Saturday, May 19, 2012

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!

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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

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