Posted on May 30, 2014 by Christopher Thrall

The Augustana Choir traveled to Halifax perform at Podium 2014, the biennial national conference for the Canadian choral community.

Halifax Tour 2In March of 2013, the Augustana Choir applied to perform at Podium 2014, the biennial national conference for the Canadian choral community. Based on concerts, tours, and CD recordings over the past two years, the Association of Canadian Choral Communities accepted our submission and we were off to Halifax!

“It was very exciting as a choir to be chosen by the ACCC to sing at Podium,” says Andrea Benoit (BMus ’14), chorister and 2013/14 choir president. “In particular, I know many people were excited that this event would be taking place in Halifax. This gave us the opportunity not only to sing at an exciting and well-known musical event, but also to experience a part of Canada that many had never seen before, and to experience it with our choral family!”

One of fifteen choirs selected to perform – one of three from Alberta, and the only university choir invited – our choir attended the conference hosted by the Nova Scotia Choral Federation from May 14 to 19, with additional concerts in Halifax-area schools and churches. Tour performances were extremely well-received in Truro, Mahone Bay, and the Halifax Public Gardens.

“The pastor at the church in Mahone Bay used to live and work in Camrose,” says Andrea. “It was incredible to me to see how far our connections with others take us, and the opportunities we have because of our lasting relationships. It encouraged me to build long term relationships with others, and to reconnect with those who have moved distances, because relationships are crucial, and you can never know where they will take you.”

In keeping with the Podium 2014 conference theme—Bring Your Song!—the Augustana Choir performed choral repertoire from Alberta composers and University of Alberta-trained composers. Choristers and audiences alike had the opportunity to a) examine Old World music that has influenced Canadian choral music, b) celebrate Alberta composers, and c) explore the influences of nature and indigenous culture on classical choral music in Alberta and in Canada.

Central Alberta composers Robin J. King, James Neff, and Dr. Milton Schlosser were featured. A glorious poem entitled Autumn’s Orchestra (1912) by E. Pauline Johnson was set for choir, piano, and violin in two newly-commissioned works by University of Alberta-trained composers Christine Donkin and Scott Edward Godin. The Augustana Choir also served as a lab choir for two sessions led by Dr. Sebastien Valee from California State University in Los Angeles and by Augustana’s Dr. John Wiebe.

Halifax Tour 5A large and appreciative audience comprised of conference delegates filled St. Matthew’s United Church at the Podium Spotlight concert on the afternoon of May 17. The Augustana Choir, accompanied by pianist Dr. Roger Admiral and violinist Angelina Weber, was delighted to share the stage with Nova Voce, a male chorus from Halifax, conducted by William Perrot.

“The choir worked so hard throughout the year to learn and perfect our repertoire,” says Andrea, “and to further develop and shape our musicality; many times during our rehearsals, knowing we would be singing in Halifax as a spotlight choir was the push we needed to work that little bit harder. It was a wonderful moment to see, feel, and especially to hear our hard work come to fruition as we took the stage and filled St. Matthew’s Church with our sound. Equally satisfying was to see how well-received we were by our audience. It was most definitely a thrilling moment, and an encouraging memory I will have as I take my next steps in my musical career.”

Chorister Kelly Milne’s (BMus ’14) highlights including listening to other choirs from across Canada, as well as the camaraderie that grew among the attendees. She recalls singing Barrett’s Privateers everywhere they went, and trying both the Highland Fling and Irish Jig in her choir dress. She adds, “I would really like to thank the amazing people of Halifax who served us, toured us, and drove us around.”

The Augustana Choir lived up to their role as choral ambassadors for Augustana Campus. Dr. Darryl Edwards, University of Toronto Head of Voice Studies, wrote: “I thought I would tell you how much I enjoyed the Augustana Choir’s performance at Podium 2014. I loved the choir’s vibrant, healthy singing, and your engaging depth of programming, too.”

Directors Dr. Ardelle Ries, Dr. John Wiebe, and the Augustana Choir are deeply grateful for the remarkable support of the University of Alberta President’s Grant for the Creative and Performing Arts, Augustana Faculty, Battle River Community Foundation, Pro Coro Canada, the University of Alberta Mixed Chorus, and numerous individual donors to this tour project and a joyful choral cause.


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