Friday, December 30, 2011

A Choir Girl Year In Review

Greetings readers,

It is nearing the end of the 2011 year! Thus, it's time for some cyber self-reflection. It's nice having a blog because it serves as a comprehensive timeline of my choral activities throughout the year.

Pro Coro

I began this year as a substitute member and managed to become a core member by the end of the year. I must say, it's not a bad musical progression! It's amazing what happens when timing and determination aligns :) Some particularly memorable Pro Coro concerts for me were the Space concert, the Easter performance of Bach's St. John's Passion, and the three concerts with the Pro Coro artistic director candidates: Solomon, Bailey, and Zaugg. Strangely enough, I wrote two posts on the aspect of full-voice singing in Pro Coro. Once when Gervais was conducting the choir in March and again with Zaugg in November. Hopefully this is an area that Pro Coro continues to explore in the new year.  I'm also looking forward to the announcement of the new artistic director. It signals the start of a refreshing and exciting change for the choir.

Belle Canto

Some memorable performance with the ladies this year included putting on the concert version of "Les Miserables." I got to be a lady-of-the-night. Actually, since we're putting on the Oliver musical this coming February, I get to play a different lady-of-the-night: a bar wench. I must say, the diversity of female chorus roles does not look promising. As well, Belle Canto had the opportunity to work with Simon Carrington when he visited Edmonton last March. It was interesting to get some group coaching with him as he worked with Belle Canto and Chorale St. Jean. Other than that, the Belle Canto year has been pretty formulaic: weekend retreat, music festival, Spring concert, the Dessert auction, & Christmas caroling. However, there were some awards in the Cantilon family since Belle Canto was awarded first place in the CBC Choral Competition this year and the Cantilon Chamber Choir (the choir of my teen years) toured to Wales won first place in the Youth Choirs category. I'm looking forward to Belle Canto's tour to Ottawa this May to sing at Podium 2012. If you're going to be there, let me know, I'm hoping hear as many choirs as possible and go on a blogging blitz.


The release of Virtual Choir 2.0 arrived in April 2011. I finally got to see the efforts of my four submitted videos (S1, S2, A1, A2). The Virtual Choir 3.0 project has been released and video entries are due January 31, 2012, I don't know if I'll have the time to make four videos this time around. I'll have to see...

In August 2011, I was also greatly saddened by the news of a fellow chorister, Suzanne Abele, who passed away unexpectedly during a University fieldwork accident. She will be sorely missed by the Edmonton choral community. I just feel honoured that she was a blog follower and that I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to sing with her. 

The summer was also filled with excellent music festivals: the Edmonton Folk Music Festival and the Symphony Under the Sky Festival. They composed some of my favorite weekends in the entire year. During Folk Fest, I got to hear some fantastic music from Jeremy Fisher and Del Barber and I even participated in my first lantern parade. At the Symphony Under the Sky Festival, I attended a majority of the concerts--- being in the park and listening to the symphony--- a perfect way to enjoy a summer evening. As well, I had the chance to participate in an electroacoustic caroling event known as Unsilent Night since Edmonton hosted it for the first time this year.

Overall, 2011 was an extremely productive and eventful year! I'm expecting more of the same in 2012 as I'm auditioning for some new musical projects. I'll keep you posted :)

Until next year readers, take care!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Therapeutic Music

Greetings readers,

I think the holiday season has the tendency to bring out the best and worst of feelings. It's a time where we enjoy the company of new friends and reunite with old friends, but it's also a time where we remember those who are no longer with us in our lives. I've been doing a lot of caroling gigs this season, and if I have to pick a favorite, yet most difficult, it was definitely singing for a seniors home in St. Albert.

I have a close connection to extended care facilities since my Grandmother lived in one for few years before she passed away during the Christmas season three years ago. Prior to her departure, my choir friends and I would arrange a caroling-filled day where we would travel to different locations around the city to sing to those close to us. One year we made a stop to visit my Grandmother in her nursing home. While she wasn't always totally conscious of the fact that I was there to sing to her, it made me feel better to know that I was sharing something that was very important to me with her. Music is just as therapeutic for those listening and those who are providing it. Thus, singing in nursing homes is an emotionally loaded experience for me. However, I think it's important to feel vulnerable sometimes and take a risk by entering into situations where we don't have total control.

The caroling gig in St. Albert was definitely entering into that territory for me, but it turned out great.  They were such an appreciative audience to sing for and they were so attentive during our set. It felt more like a concert than a gig where we happened to be the background music. While we were singing "Silent Night," most of the audience members were joining in with us, and as I looked around at the vocalic mouths of the people, all I could think of was: "wow,  senior's choirs--- this is a format that has fantastic therapeutic potential!" (You can totally tell I'm a Rehab Med student from that statement). They can strengthen their bowing vocal folds by engaging in voice exercises but also engage in all of the holistic aspects of being in a musical group. While I know that this is definitely not a novel idea, I think that all senior facilities should have musical recreation programs. One thing I learned from my program is that to age well, you need to stay engaged in life activities, and what better way than to be in a choir? Even though the holidays causes latent emotions to resurface, it's also exciting to see the hope and promise the season can bring as well.

Until next time, take care readers!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christmas with Pro Coro & Da Camera

Greetings readers & happy holidays,

I hope you've all been enjoying the holiday season! As you probably have noticed, it's been a while since I've posted. It's not due to a lack of activity, moreso, I've just been busy with life commitments. In between finishing up my clinical practicum, incorporating thesis edits, caroling gigs, and Christmas concerts--- I haven't had much time to dedicate to blogging. I will attempt to remedy that this holiday break by composing posts from topics I have backlogged on my iPhone reminders.

I will start by detailing the Pro Coro concert which was presented jointly with the Da Camera Singers this afternoon. The Royal Canadian Artillery Band, organist, Jeremy Spurgeon, and cellist, Josephine Van Lier joined the choirs for this performance as well. Da Camera is a fantastic chamber group led by, Dr. John Brough, who also happens to be a tenor in Pro Coro as well. The concert was a mix of individual and mass choir performances with Pro Coro and Da Camera. Pro Coro performed Sch├╝tz's "Weinachtshistorie," which featured some solo work by members in the choir. In the first half of the concert the choirs jointly performed Sweelinck's, "Gaudete Omnes," and Gabrieli's "Angelus ad Pastores Ait" and "Hodie Christus Natus Est" together. It was refreshing to sing some early music with 60 voices surrounding me. I'm not used to large choir singing. I felt so powerful!

Overall, I felt like the concert had great flow and diversity. We had a lot of different standing configurations, and while it took time to block everything at our dress rehearsal, everything moved smoothly during the performance. In terms of the repertoire, we had some audience accessible favorites such as "Ding Dong Merrily on High" "Good Kind Wenceslas," Preatorious' "Lo, How a Rose e're Blooming," "12 days of Christmas" and "Jingle Bells." I think my personal favorite was Mealor's "Ubi Caritas," there were moments when my ears were ringing with the glorious dissonance filling the hall. Da Camera performed Martin's "Ave Verum," King's "There is no rose," and Stopford's "Lully Lulla." The "Lully Lulla" was absolutely gorgeous. While I felt like the piece could have been composed with two less phrase repetitions, there were moments where it was so beautiful you felt like crying inside. I'm not sure if it's due to my personality, since I tend to internalize more than externalize, but that's how I describe moving music :)

At any rate, it was a enjoyable concert and a great way for me to finish off my choral commitments for the year. I hope you all have been able to take in or be a part of some excellent music-making this Christmas season!

Until next time readers, take care!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmas Bureau Sing-A-Long

Greetings readers!

It's time for the annual Christmas Bureau Caroling Sing-A-Long! Every year, the Christmas Bureau raises funds to provide Christmas meals to families in need. If you are in Edmonton and are free from 12-1 pm on Friday, December 16, 2011 you can attend the sing-along at the Winspear Centre

The event includes choristers from all throughout the Edmonton choral community in the choir loft and the audience can sing-a-long with the choristers. Unfortunately, I won't be able to make it this year (it's the the first time I haven't been able to sing in it for a very long time!) but I would highly recommend going since it's a festive event for a great cause. Plus, there are a ton of Christmas sweaters to behold. My favorite! Admission to the event is free and donations for the Christmas Bureau will be accepted from 11:15-2 PM.

Happy caroling!

Until next time readers, take care!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Unsilent Night Edmonton

Photo credit: Caitlin Smith

Greetings readers,

Tonight I had the chance to be a part of an outdoor electroacoustic soundscape event called "Unsilent Night." In 1992, Phil Kline, wanted to create a public work of art in the form of a holiday carolling party so he composed four 45 minute electroacoustic music tracks which, when they are played simultaneously, form the piece "Unsilent Night." The music is carried through the streets creating a traveling Christmas soundscape. It was very cool. Everybody downloaded the music track, brought a boombox or external speakers for their mp3 players, we hit play, then we started on a promenade through the streets of Edmonton. It was the first time Edmonton has hosted this event (thanks Leanne!) and we had a turnout of 20 enthusiastic individuals.

The most interesting part was hearing the different movements of the piece coming from all the individual speakers. While one stereo had a drone portion, another would have a melodic line with twinkling bells and another would have a chant-like choral line. My stereo just so happened to have the choral line. It was neat to see people's reactions as we walked past. There were lots of waves from people sitting inside restaurants and people on the street with quizzical looks as they walked through our group and were enveloped in our sound.

Photo credit: Caitlin Smith

When we finished our walk from the University to the Old Strathcona gazebo, we placed all of our stereos on the ledge facing in and enjoyed the last few minutes of the piece as we stood in the center. It was a fun evening with new and old friends and some fantastic music. I'm looking forward to next year's event already.

Until next time, take care readers!

Photo credit: Caitlin Smith
Photo credit: Caitlin Smith

Here is a video from an "Unsilent Night" event in Oxford last year: