Categories: Entertainment

Edmonton International Choral Festival debuts Thursday

Nowhere in Canada will the joy of singing and the calibre of artists rank as high as at the inaugural Edmonton International Choral Festival running June 1 to 4 at All Saints Cathedral and McDougall United Church.

Organizers have worked diligently for the past few years organizing this festival of distinctive professional choirs that include Edmonton’s Pro Coro, Halifax’s Camerata Singers and Sweden’s VoNo (formerly Voces Nordicae).

In total four distinct professional choirs will sing with an additional Gala Choir composed of more than 100 singers representing 40 different amateur and semi-professional choirs.

The festival’s centrepiece is a series of four concerts concluding with a mass Gala Choir encompassing nearly 180 choristers.

Pro Coro Chamber Choir launches the festival on Thursday at All Saints Cathedral with Childhood Memories, both a tribute and exploration of those innocent times.

“This is a program that I have developed over the last few years – perhaps because I’m a parent, because I watch my children growing up and I love music. I always come back to music about children and I compare it to Good Friday – the emotional impact it has,” said Pro Coro conductor Michael Zaugg.

One of the new works featured is The Way Children Sleep, a piece that embraces their innocence even as the world is collapsing around them in war and natural disasters.

St. Albert composer Trent Worthington’s The Alberta Homesteader instead looks to the past and examines childhood in the 1800s.

“We sang it when we toured the Maritimes. It has a very country feel and it’s fun. It also has humour,” Zaugg added.

Still another work that explores facets of the past is Prairie Bound, an adapted text from 19th century Mohawk writer Pauline Johnson.

When Pro Coro toured the Maritimes in 2014, they cemented a special relationship with the Halifax Camerata Singers and its conductor Jeff Joudrey.

Also performing at All Saints Cathedral on Friday, Camerata sings The Voices of Our Past, an ode to devastating ammunitions explosion that levelled a large part of Halifax in Dec. 1917. The concert takes listeners through a year in the life of Halifax before the explosion killed 2,000 people and injured another 9,000.

The performance also includes narrator Jeremy Webb and the Rhapsody Quintet composed of violin, cello, clarinet, bass and piano.

“They’ll have huge photos and big screen imagery.”

On a more political note, the edgier choral group VoNo conducted by Danish conductor Lone Larsen presents Earth Call, a showcase of the United Nations’ 17 global development goals and resolutions.

“It’s a political statement about the environment, the changes needed and sustainable development – no poverty, no hunger, reducing inequality. All these things are created in the music, but it’s also very theatrical,” Zaugg said.

The theatricality comes in the form of film, images, improvisation and choreography, a multi-media blend rarely associated with choirs.

The highly respected international guest conductor Robert Sund will lead Sunday’s afternoon Gala Concert at McDougall United Church. Sund is one of Zaugg’s mentors and they met in 1993 when the Pro Coro conductor was a young singer performing at a festival in Denmark.

Zaugg describes Sund’s wonderful musicality. “He’s very infectious and it’s how he works with you. He shapes the music and pushes you to do better and in the end you take ownership of the music.”

Sund will conduct works by Söderman, Kverno, Mäntyjärvi and his own arrangement of Sukiyaki, a Japanese pop song.


Edmonton’s International Choral Festival
June 1 to Jun 4
All Saints Cathedral, McDougall United Church
Tickets: $27 to $32 Call 780-420-1757 or at tixonthesquare.ca

Anna Borowiecki: Anna Borowiecki joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2000. She reports on local people and events in the arts, entertainment and food industry. She also writes general news and features.