By Linda Crawford, Goulbourn Jubilee Singers
Many of us on the Canadian choral scene are familiar with the marvelous Finnish ensemble, Rajaton. We have enjoyed their visits over the past few years, when Rajaton has performed with our Canadian orchestras, or performed solo acoustic shows. This past March, Rajaton’s Ottawa fans packed the National Arts Centre for 4 performances of the music of Queen, with the NAC Orchestra.
But on Sunday afternoon, March 6th, 2016, after a hard week of performing, Rajaton returned to its acoustic roots, sharing their love of the choral art with five local choirs. The workshop was organized by Choirs Ontario East Regional Chair, Jackie Hawley, and over 200 local singers attended. The five participating choirs were the Cantiamo Girls Choir of Ottawa (Jackie Hawley, director), Castenchel (Lee Carter, director), Hypatia’s Voice Women’s Choir (Laura Hawley, director), the Goulbourn Jubilee Singers (Linda Crawford, director), and Harmonia (Kurt Ala-Kantti, director). Between us, we covered the entire National Capital Region, and included singers of all ages, backgrounds, and skill levels.
The purpose of the afternoon was to allow each choir to perform for, and receive input from Rajaton. What made the experience extra-special (aside from the delight of working with Rajaton!) was that all the conductors emphasized a spirit of collaboration and mutual support. This was NOT a concert, nor a competition, and there was no expectation that any of the selections offered were to be “concert ready”. Instead, we were encouraged to bring a “piece in progress” to the event. We hoped that Rajaton would have something to share with us as we worked on our selections. The wide variety of repertoire included “Here, On These Branches”, “Night and Day”, “Log-Driver’s Waltz”, “Karin’s Brudmarsch”, and “Je te retrouve”.
Rajaton did not disappoint! Ahti, Essi, Hannu, Jussi, Saima and Virpi listened attentively to our selections, and offered astute and appropriate comments. Their suggestions were enthusiastically attempted by all the groups, with excellent and immediate results. There was an atmosphere of sharing and mutual respect. Many of our choristers were quite nervous to be working with such famous clinicians, but the Rajaton members quickly put us all at ease. When one group or the other had a “lightbulb moment”, the entire gathering reacted with applause, smiles, and cheers of delight!
Of course, a highlight of the afternoon was Rajaton’s own selections, which ranged from Finnish folksongs, to the Beatles, to their iconic “Butterfly”. To close the event, Rajaton hosted a question-and-answer session, which generated more smiles and laughter.
This was an afternoon that came at the perfect time for our choirs, as we are all working hard on our spring concert programmes. It was such a pleasure to work with such an amazing ensemble as Rajaton, and to learn from them. Each choir benefited from their own coaching time with Rajaton, but also from listening to the other four groups. Thank you, Jackie, for organizing the event! And thank you, Rajaton, for sharing this wonderful time with our local choirs!
Linda Crawford is the Artistic Director of the four ensembles in the Goulbourn Jubilee Singers choir family. They currently have a children’s choir, a teen ensemble, and an adult choir. In addition, a chamber choir will be touring Austria and the Czech Republic this July. Linda recently retired from over 30 years of teaching Instrumental Music and Choir at the intermediate level, for the OCDSB. Now she has more time to devote to her passion for choral music!
Rajaton posing with the Cantiamo Girls Choir