June 24th, 2024

Choral collaboration raising voices in unison


By Alejandra Pulido-Guzman - Lethbridge Herald on October 29, 2022.

Herald photo by Alejandra Pulido-Guzman Guest conductor Elroy Friesen rehearses with members of multiple local choirs this week at the University of Lethbridge Recital Hall.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDapulido@lethbridgeherald.com

Multiple local choirs have come together to learn, grow and perfect their technique to be able to perform as one, in what they are calling a choral celebration between friends.

The collaborative choral celebration includes guest conductor Elroy Friesen, director of Choral Studies at the University of Manitoba, the University of Lethbridge Singers, Ventus Women’s Choir, Lethbridge Collegiate Institute Chamber Choir, Chinook High School Choir and the Vox Musica Choral Society.

After a week-long residency where each choir had the opportunity to learn and perfect their technique with Friesen’s help, the week culminates with a concert tonight at 7:30 p.m. at Southminster United Church.

The concert will highlight each choir, and will include a couple of performances of them singing united, which will include over 200 singers and will be directed by Friesen.

“What we wanted to do was provide experience for our local choirs to work with a highly esteemed conductor, to refine our art and learn more about choral singing,” said Joanne Collier, music director of Vox Musica Choral Society.

She said her vision for this was to bring the community together, as everyone is working in their little pods, doing great work, but even though they all live in this small city, go to each other’s rehearsals and go to each other’s concerts, they all love to sing but they have never sang with each other.

“In addition to the whole education element of this, I had a vision of bringing us together to sing, especially after COVID,” said Collier.

She believes that having close to 250 people singing together, will have a significant impact, not only for them but those in attendance.

“The glory of the human voice is something like no other, every instrument, it’s cliche to say, but every instrument tries to imitate the voice, because the human voice is visceral,” said Collier.

She said that the experiences we have as people, using our voices or hearing other voices, just cuts to the core of who we are.

This was echoed by Friesen who said when people sing it is their body that is the instrument, it is their voice, and it is so personal.

“So, to be able to have your confidence built in yourself as a human, who you are and in your value, forget what your voice sounds like, just that you have a voice and you can sing, that is like therapy,” said Friesen.

He said that is one thing he is very passionate about.

“When I come across let’s say a conducting student who has been told somewhere in their past that they’re not good enough to be a conductor, or they don’t have a good enough voice to be a good musician or whatever, and if that has become internalized, that negative image of themselves, they can’t really lead. So, if we can together work through, and talk about the fact that you’re enough as a human, either as a singer or as a conductor, it’s a healing process and we would become better humans,” said Friesen.

He said he considered himself lucky and privileged to have been brought to Lethbridge to work with the different choirs he had the opportunity to work with this week.

“To be here and to be in the middle of this healthy, happy, vibrant, choral community it’s pretty exceptional,” said Friesen.

He said that to come together as one big group to sing is what we all need as communities in a time of division, and therefore they are focusing on singing words that talk about love, community and taking down walls between people.

“When we actually are all together for rehearsal, that’s when we’re going to be building the connections between choirs,” said Friesen during the interview Thursday prior to a full rehearsal.

He said he was very excited to see how the choirs would work together to accomplish their goal.

“When we’re all together, like a 16-year-old beside a 65-year-old, and we’re all together doing the same cool music, that’s going to be… I don’t really care what the final product is, I’m really interested to know what that process will feel like, with all these people from so many different walks of life,” said Friesen.

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