Monday, February 29, 2016

An Interview with Conductor, Carrie Tennant, and Chorister, Stephanie Browning, from the Coastal Sound Youth Choir

The Coastal Sound Youth Choir has become known in the Canadian choral community for their passionate and imaginative performances. The choir is made up of 65 young people aged 1423, representing over ten different municipalities from across the Metro Vancouver area of British Columbia. Eclectic, heartfelt, creative, and full of the energy and determination of youth, Coastal Sound Youth Choir performances have become a destination for music fans across the region. Coastal Sound Youth Choir has been featured on CBC Radio for their work with their popular Indiekör concerts, which bring together the choir with local indierock band the Salteens. In summer of 2014, Coastal Sound Youth Choir was the subject of a documentary about their Indiekör show, and recently the choir has performed alongside Canadian artists Dan Mangan, Woodpigeon and Hey Ocean. Coastal Sound singers love to connect with and learn from other choirs, and over the past few year they have enjoyed sharing the stage with numerous school, children’s and youth choirs, as well as the Vancouver Cantata Singers, Elektra Women’s Choir, musica intima, and the Nylons. Repeat award winners at the National Music Festival, in 2013 Coastal Sound Youth Choir was also awarded first place in the youth choir category at the National Competition for Amateur Choirs. In June of 2013, the choir was chosen, along with Elektra Women’s Choir, to represent Canada at the 2013 Chorus America Conference. Most importantly, Coastal Sound singers believe that there is “no better way to learn about compassion, humanity, integrity, and beauty, than by making music with people you care about” (Stephanie Browning Alto 2)

A co-interview with the Conductor of Coastal Sound Youth Choir, Carrie Tennant (CT), and Chorister, Stephanie Browning (SB).

The season of Coastal Sound Youth Choir has a unique blend of choral classics as well as progressive choral programming like Indiekör, please explain the importance of diverse programming in your season.

SB: The diversity of our repertoire challenges us to really pay attention to the kind of sound we’re creating for every single song. It’s impossible to approach a pop cover with the same sound we would use for a traditional piece of choral repertoire. As youth singers, we have an incredible opportunity to bridge a divide between what we love about choral music, and the music we sing along to in the car with our friends. When we have Arcade Fire in the same set list as Arvo Pärt it really pushes us, not only be versatile technically, but also to understand our repertoire more deeply. I think we’ve become better musicians because of the diversity we introduce in our programming. Carrie draws these incredible links between the traditional pieces, and the pop arrangements we do. We’ve learned that in some ways, music hardly changes. Love, joy, heartbreak, resilience, these are themes that transcend time, language, and most importantly in our case, genre. And they’re themes that give young singers so much to grab on and connect to. When we explore them through traditional choral repertoire and through pop music, we find that they’re all saying similar things in different ways. As soon as we realized that the peace and rejuvenation that Monteverdi finds in nature might be the "Great Escape" that Patrick Watson was talking about, it brought a whole new facet to how we approach our traditional repertoire.

What are some of the highlights you have had with the Coastal Sound Youth Choir?

SB: Over the last couple of years we've had some incredible highlights as a choir. In June of 2013 Coastal Sound was one of two choirs chosen to represent Canada at the Chorus America Conference in Seattle. We also placed first in the youth choir category in the National Competition for Amateur choirs in 2013. Our Indiekor show was the subject of a documentary by Green Couch productions, and also through that show we have been able to share the stage with some of our favourite artists like Hey Ocean, Woodpigeon, The Belle Game and Dan Mangan. Over the last two seasons we’ve moved Indiekör to the historic Vogue Theatre in downtown Vancouver, and performing for a sold out crowd of 1100 people has been an incredible experience for a youth choir, as you can imagine! :)

What do you feel is important when working with youth singers? 

CT: The most important thing for ME when working with young singers is to develop an understanding that that they are artists, and that what they (we all!) are doing is truly important….that art itself is an important and vital part of human existence. Once we all understand this as a choir, then technique, line, style, communication and even that sense community and connection between singers falls into place. We make a lot of artistic decisions together, because they have so much to contribute.

Where do you begin when you start building a programme list for Podium? 

CT: I’ve tried to put together a program that reflects all the facets of Coastal Sound...Monteverdi to Part Uusberg to The New’s actually taken me more time to choose this program than any other performance we’ve ever done. I just hope I’ve made the right choices :).

What can audiences hope to see from Coastal Sound Youth Choir at Podium? 

CT: They can look forward to a wide variety of music performed with dedicated, focused artistry, and sung with an open heart. And they can expect to laugh. I always try to program something that makes people smile.


What role do you see Podium having in the world of Canadian Choral music? 

CT: Podium is my favourite conference that I attend. It is so wonderful to get together with colleagues from across the country, and be inspired by each other. The concerts are fabulous, the workshops are always wonderful. It feeds my soul and brain for an entire two seasons! Until the next one….

See Coastal Sound Youth Choir at the Podium Conference and Festival which runs from May 19-22, 2016.

Stephanie Browning is second from the left
Stephanie Browning has been singing in choirs in Metro Vancouver for almost 15 years. Her passion for choral music has brought her from children’s’ choirs into youth choirs. Stephanie’s choral experience includes the Vancouver Bach Youth Choir, BCMEA Honour Vocal Jazz ensemble, and Elektra Women’s Choir’s Mira Youth Mentorship. She’s currently a student at Simon Fraser University, and a member at large of Coastal Sound Music Academy’s Board of Directors. This is her fourth season with the Coastal Sound Youth Choir.

Carrie Tennant is the Associate Artistic Director of Coastal Sound Music Academy, and director of the Coastal Sound Youth Choir. Carrie began her career as a high school choir teacher, building a nationally recognized choral program at Maple Ridge Secondary School before deciding to pursue graduate studies in choral conducting in 2009. From 2009-2012 she directed the Vancouver Chor Leoni MYVoice Choir and the Sarah McLachlan Youth Choir. In 2012, Carrie worked as the assistant conductor to Diane Loomer, and in January of 2013 Carrie was selected to succeed Diane as Artistic Director of EnChor. Under Carrie’s direction, Coastal Sound Youth Choir has been featured on CBC Radio, in 2014 was the subject of documentary for Telus Optik TV. Repeat award-winners at the National Music Festival, in 2013 Coastal Sound was chosen, along with Elektra Women’s Choir, to represent Canada at the 2013 Chorus America Conference. Also in 2013, Coastal Sound Youth Choir was awarded first place in the youth choir category of the ACCC National Competition for Amateur Choirs.. Currently, in addition to her work with Coastal Sound, Carrie is the founder and Artistic Director of the Vancouver Youth Choir, an Affiliate Conductor with the Vancouver Chamber Choir, and a frequent clinician, adjudicator and retreat facilitator across Canada. A passionate advocate for building and sustaining community among BC choirs and conductors, in 2010 she helped found the "BC Choral Mentorship Project": a collective that brings together expert speakers/conductors with local choral directors for master classes, discussion groups and lectures. In 2008, Carrie was the recipient of the BCCF Youth Achievement Award for distinguished support of choral music in British Columbia.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Welcome to the Podium Social Media Team

Greetings readers,

While things have been quiet on the blog front, don't be deceived because I am gearing up for some serious Podium Coverage. I'm even part of a social media team for the upcoming Podium Conference and Festival in Edmonton, AB this May 19-22, 2016!

Meet these three amazing team members who are coming from across Canada to converge upon Podium for social media coverage. Sessions, concerts, and parties - we will be reporting on all of these areas at the ground level. We all have a unique perspective to offer and a command of social media tools to help distribute that message. This is the time to take out your smartphone and start following us on any or all social media platforms you prefer.

Learn more about our team members in this chain interview we conducted with each other.

Missy Clarkson
Vancouver BC. Twitter: @mister_sissy. Instagram: @mistersissy

Missy Clarkson is a bisectional soprano who has been breathing choral music since her early days of study in Minneapolis, where she co-founded her first ensemble at age 15. She has lived in Vancouver, BC since 1997, and has sung with many fabulous local ensembles and educators. Her choral 'home' has been the Vancouver Cantata Singers for the last 10 years, and she co-founded and manages Canada's most flaming classical choral ensemble, Cor Flammae.

She is a tireless choral advocate over social media, and created the “hit” viral video for VCS, Shit Choristers Say, which propelled her into some strange level of nerd stardom for about 10 minutes.

Missy Clarkson est une soprano bisectionnelle qui fréquente la musique chorale depuis ses premières années d’études à Minneapolis, où elle a cofondé un premier ensemble à l’âge de 15 ans. Depuis 1997 elle habite Vancouver, C.-B., où elle a chanté avec plusieurs ensembles et éducateurs fabuleux. L’ensemble Vancouver Cantata Singers (VCS) est son « chez-soi » choral depuis 10 ans. Elle est aussi la cofondatrice et gérante de l’ensemble choral classique le plus enflammé du Canada, Cor Flammae. 

Missy défend sans relâche le chant choral sur les médias sociaux. Elle a créé pour VCS le vidéo Shit Choristers Say qui devint un « hit » viral et la propulsa dans une gloire étrange pour environ 10 minutes!

Jean-Pierre Dubois Godin chats with Missy Clarkson

1. As the co-founder of Vancouver's Cor Flammae, Canada's most flaming classical choral ensemble, can you tell us the how and the why this ensemble was formed?

As a queer person who is a major choir nerd I always felt the need to connect with both communities, however as someone with classical training I found that the existing queer singing ensembles were not quite challenging enough for my liking. We created Cor Flammae to connect these dots and explore unsung queer perspectives in classical choral music. Performing queer content with high-caliber queer musicians creates another level of connection to the stories, and it sounds good too! We want to deepen the understanding of historical and modern queer experiences for everyone. How does a rejection by mainstream society in a conservative genre impact art and career? How can we help queer music lovers and performers to feel welcome, encouraged, and invited to the choral music world, where they rarely see reflections of themselves or their journeys in popular writing and performance? We want to answer these questions through the often marginalized lens of our shared life experiences as queer musicians, and we do so in FULL regalia. Everyone can be their true selves in our rehearsals and concerts - tattoos, wigs, true gender identities, and all, while rocking out some serious high art!

2. What is your choral piece? What is your favourite canadian choral piece?

My absolute fave choral piece at the moment *is* Canadian - I am totally obsessed with Kristopher Fulton's 'The Twilight Cities' from his new debut album of the same title. Listening to it is like swimming through a graphic novel - specifically the one on which the work is based ("L'Enfant Penchée" by François Schuiten & Benoît Peeters) - it's a full, lush, cinematic sound that rumbles and shimmers. I am *totally* biased, by the way, as Mr. Fulton is a long-time close pal (we met in music school!) and I was lucky enough to be able to sing on his album. Paula Kremer and Vancouver Cantata Singers prepared it in 3 rehearsals and we basically almost died in the process, but it was so worth it. You always hear such different bits when surrounded by your fellow choristers, so hearing all the parts fully mastered in some good headphones pretty much blew my mind. It is such interesting writing - both innovative and accessible!

3. Which social media are most into right now: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, or other? 

For me, they all have their specific strengths for specific purposes, but I find myself on Instagram and FB most often. Twitter is my top choice for events like Podium!

4. Is there some more Sh*t Choristers Say? Ever thought about doing a 2nd video? What are some sayings that you would add to it, if any?

Oh my gosh, since it was released at a time when a 4-minute video could actually go viral (!), it's really the equivalent of 4 videos these days! But if I did make another video there is no end to the material available!! I would probably do a dress-rehearsal-specific video.... "Where are we standing? How do we get onstage? Why are we doing it that way why not this weird other way? This acoustic is so dry! Do we bow now? How bout now? Are we currently bowing?? WHERE IS MY FOLDER???"


5. Is there anything you are looking forward to at #Podium2016?
Since this will be my very first Podium I am looking forward to literally EVERYTHING. I'm going to bask in the all sights and sounds and humans and nerdery. I expect some major facemelts from ProCoro and may need a fainting couch during Conspirare. I am unreasonably excited!

6. What is your favourite Ave Maria?
Ha! I would have to say it's the Biebl, which VCS performs at the end of every one of our Christmas concerts, surround-sound-styles, and the audience just bawls their adorable eyes out. I was also lucky enough to bawl my own eyeballs out hearing Chanticleer perform it a few years ago. For some reason I never get sick of singing or hearing the piece! It has a certain magic.

Miss Sable 
Edmonton, AB. Twitter: @misssable; Instagram: @misssable
Sable is an avid chorister as well as a Speech-Language Pathologist with an interest in Vocology. When she is not working with Voice Therapy clients, publishing choral musings on The Choir Girl blog, or drinking chai lattes, she can often be found watching Netflix and coloring in her Hipster coloring book.

Sable est une choriste passionnée ainsi qu’une orthophoniste particulièrement intéressée par la vocologie. Elle aime regarder Netflix, colorier dans son album à colorier hipster et prendre un chai latté entre ses consultations avec ses clients en thérapie de la voix et ses publications sur son blogue, The Choir Girl  

Missy Clarkson chats with Miss Sable
1. What ensembles do you sing with, and what is your favourite thing about singing in choirs? 

Currently, I'm singing in Pro Coro Canada's 2015-16 season and with the Edmonton Opera Chorus and Canadian Chamber Choir if my schedule allows.  

2. When and why did you create your blog, "The Choir Girl"?

I began my The Choir Girl Blog back in 2009. I have always been an avid fan of online means to share personal perspective. I first began on Livejournal with a personal account but I wanted to transition over to a public one. I knew that if I wanted to have a public blog, I would need a concept that would provide continuous inspiration. A blog focused on choral music and performance was the natural choice in my mind! It has also challenged me to highlight different Composers, Conductors, and Choirs throughout the years and showcase the excellent work they do in addition to my own musings as a chorister. 

3. What is the most interesting choral blog subject you've ever covered?

One of the topics that I see continuously come up as a highly read post in my archives is on the Culture of Fear in rehearsal. Even though the post is back from 2012, I still get a constant flow of readers and lots of interesting messages and discussions from it. I believe it was even reading material for a University level Choral Methods class so I'm glad it's a topic that helps to stimulate discussion.

4. What are you most looking forward to about Podium? 

In addition to having a rad roommate in the form of Missy Clarkson at Podium and singing with Pro Coro Canada at the Festival, I'm really looking forward to how social media can be used to cover all the conference events and give people an opportunity to be in multiple places at once just by seeing updates or comments from other sessions or concerts. It's time for a social media take-over!

5. Which social media media platform do you prefer at the moment?

My preferred social media platform right now is Instagram. I love how it gives me a visual flow of beautiful and informative images and videos. In the evenings, you can definitely find me cradling my smartphone and scrolling through Instagram to see what the world was up to that day.

6. What's your favourite Ave Maria?  

David McIntyre's "Ave Maria." It's effervescent, ethereal, and lush - what's not to like? I have great memories performing that work with Belle Canto Women's Ensemble at the Cork International Choral Festival. It's always nice to find a treble arrangement of a piece that works so well.

Amy Desrosiers 
Ottawa, ON. Twitter: @Mamydee; Instagram: @amydeechoir

Ever since she sang Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” at her mother’s wedding at four years old, Cornwall born mezzo-soprano Amy Desrosiers knew music was her calling. Under the direction of vocal coach Laurence Ewashko and Sonya Sweeney, Amy has developed her vocal skills in opera, jazz, and choral singing and completed a Bachelor of Music and minor in Arts Administration in 2011 at the University of Ottawa.

Amy not only adores singing with her choir family, but also loves working behind the scenes as an arts administrator and choir manager for the Capital Chamber Choir. Aside from binge watching Star Wars, she also spends her time singing with the Capital Chamber Choir, Opera Lyra Ottawa Chorus, and jazzing it up with the Jazz Lines Vocal Quartet on the National Arts Centre stage and other fun venues in the Ottawa community.

Her love of social media and writing inspired her to create her blog “Blonde in the Choir” and strives to support fun arts projects and initiatives in the Ottawa choral community.

Amy Desrosiers, une mezzo-soprano originaire de Cornwall, a chanté à l’âge de 4 ans « I Will Always Love You » de Whitney Houston au mariage de sa mère. Elle sut dès lors que la musique ferait toujours partie de sa vie. Sous la direction du coach vocal Laurence Ewashko et de Sonya Sweeney, Amy a développé ses compétences vocales en opéra, en jazz, et en chant choral. Elle a complété un baccalauréat en musique et une mineure en administration des arts en 2011 à l’Université d’Ottawa. Elle adore chanter avec sa famille de chorales et aussi travailler à l’arrière-scène comme administratrice des arts et gérante de chœur pour la Capital Chamber Choir. En plus de regarder Star Wars en rafale, elle chante sur la scène du Centre national des arts et d’autres merveilleuses salles de la communauté d’Ottawa avec le Capital Chamber Choir, le chœur d’Opéra Lyra Ottawa, et le Jazz Lines Vocal Quartet pour jazzer le tout. 

Son attrait pour l’écriture et les médias sociaux l’a inspirée à créer son blogue « The Blonde in the Choir » qui appuie les projets artistiques et les initiatives de la communauté chorale d’Ottawa.

Miss Sable chats with Amy Desrosiers

1. Why did you decide to create a Blonde in the Choir?

 I decided to create Blonde in the Choir back in the summer of 2013 because I wanted to give a voice in the Ottawa choral community. It began in the middle of Bizet’s Carmen staging rehearsals and I was truly inspired by what was happening around me. I wanted to extend my joy and passion beyond the rehearsal hall and open it to the world.
I was also compelled to share my experiences in blog posts where my readers could relate to everyday situations as a musician. Overtime, I developed my tone and began to shift my focus on interesting topics and project ideas that I believe will broaden my audience and also allow me to improve my writing style. I am always learning!

2. What were your initial thoughts when you were asked to join the Podium Social Media team?

 ESCTATIC! I was already planning on attending Podium because I felt it was time to participate in a conference that embodied my passion for music. The fact that I will be contributing to the Podium social media platform with such a great team is both a privilege and a sign that I should keep this blogging thing going!

3. What do you think is an advantage of social media that more people should be aware of?

A huge advantage with social media is presence. I see so many choirs do very little with updating their social media platforms and it affects their following receiving crucial information on upcoming concerts. It is SO important to take time in your week to get a choir photo or reach out to your following for feedback. Trust me, people notice.

4. Which sessions/concerts are you most looking forward to at Podium?

 As for concerts, I am really excited to check out Pro Coro Canada and the Mozart Requiem choral-orchestral concert. I am familiar with Michael Zaugg’s work when he was conducting in Ottawa and look forward to seeing him again in his element with this great group!
Having sung the Mozart Requiem several times, I have never experienced the masterpiece from the audience perspective and I look forward to sitting back and losing myself in the music.
As for sessions, how do I choose!? I love all of them BUT if I had to narrow it down:
Maestra Matters: Women's Leadership in Choral Music-Making and Community-Building
Choral Therapy: How Choir Saved My Life
Programming For Your Audience

5. What are your current social media addictions?

You will see me glued to my phone over Twitter. I’ve found so many fun blogs and people who share the same interests through Twitter more than any other social media platform. Because I manage four Facebook pages, I have very little time to devote to other platforms aside from the big three: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. My friends are slowly convincing me to get SnapChat.

Jean-Pierre Dubois-Godin

Ottawa, ON. Twitter: @jpduboisgodin

Jean-Pierre Dubois-Godin is a bass/baritone in the local Ottawa choral community. He studied Music, Arts administration, Advertising, and Marketing, in school and currently sings with the Ottawa Choral Society.

Once, Canadian choral composer Stephen Hatfield asked him for help on French lyrics on a new choral composition. This piece is now published at Boosey.

Jean-Pierre is welcoming this opportunity to be on Podium's Social Media Team as a way to get back into blogging and tweeting about local/national/international choral news (#ChoirX)

Jean-Pierre Dubois-Godin est un baryton-basse de la communauté chorale d’Ottawa. Il a étudié la musique, l’administration des arts, la publicité et le marketing, et il chante présentement avec la Société chorale d’Ottawa. Stephen Hatfield, un compositeur bien connu du milieu choral canadien, lui a déjà demandé son aide pour écrire les paroles en français d’une nouvelle composition bilingue. Cette pièce est maintenant publiée chez Boosey & Hawkes. Jean-Pierre est heureux de faire partie de l’équipe des médias sociaux de Podium, et profite de cette occasion pour alimenter son compte Twitter et son blogue (ChoirX) de nouvelles locales, nationales, et internationales du monde choral. 

Amy Desrosiers chats with Jean-Pierre Dubois-Godin 

1. What inspired you to start your blog, ChoirX? 

At the time (2011), I had recently gotten Twitter and would love to livetweet my choir rehearsals: music we were rehearsing, funny things choir directors were saying, what was going on behind-the-scenes... I enjoyed tweeting so much that I expanded its microblogging into full-on blogging. To share my eXperience as a chorister.

2. What was your favourite moment while performing on stage?

There are so many, it is so hard to choose. I can think of at least 4 right off the bat. One of the most memorable performances I did was in June 2010 when the Ottawa choirs and the NAC Orchestra were joined by the Orchestre Métropolitain and it choir, from Montreal, to perform Mahler's Symphony of a Thousand with conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin, both at the National Arts Centre and the Place des Arts. A double-choir with a double-orchestra, with a "tour" to Montreal. It was a sold-out show and so amazing. Definitely and unforgettable experience.

3. What choral/opera/classical piece do you always have on repeat?

I have many. At least these 4: Stephen Hatfield's Living in a Holy City, Gabriel Fauré's Requiem, Morten Lauridsen's Lux Aeterna, and Eric Whitacre's i thank you god for most this amazing day.

4. Why is it important for you to connect with other arts administrators and performers through social media?

Choral singing is really an intimate experience that creates relationships with people you wouldn't normally cross elsewise. Sometimes, it's like a language of its own. It's nice to find others on social media who speak the same "language" as your own.

5. What makes you most excited about attending Podium?

I'm just most excited to see and hear all these choral maestros at work: Michael Zaugg, Scott Leithead, Morna Edmundson, Robert Filion... we're in for a treat!