By Jackie Hawley, Founding Artistic Director
Educational Engagement rehearsal with Cantiamo Girls Choir of Ottawa and Calgary’s William Aberhart Concert Choir
On Monday, March 21, 2016, Cantiamo was pleased to host the William Aberhart Concert Choir at rehearsal. WACC is a fantastic Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass (SATB) high school choir from Calgary. They were supposed to be enjoying a spring tour in Italy but with the unrest in Europe, their school Board decided it was not safe enough for the students to travel overseas. With very little time to plan a new tour, their conductor (and my friend/colleague), Erica Phare-Berg, called me to see if I could arrange some opportunities for them in Ottawa. Before moving to Calgary, Erica lived in Montreal so she was able to make connections there and hoped to round out the trip with some activities in the nation’s capital.
I had had the pleasure of hearing this fine choir in Calgary when I was adjudicating at Calgary’s Choralfest 2016 during the first week of March and was very glad to have the chance to have them share their music with a variety of groups in Ottawa. The two days they were in Ottawa were packed with educational engagement events connecting them with all levels of students from elementary school to university.
On the Monday, WACC arrived in Ottawa and checked into the Lord Elgin Hotel and made their way out for an early dinner before arriving at our rehearsal. We welcomed them to Trinity United Church and got right down to making music! It was such a rich sound having all of these wonderful voices singing together! I started the rehearsal with some “getting-to-know-you” games, warm ups, and vocal technique work using rounds to work on ensemble, tone, phrasing, dynamics, rhythm, harmony, tuning, articulation, movement, listening, etc. This got us connected and having fun! Then Erica took over and taught us all a great African piece with an awesome dance to go with it. Next, it was Laura’s turn (Laura Hawley is Cantiamo’s Accompanist, Associate Conductor, and Composer-in-Residence). WACC was learning one of her pieces, Sonnet 43, and they were thrilled with the chance to work on this piece with the composer. The Cantiamo Girls joined in and also learned a lot about how a composer approaches a piece – the interpretation of the text and how to reflect this in the music – as well as how to sing this wonderful new repertoire. Finally, we did a mini-concert for each other with Cantiamo singing a couple of pieces for WACC and then WACC singing a couple for us. We then said our good-byes and sent them off in their bus munching on apples and clementines and lollipops (the kind with a daily dose of vitamin C, of course!) for a treat!
The next day WACC began their day at the University of Ottawa participating in a choral conducting class with Laurence Ewashko. They then headed to Nepean High School where they had an afternoon workshop with music teacher, Lee Carter, and his choir. The senior choir from Broadview Elementary School also participated at the high school with their teacher, Leslie Bricker. All three groups sang together and performed a piece for each other. It was an excellent day of singing, learning, sharing and connecting. Once again, the WACC enjoyed some nice treats of juice and cookies generously supplied by Nepean High School, before getting on the bus to head back to Montreal and then home to Calgary.
Rehearsal time is precious and with Cantiamo having only two hours a week together, we do need all the time we have to work on our own repertoire and vocal development. However, opportunities to connect with other choirs and share what we all love is highly valuable! It is also very beneficial to work with other conductors, composers and accompanists and be exposed to new and diverse repertoire. These experiences offer rich layers of learning, connecting and enjoyment. Our joint rehearsal with the William Aberhart Concert Choir was a fun and inspiring way to start back after March Break and into our final stretch of the season.