Thursday, April 12, 2018

PODIUM 2018 Choir blog series: Capital Chamber Choir

Today's blog post is the fourth 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 Chorus, and Les Petits Chanteurs du Mont-Royal!


I am particularly thrilled on today's preview as I got to interview my own choir, 

Capital Chamber Choir with Artistic Director, Jamie Loback!



The Capital Chamber Choir is an auditioned ensemble of advanced singers from the Ottawa region. The choir and Artistic Director, Jamie Loback, are committed to bringing a diverse range of choral music—in particular modern, Canadian, and local works—to audiences through high-calibre and engaging performances. Community outreach as well as support for new composers and local musicians are important elements of this mandate.

Founded in 2009, the Capital Chamber Choir has become known for its energy, versatility, and musicianship. The choir is a true collaboration, emphasizing the importance of collegiality in generating an integrated choral sound. 

Each season, the choir presents its own concert series, and also performs in collaborative projects with other musicians and organizations. The choir has performed with distinguished musicians and composers such as Ēriks Ešenvalds, Ola Gjeilo, Morten Lauridsen, The Chamber Players of Canada, Thirteen Strings Chamber Orchestra, Kathleen Battle, Sandra Graham, Emma Kirkby, and Daniel Taylor & The Theatre of Early Music. 

The ensemble made its National Arts Centre (NAC) debut in October 2015 with a performance during the NAC Orchestra’s "Roaring Twenties Festival". In 2017 the ensemble performed Mozart’s Requiem with the National Arts Centre Orchestra (NACO) and recorded Ana Sokolovic’s “Golden Slumbers…” with the NACO under the direction of Maestro Alexander Shelley.

The 2017-2018 season brings many new projects such as three core concerts in December, March, and May as well as our first NAC performance of Handel's Messiah on December 22. The season will continue with our first domestic tour as a Spotlight Choir for PODIUM Choral Conference & Festival in St. John's, NL. The season will end with a performance and workshop with prolific composer John Rutter alongside The Elmer Iseler Singers and the Ottawa Children's Choir during the Music & Beyond Festival in July 2018. 




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

JL: I think our group is unique in many ways – from our founding, to our mandate, to the way we operate. The choir was founded in 2009 when Sara Brooks brought together 16 friends and fellow University of Ottawa students, all of whom wanted an opportunity to sing more contemporary and Canadian music. Since then, we've grown to become a 40-voice, auditioned ensemble, but we've maintained our commitment to ambitious programming and showcasing the best in contemporary and Canadian choral music, contemporary international works, and traditional works in the Western choral-symphonic music canon.


For the Capital Chamber Choir, being in an ensemble is about more than simply learning notes. It’s about collaboration and creating an integrated choral sound. To achieve this, we emphasize preparation and musicianship of course, but also a relaxed (but focused!) rehearsal atmosphere, teamwork on choir projects, an Executive Board led by volunteering choristers, and socializing outside of rehearsal.  

The choir cannot be labelled as a professional ensemble as that would imply that choristers receive payment etc.  However, the approach we take is certainly one that could be perceived as being at a professional or semi-professional level.  Choristers are expected to arrive having prepared the material so that rehearsals are focused on ensemble concerns, interpretation, and polishing!  All rehearsals are unaccompanied (even when the repertoire is written with an instrumental element, the choir must still rehearse without the aid of the piano, at least for the initial preparatory rehearsals).  I have found that this approach has had a tremendous impact in developing the strength and ability of the Capital Chamber Choir.  In addition, we are fortunate that all of our members have significant choral experience and musical training.



Photo: Amy Reckling

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

JL: This is a tough one, as our choir has had a number of tremendous experiences over the past nine years. We’ve been fortunate enough to work with distinguished Canadian and international artists such as Ēriks Ešenvalds, Ola Gjeilo, Morten Lauridsen, the Chamber Players of Canada, Kathleen Battle, Emma Kirkby, Daniel Taylor & The Theatre of Early Music, Thirteen Strings Chamber Orchestra, and the National Arts Centre Orchestra. But I think it’s safe to say that recording our debut album The Delight of Paradise, which was released in 2017, has been the ensemble’s greatest milestone thus far. We are tremendously proud of this all-Canadian record and are proud to have been able to highlight so many works composed by local composers on the album.  The Capital Chamber Choir was also recently involved with the National Arts Centre Orchestra’s most recent album, “New Worlds” in which the choir formed part ofthe chorus in Ana Sokolović’s "Golden slumbers kiss your eyes… ".




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

JL: I see Podium as not only a tremendous learning and developmental opportunity for our ensemble, but also a chance to bring exciting new Canadian music to a wider audience. I wanted to ensure that our programme for Podium would show those unfamiliar with our ensemble exactly what we're all about. My focus was therefore on contemporary Canadian works that are not yet widely known and that would also demonstrate our choir’s musicianship. 

Photo: Anthony Boxell Photography


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

JL: At our July 2 Spotlight Concert, we will present the title piece from our debut album, "The Delight of Paradise" by Ottawa's Nicholas Piper, which is a setting of colourful sacred poetry from The Odes of Solomon. This seven-movement cantata has received rave reviews at home, being described as a "surprising, memorable, and shockingly accomplished piece by a prodigiously talented young composer” (Ottawa Citizen, 2015). We could not be more thrilled to bring this choral tour-de-force to Podium!  I believe that this work is truly a masterpiece of Nicholas Piper’s compositional brilliance and I hope that other choirs will begin performing the work in their communities.  Since we premiered the work several years ago, I have always believed that this composition will become a standard work in the choral repertoire over time.



Photo: Marie-Helene Urro

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

JL: As you can probably glean from my previous answers, this is an area that the Capital Chamber Choir feels very strongly about. Canada has a rich choral tradition that is certainly deserving of celebration. We know that there is an exciting future for choral music in this country as well, which is why we are committed to promoting contemporary Canadian music, and particularly giving greater exposure to works by new and up-and-coming composers. 












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

JL: In the Capital Chamber Choir, I am so fortunate to work with a group of skilled and dedicated musicians who are always looking for new challenges. I think you can see this drive in our programming each season.  When establishing a program, I always aim try to craft the repertoire list in a way the audience will be engaged throughout.  In my view, diversity of tempi is required as well as diversity in terms of style and, at times, theme.  I must also ensure that the repertoire is something that the choir will embrace in the rehearsal process and performance.  This is not to say that I try to program based on what everyone simply likes to sing, but rather selecting repertoire that the choir can appreciate in terms of its compositional complexity, nuance, or structure.  This can be a delicate balance to strike! 



Photo: Emma Bider
Explain your musical upbringing and what eventually drew you to choral music?

JL: I grew up on a farm near Rankin, Ontario – a rural community near Pembroke in the Ottawa Valley. While the music scene is not nearly as big or as varied as Ottawa’s, there are a number of longstanding and popular classical music organizations in the area. I began studying piano at the age of ten and remember attending Ottawa Valley Music Festival concerts with my aunt and uncle during summer.  The local church I attended as a child had a very fine organist.  I remember listening to her intricate preludes and postludes on Sunday mornings and remember thinking that I wanted to explore this kind of performance, as well as church music more generally.  I began taking organ lessons and later in high school I began playing percussion and any kind keyboard accompaniment with the local Pembroke Symphony Orchestra.  I also provided piano accompaniment for a few productions put on by the local musical theatre group (at the time it was called the Pembroke Musical Society) and I was accompanist for the children’s choir of Holy Name Parish in Pembroke, ON for several years during high school.  I would say my love of choral music came much later.

I studied piano in my undergraduate degree at the University of Ottawa and eventually completed my master’s in Music Theory and Analysis (throughout this time I took the choral and orchestral conducting courses that U. Ottawa offered as well as a directed study in choral conducting with Laurence Ewashko during my master’s).  I thought at first that I might become a music teacher or continue on to do my PhD and have an academic career. That all changed with my immersion in Ottawa’s wonderful choral music community. During my undergrad, I began working at St. Joseph’s Parish, at first as a pianist and organist, but I eventually became the choir director. From there, I’ve been able to build a career as a choral conductor. I think it’s safe to say that I’m hooked! In addition to the Capital Chamber Choir, I also conduct the Ottawa Children’s Choir (Chamber Choir and Boys’ Choir), the Ottawa Regional Youth Choir, and have maintained my position as Director of Music and Liturgy and St. Joseph’s Parish in Ottawa.  I consider myself tremendously fortunate to have the opportunity to work with such a diversity of choirs and people.  I find this to be extremely rewarding.
  


Photo: Emma Bider
 What are some future goals of the choir?

JL: Performing at Podium has been a long-standing goal for this ensemble and we are honoured to perform on this national stage for our colleagues from across Canada.  Making the choir’s name more known nationally will continue to be a goal for us.
I also feel that another important step will be an international tour, which would allow us to make new connections and expose international audiences to the exciting music being composed here in Canada.  In recent years, we have developed a relationship with the ambassadors from the Baltic states as we have performed a significant amount of repertoire by composers from that region.  We are in the early stages of planning a performance tour/exchange to those countries which will take place in the early 2020s.

I know that we will continue to challenge ourselves in terms of the repertoire that we sing. I feel that, going forward, we will aim to advance our mandate through more commissions of Canadian and local works and collaborations with other Canadian musicians.  While we will continue to perform international works, our founding mandate to promote Canadian choral music will never waver.



Photo: Dar-Lens Photography
Jamie Loback holds a Master’s degree in music from the University of Ottawa. Since 2005, he has served as Director of Music at St. Joseph’s Parish, and currently serves as a conductor of the Ottawa Children’s Choir (Chamber and Boys’ choirs) and the Artistic Director of both the Ottawa Regional Youth Choir and the Capital Chamber Choir. He led the Ottawa Children's Choir on a tour to France in April 2017, conducting feature performances at Notre-Dame de Paris and the commemorative ceremony marking the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge at the Canadian National Vimy Memorial.  Jamie recently completed an album with the Capital Chamber Choir featuring the music of Canadian composers. Upcoming engagements include the Capital Chamber Choir's first domestic tour as a Spotlight Choir for PODIUM, Choral Canada’s national conference and festival, in St. John’s, Newfoundland, July 2018.  In May 2018 he will lead the Ottawa Children's Choir (Chamber and Boys' choirs) on a performance tour of Eastern Canada which will include concerts in Quebec City, Halifax, and Charlottetown.           

Thank you so much, Jamie!


The Capital Chamber Choir performs on Monday, July 2nd, 2:00pm at the Cochrane Centre as a Spotlight Choir for #Podium2018.


The choir will also be performing a FREE concert in St. John's comprised of their favourite works by Veljo Tormis, Paul Mealor, Eric Whitacre, Uģis PrauliņšĒriks EšenvaldsJaakko Mäntyjärvi and more. 


Stop on by in between Podium events on Saturday June 30th, 3:30pm at the Anglican Cathedral of St. John the Baptist Church (16 Church Hill Street)!


You can follow Capital Chamber Choir on social media:

Facebook: @capitalchamberchoir

Twitter: @CCChoirCA


Instagram: @capitalchamberchoir


Youtube: Capital Chamber Choir


Spotify: Capital Chamber Choir


- Blonde in the Choir

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