Friday, May 18, 2018

Podium Choir Blog Series: Sirens Choir

Today's blog post is the ninth 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.



Named after the singing femmes fatales of Greek mythology, Sirens is an award-winning women’s choral ensemble based out of Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. Under the artistic direction of Kelsea McLean, the group has developed a strong following of supporters and has been lauded for its pure tone quality, sensitive musicality and tight ensemble. Sirens produces two full-length concert programs each season while maintaining a busy schedule performing at a variety of concerts, fundraisers, events and workshops.

A recipient of several awards at the local and provincial music festivals in 2015, Sirens earned the Richard W. Cooke award at the FCMF National Music Festival, placing first in the Choral Ensemble Class. That same year, Sirens also received a nomination for Music PEI’s award for Achievement in Classical or Jazz.

During the 2016-17 concert season, Sirens performed alongside the Prince Edward Island Symphony Orchestra and the Halifax Camerata Singers. The ensemble has also collaborated with The Atlantic String Machine, singer-songwriter Meaghan Blanchard, soprano Tracy Cantin, pianist Robert Kortgaard, and violinist Sean Kemp. Sirens has been featured at the renowned Indian River Festival (2015, 2016) and the UPEI Department of Music Recital Series (2015).  During the 2017-18 season, Sirens will be featured in performance at Podium (St. John’s, NL), Canada’s national choral conference and festival.

Committed to fostering the development of choral music in Prince Edward Island, Sirens initiated Harmonia Girls’ Choir in fall of 2015 to nurture the next generation of PEI’s female choral singers.



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

KM: Sirens is a small ensemble of only 11 women who perform mostly undirected in performance. We strive to provide an inviting and engaging performance with our focus being creating an intimate and exciting experience for our audiences. I believe that we may also be the only choir from Prince Edward Island ever represented at the Podium, which makes our appearance one of particular note!

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

KM: Sirens earned the “Richard W. Cooke Award” at the FCMF National Music Festival, placing first in the Choral Ensemble Class in 2015. That same year, Sirens also received a nomination for Music PEI’s award for Achievement in Classical or Jazz. In our 2016-2017 season, we collaborated with the Prince Edward Island Symphony, performing the simple but exquisite The Place of the Blest by Randall Thompson. That same year, we also shared a concert with Halifax Camerata Singers, which was such an honour for us. In June, we are, once again, being presented by the iconic Indian River Music Festival in Prince Edward Island as part of their summer line-up. Of particular note, we also commissioned a piece from Jeff Enns this year, which we are so thrilled to present at Podium.

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

KM: Sirens Choral Association Inc. is a non profit, women’s choral organization in Prince Edward Island. SCA is committed to fostering the development of choral music on PEI by achieving a high level of choral artistry through education and accessible programming.  A supportive community for women and girls, Sirens Choral Association Inc. strives to nurture musical and personal growth, meaningful relationships, leadership skills and confidence in its participants. Our work encompasses regular programming with our women’s choir, Sirens, our youth choir, Harmonia Girls’ Choir, as well as hosting regular open rehearsals, supporting community singing initiatives, and providing performance opportunities for amateur singers.


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

KM: When working with only women’s voices, exploring and working to find different colours and varied programming is the thrilling challenge. It can be easy to program a concert that all “sounds the same,” thus I seek to find repertoire that highlights the diversity, power, and sensitivity of women’s voices. Sirens is a small ensemble, therefore, another obstacle is choosing music that celebrates our flexibility and range, without showing how few voices we have. I try not to program works that are simply “too big” for our choir, because it can certainly be tempting. Our singers are also very accomplished musicians, therefore I often try and be cognizant of the need to challenge these fine singers.


Where do you begin when you start building a programme list coming to Podium?
KM: I actually began by looking back through our library at the pieces that we had done in the past. Reflecting on what had been successful in past seasons and where I perhaps had not yet challenged our singers was a useful exercise for me. What struck me was that the pieces we all had loved singing and that showcased our ensemble the best were those that were written extremely well for women’s voices, most of these being compositions that were originally composed, not simply arranged, for women’s choir. Therefore, the theme became clear for me, I wanted to program some of our all-time pieces thus far and then find some new gems that celebrate women’s voices.


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

KM: Sirens is comprised of absolutely tremendous and independent singers who thrive on performing together. We love telling the story of our pieces, through subtle movement and expressive singing. I only use gesture with the ensemble during crucial transitions, thus our singers’ focus is left to engage the audience and invite them into our story-telling directly. Sirens is known for its brilliant ability to interact with the audience and each other in a genuine and meaningful way.


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

KM: Podium is such a treasure, in that it unites choral artistry from all across the country. It has always been a source of inspiration for me personally. Even though the choral community is small in Canada, it can sometimes feel like we do our day-to-day work in insolation. Podium is an enriching time for choral conductors and choral singers to come together, to learn, to re-energize, and to celebrate the diversity and richness of our Canadian choral family.



How important is it for choirs to promote the works of contemporary Canadian composers?
KM: Music-making is a key component to our culture and therefore, I believe that promoting the work of Canadians is key to preserving and toting our musical culture. I certainly wish the composers in our country to experience success and our choirs can assist in this by singing their music; I am happy to continue this work! Furthermore, Canada has a plethora of amazing new music being written; I consider there to be something missing from my programming without Canadian compositions present.


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? 

KM: Admittedly, Sirens has not commissioned many pieces as we are only in our 5th season. However, with our most recent commission, my most careful consideration was whether a particular composer knows how to write for women’s voices. In having sung and directed works by Jeff Enns in the past, I knew this to be true. This was important for me and my ensemble. The most difficult part of the commissioning process for me, this time around, was searching for a text. Eventually, we ended up commissioning a text by PEI’s own Poet Laureate Deirdre Kessler, as I could not find a text that resonated with the theme and message we were for Jeff Enns to portray.


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

KM: I certainly cannot admit to getting this right every time, but I do feel that this is an extremely important skill on the director’s part. Essentially, directors are salespeople when it comes to new pieces; there absolutely needs to be a buy-in from the singers or else the rehearsal and performance process can be treacherous. I thoughtfully consider an interpretation of the story or intent of the composition and then, introduce the work through that lens initially. If singers can identify or can find interest in the bigger picture, then often there is more willingness to work at the piece. Secondly, I attempt to create success for my singers in the section that I introduce first by employing effective rehearsal techniques. A run-through of the piece generally does not initiate that immediate success, generally speaking. I search for a meaningful or attainable passage and we work that segment in order to hook singers on the piece.


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

KM: As I mentioned earlier, the largest obstacle and temptation is staying away from pieces that are intended for a larger ensemble. There is certainly repertoire that works brilliantly with our small number, because we are much more flexible as an ensemble. However, there are times where the divisi or the texture becomes too thick for our singers to navigate. In my experience, I can certainly put one singer per part, but the piece is often rendered ineffective. Furthermore, there is sometimes a fine line between children’s choir and women’s choir music; I am often assessing whether the text or the melodic components better serve children or women. 


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

KM: I grew up in a musical family, with both of my parents being respected music educators in our community. My father was the band director and my mom was the choir director at my community’s high school. I was so fortunate to have been involved in choirs, bands, and music lessons from a young age. As a result of living in a musical household, I was privileged to have been frequently exposed to incredible music education models as well as significant musical experiences. I received by Bachelor of Music from Canadian Mennonite University and this is where my love for choral music and music education was fostered by my mentor, Dr. Janet Brenneman. After receiving my Bachelor of Education from the University of Saskatchewan in 2012, I moved to Prince Edward Island with my husband. Here, I was fortunate to be involved in the formation of Sirens and before our second season, I was appointed as Artistic Director. In 2015, Sirens expanded its family with the creation of Harmonia Girl’s Choir, which I also direct. I have also had the privilege of conducting the Indian River Festival Chorus for their 2016 and 2017 season. I also enjoy clinic and workshop opportunities, having worked with choirs such as the Annapolis Valley Honour Choir and PEI Junior Honour Choir, and having adjudicated at the Atlantic Festival of Music in Halifax. Aside from this work, I teach instrumental music at Morell Regional High School and I am currently working towards my Masters of Music Education through Acadia University. Even though I adore my music education hat, my joy and love of singing in choirs has been instilled in me since my childhood and I continually seek opportunities to sing, which thankfully, Sirens allows me both of these pleasures!


What are some future goals of the choir? 

KM: Podium has been our goal since our inception, so now we have to go back to the drawing board to determine our next move - ha! In the future, we certainly want to continue striving for a high-level of choral artistry and to continue building our organization and our family of choirs. Recording has definitely been a goal we are looking towards, so I look forward to a project focused on that in the future. Also, as I mentioned earlier, we are relatively new to world of commissioning new works, but this last project has been so fulfilling that I am certainly excited to embark on this journey again. I do hope to commission a female, Canadian composer in the near future. 

Finally, our current commission, Sorrow Song of Whales by Jeff Enns, which we are premiering at Podium, will continue on with us next season. This commission was inspired by a Mi’kmaq legend told to us by PEI elder, Methilda Knockwood. Her “Mermaid Legend” is a cautionary and wonder-filled tale of mermaids seeking aid due to the tragedy of climate change. Our current poet laureate, Deirdre Kessler, then wrote us a beautiful text illustrating a parallel story to that told by Knockwood. Next season, we are hoping to collaborate further with the Mi’kmaq community to co-construct a larger narrative work of stewardship and friendship.


What do you hope conference and festival attendees will take away from the experience?
KM: I hope that listeners of our concert see the validity, relevance, and strength of women’s choirs. Sirens’ inception was not one that arose out of some reality that we could not find men to sing with us, rather our founding members longed for a musical community of like-minded women. Our founding members sought a sisterhood that would support each other and strive for musical excellence, and I think this has been beautifully established. For many years, my understanding is that there has been a lack of women’s choir repertoire, but I do think the tides are shifting in this regard. Our program and our performance will offer a taste of some of the thrilling and diverse works available for women’s voices. 


Kelsea McLean holds a Bachelor of Music from Canadian Mennonite University where she studied voice and specialized in choral education; she also graduated from the University of Saskatchewan with a Bachelor of Education. Kelsea currently serves as chorister and Artistic Director of Sirens, a women’s choir based in Charlottetown. As a recipient of several awards at the local and provincial music festivals, Sirens earned the “Richard W. Cooke Award” at the FCMF National Music Festival, placing first in the Choral Ensemble Class in 2015. That same year, Sirens also received a nomination for Music PEI’s award for Achievement in Classical or Jazz. In 2015, Kelsea founded and began directing Harmonia Girls’ Choir, the first addition to the Sirens’ family of choirs. She has also had the privilege of conducting the Indian River Festival Chorus for their 2016 and 2017 season. Sought after for her high-energy and emphasis on vocal technique, she has had the privilege of providing choral clinics for PEI programs such as Music Monday and the PEI Junior Honour Choir. She has also adjudicated for the Atlantic Festival of Music. Kelsea also enjoys an active solo career, having performed primarily in SK, MB, and PEI including appearances with the Swift Current Oratorio Choir and Regina Symphony Orchestra, the Canadian Mennonite University choirs and Mennonite Community Orchestra, and the Confederation Singers. Kelsea teaches instrumental and choral music at Morell Regional High School and is currently working towards her Masters of Music Education from Acadia University.

Thank you so much, Kelsea!

Sirens performs on Monday, July 2nd, 8:30pm at the Cochrane Centre (81 Cochrane St) as a Highlight Choir for the "Equals on the Edge" concert at #Podium2018.

You can follow Sirens on social media:

Facebook: @SirensChoir
Twitter: @SirensChoir
Instagram: @sirenschoir
Youtube: Sirens Choir


 - Blonde in the Choir

Friday, May 11, 2018

Podium Choir Blog Series: Aurora Women's Choir

Today's blog post is the eighth 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 Choir, and That Choir !




Formed in September 2014, the Aurora Women’s Choir is a project of the Coastal Sounds Choir Association, based in Conception Bay South, NL. Aurora is an auditioned ensemble of about 20 members that performs both a cappella and accompanied repertoire of all styles and in all languages. Having grown out of a desire to challenge the singer in a fun and friendly setting, Aurora seeks to master a range of choral repertoire while exploring connections to home and heart. The choir holds at least two concerts and a fundraiser each season and takes part in various special events, shared concerts, workshops, festivals and Church services throughout the year.

In 2015 Aurora received a Gold Standard at the St. John’s Rotary Music Festival. Aurora had the distinct pleasure of representing Newfoundland at the National Unisong Choral Festival and at the 100th Anniversary Beaumont-Hamel Commemoration in Ottawa in 2016. They have been proud to perform at both Canada Day and Remembrance Day Ceremonies for the Town of Conception Bay South. This Spring Aurora was invited to perform in a special Equinox Concert at the Manuels River Centre Hibernia Interpretation Centre, sharing the stage with the Young Virtuosi of the Suzuki Talent Education Program. Aurora was also proud to support the opening Gala for Teen Challenge NL, a residential, addictions rehabilitation centre for women in Conception Bay South. The choir is full of hard-working and dynamic singers excited to participate in Podium on the Edge 2018! For more information about Aurora or the other projects of the Coastal Sounds Choir Association, visit www.coastalsounds.ca






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

AC: Every choir is their own special kind of family, and Aurora is no different in that sense. What might make us unique is our size and composition – currently 18 women (with one male conductor, which we like to have fun with!) ranging in age from young adult to retiree. Member backgrounds also vary widely, from students, to professionals, entrepreneurs, teachers, and more. Choral experience and music-reading ability also varies, with some having sung since they were children, and others picking it up again after not singing for many years. Despite our differences however, of course it is the joy of music and sense of community that joins us - we do all get along and have a lot of fun learning together!


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

AC: Aurora has had a busy Spring already, having performed at three events prior to their annual Spring concert. Our own Kitchen Party fundraiser in March with special guests Dana Parsons & Wade Tarling was a great success. Also in March, the choir was invited to take part in the first of a series of special Equinox concerts at the Manuels River Hibernia Interpretation Centre, alongside the musicians of the Suzuki Talent Education Program of St. John’s. Aurora was also invited and proud to sing at the fundraising gala for Teen Challenge NL’s new women’s addiction rehabilitation centre in Conception Bay South. Aurora’s Spring concert will be held on May 12 at St. James United Church in St. John’s with special guests the Trinitas Chamber Ensemble. The choir has been invited to perform at a fundraiser for the Philharmonic Choir of the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra in June and will of course be preparing for Podium in July. Aurora has sung at Canada Day and Remembrance Day Ceremonies for the Town of Conception Bay South and in 2016 travelled to represent Newfoundland at the National Unisong Choral Festival and 100th Anniversary Beaumont-Hamel Commemoration in Ottawa. Another recent event was a fun and inspiring workshop in 2017 with Scott Leithead and Nelson Nagenda followed by a thrilling massed choir concert!


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

AC: As Aurora accepts new members both in September and January, there is a constant challenge of ever-changing membership. Combined with our relatively small size and range of vocal maturity, it can be difficult to find our ‘groove’ at the start of each term and learn to blend our voices again, but this is a welcome and necessary challenge for growth! As with many choirs or other group activities, members in Aurora are also very involved and committed to a number of causes and other responsibilities, meaning attendance is not always 100%. Learning resources are provided for home study however, and initiatives are taken where small groups will hold sectionals or other rehearsals outside of our usual time.


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

AC: Aurora is excited to participate in Podium on the Edge and has opted to perform one of the most challenging and powerful pieces in their repertoire – Consider the Lilies, by Canadian composer Stephen Smith. This work was originally commissioned in 2013 by the Elektra Women’s Choir in Vancouver, BC and is based on Matthew 6:25-34. The piece is meditative, starting with just two parts on one note but eventually splitting into seven parts at one time. There is a great deal of layering of rhythms and statements that represent both the major challenge and source of beauty in this piece. We hope the audience will appreciate our relatively small group’s approach, with some parts at times represented by just one or two voices. We have worked hard on blend and vowels in order to produce a clear, balanced and resonant sound. Most importantly, we hope the audience will simply sit back, relax and enjoy how the music and text together in this piece washes over mind, body and soul.




What are some future goals of the choir? 

AC: Since its inception, Aurora has been on a constant upward trend with respect to both repertoire difficulty and rehearsal pace. Our goal is to keep building on our successes, specifically with the intention of focusing more on multi-part a cappella selections, singing more frequently in the community, and touring/travelling to special events/workshops/festivals/etc. To that end, Aurora is seeking to increase its membership and invites any interested and experienced choral singers to get in touch. Auditions take place twice each year, prior to September and January.


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

AC: There are so many things performers and audiences alike can take away from a conference and festival such as Podium on the Edge! The opportunity to get together with like-minded individuals and share in a diverse musical experience together, to learn about and hear new choirs perform, and to celebrate Canadian composers and compositions are just a few that immediately come to mind. As performers, we get to showcase our hard work and represent our communities. Groups can feel a sense of accomplishment and pride in participating in these types of events, and there is always a feeling of excitement that both leads up to the experience and lingers afterwards. It is these moments that motivate us to continue to do and become even more as a group, and encourage us to seek out new repertoire and implement new performance ideas. It can be a truly unforgettable team-building and individual experience!



Andrew Cranston received a B.Mus. from Mount Allison University in 2003 and has been working with choral and instrumental ensembles ever since.  He received an M.Mus. in choral conducting from Memorial University in 2007 under the mentorship of Dr. Doug Dunsmore, Dr. Donald Buell, Marc David and Kellie Walsh.  Andrew has conducted several ensembles, including the Bedford Community Orchestra, Nova Voce Provincial Men’s Choir, the Memorial University Festival and Chamber Choirs, the Anchormen Barbershop Chorus, and the Quintessential Vocal Ensemble. He is currently the Co-Artistic Director of the Coastal Sounds Choir Association, as well as Choral Director of Topsail United Church’s adult Mixed and Men’s Choirs. Although Andrew’s background in music began with saxophone, since graduating he pursued opportunities for singing and working with choirs, including the Halifax Camerata Singers, Nova Voce, the Nova Scotia Youth Choir, the Philharmonic Choir of the NSO, Cantus Vocum Chamber Choir and the Quintessential Vocal Ensemble.  Andrew had the privilege of teaching for 3 years at the Nova Scotia Choral Federation’s annual Summer Choir Camps in Berwick, NS, and in the spring of 2014 had the pleasure of both singing with and conducting the Quintessential Vocal Ensemble at Carnegie Hall in New York City.



Thank you so much, Andrew!

Aurora Women's Choir performs on Friday, June 29, 7:30pm at the Arts and Culture Centre (95 Allandale Road) as a Highlight Choir for the "Come and I Will Sing You" concert at #Podium2018.


You can follow the Aurora Women's Choir via Coastal Sounds Choir Association on social media:

Facebook: @CoastalSoundsChoir

Twitter: @CoastalSounds




- Blonde in the Choir

Friday, May 4, 2018

Podium Choir Blog Series: That Choir

Today's blog post is the seventh 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 Choir, The Oakville Choir for Children & Youth, and Elektra Women's Choir !



Celebrating their 10th Anniversary season in 2017|2018, That Choir is one of Toronto’s most exciting a cappella ensembles, combining high-calibre performance with storytelling through choral music. Founded in 2008 by Artistic Director Craig Pike, That Choir now draws together close to thirty-five auditioned singers with diverse backgrounds in culture, work and study.  

Each season, That Choir presents a four-concert series of contemporary choral works, undertakes a range of professional development projects, and appears at many local and provincial music festivals and arts events. Recent appearances include being the featured choir with international touring concerts: Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience, Hans Zimmer Live on Tour 2017 (both at the Air Canada Centre), and The Legend of Zelda Symphony of the Goddesses at the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts, and a joint performance with the Orpheus Choir at the Nordic Light Festival (celebrating the music of Latvian composer Ēriks Ešenvalds).

Honouring their commitment to supporting the works of Canadian composers, the ensemble recently launched the New Works Development program, led by Composer-in-Residence Matthew Emery. This workshop program is dedicated to the development of new choral compositions by emerging Canadian composers. The program curated three new works that received their world premieres at That Choir: Borealis in May 2017.




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

CP: As with any performing group, it’s those who are a part of the ensemble that make it unique! That Choir now draws together over thirty auditioned singers with diverse backgrounds in culture, work and study who all make up the fabric of our ensemble. It is also our goal to share our passion for choral music with the arts community and to inspire audiences both young and young at heart. We endeavour to reach not only the established choral community in Toronto, but to encourage new audiences to experience the art of a cappella choral singing through contemporary choral music (often written within the past twenty years).


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

CP: This year, we celebrated our 10th Anniversary Season! Recent highlights include being featured choir for international touring concerts: Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience, Hans Zimmer Live on Tour 2017 (both at the Air Canada Centre), and The Legend of Zelda Symphony of the Goddesses at the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts. Additionally, we performed at the annual City Carol Sing at Yorkminster Park Baptist Church in support of local food banks, and most recently performed with the Orpheus Choir of Toronto during their Nordic Light Festival celebrating the life and works of renowned Latvia composer Ēriks Ešenvalds. The highlight of the concert was the joint performance of the Canadian premiere of his Nordic Light Symphony. Along with producing our own series of concerts and cabarets and recording a 10th Anniversary CD, this was our busiest season yet! 


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

CP: Audiences will see a tight-knit ensemble of singers performing an exciting combination of contemporary choral music featuring the works of Eric Whitacre, Paul Mealor, and Ēriks Ešenvalds, along with the premiere of a newly commissioned piece written by our Composer-in-Residence, Matthew Emery (based on Newfoundland folk song She’s Like A Swallow). They will also see our unique take on the performance of these works, and how excited we are about performing them! 




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

CP: Podium has an extremely important role in the world of Canadian choral music. Not only is it an opportunity for Canadian choral musicians, conductors, teachers and scholars to come together to talk about and perform Canadian choral music, but it provides an opportunity for these works to be heard on a national stage. The more support we can give to young emerging Canadian composers, the more Canadian choral music will thrive - and what better way to showcase their work than at Canada’s biggest choral conference and festival!



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

CP: Promoting the works of Canadian composers is a big part of our mandate, and we think it should be for all choirs in our country. We’ve got some exciting choral music coming from our nation’s choral composers! We recently developed a workshop program dedicated to the development of new choral compositions and have premiered several works in the process. It has been rewarding to be able to support the work of young emerging Canadian composers, and it has inspired us to expand our program in the future.




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

CP: There is lots to consider when programming repertoire - from the kinds voices you have in your choir, to ensuring you program a wide variety of music (always including Canadian repertoire!). I also try to choose pieces we know and love, along with works that will present a challenge to the singers. 


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

CP: I (Craig) began my relationship with choral music while singing with the choirs of Holy Heart of Mary High School in St. John’s, Newfoundland under the direction of my mentor Susan Quinn. I then sang with the Memorial University of Newfoundland Chamber Choir and the internationally-acclaimed Quintessential Vocal Ensemble. In 1996, I joined the folk choir at St. Theresa’s Church in St. John’s and by age fifteen had become assistant conductor. In 2002, after studying choral conducting with Dr. Doug Dunsmore at Memorial University, I moved to Halifax where I assumed the position of music director at Canadian Martyrs Church. My curiosity in the arts, and specifically acting eventually brought me to my studies at George Brown Theatre School in Toronto. My love of text, passion for choral singing, and relationships cultivated through the theatre is what inspired the formation of That Choir.




What are some future goals of the choir? 

CP: Some future goals for the choir would be to continue expanding our audience base - to continue reaching those who have supported us along the way, and to inspire others to come and hear what contemporary choral music is all about. We are also looking to continue working with young emerging Canadian composers through our New Works Development program. We look forward to seeing what our next decade of choral singing will bring!


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

CP: Thank you Podium for this opportunity - we can’t wait to see and hear you all in Newfoundland and Labrador! 




Now, in his tenth season as founding Artistic Director and conductor of That Choir, Craig Pike has led this a cappella chamber choir to take second place in the ACCC National Competition for Canadian Amateur Choirs, numerous first place awards with the Kiwanis Festival, a successful tour and school workshop in Barrie, as well as the recording of their self-titled debut album.

Craig began his relationship with choral music while singing with the choirs of Holy Heart of Mary High School in St. John’s, Newfoundland under the direction of his mentor Susan Quinn. He would go on to sing with the Memorial University of Newfoundland Chamber Choir and the internationally-acclaimed Quintessential Vocal Ensemble.


In 1996, Craig joined the folk choir at St. Theresa’s Church in St. John’s and by age fifteen had become assistant conductor. In 2002, after studying choral conducting with Dr. Doug Dunsmore at Memorial University, he moved to Halifax where he assumed the position of music director at Canadian Martyrs Church.

Craig’s curiosity in the arts, and specifically acting eventually brought him to his studies at George Brown Theatre School in Toronto. Since graduating in 2007, he has been music director/composer for both the Classical Theatre Project and Gairbraid Theatre Company. His work as an actor has brought him to the Shaw Festival of Canada, Neptune Theatre in Halifax, and Tarragon Theatre in Toronto. His love of text, passion for choral singing, and relationships cultivated through the theatre is what inspired the formation of That Choir.


Thank you so much, Craig!

That Choir performs on Friday, June 29, 3:45pm at the Cochrane Centre as a Spotlight Choir for #Podium2018.



You can follow That Choir on social media:

Facebook: @thatchoir

Instagram: @thatchoir

Twitter: @ThatChoir

YouTube: That Choir


- Blonde in the Choir

Friday, April 27, 2018

Podium Choir Blog Series: Elektra Women's Choir

Today's blog post is the sixth 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-Royal, Capital Chamber Choir, and The Oakville Choir for Children & Youth !





The Elektra Women’s Choir was formed by Co-Founders Morna Edmundson and Diane Loomer, C.M. (1940 – 2012) in 1987. In 2009 Morna Edmundson was appointed Artistic Director and Diane Loomer, became Conductor Emerita. The choir is honoured to work with an outstanding accompanist, Dr. Stephen Smith

Elektra has a strong relationship with many Canadian choral composers and arrangers and through its concerts, recordings, and website, proudly promotes new repertoire. The choir has become a valued resource for conductors the world over looking to program the best of Canadian and international repertoire for treble voices. The choir has long been recognized as a leader among women’s choir with several performances at national conventions of the American Choral Directors Association, Chorus America, and Choral Canada and representing Canada at the 1996 World Symposium on Choral Music in Sydney, Australia. In the summer of 2017 Elektra again proudly and successfully represented Canada at the World Symposium on Choral Music, this time in Barcelona, Spain. 

Outreach programs are a priority for Elektra, many of which encourage youth: Mira Mentorship Program for High School Singer, Choral Leadership for Young Women workshop, Reading Sessions of New Works, Conductor Mentorship Program (as requested), and a Women’s Singing workshop.




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

ME: We had the thrill and privilege of singing at the 11th World Symposium on Choral Music in Barcelona last summer. Performing at the historic Palau de la Música, with its beautiful art in every nook and cranny, was something we will always remember.





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


ME: We’ve always been proud to be a choir of women of all ages. And we try to encourage people who are conducting or singing in a women’s choir to feel proud of their work – to dispel any feeling that they are less valid than people performing SATB repertoire.





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

ME: We had the thrill and privilege of singing at the 11th World Symposium on Choral Music in Barcelona last summer. Performing at the historic Palau de la Música, with its beautiful art in every nook and cranny, was something we will always remember.


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

ME: I always look for something new that my colleagues might not have heard before. I know we’re all on the hunt for new repertoire all the time. And always lots of Canadian music.





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

ME: We’re excited to bring you Primary Colours: Three Canticles for Women’s Choir and Piano by Kathleen Allan as the focal piece in our Equals on the Edge performance.







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

ME: Hugely important in this vast country for us to spend time together and hear each other’s work! I can’t imagine a cohesive Canadian choral community without meeting “our people” at Podium.


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

ME: I think of the choral world as an ecosystem, of which composers are a critical part.  In order to make the ecosystem thrive, we have to nurture them while they are nurturing us with new music to sing.




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

ME: Different factors take precedence in different situations, but mostly I look for someone with unique musical ideas and an extremely strong affinity for text.


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

ME: I actually gave a lecture about that at Podium in Edmonton! I’m about to turn that into some YouTube videos, so stay tuned to the Elektra channel…




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

ME: The challenges have changed a lot since we formed Elektra 30 years ago. Now there is no shortage of treble music, it is just necessary to wade through a lot of rep that doesn’t feel right for us in order to find what is. In addition to thinking about the experience of our live audience and the performers themselves, I always have in mind that other choirs might discover a worthy piece if we program it.  It is a subjective and messy balancing act every time!



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


ME: I discovered choral singing in my small high school choir when I was also studying flute seriously. I entered university as a flute player, but soon moved over to singing and choral music.

What are some future goals of the choir?

ME: We always want to grow musically and deepen the experience of the audience.



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

ME: We would also like to draw attention to a special project Elektra is performing in with several other choirs from around the country. “...float...” (in French “…ondes…” and in Inuktitut “…puttak…”) will take place at the Mount Scio Savoury Farm on July 1st at 5:00pm and 7:30pm. Presented by Choral Canada to coincide with Podium, this special creative project includes six new compositions, five Canadian choirs singing in groves, fields, and ponds, a legacy video aspect, and representations of water from five regions of Canada.  Our work, by Alexina Louie and representing BC, is about rain!




Morna Edmundson is one of Canada’s best-known choral conductors with a strong reputation for excellence. Passionate since childhood about choral singing, she obtained degrees and diplomas in vocal music in Vancouver, Bellingham, and Stockholm, Sweden where her teachers included Eric Ericson. In 1987, she co-founded Elektra Women’s Choir with Diane Loomer, a treasured partnership that lasted 22 years. In 2009, Morna became Elektra’s sole Artistic Director, continuing the choir’s strong leadership role in concert presentation, commissioning, recording, and mentorship. For 14 years Morna shared her love of quality repertoire with a new generation of singers in her role as Associate Artistic Director of Coastal Sound Music Academy. Morna has adjudicated in North America and Asia, conducted state honour choirs, co-directed the American Choral Directors Association National Women’s Honour Choir, and gives frequent workshops with choirs of all ages. Her accomplishments have been recognized with the BC Choral Federation’s Healey Willan Award (2000), a BC Community Achievement Award (2009), YWCA Woman of Distinction Award, Arts and Culture category (2011), and UBC Alumni Builder Award (2017).  Since 2013, she has served as a Board member of Chorus America, the advocacy, research, and leadership development organization that gives voice to the choral field.



Thank you so much, Morna!

The Elektra Women's Choir performs on Monday, July 2nd, 8:00pm at the Cochrane Centre as a Highlight Choir for  the"Equals On The Edge" concert at #Podium2018.



You can follow Elektra on social media:

Facebook: @ElektraWomensChoir

Instagram: @elektrawomen

Twitter: @ElektraYVR



- Blonde in the Choir