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Hundreds to sing (for free) Monday at Winspear

Cantilon Choirs unite St. Albert-area youth in song
FREE CONCERT — About 500 St. Albert and Edmonton students will give a free choral performance at the Winspear Centre on June 3, 2024. The performance is part of a training program run by Cantilon Choirs funded by the federal government. Shown here is a Cantilon Choirs performance at the Winspear. CANTILON CHOIRS/Photo

Some 500 St. Albert-area youths will raise their voices in song next Monday as a regional music group tries to reignite choral singing.

About 500 youths from 10 Edmonton and St. Albert schools will be at the Winspear Centre in Edmonton June 3 to participate in a free choral concert as a capstone to a year-long project by Cantilon Choirs.

Founded by former St. Albert resident Heather Johnson, Cantilon is a group of choirs which promote choral singing amongst youths. It officially celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2025, although it has actually been around for some 30 years.

“The pandemic for us was pretty devastating,” Johnson said of choirs, as health restrictions made large gatherings of people singing impossible.

Johnson said teenage and adult members of Cantilon kept their skills up during the pandemic by singing online, but younger singers did not. Cantilon got a $100,000 Community Services Recovery Fund grant to try and rebuild the youth choral scene.

Johnson said Cantilon started this process by interviewing Edmonton-area choral instructors. Those instructors said they struggled to get Grade 4-6 students to sing as those students didn’t feel comfortable singing in groups. Instructors also said they didn’t have the professional teaching knowledge needed to teach choir at the junior and senior levels.

Cantilon came up with a five-step program as a solution, Johnson said. It involved training sessions with teachers, online talks on choral music, in-person workshops with school choirs (including Bravo Choral Academy in St. Albert), and sessions where teachers served as guest conductors for Cantilon Choirs. The program focused on Grades 4-6 students and teachers, as they seemed to be the ones most affected by the pandemic gap.

The June 3 event will see the program wrap up with a free mass workshop/performance at the Winspear with some 500 Edmonton-area students, Johnson continued. The students will sing This Pretty Planet by Tom Chapin and Sisi Ni Moja by Jacob Narverud, which are songs about our common desire to express ourselves through music.

Practice makes perfect

Lois E. Hole Elementary music teacher Candice Metz took part in the Cantilon training program, and said it gave her valuable conducting experience.

“There aren’t a lot of professional development opportunities for music teachers,” she said, and she had little experience with teaching people to sing in a choir.

Johnson said Cantilon was now looking for more grants to keep these workshops and training sessions going. She also hoped to organize mini-festivals where several school choirs would perform at once.

Johnson encouraged guests to come hear the kids sing this Monday.

“There’s honestly nothing like the sound of children’s voices to make you believe in all the possibilities of the world.”

The free concert starts at 1:30 p.m. June 3 at the Winspear. Call 780-732-1262 for details.

Kevin Ma

About the Author: Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.
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