Monday, March 11, 2024

Guest Speech to the University of Alberta Madrigal Singers

Dear readers,

This speech was presented live on March 9, 2024 at the University of Alberta Faculty Club for the Madrigal Singers Brunch Concert and Fundraiser. 

At the request of some individuals, I have published it below, enjoy!


Greetings U of A friends, family, and administrators,

Thank-you to Tim Shantz and the University of Alberta Madrigal Singers, otherwise referred to as MAD’s from this point onwards, for inviting me here today to speak at your brunch fundraiser. 

My name is Sable Chan and I am MAD’s alumni from 2008. I currently work as a S-LP with the public school board and run my own private practice where I have an interest in the area of voice therapy. I see patients referred from Ear, Nose, Throat specialists and work with patients diagnosed with vocal nodules, polyps, fatigue, chronic cough and more. I work with everyday speakers and singers. 

I sing with Pro Coro Canada, The Canadian Chamber Choir, and co-founded FEMME Vocal Quartet. In addition, I have been blogging about choir music for the past 15 years on TheChoirGirl.Ca. It was due to a combination of these factors that led to my recognition in Edify Magazine’s Top 40 Under 40 Class of 2019

As I began to reflect on my time in MAD’s, I acknowledge that my time was short, but significant, in my professional formation as a singer and health sciences professional. MAD’s was a challenge to fit into a packed Science schedule; however, there was an auspicious alignment of timetable factors in my 4th year at the University. I recall the excitement as I left my Biology lectures on the Engineering part of campus and strolled over to the Fine Arts Building for MAD’s rehearsal on a Monday afternoon. It was my first time singing in a mixed choir, as most of my early choral singing experiences were in treble voice ensembles at Schola Cantorum and Cantilon Choirs. Some highlights from that MAD’s season included singing my very first Handel’s Messiah at the Winspear and competing in the Cork International Choral Festival. 

Growing up as a chorister in Edmonton, MAD’s held this prestige in my mind as one of the most elite groups I could sing in as a young adult. I was elated when I auditioned and was accepted in my 4th year. Suddenly, I was connected to a network of passionate singers from many places and areas of study. There is an incorrect assumption that choristers at the U of A are all Music majors. In fact, singers come from all different faculties. I was delighted to know I was not the only student in Sciences and began connecting with fellow singing friends to strengthen my networks all across campus. To this date, some remain my closest friends. In fact, I just sang at a wedding of two fellow MAD’s alumni who got married to one another this past June! 

I know that when people think: University teams, they may instinctively mention areas such as sports or research. However, I think the artistic contributions of providing rich, creative opportunities, such as University music ensembles, contributes significantly to the ecosystem of the University. There is a significant population of students and staff at the U of A and it is nourishing to have opportunities to engage with a wide range of interests. We need all of these factors: athletics, research, innovation, leadership, arts and more to contribute to a diverse and healthy campus. Singing in MAD’s allowed me an opportunity to represent the U of A at local, national, and even international levels when we went to compete in Ireland at the Cork Choir Festival! 

While in MAD’s, I recall the fun and excitement of the social and performance calendar of MAD’s life: there were fundraisers to organise, Halloween parties to host, early morning radio segments to perform at, Valentine’s Day quartet gigs to sing in HUB, and it was with a mix of the most warm-hearted and loving humans. The opportunity to sing at such a high level, while completing my degree, provided me with an outlet of artistic expression, social connection, and reassuring reminders of self-confidence. 

No matter how much I might have struggled on an Immunology midterm, I knew that when I went to MAD’s rehearsal, my insecurities would lighten as I made music with others. There would be a temporary reprieve from the everyday burdens of life and burning, existential questions like: “what am I going to do with a Science degree?” Instead, we would synchronise our breath, work on musical details in Bach motets, and fall into a musical flow that seemed untouched by external time. 

There is a lightness and heaviness we all carry within us at any given moment. Singing allows us to release and share that. Instead of letting those feelings stay stuck in our body, we can mobilise and release those sentiments with a group coordination of our breath and voice. 

Choir is my means of communication and connection with others. I suspect it may be for some of you, as well. Choir, to this day, allows me to learn about new music cultures and continue to connect with new friends. I continue to write about choral music topics on my blog because I love reflecting on my own artistic choral practice. I also feel like in a world with a decreasing amount of arts media and discourse, it is important to have accessible outlets to share current perspectives on choral music. 

I love how there is always more to learn in singing. I have seen how music-making has changed in my life: it’s more and less important at any given time. However, I have always been singing. I continue to sing. And I will always be a singer. 

I hope you all will as well. 

I am grateful to be sharing this time and space with you here today. Thank-you.

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