Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Podium Choir Blog Series: Hamilton Children's Choir

Today's blog post is the last interview preview of performing choirs for PODIUM ON THE EDGE taking place from June 28 - July 3, 2018 in St. John's NL!

Check out my previous blog posts with The University of Redlands Chapel Singers,Toronto Children's ChorusLes Petits Chanteurs du Mont-RoyalCapital Chamber ChoirThe Oakville Choir for Children & YouthElektra Women's ChoirThat ChoirAurora Women's ChoirSirens ChoirEnsemble LaudeChronos Vocal Ensemble , La Rose Des Vents, and Anchormen Barbershop Chorus!



Since its beginning over 40 years ago, the Hamilton Children’s Choir has provided choral training and music education to countless children and youth in the Hamilton area.  In 1975, the Choir was founded after a discussion between Donald Kendrick, the organist at Christ’s Church Cathedral and Joe Fricker, the Dean of the Cathedral. Soon, a summer camp and weekly meetings for a small group of singers found its home at Christ’s Church Cathedral. Mr. Kendrick served as the Artistic Director until 1978 and while doing so, led the choir through two recordings and numerous concerts. After Mr. Kendrick’s departure, John Laing served as Artistic Director from 1978 to 1985. During this time, the Choir first established relationships with the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra and Boris Brott to put on the Opera entitled “The Little Sweep” by Benjamin Britten, which would be the first of many collaborations with these esteemed organizations.  In 1985, John Laing passed on the torch to David Davis, who served as Artistic Director of the Choir from 1985 to 2002. During this time, the choristers furthered their reputation with performances with the Bach Elgar Choir, the Canadian Male Orpheus Choir, and with Celine Dion at the 1999 Juno Awards. The choir appeared on national television, produced several recordings and performed at the International Choral Kathaumixuu in Powell River, B.C. The choir travelled to France, New York City, Pennsylvania and to the East Coast several times for a total of eight out of province trips.

Over the last 15 years, the HCC has been gaining international acclaim and has remained an active part of the thriving local arts community. For more on our international touring, please see our Hall of Fame. Locally, the HCC has enjoyed performing with the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra, the Hamilton Philharmonic Youth Orchestra, the Bach Elgar Choir, the Toronto Northern Lights, TorQ, Chorus Niagara, the High Park Choirs and the Canadian Male Orpheus Male Choir. The HCC has also performed at the Choirs & Organ Concert at Roy Thomson Hall, with Celine Dion at the Juno Awards at Hamilton Place, enjoyed special performances at the Haida Celebration, Ontario Sings, and at Hamilton TiCats games. HCC also performed with Metric, a popular Indie Rock Band, on CBC’s The HOUR 2009 Holiday Special with George Stroumboulopoulos.



What do you feel makes your choir unique from other choirs? 

ZP: We believe that every child can sing, and deserves to be part of a warm, open-hearted community of singers. The HCC strives to give young people a strong foundation in vocal technique, music theory, and expressive communication. We seek to create exciting performance opportunities that empower our youth to communicate, grow and learn something about their role in the world around them. We make every effort to incorporate new music and to share authentic colour and deep study of world music. Our goal is for the audience to be so captivated by the expression on stage that they forget that they are hearing children.


What are some recent highlights you have had with your choir? 

ZP: I became Artistic Director in 2003 and for the past 15 years we have had a journey full of amazing experiences! Hamilton Children’s Choir has been a guest ensemble at a number of prestigious national and international events: MusicFest Canada (2018), American Choral Directors Association Conference, Minneapolis, USA (2017);  America Cantat 8 Festival, Nassau, Bahamas (2016);  Pan Am Games Closing Ceremony, Toronto (2015); Recording the 2017 Music Monday anthem for Coalition for Music Education in Canada (2017); Recording R. Murray Schafer's Apocalypsis at Luminato, Toronto (2015); Polyfollia, 6th World Showcase and Marketplace for Choral Singing, Saint-Lô, France; 10th World Symposium on Choral Music, International Federation for Choral Music, Seoul, South Korea;  1st Xinghai International Choir Championships, Guangzhou, China (Grand Prize); “Let the People Sing” Euroradio Choral Competition – staged by the European Broadcasting Union in Oslo, Norway (1st Place, Children’s Category); Loto-Quebec World Choral Singing Competition in Montreal, Quebec (Grand Prize);  “Let the Future Sing” 70th Choral Festival, Stockholm, Sweden;  CBC National Radio Gala Competition, Montreal, Quebec (Cantabile Grand Prize Award); CBC National Radio Choral Competition for Amateur Choirs (Children’s Category Winner & Best Canadian Performance by Youth); Songbridge Choral Festival, Szczecin, Poland; Tolosa Choral Competition, Tolosa, Spain ( “Audience Choice” Award and 2nd Prize).

In terms of Newfoundland, which is a special place in the hearts of HCC - we have visited Festival 500 twice and are honoured to come back to Newfoundland for Podium “On the Edge” in 2018!


What is the importance of fostering choral singing for your choir?

ZP: One of the primary aims of Hamilton Children’s Choir is to make a difference in the lives of children and youth within the greater Hamilton community by providing them with exceptional choral music instruction and performance opportunities that foster creativity, personal development and social growth.





Our values:

Accessibility for All – “If you can speak, you can sing.” Everyone should have the opportunity to experience the joys and benefits of singing in a choir.

Excellence in Choral Music - excellence has no age. 

The Power of Teamwork – We believe we’re stronger when working together: Choristers as a choir, and our organization as part of a thriving arts community.

Compassion & Appreciation for Diversity – Music can help us understand our differences, connect people from all backgrounds, and uncover what it means to be human. 

Personal Growth – Challenge and learning bring out the best of the joys and benefits of choral singing. 

Education – Regular rehearsals focus on teaching knowledge and skills in a progressive manner, both within each HCC choir throughout the year, and between our family of choirs over many years, learn about self-discipline, teamwork,  leadership skills, musicianship skills, life lessons, being ambassador of your city and country! 

Performing – Performances give choristers a chance to showcase the products of their efforts, providing value to the community, and instilling a sense of joy in accomplishment and satisfaction in hard work amongst choristers. The joy of performance! 

Our Illumini singers own their ensemble and make important decision along with me...from concert program , choreography to budgeting of fundraising events for their ensemble. Experiences in  choral  program give chance to build sense of community, make lifelong friends and teach life lessons.
  



Describe challenges of programming because of the vocal development of your preteens entering puberty end up by the performance date, where do you begin when you start building a programme list coming to Podium? 

ZP: I am sure that all community children and youth programs have similar challenges- finding REPERTOIRE! It is challenging to find appropriate repertoire of good quality, with accessible tessitura, good text- for all choir levels and especially for pre-teen and teenage boys. We seek repertoire that allows some interpretation, or aleatoric moments, that might allow our transitional voices to use their developing mature sound. We also encourage continuing healthy placement of treble singing as is comfortable and appropriate for boys in HCC. 
Because it is still an area that we’re making every effort to support and grow, we have also started a pilot ‘boys only’ ensemble to foster young male singing through this transition.


What inspires you when you are working with youth singers? 

ZP: They are innately inspiring, aren’t they!? Young people possess such confidence and bravery - it’s inspiring to be invited to build community with a very special environment, nurture every child, helping every unique child to gain confidence, feel supported by their peers, and also seen as an individual. For this reason, we prioritize a non-competitive environment where the goal is to set up the highest possible expectations because each child is part of the creation, working together toward the collective aim. an effort to teach not only musicianship skills but also leadership and collaboration, and bravery -- sometimes it’s very scary to take a risk! I aim to lead by example - experimenting with repertoire, being open-minded and not worry to show vulnerability - embracing a growth mindset for myself, and for our organization. 
  

What challenges do you see working with the voices in your choir? 

ZP: It is a delicate balance, this process of supporting young minds and instruments, and also helping to grow individual sound and collective sound.  When speaking with other choir programs who are singing repertoire similar to the level of HCC, nationally and internationally, we’ve discovered that these groups often have a full cohort of artistic staff, including vocal coaches, separate theory classes, etc. We try to cover all these educational program within our regular rehearsal time and work on all these important components at once with no extra support...plus incorporate choreography on top of that. It would be incredible to tap into the integrated art-school model and encourage more music to happen within the academic calendar.  


What can audiences hope to see from your choir at Podium? 

ZP: Our combined program with three youth choirs - Toronto Children’s Chorus and Indonesian Children’s and Youth Choir Cordana - is called “Ring of Fire.” The programme has music from number of countries which have volcanic activity -- the potential for heat, for drama, for intensity -- existing at all times beneath the calm surface. 

The three artistic leaders of the project all originated in countries within this ring : Elise Bradley from New Zealand, Cordana from Indonesia, and I from former USSR. You will hear music from New Zealand, Colombia, USA, Canada, Russia, Japan, Philippines and Indonesia - all striving to capture that feeling of innate intensity. 

In our solo Hamilton Children’s Choir program we will present an entirely a cappella set capturing the natural connectedness and independence of the elements - sky, wind, water. Highlights include “Wau Bulan,” a Malaysian children’s melody arranged by Tracy Wong that has become a choral internet sensation. We are proud to have introduced this piece to the international choral community  at the 2017 ACDA National Conference. “La Belle Se Promene,” a a plaintive Acadian folk song arranged by HCC alumna Meghan Quinlan, is another piece that highlights the talents of a young female Canadian musician.  Both of these pieces are published by Canadian music gem, Cypress Publishing.  Another Canadian highlight is Stephen Chatman’s “Train,” which has been arranged for treble voices specifically for HCC. Other programming includes Sergey Rachmaninov’s “Bogoroditze Devo Radujsja,” “Uraren Besotik” (through the Water) by Eve Ugalde. “Tuulet” (Wind) by Suden Vurkkala, and the iconic “Snowforms” by Murray Schafer. 


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

ZP: To me, Podium is the defining national event to form and foster connections between Canadian choirs, composers, publishers and choral music supporters!  It is a proud showcase and celebration of such a rich variety of Canadian Choirs and an opportunity to hear very fine new Canadian music and also international repertoire. A space to be inspired, to grow, to develop and hear new innovative ideas!  I love the openness - learning through workshops, lectures, round tables. I also appreciate the value and space to meet with old and new friends, colleagues, and the feeling of having actively taken part in building a national choral community - these are some of the many very important tasks of Podium. 


How important is it for choirs to promote the works of contemporary Canadian composers?
 
ZP: It is so significant to find and promote new music which represents Canada not only nationally but internationally. When we go abroad with HCC everybody hopes to hear new sophisticated music from Canada. It is natural that at these international forums, all countries proudly present their composers with hopes that people will discover and start performing these pieces worldwide. It is absolutely important to promote Canadian heritage! Hamilton Children’s Choir is very proud that our own HCC alumni have become celebrated composers: Katerina Gimon and Meghan Quinlan! Their works are being published by Cypress and eagerly sought after by the international choral community. 

HCC has been honoured to give world premieres of Canadian artists at the IFCM Symposium, ACDA National Conference and Polyfollia -World Showcase on Choral Music in France.  We have been so grateful to learn directly from such incredible writers and artists - Stephen Hatfield, Sarah Quartel,  Tracy Wong , Sheldon Rose.

I also aim to continue to promote celebrated Canadian artists into new international communities as a guest conductor - fine choirs in Japan who now love Nancy Telfer music, the Children’s Choir in residence of France Philharmonic Orchestra  singing Donald Patriquin, Eleanor Daley, Matthew Emery.  I believe I have performed Lydia Adams’ “Mi’kmaq Honour Song” in all 5 continents! One of Illumini’s favourite pieces right now is “Magnificat” by Christine Donkin.


What do you consider when you’re preparing to introduce a new work to present to your choir?
 
ZP: Preparation of the piece I am going to introduce to the choir is very important task for me. 
Marking score (solfege, language, dynamics, vowels/consonants-IPA). Deep study of the work will include score analysis, contacting composer, if it is foreign language- finding person who will come to the rehearsal or record MP3s from abroad and send us, history ( culture, movement, bio of composer) find out why  composer wrote this piece, what inspired composer to write the piece. Colour of the sound according style. Singers will be also participate to score analysis, harmony, score analysis), watching video links connected to history, culture. We want to do deep, honest work when uncovering an interpretation that may come from or belong to a culture that is not our own. 


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

ZP: I spend a lot of time on repertoire research….programming is so important.  I am very interested in bringing something different, no matter the style of program - from ancient through baroque and romantic music to contemporary, world, avant-garde music.  A Capella music is my big interest. We are exploring sound colour, authentic sound, overtone singing, kulning singing, choral theatre programs.  We work a lot also with staging, acoustic of the hall. Repertoire always connected to conductor’s vision.



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

ZP: I was born Russia and was founder of the first choir school in Kazakhstan ( in Soviet Union time it was one of the ‘province’ of Russia) I  was a child who  didn’t go through audition process  for music school successfully from the first time..  that’s why I really try to give chance to every child. Every child deserve this experience! In  music school  we had about 12- 14 hours a week of music from piano lessons to theory,  music literature. We were all in love with our children’s choir conductor - she inspired all of us. and at age 10-11?  I knew that  one day I want to be her  (Valeria Pavlovna Beresina). I want to be a conductor.  At very young age, still being student at Conservatory I became a  founder of  the 1st Choir School in Kazakhstan (USSR) Koktem ( the name of the school came after Vesna Children's from Moscow- as we duplicate system of this famous choir school. Koktem means spring in Kazakh language and vesna - means spring in Russian)  Choir school  with 35 music teachers - full time, and 450 students and Choir school still exist in Kazakhstan. the school was working very closely with State Conservatory and act as well as lab program. Choir school was involved in  number of searches.I was leading this internationally touring program  for 17 years. To become a music teacher /conductor in USSR system: 8 years Choirs School, following by 4 years Music College , Choral Department, following by Conservatory - 5 years, Choral Department- all mandatory programs.  This is necessary requirements. Only following this requirements you can attend for Doctorate degree... I spent time in researches, studies, in Germany, Moscow, St. Petersburg. 


What are some future goals of the choir? 

ZP: Grow professionally, building our program, every year it is new start in community children's choirs and every year it is new challenges. 



What do you hope conference and festival attendees will take away from the experience? 

ZP: it is incredible opportunity to hear so many different choirs including National Youth Choir and international guest choirs! Attend many workshops,  find new repertoire, visit workshops of Canadian Publishers ( Cypress), meet new colleagues, built exchange tours with other choirs.




Is there anything else you would like to add that I have not asked?
 
ZP: Thank you so much to everyone who makes Podium happen!  


Zimfira Poloz in her 15th season as Artistic Director of the 200-member Hamilton Children’s Choir. Conductor, educator and adjudicator with a distinguished international reputation. She has been decorated with numerous awards in her long career, including the Honoured Representative of Education of the Republic of Kazakhstan Award, the city of Hamilton’s V.I.P. Award, and the Leslie Bell Prize Award for Choral Conducting from the Ontario Art Council . She is invited regularly to serve as clinician for festivals, lead workshops for educators, and jury International Choir Competitions. Zimfira’s boundless energy and her passion for choral music found an outlet, first as a member of the Toronto Children’s Chorus Artistic Staff and later as vocal coach at St. Michael’s Choir School.  She was leading Young Voices Toronto (former High Park Choirs) for 15 years. Zimfira is the Artistic Director the Hamilton Children’s Choir and teaches at University of Toronto - vocal pedagogy for choirs. She is honoured to be invited at prestigious national and international festivals/competitions with Hamilton Children’s Choir.

She led the Ilumini Choir to 9 international tours & competitions - Tolosa Choral Competition, Tolosa, Spain (2006); Songbridge Choral Festival, Szczecin, Poland (2008); “Let the Future Sing” 70th Choral Festival, Stockholm, Sweden (2009); “Let the People Sing” Euroradio Choral Competition,Oslo, Norway, (2009); 1st Xinghai International Choir Championships, Guangzhou, China (2012); 10th World Symposium on Choral Music, International Federation for Choral Music, Seoul, South Korea (2014); Polyfollia, 6th World Showcase and Marketplace for Choral Singing, Saint-Lô, France (2014); America Cantat 8 Festival, Nassau, Bahamas (August 2016); American Choral Directors Association Conference, Minneapolis, USA (March 2017) and four national tours: St. John’s (2005); Montreal (2008), St. John’s (2011); Ottawa (2012).

She has also commissioned Canadian composers to write new works to be premiered by the Hamilton Children’s Choir and has prepared the Ilumini  Choir to perform as guests of Burlington New Millennium Orchestra, National Academy Orchestra of Canada, Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra, Brantford Symphony Orchestra, Hamilton Opera (La Boheme, Carmen, Tosca, Magic Flute), Chorus Niagara and Niagara Symphony Orchestra, Bach-Elgar Choir, Canadian Orpheus Male Choir, John Laing Singers, Hamilton Philharmonic Youth Orchestra, Stoney Creek Alliance School of Music, Northern Lights of Toronto Barbershop Choir,  TorQ, Hamilton Opera, Arcady, Toronto Symphony, Free Noon Hour Choir & Organ Concerts at Roy Thomson Hall. Special Events: Pan Am Games Closing Ceremony, Boris Brott Music Education Concert Series, Photophobia: Contemporary Moving Image Festival-An experimental performance by Erin Gee created new biosensor-driven work specifically for the HCC at McMaster University’s LIVElab with support from the CCA Broadcast:  performed with Metric-CBC's The HOUR Holiday Special; The Care Bears- Big Wish Movie-soundtracks, CBC Radio Choral Competition, Let the People Sing – European Union Broadcast Choral Competition, Luminato Festival- Apocalypsis by Murray Schafer (CBC broadcast, CD release, nominated for Juno) “the biggest musical or theatrical show ever staged in Canada”, PanAm Games Closing Ceremony (CBC broadcast).

Zimfira Poloz receives many invitations to work with choirs, guest conductor and present at conferences around the world: Cyprus, France, USA, Russia, South Africa, Switzerland, Greece, UK, Latvia, China, Malta, Israel, Japan, Estonia, Poland, Spain, Venezuela, Mexico, Germany, Holland, Sweden, Poland, Denmark, Austria, Norway, Italy, South Korea, Netherlands. 
Zimfira has number of publications in international choral magazines and invited in numerous researches  from different countries. 

Thank you so much, Zimfira!


The Hamilton Children’s Choir performs on Monday, July 2nd 5:30-6:30 at the Cochrane Street United Church as a Spotlight Choir for #Podium2018 as well as July 3rd, 4:00-5:00 in the Highlight concert "Children's Choir Project" along with Toronto Children’s Chorus and Cordana Youth Choir!

You can follow the Hamilton Children's Choir on social media:

Twitter: @HccListen
Instagram: @hcclisten

 - Blonde in the Choir

Friday, June 22, 2018

Podium Choir Blog Series: Anchormen Barbershop Chorus

Today's blog post is the thirteenth of many interview previews of performing choirs for PODIUM ON THE EDGE taking place from June 28 - July 3, 2018 in St. John's NL.

Check out my previous blog posts with The University of Redlands Chapel Singers,Toronto Children's ChorusLes Petits Chanteurs du Mont-RoyalCapital Chamber ChoirThe Oakville Choir for Children & YouthElektra Women's ChoirThat ChoirAurora Women's ChoirSirens ChoirEnsemble Laude, Chronos Vocal Ensemble , and La Rose Des Vents!



“Barbershop” singing was introduced to Newfoundland in 1956 by the American personnel at Pepperell Airforce Base in St. John’s. Cal Squires, Lester Bowering and Alex Andrews (current members) were among those who pioneered the style in the early days, and after the base closed in 1959, were musical leaders among the group who chartered as “the Anchormen Chorus” on October 27, 1975.  Active ever since, the chorus has contributed to many local charities from funds raised through various performances, including Fall Shows at the Arts and Culture Centre, regular presence at the St. John’s Regatta and frequent visits to local senior citizens homes and hospitals.
They just successfully presented a “Spring Spectacular” to a full house at Cook Hall (MUN School of Music) on April 21.
Over time, the group has enjoyed success competing in Barbershop Chorus Competitions, and lately have been re-vitalizing the overall operation.  Along with current director, Doug Dunsmore, chorus members are delighted to have been invited to take part in this year’s PODIUM.



What do you feel makes your choir unique from other choirs? 

DD: Barbershop singing is a separate choral art form in its own right.  It features a melody (lead) harmonized by three other voice parts … one above it (tenor) and two below (baritone and bass).




What are some recent highlights you have had with your choir? 

DD: We just had our first major show in several seasons.  It was a Spring Spectacular on April 21 … performed to more or less a full house at the MUN School of Music.






What is the importance of fostering choral singing for your choir? 

DD: We have recently put in place a bursary program that supplies an honorarium to successful applicants for performing within the chorus.  So far, we have limited this offer to students from the School of Music. The demographic we seek is 18 – early twenties … and we have achieved this.  Since our members are CONSIDERABLY older than this, it is exciting to engage with these talented young singers.




What challenges do you see working with the voices in your choir? 

DD: One of the biggest challenges is to get the members to adopt healthy singing methods that will allow them to sing on into later years without major voice strain or voice loss.





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

DD: We start by looking at “popular” works by people like Elton John, Leonard Cohen, Billy Joel and even Gene Pitney.  Those melodies have been arranged well in the barbershop style, mixing the familiar songs with nontraditional harmonies (un traditional in the ears of the listeners.).




What can audiences hope to see from your choir at Podium?  

DD: Healthy, engaging, enjoyable singing by people who are really enjoying their craft.


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

DD: PODIUM has been an icon for Canadian Choral Music specifically and Choral music in general for Decades.  The conductors of choirs who belong to Choral Canada have been leaders in  performing the very best examples of choral music throughout the entire choral spectrum.  We (Canadian Choirs) have justifiably earned the respect of choirs the world over by performing iconic choral greats from all eras and also championing Canadian composers for as long as I can remember.

What are some future goals of the choir?

 DD: We want to reach out to a larger group of people, potential barbershop singers and audience members so that they can learn about the intricacies and beauty of fine four part barbershop harmony.

What do you hope conference and festival attendees will take away from the experience? 

DD: We hope they will say … “Did you hear that barbershop music … that was pretty cool” … and we hope they will investigate the idea of singing it in their home communities.

Thank you so much, Doug!

The Anchormen Barbershop Chorus performs on Friday, June 29, 7:30pm at the Arts and Culture Centre (95 Allandale Road) in the Highlight Concert "Come and I will Sing You" for #Podium2018.

You can follow the Anchormen Barbershop Chorus on social media:

Facebook: @Anchormenchorus


 - Blonde in the Choir

Friday, June 15, 2018

Podium Choir Blog Series: La Rose des Vents

Today's blog post is the twelfth of many interview previews of performing choirs for PODIUM ON THE EDGE taking place from June 28 - July 3, 2018 in St. John's NL.

Check out my previous blog posts with The University of Redlands Chapel Singers,Toronto Children's ChorusLes Petits Chanteurs du Mont-RoyalCapital Chamber ChoirThe Oakville Choir for Children & YouthElektra Women's ChoirThat ChoirAurora Women's ChoirSirens Choir, Ensemble Laude, and Chronos Vocal Ensemble!



Fondée en 1996, la seule chorale française d’adultes à Terre-Neuve et Labrador, La Rose des vents, est un chœur communautaire de francophones et francophiles qui se rencontrent pour le plaisir de parler et chanter en français. La chorale est un projet de l’Association communautaire francophone de Saint-Jean; depuis dix ans, sa direction est assurée par Claire Wilkshire (cheffe) et David Green (pianiste). Cet ensemble connu pour leur joie de vivre interprète un répertoire varié de chansons à boire, cantiques sacrés, chants traditionnels et mélodies des grands chanteurs, de la Renaissance jusqu’au présent. La rose des vents a hâte de monter sur scène lors du concert d’ouverture de Podium!

La Rose des Vents is the only adult French chorus in Newfoundland and Labrador. Its members come together because they love singing or they love French – usually  both! The Francophone Association in St. John’s created the choir in 1996; its current conductor, Claire Wilkshire, and collaborative pianist, David Green, have led the group for ten seasons. This lively gang performs a varied mix of sacred and secular pieces dating from the Renaissance to the present, with a special fondness for drinking songs. They are very excited about performing at Podium’s opening gala concert!


What do you feel makes your choir unique from other choirs? 

CW: We are the only adult French choir in the province, so people realize that when we show up, they’re going to hear some French music! 


What are some recent highlights you have had with your choir? 

CW: We do lots of fun things, so it’s hard to choose … just a month ago, though, we had our first sing-along in a pub of French drinking songs. We had song sheets, and we taught the audience some simple rounds and songs, and the whole place was singing. Really fun! It was also super exciting to open the New Year’s Eve celebrations downtown, in front of City Hall, on 31 December 2016: we kicked off Canada’s 150 right here in St. John’s, and we did the same by singing O Canada and the Ode to Newfoundland on Signal Hill on Canada Day, before most of the country was awake. It might have been pouring rain, but we were up for it!


What is the importance of fostering choral singing for your choir?
 
CW: As a non-auditioned community choir, we provide a place for people with some experience or interest in French to practise their skills and to learn more, in a fun environment. Our members are adults of all ages, and there’s an important social component for some people who might not get out a lot otherwise. It’s not as challenging as a chamber choir or a competitive ensemble, and being subsidized by the Francophone Association keeps our costs low, so we are a safe place for people to start out as choral singers.


What challenges do you see working with the voices in your choir? 

CW: Many of our members don’t have musical training, and my own is pretty limited, so we’re on a musical learning journey together. This makes for occasional moments of frustration, but mostly we muddle along pretty well! We’ve been incredibly lucky to work with fantastic local conductors and visiting guests (such as Pierre Barrette, Charles Bruffy, Robert Filion, Scott Leithead, François Ouimet, Lucie Roy) and we take advantage of every opportunity to try new things. That’s what I love about this group: whatever you’ve got, they’ll try it!


Explain your musical upbringing and what eventually drew you to choral music?
 
CW: When I was in high school, my mother sang in a choir conducted by Dr. Douglas Dunsmore at Memorial University and she said, You should try this–I think you’d like it. At that point anyone could go. I remember Doug saying that if your dog attended rehearsals regularly, your dog could join the choir. I was the dog. I learned so much from watching Doug’s face and his gestures, how much he communicated with the choir all the way through a piece. I fell in love with choral singing. If you’d told me then I’d have my own choir one day, I’d never have believed it. 



What are some future goals of the choir?

CW: We’ve been invited to France for 2020, which is huge for us, so that will take a lot of planning and be really fun! 









What do you hope conference and festival attendees will take away from the experience?

CW: For many choristers, this will be a chance to visit a province they’ve often thought about but never quite made it to: I hope they love it! We are fortunate to live in a beautiful province with an exceptionally strong choral tradition, so this seems just the right place to hold an event like Podium. I’ve participated in a number of large choral gatherings before – Festival 500, the Choralies in Edmonton, the Chœur du Bout du Monde in Gaspé … and every one has been special and thrilling. That’s what I wish for our guests. For us … we’re looking forward to hearing some French repertoire from the other choirs!


Thank you so much, Claire!

La Rose des Vents performs on Friday, June 29, 7:30pm at the Arts and Culture Centre (95 Allandale Road) in the Highlight Concert "Come and I will Sing You" for #Podium2018.

You can follow La Rose des Vents on social media:

Facebook: @RosedesVentsTN
Twitter: @RosedesVentsTN

 - Blonde in the Choir

Friday, June 8, 2018

Podium Choir Blog Series: Chronos Vocal Ensemble

Today's blog post is the eleventh of many interview previews of performing choirs for PODIUM ON THE EDGE taking place from June 28 - July 3, 2018 in St. John's NL.

Check out my previous blog posts with The University of Redlands Chapel Singers,Toronto Children's ChorusLes Petits Chanteurs du Mont-RoyalCapital Chamber ChoirThe Oakville Choir for Children & YouthElektra Women's ChoirThat ChoirAurora Women's Choir, Sirens Choir, and Ensemble Laude!



Since its inception in 2013, Chronos Vocal Ensemble has built a reputation for innovation and excellence. Under the leadership of Jordan Van Biert, the choir focuses on collaborative learning and careful preparation, to deliver compelling performances to enthusiastic audiences in Edmonton and beyond. Chronos singers bring varying backgrounds and skills to the ensemble, and are united in their appreciation for inspired music-making and significant repertoire. The choir was awarded the Healey Willan Grand Prize in the 2015 National Competition for Canadian Amateur Choirs, and earned a Performance Award from the City of Edmonton’s Salute to Excellence in 2016 for bringing recognition to Edmonton. The choir has released three recordings: Presenting Chronos Vocal Ensemble (2015), The Simplest Way: The Music of Trent Worthington (2016) and most recently, Fresh: New Music from Canada. Chronos Vocal Ensemble has toured the Canadian prairies, and has been invited to perform at a number of prestigious events including the 2015 Music Conference Alberta, the University of Alberta Alumni Centennial, and the 2016 and 2018 Podium conferences. 


What do you feel makes your choir unique from other choirs? 

JVB: I think we are unique in our combination of things. None of our components individually is really unusual, but 1) we are an inter-generational adult group, 2) we are non-professional, 3) Jordan ignores #2 in the pursuit of excellence in performance. Musically and organizationally, we’ve tried to emulate professionalism in some key ways, including having a performance-oriented rehearsal process that really loads the preparation into the days immediately preceding concerts, having a board with broad representation from the public, and having a professional staff. But I think what makes us special is the way things come together when you get these people together over some great music, and that’s a bit tough to describe in words. We formed up back in 2013 out of a shared interest in working at a really high level and learning a lot along the way, and around some particular musical interests of mine at that time (especially German repertoire from Bach to about the early 20th Century), which have grown and broadened as we’ve gone along.


What are some recent highlights you have had with your choir? 

JVB: This season we performed the Martin double-choir mass, a bucket-list thing for me, and completed the cycle of Bach motets, which had been a five-season project. We also performed a concert of African-American Spiritual arrangements spanning about a 120-year period, which was a great and humbling opportunity to apply our approach to a genre of repertoire that we’ve all worked in, but is so deserving of more intentionality than it sometimes gets. But the biggest thing this season was our concert and recording “Fresh,” featuring new music by 12 Canadian composers. We held a composition competition, commissioned an exciting new piece from Alex Eddington, and sourced a number of other unpublished and unperformed works to put together a challenging and exciting concert, and then did the recording right after. Working with the composers to pull together the finished product was a great opportunity, and we’ve just released the recording a few days ago. So you know we’ll be hyping it at the conference!

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

JVB: This time that’s an easy one. We’ve got the new recording out, and we know this is a prime audience for this music, so we picked from that material. The only challenge was having to leave a few things off!


What can audiences hope to see from your choir at Podium? 

JVB: We’re really fortunate that this is the second Podium in a row we’re performing at. And the last time was our first time, and also we were just a three-year-old group, and had just done well in the national competition, and so I think I had this feeling that we needed to do a really broad range of music and sort of, maybe, prove ourselves. This time I was a bit more chill about that, and comfortable creating a bit more “niche” program that will be unique to us. I think audiences can hope to hear amazing music they’ve never heard, and from composers that they can get excited about, some of whom will be in the audience.


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

JVB: It’s huge. As a conductor I never want to miss Podium; this will be my – I did the math – seventh consecutive Podium over a 14-year period that began when I was a student. Over the course of those seven conferences I’ve really built a strong concept of what’s going on around the country and it’s become a really important way for me to maintain a network of people to count on for great repertoire ideas, a shared vision for great music, and excellent camaraderie! That networking is more reinforced now by social media of course than it used to be, which is great, but there’s no substitute for the occasional chance to actually see your colleagues in person, collect new ideas, and hear these fantastic performances.


How important is it for choirs to promote the works of contemporary Canadian composers?
 
JVB: So important! We’re a “generalist” ensemble, and we like to perform lots of Important Dead Europeans and such, but our projects featuring new Canadian music (including this new recording, and our 2016 one featuring music of Trent Worthington) have really given us the chance to connect with other choral people around the country in sharing this repertoire. There’s great material out there, and there’s more to be had if we keep commissioning excellent composers who have original ideas.




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? 

JVB: Overall with composers, I’m impressed when something is really idiomatic about their work without it feeling like something you’ve heard before. Nicholas Ryan Kelly from BC, who won our composition competition last year, really has that aspect to his material, and I’m excited that he’ll be at Podium – he’s been winning competitions all over the place, and doing awesome work. In terms of seeking a composer for a new project, it’s just been over the past few years that a couple of my groups have been able to begin commissioning, and in the future I hope to have more chances to commission composers I’ve worked with before. Then, I’m sure that selection process will have a lot to do with “how did it go last time?” and whether that composer feels suited to what we’re looking to do. So far I’ve mostly worked with people for the first time, and I’ve found it sets my mind at ease when I talk with a composer about the ensemble and what we’re about, and get a sense that they are interested in what we do in addition to being able to explain their own musical ideas. Beyond that, I hope they’ll just write something they really want to write! 


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

JVB: I started out with piano lessons, and as a band kid in school – concert and jazz bands. I went into a music program at The King’s University in Edmonton, figuring on being a schoolteacher eventually. As a music major I was expected to sing in choir, and then got bit by the bug in a big way. Many people probably have a person they associate with their first formative choral experiences, and for me that was Tim Shantz. He was my first conductor in that college choir context, and through him I had some of the initial amazing musical experiences that continually pushed me in this direction. It really started with that joy of ensemble music-making (I was probably not cut out for the solitude of solo performance, nor – honestly – a good enough pianist!). That joy aspect eventually progressed to that sense of “hey, I think I could DO this!” And then being in Edmonton, where there’s a huge amount of choral activity going on, and lots of it at a pretty high level, there were plenty of chances to scratch that itch – you know, to have continual opportunity to put in all those hours that allow you to build skills, which then continued into graduate work in choral conducting at the U of A, doing National Youth Choir, singing with Pro Coro, and so forth.




What are some future goals of the choir? 

JVB: I’d like to continue to have Chronos Vocal Ensemble make excellent recordings of great repertoire, continue to find ways to make it to other parts of the country and collaborate with other choirs, and I’d like to get us promoting Canadian music beyond our borders before long, in person! Ongoing learning, too, and creating chances to try new styles and develop our chops in various ways, is a continual goal.






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

JVB: We are so excited to come to Podium in Newfoundland! A whole bunch of us Albertans have never been, and we can’t wait to combine visiting an amazing new place with sharing in music-making with our great Canadian community. See you soon!


Over the past decade, Jordan Van Biert has emerged as a respected choral leader and organization builder, uniting singers in the common goal of creating rich musical experiences—for themselves, for each other, and for audiences. A graduate of the University of Alberta and The King’s University College, he is an experienced conductor of many ensemble types, and works in the Edmonton area with Chronos Vocal Ensemble, Vocal Alchemy, Ante Meridiem and the choirs at Trinity Lutheran Church. An accomplished singer, he has performed extensively with professional ensembles in Alberta and beyond. He regularly serves as a workshop leader, adjudicator, and organizational consultant. In summer of 2016 he was part of a group of international conductors selected to conduct the Stuttgart Chamber Choir in performance as part of a masterclass with Frieder Bernius.

Jordan founded Chronos Vocal Ensemble in 2013 to pursue excellence in choral performance within the context of a non-professional ensemble. His work with the choir is gaining wider recognition: he has been recognized with a nomination as Emerging Artist in Edmonton’s Mayor’s Celebration of the Arts, and recently received the Con Spirito award from Choir Alberta, for “spirit, dedication, and commitment to choral music in the Province of Alberta.”

Thank you so much, Jordan!

Chronos Vocal Ensemble performs on Saturday, June 30, 5:00pm at the Cochrane Centre (81 Cochrane St) as a Spotlight Choir for #Podium2018.

You can follow Chronos Vocal Ensemble on social media:

Twitter: @Chronosvocal 

 - Blonde in the Choir