Saturday, September 24, 2011

Rehearsals Begin

Greetings readers,

It is the start of the autumn season! That also means I am back at choir rehearsal and the intense blur of Pro Coro rehearsals have begun. It's nice to get back into a routine but I feel like I have to recondition myself to pay attention after so many months mental rest. The program repertoire for the concert is definitely challenging to say the least. There were some moments during rehearsal, where my mind felt like this:


However, I think the music just needs to grow on me more. It's not easy to enjoy the fine musical nuances when I'm still apprehensive about singing the right the notes. I'm also having trouble clapping syncopated rhythms while singing quarter notes. The shame! I don't know what's wrong with me. Perhaps the motor part of my brain that's controlling my coordinated oral-motor and gross limb movement is just not as developed? If I manage to pull it off in rehearsal or the performance, I am so giving myself an air high-5.

In terms of the repertoire, there's a very cool Brazilian folksong called "Na Bahia tem" (which is the one that requires the percussion), a jazzy piece called "Another Lonely Spring," a 20th Century choral piece (which tonally kinda blows my mind) called "The Marriage", a catchy chant/folk piece called "Awit sa Panginoon", as well as some Bach, Brahms, other early music pieces as well as a world premiere of a piece which Solomon brought specifically for Pro Coro: Ouroborus.

I'm sure to post more rehearsal updates as I make my way through this week. The concert will be Sunday October 2, 2011 @ 2:30 pm at McDougall United Church if you'd like to attend. Feel free to check out the website for more information.

Until next time, take care readers!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Choral Fair Thoughts

Gateway Chorus

Greetings readers!

I had the pleasure of attending Edmonton's first choral fair this past Sunday. First and foremost, I had no role in the planning or execution of this event so my observations are purely from an outsider's standpoint. Overall, I agree with the ideology of the event: educating and distributing information to prospective choristers about Edmonton choirs.

However, I felt that the event was more of a concert rather than a fair. Also, it would have been nice to see more choirs represented since the Choral Fair only had a sampling of all the choral offerings in the city. Of course, I understand this is definitely a logistical matter, to connect with all the choirs is not an easy endeavour. I definitely think that all Edmonton choirs should have an information booth but, perhaps, not all of them need to perform. There could be some that are chosen to perform live but others could simply have an information booth. Thus, the choirs that don't perform live could provide sound stations for people to listen to choir recordings.

Truthfully, I just felt there was too much live singing. Almost all choirs sang at least 3-4 songs, and while I understand it needs to be worthwhile to the choristers who have given their Sunday afternoon to perform, I felt like it should have been more of a "choral sampler" and not so much a mini concert provided by numerous choirs. An audiences' auditory attention has the tendency to wane, and from the time I arrived there at 2 pm to when I left at 4 pm, there was no break in singing. As well, the atmosphere wasn't really conducive to mingling or walking around while choirs were on stage. I believe the event would have benefitted from more down-time so prospective choristers could walk amongst the information booths without having to feel obligated to listen to the rotating choirs in the background.

I have to applaud the efforts of all the choirs that did perform. September is a scary time to perform because most choirs would have been lucky to have even one rehearsal before performing that early in their season. It also gave me a chance to hear a lot of choirs in one sitting. I heard "Vocal Alchemy" for the first time, listened to the vocal coaches for the E-town Boy and E-town minors perform, and saw the entertaining choralography of Sherwood Park's "Gateway Chorus." Other performing groups included A Joyful Noise, Ariose, Chanteuses, Edmonton Christian Male Choir, Edmonton Metropolitan Chorus, Edmonton Youth ChoirLynne Singers, and Richard Eaton Singers.

Ultimately, this Choral Fair has the potential to be a great annual event. It shows great promise and I am sure it will continue to develop and improve to showcase more choral talent for Edmonton audiences. There really is a choir for everybody so it's great to have an event that strives to highlight choral options within the city.

Until next time, take care readers!

Vocal Alchemy

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Edmonton Choral Fair

Greetings readers!
I just wanted to let you know about a free event that is happening in the Edmonton City Hall this Sunday, September 18, 2011 from 2-4:30 pm: The Edmonton Choral Fair.

If you have ever wanted to sing in an Edmonton Choir, but didn't know which one or where to begin, this will be an excellent event for you since you will have the chance to hear performances from some Edmonton choirs and there will be display booths, information, and sign-up sheets available as well for different groups in the city. 

There are choirs ranging from beginner to seasoned singers, from children to seniors, and from jazz to classical. It is quite the diverse range so it would be worthwhile to investigate since there is no other time in the year when it's so convenient to see the offerings of so many different choirs.

There will also be information regarding new choirs forming such as E-Town Boys and E-Town Minors, both being organized by Edmonton Metropolitan Chorus. As well as the new Gay Men's Chorus at the Alberta College Conservatory of Music.

I'll definitely be there so feel free to say hi or you can also follow my tweets.

Until next time, take care readers!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Back to Choir

 Greetings readers!

According to a cheesy stationery supply commercial: "It's most wonderful time of the year." It's back-to-school time! This year is a bit different for me since I'm finished all my courses for my program. I'm just finishing my thesis and getting ready for my clinical placement at the end of this month. However, some things don't change, and this year, it's the anticipatory buzz for choir to begin again.

I will be singing with Belle Canto and Pro Coro again this season. The other day I wrote down all the rehearsal dates and performance for both choirs. Although I was feeling short of breath looking at how busy my schedule was, I just took a deep breath, and remembered that it's going to be awesome. I thrive off of feeling productive so the more I pack in and am able to accomplish, the more I take on the following year. Since I was able to balance both Belle Canto and Pro Coro with a full course load last year, I rationalized that I could do the same and more this year. I have yet to reach my breaking point, but hopefully, it is not coming anytime soon. Until then, I will continue to walk a fine line with this chaotic balance that I have constructed for myself.

Here are some things I am looking forward to this upcoming choral season:
  • The rehearsals and concerts of the three artistic director applicants for Pro Coro: Magen Soloman, Mark Bailey, and Michael Zaugg (and seeing who is chosen by the end of the season)
  • The rural Alberta Pro Coro concerts in Red Deer and Camrose
  • Singing Swedish choir music with Swedish conductor, Erik Westberg 
  • A traditional chorister candelight procession at Christmas
  • The Cantilon Broadway Gala where "Oliver!" will be performed
  • Singing at Podium 2012 with Belle Canto in Ottawa
Of course, I'm sure there will be other musical things thrown into the mix that I just haven't arranged yet. Maybe I'll be able to fit in an audition in there or arrange a solo voice lesson to learn some new skills. I will leave those possibilities open, but just know that whatever I musically experience, I will post on this blog.

Just last year I didn't know if I would sing one or any of the concerts with Pro Coro, however, a season later and now I'm a core member. It's crazy what can change in a year! Over the past year, I've also been contacted for some freelance singing work and being a section leader. Pro Coro has really opened the door for singing opportunities for me.

At any rate dear readers, what are you all most looking forward to this upcoming season? Please post your thoughts in the comment section below.

Until next time, take care.

P.S. I hope you like my new layout!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Symphony in the Afternoon

Greetings readers!

It was a hot summer day on the final day of the Edmonton Symphony Under the Sky Festival. Although I was sweltering in my jeans and long-sleeved t-shirt dress, I enjoyed the sizzling weather nonetheless and was happy to see so many familiar faces (some of whom also happen to be blog readers-thanks Kate and Leanne!).

The Monday afternoon concert began with a dual offering of Gershwin with "An American in Paris," which is so wonderfully cheeky and "Rhapsody in Blue" with its amazing reedy glissando at the start of the piece. Pianist, Sarah Ho, played with an elegant and agile energy in "Rhapsody in Blue" and was gorgeous in her white asymmetrical gown.

Marquez's "Danzon No. 2" was definitely a repertoire surprise for me since I had never heard it but I loved its saucy percussive beat and the use of different orchestral textures. Especially the musical banter between the strings and brass section. The "Brazilian Fanfare" by Clarice Assad was also a nice survey piece of Brazilian musical genres.

Every year there is a young composer who debuts a piece at the festival and this year it was highschool student, Andrew Reid, with his work "Echoes of Time." It was a lovely atmospheric piece that could easily serve as a score for an upcoming movie. Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture" wrapped up the festival, as is tradition, with canons from the 20th Field Regiment of the Royal Canadian Artillery. Once the canons start going off, the orchestral chimes signal the victory bells that are ringing and the audience joins in with their own percussion instruments from ringing bells to jiggling car keys. Since I forgot my bells, I decided to download a last-minute "Jingle Bells" app to join in. I have to admit, it definitely was not as resonant as a real bell.

The festival was fantastic this year with a record breaking number of over 12 000 seats sold! I just want to say a thank-you to the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra for continuing to put on an amazing labour day weekend festival and for Phil for arranging my blogging tickets. Do check out the upcoming concerts for the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra since the Symphony Under the Sky Festival is only the start to their musical offerings this season.

Until next time, take care readers!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Hollywood Night

Greetings readers!

Last night was the Hollywood Night at the Symphony Under the Sky Festival. As predicted, it was packed! There were barely any spots of unclaimed grass seating so it was a fantastic seeing so many people there.

The program began with Hollywood film music from "E.T's Flying Theme," "Beauty and the Beast Suite," "Pirates of the Caribbean," (which I think was my favorite due to it's boisterous nature),  and the suite from "Batman." It's been a while since I've heard the Danny Elfman "Batman" theme and I still got that creepy vibe when the joker's demented waltz came on. Other evening highlights included the "Unchained Melody" and "The Wizard of Oz Suite," which I could hear audience members humming along to, and the gorgeously moving "Godfather" movie theme. One of the best parts of the evening? Seeing the audience so quiet and still while listening to the Godfather Theme.


There were also some unprogrammed highlights during the evening which included an impromptu guest appearance by Al Simmons who, complete with a handheld set of audience captions, urged the audience to "sing along" in advertisement for his concert on Sunday afternoon. At the end of the evening, I had my fingers crossed for an encore, which is traditionally expected at the Hollywood night of the festival, but I wasn't sure if they were going to bust out the Star Wars costumes and theme song as they have done in past years. This year they mixed it up with some Harry Potter "Hedwig's Theme" instead. You can do no wrong starting and ending the evening with John Williams.

Evening Sky

In the meantime, do check out the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra website for more details (there is another concert this Sunday afternoon and evening) and I will report back here after the final festival concert on Monday afternoon.

Until then, take care readers!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Symphony Under the Sky Begins


Greetings readers!

Evening one of Symphony Under the Sky has officially wrapped up. The first evening of the festival is always composed of classical program that is similar to the Masters series during the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra's regular subscription season. Tonight's program began with the Canadian national anthem, which the audience sang with increasing confidence as they gauged the acoustic offerings from neighboring voices.

Handel's "Water Music Suite" was a dainty and effervescent start to the festival with a rousing Allegro section. The Andante espressivo section was, well... andante and expressive. The excerpts ended with the familiar melody in the Allegro deciso section that is iconic of the "Water Music Suite."  


Mozart's "Concerto for Flute and Harp in C Major" was a highlight of the evening with fantastic performances from soloists Elizabeth Faulkner on flute and Nora Bumanis on harp. After the initial balance of the microphones was established, the gentle and feminine instrumental voices from the soloists were clearly heard above the sound of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. Faulkner had a lovely open tone which was further enhanced by Bumanis' cascading melodic lines. It was a lovely performance with many moments of acoustic familiarity which, I think, was appreciated by audience members who aren't as well-versed with the world of symphonic music.

The evening ended with Brahm's Symphony No. 2 in D Major which was accompanied with some rain during the second and third movements. However, it was nothing that an umbrella and raingear couldn't handle. It was actually nice to hear the wet, moody, patter of raindrops within the middle symphonic movements. The rain cleared out by the spirited final movement so people were able to view the rest of the performance without the obstruction of umbrellas. I wish I could comment more on the piece itself but, unfortunately, in conjunction with staying dry and warm, I have to admit my full concentration wasn't on the musical offerings. 

One of my favorite moments? It was seeing the sun set over the crowd.


Overall, it was a beautiful start to the festival and I look forward to the remaining performances this weekend. I know that the Saturday evening and Monday matinee performances tickets are not available online but there will be some available at the on-site box office before the performance. Please refer to their website for more information on box office times and tickets for all performances. You can also follow twitter updates from the festival at #yegSUTS

Until next time, take care and stay dry!