Monday, April 30, 2012

Audition Day P. III

Greetings readers,

I know that some of you may be wondering: "How did you do?"

And with my deflective answer, I will just say: "You'll have to ask Zaugg."

I'm guessing that's not enough to satiate your curiosity.

I'm glad to report that, although nothing is for certain, I did the very best that I could do. I felt the process allowed me to demonstrate the range of my skills, whether it was my glaring weaknesses or my apparent strengths. I felt exponentially better each day so by the time I reached the third ensemble... I wasn't worrying about my position within the choir but focusing on the fact that I was getting to make music with different groups of talented people. As well, upon further reflection, I realized that some of our auditions actually began back in November. This was when Zaugg started working with Pro Coro for the first time in preparation for his Artistic Director audition concert. Working with singers within a natural context can't beat an audition process, where tasks and pieces are selected in order to simulate the same environment. 

Overall, I felt like it was a fair process and that everybody had their own opportunities to demonstrate their musical prowess. Zaugg was very clear at the start of the ensemble portion that he would be giving direct, specific feedback to singers in order to avoid a "Oh, but if you only told me to do _____" type of situation when he provides feedback later this Spring (all singers, successful or unsuccessful, will be receiving written feedback regarding their performance). Well, he definitely told us what he wanted individually from each singer so we really have no one to blame but ourselves if we didn't respond to his feedback.

What was also remarkable was how different each of the ensembles felt. While there may have been some similar analogies and questions, I was often surprised by new twists. One such moment was singing through the Lidholm piece past the marked boundaries of the quick-study passage. That was totally unexpected. Another was running Mozart's "Kyrie" in mini quartets facing each other in a circle; it was super fun passing the thematic lines to one another as we made our way through the piece. I also noticed it was so much easier singing the moving sixteenth notes when I could hear the Kyrie theme sung straight at me.
If only more things were blatantly obvious in choir. Also, it was refreshing to make eye contact with other singers who had parallel passages and initiate musical sequences together. There was a really nice sense of choral camaraderie within the ensembles. These mini quartets, I think, were one my favorite parts from the ensemble audition. As well, there were moments when things just clicked. One of my alto partners and I managed to execute a Mozart run with equivalent momentum and articulation at the start of the "Kyrie". I knew it was noteworthy because even Zaugg looked up from his stand to acknowledge it.

Now what? Well, there are still two more days of auditions in May for those singers who could not make the first audition round and then the final singer roster will be announced mid-May. Zaugg remarked that he would release results on May 13, however, after a brief moment of reflection, he realized that, perhaps, he shouldn't do it on Mother's Day. I agree. All I know is that I will either be a very happy or very sad Choir Girl while in Toronto (that's where I'll be before Podium 2012). May the best chorister sing!

Until next time readers, take care!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Audition Day P.II

Greetings readers,

Day three of auditions has now finished and yesterday was the first day of ensemble auditions. I can say, with confidence, that this is by far the most comprehensive, consuming, and yet, exciting audition process I have ever been through. With the verbal and written comments I've been receiving from my Audition Part I entry and reading the news feed updates of local singers... it is safe to say the entire choral community is buzzing. There is such a sense of shared community uniting us as we navigate our way through the path that Zaugg has constructed for us.

The ensemble portion of the audition consisted of working through Mozart's "Kyrie," Debussy's "Dieu! qu'il la fair bon regarder!" Webern's "Entflieht auf leichten Kähnen..." and a second shot at the Lidholm quick-study from the individual audition. It was like a choral masterclass since there were only about 10-12 singers, which equated to around 2-3 people on each part. In an intimate, yet supportive setting, Zaugg challenged us to take a critical look at the music, chord progressions and how these corresponded to crucial moments or the structural progression in a musical passage. He illustrated how to articulate the "Kyrie" text in order to mimic the bow contact of a string instrument within the musical lines. As well, he emphasized the need for a seamless sense of ensemble in the Debussy, and instructed us to eliminate our visual and auditory senses (eyes closed; no audible breath) to innately feel the fluid momentum of the work as a conjoined entity. We also experimented the auditory effects of having unmatched vowels on chords, with the basses producing a slightly more spread vowel on purpose. The pulsating acoustic instability of the chord was instantly perceptible. This was juxtaposed with a balanced chord column of sound. I would love to analyze and compare those spectrograms. It has definitely been a long time since I've dedicated that much concentration to thinking about the text, musical structures, and chord tuning in a focused set of works. It's quite luxurious to bask in the self-indulgent nature of music-making and the satisfaction that comes from producing detail-oriented work. That is what makes the ensemble audition so exciting: the energy and interaction with the other singers. Auditioning can be a lonely process so it's really fortunate that we have the ability to demonstrate our chorister ensemble skills as well.

While reflecting upon the audition process so far, I think there is a sense of apprehension but eagerness towards the prospect of the unknown. Everybody is shaken, nobody feels safe, and as frightening as it is for me to be a part of that pool of participants... it's exactly what Pro Coro needs and why Zaugg is the new Artistic Director. I find I'm struggling between a sense of curiosity as an objective spectator but, at the same time, a looming anxiety regarding the outcomes of the process. It's taking a fair amount of mental stamina to make it through this process. Meanwhile, there is another day of ensemble auditions today and nothing is for sure yet. It can be crippling to focus on the uncertainty of the future; however, the future depends on present and that is where I intend to focus my energy for today. It's not over until it's over, right?

Until next time readers, take care! 

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Audition Day P.I

Greetings readers,

Yes, I know, you're probably all curious and wondering how the Pro Coro individual auditions went for me. Lucky for you, dear readers, it appears that my sense of shame does not hinder me from sharing my experience with you.

Firstly, you know it's not a great sign when you arrive at an audition and the response to your arrival is: "You've allowed no time to look through the quick-study." 

"Great..." I thought to myself while trying to stifle a flashback to the powerpoint presentation that remained half-finished on my laptop, a string of last-minute supervisor edits in my inbox, and an evening submission deadline looming. "Focus," I said silently to myself, as I cued myself back to the present.

As I stood there in the hallway, I glanced down at my watch. "I still have 5"ish" minutes," I thought to myself. I took out my tuning fork, struck it, and held it to my ear, why couldn't I find my note? I paused and noticed the dominant piano accompaniment echoing from the room next door. Oh yes, there's a festival class going on right now. Why do I suddenly hear the music on the page? Oh, somebody who was on-time was working through it on the piano in the practice room. While standing at the music stand in the hallway, I attempted to work through some of the initial intervals in the piece. Suddenly, I noticed the same feeling of cascading frenzy I get when I attempt to cram before an exam.

This was not helping. I should just go in. I knew very well that the audition was constructed in a way that would make my choral deficits extremely apparent. Therefore, I should just embrace it.

Here is a figure to illustrate my sight-reading skills:

You can tell I'm a Science student, right?

Confounding variables aside (a.k.a excuses), I am not surprised by my performance because it was representative of my skill level in that particular construct. If I had to estimate my sight-reading mean, meaning a piece that would give an average view of my abilities, it would be something formulaic by Handel. Thus, if I were to sight-read something like that, I would be able to make my way through it relatively unscathed. My performance dispersion on either side of the mean highlights a ± 1 standard deviation, encapsulating 68% of my sight-reading abilities. The upper 34% would be like sight-reading pieces I have sung in the distant past, thus, increasing my perceived performance proficiency due to familiarity. The lower 34% would be pieces with no predictable tonality patterns to use as an aid, such as the atonal Lidholm passage that was the quick-study for the audition. You can probably imagine the outcome.

One does not just suddenly acquire the skills overnight to spontaneously sight-read music like Lidholm. My music learning occurs within a tactile-motoric modality paired with auditory feedback (a.k.a learning by ear), the visual input from the music notes play a less dominant role in my music learning process. Definitely not ideal but, unfortunately, that is the compensatory skill I have acquired in order to learn music. While it serves me functionally within a choral setting, it is glaringly obvious that this is the case when faced with an audition framework. Thus, even with insightful coaching within the audition session, follow-up attempts did not elicit a significant improvement. However, it did give me new sight-reading considerations to ponder.

As for the other components in the audition, the Anton Webern test piece felt more shaky than I anticipated. I wasn't certain if it was just me, the piano accompaniment or maybe components of both, but it didn't feel settled. There were also some standard range and color exercises. Oh, isn't it always humbling to sing around your upper and lower voice breaks? The art song at the end of the session felt like a self-produced musical send-off. Which was a gift, really, since it was the only thing we had control over within the audition construct.

Overall, how did I feel regarding the audition process? I was definitely wavering between pangs of shame and humor (frustration is not a fruitful emotion to bear)... followed by an intermittent sense of worry. Alas, there is no time to dwell on the past since the individual audition is just one part of the audition process. Mini ensemble work begins today. Stay tuned, it's going to be an interesting weekend.

Until next time readers, take care!

Monday, April 23, 2012

An Ordo Weekend

Greetings readers,

What I weekend I had performing with the Ordo Collective! We performed in Calgary on Saturday and in Edmonton on Sunday. On Saturday morning, I hopped into a van with 11 other people and off we went to Calgary. Snugly packed 3 singers to a bench, we chatted, ate our lunch, and rehearsed our music. It was a nice bonding experience with a group of ladies who were mostly strangers to me last week. Upon our arrival in to Christ Church in Calgary, we were greeted with friendly faces and a gorgeous church.

Soon after our arrival, a familiar face greeted us, a fellow singer from my University of Alberta Madrigal Singer's choir days. We needed some male voices to be the "patriarchs" and he was recruited by our director. The following 1.5 h hours were spent to re-block some of our movement with the change in the space and have a solid run of the entire work since we had rehearsed most of it in sections during rehearsals with lots of stops and starts. We didn't have much time after the run before the concert that evening. The actual concert was very exciting to be a part of. By far, it was the most solo-heavy ensemble work I've ever done. I was glad to not have any major blips. A week after starting the rehearsal process and learning the music from scratch, I somehow managed to memorize my virtue solos. I knew it was important for me to get off the page since we were performing it as a play and not just a musical work.

Following a late night ride back to Edmonton, I crashed as soon as I got home, and woke up 2.5 hours before the call time. Still feeling groggy upon arrival at the Providence Centre, I perked up when I saw the illuminated stained glass in the chapel.


I could tell that I wasn't only feeling the aftermath from the late night commute. However, it was worth it to see the retired nuns sitting in the balcony of the chapel watching our performance and many audience members listening to our performance with closed eyes and a smile on their face. Although I corrected some of my vocal blips from Saturday's performance, during my last solo at the end of a solid 1.5h of singing, I could definitely feel my voice fatiguing. Clearly, it's been a while since I've had to undergo a weekend requiring this amount of vocal and mental stamina.

Overall, singing as a part of the Ordo Collective was such a unique experience since it required not only vocal skills but dramatic performance skills. I've never performed/sung a morality play before! It was lovely to see some familiar faces in the audience and share our music with grateful ears. Now to recuperate this week after a performance-heavy past two weeks. Oh wait, it's Pro Coro audition time. Perhaps in May then.

Until next time readers, take care!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Audition Update

Greetings readers,

It's audition update time!

You may remember a previous post where I documented my audition escapades. I thought you may be interested to know how they all turned out.

National Youth Choir (NYC)

Strangely enough, the recording I made one evening in my bedroom managed to get me accepted into the NYC. Unfortunately, by the time I received news of my acceptance, I had accepted an invitation to present my thesis research at the Canadian Speech Pathology conference which coincides with the NYC. Thus, I will not be singing with other talented Canadian choristers this May. It was a bit sad to turn down the opportunity, but as hard as I try to accommodate my speechie and chorister interests, there are just some times it doesn't mesh. Though it's unfortunate I cannot sing in the NYC, I will still be singing at Podium with Belle Canto. However, in the back of my mind, I just thought: "Well, there's still World Youth Choir..."  

Europa Cantat Chamber Choir (ECCC)

This was by far the most work intensive application I had to put together in terms of paperwork. When I received news a few weeks back that there weren't enough applications to form the choir, I just thought: "You've got to be kidding me! I learned the last two pages of the Webern test piece for nothing!" Little did I know it would be the test piece for Pro Coro auditions this week. So thank-you ECCC; I owe you one.  

World Youth Choir (WYC)

Waiting for news of this acceptance was the emotionally draining, because not only was it the last one to be announced, it was also one that required the most substantial time commitment. It's hard to plan your life when there's a gaping hole of uncertainty in your schedule. Alas, Facebook status teasers in the previous weeks didn't help either, which kept providing statistics on the number of applications and the number of available spots. Wow, there's only 1 spot for every 18 singers that applied. Those statistics don't look good, and that doesn't even take into account the number of available spots in each voice part. However, as they promised, they posted the list mid-April on Thursday morning. My stomach felt queasy as I downloaded the Alto PDF roster. I just wanted to know so I could be put of my misery and move on with my life. A quick scan of the list confirmed my general feeling of unease throughout the past few weeks. I didn't get in.

I looked more closely at the stats. There were 7 alto II positions and 4 spots for new singers (3 singers were re-invited back from the previous year). My main feelings in response to the news were disappointment followed by peacefulness. Was I really looking forward to this opportunity? Of course! I would have gotten to meet a passionate group of international choristers, sing awesome music, tour to Greece and Turkey, and write inspired blog posts. Do I feel like sobbing hysterically into my pillow? Definitely not. Clearly, I'm not emotionally crippled by the rejection, since the e-mail I received from WYC the day afterwards brought a smile to my face.


We are very sorry to announce that for the session 2012 of the World Youth Choir you have not been selected. 

Nevertheless, we encourage you to keep training yourself as a musician and as a singer, to audition next year in order to become part of this unique musical and social experience.


I just thought it was funny that, in case there was any potential misunderstanding, they provided the rejection statement in bold, red font.

Auditions are such a strange, artificial construct. Within 10-15 minutes, you're expected to demonstrate your full range and skills as a singer and we, as performers, continually subject ourselves to these vulnerable situations. I think we're all a little crazy. However, the result of being accepted makes it worthwhile because then you get the opportunity to do what you love - make music. At least that's what I'm telling myself with Pro Coro auditions coming this week. I'll be sure to keep you all posted in regards to the upcoming Pro Coro audition process.

Until next time readers, take care!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Cool Kids on the Block

Greetings readers!

Last weekend, Pro Coro had a concert out in Morinville with Jim Reader as well as choirs from the surrounding area (i.e. Sturgeon Composite Highschool, Notre Dame Elementary School, and Camilla School), but I had a unique experience as a chorister... I think I was cool. 

I know, right? It was strange for me too.

I wasn't able to make it out to the schools in the preceding rehearsals so the first time that I met the young singers was on the day of the performance. My feeling from the weekend was that choristers from Pro Coro were the cool kids on the block. I'm not exempt from this cool effect because I have my own cool idol: Rajaton. When they came to my choir in highschool and stood near to me during rehearsal, I had a massive choir-girl-fan-overload moment. During the rehearsal, Pro Coro members distributed themselves evenly throughout the mass of choristers. It was interesting for me to insert myself into the choral unit because I was able to observe the reaction of others towards myself, a chorister with an assumed level of prestige. There were some who offered warm smiles... and others who were somewhat paralyzed, averting eye gaze in the hopes avoiding any potential embarrassment. If I was a teenager, I would be in the latter group.

Thus, I knew it was my duty as an older chorister to be friendly and chat with those around me since it's proper of me to initiate those social formalities. This whole situation was very new to me. But even as I was chatting to those around me, making comments about the music, complimenting a girl on her sparkly sneakers - the most I would get is a shy smile or one word answer before their eye-gaze reverted to their toes. While I do recognize that this post makes me sound full of myself, that is not my intent, since I am genuinely perplexed that my presence could induce this behaviour in choristers around me. It stems from the fact that I, personally, don't feel cool.  

My aim is just to do things I'm passionate about... as a result, how it manages to me me appear potentially cool in the eyes of others is beyond my comprehension. Admiration is all relative in terms of where you place yourself in the hierarchy of coolness. It doesn't help that, as I attempt to define these parameters, it is a completely subjective hierarchy. There will always be somebody who you admire. Thus, there will always be an ample supply of cool people for everybody to idolize. It may be Bach, Eric Whitacre, or Pro Coro choristers - Whoever it is, it's flattering to know that we're all cool to somebody.

Until next time readers, take care!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Navigating the Virtues

Greetings readers,

In addition to general Pro Coro commitments, I have also been singing with The Ordo Collective, which is led by Eva Bostrand. In the fall, they performed Hildegard von Bingen's "Ordo virtutum" (translation: "The Way of the Virtues") and now they have reassembled the collective with some new substitutions (myself included) to perform in Calgary and Edmonton this coming weekend. Hildegard von Bingen was a nun who, in addition to her nunly duties, also happened to compose music and have the occasional divine vision. That's how choir girls used to keep busy in the 1100's.

Hildegard's "Ordo virtutum" is an early morality play which documents the temptation of the female soul (aka: Anima) by the Devil and there are 12 singers to play the "Virtues" (e.g. Chastity, Humility, Innocence etc.) to provide the lady-soul moral back-up. You may be wondering which virtues I get to play, in fact, I am "Charity" and "Modesty". I will leave that up to you, dear readers, to decide if that is fitting or not.

In terms of the rehearsal process, all I can say is that the first rehearsal was intense. Since I was one of the few choral newbies in a group with only 12 singers... I was scrambling to write pronunciation exceptions, breath marks, solo assignments, extra notes etc. as we read through the entire work. Thank goodness for friendly choral neighbours! The sound of my panicked page turns definitely rustled throughout the room. During the first run-through, it felt like every other page I had a surprise solo or I was in charge of leading the chant lines. The unison chant lines are unique in that a specific member vocally leads the group and decides where breaths are taken, how long to hold notes, supply rhythm changes etc. This role within the group is affectionately referred to as "Simon," inspired by the classic "Simon Says." Leading the group was definitely a different and challenging experience. While you don't want to leave people behind, you need to move the line forwards to keep musical momentum going. At one point during the second rehearsal, I was waiting for the line to start before I realized that everybody was looking for me to take the lead. Oops!

I find that the only way to get through slightly intense experiences like this is just to maintain a positive attitude, be open to trying anything (yes, I will sightread that solo for everybody right now!), and put in the time to figure things out at home. I am happy to report that with each rehearsal I feel exponentially more confident. This is a good thing since the next time I'll see everyone will be on performance day in Calgary. The run-through tonight was at the Providence Centre in Edmonton, a gorgeous location tucked away in a lush green pocket of Edmonton. What an appropriate setting for the music! There also are retired nuns living there who contribute to inner-city outreach programs. How cool is that?!? I think Hildegard would approve.

To learn more information about this performance, feel free to view this promotional video:

April 21, 2012 Christ Church, Calgary @730 PM (Tickets available at the door).
April 22, 2012 Providence Centre Chapel, Edmonton @3 PM (Tickets available online and at the door).

Until next time readers, take care!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Praise the Love of Music-Making

Greetings readers!

Here is another guest blog post for The Sound and Noise:

On Monday evening, the Soweto Gospel Choir transformed the posh surroundings of the Winspear Centre into a romping showcase of tribal beats and raw vocals. For a choir that was nearing the end of their North American tour, you would have had no idea that was the case with the amount of energy radiating from each of the singers. As soon as they arrived on stage, the searing vibrancy of their costumes energized the room and complimented their full-voiced singing.

Though I cannot state the specific names of the South African songs which caught my attention, all repertoire choices revolved around the concept of "Grace". The ones that often began with an a capella solo or trio, before the addition of the rest of the chorus, were definitely highlight pieces for me. As Shimmy promised to me in the pre-concert interview, there were audience favorites such as "O Happy Day," "Bridge Over Troubled Water," "This Little Light of Mine," and "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot." There was an interesting moment, when the choir began singing Sarah McLachlan's "Angel," where I felt like I was watching a PBS Telethon. It was as if I could see the broadcast images of a horrific natural disaster with the gospel rendition of McLachlan's, "Angel," becoming an anthem for the cause. Other than that tangential image, I remained firmly entrenched in the gospel-tribal atmosphere of the entire performance.

It would be elitist of me to comment on musical aspects such as blend, intonation, and diction.... because it doesn't matter. It's not that the choir lacked any of these aspects, but I feel there is no value in discussing these areas. I am confident that if you were to speak to anybody in the audience, they would all agree that the Soweto Gospel Choir knows how to put on a show. Every part of their show entertained the audience from the kinetic kung-fu-like dance moves, the belting solos, and the sense of flirtatious fun between the singers. Though set choreography guided the overall visual presentation of each song; the individualism of each singer appeared within each of the movements. A slight delay in a clap, a subtle head nod in response to a soloist, a quick moment of eye contact with one the musicians on stage accompany them--- these small moments created a performance that had an air of organic ease. When music and choreography is so closely intertwined, as it in the case with the Soweto Gospel Choir, how can you possibly stay still? It really reflects the vision of the ensemble and what they wish to present to their audience. The power of the Soweto Gospel Choir comes from the fact that they are able to demonstrate for an audience, in its raw form, the love of music-making. It was apparent that the choir's love of music was infectious, since I have never seen such a diverse array of step and claps during a Winspear Centre encore.

Until next time readers, take care!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Choral Haze of Good Friday

Greetings readers,

Do you know those moments when you just phase out of reality because all you can see and feel is that immediate moment in time? Well, that was what the entire Pro Coro Good Friday performance felt like to me last night. All sense of linear time was lost and the whole experience was just a haze of music-making that settled over the entire performance.

The first part of the program featured works by Caldara, Bruckner, Enns, Nystedt and Scarlatti, which were sung with the University of Alberta Madrigal Singers. Nystedt's "O Crux" and Enns' "Litany" created some memorable moments of the evening as well. "O Crux" had this shimmering dissonance that has the power to burrow itself into the core of each singer as well as the audience. Enns' "Litany" begins with the words "Drop, drop, drop, slow tears and bathe those feet," which is mirrored in the slow, descending thirds in the voice parts to mimic the dripping tears---gorgeous writing. The Scarlatti "Stabat Mater" moved with an exciting and flexible pace.

Following some solo work by Abra, in Esenvalds "Amazing Grace," it was onto the other showcase piece of the evening: Esenvalds' "Passion & Resurrection." One of my favorite parts was listening to the quartet, which Dr. Ratzlaff decided to place in the second balcony box seats. The singers sang with beautiful vocal balance on their perch. I loved seeing everybody's faces in the audience look upwards, towards the angelic entities, singing above us all. Jolaine's solo work in this piece was sung with sensitivity and an ear humming pureness that permeated throughout the hall. During rehearsals, I would often become mesmerized by her sound and would forget to come in on my entries. Distracted choral singing - it happens.

If the enthusiastic post-concert buzz back-stage was any indicator of audience reception of the concert, I think that it's safe to conclude that it was a success. While the Good Friday concert does, in a way, signal the end of the season. I feel like things are only just beginning since Pro Coro still has another concert out in Morinville next weekend, plus, auditions are beginning for Pro Coro's next season at the end of this month with new Artistic Director, Michael Zaugg. Meanwhile, I'm juggling some other musical and blogging commitments in these next few weeks. It is safe to say that I will have ample inspiration for future posts.

Until next time readers, take care!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Preaching the Gospel with Raw Talent

Greetings readers, 

I have posted another guest blogger article for the Sound and Noise

Edmontonians, I hope you are ready shed your conservative exterior when the Soweto Gospel Choir arrives at the Winspear Centre on Monday. You are not alone. I, too, often struggle with unveiling my audience support. I’m usually the one casting a surveying glance around me, in order to determine if there is a large enough proportion of upright audience members, before I arise and contribute to a standing ovation. While speaking with Shimmy Jiyane, choirmaster and choreographer of the Soweto Gospel Choir, he stated that the infectious energy of their group will have the audience dancing due to their unique a capella vocals. I’ve always had a weak spot for a capella singing.

 The Soweto Gospel Choir performance will be a comprehensive showcase of South American culture from their vibrant costumes to the presence of all 6 national languages in their repertoire. Jiyane also noted that they have generated a unique style of gospel singing, which unites elements of a capella singing, percussion, and choreography. In my mind, I’m envisioning a gospel show choir. It is apparent that their unique fusion has contributed to their ability to transcend the choral realm, collaborating with artists such as include Celine Dion, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Josh Groban, and even U2. For an ensemble that has accumulated a staggering array of awards, including a No.1 on the Billboard World Music Chart, they remain grounded in their musical philosophy, which is to spread “love, peace, joy, and happiness.”

The Soweto Gospel Choir does not wish to alienate their audience; thus, resulting in an audience-friendly program of gospel favorites, which include: “Bridge over Troubled Water,” “This Little Light of Mine,” and “Amazing Grace.” Personally, I’m looking forward to their South American gospel offerings. I approach my choral listening opportunities like how I would approach any other international experience. If I were in Hungary, I wouldn’t be there to hear a Hungarian treble choir singing Chinese choral music. I would be there to hear what they sing best: Hungarian choral music. The union of percussion, dance choreography, and raw talent of Soweto voices will be sure to compel an audience to their feet.

Tickets for the Soweto Gospel Choir performance on Monday, April 9, 2012 at 8 PM are available from the Winspear Box Office (780-428-1414).

To learn more about the performance, listen to my interview with Shimmy Jiyane as he discusses his inspiration behind his choreography, his role within the Soweto Gospel Choir, and favorite moments on tour thus far.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

A Good Friday to Remember

Greetings readers!

We're at the halfway point with Pro Coro rehearsals in preparation for our Good Friday concert and I feel strangely at home with the whole process. I think it's because we're under the direction of Dr. Leonard Ratzlaff. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to sing under Dr. Ratzlaff's direction during my undergrad in the University of Alberta Madrigal Singers (MAD's).

It just so happens that Pro Coro is sharing this Good Friday concert with the Madrigal Singers as well. Although there has been substantial turnover in MAD's since I've left, there are a few familiar faces in the group, as well as faces I recognize from the Edmonton choral community. It's nice to be singing in an extended network of friends. Participating in collaborative projects with other groups is always an exciting change. In a city with a multitude of choirs, we can easily become segregated in these different choral pockets, which is a shame because there are amazing opportunities for music-making when we're working together. It's fun walking up to a section, introducing yourself, shaking hands, and inserting yourself within the unit. The sense of automatized inclusivity within a choral setting is quite remarkable.

Needless to say, I am thoroughly looking forward to our Good Friday performance. The main thought I had coming away from rehearsals with MAD's: "There is so much sound!" It will be exciting to fill the Winspear Centre with our collective voices. Some program highlights include: Scarlatti's "Stabat Mater" and Ešenvalds "Passion and Resurrection." In the latter piece, it is not everyday that I get to sing the word, "Crucify!" 10 times in a row at triple forte. This will be a Good Friday to remember.

Until next time readers, take care!