Early music at core of concert
The Festival Chorus is serious about music. But that certainly doesn’t limit their repertoire to serious music.
And even though their upcoming concert has pulled its song list from the 13th, 14th and 15th century, it promises to be a festive production.
“This particular year we are looking at very early music,” says conductor Paula Quick. “One of the pieces originates in the 13th century. Some people would recognize it as Gregorian Chant.”
But she assures that even hundreds of years ago, musicians appreciated a lighter mood.
“Some of the pieces are pretty jazzy for being written in those days,” she says. “It’s definitely not all serious. And there are quite a number of pieces which would be considered very festive.”
Each year, for at least the past 14 years, the Chilliwack Festival Chorus has produced a show around a theme. This year’s theme of early music may not seem familiar to some, but Quick says it is still very accessible.
And that is definitely true of their guest ensemble, the Chilliwack Early Music Consort.
“It’s very, very ancient music,” she explains, similar to the medieval sound you would hear in movie soundtracks set in ancient times.
The Early Music Consort consists of eight parts, with full compliment soprano, tenor, alto and bass recorders.
Rod Swanson will join the consort on guitar.
“The recorder is the precursor to the flute,” Quick explains. “And it sounds like the flute, only with wood.”
Recorders can also play extremely high notes, creating a unique sound.
As for the chorus, they number around 50. Many of the members have been singing all their lives, and indeed are charter members of the chorus.
Others are new, and still learning. But their individual dedication to the chorus is unwavering.
“The music comes first,” Quick says.
It’s something concert goers come to expect from the chorus. Because they work so hard, the group members are comfortable with themselves on stage. And when that happens, even the most serious musician can relax, she says.
Many of the members sing elsewhere, as there are many singing groups in Chilliwack. Some sing with the Chilliwack Symphony Orchestra’s Chorus. Others may sing in smaller groups.
For those who are still learning, there is help within another group — the Chilliwack Intergenerational Chorus.
“It’s a sister group of the Festival Chorus,” Quick says, made up of some her personal students, some of the parents and several teachers.
“We’re a training ensemble,” she says. And part of their mandate is to lead the singers of the Festival Chorus. “They teach them everything from protocol, to how to read notes.”
The Intergenerational Chorus will also be a guest ensemble at the upcoming Festival Chorus Concert on December 8 and 9. One of the songs they will perform is Ava Maria.
The entire concert will take on a soft, festive tone, especially within the warm confines of St. Thomas Anglican Church.
The Chorus has been working on their material since September, when they regrouped after a well-deserved summer break. But Quick says singing is not something to be turned on and off.
“You have to sing every day,” she says. “It’s one of those things, if you don’t use it, you lose it.”
Being in a large group like the Chilliwack Festival Chorus is good for all levels of singers. For the beginners, it’s a chance to sing in public without as much stage fright.
And for those who sing professionally as soloists, it’s a chance to work with other musicians, negotiating tempos and learning to cooperate with other musicians.
“It’s also very beneficial for ear training for the soloists among us,” Quick says.
No matter where, when or why someone is engaged in regular singing, she adds that it’s a whole body thing.
“You have to look after your physique,” she says. “Regular exercise, especially cardiovascular, enhances your ability to sing.”
The Chilliwack Festival Chorus Christmas concert is on December 8 at 7:30 p.m. and December 9 at 2:30 p.m. at St. Thomas Church Sanctuary. Tickets are $12, $10 for seniors and all students are free. For more information, phone 604-792-0790.