New vocal ensemble builds momentum
Chronos to deliver first major concert this Sunday
Saturday, Jan 11, 2014 06:00 am
There’s a lot to be said for the greater Edmonton region’s cultural vibrancy, an area of one million people that supports more than 100 choirs and vocal ensembles.
The newest resident on the block is Chronos Vocal Ensemble, a professional style chamber choir that first dipped its toes into the music scene last November with a short recital.
But artistic director Jordan Van Biert is refusing to take baby steps. He’s dialling it up and leaping straight into the choir’s first major performance on Sunday, Jan. 12 at All Saints Cathedral.
“I’m excited to start something I hope will last a long time and that in the early stages we’re tackling something so big and that people have such enthusiasm when they see what we do,” said Van Biert.
The Edmonton-based conductor brings together a homogeneous mix of brilliant choral music by Germanic composers from four centuries. The three pillars are Johann Sebastian Bach, Johannes Brahms and Josef Rheinberger’s Mass in E Flat.
Although the ensemble as a whole is barely christened, its 32 individual voices are a collection of high-calibre singers. Some also perform with Pro Coro Chamber Choir, the professional chamber ensemble that repeatedly notches new standards.
“We are amateur in the sense that we do it for the love of it, but we do it in a professional style. We work on our own and we have significant training and skills,” said Van Biert, who received his early training from St. Albert piano teacher Marliss Gunderson.
For Catherine Kubash, grades 1 to 6 teacher at École La Mission, this is another opportunity to sing with musically trained performers committed to learning varying classical scores while honouring the intention of the composer.
“Chronos – it’s such a joy to sing good music with good musicians. And Jordan chooses such great music that makes it impossible to say no,” Kubash said with a gentle laugh.
The high soprano’s particular favourite is Rheinberger’s Mass, a 20-minute plus luminous work she has not sung for a decade. Fond of developing complexities, Rheinberger adopted a harmonic language used at the tail end of the Romantic period. However, the structure and texture of the composition is from an earlier era.
“It’s very rich in harmonies which are unexpected in places, but they make sense. It’s sung by two choirs and eight parts which makes it very lush,” Kubash explained.
Bach’s Baroque motet, Der Geist hilst unsrer schwachheit auf, a funeral piece he wrote for his church, also uses an eight-part double chorus that alternates and works together to build a theme.
“Each section builds a beautiful, complex melody that fits in one beautiful sound.”
The third foundational composition is Brahms’ Warum ist das Licht gegeben den Mühseligen, a dramatic a cappella piece.
“It’s based around the scriptures of the Book of Job with themes of despair. It’s deeply emotional with crunchy harmonies. Brahms wrote it as a homage to Bach which is also a good reason to include Bach in the concert,” Van Biert added.
For Kubash, acceptance into Chronos has rejuvenated her spirit. The choir allowed her to reunite with the effervescent Jessica Heine, a local folk singer blessed with soprano vocals.
“We haven’t sung together since we were in the Madrigal Singers about 15 years ago. This has been a rediscovery of friends while singing old music. And that makes it all fresh. It feeds the soul.”