credit: Amy B.

Photo Credit: Amy B.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Guest Blogger Series: Heat and Singers Don't Mix

Greetings Readers!

I hope you've been enjoying the posts from my fellow chorister, Amy, who is composing guest blogger posts for me while Belle Canto is competing in the Seghizzi festival in Gorizia, Italy. As much as it kills me inside to see continuous Facebook updates and the uploaded photos, I can't help but look to see what they're doing! I feel like I'm extremely informed on what is going on! Ah, the amazing way internet connects us all. Amy even said that one of my Hungarian blog readers, Evelyn-a Magnificat Youth Choir member from Budapest, said hi to my choir during the welcome ceremony! I have this warm, fuzzy, choral feeling in my heart. Ah, readers uniting in choral love! Thanks to Ken who even snapped a picture to document this meet!

Miss. Sable


Photo credit: Erin M.

Heat and Singers Don't Mix
Guest Blogger: Amy B.

Hello again from beautiful, sunny, sweaty, sweltering Italy! We have been here for over a week now and there are so many things we have learned to love about Italy: the gelato (have I mentioned this before?), the appreciative audiences, the relaxed sense of time, the wine, the gorgeous stone streets and the history around every corner, to name just a few. I wish I could blog about any one of these things, or the music we’ve been able to perform here. But there is this one lingering issue I think we can all agree has tempered our enthusiasm for Italy and for the experience in general: THE HEAT.

Before leaving, I took the liberty of checking the weather forecast for Italy and discovered that it would probably be hot and consistently so – the average high for every day of the forecast was 34 degrees Celcius, and the low was 21. There was never any mention of wind, rain….or any other kind of weather, so I wasn’t expecting any. No surprises and hot days. That’s what I was prepared for.

On average, the weather here HAS been unfailingly consistent. And hot. The average and unchanging temperature range since we’ve arrived has been 38-42 degrees Celsius. No wind, no rain…or any other kind of weather. Just hot.

Nothing looks the same in this heat. Nothing FEELS the same in this heat. OR SOUNDS the same. Every breath, every movement, every note we sing is affected by the oppressive sun.

This seems dramatic, I know, and I’m sure there are people reading this now who are thinking: “Oh come on – how bad can it REALLY be?”….and the answer is REALLY bad. But, true professionals soldier on and we have, for the most part. Many of us now own fans and the sound of them waving in the still and stifling humid air has becoming the white noise of our rehearsals. We are drinking bottles and bottles and BOTTLES of water and powerade, which has created a new standard for bathroom break intervals on long bus trips. We have also developed a fascination for ANY product displayed in ANY store with reasonable air conditioning, and will go to great lengths to check out EVERYTHING in that store in detail before moving on.

Photo credit: Erin M.

These strategies, however, only help before and after we sing. During hot performances, we have had to employ different techniques to survive and continue to produce music worth listening to. Our casual uniforms have been a blessing, as they are shorter than our formal uniforms, allowing slightly more skin to remain uncovered. Our hairstyles and make up routines have been considerable reduced before singing, since we’ve discovered that it all gets swept away in sweat anyways. Wet cloths against our necks are a great relief just prior to going on stage. Some choristers (who shall remain nameless) have even been known to soak uniforms before wearing them, in order to benefit from the cooling effects of evaporation. Also, not one of us has uttered the words “nylons?” in our director’s presence and so, thus far, we have not been asked to wear them once….at this point, it would seem like adding insult to injury.

The upsides of this weather for singers are few but I’ll mention them: we are almost permanently vocally warmed up in the extreme humidity and we are generally a more pleasing colour after a week of exposure to constant sun, even with the spf 45 sunscreen we’ve been reapplying. As well, we’ve had several neutral audience members tell us that there is a nice “glow” about us as we sing….these people clearly can’t see close enough to spot the sweat running down our backs.

I’m hot just thinking about this, and it’s time to sing again – off for a quick gelato (my all time favorite Italian heat survival technique) before the show!

Photo credit: Erin M.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Guest Blogger Series: Our First Concert and Other Italian Notes

Our First Concert and Other Italian Notes


We’ve just returned from our first concert with Tempus Floridium, and I am pleased to report that everything went quite well. Tempus Floridium is a group of 7 singers with a repertoire of early music, mostly – they had great energy and took on some challenging pieces for such a small group! I especially enjoyed a few of the Italian madrigals they had prepared – I would love for us to sing some of them but I am fairly certain our tongues will never wrap themselves around all of those words!

We also sang well, despite the heat, and managed to share a program of secular and sacred music with our audience. This concert was organized by an arts organization in the city and was a part of a series. As a result, we had very little to do with the set up, and very little idea what to expect from this performance opportunity. What we were greeted with on arrival was a long hill our bus could not climb. AFTER we climbed it, we found ourselves an orangerie with a small auditorium on it, a bar/refreshment stand, a tent being assembled for acrobatics and a few low key Italians having dinner and waiting for the 9:00 concert start time.

After a quick warm up and a brief hello to Tempus Floridium, the concert began. A few things we learned that night about concerts in Italy include:

• It is always good to have a casual uniform. This became VERY apparent as we hiked up the hill, not in our flowy concert dress, but instead in our short, knee-covering skirts and black shirts (red peep-toed shoes optional, although most people waited til the last moment before putting them on).
• Time is relative. Time in Italy is considered differently than at home. In Canada, a concert at 9:00 starts at 9:00, or shortly thereafter; in Italy, a concert at 9:00 begins when everyone is ready…..which was about 9:30….ish. Audiences are different too: in Canada, most people show up for the concert start time; whereas, during this concert, many people arrived part way through and chatted with people they sat with…..interesting.
• Language learning is tricky, no matter where you are. Tempus Floridum thought our Italian was passable, and had many good tips to improve the text of Verdi’s Laudi Alla Vergine Maria, which we performed that night. We noticed that their English was just as good as our Italian, which made us feel a little better about that.
• There is nothing like being away in very different surroundings to make you feel very proud of where you’re from. Nuf said.

It feels good to be singing again, in this lovely place. The next time you hear from me, we will have sung Mass at St. Marco’s, in Venice. Ciao for now!

Sunday, July 11, 2010


Photo by: Twila B.

Greetings readers,

I've just had myself a music-filled weekend at SOSfest with my friend Nadia and I have to say that my brain is completely saturated with music. You could play me more music but I don't think my neurons are capable of processing it.

SOSfest is a live music festival in the Old Strathcona area and this is the first year that it has been put on. There is an ever-increasing live music scene in the city and it was quite inspiring to hear the talent that is resulting from it. It's like a mini musical movement right here in my city! There's everything from funk, rap, indie-pop, electronica and folk singer/songwriters and many others emerging. Of course, not all of the artists at the festival were from Edmonton, but I do have to say a large majority of them were. However, most of them were Canadian artists and it's just wonderful to see and hear the talent. In the back of my mind, I always knew there was a lot going on but it's another thing to see all the acts play one after the other in a variety of venues in the area. It's also fantastic that the whole Old Strathcona area, which is the hip culture/night-life area in Edmonton, was turned into a hubbub for live music over the weekend. I felt like I was wearing a wristband of power that allowed me unlimited entry into different concerts in a variety of different venues within the span of a few blocks.

Festivals are always exciting and somewhat frustrating entities because there is just so much to see but you can only be in one place at a time. You have to plan strategically what you are going to see and along the way there are always hits and misses. However, there are those moments when you are in exactly the right place at the right time and you know that you were meant to be at that concert. Definitely had that moment this weekend at the Michael Bernard Fitzgerald concert, but you'll hear more about that later. In order to organize this entry I'm just going to chronologically list the 21 acts I was able to hear within the span of a few days and post some thoughts about them. Feel free to check out links to these artists to learn more and hear sound clips.

Photo by: Twila B.


Daniel Moir: a Edmonton singer and songwriter. Not too many people in the audience but it felt very intimate and I was interested to hear him after an article about him in the Edmonton Journal. He had a very sweet sounding voice which accompanied the gentle sounds of his guitar and I'll be interested to hear what he comes up with in the future. There's still a bit of polishing that needs to happen soundwise and in showmanship but he has the raw goods to do it.
Lorrie Matheson: the concert where I had to whip out my ear plugs (the Arts Barn studio was quite small and the band was playing fully amped). Don't remember too much from this concert other than the lead singers curly hair. They were alright but nothing that gripped me intensely enough to remember.
Foam Lake: an interesting group from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. They used some electronic sound that they merged with the live sound of their band. Listening to clips from their MySpace peaked my interest, but I found that listening to them live didn't really further my interest.
Ann Vriend: a quirky and charming female vocalist. She encouraged audience sing-along participation and enjoyed the use of kazoo solos within her songs. She also looked awesome and had fantastic red shoes and lipstick on. Presentation goes a long way.
Randy Graves: a hard metal band that kind of hurt my ear-plugged ears. I think this was the first act where I was worried for the lead singer and it's almost like I could hear vocal nodules developing. Nobody should be screaming for 1h straight. I had this inexplicable urge to teach him about proper vocal hygiene. It's the speech-path-in-training tendency in me.
Volcanoeless in Canada: a fun group that had this nice dancy vibe to them. Again, a group I listened to beforehand on MySpace but my expectations of them didn't really stack up when I heard them live. I should really stop listening to groups beforehand. But then again, it helped me decide what I wanted to go hear.
Ten Second Epic: unexpectedly enough, the funnest concert of the day! I was somewhat familiar with their hit tunes but I had never seen them live. They've been getting a lot of attention on the Canadian music scene and even abroad with MMVA nominations and their collaboration with JUNO artist: LIGHTS. I have to say that the lead singer spewed out an overwhelming amount of energy with his squinty-eyed intensity while he stared down the audience with a mischievous smile. He also had a Bieber-esqe hair toss. The girls went wild. I also enjoyed the fact that the members of the band don't really look like they belong together. Two of the guitar players looked like they should be playing with an 80s rock metal band with their long stringy hair, the lead singer and drummer look like they're from the current era of teenage rockers, sporting their fitted t-shirts and cut-off shorts, and the other member fell somewhere in between. They were very fun to watch and their energy was infectious. I found myself dancing along even though I didn't know most of their tunes.


Bronze Leaf: a mellow concert in the basement of the soon-to-be-closed Megatunes. Bronze Leaf delivered gentle vocals that made me drowsy but not exactly in a bad way. Her grassroots indie-folk vibe was an chill way to start the day.
Erica Vogel: a previous fellow chorister of mine. She studied at the UofA and went to study at the University of Montreal and has just finished the past year at the Manhattan School of Music in NYC. The way she heard about SOSfest was very interesting. I posted a Facebook note alerting my friends to the fact that this festival was on and one of my classical music friends, Leanne, posted a challenge (via Facebook) to the classical musicians in Edmonton to do a concert at SOSfest and bring some diversity to the band-driven festival. Erica stepped up to the challenge and delivered a lovely set of vocal pieces with Latin flavour.
Still Within: a short stop where I checked out this male duo and their guitars but I didn't stay for too long. It was in the Filthy McNasty's bar venue and I wasn't really looking to sit down and order food but it was a nice break for those who wanted to catch music at the festival but needed a food/drink break.
Pre/Post: a neat band that infused pre-programmed synth beats in addition to their live music. Their overall sound needed some polishing, but I still enjoyed watching them. I felt bad that there were only 4 people in the audience, 2 of whom seemed to know the band as well as Nadia and I.
Artisan Loyalists: a hidden gem I discovered at the festival. I wasn't exactly planning on seeing this group but I am glad I did. Ever since my electromusic composition course, I have this new-found respect and interest for electronic music. This group had an interesting tripod set up. They all had their guitars or drums but in front of each of the guitar players was a keyboard or synth board and a laptop. They were able to whip out electronic snip-bits in addition to their live music and I just really felt like they took the time to create music. I also feel that in electronic music I never know where the musical line is supposed to go, since it just all seems to blend together, but I felt like they had movements within their pieces and I was able to hear the music unfold in an organic way. Extremely enjoyable and I definitely will stay updated on what they are up to next.
Concealer: an electronic male/female duo but I felt like the overuse of electronic synth reverb was hurting my eardrums so I peaced out of this set early to go and meet a friend before Darren Frank
Darren Frank: o.k, so I must admit I didn't watch his whole concert, but I was able to hear it from the outside as I chatted with my friend Ross. He sounded quite good from a background music standpoint.

Michael Bernard Fitzgerald: By far my favorite show of the festival! I had feeling I would really like his musical style since he came highly recommended from my friend, Julia, who saw him at the Starlite Room a few months back. I was excited to hear him for myself. His whole look had an artsy appeal about it with a fitted red t-shirt, rolled-up black skinny pants and barefeet in his preppy sneakers. It also made me smile to see a daisy was attached to his guitar. I think it's his life goal to bring happiness to other peoples lives.

Before his set began, he confessed it was a little awkward to just start, since we were watching him tune, so he alerted the audience that he was going to walk through the crowd, out the back, through 2 green doors, pace up and down a bit backstage, and then come on stage again. Maybe this isn't funny at all when you read about it now but his comedic delivery of it just endeared him to the audience. It also helps that whenever he slips a smile during his songs it kind of stuns you for a second since it's just beaming warmth. He also has hilarious between song banter and made fun of the people leaving his set early confessing that he realized that they probably had to go see a podiatrist halfway across town to fix their foot arch and there was no other time that they would be seen other than at 10:45 pm. Serves them for leaving his concert early! I also enjoyed his quirky on-the-spot twisting as he played his pieces. His music has a flair of happy quirkiness with neat lyrics, cute keyboard chords, and clipped vocal attack. However, he was using an electric guitar for most of the concert and he confessed that he enjoyed how "bad-ass" he sounded. Overall, he had a very unique presentation style-both musically and visually.

I think the highlight of the concert was when he began playing "Brand New Space" and two girls jumped up in the audience and started dancing, and then two more girls, and then suddenly there was a huge hoard of girls at the front dancing in front of him as he played! Eventually he beckoned them to come on stage and dance behind him and he told the rest of the audience to stand up and dance along. At this point, I didn't hold back any longer, I jumped up, grabbed Ross' hand, and we both ran towards the stage! We all danced in a massive on-stage group while somebody filmed (I have a feeling this might be on Youtube) and he even altered the lyrics of his piece to have a hint of Baby by Justin Bieber as we danced. Fun times! When else can you have a spontaneous dance party behind an awesome artist on stage? I left the concert on a dance high and completely satisfied with the musical offerings.

The Paronomasiac: an electronic dance DJ we caught the end part of at the Pawn Shop. We wanted to catch 2 other bands at the Billiards Club. Wheat Pool (and Edmonton alternative-country-rock band) and Wool on Wolves (an Edmonton folk-rock band) but there was a long line to get in so we went to the Pawn Shop venue instead.
Brett Miles and Magilla Funk Conduit: a fun band with funk tunes. Maybe not my exactly my personal music tastes but it was still fun to listen to them jam.
Cadence Weapon: He is the newest Poet Laureate of the City of Edmonton and he just so happens to be a rapper. I've never seen him in action but my interest was peaked ever since I heard his name announced. The Poet Laureate, historically, "served as the official chronicler of state events and occasions and in ancient times, the Laureate was the central means for recording and communicating history." I think the City of Edmonton is daring to choose a rapper to be the poet but I also think that it is an inspiring choice since it acknowledges the fact that poetry can come in many forms but it's about the message and not the vessel it comes in. It was amazing to hear the words roll of his tongue and all I could hear was a blurred speech output. My stamina was definitely waning at this point in the evening since it was just after 1am when he came on stage, so I caught a few of his pieces, and then had to peace out to get some rest.


The Whitsundays: a very interesting alternative-indie band from Edmonton. They had some nice trios of voice choruses in their songs and just something appealing about their sound overall. They also used theremin's which scored them points for my geeky electromusic side. I'll be interested to see what they're up to in the future.
YOAV: a very unique one-man-band. He utilized pedals to establish a percussive bassline and achieved a very rich overlay of sound consisting of percussion and instrumental effects in his song by just using his guitar. It was just neat to watch him at perform since it just requires to much coordination to make music like he does.
Shout Out Out Out Out An excellent end to the festival! This Edmonton band used their electro dance beats and sound filters to get the whole street hopping in a massive dance party. I've never seen that many people dancing on the streets of Whyte Ave! I hope it won't be the last time!

Overall, I dub the SOSfest a huge success given it is it's first year and I heard it mentioned that they only started planning for it about 4 months beforehand. To coordinate a huge number of venues, numerous artists, sound technicians, volunteers, and the shutdown of a main street within Edmonton is no small feat. I was able to hear a ton of local music, which I would have never been able to experience altogether in one weekend, and I have the festival organizers to thank for that. I hope this is just the first SOSfest of many more to come!

What a fantastic weekend! It makes me miss my choir less!

Photo by: Twila B.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Guest Blogger Series: The Arrival in Florence

Greetings readers!

As you may have read in my previous post, I was able to get one of my fellow Belle Canto choristers, Amy B. to guest blog for me while they are on tour in Italy. She has already composed her first entry (they left on Tuesday) and I've posted it for you to read below. If you enjoy more travel related posts, another chorister from Belle Canto, Kate, is updating her travel blog daily so you can check out some of her stories and pictures as well!



Well, it has been over 24 hours since we all arrived in Italy, so I figured it was time for my first kick at blogging……:

We flew into Florence at 1:00 yesterday afternoon. And, it is a beautiful place – gorgeous old buildings, stone streets, frescoes and sculptures everywhere…. not to mention the gelato! I think Italy and I are going to get along just fine.

Now, I am under no illusions: I know that I am here to work – to sing my face off and to “face off” against other choirs (particularly “the choir in the Czech republic” – the subject of a future blog post, I’m sure). But so far, this has been a very laid back tour…. more like a vacation I am casually taking with some acquaintances of mine, all of whom happen to sing… the exact same repertoire as I do.

Actually, there hasn’t even been any singing yet! A few singers, scattered amongst the regular plane passengers, might have been heard practicing their parts in hushed tones, of course, but nothing all together (like a rehearsal in the airport, for example). One of my roommates copied the text for one of our pieces onto her itinerary for the day, so that she could review it as we walked. Over breakfast I did hear a couple of singers discussing the German text they may or may not have memorized yet, but this topic was quickly overtaken by talk of how everyone slept, what we might see at the Uffizi and, most importantly, what kind of gelato we might have today. But, so far anyways, none of this has resulted in any actual singing.

I think we have all just been overtaken by this place….it’s really the only explanation. How else could 24 choir girls from Canada completely lose track of their objective? It is so hot here (38 degrees for the last 2 days) and every street and statue and building has a history to hear about. Couple this with good food and (in case I haven’t already mentioned this) GELATO, and I can hardly remember the words to verse 2 of Tamburinshlagerin.

I’ll bet the choir from the Czech republic is rehearsing right now….with no gelato in their tummies.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Belle Canto Videos

Hello Readers!

This is mostly a short and sweet post where I thought I would share some video clips provided by Steven T. You can hear some of the pieces from our pre-tour concert! Since I realized I often talk about Belle Canto, but I've never posted sound clips of us, I thought it was long overdue that you hear what we sound like!

In Meeres Mitten-A romantic German piece by Schumann

Kaipaava-arranged by Jussi C and made famous by Rajaton

Friday, July 2, 2010

Saying My Goodbyes

So this past Monday Belle Canto had their pre-tour concert. I suppose I should say that "we" had our pre-tour concert but I find that detaching myself from the touring choir starts with proper pronoun use.

I have to say the concert went a lot smoother than I thought.The church was boiling hot and often I found myself wiping my forehead in between songs. However, our audience seemed to enjoy it nonetheless (even though they were fanning themselves with their programs). I had my clinic buddies and even my thesis supervisor came out to see me in all my choral glory.
It was like having my own Speech Path cheering section!

The first set was composed of a smaller ensemble who will be competing in the early music category at the Seghizzi competition. They sounded tentative and tense since there were some pretty exposed parts. I'm sure they will solidifying their sound once they get more comfortable with the ensemble dynamics.

Our set of romantic pieces went quite well. I have to admit, my memory work on them was not 100% but I was pretty close to having them finished off. If I was with the choir in Italy doing the concerts before the festival, I'm sure my memory would have solidified since I really just needed more performance time with them. I'm in good shape though if we decide to pick some of them up again in the Fall when we begin our new season. We were singing with such full warm sound in the romantic set that it was comparable to rolling in a pile of warm laundry fresh from the dryer. It was lovely to be taken in by the warm color of womanly voices.

Our 20th century set was interesting and experimental to say the least. I'm just not sure if 20th century pieces are for me. I mean, I love at what they're trying to achieve but it's not the first thing I would choose to listen to. We did have an excellent world premiere for Margaret King's "Transformations" set which consisted of Bioluminescence, Snow, and Frozen Waterfall. She composed and wrote the poetry herself and utilized text and musical imagery to great effect throughout the pieces. I appreciate the cohesive theme of nature and it was a delight to help shape those images. Samuel Barber's "To be Sung on the Water" was such a gorgeous piece to sing. I remember thoroughly enjoying "Sure on this Shining Night" and whenever I sing a Barber piece I just think back to my good old mixed choir days. There's just something about the soaring clarity of tenor voices at one point in the "Sure on this Shining Night" piece that a treble voice choir cannot recreate.
I like Barber's pieces because they're not trying to be complicated... everything just has an air of effortless beauty and simplicity.

Belle Canto's folk set was interesting indeed. I was a not chorister endowed with the beautiful folk costume pieces that were frantically being made a week beforehand (didn't make sense since I would only have had one chance to use them). As I walked into the church to warm up, my conductor looked at me with amusement as I positioned myself on the risers while rolling up my sleeves. She asked me where I managed to find my blouse, I told her I raided my mother's closet and promised I would make it look slightly more polished since I was kind of channeling a Tom Cruise Risky Business kind of vibe. The choralography seemed to go pretty smoothly through the set though I have to say there were a lot of costume pieces strewn about the stage. Hopefully they find some miraculous way to tidy that up before the competition. There are lots of random accessories that needed to be changed and swapped between each of the 5 folk songs but I think the look that they have been able to achieve is extremely effective.

The end of the concert was an understated time. I said my goodbyes to those who were around but a lot of choristers slipped out before I was able to wish them a good tour and summer. For those I was not able to get around to, I will take this time now to wish them all the best:

It's been an absolute joy singing with you this past season and I look forward to seeing you in the Fall! For those who I will not see, remember to stay in touch!

I will end this post by wishing all of my fellow choristers as well as all the choristers attending the Seghizzi festival (yes, this is a shout out to the Hungarian Magnificat Youth Choir members reading my blog) a safe, happy, and challenging competition. May the best choir win!

Also, I've arranged for a fellow Belle Canto chorister, Amy, to guest blog as she's on tour so check back here for updates while they're on tour for details about their concerts and the festival. Even though I'm not there, I still want to stay posted on what's going on and I'm sure you do as well!

Take care and talk soon!