Blog Post

Midsummer Night’s Dream at the NAC

On November 12th and 13th, 2014, the Cantiamo Girls Choir performed in Mendelssohn’s Midsummer Night’s Dream at the National Arts Centre (NAC). Cantiamo, under the direction of NAC Music Director designate Alexander Shelley, sang together with Vocum from Canterbury High School, Ensemble vocal sénior De La Salle High School and the ladies of the University of Ottawa’s Calixa-Lavalée Choir.

The show was spectacular!  It was a fabulous experience for the Cantiamo choristers to be part of a performance in a professional house.  It offered numerous, excellent learning experiences, and was aptly timed for Cantiamo.  Having had many girls graduate last year and go off to university, the choir is in a building year. There are some strong mentors in the choir as well as a number of new young singers. This opportunity allowed for personal growth for every chorister regardless of their level of experience. It was impressive to see the girls all sit beautifully poised, focused and confident the entire time on stage. It was satisfying to hear the development of rich vocal tone and full body singing. It was valuable for the girls to gain an understanding of the demands of professional musicians’ lives and witness the commitment and stamina that it takes to consistently meet this high standard. It was a pleasure to work with world renowned artists and to be treated with appreciation and kindness, and not be underestimated as to the high level of performance possible. Congratulations to all involved for an unforgettable experience!

Read on for perspectives from two of our choristers……

From Jessica F.

Renowned Canadian actor Colm Feore called; “How now spirit, whither wander you?” and, as directed, we, the chorus, turned our heads, as one, and gasped. In mid-November, we, the Cantiamo Girls Choir, joined with three other choirs to perform the chorus of fairies in the NAC Orchestra’s production of Mendelssohn’s Incidental Music to Midsummer Night’s Dream.

I was lucky enough to have performed in the Cantiamo Training Choir on the Southam Hall Stage at the NAC before. I was then only seven or eight years old and although I remember how big the Hall was and how bright the lights were, I was dazzled by the exhilarating feeling of singing with an orchestra, and of the powerful feeling that music can give someone. I was pleased to discover that eight years later, I could still experience the same feeling of wonder.

For the Midsummer Night’s Dream performance, we were required to attend several rehearsals at the NAC. However, prior to this we had rehearsed our own part in the chorus with our Cantiamo Artistic Director, Jackie Hawley. The NAC rehearsals could last up to five hours but while attending, we hardly seemed to notice the time. We were all absorbed in creating a piece of art that expressed the feeling of the music and the Shakespeare play.

We were at first conducted by the Chorus Master of the NAC, Laurence Ewashko, who unified the voices of the various choirs, and prepared us for the NAC Orchestra conductor, Alexander Shelley. Then when Alexander Shelley worked with us, he took us through the pieces, and he helped us to understand the story and motive behind each phrase. Together, with the director, Donna Feore, this team created the fairy character that we, as a joint choir, were to represent in the performance.

The performance itself was a magical experience melding music and theatre. We received standing ovations for both performances.

Attending the after-show talk after the first night’s performance, I found it amazing to learn how quickly the performance had been pieced together. The director said it had taken barely six hours to pull together the highly trained orchestra, conductor, choirs, actor, lighting technicians and the many other people who were involved in the production. As we were all working towards the same goal, we were able to do this efficiently and effectively.

Performing with the other choristers in this NAC production was truly the chance of a lifetime. I think we all learned so much, not just about music but of the creative process of such a performance, and the dedication and discipline that it takes to achieve such a goal.

From Allison W.

Lors de leur interprétation musicale de la pièce de théâtre Le Songe d’une nuit d’été de Shakespeare, le 12 et 13 novembre 2014, le Centre national des Arts (CNA) a fait appel à un ensemble de quatre chorales de jeunes voix féminines de la région d’Ottawa pour jouer le chœur des fées. Après de nombreuses pratiques, près de quatre-vingts choristes adolescentes se sont retrouvées sur la scène du CNA pour performer – à un niveau professionnel – la composition de Mendelssohn.

Le CNA a interprété le chef d’œuvre de Mendelssohn, écrite au XIXe siècle, avec un orchestre, deux solistes, un acteur, ainsi que quatre chorales locales. L’ensemble vocal senior du secondaire De La Salle, le Cantiamo Girls Choir of Ottawa, le chœur Calixa-Lavalée de l’Université d’Ottawa et Vocum de l’école secondaire Canterbury ont été choisis pour participer à cette performance étant donné leurs statuts semi-professionnel, leurs jeunes voix, et leurs réputations.

Jackie Hawley, directrice artistique et chef de chœur du « Cantiamo Girls Choir of Ottawa », croit que sa chorale peut partager la même scène que l’orchestre du CNA. Laurence Ewashko, le maître des chœurs, décrit la participation des jeunes au projet du CNA comme « une bonne chose […] pour permettre aux gens de voir la perfection… de chanter la perfection ».

Mais, « chanter la perfection » n’arrive pas du jour au lendemain! Cela prend beaucoup d’organisation et de planification. Mettre en scène un spectacle au CNA demande l’engagement de tous les musiciens, l’acteur, la metteuse en scène, et la régisseuse… Juste la partie de la chorale nécessitait de nombreuses pratiques pour chaqu’une des quatres chorales, et ensuite pour le grand groupe des choristes qui chantaient ensemble.   De plus, Jessica P., une choriste du « Cantiamo Girls Choir of Ottawa », a confié que « la plupart des filles ont aussi travaillé très fort chez eux pour se préparer». Selon sa collègue, Katherine H., l’expérience « a prit beaucoup de temps, mais l’expérience était inoubliable».

— Jackie Hawley, Artistic Director with Choristers Jessica F. and Allison W.