Sunday, May 27, 2012

Opera Girl?

Greetings readers,

It's official: I am back in Pro Coro Canada for another season. What a huge relief! I saw the e-mail yesterday afternoon in my inbox and my stomach just twisted in upon itself. My heart raced as I opened up the PDF document... thank goodness, I saw my name printed. Although some friends did not seem to be surprised at my good news, I prefer to live with the perpetual fear of rejection. It's just how I roll.

While I still have more Podium interview posts to compose and publish, I thought I would fill you all in on my last audition project: the Edmonton Opera Chorus. This is new territory for me dear readers. I have never considered myself an "opera" singer. I watch opera. I enjoy opera. I don't sing opera. Alas, it's always good to come out of my comfort zone as an artist. I approached the audition as a musical experiment rather than a make-or-break career opportunity.

First, I needed to decide what I was going to sing. I am a choir girl through and through. Therefore, I do not have suitcase arias I can just bust out. I looked through some repertoire for standard mezzo opera arias; the thought of performing some of them seemed daunting. After consulting with some music friends, they suggested some Handel operas. That seemed like a happy compromise due to my familiarity with performing choral works by Handel. Thus, "Ombra mai fu" and "Sevgliatevi nel core" were my final choices. Personally, I felt like I was breaching my comfort zone with the latter choice because it's a pretty vengeful, power-packed pants role; however, what's life without a little bit of risk?

On the day of the audition I arrived 20 minutes early for my audition. I learned my lesson from my Pro Coro audition experience: do not start projects you cannot finish before you need to be somewhere. Actually, a good piece of advice for most things in life.

I strolled into the backstage of the Jubilee Auditorium and followed the directions from the security guard to the rehearsal hall. I was greeted by the receptionist and directed to a music stand in a corridor to wait. While I sat calmly in the waiting room filling out my personal information, I glanced over at the poised girl in black sitting near me. She looked down at her hands, gently placed on her music book, mentally preparing for her upcoming performance, a supportive male companion by her side. I looked around myself. My bag was splayed next to my chair, bursting with a change of clothing and casual shoes for my visit to the farmer's market afterwards. While I was tempted to check my Twitter feed, I reasoned that this would probably be a good time to mentally prepare for my audition as well. I glanced through the Italian I was supposed to communicate. Nothing novel occurred to me that I didn't already consider. The check-in receptionist beckoned me back over to her table.

"I just need to take some photos of you," she stated with a smile. I agreed and waited for her to direct me to an appropriate wall area. "Just down here," she said while walking down to the middle landing on the stairs. On the wall behind her stood a height scale.

She instructed me to stand in front of it. "You may need to take off your shoes," while taking a closer look at my short heels, "actually, they're fine." I proceeded to take them off anyway. As a scientist, I'm all for obtaining accurate measurements. She took a full-on face picture. "Cool!" I thought to myself getting ready to head back to my spot. "Side profile now please," she instructed. I turned to the side and attempted to look poised, parallel to the height lines. "Now a full-body shot," she stated before taking a step back to increase her frame size. If somebody unearthed a weight scale at this point, I would not have been surprised. This was very different from a choir audition! Once my choral mugshot was finished, I returned to the waiting room and listened to my fellow auditionee who was now belting out some serious opera arias. "Holy crap she has quite the a voice in her!" I thought to myself. Strangely enough, it didn't make me nervous or jealous - I was just enjoying the music I was hearing. As soon as she stepped out of the room, I felt the clutch of nervousness in my abdomen. It was my turn.

I went up a few stairs to the rehearsal hall, my heels echoing on the hardwood floor. Looking to the left, I noticed the piano bench was empty. On my right were two smiling figures walking towards me with outstretched hands ready for a welcome handshake. The woman saw my bicycle helmet clanging next to my bag, "You're ready for the audition! You even brought your helmet!" I smiled and alerted her it was for transport purposes only. The opera chorus master, Michael, greeted me second. Yet another Michael deciding my choral fate. Michael asked me what I was singing. "Handel and more Handel," I answered. "What else do you sing?" he asked.

I was silent, unsure of how to answer. Uh-oh... I didn't have any other opera arias from other composers prepared. Sensing my apprehension, he proceeded to clarify, "What other kinds of repertoire do you sing?" I informed them that I normally sing in choral ensembles, so choir music, folk music, early music... I'm sure he noticed I didn't say opera. Michael walked over to the piano to accompany me. I began with "Ombra mai fu." I did feel a bit restrained, trying not to let my nervousness be audible, but I navigated my way through the piece without any major detours. Once I finished, Michael asked how much volume I was using. I thought about it for a moment and came to the subjective conclusion that I was using 75% of my volume. "What does 100% sound like?" he asked me with a curious look in his eyes. " I'm not sure," I replied, "I don't normally sing with 100% of my volume," I said honestly.

Michael proceeded to tell me that singers are faced with the challenge that it is hard to hear ourselves. I agreed completely. He told me that it's easy to hold back in an ensemble. I agreed again. I do feel that after years of ensemble singing I have developed a heightened ensemble sensitivity. A lot of what I do vocally is in response to what I see from a conductor and what I sense from the other singers around me. Thus, in an audition setting where I am singing solo, I don't really know how much sound output I should yield.

"Do the first phrase again, but this time I want 100%," he requested. I sang it again. I felt like I was shoving some pretty serious subglottal pressure through my vocal folds. A ton of vibrato-filled sound emerged from me. Not particularly subtle but it was a lot of sound. Both Michael and the other woman looked at me with excited eyes. "You should always be singing with that sound!" he continued, "even in my chorus I want my singers to be singing." I understood. I continued on with the next song. Since it was more power-packed, it was easier to maintain my operatic core. Upon arrival at the more contemplative B section, I proceeded to pull back a bit. Michael stopped me mid phrase. He reminded me of the sound he wanted. I sang it again with the same operatic intensity. At this point, it was beginning to feel like a voice masterclass; it was fun to stop-and-start sections in the piece and experiment with an operatic voice. They were both so encouraging; I couldn't have imagined a more supportive and singer-friendly environment. He stopped me after a few more phrases and asked me if we could end there. I told him that if he felt like he had what he needed, I was fine to leave things where they were. I left the audition thinking: That was fun!

Although I don't know where things go from here, I was glad to emerge from my opera audition intact and thankful to receive some feedback. Due to my choral commitments for Pro Coro, I already know I have conflicts with 2/3 operas this season. However, who knows what will happen for that 1/3. I am content to just enjoy the present.

Until next time readers, take care!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The National Youth Choir: Creating an Ensemble Out of Raw Talent

Every two years, the opportunity to be a part of one of the most unique choral and social experiences in Canada appears when 40 singers from across Canada are chosen to participate in the National Youth Choir (NYC). It's an opportunity that would make any chorister jealous. The NYC is the premiere youth ensemble at the Podium choral conference. A group of auditioned singers from ages 18-25 are chosen to be a part of the NYC. The experience includes rehearsing and touring surrounding areas preceding the Podium Conference. Touring through Canadian towns and cities everyday and performing with other passionate choral singers? It's sheer choirtopia. This year singers from all ten Canadian provinces formed the NYC and were placed under the direction of Ivars Taurins, conductor of the Tafelmusik Chamber Choir.

Tucked away in the corner of the Lord Elgin hotel lobby, Taurins discussed the NYC rehearsal process, repertoire selection, the bond with his NYC singers, and what he hopes his NYC singers to take away from the experience. After listening to this interview, I knew that this interview was Taurins's homage to his NYC singers. Therefore, I thought I would need to let Taurins speak for himself and post the audio interview. It is apparent that Taurins's love for music, text, and his singers signify the power of choral passion and unity across this country, which is the perfect embodiment of the NYC ideals.

Ivars Taurins Podium 2012 Interview by misssable

Association for Canadian Choral Communities
Podium 2014 website
Podium 2014 Twitter
Podium 2014 Facebook

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Culmination of Podium

 Greetings readers,

Day #3 of Podium was a self-indulgent one. It was a particularly gorgeous summer day in Ottawa and a leisurely morning blogging and chatting with friends meant that I only caught the end half of the Toronto Children’s Chorus Chamber Choir (TCCCC) performance. I should preface my following comments with the fact that I am not a fan of choirs that don’t sound like they’re singing with their full range. I just felt like the TCCCC had so much more sound to offer but it remained buried beneath a very proper choral façade. Don’t get me wrong, the notes were all there, the rhythm was there, but I just found their interpretation of the music to be too clinical. I find that when children’s voices are not used to their full range they just sound like they’re in a stunted state of childhood. Childhood should be the time to experiment with our vocal instruments. I understand it’s a completely choral sound aesthetic preference; it just so happens that theirs doesn’t appeal to me.

The Hamilton Children’s Choirs and High Park Choirs (HCC/HPC) were stunning. It made me wish I was 13 again so that I could go and sing in these choirs. They have such control over a wide range of vocal colours and it resulted in such a unified voice. Their show-stopping pieces for me were definitely Hatfield's "Las Amarillas" and Rajaton's "Pakkanen". The TCCCC performed Las Amarillas earlier in the day; however, the HCC/HPC performance re-calibrated my quality bar for the performance. My favorite part of the HCC/HPC is what when they use choralography, it does not take away from the singing. In many ways, it doesn’t even appear as if you’re watching movement, it just feels like you’re viewing an organic entity that visually and aurally embodies the music. Brava HCC/HPC, brava!

My afternoon was filled with some quality voces boreales time as they were the demo choir for Zaugg’s Podium session and they also performed in the afternoon spotlight concert. Zaugg session focused on utilizing varying aural tools to help balance chords and hear better within a choir. There were demos from bright to dark vowel placement in chords, the question of vibrato or no vibrato, and always listening to the softest note in the chord. Zaugg elicited chords from voces boreales and challenged session attendees to listen to which part is the softest, and instead of making those louder sing quieter, he instructed the softer part to sing out. The concert following the session was stunning. voces boreales performed “Die Erste Elegie” by Rautavaara and I was just amazed at how fluid and effortless it sounded. I remember tackling with this piece with Pro Coro in the fall; it was hard work… and you could hear it. This was followed by Holten’s “Regn og rusk og rosenbusk,” another piece I haven’t heard of before but I love it. It had so many interesting choral characters throughout the story, which was from a Hans Christen Andersen’s Rain, Rush, Rosebush tale.

Quintessential comprised the second half of the concert. They had a set of unique arrangement of folk tunes by Kathleen Allan, which I felt suited their Newfoundland spirit very well. The sound of Quintessential is definitely vibrant and powerful. I can see why they have been representing Canada well on the international choral scene.

With the sun shining and a view of the parliament buildings in the background conference, the Podium Gala also rounded off the day. On the top floor of the centre, conductors, choristers, and choir music enthusiasts celebrated Canadian choral talent with an awards ceremony. A perfect culmination to a weekend filled with choral music sessions and concerts. As well, this choir girl only managed to get in because my blog reader and Canadian choral composer, Donald Patriquin had an extra ticket. Thanks Donald!

And with that dear readers, I am signing off as your official choir girl Podium correspondent. Belle Canto will be departing the conference today so my daily posts and twitter updates will now come to a close. I hope you have enjoyed following me through my first Podium experience and I hope there will be many more to come. After all, Podium 2014 will be in Halifax, NS…

Until next time readers, take care!


To re-live some of the Podium action and follow updates for today you can see all conference tweets at #Podium2012.

Also, be sure to follow Podium 2014's Twitter and Facebook accounts for all upcoming information regarding the choral conference in Halifax May 15-18, 2014.

Podium Choral Frenzy

Greetings readers,

Day #2 of Podium has officially finished and, if the intensity of the first day was any indication of the pace to follow for the rest of the conference, I was not disappointed yesterday. However, since Belle Canto performed on Thursday, I feel like I have been able to refocus my attention on the upcoming sessions and concerts.

My morning began with a quick visit to the keynote address to signal the official start of Podium 2012. Counsellor Hobbs delivered welcome sentiments from Mayor Jim Watson and the proclamation that May 17-20 would be Choral Weekend in Ottawa in honour of Podium 2012. I ducked out soon after to perform in the Rotunda at Parliament with Belle Canto. With our choir draped upon a one deep riser, our conductor managed to negotiate a non-awkward spot in front of the centre pillar dividing the choir. We sang the same program repertoire as our Thursday concert. Our audience was composed mainly of tourist visitors who appeared appreciative as they snapped pictures and took video evidence of our performance.

As soon as the performance was over I hurried back to conference headquarters at the Lord Elgin to begin conducting a consecutive stream of interviews with spotlight concert conductors: Lydia Adams of the Elmer Iseler Singers, Ivars Taurins conducting the National Youth Choir, Hilary Apfelstadt who is director of Choral Studies at the University of Toronto, and Michael Zaugg Artistic Director of voces boreales, the Cantata Singers of Ottawa, the St. Lawrence Choir and, most recently, Pro Coro Canada. I will be posting these interviews following the conference.

However, I did take a break from interviews to attend Zimfira’s session on “A Child’s Voice- A Full Body Instrument.” She demonstrated a wide array of respiration techniques and visual cues to help elicit full-bodied singing from her choristers. From puppets to slinkys she showcased a range of props to help illustrate sound concepts to children. I think one of the best things about young singers is that they are just so willing to experiment. Make that sound? Sure! Do that action? No problem! The choristers in the Hamilton Children's Choir were fearless and excited to embrace all directions given to them. Also, Zimfira described her views of voice quality as a sound circle: light, heavy, dark, and bright and how to experiment with these different colors in a choir in order to paint to the music.

The evening culminated in the showcase National Youth Choir (NYC) concert, which was easily the most buzzed about events at the conference. Composed of about 40 singers from across Canada, each of the singers were chosen to represent all 10 provinces including the Northwest Territories. My chat with Ivars earlier in the day yielded the term “raw talent” and this was exactly what I heard in the concert. I was presented with a full-bodied and an electric choral voice. The choir was eager to emote and reciprocate the energy from Ivars’ enthusiastic gestures. There was a range of repertoire presented, including two new pieces: “Mysterion Xenon” by Christos Hatzis, commissioned for the NYC, and Elise Letourneau’s “Peace Prayer" which was the winner of the ACCC Composition Competition this year. Hatzis’ “Mysterion Xenon” had an unexpected presence of a mystical synthesizer reverb and Letourneau’s piece had a groovy, romping vibe to it, which was a refreshing break from more intense pieces. I think the most challenging part was the sheer amount of repertoire and the increasingly humid temperature of the church. I felt like there was an increasing choir-audience fatigue level as the concert progressed. Overall, the choir showcased the talented choral youth across this country.

Podium Day #3 continues today and there will be many concerts to attend!

Until next time readers, take care!


I'll be writing daily Podium 2012 blog updates which will be cross-posted on The Sound and Noise, The Choir Girl Blog and the ACCC Choral Bytes Blog. As well, I will be live tweeting from @misssable. You can also find all conference tweets and news using this hashtag: #Podium2012

Friday, May 18, 2012

Podium Commences

 Greetings readers,

This choir girl has officially landed in the heart of Podium 2012. The first day was a blur: a parliament tour, sound check, choir concert, interview, another choir concert, and welcome reception. As soon as I arrived, it has felt like I've been consumed in a choral-centric whirlpool. Every time I go another round in the swirling vortex there is yet another person I recognize and am excited to greet. This conference is choirtopia. There are so many opportunities to just choir geek-out throughout this conference. One look into the audience and you wonder: “Is that Jeff Enns? the composer of the piece we’re singing?!?!” or “Is that the conductor of the Canadian Chamber Choir!?!?” It’s as if these glances within an audience or during a reception function as choir star-sightings. It feels like all the musical acquaintances that I have slowly compiled have all aggregated en masse this weekend.

Belle Canto's morning began with some lovely historic touring of the East Block of Parliament in the morning followed by lunch in the parliamentary cafeteria with Canadian Senators. Afterwards Belle Canto hurried over to Knox Presbyterian Church to begin the sound check. The church was gorgeous. Reverberant stonewalls containing a cool and comforting atmosphere. We began by singing through our Schumann pieces and communal smiles appeared throughout the choir as we heard the pulsating reverb of our sound. This was going to be a fun acoustic to sing in. After a little bit of physical rearrangement, including my discovery the Belle Canto had introduced some choralography into El Hambo, we were ready for our concert.

When performance time came, there was a comforting sense of calm in our green room. Modestly enough, we didn’t have high expectations for concert attendance. We knew we were the first choir performing at the conference and, oftentimes, there is the unspoken understanding that the first day of the conference is the arrival day. Imagine my general shock when I walked out into Knox Church and it was almost a full-house. The people were so densely packed in the pews that I couldn’t make out individual faces beyond those in the immediate rows and patrons with good window spots. It was also an usual experience for me to perform for so many attentive faces. I wish I had a better vantage point so I could have seen the range of reactions from our audience throughout the performance. Overall, I felt like Belle Canto’s set was secure. There were some unexpected claps and minor word mix-ups, but nothing in a high enough concentration to contaminate the entire performance. The Schumann pieces were executed with rich and romantic singing, our premiere of Enns’ “Vidi Speciosam” resonated with ethereal clarity, and Barber’s “To Be Sung on the Water” had this vulnerable, quiet beauty about the performance. It was also refreshing to end with “El Hambo” and “V’la bon vent” which allowed us to have fun and show the audience that we don’t take ourselves too seriously.

Belle Canto’s performance definitely provided an interesting contrast to the Tartu Ülikooli Akadeemiline Naiskoo's repertoire. At times I felt like my ears were tricking me because I was convinced there were men in their alto section even though I knew it was a female choir. Their alto sound was just so present and perfectly balanced. They sang a wide array of Estonian folk melodies. I think folk melodies are especially powerful because there is something at the core of the music with a sense of resilience. In any culture, there are constant fluctuations within the history but folk melodies are still able to be consistently transferred. Their entire choral sound had a pliable purity and cohesiveness, which complemented their Estonian repertoire perfectly.

The evening showcase concert included the Podium Choir, which was composed of numerous Ottawa choirs. They performed Paul Winter’s “Missa Gaia” aka “Earth Mass”. Under the direction of Matthew Larkin, over 120 singers sang "Missa Gaia" accompanied by strings, percussion, and piano. There were even sound effects of whales and wolves, though I’m convinced the wolves sounded more like dinosaurs. These sound effects were integrated with the previously mentioned musical components to create a soundscape celebrating all of earth’s living things. While I’m not sure if it was because I was sitting at the back of the hall, I found it extremely difficult to hear the choir. Once the accompaniment emerged, it blanketed the sound of the singers. Visually, I could tell they were singing at full volume. Overall, it was difficult to hear the musical clarity when the choral voices sounded muffled. Winter’s piece had lots of unique ideas, including an audience participation component where a hymn was provided for congregational singing and many power-packed choral melodies. What I enjoyed most was that it was a remarkable showcase of combined choral effort and passion in the Ottawa choral community.

I’m looking forward to what else this Podium has to offer! My upcoming day will be filled with sessions, interviews, and concerts and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Until next time readers, take care!

I'll be writing daily Podium 2012 blog updates which will be cross-posted on The Sound and Noise, The Choir Girl Blog and the ACCC Choral Bytes Blog. As well, I will be live tweeting from @misssable. You can also find all conference tweets and news using this hashtag: #Podium2012

Monday, May 14, 2012

Conducting the Interview

Following a regular Monday night rehearsal, Cantilon Choirs founder and Artistic Director Heather Johnson agreed to discuss with me the choral season and Belle Canto’s upcoming participation in Choral Canada’s Podium 2012 Choral conference this week in Ottawa. Johnson is casually balanced on the piano bench at the front of the rehearsal hall. I acknowledge the interesting role-reversal about to occur as I organize myself to conduct the interview. As a choir girl, I have been singing with Johnson for over 10 years. You can probably imagine the influence this woman has had on my formative choral years.

Cantilon Choirs was faced with an interesting process this past season. Johnson had to instigate a search for a new Artistic Director for the choral program, due to a potential family move to Ottawa. Although it has now been confirmed that Johnson and family are, indeed, staying in Edmonton. Johnson remarked that the search process allowed her to reflect upon her role: “I really want [Cantilon Choirs] to survive if, at any time, I am not here.” This is apparent as Johnson revealed one of her ultimate goals is to eventually form a choir school in Edmonton. “I was determined to find somebody to take this over and be as passionate about it as I am. I wanted to know why they wanted to conduct children’s choirs, particularly…and what it was about working with children and youth that was exciting for them.”

Upon further reflection, Johnson announces that she is fortunate that her job allows her to work with people for an extended period. The structure of the Cantilon program is conducive to chorister development since singers as young as kindergarteners can naturally graduate to more advanced groups within the program, such as the Cantilon Chamber Choir and Belle Canto Women’s Ensemble. Johnson pauses at this point in the interview and smiles at me: “I remember you as a child, I really remember you." I give her an acknowledging glance as I look up from my iPad. Johnson remarks that working with people over an extended period of time, from children to adulthood, is an incredible privilege.  "I can help [young choristers] shape the way they look of the world. And for me, that’s why I do this."

Johnson recognizes that the choral experience for her youth choristers is not just another mere extra-curricular activity: “There are a lot of things that families have difficulty teaching children now. Society has gotten so fast-paced, and kids are often involved in so many activities that it’s hard to find the time to slow down and focus. They have an experience with the choir that they don’t get anywhere else.” When you are completely immersed in your passion, there is lost sense of time. The curious choir girl in me inquires what Johnson considers characteristics of her ideal chorister. “They challenge me and explore new things. I tend to attract singers who not only need the choir musically in their lives but for something else… I let them take challenges and risks that are safe. ” I smiled. That was different from I was expecting.

While discussing what makes community choirs unique in comparison to other choral groups, Johnson announces that the choral social experience “is the most important part of being in an amateur choir… choirs don’t sing well together unless they’re cohesive social units. There’s something different about a group of singers who have sung together for a long time on stage that’s impossible to quantify. They have a connection to each other that translates to the connection they have to music.” This is why I continue to sing in Belle Canto.

Johnson reveals that Belle Canto’s Podium performance will provide a full-bodied European sound palette for conference attendees to experience. As well, Johnson commissioned Canadian composer Jeff Enns to compose a piece for Belle Canto to premiere at Podium 2012. “I heard his work being sung by the Canadian Chamber Choir [last summer]. He was truly writing for the full range of the female voice. I wanted a sacred work and selected text from the Song of Solomon… it suits female choirs beautifully.” Other repertoire choices for Belle Canto’s Thursday Podium will include works by Schumann, Bartók, Barber, and Mäntyjärvi. “We have a much more flexible sound that can sing these different styles. We sing with a unique attention to rhythmic precision that is not always true of women’s choirs and we like to have fun." Indeed, speaking from my personal choir girl experience within Belle Canto, our tendency to enjoy ourselves is not overlooked, especially when we are on tour. As the Cantilon Choral program prepares for its 2012/2013 with Johnson at the helm of the organization, Belle Canto’s Thursday performance with Johnson at Podium 2012 will hopefully signify her continued presence with the organization for many more years to come.

I'll be writing daily Podium 2012 blog updates which will be cross-posted on The Sound and Noise, The Choir Girl Blog and the ACCC Choral Bytes Blog. As well, I will be live tweeting from @misssable. You can also find all conference tweets and news using this hashtag: #Podium2012

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A Choir Girl Heads East

Greetings readers,

This Choir Girl is heading out east!

Actually, Ottawa, to be more exact. That is where Podium 2012 is hosted this year, which is the annual Canadian Choral Conference from May 17-20, 2012. I expect these four days to be filled with excellent music, engaging dialogue, and ample opportunity to geek-out as choral music enthusiasts attend sessions and concerts together.

While I have sung at two Podium conferences in the past (Edmonton (2000) and Victoria (2006)), this will be my first year singing, blogging, and formally attending the sessions. It’s going to be a bit of a balancing act; I’m not expecting to get much sleep. In order to make the weekend more manageable, I reorganized the weekend schedule to visualize trends and group activities. It is my attempt at a qualitative analysis of the weekend schedule.
Figure 1. Podium Sessions

[Allow me to explain my colour-coded thought process: Thursday events are in red, Friday events are in blue, Saturday events are in green, and Sunday events are in orange. As well, not every single session has been listed, only the ones from the main sessions page from the Podium website.]

How does one begin scheduling a plan of attack in order to conquer the sheer multitude of choral sessions? A top five priority list? Agreeing to some pre-determined session hopping? Peer pressure? No matter what the plan is, there is much to learn and no right way to go about it. It’s a choose-your-own-choral-adventure type of situation!

Figure 2. Podium concerts

Aside from attending a wide array of sessions, I feel like the best way to learn and experience what this country has to chorally offer is to attend the concerts. This is where I plan to spend the bulk of my time. Please excuse my inherent bias, since I am a Choir Girl of Belle Canto, but not only are we the only choir representing Western Canada this Podium, but we also get to share Thursday’s concert with the Estonian treble choir, Tartu Ülikooli Akadeemiline Naiskoo. I’ve been following their updates on social media, and even though I cannot read Estonian, I feel like we’re choral-kin already. It will be noteworthy to see the MacMillian Singers and Elmer Iseler Singers pay a musical homage to the work of Ruth Watson Henderson. I am intrigued by the biographies of the L’Ensemble vocal Ganymede, L’Ensemble vocal Sainte-Anne Singers, Concerto Della Donna, the Ottawa Bach Choir, and Siren Women's Choir. I will be curious to hear their choral voices as well. The Missa Gaia should also be quite the show-stopper with over 120 voices performing the work under the direction of Matthew Larkin.

Furthermore, you can probably expect to see me at every concert on Saturday. While I have heard many of these choirs, voces boreales, Quintessential, Hamilton Children’s Choir, High Park Choirs of Toronto, St. Michael’s Boy choir, and the Toronto Children’s Chorus Chamber Choir, in recordings and on CBC radio, I have yet to witness live performances from them. It’s quite the luxury to have them all performing on one day. Of course, I think one of the concerts to see and be seen at is the National Youth Choir (NYC) performance. Even though I will be weeping silently inside while attending this concert (I was accepted into the NYC but had to decline due to other commitments), I won't turn down the opportunity to support my fellow youth choristers.

After giving my figures another glance, I think my attempts at developing a plan of attack may be futile. I will merely let these diagrams serve as an outline of choral possibility and be open to whatever opportunities come my way. Whether that is scheduling some blog interviews with session speakers or choristers, speaking with new choral friends in the lobby of the Lord Elgin Hotel, or having coffee with a blog reader, I’m ready for all choral possibilities.

I'll be writing daily blog updates which will be cross-posted here on The Sound and Noise, The Choir Girl Blog, and the ACCC Choral Bytes Blog. As well, I will be live tweeting from @misssable if you wish to follow me during that time. You can also find all conference tweets and news using this hashtag: #Podium2012

Until next time readers, take care!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The ESO heads to NYC

Greetings readers,

Last night I had the opportunity catch the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra's Carnegie Hall performance before they leave for NYC. They assembled a program showcasing Canadian talent and delivered it in their most colourful ensemble to date: vibrant shades of spring coloured-shirts for the men and multi-coloured scarves for the women. It was like seeing the show choir uniform equivalent for orchestra. They are definitely ready to make an impact at Carnegie Hall for the Spring for Music Festival this coming Tuesday.

Only one of six orchestra invited to perform, the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra (ESO) is going to present US premieres by three Canadian composers: Robert Rival, John Estacio, and Allan Gilliland. Rival's "Lullaby" began with a pulsating string bass line while the other orchestral parts overlaid a dissonant tension, the musical soundscape eliciting feelings of childhood reminiscence rather than tune to lull a child to sleep. The Triple concerto for Violin, Cello and Piano, written by Estacio, was last performed at the inaugural opening of the Winspear Centre back in September 14, 1997. It has not been performed since that time. Estacio detailed that for its Carnegie Hall debut this May, he edited the piece into a more cohesive form. The three soloists, Angela Cheng, Juilette Kan, and Denise Djokic, were quite remarkable as they all introduced their own concerto themes throughout the piece before they merged into a solo voice and built up to a frenetic peak. While the Martinu Symphony No. 1 was an enjoyable programmed symphonic work, I think one of the showcase work was by Gilliland's "Dreaming of the Master III," with soloist, Jens Lindemann, on the trumpet, flugelhorn and coronet. Dripping charisma on stage, Lindemann unveiled his brassy blue trumpet and his initial showmanship definitely did not dissipate throughout the performance. Gilliland's piece showcased the range of Lindemann's brass color from New Orleans blues, big band Swing and Latin beats. Lindemann was successful in creating a grooving rhythm microcosm on stage and brought the trumpet section to their feet. Also, did I mention there were whirly tubes in Gilliand's piece? The tubes creating a haunting echo throughout the hall.

Furthermore, the ESO provided an encore fitting as a musical send-off to NYC: Leonard Bernstein's "Mambo" from West Side Story.

The ESO is embarking on an exciting journey east, as the NY Times already stated, "Edmonton stands as the prefestival favorite for strongest local support, with some 1,000 listeners said to be ready to make the long haul to New York." There is no time like the present to acknowledge the local orchestral talent within this city and no better time to support our ESO as Edmontonians. ESO: Break a leg in NYC!

Until next time readers, take care!