Thursday, April 21, 2016

An Interview with Conductor of the National Youth Choir and Pro Coro Canada, Michael Zaugg

Photo by Topher Seguin, courtesy of Pro Coro Canada

Pure, floating voices, impeccable intonation and the performance of a variety of choral music from the Early Renaissance to the Avant-garde combine to create Pro Coro Canada - one of Canada’s few professional chamber choirs. 

2015-2016 is the 35th season since the inception of Pro Coro Canada. 

Pro Coro Canada has the great fortune to have, in its own membership, some of the finest singers in Alberta, many of whom have gone on to distinguish themselves as soloists, such as Nathan Berg, Wendy Humphries, Frances Jellard, Michael Meraw, Linda Perillo and John Tessier. 

Pro Coro Canada also enjoys joining with choirs from around the world, and has performed with Calgary Boys’ Choir, Elmer Iseler Singers (Toronto), Richard Eaton Singers (Edmonton), Schola Cantorum Choirs (Edmonton), Stockholm Chamber Choir, Studio de musique ancienne de Montréal, Swedish Radio Choir, Tafelmusik Chamber Choir (Toronto), University of Alberta Madrigal Singers, Vancouver Chamber Choir, and Winnipeg Singers.

An Interview with Conductor of the National Youth Choir and Pro Coro Canada, Michael Zaugg.

It has been two years since you were announced as the NYC conductor, what have you been up to in order to prepare for the choristers coming your way in May? 

The first thing was, of course, preparing a repertoire for the 2016 session. My mind was overflowing with ideas and concepts. I first put everything on large paper on my wall, creating ‘programming clouds’ and then connecting those ideas. There are many parameters to incorporate, for example, several languages, musical styles, commissions, and Canadian content. It had to be music that would challenge the group as individual singers and help to create an ensemble that would be engaging for the audience. Furthermore, I always challenge myself to program with a theme in mind, in this case, it turned out to be the final line of D
National Youth Choir 2014 conducted by Dr. Hilary Apfelstadt in performance at St. Mary’s Basilica, Halifax, NS
(Photo by Judy Porter, Judealou Photography)
ante’s Inferno.

After this process, I was working with the Choral Canada team in order to set-up the residency and the tour. That included the creation of a schedule for rehearsals and activities, coordinating with our Alberta project manager James Frobb (NYC alumni) and possible presenters. Then came the preparation of the scores. During this time, across Canada, many young singers auditioned for the NYC and each province subsequently put forward their participants.

At this very moment, I’m finalizing the detailed divisi for each section, assign solos, send out translations, languages files and connect with the singers to assist in their preparation.

What insights can you give into the works or activities you have planned for the NYC? 

The concert repertoire takes its inspiration from the last stanza of ‘The Divine Comedy: Inferno, Canto XXXIV’. The first half of the concert is conceived as an journey from Hell back to Earth's surface and on to Heaven. This ascension is presented through various looking glasses, there are religious, pagan, poetic and spiritual points of view. The second half picks up on this theme, but also introduces the northern way ‘via borealis’ as a sub-theme. There are several new works on the program, for example ‘Tread Softly’ by Bolden, the winner of the Choral Canada composition competition, or ’There is a Sound’ by Albertan Allan Gilliland. The first half is certainly very intense, vocally, emotionally and intellectually, and includes Mendelssohn, Tormis and Poulenc. After the intermission, the style and mood is lighter.

One element which is likely new to many singers, is the absence of a rehearsal pianist. We will perform an a cappella program and therefore also rehearse a cappella. I’ve already asked the singers to organize and get used to a tuning fork. Working without piano will probably be slowing the process for the first rehearsals, but the improvement in sonority and pitch awareness of the ensemble will be increasing exponentially.

What topics are you looking forward to discussing on your panel with other conductors on commissioning works? 

I think we all have some experiences to share and hopefully learn about other, maybe even new, ways of working with composers. In general, I'm interested in emerging composers, and there it is as much about finding a promising - new - approach as it is about guiding the person to understand and write for the vocal instrument.

Photo by Ian Jackson, Courtesy of Pro Coro Canada
You will also be working with some conductors in training during a Podium masterclass, do you have any overarching skills you wish to convey to masterclass participants before you go in? 

My advice prior to a masterclass participant s ‘prepare well - don’t drill’. So, know the music, but don’t practice a pattern or cue over and over. I’ve worked with conductors who had to re-learn the ‘choreography of gestures’ because suddenly the sopranos were sitting to the left and not to the right. There will be a short time available on the podium for participants and ideally we’ll be working on how the gesture can convey the interpretation. Another important skill is listening. My instruction for this will likely be more an ‘on the spot’ question: "what do you really hear?". While listening to a recording is a legitimate means to acquiring new music, it is always challenging to hear what the choir actually sounds like and then to work with that sound.

You are now in your fourth season as Artistic Director of Pro Coro, during that time, can you share some highlights you have had with the group? 

Yes, tempus fugit! These past seasons were fantastic and the work has been very rewarding. Now that my family and I live in Edmonton, being resident is a highlight! Edmonton has a great choral community, the conductors are extremely supportive of each other, cross-disciplinary projects are encouraged and the breath of choral offerings is amazing - all this, while the city has a small town feel to it. I was at the farmers market with the girls last Saturday, and bumped into three different audience members.
Photo by Nanc Price, Courtesy of Pro Coro Canada

Pro Coro has performed fantastic choral works over the last seasons, and I’m very happy about the daredevil approach to any type of score. My first concert with the ensemble featured ‘The Nightingale’ by Praulins, 30 minutes of contemporary writing in 20 parts, and the group embraces challenges like this. I generally pick works that I want to perform, so any performance with this group is rewarding. I’m particularly excited about the ease with which the singers approach staging, new performance set-ups or mixing of styles. If there are moments that stood out, I’d have to mention the various collaborations with other choirs, i.e. the Cantata Singers in Ottawa, Halifax Camerata, Richard Eaton Singers, Madrigal Singers, Spiritus and of course the Vancouver Chamber Choir. Most of these collaborations happened while on tour and traveling with a choir is always a highlight.

All of your programmes have a thematic concept, and the opening concert with PCC and Opus 8 is no exception. Where did the themes of Darkness and Light come about? 

The Genesis of this program, I frankly, can’t remember. Going back to my ‘programming wall’, I see that the repertoire was very different originally. The only work that remains is ‘Der Abend’ by Strauss. This work was then the talking point around new works by Robert Rival and Paul Mealor. Robert B. (of Opus 8) added his ideas, and somehow the theme ‘Darkness and Light' emerged. The program in its current form is very cohesive, varied, and engaging, and showcases the sonority of each group.

I also had to keep in mind the subsequent Pro Coro subscription concert ‘Shadow of Dreams’ and how some of these works could be repeated in a different light (pun intended). In general, my programs start with a particular piece - Dreams by Finnish Kortekangas in this instance - which inspires through its text sources and through its musical material the selection of many other works. I usually find music for two or three programs, and the challenge is, to compile 80 to 90 minutes that will engage choir and audience, feature Canadian content, represent various styles and languages and are doable within the allocated rehearsal time. The final test is to remove that initial composition and see if the program can stand on its own.

Is there a dream choral project you would want to program if budget and singer numbers were not a barrier? 

My musical day-dreaming is more about which text I would like be set to music by which composer. At the moment, I’m fascinated with the idea of setting fairy tales to music. I’m still captivated by ‘The Nightingale’ by Praulins, and would love to create a new, major work based on the Little Prince. Another dream I have is to create a larger work together with Tom Waits, for choir and his unique voice and story telling skills. While we would not need more singers, such commissions are large budget items. There is also a large work by British Marsh 'Pierrot Lunaire’, that was written for 10 choirs/ensembles from London/UK, including the Kings Singers. And, I’d love to do one of Schafer’s larger works in the Edmonton River Valley.

Follow Pro Coro Canada Online:

Facebook: Pro Coro Canada
Twitter: @ProCoroCanada
Instagram: @ProCoroCanada
Blog: PCC on Tour

Since moving to Canada, Swiss-native Michael Zaugg has distinguished himself as an innovative and versatile conductor on the national choral scene. Active as Artistic Director, Guest Conductor, pedagogue and clinician, Michael Zaugg brings a wealth of experience and creativity to his work.
2012-2013 marked the start of Michael's tenure as Artistic Director and Principal Conductor with Pro Coro Canada in Edmonton. The professional choir is a resident ensemble at the Winspear Centre producing 7- 9 season concerts and participating in many local and national choral events.

As Artistic Director of both the St. Lawrence Choir in Montreal (2007 - 2013) and the Cantata Singers of Ottawa (2005 - 2014), Michael is constantly exploring new ways of integrating art forms with choral music, featuring live paintings, poetry and light /multi-media to name a few. His concepts feature traditional orchestras as well as rarely-heard instruments such as the alphorn, accordion or the gamelan. 

In 2009 Michael founded the Montreal Choral Institute, an umbrella organization dedicated to the advancement of choral education. The Institute’s main mission is to educate the choral leaders of tomorrow through master classes, workshops and performances. 

The Institute’s in-house choir voces boreales (founded in 2006) showcases contemporary a cappella music of Scandinavia and the Baltics along with the classical works of choral history. Under his leadership, the 24-voice ensemble has been featured in the Montreal International Bach Festival, the NAC eXpressions Music Series as well as on CBC Radio 2. 

As Guest Chorus Master of the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal, Michael successfully prepared groups of up to 1500 singers for OSM Artistic Director Kent Nagano, including the award-winning performance of St. François d’Assise by Messiaen. Michael also prepares the Cantata Singers for their appearances with the National Arts Centre Orchestra under conductors such as Franz-Paul Decker, David Lockington, Trevor Pinnock, Helmuth Rilling and Graeme Jenkins. 

Active also as a Guest Conductor, Michael Zaugg has worked with groups including the GRAMMY-nominated choir of Trinity Wall Street (NYC), the Richard Eaton Singers, Halifax Camerata, musica intima, l'Orchestre Symphonique de Longueuil, the Ontario and the Nova Scotia Youth Choirs. As Guest Lecturer he has worked with students at Brandon University (MB), University of Alberta and McGill University (QC). He is often invited to work with provincial choral federations throughout Canada, namely in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Ontario, and Alberta. 

In Europe he has appeared with the Danish National Youth Choir and the Academic Chamber Choir of Ljubljana (Slovenia) at the Bramstrup Performing Arts Festival in Denmark, as well as with the International Choir of the Zimriya Festival in Israel. In Switzerland, he was Chorus Master of the Swiss Oratorio Choir Regiochor for five years before moving abroad. 

Michael Zaugg was the first Swiss conductor to be accepted to the Royal Academy of Music in Stockholm, Sweden, in its prestigious post-graduate Diploma for Professional Choir Conducting. Throughout this two-year program, Michael worked weekly with singers of the world-renowned Swedish Radio Choir and also had the opportunity to work with Sweden’s gems- the Adolf Fredrick’s Girls Choir and the Mikaeli Chamber Choir. 

Originally an accomplished tenor, Michael Zaugg toured Europe and Asia with professional groups including the Swiss Chamber Choir, the Chamber Choir of Europe, the World Chamber Choir and the Stockholm Chamber Choir. 

A passionate pedagogue, Michael Zaugg is strongly committed to his work not only with choirs but also with other conductors. He teaches privately and has given numerous Master Classes on conducting and rehearsal technique. The Montreal Choral Masterclass attracts many conductors from Canada and abroad every year. Michael’s students, coming from diverse choral backgrounds, appreciate a hands-on approach when working with his ensembles.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

An Interview with Composer, Dr. Benjamin Bolden

Dr. Benjamin Bolden's is winner of the Choral Canada 2016 Competition for Choral Writing for work, Tread Softly. This work will be premiered by the National Youth Choir of Canada at Podium Conference and Festival.

You have mentioned that the inspiration for Tread Softly begin following a TED talk on Education with a theme of treading softly when it comes to educating children, how did you highlight this theme in the music?

When the text ‘tread softly’ is first heard, the sopranos sing a simple, gentle, do-mi-do motif. The altos echo the motif in canon. Meanwhile, the tenors and basses start low in pitch and move steadily upwards, in parallel harmony, like a child growing up. Then the sopranos break out in a yearning, descending motif on the text ‘you tread upon my dreams.’ The lower voices echo the word ‘my dream’ low in their range, in a harmonic language that shifts to a new ominous-sounding tonality. For me, that harmonic shift signals the danger of quashing dreams.

What resonated in the text for you in W.B. Yeat's Poem, The Cloths of Heaven?

Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
What resonated for me was the generosity and vulnerability of someone laying themselves out before someone else…the trust implied, and the need to respond thoughtfully, conscientiously, and with care.

What do you hope for the National Youth Choristers to take away from Tread Softly when they premiere it at Podium 2016?

Well… I hope the individual parts are interesting enough that the singers are engaged by what I’ve asked them to sing. And I hope they are able to wallow a little in some of the lush harmonies I’ve written. I also hope they can let loose and feel a thrill in the climactic moments. I sing in choirs too, and in the pieces I love best I find moments that I look forward to and relish—when my voice has the chance to sound the way I want it to sound, or when I get to contribute to a musical gesture that just works. I hope the singers find some of those sweet spots in this piece! Ultimately, I hope the singers feel they’ve been able to tap into their own musicality, give it voice, and help to create something beautiful.

Where was the initial inspiration for you to become a music educator?

I was inspired to become a music educator because I have seen so many lives so tremendously enriched by music—especially my own. I figured that bringing music to people, and people to music, was a pretty fantastic way to earn a living. It’s an immense privilege…and responsibility!

How do you view your roles and responsibilities as a music educator?

Basically I try to enhance and expand and strengthen the relationship between people and music. I once heard the brilliant Canadian composer and educator Stephen Hatfield say, ‘there are as many ways to be musical as there are ways to be beautiful.’ That rings very true for me. As a music educator, I try to help people realize how they can be beautiful in and through music.

You have a diverse background in composition, education, and academic research, why is it important for you to assume these different roles?

Because it’s so much fun! I love operating within these different roles. They all complement each other and they are all so compelling. And if I get weary of one of the roles I can move to the other to recharge and re-energize…I’m pretty lucky that way.

You have created a series of Podcasts that share your relationship with music. Why did you choose this medium to narrate your story?

Podcasts are wonderful for communicating about music, because you can combine music and spoken word together. And playing with those sounds is, for me, very much a form of composing.

You have had exposure to many genres of music by members of your family, early music from you mother, The Police from your brother, but what do you think is at the heart of choral music that connects with you?

At the heart of choral music, for me, is the notion of raising voices together. Connecting to an ancient and time-honoured musical practice that happens across eras and cultures. I think it’s such a wonderful thing to get together and do!

The National Youth Choir Spotlight Concert will be at the Winspear Centre on Friday, May 20, 2016 at 8 PM. Tickets are available online.

Hear Bolden's Easter Antiphon Online.

Dr. Benjamin Bolden, music educator and composer, is an associate professor in the Faculty of Education at Queen’s University. His research interests include the learning and teaching of composing, creativity, community music, arts-based research, Web 2.0 technologies in education, teacher knowledge, and teachers’ professional learning. As a teacher, Ben has worked with pre-school, elementary, secondary, and university students in Canada, England, and Taiwan. Ben is an associate composer of the Canadian Music Centre and his compositions have been performed by a variety of professional and amateur performing ensembles. Ben was editor of the Canadian Music Educator, journal of the Canadian Music Educators’ Association/L’Association canadienne des musiciens éducateurs, from 2007-2014. He is the proud father of three rascally boys.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Love Fail Collaboration with Good Women Dance Collective

Greeting readers,

I'm embarking on my most solistic project with Pro Coro, thus far, singing in a female quartet to perform David Lang's Love Fail. Of course, I was terrified with an undercurrent of excitement as soon as I received the confirmation from Michael that I was in. I have been placating my internal crazy performer voice these past few week so I thought I would break down how I've been tackling the stages of prepping the work.


January 19-March 22 2016

The first thing I did was download the Love Fail album off of iTunes that evening after getting my conductor, Michael's, e-mail. I began looking through online Issuu previews of the score since I did not have a hard copy yet. Michael told me to take a look at the part-word repetitions in the Alto II line for the he was and she was movement as well note my lowest note in the piece, a G3, in the wood and the vine.


I began my regular process of learning music: listening the album for the overall texture and sound of the piece, then rehearsing my individual lines to make sure I learn my notes, tricky intervals, word order etc. I marked in my breath marks, noted word stress, tempo markings (rehearsing with a metronome), and for the parts where I am supposed to play percussion I made sure to always hold a pen of some sort and tap my music stand so I could build some motor memory to hit something on the downbeat while singing. I also tried to look at the poetic text to see at what aspect of love in a relationship we were discussing in each of the movements, whether it's the disconnect between the head and the heart in guiding relationship decisions or how, "at night, he was a different man." I tried to prepare as much I could but to keep it flexible so that I would be able to make adjust in music and staging rehearsals

Music Rehearsals

March 27- April 4 2016

By far, the most nerve-wracking moment was the first music rehearsal with the other singers. It was just my three fellow singers and Michael a meter away from us. There was no hiding. My heart raced for the first 1.5 hours of the 3 hour rehearsal. I had to suppress the urge follow the arrhythmic beating pattern that didn't fit the tempo of the slower movements we were rehearsing. I came in holding all these skills I had practiced at home, but upon entering rehearsal and seeing the tempo marking that was actually being set by Michael, I would have an internal moment of panic, causing me to drop all of my not-yet-solidified skills. So much of this process has been calming the crazy. I kept hearing this internal crazy "AAAAAAaaaaah!!!!!!" as I frantically took down notes and tried to tap through pages on my iPad to catch up to our next rehearsal point. At the end of each rehearsal, I would go home and work on fixing notes, rhythm, etc. Michael mentioned in rehearsal so that I could enter the next rehearsal with a renewed sense of confidence. However, each rehearsal had a healthy dose of challenge so they were new things to work on. In the first rehearsal, Michael conducted everything. In the second, he began fading his conducting so we had to get used to rehearsing movements unconducted and he would step in if we were completely off. On the third rehearsal, we tried moving and standing in different orientations in four corners of the room to get used to a different spatial arrangements before we met with the dancers. This was challenging since it was mostly unconducted by this point and I had to activate my visual cortex to lip read and align my text and, hopefully, my tempo with my fellow singers. I also had to readjust my ears to search for voices for chord tuning and alignment purposes. With each of my supportive cues fading, I found it was more a matter of turning the volume of my crazy internal voice to low because it was impossible to mute it entirely. In this way, it allowed enough focus and stay present in the rehearsal and accept feedback. Thank goodness for desensitization.


April 6-14, 2016

Beginning the staging process was a turning point because it made me realize it's not so much about me knowing my parts, but it's about how the music I create with my fellow singers highlights and supports the original choreography created by the Good Women Dance Collective. By far, they are one of the most visible dance companies for me in the city. It may be due to my particular 25-34 demographic and the events I go to whether it's Start-Up Edmonton Open Houses at the Mercer, the Fringe Festival, or social media - whatever it is, it's working. I love their collective and collaborative approach that creates accessible contemporary choreography while also focusing on sharing knowledge with the Edmonton dance community through workshops, or going abroad for professional development and bringing this training back to benefit the Arts community of Edmonton.

Our first rehearsal together began with talking through a roadmap of where GWC choreographer, Alida, envisioned where we would be in each particular movement and providing details on what would be going on around us. We would run a few movements and get notes afterward on overall tempo, where we needed to move faster or slower, where we needed to give more space to dancers crawling on the floor between us. Taking a tip from Opera staging, I've rehearsed in my barefeet so I am used to that sensory feedback from the floor. It's also pretty handy because, if I extend my foot out to start walking, and I feel flesh there, I refrain from moving so I don't step on a dancer. You know, professional courtesies. In addition to adjusting for challenges like being unconducted, getting pitches, setting tempos, movement transitions between the pieces - one of the most amazing things is just to feel the energy of the dancers. Even if I can't watch what they're doing with much detail, due to the fact that I'm using my score, I can sense the potential energy in their bodies. It's more than just that feeling where somebody comes up from behind you and you move out of the way, the energy of their proximity envelopes you as they physically weave themselves in the acoustic waveform of our sound.

We have another set of rehearsals in Studio 96 this coming week and then opening night is this Friday. There are four performances from Apr 15-17, 2016.

Apr 15 at 7:30 PM

Apt 16 at 2:30 PM

Apr 16 at 7:30 PM

Apr 17 at 2:30 PM

It will be a treat to finally share what we have been working on with audiences.

All photos by Michael Zaugg, courtesy of Pro Coro Canada

Monday, April 4, 2016

An Interview with Calgary Girls Choir Artistic Director, Elaine Quilichini

Since its founding in 1995 by Artistic Director Elaine Quilichini, Calgary Girls Choir has inspired girls and young women to meet the creative challenge of choral music performance. Now in its twentieth season, the Choir is recognized nationally and internationally for its dazzling performances and many accomplishments: first-place awards and major prizes at Canadian and international competitions; prestigious performances at the National Conferences of the American Choral Directors Association, ACCC Podium, and the Organization of American Kodály Educators; features on national television; premieres at the Banff Centre for the Arts; concerts with the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra and Civic Symphony; and commissions of new works by Canadian and international composers. 

Brava is proud and excited to be able to perform alongside Canada’s top choirs at Podium 2016. The maturity and polish that CGC Brava members are able to bring to their performances has earned them a stellar reputation worldwide as a leader amongst the top youth choirs. Their exceptional tone quality, intonation and musically sensitive performances inspire all who aspire to choral excellence. Their credits and accomplishments are a testament to their willingness to push the boundaries of their abilities and to give their heart and soul in the service of the choral art. 

An interview with Elaine Quilichini, Conductor of the Calgary Girls Choir.

What do you feel makes the Calgary Girls Choir unique from other choirs? 

All choirs are so unique and special and each aspires to meet their own personal point of challenge. The Calgary Girls Choir is proud of its unflinching commitment to providing “only the best” literature to nourish the musicianship and vocal development of its choristers. CGC is also very gratified by the commitment its graduates have to continuing to learn and sing in their adult lives. CGC continues to develop professional and amateur musicians as well as to develop an educated and discerning audience for the future.

What are some of the highlights you have had with the Calgary Girls Choir? 

Some of the major highlights for CGC have been tours that have been a tremendous source of motivation, growth and inspiration. The Vienna Youth Music Festival, Eistedfod in Llangollen,Wales, Carnegie Hall with EQ as conductor, performances at the Vatican and St. Mark’s while on tour in Italy, Podium and ACDA performances as well as being featured as the “choir in residence” at the National OAKE conference in Chicago. Four wins in the ACCC choral competition for Amateur Choirs has been very exciting! In truth, the choir and EQ have always enjoyed the rehearsal process the most! Tours, competitions and performances are the result and natural extension of the joy that comes from learning and accomplishment in rehearsal! We love the product but love the process just as much or more. The sharing of music and growth with our fellow singers is really the greatest highlight of all!

What is the importance of fostering choral singing in specifically girls and young women, like in the Calgary Girls Choir? 

The Calgary Girls Choir has adopted a motto to express just that and the importance we attach to it. The Calgary Girls Choir-Giving Young Women a Voice! Choral singing is the perfect vehicle to help girls and young women not only to express themselves but also to understand that their thoughts, and emotions are worthy of being expressed and heard. Through singing and discovering the power and impact of their own voice their confidence and self-esteem is greatly enhanced. They are given permission and encouraged to express their deepest thoughts and emotions. Girls and young women are easily silenced and sidelined and their opinions and worth are still often disregarded as being less worthy of belief or importance. We see everyday that is true in the world of adult women and therefore understand just how much more true it is for young women. The CGC through singing and through fostering an atmosphere of respectful collaboration seeks to give girls a place not only to use and develop their voice but a belief that they are entitled to be heard and respected and should expect nothing less.

What challenges do you see working with treble voices? 

Working in 3,4 and 5 part harmony within the treble range is extremely challenging and requires tremendous aural skills from the singers who don’t have the advantage of the more varied timbres, qualities and intervallic distance found in an SATB choir. Working against the false perceptions that the artistic and musical depth of a treble choir is inferior or secondary to that of mixed choirs.

Where do you begin when you start building a programme list coming to Podium

One of the first considerations for me in planning our programme for Podium 2016 was to look at Canadian repertoire that would be relatively new to Podium delegates and audiences and therefore help increase the delegates knowledge of Canadian contemporary works. I want to help spread awareness of the great compositions of present day Canadian composers and to provide performances of this repertoire that could serve as a model for others. I begin by listing all repertoire I feel would have potential for presentation at such a prestigious concert and that I feel my choir could sing with artistic excellence and spirit. Gradually, I hone the list until I feel I have a strong and unique programme that will be satisfying for my choir and bring a varied and interesting concert to the conference.

What can audiences hope to see from the Calgary Girls Choir at Podium

Audiences will hear an exceptionally beautiful vocal and tonal quality combined with rare musicality and artistry. The Calgary Girls Choir is known for its brilliant vocal technique and the sheer beauty and ease with which they sing challenging and varied repertoire. The Spotlight program on Sat. May 21 at McDougall United Church (5 pm) will including 2 choral gems, a Missa Brevis by Canadian composer Eleanor Daley and a recently published work by Canadian Mark Sirett, entitled April (I Love You).

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

Podium is an essential coming together of musicians who believe in the value and importance of choral music in life and in the world. Choral conductors, by the very nature of their work, understand the importance of choral singing in building community. Coming together as a choral community at Podium to share, learn and be inspired is vitally important for the continuation and growth of choral music in Canada and in the world.

How important is it for choirs to promote the works of contemporary Canadian composers? 

Much as CGC believes that singing is “giving young women a voice” we also believe that our Canadian composers are “giving Canadians a voice” and an identity. The importance of this cannot be overstated.

One of the mandates of the Calgary Girls Choir is the commissioning of new works by Canadian composers as well as the commissioning of new Canadian folk song arrangements. I’m very fortunate to have been able to publish many of these commissions in my choral series thus making them available to all. Canadian choral composers are respected throughout the choral world and conductors from other countries seek out the compositions for their choirs to perform. Canadian choral composers have enhanced our sense of identity and pride as something uniquely Canadian is expressed though these works. Our singers burst with pride knowing these great works they sing and listen are Canadian. I determine the length and the keys of each piece and categorize as sacred, secular, Canadian, folk, unaccompanied, experimental etc. 

When you are looking to commission a work for your choir, what are the considerations you keep in mind when choosing the right Composer for the job? 

It is important to me that the composer has a good understanding of the voice and writes in “singer-friendly” way. That is that the voice is able to function freely and with comfort. I also consider the ways in which the composer works with text and melody and how well the two come together to create a satisfying marriage of both music and poetry. I also consider the creativity and freshness I hear in their approach and hope to find a composer who can bring the unexpected to life.

What do you consider when you preparing to introduce a new work to present to your choir? 

One of the things to consider in approaching a new work is what aspects of the piece can best help develop and increase the musicianship of the singers. In some pieces, it is rhythmic training that is called for most, in others it may be a need to develop sight singing, phrasing, language, etc. I try to find the thing in each new piece that will most help awaken a musical and informed response to it in my singers.

What are the challenges when you are looking at repertoire to program for? 

The challenge of variety in the programming is always a major consideration and challenge. Choosing repertoire that provides variety in style, period, language and level of challenge. To try to strike a balance that is meeting the point of challenge for my singers but never overwhelming nor underestimating. Trying to a balance in the repertoire worked on that provides for educational and performance objectives.

Explain your musical upbringing and what eventually drew you to choral music? 

I trained as a pianist and a singer and have always been grateful for a background in both fields. Having studied the piano and theoretical aspects of music (harmony, counterpoint, form) has been a tremendous advantage in approaching any level of musical challenge with confidence. As a young teacher I discovered the Kodály philosophy which emphasized the importance of singing as the way to provide the most effective and authentic musical education. That tied in perfectly with my experience and beliefs. My passion was always focused on singing but I was also drawn to the study literature and poetry. In choral music I found the perfect marriage of those two loves. Singing and poetry…I continue to be excited and inspired by that combination every day.

What inspired you to be a conductor? 

As a young school music teacher, I was somewhat discouraged by the general approach to music education I encountered in the schools. I found when I formed my first school choir that they were in fact an instrument that seemed to have limitless potential for musical accomplishment and artistic expression. I decided that a life of teaching music through choral music was something I could believe in and pursue enthusiastically. I began to see more and more how hungry for great music and meaningful musical training and experiences people were. This inspired me to continually look for ways to learn more and grow as a teacher/conductor so that I could bring others to the experience of great music.

What is at the heart of choral music singing that drives your passion? 

Beauty and the pursuit of beauty and goodness are at the heart of my passion for choral singing. Choral music is a powerful gift for the betterment of mankind. Singing choral music lifts us out of our petty and personal concerns as we join our voices with our fellow man to create beauty and hope. Choral music is one of the loftiest pursuits we can pursue. Choral singing lifts us out of the mundane, allows us to express some of the greatest sounds, thoughts and emotions created by the minds and souls of great geniuses. Choral singing solidifies our mutual humanity as we use our own bodies and voices together for the creation of beauty and self-expression. Singing elevates us! Our potential for good is revealed and we are less likely to allow the “darkness” to intrude in our souls. Choral singing is about hope and we all need more of that!

What are some future goals of the group? 

The Calgary Girls Choir hopes to continue for many years providing sound and thorough musical training for all our choristers. We continue to work to develop programs that can expand and deepen that training and to provide life-changing experiences through choral music, singing and artistic expression. Programs for boys and adults are a natural extension of our passion for changing lives through music and giving people an opportunity to “find their voice”. We hope to continue to commission great new works by Canadian composers and share them all over the world through touring and recording. We want to expand our connection to and understanding of the world through our love of singing and of Canada!

Is there anything else you would like to add that I have not asked? 

CGC- Brava is honoured and thrilled to be attending Podium 2016! We are excited to hear and meet choirs and conductors who have inspired us along the journey. We hope we will have an opportunity to meet and bond with many singers who understand and share our love of choral singing.

Facebook: Calgary Girls Choir 
Instagram: @yycgirlschoir 
Youtube: Calgary Girls Choir
Twitter: @yycgirlschoir
CBC Artists Page: Calgary Girls Choir

Elaine Quilichini is recognized internationally for her exceptional musicianship, distinguished work and extraordinary gift for inspiring others. As a Master of Music (Kodály), she has served as a clinician, lecturer, adjudicator and guest conductor across Canada, the United States, Australia, Japan, Argentina, Brazil and the Canary Islands.

In 1995, Ms. Quilichini founded the Calgary Girls Choir, and with her vision and passion has built it into one of the most celebrated choirs in the world. A Master of Music in Kodály Methodology, provided a strong philosophical and pedagogical base for her work in music education and choral development. Ms. Quilichini built successful choirs at Mount Royal Conservatory and conducted the University of Calgary Women’s Choir for ten years. She continues to serve as the Artistic Director of summer choral programs at Wichita State University and Nebraska Wesleyan University. In addition, she leads an active music studio and travels extensively as a guest conductor and to offer clinics and workshops. Her students have achieved great success as music educators, conductors and professional singers. A notable indication of Ms.Quilichini’s stature in the choral community is her successful choral series published by Alliance Music Publishing, Houston, Texas.

Global Television has recognized Ms. Quilichini, as a Woman of Vision. This award celebrates women whose passion, talent and commitment is reflected in their achievements. A perfect fit for Ms. Quilichini’s contributions.